Walking around Arden Hills, it’s kind of hard to not feel like a better athlete. Coach Adric’s swimming classes are extremely competitive and yield high level results, not to mention the junior swimmers have a ton of fun doing it. Derick Cunah’s training classes reflect that same sense of purpose and those who participate consider them an essential part of their week. But it’s watching the JMG Academy train on the tennis courts that gave me the realization that golf is a racket sport.
I know that sounds crazy, but bear with me for a minute. Imagine you’re playing a game of tennis against a friend. Your friend then says, “get the ball to me fast.” Instinctively, you point the racket down toward the ground and swing in an upward direction so as to speed the ball up. Now imagine during a point that you’ve got your friend on the ropes and he is away from the net. The point can be won if you can hit a shot with spin that barely clears the net and the ball doesn’t bounce forward. Instinctively, you point the racket toward the sky and swing in a downward fashion so as to slow the ball down.
The word “instinct” is the key. In tennis especially, we can all make the ball do different things and no one had to teach us how to do it. In golf, we bring in so much baggage in the way of old lessons and tips we’ve read in Golf Digest or watched on Youtube that we sabotage our ability for the same level of learning to occur. I would argue that if we gave ourselves the same permission to be athletes we don’t question in other racket sports, that would only help us as players understand how we can use our racket (aka a golf club) better.
So, what are the ways that we have to control our racket?
- Where the surface hitting the ball is pointing (Clubface)
- Direction that racket is swinging (Swing Path)
- Speed of the Racket (Moves)
My challenge to you is let go of “right and wrong” or “black and white” type of thinking in golf. The best players in the world are so good not just because they have great technique but because they are the fastest to recognize how they have present the racket to the ball for a particular shot to be successful. If they were only “performing” their correct swing, they wouldn’t be able to make the many adjustments necessary during a round of golf. Instead, they are constantly challenging their awareness of how to use the racket.
You need to do be doing the same thing! Here are some of my favorite drills or games to improve your skills:
“Ernie Els” Drill:
With a full swing and the club never slowing down, make the ball fly 50 yards, then 75, then 100, then 125, then take a full swing. This will help you find your rhythm and control distance better.
Aim a target in the middle of the range and without changing your aim, make the ball fly in a straight line toward targets that are left, right, and straight. This will help you control swing path.
Begin with a low trajectory and make the ball curve right, left, and fly straight. Then move on to a mid trajectory and make the ball curve right, left, and straight. Repeat the same with a high trajectory. To challenge yourself, hit all 9 shots toward a specific target. This will help you understand how to control the curve of your golf shots.
Give these drills a shot and maybe you won’t lose a ball in the water on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach or the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, both of which can be played in the Clubhouse! Please stop by and let me know how the drills go for you or if there is a topic you’d like covered for the “Tip of the Month” or for the Friday Night Clinics (6-7pm). Till then, keep it in the short grass!