Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cover the Ball

What does it mean to cover the ball at impact?  It is a phrase I first heard when I was young from the old timers at the muni where I worked.  They were trying to get me to get off my toes at impact and "cover" it.  It is a lesson that a lot of young ladies need, due to learning to play before back, forearm and hand strength develop.  Young players have a tough time hanging onto the angle into impact, so one way to create room for a release is to move up.  It is also tough to hang onto your angle when you are stuck behind your hip.  You can see the move still in use on the LPGA by players such as Lexi Thompson, pictured below. 

Lexi Thompson, who turned pro at age 15, at impact. 
Ko at age 15 just after impact.  Her shoulders have rotated, her feet are solidly on the ground and her spine angle remains the same.  Both Ko and Thompson are phenoms, but based on what they are both managing in their golf swings, I think Ko will chalk up a lot more wins in the next ten years.  Compare this picture with the one of Lexi below and you can see the stability which leads to control in Ko's swing.
Lexi from the front at impact.  Her shoulders are rounded because they have stopped rotating.  Instead of turning through the ball, Lexi creates space by going up.  She locks her left knee and pops onto her toes.  She also loses her spine angle, which also creates a bit of space. 
This is the move that gets Lexi in trouble.  Her right arm is behind her hip in this shot.  Players who get into this position have a couple of options.  Some will spin their hips out of the way to create space and some do what Lexi does and pop up. 
Here is Ko at the same time in the downswing and her right elbow is already in front of her hip.  She is swinging freely and is not stuck behind her hip.  Her chest is covering the ball beautifully.  She makes this move as well as any woman golfer today.  The last female I saw that looked this good on the down swing was Annika, who also freely delivered her arms, hands and club to the ball while rotating strongly to the left side. 

Strength in athletes doesn't have to mean big muscles.  We train to develop our muscles for golf, but golf strength is also reliant upon using what you have correctly.  If we learn moves in our swing that are incorrect, we will need more strength to offset them than if we learned correctly.  Balance and support are crucial to strength in the golf swing.  With that in mind, let's talk about covering the ball.

Stand with your hands up, as though you were being robbed.  Your shoulders and arms should look like the bottom of a square.  Now, put your body into golf posture and turn back and through.  Keep the relationship of your arms and shoulders intact.  As your trunk turns, your elbows remain away from your body and your shoulders remain wide.  As your trunk turns from the top to the target, can you feel how your chest works out and down?  That motion is covering the ball.

In talking with players, they often feel that covering the ball means that the chest quits turning, but it is exactly the opposite.  Rotation is what allows us to move our chest down and over the ball.  When rotation stops, the chest raises up and our spine angle is lost.  

Many young players get in trouble when their shoulders turn without supporting the arms.  In other words, they start the club back and immediately lose the relationship between their ribs and their elbows.  Imagine starting your back swing as though you are tossing something heavy.  Having grown up in Iowa, I know that kids on the farm often throw bales.  They don't do it with strength, they do it with balance and leverage.  If young players start their swing with their arms alone, their strength will be used for compensation of poor positions.  Here is Lydia Ko at aged 12.  She obviously doesn't have the strength of a golfer such as Tiger Woods, but her trunk supports her shoulders, her shoulders support her arms, her arms support her hands and her hands support her club.  This relationship is what creates the strength needed for a good golf swing at any age.

Lydia Ko at age 12 at the top of her swing. She has great balance at the top!
Lydia Ko in her downswing.  This picture shows her upper right arm in a straight up and down position and the elbow is in front of her hip.  This allows her to cover the ball. 

Ko's finish position once again shows a wide left elbow supported by her shoulders.  Her arms don't swing around her body, they swing with and in front of her chest. 

The simplest way to work on this in your swing is to do some drills to feel a good turn.  One is the Hobo Drill.  Address the ball and simply toss the club onto your right shoulder without turning or swinging.  With the shaft of the club on your shoulder, turn back.  At the top, gently extend your hands away from your right ear to get some width and swing down and through.  This will give you the feeling of turning your trunk instead of using your arms to turn your upper body.  Another drill that has worked in teaching this move is to put a shaft across a player's hips that extends a few inches outside the right pocket.  Have the player swing up and back down making sure to get the elbows over the shaft.  This will create a feel that is brand new if the player routinely gets stuck.  It often makes them think they are coming over the top of the ball, but it is simply a cover position that is unlike what they have felt in the past.

Here is a video of that drill.

I like the position of the right elbow on this down swing.  I believe it is Matt Kuchar.  Once again, the trunk supports the shoulders, the shoulders support the arms and the arms support the hands.  I especially like the move to get the club in position.  His chest simply turns to the ball and his arms stay with it.  His is a flat swing and it all still works well.  

Hopefully, you understand a bit more about how the balance of your body supports your swing.  Learn to swing your arms in front of your chest and you will be able to swing freely.  One last video for you to watch from another great female player, Suzann Pettersen.  She talks about exactly what we are talking about in this blog.  She has struggled in the past with getting the club stuck behind her.  I like how she talks about having the club in front of her body and how she is working on speed and release.  Enjoy!  Suzann Pettersen NG360 Video


  1. The video is so informative about covering the ball.

  2. I like the way you explain us to learn about swing.


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