For those who had been accustomed to getting out to the golf course or to the driving range on a regular basis, the stay-at-home restrictions we’re now under have a lot of people feeling a bit claustrophobic. It’s the right thing to do, it certainly isn’t helping you to keep your game sharp, right?
But there are some ways that, even under these circumstances, you can knock off a little of your rust and fine-tune some of your skills, right from home. We’ve put together some practice drills that can be done in your house or back yard that will help you improve your technique so that you’ll be primed and ready when it’s time to get back to your normal golf routine. We’ve included drills that will help you with your putting, your chipping, and your full swing.
Putting Drills: Improving Swing Mechanics
The most common reason why golfers miss makeable putts is because their club face is not square to the target line at impact. Your swing path may be fine, but if the face is just a degree or two open or closed when you make contact, the likelihood is that the putt will be offline. So how can you learn to consistently deliver a square putter face to the ball?
We have a great putting drill for you aimed at making sure that you’re controlling the face angle of your putter and striking the ball with a perfectly square blade. And the great thing about this drill is that it can be done right in your living room.
Drill: Roll the Battery
One way to determine if your putter face is square at impact is to putt using a D-Battery instead of a golf ball. Place the battery horizontally on your floor or carpet and strike it as you would a ball. The object is to have the battery roll smoothly straight toward your target.
If both the heel and toe of your putter strike the battery simultaneously, it will roll straight and true, indicating that your putter face was square.
If, however, the toe end of the putter hits the battery first, it will roll offline in a counterclockwise direction. This will reveal that your putter face was slightly closed, which usually causes putts to be missed to the left. Conversely, if the heel end strikes the battery first, it will roll offline in a clockwise direction. Heel-first contact would indicate a face angle that was slightly open, which usually results in missing putts to the right.
This is a very simple but effective way to develop the right feel for bringing the putter face back to the ball perfectly square. Get good at the battery drill and you’ll make a lot more putts on the course.
Putting Drills: Improving Posture & Mechanics
A key fundamental of solid putting is keeping your head over the ball, and still, throughout the entire stroke. Too many golfers move their head during the stroke, anxious to see the result and “peeking” prematurely, or simply allowing the shoulders to rotate on the forward swing…with the head going along for the ride.
In addition to head movement, another flaw that will affect your putting consistency is a swing path that cuts across the ball from out-to-in. That kind of a stroke will put sidespin on the ball and will cause your consistency to be much more erratic.
The Head Against the Wall Drill
If you have either of these issues in your putting stroke, we have good news for you! We have a drill for you that you can work on right at home that addresses both of these problems. It’s called the “Head Against the Wall” drill and it will help you monitor both excessive head movement as well as ingraining a proper swing path.
Here’s how it works:
Set up, without a ball at first, with your head against a wall and the toe of your putter against the baseboard.
Start by making slow practice strokes, keeping your head against the wall. This may be an odd feeling for a lot of people if they’ve become accustomed to moving their head during the stroke. After a while, you can hit real putts from this same position.
This drill also helps with your path. If you are a person who likes to have a straight-back-straight-through swing path, simply keep the toe of the putter on the baseboard throughout the stroke. If you are a player who prefers to make an arc with your stroke, have the putter head move slightly away from the baseboard on the takeaway, then back to square on the through swing, and then away from the baseboard on your follow through.
This is a great drill to work on at home to learn to keep your head still throughout your putting stroke and to groove a consistent path.
Chipping Drills: Improving Chip Angle & Motion
A very common mistake that amateurs make when chipping the ball is to flip their wrists at impact. This is usually caused by one of two reasons…and often both.
The first cause is a subconscious effort to “lift” the ball. There is often an urge to get the ball airborne, and in the attempt to do that, many amateurs improperly flip their wrists. The second reason is that the body stops rotating on the downswing. If the body stops turning, the wrists can take over.
So how can you ingrain the feeling of the proper chipping motion, where your wrists remain fairly quiet, and you allow your body to turn toward the target after impact? Here’s a good way:
Work on your chipping technique with a broom
As in the photo, grip about halfway down the broom, so that the handle extends up past your left hip. Take some practice chipping strokes, trying to keep your hands and wrists quiet, and rotating athletically so that you are facing the target after impact.
What you are trying to do is to execute your “chip” without the broom handle touching your left side. If you flip your wrists at impact, or if you stop your body rotation, the handle will hit you in the side, a reminder that your hands and wrists were too active. Keep practicing until you are able to make a normal chipping stroke where the broom handle does not make contact with your side.
Full Swing Drills: Improving Posture And Mechanics
One of the keys to making solid contact with the ball is to maintain your posture throughout the swing. If you “straighten up” in your backswing, or during your downswing, you are changing your posture and making it more difficult to strike the ball consistently. There is a long list of swing errors and poor shot results that can come from unwanted posture changes, from topping the ball, to hitting fat shots, etc.
If you’re a golfer who is prone to losing your posture during your swing, we have a great practice drill for you that you can work on right from the comfort of your home. It is called the “Butt Back Drill” (and you’ll see why it’s called that in a moment).
The Butt Back Drill
The purpose of the Butt Back Drill is to get the feeling of how to retain your setup posture throughout the swing. Here’s how it works:
Start by taking your stance with your rear end against the back of a chair.
Then rotate your shoulders into your backswing and push the back side of your rear end (away from the target) into the chair.
As you transition into your downswing, push the front side (target side) of your rear end into the chair.
If you are keeping your rear end attached to the chair, then your spine will stay down in the tilt you established at address. This will keep your swing center the same distance from the ball throughout the swing.
This move may feel uncomfortable at first, but stick with it. As with most swing changes you make, the more you practice maintaining your posture throughout the swing, the better and more comfortable you’ll become.
Full Swing Drills: Improving Your Swing
In a properly sequenced golf swing, the start of the downswing should be initiated by the lower body. At the important transition point in the swing, when the backswing ends and the downswing begins, the first move should be a slight lateral shift of the hips toward the target (a move often referred to as a “hip bump”).
Many higher handicap golfers, however, do just the opposite. They start the downswing with their upper body, as their shoulders and arms take over the swing, resulting in the dreaded “over-the-top” move. This immediately sends the club outside the target line, requiring the golfer to then pull it back to the left on its approach to the ball, cutting across it on an out-to-in swing path. This over-the-top move is the #1 cause of the slice. Here’s how to practice the hip bump:
The Hip Bump Drill
This drill will teach you how to properly use your hips on the downswing. If you are like so many amateurs that tend to start their downswing with the shoulders and arms, this drill will get you to activate your lower body first.
- To utilize this drill, you’ll need a large exercise ball or a beach ball.
- Set up with the ball between your front hip and a wall. Cross your arms on your chest (no golf club at first), and make a full shoulder turn on the backswing. Then press the ball against the wall with your front hip. You’ll not only get the feel of how to initiate the downswing with your lower body, but you’ll also learn how to shift your weight to your front foot.
- After you get accustomed to the feeling, try it using a golf club (if you have enough room to make a backswing).
Keep repeating this drill, starting at address and moving through to impact. With enough practice, you’ll learn how to activate your lower body first, and you’ll get a power boost in your swing.
Conclusion: Practice Makes Perfect
All golfers are looking forward to getting back out on the course again, but since you’re currently restricted to being at home, you might as well take advantage of the situation by working on your game. Practice the drills we described above and start improving your technique in these key areas. Then, when it’s time to get back out to play, you’ll be a better player and you’ll have a step up on your golfing buddies.