Extending game with compact swing

My swing is never going to be pretty, but trust me. It looks and feels better.

My swing is never going to be pretty, but trust me. It looks and feels better.

If you told many older golfers they need to be able to touch their toes and balance on one leg to improve their golf swing, I’m not sure how many of them would want to go though all of that rigmarole.

I not only have no problem with the fitness side. I’m a fan.

When I can go down the stairs in the morning without holding on, get in and out of cars and couches like the old days—do any number of physical maneuvers without creaking—it’s almost as if improved golf is a bonus.

I never thought I’d be saying these things. Because I am still able to do pretty much everything I want to do physically. I can ski. I can carry my golf bag—even 36 holes if it’s a special day. I like to grind on a treadmill, grunt on a Bowflex.

I can just do more of this stuff when I can move better. And I am moving better.

That’s one sign of progress in my spring-training program at Catalyst Golf Performance.

The other is that my golf swing continues to come around.

The latest step in that process is a much more compact swing.

“It looks like a short backswing is the way to go,’’ I told Liz after a workout one day.  “That thought makes me feel like an old man. But it really looks like that’s the best move for me.’’

“What’s wrong with that?’’ she said. “Remember when you complained last summer about those old men who outdrove you?’’

Don't believe me? Here's the `before.' Hard to do, hard to look at. Not great results, either.

Here’s the `before.’ Hard to do, hard to look at. Not great results, either.

So true. If I can improve my fitness down the road to allow for a bigger swing, great. Meanwhile, I’m liking this short backswing on several fronts.

For starters, it’s easier to produce, and certainly should be easier to repeat.

I still need to lock it in; the temptation to wrap that club around my neck is pretty ingrained. But when I see my arms breaking down, and see that I can generate just as much distance with what a much shorter swing, I am very encouraged.

This is where a swing is built.

This is where a swing is built.

At 27, my young golf pro, Joe Sheren, is wise beyond his years. He has great instincts when it comes to diagnosing and explaining, and he’s not only very flexible about changing up things as we go; he tends to look for new points of emphasis.

It’s challenging, no question. But when I think of my concerns about remaking a 62-year-old’s swing, it’s not as overwhelming as I feared it would be.

Basically, we’ve broken it down into components. Bring the club back low with my arms extended. A little wrist cock, mainly with the right hand. Ideally, turn the shoulders and hips while all of that is happening.

Those three elements are still a mouthful to coordinate. But with a short backswing, it’s an attainable objective.

When I do those things right, finishing with a strong strike at the ball is also not only attainable; it feels great.

Grooving of all this is still a big assignment. But it’s satisfying to know what to do; I really finished last season feeling clueless.

Another key element is to keep up the fitness drills, especially the flexibility and balance stuff. That’s no problem; When I go down the stairs in the morning, I can feel the flexibility benefits. The balance drills are simply a good challenge; difficult to master but not really strenuous.

As promised. . . the toe touch

As promised. . . the toe touch

Trainer Tommy Asuma has intensified the workouts I do. They are mainly focused at building strength for a more powerful turn. At home, I find I’m spending most of my time doing the flexibility stuff, which are more like stretches than a workout, because I don’t have the proper equipment at home. I also work in some treadmill at home.

At this point, although I’m consistently hitting more solid shots, the distance gains aren’t dramatic. But Joe has said, and I agree, that the next step should be to master the new swing components.

I need to keep the clubhhead closed, the arms extended, to make my best hip/shoulder turn.

When I can do all of that consistently well, I’ll have a really good foundation for some tweaks that will produce distance.

Better golf and better fitness? Sounds like a win-win plan to me.


NOTE: This is the eighth in a series on trying to improve a golf swing that’s become problematic—and developing more flexibility, balance and general fitness along the way. The whole series can be found at  http://theaposition.com/herbgould/golf/instruction

To start at the chronological beginning, start near the bottom, on “The Quest for a Better Swing” post.



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