Champions Tip 10
HOW TO PRACTICE Eric was fortunate to have the opportunity to study kinesiology while he was working toward his Masters degree in Sport Psychology. An important subset of kinesiology is the study of motor learning. Motor learning theory focuses on how we learn to move—from simple tasks like lifting a finger to complex tasks like dance or golf. I took away many keys ideas from my study of motor learning. One of the best involved the fastest way to learn new motor skills. You can think of a swing refinement as a modified motor skill. Random Block Practice It turns out that the fastest way to learn a new skill is through a process called “random block practice.” When I learned golf I was taught that the best way to learn something was to do it over and over again. Actually, this is not the case. By now, I’ve done enough practicing and worked with enough students to realize that random block practice works much faster. Practice In Blocks of 3 Or 5 Ball Sets So here is the best way to practice, and the best way to refine a new Random Block Practice. The “block” part of the term refers to how many golf balls in a row you hit. A block could be 3 or 5 balls hit in a row. “Random” refers to switching to another drill after you have hit a block of balls. Use 3 Drills In Rotation Generally it is better to have 3 drills grouped in a rotation all related to one of the BLAST concepts (like the three Balance drills). Hit 3 or 5 golf balls focusing on one particular drill in a B.L.A.S.T. category. Then switch to the second related drill for another 3/5 ball set. Then switch to the third related drill. Hit that set of practice balls. Then, the rotation comes back around to the first drill. For instance, the three drills grouped under “Balance” are Tight Ankles, Baseball Rip Swing, and Toe Tap. Begin your practice with a 3 or 5 ball set of Tight Ankles shots. Then switch to Baseball Rip practice swings for the next 3 or 5 balls. Then switch to the Toe Tap drill for 3 or 5 balls. Once you are done, go back to Tight Ankles and start over with the rotation. This is the reason you have at least 3 drills associated with each of the 5 B.L.A.S.T. concepts. The drills address related aspects of the BLAST concept you are mastering. Practising them together in a random block practice format will accelerate your learning. Once again, I should point out that the steps in this book are organized in a specific progression. You will benefit the most by mastering each step of the B.L.A.S.T. keys in order. Emphasizes One B.L.A.S.T. Key At A Time When you focus on a particular B.L.A.S.T. concept you want to emphasize the drills associated with that section. Start with Balance. Spend the majority of your effort in your first few practice sessions on the Balance drills—as much as 50% to 75% of your practice time—until you master Balance. Once you are comfortable with Balance you can move on and focus as much as 75% of your practice time on Leverage. Once you begin to master Leverage, work on your Swing Arc, then on your Speed, then your on Target Extension. For example, if you are going to hit 80 golf balls in your first practice session, 60 of those shots should be dedicated to the Balance drills. With 60 golf balls you would have the equivalent of 12 five-ball sets of drills. That many sets would allow you to rotate through each of the three Balance drills four times. That’s a pretty good practice session. Use the remaining 20 balls to work on other drills related to other BLAST keys, or on integrating the drills into your regular swing. (For a comprehensive discussion of accelerated practice techniques and effectively integrating refinements into your swing see my book The Practice Effect: How To Groove a Reliable, Consistent Golf Swing You Can Trust. The Progression Is Important If you try to master hip speed before you have mastered balance and leverage, you are likely to slow your learning and spray the ball all over the place. Remember, it is hard to score from the weeds, no matter how far you are hitting it. So stay with the progression. It is organized in a very specific sequence of steps, for good reasons. In fact, this is exactly the progression I undertake when I train to compete in long drive championships. It works for me, and I know it will work for you.
Learning to Swing Fast:
Eric was REALLY serious about maximizing his distance. he got downright scientific. He studied. He experimented. He tweaked. He tinkered. And found some good techniques and discarded others. And he measured specific results. I got on the launch monitor and measured everything—club head speed, ball speed, smash factor, club-face angle, angle of approach, side spin, backspin, launch angle, and club path. Then we took the clubs apart and rebuilt them to see which variables were most important. It took time, but when he took those results back to the range he knew what he needed to do to generate and deliver the maximum club head speed at impact with a square club-face. Armed with knowledge Eric was able to increase my swing speed more than 20 mph, from around 120 mph. to more than 140 mph. That increase added more than 60 yards to his long drives and I was able to maintain my accuracy. Eric is still known as one of the most accurate hitters in long drive. What I learned in that six weeks of intensive training helped him capture the Senior Division World Long Drive Championship title. But he did not stop there. What he learned over the course of the next several years helped him to win the LDA Long Drive Tour Rookie of the Year honours and the Players Tour Long Drive Championship, where he was the first Senior Long Driver to win both the Open and the Senior Division titles at the same event. He did not accomplish these things by being the biggest or strongest guy on the tee. In fact, at 6 feet tall, Eric is one of the smaller guys out there. He had success because he implemented the concepts outlined in his book. Now long drivers from all over the west come to see him for help and advice. Equally as important, amateur players and weekend warriors seek me out to help them hit it farther. The lessons and knowledge he learned the hard way helped build a solid foundation for him today, as an instructor/coach assisting players as they achieve the maximum use of their abilities. Learning As A Lifelong Endeavour As world Champion Eric’s was studying the elements of distance he went back to school to obtain my Masters Degree in Sport Psychology from John F. Kennedy University, one of the country’s leading institutions in applied sport psychology. He enrolled in the PGA’s Professional Golf Management program to learn as much about teaching and instruction as possible, and I achieved His PGA Class A Professional status. Learning is a lifelong endeavour for Eric. Learning and sharing are his passions. We are proud to list all his credentials to give you an idea of the level of his commitment to being the best golf instructor possible for THE 5 KEYS TO DISTANCE
He likes to tell all students and golfers that he is passionate about people who are passionate about their golf game. If you have passion, then we will commit to helping you in any way I can.
Warning Some of the things Eric will tell you and show you in this book may fly in the face of today’s modern teaching methods. Here’s what I have to say to that: Try it first. If it works and you like it, use it. If it doesn’t work, don’t use it. The art of teaching golf is constantly evolving, and what is commonly taught today will change in the future. Some of the concepts in this book may be leading edge at the moment, but common practice tomorrow. I encourage you to keep an open mind and to maintain a willingness to experiment. Regardless of the technique you will still need to find a way to make it work for your own unique swing.
Swing Arc Drill: Parallel Clubs Purpose Encourage extension and swing plane. Use parallel clubs to determine the take-away path and as a visual for the follow-through. Correct back-swing should be on plane, which means slightly inside (when viewed from directly behind) on take-away following the arc. Parallel clubs will help you see when the club starts back on an outside path. Parallel clubs also show you a path too far inside on the take-away. Swing Though Straight Back. Short Description Parallel Clubs Drill Use two old shafts or two clubs from your bag. Lay them on the ground parallel to each other, anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches apart, depending on your comfort zone. Line up the two clubs like rail-road tracks so the middle is aimed directly at your target. Tee up a ball toward the front end of the two shafts. On the back-swing keep the club between the two shafts for as long as possible. It should look to you as if the club is pointed to the middle of the two shafts for the first half or more of your back-swing. If you were to extend the two shafts backward for 20 feet and then stop your swing rotation when your hands got just past your belt level and look to see where the club is pointed, it should still point to the middle of the extended clubs. This drill helps with extension, swing plane, and ultimately with centre face square contact. Long Description Parallel Clubs Drill Use the Parallel Clubs drill to help you keep the club on plane as you work to extend your swing arc. You will derive two benefits from using this drill. First, your club will remain on plane longer, which will increase your swing efficiency. Second, the parallel clubs will address the tendency to swing the club to the inside, which creates either a flat swing or a loop. A third benefit is that use of the parallel clubs makes it easy to see how square your club face is at address. Set Up For The Parallel Club Drill Use two old shafts or two clubs from your bag. Lay the two clubs on the ground parallel to each other, anywhere from 5 inches to 10 inches apart, depending on your comfort zone. Line up the two clubs like rail-road tracks so the middle area between the clubs is aimed directly at your target. The closer the clubs are to each other, the smaller your margin for error. Thus, start off learning this drill with plenty of room between the shafts. As you get better at this drill, keep moving the clubs closer together to challenge yourself to improve your swing path and accuracy. Tee up a ball toward the forward end of the two shafts. You want as much of the shafts behind the ball as possible because you will be using them as a visual aid for your takeaway. On your back-swing your goal is to keep your driver between the two shafts for as long as possible on the takeaway. This is a good training aid set-up to use with the Tee Back drill as well. Take several practice back-swings and watch the path of your club head during the back-swing. Imagine the two shafts are like rail-road tracks that extend straight back for 20 or 30 feet. If you are keeping your head steady and watching the driver head on your practice swings, it should appear to you that the club points continuously to the middle area of the two extended shafts until your hands get just above your belt level. Stop your swing rotation when your hands are just past your belt level and look to see where the club is pointed. Your driver should still point to the middle of the extended clubs. This drill helps with extension, swing plane, and ultimately with centre face square contact. Select “Swing Arc” on the main menu of the accompanying DVD to view the Parallel Clubs drill. Or you can find the drill on-line at:
DISTANCE KEY SPEED OF HIPS Recall that the three swing factors that affect distance are Speed:
1 (Club head speed at impact),
2 (Square club-face, middle contact at impact);
3 (Your angle of approach.)
Hip speed is your key to club head speed. The faster you can rotate your hips to the target, the faster your club will move. Anything you can do to increase hip speed (while still maintaining balance and leverage) will help you drive the ball farther. A good hip turn allows your lower body rotation to bring the club into the hitting position and helps preserve lag. Throwing your club at the ball from the top or dropping your arms down before the lower body has rotated will cause you to lose lag and develop a power leak. Develop your hip speed to get the club back to the ball with maximum club head speed at and through the ball, imagine your downswing as unwinding from the ground up. Your feet and legs begin to drive and rotate toward the target. Your legs carry your hips through to the target. Your hips lead your shoulders, and your shoulders lead your arms. Your hands and the club come through the impact zone last, like the crack of a whip. The “X-Factor” Myth The X-Factor was all the rage for several years, and I continue to field questions about it from students. In essence, the X-Factor was a measure of how much farther your shoulders rotated back than your hips during the backswing. The idea was that the greater the differential between your shoulder rotation and your hip rotation the more power you would store in your backswing. If you could keep your hips dead still during the backswing and rotate your shoulders 90 degrees you would have a maximum X-Factor. It does NOT work. The reason is relatively straightforward. The X-Factor will cause you to unwind from the top down. Your shoulders (since they have turned the farthest away from the ball), will initiate the downswing while your hips remain locked in place. By the time your shoulders get square to your hips, any X-Factor power you created during your backswing will be gone. You will have accelerated TO the ball, and almost invariably your hands will release about waist-high—far too early to deliver club head speed THROUGH the ball. The X-Factor power you create during your backswing makes absolutely no difference during your downswing. The only time the X-Factor does make a difference is on the downswing itself. Let me explain. On the downswing you want your hips to lead your shoulders toward the target. You want to unwind your downswing from the ground up. The longer you can keep your hips ahead of your shoulders through impact, the more torque your core will develop, and the more swing speed you will deliver through the ball. If you make a proper pivot you will deliver the club consistently square at impact with maximum club head speed. Here is how to change your swing to deliver club head speed as well as protect my back.
Stack Your Hips Over Your Knee As mentioned earlier, one of the key swing changes I made to help improve swing speed as well as eliminate the risk of lower back injury was to flatten out my belt angle during the swing. Imagine holding a 20-foot piece of pvc pipe right on top of your belt at address. If your hips are level at address the pipe will be parallel to the ground and extend out to either side of you by nearly 10 feet. Now imagine making a swing so the far ends of the pipe stay level with the ground throughout the swing, never touching the ground. Your belt would have to remain level throughout the swing to keep the pipe level. Compare the visualization of this swing to your current swing. Most of my students initially dip their left hip down toward the ball on the back-swing. Since golf tends to be an action/counter-action movement, the left hip dip usually results in a counter-acting right hip dip (or left hip upward thrust) on the down-swing. This motion describes the classic “Reverse C” swing position. I believe the modern swing is moving substantially away from the Reverse C and moving toward a flatter belt line with a more vertical spine throughout the swing. The flatter hip line and straighter spine angle will protect your back. Annika Sorenstam—The Swing Of The Future I am sure you had a chance to observe LPGA champion Annika Sorenstam. She has retired now But her swing may be the swing of the future (other than the look-away* at impact).
At address she was athletically balanced, and during the swing she remained athletically cantered. On the back-swing her hip line remains level. Her left heel lifts off the ground to facilitate this level hip turn. She initiates her down-swing by planting her left heel and rotating her hips evenly through to the finish, where she remains in athletic balance. She has no spine angle change during the swing, which contributes tremendously to her consistency. Annika’s swing is simple, consistent, and bio-mechanically efficient. Almost everybody can make the same kind of swing as Annika, whereas not everybody is physically capable of making the classic Reverse C swing.
Her swing also has tremendous power because she makes such good use of her leverage position and her core muscle strength. It looks effortless because she is not working hard with her hands and arms attempting to generate club head speed. She is generating her speed with her hips from a highly leveraged position. She creates a single leverage axis that runs in a straight line from the ball of her right foot through her knee to her centre of mass. It is a very solid, very powerful position at the top of the back-swing, yet it is not full of tension. (*Annika’s look-away: At impact Annika’s head is rotated toward the target and her eyes are clearly in front of the ball. She is “looking away” from the ball. My understanding is that this look-away started off as a drill for her to help her finish toward the target. The drill worked so well and she practised it so much that it became a part of her normal swing. The look-away is her unique quirk, and we all have them. Remember, the key is to do what works for YOU. I don’t recommend the look-away except as a drill, but that aside, her swing is well worth emulating.)
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