David Leadbetter: Two Words for Lower Scores
Back when Nick Faldo was the No. 1 player in the world and we were working together, I used to read and hear all the time that he was a "very mechanical" player, meaning he was consumed by the technical aspects and geometry of the golf swing. I used to get a good chuckle out of that, because it couldn't be further from the truth. Even though Nick had great mechanics, he was a feel player. He had great rhythm and natural flow and had the uncanny ability to work feelings into his swing mechanics, frequently changing from one feel to another to get the club into the position we were working on.
It was my job to help him find a feel from week to week that struck a chord. What we developed were word couplings that seemed to bring a rhythmical dynamic to his swing. If he concentrated on a two-word phrase, his body would stay relaxed, and he'd make a great swing. Two words work great, because having too many swing keys while you're trying to play can make you tentative and tense.
I call these two-word couplings I used with Nick "swing mantras." A mantra is something that is capable of creating transformation, and I hope these four mantras will help you improve various facets of your swing. Pick the one that corresponds with the area of the swing you're working on, and use it when you practice and play.
1. STARTING THE BACKSWING
Many amateurs whip the clubhead too far inside the target line with excessive hand action and little body turn, or they pick the club straight up like they're about to chop wood. Either move puts you in a bad position at the top and leads to slices and pulls because the path down to the ball is either too steep or too out-to-in.
A cadence for a good backswing position is "in and up." You can see here (above) that as I start back, I'm pushing the butt end of the club "in" while the clubhead stays out. When I turn back to a point where the shaft is about parallel to the ground, I then hinge my wrists letting the clubshaft work "up," with the butt end pointing down.
2. GETTING TO THE TOP
I'm often asked where the club should be at the top of the swing. Parallel to the ground? Short of parallel? Past it? The answer is that your backswing should end when your body just about stops turning. Wherever the club is at that point, well, that's the end of your backswing.
If you've properly cocked your wrists during the early stage of the backswing--the "hinge"--then all you have to do is "turn" by rotating your trunk away from the target as much as you can. Flexibility will determine how far you can turn.
The hinge will help create lag and add leverage to your hit. The turn gets you into a proper top-of-swing position, coiled and ready to strike.
3. STARTING THE DOWNSWING
Your downswing should begin with a lateral move toward the target with your hips and a shift of weight onto your front foot. Think of a batter stepping in to hit a pitch. This is a powerful move to initiate the downswing. And many older players would be well advised to raise the left heel slightly on the backswing, and then plant it as they start down--the "step" feel.
Once you make that step, I want you to think clear, as in letting your hips rotate toward the target to clear a path for the club to swing down from inside the target line and then back around your body. This mantra will allow you to use your lower body properly on the downswing.
4. FOLLOWING THROUGH
Amateurs often end their swings prematurely, usually right after they make contact with the ball. And they seldom swing to a full finish. Remember, you should accelerate through the ball and not hit at it, which means don't quit just after impact. Finish the swing. A good mantra for this is to think Extend and pose.
Allow your right arm to "extend" well past your body as you release the club through impact to maintain the swing width you've created. This enables you to make solid contact. Then to fully complete your swing, think pose, with your weight fully balanced on your left leg, your right foot poing down and your hips facing the target. It's as if you're posing for the camera.