Editors' BlogOctober 9, 2007

Ernie, Golf & Baseball

In case you missed his post here a couple of days ago, Jerry Borin of Morristown, New Jersey, did a neat take on Ernie Els' October cover story, Hit it Miles Down the Middle. In keeping with the MLB playoff season, Jerry compared Ernie's advice to what he'd learned in baseball...

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After playing golf for over 50 years, when I saw Ernie Els' tip "Free Up Your Driver" in the Nov. '07 issue, I finally realized why I and other "duffers" fail to maximize distance and maintain down the middle direction with their drivers. Els says,"feel like you're cracking a whip on the way down, not tensing up to hit something hard".

Cracking the whip is the secret I never heard before. It fully explains why I and the majority of golfers who took up the game either in their teeens or later in life have a tendency to "hit something hard" which we all learned growing up playing baseball or softball. However, the significant difference between baseball and golf is that the baseball bat has no flex, it's a hard object hitting a hard object. A golf club flexes, so that the power and energy from the downswing is stored in the shaft and then transferred to the club head...in baseball the bat is heavy vs. a golf club and its hitting area is significnatly larger and less concentrated than in the golf club head. That's why we swing harder and our goal is contact, not necessarily distance in baseball. In golf, off the tee, it's all distance..you get no points for "bloop singles" off the tee in golf!! In baseball, it's a very successfull result!

Jerry's analysis echoes something I've been hearing a lot from teachers of late: Namely, let those arms swing and quiet that lower body. It feels like a shift in teaching from hit it with the big muscles to hit it with the small muscles...the arms and hands. I had a lesson this summer in which my teacher, Sean Busca of Brooklawn C.C. in Fairfield, CT, said that after a full turn I want to have the feeling of swinging the arms down and through while the hips don't move. Very close to what Ernie is teaching and what Borin picked up on:

In baseball we were taught as kids to make contact by swinging hips, arms, shoulders and wrists through the ball in a fluid motion. However, in golf, because of the cracking the whip phenomenon, the player is pretty much releasing the club earlier and allowing the flex with the stored energy to bring the power, not the golfer's own energy and swing effort . In golf when you crack the whip, you're actually "throwing " the small club head at the ball rather than hitting it with a hammer-type blow the result of which is determined by where contact is made on the bat...in the middle you get distance and direction, at the end of the bat, you lose distance and will probably not hit the ball down the middle of the field. Quite a lesson from Mr. Els after all these years. It may have come up before, but I must have missed it(no teacher ever brought this up to me). But now I got it! Thanks Ernie...now I finally understand the source of power for getting maximum distance off the tee.>

Thank you, Jerry, great analysis.

--Bob Carney

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