5 Ways to get your game in shape

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Get off to the best possible start using smart versions of golf’s five most enduring drills 

These tips comes from TG Top 50 teacher Simon Payne, a UKCC Level 3 coach and PGA Fellow pro at Cowglen GC, Glasgow.

There are almost as many golf swing drills as there are golfers, and over the years TG has covered pretty much all of them. Inevitably their quality and effectiveness varies; but over the years a select band of drills have proven themselves superior to the rest, standing the test of time and remaining routinely recommended by coaches for all levels of player.

This article pays homage to five of these drills... and grouped together, they form an excellent foundation for getting your game in shape for the new season. However, while these drills will help you to hit the ground running, each one has a potential weakness. By making the simple adjustments detailed here, you can put these timeless exercises to even better use... and accelerate your progress in 2018.

Classic Drill #1: Feet Together 

This drill quite simply asks you to hit balls with your insteps touching. By narrowing your base and limiting your balance, this exercise is a superb way to organise your movement and bring your action under control. Its only downside is that most people do it with the lead foot squared up. This places your lead side a relatively immobile, side-on position, which can promote a flicky impact.

➤ Feet Together - IMPROVED
All you have to do is flare that lead foot. So take the same address you took with the drill, the ball centred between your insteps. Keep your heels touching, but turn out your lead toe 30-40o. You will feel your lead knee and hip soften slightly in response.

Let The Lead Hip Lead
Start by hitting some half- shots or pitches. Make your regular backswing, but feel your downswing is initiated by your lead hip rotating and clearing – a move that becomes much easier with that flared lead foot. Allow this rotation to pull your chest and arms down and through the ball.

Stable Strike
With your hips playing a more dominant role in the downswing, you will feel your hands and arms become more passive and your impact less wristy. This allows you to deliver the clubhead with far more stability and consistency. Aim to finish with your hands in front of a fully rotated chest.

Classic Drill #2: Split Hand Group

One of golf's most used exercises, this drill asks you to hit shots with your lower or trail hand three or four inches down the grip. By splitting the hands you create more stability in the handle and shaft; that stops you rolling the club inside on the way back but it also reduces the influence of the lower hand, calming any tendency to flick at the ball.

drill 2 

The Weakness Of This Original Drill
It's tough to critique such an effective drill, but its one potential weakness is that your lead or gloved hand can become too dominant through impact. That can mean excessive shaft lean and an overly steep attack angle, which can cause the sharp leading edge to dig into the turf behind the ball.

➤ Split Hand Group - IMPROVED
Educate your lower hand to release the club at the right time by using it alone to hit pitches. Without any assistance from your lead arm, your trail arm and wrist have no option to learn to release the club at the right time to produce a more vertical shaft at impact, a shallower delivery and a better strike. Hit balls trail-arm only until you can make solid contact with 10 pitches in a row.

drill 2

Classic Drill #3: Towel Under Armpits

This timeless drill works by asking you to swing the club to the top with something pinned between your upper arms and your sides. Traditionally it's been your towel, stretched out across your chest, but you can use two gloves or headcovers. Here, I'm using a stretch of pipe lagging.

Better Together

The purpose of this drill is to ensure upper body rotation makes its needed contribution to the backswing. It targets one of golf's most common technical issues; swinging back with arms alone. This takes the club away from its ideal plane and fails to recruit the big, powerful body muscles. But if you do this with the towel, it falls free of your armpits.

The Weakness Of This Original Drill
This is a great drill, but if it has a weakness it's that it almost places too much emphasis on the rotational nature of the body turn and not enough on the upward motion of the hands and arms. It can lead to this overly flat takeaway and backswing, the club well inside the ideal plane and path. 

drill3

➤ Towel Under Armpits Drill - IMPROVED
Instead of working on retaining contact between both upper arms and your sides, focus on your lead armpit only.

Full Shoulder Turn
The real benefit of the towel drill is its failsafe ability to create good upper body rotation. But you will find when the lead arm keeps that material pinned against your side, you can achieve the same results. Try swinging back to this position, lead arm horizontal; if you've kept the clothing in position, you'll find your lead shoulder is nicely under your chin.

Lead Arm Connection Only
Pull the material in your shirt or jumper across and use your lead upper arm to hold it fast against your side, as shown. As you address the ball, make sure the material remains trapped between your side and upper arm.

Better Plane
When your focus is on connection between your lead arm and side only, it's much easier to find a better plane to your action, the clubshaft cutting up through your trail shoulder. That's the real pay-off of not involving the trail armpit. From here it's much easier to swing down on a neutral path, the club moving straight down the target line at impact.

drill 3

Classic Drill #4: BACKSIDE AGAINST WALL/ CANE /BAG

This drill asks you to swing the club with a vertical object behind you and in contact with your glutes. By retaining the contact throughout the swing you maintain body angles and posture, helping you swing in balance and keep the club on the ideal neutral path.

The Weakness Of This Original Drill
The problem with this drill – especially if you're using a wall or your cart bag – is that during your backswing, your trail hip needs to rotate past that vertical line. Real or imagined, a vertical line against your backside serves as a barrier to proper backswing rotation. That's why this drill can lead to a stilted coil, a overly upright arm swing and a weak hitting position.

drill4

➤ Backside against wall/cane/bag: IMPROVED

Instead of thinking "maintain contact with the cane", think "push the cane back". Here is your three point plan to making this drill more effective:

1. Avoid bags or walls; instead practise this exercise with a cane or old shaft only, something that will give if pressure is applied.
2. At set-up, shuffle back so you feel the vertical cane against your trail glute only (right for right-handers).
3. Rather than simply try to feel the cane, make a conscious effort to push it back with your trail glute as you turn. This thought encourages the deeper hip turn that allows you to find a fuller rotation, on a better plane.

improve drill 4

Classic Drill #5: Miss The Box

This is a famous anti-slice drill, designed to thwart an out-to-in swing path. Begin by finding a soft obstacle, like an old ball box. Set the box a short distance behind and outside the toe of your driver, and take your regular address position. Go ahead and hit the ball. With the box in place you will work harder to find a way of delivering the club down a more neutral path, or even from the inside. Any contact with the box reveals the out-to-in path that leads to a slice.

The Weakness Of This Original Drill
The problem with this drill is that in trying to avoid the box, we can become pre-occupied with moving the club on the inside path. This usually shows up on the way back, the golfer whipping the club inside the ideal path. This can either lead to attacking the ball too much from in-to-out or – in extreme cases – a reactionary looping which takes the club onto the out-to-in track this drill is designed to eradicate.

drill 5

➤ Miss the box drill: IMPROVED

Keep the box in place... but use this process to guarantee an online backswing and a better delivery path.

1. Upwardly Mobile
Swap your driver for a mid-iron, and tee the ball up. Keep the box in the same position. Instead of making your normal backswing, lift the club straight up in front of you as shown until your hands are at head height. Make sure you retain your address body angles, and feel a right angle between forearms and clubshaft.

2. On Line At The Top
From here simply rotate your core until your back is facing the target. Don't manipulate the club with your hands and arms at all. This two-stage backswing puts you in an on-plane position at the top, the clubshaft pointing pretty much down your target line. Now return your focus to avoiding the box with your strike.

3. Delivery Path Improved
The presence of the box still works as a great deterrent in coming "over the top" – but from a more on-plane position at the top, your efforts to do this will result in a more subtle inside attack that means a more down-the- line delivery, a more powerful and effective strike and a more accurate shot.

drill 5