In talking to the players on the range this week at the Shell Houston Open, the one thing they told me they were working on was balance and rhythm. A few mentioned other minor adjustments – ball position, alignment cues, that sort of thing – but the overarching theme was maintaining good balance and consistent rhythm in their swings.
There will be plenty of stories written about D.A. Points using his mother’s Ping Anser putter to win at Redstone Golf Club, and rightfully so given the clutch putts he holed down the stretch, including the 13-footer at the last for the victory. But D.A. would never have been in that position if he and his instructor, Gary Gilchrist, hadn’t worked hard on restoring balance and rhythm to his golf swing by quieting his lower body.
D.A.’s tendency was to let his legs and hips outrace his upper body. Below the waist, he was already in a finish position before the club ever reached the ball. Not only did that cause a power leak but, to compensate, D.A. had to fling the club at the ball with his hands. Being a coordinated athlete, he was able to get away with that move much of the time, but when his game and his confidence went south, the flaw accentuated his misses.
Gilchrist knew that if could quiet D.A.’s leg action, he could re-center his balance, allowing a fuller release of the golf club through impact. So they began working to keep D.A.’s right foot on the ground longer.
In practice, he still hits a lot of balls with his right heel completely planted on the ground throughout the swing. Now that can produce some vicious hooks on the driving range, but it also promotes a more centered, rhythmic swing that generates tremendous power at impact.
There are plenty of drills to help you with balance and rhythm. Hitting shots with your feet together is one. Taking your regular stance but pulling your knees close together so that your weight remains on the inside is another.
You can hit balls barefooted (if your club will allow it), or place the ball well outside your front foot and step into the shot – a drill Jack Nicklaus used to work on with Jack Grout – or pull your right foot back in an exaggerated closed stance and hit shots from there.
A PGA Professional can help you with other specific drills. They might look silly – certainly D.A. didn’t look like a PGA Tour winner hitting balls with his right foot stuck to the ground – but they work.
And as D.A. Points will certainly tell you, improving your balance and rhythm can lead to some very valuable results.
PGA Professional Scott Cory is the general manager at Cypresswood Golf Club in Spring, Texas