After watching the perils of Kevin Na last week, and all the pontificating about the trouble he's been having starting his swing, it occurred to me that this is actually a problem common to a lot of golfers. Especially when you're under pressure, with trouble on either side of the fairway or green, it can be really hard to make a confident swing. And a confident swing starts with an unimpeded takeaway.
Most sport psychologists will tell you that you need to make golf a reactionary sport, like tennis or a batter in baseball. In those sports, you don't have much time to think. You have to get in the flow and just let the swing happen. You see the ball coming your way, and so you step in and hit it. The best golfers have figured out a way to "step in and hit it."
According to Golf Digest Teaching Professional Butch Harmon, it begins with a swing trigger, and just about every top player has one. Here are three you can try, as practiced by three major professionals:
1. Kick in your right knee: This was the trademark for Gary Player (see video below). Just before he takes the club back, he moves his right knee in toward his left, which serves to get his body--and swing--in motion. Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim Flick once told me that the key to this move is to do it slowly, at the same pace you want to swing the club back. A fast, jerky knee-kick will do more harm than good. Make it smooth, and your swing will be smooth.
2. Turn your chin:Jack Nicklaus used this trigger throughout his career (see video below). Just before taking the club back, he tilted his head so his eyes focused on a spot about a foot behind the ball. But he still saw the ball out of the corner of his left eye. He told me a couple of years ago that the way he cocked his head served as a preview for the path of his club. In other words, if he wanted to hit a draw, he turned his head so his eyes tracked on a slightly inside path. For a fade, they moved along a line slightly to the outside.
3. Bend your knees: About midway through Tom Kite's career, he made a significant swing change, working with Golf Digest Teaching Professional Chuck Cook. Chuck had Kite widen his stance, and flare out his left foot. Then he told him to keep his left heel down, flat to the ground, on the backswing. (Kite's left heel used to come well off the ground.) But the final wrinkle to Kite's new swing was a slight bend of the knees just before he took the club back. This move got Kite feeling more athletic at address, but it also served to trigger his swing.
So if you're having trouble getting your swing started, adopt one of these techniques. Or develop one of your own. You'll find that under pressure, it's much easier to take the club back and make a confident swing.
Good luck with your game this weekend, and remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.
Golf Digest *