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Introduction into one complete reference resource. So, during the winter of 1984, I wrote that first book in Orlando, Florida, in my spare time when not playing in tournaments. I'll never forget that experience. My wife Justine allowed me to use the living room of our apartment, where I had the full manuscript laid out on the floor. And it took that entire off-season for me to organize things.
Later that winter, I shot accompanying photographs. There was a chapter for each part of the game; the idea was that readers could find several good drills for whatever problem they had and solve their swing and shot-making problems through intelligent, honest practice. The beauty of that book was that everybody could find something productive in it, no matter what they thought about swing technique.
Back then, drills were not nearly as popular as they are now. I found that out when I pounded the streets of New York City looking for a publisher. No one bought the idea.
It was not until the 1987 Orlando Golf Show that I found someone who liked my book Jack McDermott of Golf Digest magazine. But it was not until 1990 that the book finally came out. That was because so much additional work had to be done, including reshooting the photographs and then having an artist do drawings based on them.
Thankfully, the brutal work paid off. The original Golf Digest's Book of Drills was an immediate success and, to this day, is still in hardback and has been reprinted fourteen times. The response was tremendous: Not only did average golfers offer accolades, so did top tour pros and teachers.
In the years following the publication of that book, I learned or invented many more drills, and in 2001 I came to another crossroads in my career. After wondering why no new drills book had been written, I decided to ask Golf Digest to step up to the plate once again.
What you now hold in your hands is a guidebook to golf improvement, since drills or practice exercises serve as a catalyst to learning, allow you to correct faults that sneak into every player's swing from time to time, and learn new tee-to-green scoring shots.
All of my instructors, at each and every school site, use drills to teach what I consider are the eight vital steps in a good golf swing, inclusive of what I call the Corridors of Success and the critical X-Factor positions. Let me explain, so that you are very clear about these instructional points.
The eight most logical steps of the swing, as determined by the study of top golf professionals and amateurs, are as follows:
Step One: The first move in the backswing.
Step Two: Halfway back.
Step Three: The three-quarter position of the backswing.
Step Four: The top of the backswing.
Step Five: The move down to the ball.
Step Six: Impact.
Step Seven: The early follow-through.
Step Eight: The finish and rebound.
I believe that learning to groove these ideal positions through drills is the true shortcut to good golf. However, there are not eight exact positions you must achieve. The ideal swing patterns must require allowances for your own personal differences, since there are always differences in great golf swings. To represent this, I came up with the Corridors of Successparameters within which I like to see any swing fall. For example, on the backswing, I might prefer that the left wrist be flat, although small variations are okay. A flat left wrist at the top is nice, but it is not a fundamental. Whatever area of the swing needs work, you can improve and groove it by working on drills, all designed to help you learn a new action or correct a faulty one in your technique.
I have a detailed system for teaching the game, and I do stress the importance of the X- Factor to many students working to improve through drills. The X-Factor is a proven concept that first takes into account the differential between the turn of the hips and the turn of the shouldersyour torque. It's how you turn, not how much, and what counts most is the gap or differential between the two turning actions. The X-Factor book discussed power positions from setup to finish and focused entirely on body motions. The Eight-Step Swing focused on how to teach and diagnose everything in the golf swing. Both books required a tremendous amount of research, which I have loved doing.
I'm happy that many of my philosophies and top drills come to the surface in Golf Digest's Ultimate Drill Book. This comprehensive instructional text contains what I call “Timeless Winners”evergreen drills I have been teaching for yearsplus well over one hundred new drills. What's more, this book contains photographs throughout rather than illustrations, since all the “players” involved in this project agreed that it will better allow you, the reader-golfer, to use the instructional messages put forth in the text that follows.
Whatever your handicap, this book can help you reach your full golf potential. I make this profound statement simply because I have witnessed students improve greatly by doing drill work. By practicing these drills, you can zero in directly on problem points in your game or golf swing, and address these right away.
I take great satisfaction in knowing that this book's publication will also allow teachers to learn new ways to help their students get better at golf. Take it from me, drills have broad use and can be used by all golf instructors, regardless of their own individual swing theory. Furthermore, any drill in this book can be modified to produce slightly different feels and swing actions.
Drills even work for tour players. Just recently, Vijay Singh told me that drills from my first book helped him improve his golf swing. Vijay's comment was very rewarding, considering he is a former Masters and PGA champion. And throughout Tiger Woods's life, all of his teachers, from his father Earl Woods, to Rudy Duran, to John Anselmo, to Butch Harmon, have had him use practice drills.
One of the drills I helped invent, the Stop-And-Go Drill, was a significant help to Tiger as he made swing improvements in the late 1990s with Butch Harmon on his way to becoming the world's leading golfer. Let's hope this drill, along with many others in this book, will help you bring your game to peak-performance level. All you have to do to accomplish this goal is to determine what area of your swing or shot-making game needs improvement, go to the relevant chapter containing specific cure-all drills, then sacrifice some playing time for practice time.
Good luck in your self-improvement journey.
Jim McLean Miami, Florida
• Favorite drills for every golfer, from my original bestseller, Golf Digest's Book of Drills, designed to help you develop technically sound setup, swing, and shot-making fundamentals
All of the practice drills you are about to learn are extra-special because they have stood the test of time. These drills are still being used by golf instructors at the Jim McLean golf schools, many top teachers around the country, and of course, myself.
These “timeless winners” serve as a good introduction to the myriad other drills contained in this very comprehensive bookeach designed to help you improve your setup, swing, or shot-making game. Regardless of your handicap (or, in case you're a teacher, your swing theory), you'll find all of these drillsfrom the Grip-Pressure Drill, to the Stop-And-Go Drill, to the Hands-Leading Chipping Drill, to the Wedge-Stroke Putting Drillextremely practical and easy to practice.
You'll have to practice regularly to achieve major change. But your time will be well spent. I know from the experience of thousands of golfers that using drills in practice sessions will help you master the proper golf moves and hit better shots. These are the golf motions and positions that will accelerate your learning curve.
GRIP-PRESSURE DRILL Problem: The golfer either grips the club too tightly or holds the club too lightly. Result: The golfer tenses up vital golf muscles and drains power from the swing, or sacrifices high speed for low control.
Goal: To determine what degree of “personalized” grip pressure allows you to generate high clubhead speed and maintain full control of the golf club throughout the swing.
Practice Procedure: Start by gripping the club very lightly. Label your lightest grip pressure as “1,” on a scale of 1 to 10. Next, grip progressively more firmly until you give the handle a big squeeze, reaching 10 on my scale. I invented the 110 scale in the 1980s to help golfers quantify the feel in their hands. As you proceed through my scale, give each degree of pressure a number.
Next, hit some shots, each time gripping more lightly than more firmly, until you find the grip pressure that allows you to hit the ball powerfully and accurately. That grip pressure number will probably be 4 or 5. However, there are allowable exceptions to the rule, according to my “Corridors of Success” leeway philosophy. The bottom line is: Find the grip pressure that gives you the best results, and nine times out of ten that will be lighter than what you've been using until now.
Constantly identify the feel of your personal grip pressure, so that you hold the handle the same way out on the course and give yourself the best possible chance to hit pro-standard shots. One more thing: Maintain constant grip pressure from the start to the end of your swing. This simple tip may become your best link to good play.
Tailoring the Tip: You can also vary pressure in each hand as you play intentional hooks and slices, which most golfers do not realize. Grip the club lightly in the right hand for a slice and lightly in the left hand for a hook.
Experiment with grip pressure until you find the hold that allows you to accelerate the club through impact into a balanced finish, like the one the player employs here.
INTERMEDIATE-TARGET DRILL Problem: The golfer aims his feet, knees, hips, and shoulders left or right of the target, and often compounds the fault by aligning the clubface improperly.
Result: Either of these problems will play havoc with your shot-making ability, because to quote Jack Nicklaus: “If you set up incorrectly, you'll hit a poor golf shot even if you make the greatest swing in the world.”
Goal: To learn to set up square to the ball, with the clubface perpendicular to the target and the bodyline parallel to the target line. Achieving this goal will enhance the probability of delivering the clubface squarely to the ball at impact and hitting on-target shots.
Practice Procedure: Like Nicklaus, pick an intermediate spot along the target line. I suggest anywhere from three feet to ten feet to thirty feet in front of the ball. Experiment in practice to see which “short target” makes it easier for you to set the club down correctly, then jockey your body into a matching square alignment position. Nicklaus actually looks at a spot very near the golf ball.
Once you determine your best intermediate target, lay a head cover down in that spot. Now, before hitting each practice shot, place that secondary target in your mind's eye and strike the golf ball directly over it.
When playing the course, pick out and focus on a divot, dark patch of grass, or bare spot that represents your intermediate target. Incorporating this “short target” procedure into your pre-swing routine, during practice and play, will help you establish correct club- body alignment positions that are likely to promote powerfully accurate shots.
When practicing, train yourself to line up to an intermediate target, such as a tee or a head cover in the path of your ideal shot.
TRIANGLE TAKEAWAY DRILL Problem: The player exaggerates hand and wrist action early on in the backswing, causing the club to swing quickly away from center.
Result: These faults cause the arms to “disconnect” from the body, the swing plane to be wrong, and the tempo, timing, and rhythm of the action to be out of sync.
Goal: To find a way to learn and groove a one-piece takeaway that allows an imaginary triangle formed by your arms and a line across your shoulders to stay intact for the first part of the backswing. A technically sound takeaway action will encourage good positions throughout the swing, thereby increasing your chances of swinging rhythmically and delivering the clubface squarely into the ball at impact.
The Triangle Takeaway Drill in pictures: Look and learn.
Practice Procedure: Select your driver. Grip the clubshaft a few inches below the club's handle. Place the butt end of the club gently against your stomach, at a point just above your belt. Now practice making small swings, concentrating on keeping your arms close to your sides with the club touching your navel.
This drill, shown to me by instructor Jimmy Ballard, is used to help golfers maintain their triangle and learn to stay connected. It will help you groove a good one-piece takeaway action, employ a fuller turn, and create added power.
THUMBS-UP DRILL Problem: After taking the club away correctly, the golfer dramatically over-rotates the hands and forearms, so that the thumbs of both hands point to the side, parallel to the ground.
Result: This is a mistake that will cause a dramatically negative domino effect, with the club ending up well behind the body on the backswing, giving the player virtually no chance of achieving square clubface-to-ball contact at impact.
Goal: To learn the correct position of your hands in the critical backswing and follow- through areas.
Practice Procedure: Swing back to chest level, making certain that your thumbs are angled up toward the sky. Hold that position for a few seconds, so you remember it and physically feel and groove it. Next, swing through to chest level, again making sure that your thumbs point at the sky. Hold that position.
Practicing this drill a few times a day will help you learn and master the correct hand-arm positions that are so vital to swinging the club along the proper path and plane.
Checking your thumbs on the back and forward swings is critical to training yourself to learn the proper hand positions involved in a good swing.
TWO-SHOULDER DRILL Problem: The golfer fails to consistently set the club in an acceptable position at the top of the swing, with the shaft nearly parallel to the target line. The player's club may either point well left of the target at the top, in a laid-off position, or well right of the target, in a cross-the-line position, or it may finish well short of the classic parallel position. Result: These incorrect at-the-top positions lead to faulty club-to-ball impact positions and redundant shots that usually fly far off target.
Goal: To learn how to consistently set the club in the parallel position (the clubshaft points down the target line), so that no manipulation with the hands and arms is necessary. You will find that the parallel at-the-top position gives you the best chance of achieving square contact with the ball and hitting shots at your designated target. Procedure: Without using a ball, make your normal backswing and stop at the top. Next, lower the club onto your right shoulder, so that your hands are about twelve inches from your right shoulder and the clubhead points at your target. You may choose to use the buddy system and have a friend confirm that you have matched these desired drill positions, or check yourself in a mirror. Next, swing through to the finish and hold that position. Lower the club onto your left shoulder and hold it there. The shaft should rest comfortably on the area between your neck and shoulder.
Keep practicing this drill until setting the club on your shoulder in the parallel position becomes second nature.
After you can easily swing the club into that resting position, stop the club at the top. Now simply raise the hands directly up, stopping when the hands are approximately five to ten inches above the shoulder. You are now in a powerful position at the top. The club is balanced, your arms and elbows are positioned properly, and you are relaxed. This all adds up to more speed and better clubface-to-ball contact at impact. Remember, it's okay to finish with the shaft on the shoulder, in a super-relaxed position that matches that of Tiger Woods and Ernie Elstwo pros with super swings.
BASEBALL BATTER'S DRILL Problem: The player fails to make a correct weight shift on the downswing, leaving too much weight on the right side instead of shifting into his or her left foot and leg. Result: The player tends to hit a high slice. However, if he flips his hands over in a counterclockwise direction, he will probably hit a hook.
Goal: To learn the feel of a correct weight shift, so that the majority of one's weight is on the left foot at impact.
Practice Procedure: Here's a great drill taught to me many years ago by legendary golf instructor Bob Toski.
Tee up a ball and assume your normal address position. Next, draw your left foot back to your right foot until your feet are virtually touching.
Start swinging, and just before you complete the backswing, stride forward with your left foot, like a baseball batter does when stepping into a pitched ball.
Practice this drill, actually hitting shots, until you feel and groove the correct downswing weight-shift actionin other words, one that produces good shots. You will be amazed at the results when you get the timing down correctly. Shot after shot will be near perfect. Remember to make that forward step while the club is still going back. Most golfers step too late.
STOP-AND-GO DRILL Problem: The player wrongly triggers the downswing with a violent upper-body move or exaggerates the lower body slide.
Result: The player tends to come into impact with the clubface wide open and then slice the ball severely.
Goal: To synchronize the downswing action, so that the movements of the lower body, upper body, arms, and golf club are sequentially timed in a rhythmic manner. Moreover, to learn to let the hands go along for the ride, rather than letting them take control of the club.
Practice Procedure: Here's a simple but magnificent drill that I learned while watching multiple Senior PGA Tour winner Jim Albus practice.
Many years ago, I saw Jim stopping at the top, checking his position and then swinging. I tried it with students and gradually learned they could actually hit balls. When I first showed this drill to professionals, they were very skeptical, thinking a total stop was dramatically mechanical. Now I see many other teachers using the Stop-And-Go Drill that follows.
From your address position, swing the club back, stopping at the top of your backstroke. Be sure at this stage to check that your weight is balanced. Hold this position for a few seconds. Next, complete the swing and trigger a perfect chain reaction by rotating your hips and legs smoothly, but powerfully, toward the target.
As you practice this drill, you should start feeling the lower body change and the hands sync with the entire downswing action flowing on automatic pilot. I also like students to feel the hands drop down under the chin into and through the impact area.
This is an awesome drill for learning an efficient, on-plane move. It's also great for promoting good balance during the swing, so work hard practicing it.
TWENTY DRILL Problem: The player loses power on the downswing because he fails to accelerate the arms. The player cannot improve swing speed.
Result: The player hits drives much shorter than he should.
Goal: To train the arms to swing the club powerfully, so that by the time the club swings into impact it is moving at high speed. Clubhead speed not only allows you to hit the ball longer, it adds height and carry to shots hit with the longer clubs.
Practice Procedure: Swing the club back and through twenty times in a row without stopping. Ideally you want to remain flat-footed through the impact zone. Some players are flexible enough to be able to swing all the way into the finish position while remaining flat-footed. I recommend you do this with a driver, swinging as fast as possible.
This drill trains you to feel how the body responds to the arms swinging and how the arms help swing the body.
Do twenty swings in the morning and twenty swings in the evening, for two weeks, and you'll see dramatic results.
EXTENSION DRILL Problem: Instead of letting the arms extend on the downswing, the player allows the right arm to cinch inward and the left arm breaks down into a faulty “chicken-wing” position. Result: The swing arc is shortened and clubhead speed decreased, creating a loss of power.
Goal: To learn what I call the “extension position.” In short, you want to extend the arms in the hitting area, so that a long flat spot is created, the swing arc widens, and clubhead speed increases.
Practice Procedure: Using a seven- or eight-iron, make small practice swings, each time concentrating very hard on stopping the club no more than four feet past impact. Next, look to see if both arms are extended, as former great player and teacher Johnny Revolta taught me to do, and make sure the clubface is square to the arc.
This is a superb drill for beginners and intermediate players, and a favorite at my golf schools around the country. After you can employ the perfect practice swing, begin hitting shots, being sure to stop at the “extension position.”
Stopping when the club swings a few feet past impact will help you incorporate extension into your technique.
LOB DRILL Problem: The player's swing lacks good tempo and timing, and he or she lacks an understanding of what makes their technique tick.
Result: The player plays “army golf,” hitting a shot left of the target one time and right of the target the next.
Goal: To learn the basic vital elements of a good swing and how to make a more coordinated start-to-finish action.
Practice Procedure: I learned this drill from former LPGA Hall of Fame member Betty Jamieson. It will help you become a better feel player and swing mechanic.
Practice hitting lob shots over a bush or tree located about five to ten yards in front of you. Make a full but very smooth, lazy swing, taking note of the role that each part of the body plays during the back and forward motions.
Betty would practice this one shot for hours. Regular workouts on the practice tee will allow you to increase your swing IQ and be a step ahead of your playing partners. Not only will you become a smarter, more rhythmic swinger of the club, you will be a great lob-shot player. You'll also be able to make solid, on-center contact with the ball off any lie.
HANDS-LEADING CHIPPING DRILL Problem: The player fails to let the hands lead the club into the ball.
Result: He flicks his wrists in the impact zone, causing the leading edge of the clubface to hit the top of the ball.
Goal: To ingrain the correct hands-leading action into chipping your swing, so you hit solid, on-line chips that carry the fringe, “check,” and then roll straight toward the hole. Practice Procedure: This drill, taught to me by former Masters champion Claude Harmon, Sr., will make you a great chipper virtually instantly.
Take your normal chipping setup using your favorite club, and make sure your hands are slightly ahead of the ball.
Next, employ a short backswing. Before you start down, have a friend place the grip end of a club just in front of the ball. Hit the chip, letting your friend's club stop the head of your club just after impact. You will immediately sense a hit-and-resist feeling in both your hands and arms.
The moment your club is stopped by the grip end of your friend's club, freeze your position. Note that your hands are ahead of the ball. Memorize the sensation, so you'll remember to do the right thing on the course.
When Mr. Harmon taught at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York, he required every new golfer to work on this drill. His desire to see these small shots executed correctly in no small part led to hundreds of excellent golfers at his club. Jack Burke and his brother Jim, who both worked for Harmon, followed their former boss's instructions when moving on to Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas.
When you arrive in this position, stop and feel the hit-and-resist sensation so vital to developing good chipping skills.
BUNKER-PLAY TEE DRILL Problem: The player digs the club too deeply into the sand.
Result: He fails to propel the ball over the bunker's lip and onto the green.
Goal: To take a shallower cut of sand, so that the shot floats over the lip and flies toward the hole.
Practice Procedure: This drill, which I learned from former U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi, will help you solve your problem and get the ball up and in from the sand.
Push a tee into the sand, so that its tip is just above the surface. Place a ball on the tee.
Take your bunker-play setup, with the ball opposite your left heel.
Now swing down, trying to clip the tip off the tee. Almost immediately, you'll realize that to succeed you have to hit behind the ball with a shallow angle of approach.
Knowing that will help promote the proper action. Now, just remember to take your new bunker-play technique to the course.
WATCH-THE-TEE PUTTING DRILL Problem: The player jabs at the ball on short putts, using a nervous “yip” action. Result: A putt hit on the low side of the hole.
Goal: To let a good stroke take care of business, instead of trying to steer the ball into the hole.
Practice Procedure: Place a tee in the vent hole of your putter's grip.
Concentrate on the tee at address and keep concentrating on it during the stroke. Johnny Miller focuses on a dot painted on the tip of the grip, which you may like better. In any case, focusing on the tee or the dot, and not the ball, allows you to alleviate anxiety and thus make a smooth, even stroke without thinking about it. I learned this through practice, as have other top tour pros who wanted to cure putting problems.
Take your eyes off the dot when you hear the ball ring in the cup.
RIGHT-ARM TOSS DRILL Problem: The player's right shoulder and right arm jut outward at the start of the downswing, causing the club to be pulled across the ball.
Result: A slice or a severe pull.
Goal: To employ the correct right-arm, right-shoulder movements, so that you come into the ball from the inside instead of the outside, and hit straight shots rather than slices.
Practice Procedure: The following drill (see color insert page 1), taught to me by former Masters and PGA champion Jack Burke, Jr., will allow you to accomplish your main goal. It also offers the added benefit of helping you learn to properly sequence lower- body action with the correct throwing motion during the swing.
Grip the club in your right hand only. Take your address position, then look down the fairway and pick out a specific target.
Swing the club back to the three-quarter position.
Start the downswing by taking a small step forward with your left foot, then actually throw the club on a line drive at the target using an underhand/sidearm throwing motion.