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Sonic Golf Teaching Tip: Two Swings Contrasted, The Speed is Early But for Different Reasons

We recently worked with two golfers whose swings are fun to contrast. Lets call them Jon and Jayne. Both are dedicated golfers. Jon is athletic and naturally aggressive about everything. Jayne is graceful, almost to the point of being delicate.

If you listen to both golf swings (using Sonic Golf System-1, of course), you hear that the club reaches its maximum speed long before it gets to the ball. They have the same generic problem, but for completely different reasons.

Jayne’s golf swing is graceful. She swings the club back nicely with a long and flexible turn, has a beautiful transition, starts to build up speed in the downswing but just doesn’t seem to have enough strength to maintain club speed through the ball. As a result, her driver carry distance is 120 yards or so.

Jon, being your standard Neanderthal, is completely different. The backswing is slow and deliberate without much flexibility. The backswing transforms into the downswing suddenly, without much of a transition. The downswing is best described as ‘forceful rage.’ Random results follow, mostly far right of target.

We started both golfers with the resonant pendulum exercise: swing the club back and forth and back and forth and back... etc. like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. This introduces them to the sound of resonance (see the May 2009 Sonic Golf Newsletter) and gets them swinging with better rhythm and pace.

After that, we played the following game with Jayne. Working with the driver, we asked her to focus on the location of the peak sound (i.e. highest pitch and loudest volume) and then to move that peak sound well beyond the ball (for a right-handed golfer, well beyond her left foot). We also asked her to focus on the pitch of that maximum speed. We made a few practice swings to demonstrate for her that the faster the club moves, the higher the pitch. This pitch is actually a progression of musical chords, and an instructor can make a series of swings, each of increasing speed, in which each successive swing reaches the next highest pitch chord. We then identified the chord which is the highest pitch Jayne achieves in her golf swing and challenged her to reach the next chord in the progression when the club is about a foot past the ball. (Sure, we all know that maximum speed should be at the ball, but this is just a exercise designed to get her to feel what it is to keep the club moving through the ball.)

Two amazing things started to happen relatively quickly to her swing. The first was a much stronger rotation through the ball. This happened naturally as she started to learn what it is to maintain speed through the ball. The second is that the backswing became a little more compact. This too was a result of trying to keep the speed through the ball; if she overextended her long and graceful turn on the backswing, she did not have the strength to maintain speed through the ball. Within 10-15 minutes Jayne was exhausted, as hitting the ball hard can be surprisingly tiring. She was also hitting the ball noticeably farther.

Our approach with Jon was completely different. The pendulum exercise worked great in practice swings, but it failed to reform the overly abrupt and aggressive beginning to his downswing when he took a real swing - so instead of making full swings with a 6-iron or a driver, we had him hit balls with a sand wedge. This club is nice because people are willing to make smaller swings with it. We started with half shots, no more than 50 yards, with the goal of learning to become comfortable with a very quiet transition. As an extreme example, we actually had him maintain the quiet at transition while he counted to three.

Of course, this exercise removed all the dynamics from the transition (i.e. the body, the club, everything came to a complete halt). Once he became comfortable with the quiet of the transition, we asked him to focus on the gradual building of speed at the beginning of the downswing, rather than the abrupt building of speed. This is kind of fun, because the easiest way to increase speed gradually is to put a little stretch in the swing. After a few minutes, the combination of maintaining the quiet at the transition and the gradual build in speed at the beginning of the downswing caused him to start to feel the stretch at the top of the swing, with which he started to experiment. As he got comfortable with this, he worked is way up to a full sand wedge, all the while maintaining the quiet of the transition and the gradual build of speed at the start of the downswing. Now the back and forth and back and forth ... practice swing became more about him feeling the body stretch at the top of the swing, and hearing the quiet and the gradual building of speed. By the time he started hitting his 6-iron, the swing had a completely different character. There was a lot more stretch in his swing, a lot more serenity and patience in the transition. His peak speed had moved much closer towards the ball and instead of hitting slap-shot fades, he was hitting high draws.

Two very different golf swings, both with peak speed peak long before the ball, each for a different reason, both improved by System-1.

Dr. Bob Grober
Founder, Sonic Golf, Inc.