Build your swing around balance
By Dan Frost
“For so many golfers balance is the forgotten fundamental of the swing – and, critically, one that plays a pivotal part in every aspect of the movement.”
Swing plane, spine angle, 'smash factor', 'late hit', 'X-Factor', 'V-Gap' – and so the list goes on. Common phrases you may have heard banded about in reference to the swing. And while this may all sound rather sexy, the one key area of the golf swing generally overlooked as players go in search of extra speed and distance is balance. I see so many players tied up with complicated theory that they neglect this critical fundamental of motion. If only they focused on improving their dynamic balance all of these things would slot into place a lot more naturally.
So, over the following pages, let me share with you some of the drills I use in my everyday coaching that really bring about immediate improvement not only in your overall sense of balance but in the 'sequencing' of your swing as you build stability from the ground up.
Part 1 - Foundation - Sound leg action keeps you 'grounded'
Part 2 - 'Set'… 'Load'… 'Store'… 'Explode'
Part 3 - Focus on your spine angle
Part 4 - Improve your swing awareness with a weighted ball...
Part 5 - Awaken your athletic instinct: simple step towards a flowing swing...
Part 6 - Sequence training
Part 2 - 'Set'… 'Load'… 'Store'… 'Explode'
Golf is not a reactive sport, like tennis or baseball, where a player is keyed-up and ready to respond. On every shot, it's up to YOU to initiate the motion – and to do that it is vital that you gear up your body in readiness for an athletic movement. (If you are static and 'wooden' at address, don't be surprised if your swing shares in those same characteristics!) What I want you to focus on is introducing a little 'load' into your set-up. And the Leaderboard is one of the best training aids I have come across for this very purpose; it improves a golfer's awareness of balance, sequence and speed. A number of world-class players – including Stuart Appleby, KJ Choi and Adam Scott – use the Leaderboard as part of their training routine. There are numerous drills you can practice using this device – and here is my favourite. It involves four steps – 'set', 'load', 'store' and 'explode'.
Step 1 'Set'
One of the biggest problems for amateur golfers is that they don't transfer their weight as they rotate across to the right side in the backswing. They fail to 'load' the swing, to get their left shoulder behind the ball at the top of the backswing – and as a result have little dynamic energy to drive the downswing. Think about the way a baseball pitcher winds up his body before releasing a powerful throw – he shifts his weight away from the target (i.e. the batsman) with a distinct and athletic coiling motion so that he has some real leverage to push off and accelerate the arm for the release of the throw. A good golf swing shares in the same dynamics – and the set-up holds the key. Notice above that I start with a fairly narrow stance, my feet close together – the two individual platforms virtually touching (inset). To establish the ideal width of stance requires that I then slide my right foot away from the left, pushing against the resistance of the sprung foot-pad, which immediately 'braces' my legs and encourages an athletic 'set' position. From here I am now ready to turn and 'load' my right side in the process of making the backswing.
Sliding the right foot against the resistance of the board creates this athletic 'set' in the lower body
Step 2 'Load'
So, the key lesson in Step 1 is that you must 'engage' your leg muscles to achieve the perfect pre-swing position. From there you can focus on the rotation of the upper body that creates this full coil – and to do that I want you to rid your mind of all thoughts about keeping your head still. Fall into that cliched trap and all you will succeed in doing is creating a 'wooden' backswing that leaves your weight static over the ball. This lack of weight transfer will restrict your movement and any potential for generating speed. In an athletic golf swing the weight must be encouraged to shift to the right as you make your backswing turn (where the Leaderboard really scores). And you can enjoy precisely the same sensations when you go out and hit balls on the range if you focus on feeling the resistance from the ground up. All you need to do is make a smooth, balanced shoulder turn, keeping your legs 'strong' until your back faces the target at the top of the backswing. If you lack flexibility just turn as far as you are comfortably able – it's the efficiency of this movement that counts. Don't give up that solid base just to gain a few degrees of shoulder turn – it will be a lose-lose situation.
Step 3 'Store'
I see a lot of amateur golfers who swing the club very well but hit the ball nowhere. The problem is a lack of clubhead speed – and it generally stems from poor timing. Basically, the swing gets 'out of sync' – rather than complement each other the arms and the body are at odds, neither component enhancing the motion of the other. What you will often see in this example is a player who, having reached the top of his backswing, then 'fires' the lower body way too early in a last-ditch attempt to generate speed approaching impact. The lower body gets way ahead of the upper body, leaving the hands and arms flailing behind, leaking whatever stored energy they did have long before the club reaches the ball. Step 3 is all about avoiding that scenario: from the 'loaded' position at the top I want you to now focus on maintaining your wrist cock as you start down. This is easier than it sounds – all you need to do is make the start of your downswing the slowest of all movements in your swing. As you change direction, don't fire your hips at the target; try to stay balanced and 'loaded'. Repeating over and over again this rehearsal sequence from the top of the swing to the pre-delivery position will allow you to explode into impact and through to a full finish…
Maintain your full wrist cock as you repeatedly rehearse the first move down – do it in slow motion to accentuate the feeling of storing that energy for impact
Step 4 'Explode'
The final step is to release the stored power with speed into impact. Keep the legs balanced through impact, feeling 'grounded', then free-wheel to a full finish position. Remember to hold your finishing pose – like all great sportsmen, if you finish your motion in balance it will have the greatest effect on the outcome. Whether you are training with or without a Leaderboard, follow these four distinct steps in your golf swing – set, load, store and explode. Over time these qualities will become a natural free-flowing part of your rhythmical swing.
Legs remain balanced (and there is no attempt to 'fire' the right knee too early) as you release all of your speed into the back of the ball