After three weeks away from the practice range, including a week-long golfing vacation, I headed back to Mike for my fourth golf lesson. My swing had held up okay in Hilton Head, but I knew intuitively that my fundamentals had deteriorated since my last real practice session.
One of my playing partners during the last round in Hilton Head observed, after yet another snap hook into the trees left, that, “you’ve got those Latin hips.” After I stopped laughing, I recognized exactly what he was talking about. Upon my return to the range, so did my golf pro.
I was sliding my hips excessively to load up and throwing them towards the target wildly on the downswing. Part of this motion can be attributed to still trying to take the club back too far, part to my limited still limited flexibility, part to my misspent youth playing baseball. Specifically, former Oklahoma State Baseball Coach Gary Ward‘s baseball swing fundamentals run directly contrary to what my pro is trying to teach me about the golf swing.
Unfortunately for my pride, which hoped I’d made some forward progress, this meant there was still plenty of work to do on my takeaway and backswing. During a previous lesson, Mike, my teaching pro, revealed that I was that rare bird that he was going to spend most of his time teaching through the backswing, rather than the downswing like 90% of his other clients. I always knew I was special.
Building on what I learned from the first three lessons, we’d discovered a new set of swing keys to further eliminate some negative motions. Since I continue to have relatively limited flexibility (as compared to the human pretzels that are the world’s top golfers), my body tries to cheat and compensate to achieve a desired result.
For the particular problem of my hips moving incorrectly and too much, I now have two new swing thoughts to use. When I get these motions moving correctly, everything else seems to work out okay.
First, I have to think about moving my hips toward the target as I’m taking the club away. It’s completely counter-intuitive to my amateur mind, but it is correct for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it helps me maintain and increase my tilt away from the target.
Second, I have to keep my left foot as flat on the ground as possible. Though not technically significant to the rest of the moving parts of the golf swing, if I keep my left foot on the ground, a lot of my troublesome movements don’t occur during my takeaway.
Specifically, when I keep my foot down, I don’t throw my left knee and hips back away from the target, losing the angle of tilt that lets me load up power before attacking the ball. It also prevents me from taking the club too far back and getting “stuck” behind my head, shoulders, and back.
It’s something new to think about, but at least it’s not completely remedial. I’m grateful that I’m continuing to make forward progress, and I’m trying to remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Which is easy to think and profess while it’s 40 degrees outside and the grass is still brown. I’ll let you know how “at peace” I am once our local links start greening up.