Opposing Muscle Concept. A crucial point to be observed in the development of a fluid and powerful golf swing is the concept of letting the arms just go along for the ride. What this means is that you want your arms to be relaxed and free of any tension throughout the entire swing motion – they should simply transfer the power generated by the rotation of your torso. The problem that most golfers have in trying to generate extra distance is that they unconsciously flex their upper arms and forearms at address which carries through their entire swing and actually reduces their swing speed as well as lessening their control. Admittedly, this flexing action feels very powerful but in reality it destroys the transfer of your true power which is generated by the rotation of your torso around your hips.
The culprit is what I refer to as the opposing muscle concept. In other words, the bicep and forearm muscles of your right arm are flexing in direct opposition to the bicep and forearm muscles of your left arm. In addition, the more one arm flexes the more the other arm flexes in response. This flexed muscle opposition has the effect of freezing your arms in place which does not allow for a free and fluid swing movement let alone the ability to act as a conduit of power from your torso to the golf club.
Try the following simple experiment to see exactly what I am talking about. Hold a book between your hands as if you were holding a golf club at address. You will notice that your elbows point out to the sides. Bring the book straight up in front of you and you will feel the tension in your upper arms and forearms as your hands push together in order to keep the book from falling. You will also notice the tension created in your chest as your arms are pushing towards each other. Now swing the book to each side and you will definitely notice the restricted and uncoordinated feeling that the movement generates. This is what is happening in your golf swing although you are not consciously aware of it because you have not concentrated on it before. You will also note that the tension in your arms continues to increase because as the flexing of the muscles of one arm increases the muscles of the other arm respond in kind. It is important to understand that they flex in direct opposition to each other.
The solution to this power and control robbing problem is very simple. The key is to eliminate the direct opposition of your arms from your address position and swing. Take your normal address position holding a driver and note that your elbows tend to point out to the sides although not as prominently as they did when you were holding the book in the earlier experiment. Obviously, the more your elbows are pointing outwards the more the inside of your arms are facing each other which is the root of muscle opposition. Still holding the club, rotate both arms so that your elbows are pointing in more of a downward position. You will feel your upper arms pressing against and even constricting your chest on either side with the inside of your elbows facing upwards. You will also notice the lack of tension in your arms which is the result of the muscles of your arms not being able to flex against each other. This position drastically reduces the amount of muscle opposition and enhances the ability to make a fluid swing and power transfer.
Before we go any further let me make it clear that it is impossible to hold onto a golf club in a position where the insides of your elbows are pointing perfectly straight up and the outside of your elbows pointing perfectly straight down. However, to the extent that you can come close to this position the better.
This is something that you will have to practice at the range because your new fluid and powerful swing will definitely require you to develop a new feel and timing. Initially you will feel that this swing is not as powerful which is to be expected since you are not feeling the flexing action of the muscles in your arms. But believe me, your swing speed will immediately jump up five to ten mph and then increase beyond this as your non-opposing swing becomes more ingrained. And remember – just let your arms go along for the ride.
Chipping. Most golf instructional books suggest using different irons for chipping depending on the length of the chip and so forth. I could not disagree more. By the same token I would never consider using different putters for different length putts, and I do not know of anyone who would advocate doing so. Yet when it comes to chipping around the green it seems that logic goes out the window. The main problem with using different irons for different chip shots is the fact that it would be impossible to develop any degree of consistency. The golfer who uses a single iron for all chip shots knows exactly how hard to hit the shot, how far the ball will travel in the air, and how far the ball will roll when it hits the green. By using the same iron for all chip shots your consistency, feel, and confidence will develop very quickly.
Pitching. I am always amazed by the golfer who chokes down on a club when making a pitch shot of 30 or 40 yards. The question I always ask myself is: why? First of all, by choking down on the club you are placing yourself in the same bent over posture as that described previously which hampers your eye coordination. Secondly, by choking down on the club your hands are holding onto the thinnest portion of the grip, which results in a lack of control. And thirdly, the consistency you are trying to develop by using the same address/swing posture with all of your 1 Iron single length golf clubs and for all of your shots is being undermined.
Playing the pitch shot is actually very simple. It should be addressed just like any other shot on the golf course, the only difference being that you make less than a full swing. By using this approach you will develop an amazing feel for this kind of shot very quickly.
Improving your Swing. When the winter winds begin to blow and frost is on the pumpkin it is time to store your golf clubs in moth balls and patiently wait for spring – right? Wrong. This is the best time to improve your swing.
It sounds contrary that you can improve your swing during the winter months when you cannot go outside to the driving range or golf course; however, nothing could be further from the truth. If you have enough clearance in your garage or basement to swing a golf club then you have a golden opportunity to greatly improve your swing, including your distance and accuracy, prior to the beginning of next year’s golf season. The fact is that it is far easier to develop a fluid and powerful swing in your garage then it is at a driving range.
Let me explain:
During the summer months when you are at the driving range or golf course working on your swing you have one single stumbling block to improvement – the golf ball. I know that sounds strange but it is absolutely true. Staring down at a golf ball produces a strong reaction in the brain of every golfer – it demands performance. As opposed to actually working on your golf swing (concentrating on your desired swing plane, your release, balance, etc.) your mind is engaged solely in hitting the ball to the exclusion of everything else. Consequently, any swing improvement takes much longer with much of the improvement coming by pure chance. For instance, if you are working on taking the club behind you instead of out to the side during your take-away (an extreme golf swing improvement technique) and you hit a few bad shots due to the fact that this movement is foreign to you, you will quickly revert back to your previous inefficient swing movement and dismiss any thoughts about changing it. The reason is simply because the presence of the golf ball demands immediate performance.
A much more efficient and powerful method of improving your swing is to eliminate this immediate performance criteria altogether which allows you to modify your swing without any initial negative feedback. Getting rid of the golf ball lets you concentrate on individual elements of your swing and really feel the movement which allows you to fully ingrain the elements of an improved swing in a fraction of the time.
In my garage I have a 4 foot x 4 foot piece of short pile carpet (industrial) with a 4 foot x 4 foot piece of 1/2 inch foam rubber underneath. On the carpet I painted a small circle the size of a golf ball in glossy white where I would normally position my golf ball. Whenever I want to tune up my swing or correct any swing faults that may be present I simply pretend to be hitting shots off of the carpet ticking the white spot with the sole of my club-head through impact. What is very noticeable when you do this is that you can fully concentrate on your swing mechanics instead of concentrating on and having the pressure of producing a good shot. It is also interesting to note that you can actually feel the difference between a good swing and not-so-good swing allowing you to immediately identify and correct any swing faults that may be present. At the end of your practice session you simply roll up the carpet along with the foam pad and stick it in the corner. I personally practice my swing in this manner four or five times a week year-round and, believe me, it becomes scary how deeply you can ingrain a good swing.