There are two very general concepts when it comes to how to control the golf swing: (1) Control is achieved via the large muscles of the shoulders, chest, torso and hips, and (2) control is achieved via the smaller muscles connected to the hands and arms.
We hear all the time on Golf Channel about the large muscles of the chest controlling the turn and the hips producing power. While this might be the case for a few tour professionals, it certainly isn’t the whole story, and, in most cases, isn’t that much of the story. We hear a lot less about case (2) because it is no longer very fashionable. However, if an amateur golfer only uses the large muscles in (1), there will be little resembling a golf swing and not much in the way of clubhead speed. There has to be an arm swing as well, working in the correct sequence with the body turn. In effect, this means that (1) and (2) above need to be merged and coordinated in the correct sequence to power AND control the golf swing.
Most amateurs I see initiate the downswing by turning the shoulders as fast as possible, often coupled with a fast hip turn. This achieves a couple of things: (a) The club path AND plane are instantly changed to ensure an out-to-in path and steep swing plane; (b) it becomes impossible to create the correct swing sequencing; (c) maintaining the head position is very difficult, and (d) an extremely high left-to-right ball flight.
I am a firm believer that in order for someone to understand a change in their swing, they must be able to feel the difference between before and after an adjustment. This is not the same as describing someone as a “feel” player; rather, it is educating a student about what it feels like to use certain muscles. If someone can feel the difference, they can repeat the different motion. If used with certain key phrases, we can overcome the student’s difficulty in learning new body motions by verbal description alone.
For the player that uses their upper body as described above, I like to use a simple drill in order for them to feel an arm swing. With the feet and knees together, I have them hit balls by using just the arms. The swing has to be free and easy, with no tension in the upper body, and a light grip. Once they have attained some measure of balance and can swing the arms more freely, I have them increase the speed of their arms until they cannot go faster and remain balanced. It’s important to note I mean an arm swing, not a wristy or handsy swing. Once the student has a good feel for this drill, I introduce the concept of left forearm rotation during the golf swing. This will be the subject of my next editorial.