Many of the Golfers I Teach Played Other Sports at Some Time in Their Lives
Whether it was football, baseball, basketball, hockey or anything in between, they have an athletic foundation that’s rooted in another sport. But for some reason, when they come to the golf course they try to create a foreign motion rather than rely on the same athletic tendencies that help them play other games. One of my newest students is Arizona Cardinals all-pro defensive back Patrick Peterson. Obviously Patrick is a world-class athlete, and actually a fine golfer as well, but a few things were hindering his swing and keeping him from being consistent. To help Patrick improve, I focused on concepts he knows from football and how those same athletic motions translate to the golf swing. When a student comes to you, be sure ask them what other sports they’ve played. They don’t have to be an NFL star to use athleticism in the golf swing, but as the teacher you still want them to have a swing that complements who they are as an athlete or utilizes their body’s natural tendencies.
When I saw Patrick walking toward me for our first lesson, before I even shook his hand I threw a football at him. Of course he caught it with ease, but I was watching to see how he threw it back. As he took the ball back, he transitioned force from his back foot onto his front foot and he snapped a tight spiral in my direction. Pretty good form for a DB. I explained that it was the same concept for hitting a golf ball. As we played catch, I asked him to concentrate on his sequence of motion: arm goes back, body goes forward and then the hand goes forward as the ball comes out. Afterwards, I asked him to hit a few balls focusing on the same form he uses to throw a football. So the club goes back, force transitions from the back foot onto the front foot and the club comes through. This is a great way to explain proper sequencing in the golf swing to any athlete that’s familiar with the throwing motion (whether it’s football or baseball). Another thing you’ll notice with athletes who throw a lot: once the club rises above the shoulder on their backswing, on the downswing they tend to come over the top. That’s because in the throwing motion, the hand and arm move across the body as the ball is thrown. To help Patrick with this, we shortened his back swing so the club and his hands don’t come above his shoulder, and he’s less likely to initiate the over the top motion. To get the feel for the abbreviated motion, I had him take a seat while a gripping golf club and then rotate his torso away from the target.
In order to catch a football, the tension level in your hands has to be minimal. Every spiral I sent Patrick’s way, his hands braced the impact upon the catch. They weren’t like bricks. When I explained to Patrick that you need the same tension-free hand pressure when you’re gripping a golf club, you could see the light bulb go off.
Bring the Field to the Course
When Patrick is on the football field, he’s not thinking about how he’s moving. He’s just reacting. The goal with Patrick, as with any other athlete, is to make them feel as comfortable on the golf course and they are on the playing field. By relating the golf swing to terms and motions they’re already familiar with, you can help the golfer feel more relaxed, reactionary and loose when they’re on the course. Not rigid, tight and trying to perform a motion that fights against the body’s tendency.