How Butch Harmon fixed Danielle Kang's driving, and how he can help you, too
Photographs by Mackenzie Stroh
When Danielle came to me two years ago, she had the driver yips. There was a stretch of hitting big pushes to the right or snap-hooks to the left, and she had started changing her swing out of desperation. To her credit, she was trying to do the opposite of what was natural, thinking her tendencies were how she got into trouble. But she was conflicted and would go to the first tee wondering if she could even take the club back—that’s the yips.
When I heard what she was doing and watched her hit some balls, my mind went to something my dad always said: “Don’t take away what a player does naturally, just make it better.” We needed to draw on what she did well and adjust her swing only as necessary.
In this article, I’ll show you how we did it, from the takeaway to the transition and down through impact. It took some hard work, but Danielle got her driving back, and now she can hit it 20 yards longer (she averages 255 yards off the tee on the LPGA Tour).
The interesting thing is, her natural move is to do what a lot of amateurs do: swing back to the inside and lift the club to the top. Granted, Danielle is a phenomenal athlete, but I bet the changes we’ve made can get you bombing it, too. —with Peter Morrice
SWING WIDER OFF THE BALL
A NEW ATTITUDE “When I met Butch, I was losing two or three balls a round off the tee—no exaggeration. He wanted to know what felt natural, not what felt bad. That mind-set was different for me.” —Danielle Kang
This is Danielle’s new takeaway. The clubface is square, which at this point in the swing means tipped slightly toward the ground (above). More importantly, the shaft is parallel to her toe line—perfectly on plane. Her tendency is to roll the club to the inside, but when she got to me, she was trying to swing back outside the target line and hold the face closed. That was so unnatural for her. She just needed to start back a little straighter and let the face rotate naturally. From there, she can turn her upper body and set the club beautifully at the top. So that’s where we began.
DRILL: To check her takeaway, I stand in front of her holding a club at the bottom of her grip. As she swings back, she slides her club along my club, letting the clubface rotate open (below). This keeps her from veering inside. If she comes off my club, we know she’s going to the outside. When she gets to hip high, the club is on plane with the face square. Perfect start.
PUSH THE HANDS TO THE SKY
For her size, Danielle creates a huge arc on the backswing. She does it by stretching her hands high and away from her head (above). Her arc is so wide, she’s more loaded at the top than most players with longer swings. Look at Jon Rahm and Gary Woodland: They hit it miles and get nowhere near parallel at the top. Long backswings lead to a throw away from the target at the start down, which dumps a lot of power.
Danielle’s high hands create a straight line down to the ball, with no wasted motion. We’ve worked to get her more deliberate on the backswing, really taking her time to wind up. Then she can start down and put everything into the back of the ball.
DRILL: Danielle’s flexibility allows her to make a tight body rotation and stretch her hands high without coming out of her posture. We often pause this position at the top and have her feel that stretch (below). For a player small in stature, the way to get a big swing arc is to push those hands high.
SET IT AND FORGET IT “I wanted to be able to get set at the top and just let it go. No steering the club. Now I don’t fear the misses anymore. My focus is on hitting fairways.” —DK
SHIFT FORWARD, LEGS FIRST
CLEARED FOR LAUNCH “Butch always tells me, ‘cover the ball’ on the downswing. That idea of getting my upper body moving forward, not hanging back, is how we got rid of the big hook. Now I can swing aggressively.” —DK
Danielle used to tilt back on the downswing, so she had to time a flip with her hands to try to square the clubface by impact. If the flip was late, she’d hit a push; if it was early, she’d hook it. Now she’s driving into her front side, so she’s not relying on timing with her hands anymore. A good feel coming down is to be more “on top” of the ball. Danielle has a fast lower body and clears her hips out well, so she needs to focus on getting her upper body forward. Also, she increases her wrist hinge coming down (above). That’s a major power move, and she does that because her downswing is happening from the ground up, lower body leading and everything going forward.
DRILL: If you tilt away from the target coming down, the heel of the back foot tends to spin outward—proof of a poor weight shift. To counter that, I put a ball against the instep of Danielle’s trail foot (below), and she has to stay on that ball, even bump it toward her front foot during the downswing. To do that, you have to drive the lower body forward.
RIP IT FROM THE INSIDE
I always tell my players that impact is the result of what comes before it. Once Danielle gets loaded in a good position at the top, her lower-body drive drops the club to the inside, so she can extend her arms out to the ball. She’s not holding back (above); she’s just being an athlete through impact. For her, the swing is about extending on both sides of the ball, with a windup and a forward shift in between. I tell her to keep up her speed to the finish. She has another 20 yards in her pocket. I like to kid that she has to stop worrying about hitting fairways—just rip it.
DRILL: Here’s a great one to feel impact. I put my foot where the ball would be and tell her to push hard against it (below). Her weight goes to her front foot, her upper body moves forward, with her hips open and her left wrist bowed. You can’t hang back and push with any force. This is a great sensation for power, and it’s where she needs to be at impact.
GOT YOUR BACK “When somebody believes in you, believes you can be better than you think you can be, it keeps you going. Butch has helped me sort out my swing, but so much more than that.” —DK