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Paul McGinley - Keys to My Game
by Paul McGinley & Richard Simmons

What can you learn from my technique? Well, quite simply, for consistency in your ball-striking it's all about maintaining stability in the lower body and on engaging your body 'core' to generate momentum and speed.

Along with the help of my long-time coach, Bob Torrance, that's what I work on to keep my game in shape.

We are all prone to occasionally losing our timing and feel for our golf swing, and whenever I sense that is happening I go back to these basics.

Over the following pages I'll show you exactly what I mean - and, hopefully, provide a few practical pointers that you can go out and work on.

MY NO.1 THOUGHT?: ENERGY & MOMENTUM COMES FROM THE BODY 'CORE'

Thanks to the guidance of Bob [Torrance] for the last 20-odd years, I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what makes my game tick and the specific things I have to be aware of in terms of day to day maintenance.

So, for example, I know that I want my body to dominate the swing, and to achieve that I work on what is termed a 'body-release', in that I rely on the rotation of my body to generate speed and square up the clubface for impact.

This is the primary key to my consistency. My goal, always, is to minimise the workings of the hands - and this applies all the way through the ball, from the driver to the putter.

Obviously, when you place such an emphasis on your body for the control of the shape and structure of the swing, you need to make sure that you have a good set-up position.

Along with the majority of my fellow pros, I spend a lot of my time checking out the details of my set-up and alignment. I'm looking for good body angles, but not overly 'sharp' angles (i.e. I don't want to appear that I'm trying too hard to create artificial angles). With a good flex of the knees, a gentle bend from the hips and the head relaxed,my arms hang into a comfortable ready posture.

'What is it, specifically, that initiates the swing?'. This is a question I get asked a lot on golf days and in pro-ams, and the answer reinforces my comments earlier about minimising the role of the hands. When I'm over the ball at the setup, I'm thinking of my body 'core' initiating my swing - I'm not thinking of manipulating or moving the club with the hands.

In other words, I place the sensation of initiating my swing movement within the area of the stomach, hips and top of the legs - the shaded area in this sequence.

This is the area I feel controls that all important first move away from the ball. And when you trust in that sensation, the arms, hands and the club itself go along with the consensus of that motion.

The result is that the clubhead stays low to the ground and traces a nice wide arc away from the ball. (Not for me any of that wristy pre-setting of the wrists.That complicates things too much.)

All my gym work is geared towards the control in this core area. I work on golf-specific exercises that help me to engage the muscles within this core area, and the result is that I feel very strong and stable as I get my swing underway.

Look at the first few frames of this sequence: the control is with the core, and as I gather momentum the bigger muscles in the torso and shoulders naturally become engaged. For me, this is the engine-room of the swing. The stomach, the hips and the top of the legs. This is the power source and where my gym work is aimed. Every day I'm doing something to stay strong in this area and engage these muscles in taking the club back.

FEEL THE POWER IN YOUR FEET AND UNWIND FROM THE GROUND UP

OK, now I'm going to pick up my commentary from the top of the backswing - which, as you can see, is a relatively compact position, the arms and the body in harmony and my lower body solid (in these photos I'm using a 6-iron).

What happens next - the transition, or the reversing of the gears as you shift direction - is the defining moment in the golf swing and the way in which you begin to unwind will make or break the shot. The point that I want to stress again here is that a good leg action is the vital component in the process.

Using the grip and the traction that you have with the ground, your legs initiate this reversing of the motion to create a sort of reflex motion that multiplies the centrifugal forces acting on the clubhead as the natural order of these events run their course.

You may have heard the expression to 'unwind from the ground up', and that's exactly the way you must feel it. Your feet maintain the stability in the lower body as the left knee, left hip and left side re-rotate back towards the target, this dynamic enabling you to engage those 'core' muscles in the ultimate phase of the motion, as you rotate hard and accelerate the clubhead into the back of the ball.

Unwinding in this desired ground-up sequence is the secret to good timing, and that's what I am occasionally prone to losing. When the timing goes I feel myself go at the ball too early with the right shoulder from the top of the backswing, which throws the club forward and off track.As soon as that happens I remind myself of the importance of 'waiting for it', giving myself the time to unwind correctly, and let the lower body lead me into the downswing.

That is the only way to unlock your true power potential.

One thing I will say, after turning 40 last year, is that the time I spend in the physio's van is just as important now as anything else I do to keep my game in shape. I spend less time hitting balls on the range and more time in the gym and with the physio now than at any time in my career. I simply cannot swing the club the way I want to with any type of stiffness in my back, shoulders or neck.

As you get older, your body doesn't wake up every morning 'firing', so you have to ignite it. I don't want to become a hands-oriented player, so it's important to keep my body in shape. Alive. Able to swing a club with this dynamic motion. A lot of massaging, physio and golf-specific exercises enable me to make the swing I want to make.

A lot of swing faults occur as a result of being 'tight' and not physically able to swing the club in a certain way. Obviously this is huge aspect of professional golf, but I would suggest it's equally important to businessmen who spend a lot of time sitting at a desk or in a car.

Finally, these swing thoughts apply all the way through the bag.This game is tough enough without having a dozen different thoughts with different clubs. As long as you pay attention to the rules that govern creating a good set-up, you will find that you can repeat a good technique with the same feelings,whether you're using a driver or a short iron.

Train it, practise it, and - when you get on the golf course - go out there and trust it.You don't want to be thinking of the type of swing you are looking to make, or any other element of technique. Focus 100% on the shot and on your course management.

That's the way forward to lower scoring and more enjoyment.

 

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