By John Ortega, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Costa Mesa Country Club
Recently in my teaching, especially when giving a short game lesson, I’ve had great success helping people hit better shots when I describe needed adjustments in terms of right and left, push and pull.
First let me discuss right and left. I have noticed that many players have poor coordination and strength in their lead side. The mere suggestion of focusing on the left hand, arm and shoulder and their potential involvement in playing shots has not only shown immediate improvement- it has prompted the comment “I’ve never heard that before”. When the left side is emphasized to those players lacking left side involvement I’ve found that their clubheads bottom out more efficiently with less dig, causing shallower divots. The left shoulder rises into impact as a result of a number of influences. This creates a vertical influence and an extension effect.
A method that seems to reveal off-hand dexterity is to have a golfer perform left-hand only or right hand release(take the hand off) before impact drills. The majority of golfers I’ve tested perform poorly at this task. Working on improving left-hand only or right-hand off before impact helps that avid golfer immensely.
Right-hand only is also helpful, but for different reasons. Many players that are David Leadbetter trained perform this exercise. I’ve also heard Bill Harmon at a SCPGA Teaching Summit recommend a right-hand only practice for those players who are stubbing or blading their pitch shots. It seems to me that this exercise breeds a degree of patience when it comes to straightening the right arm just prior to and past impact into the follow-through. Pushing too hard or too soon results in poor contact.
Next let me discuss push and pull. When working on my game with Gregg McHatton a few years ago, we discussed a definition in “The Golfing Machine” regarding the right and left-side.
He said that that passage aways bothered him. He went on to say that “the definition of push is to move away from a center. The definition of pull is to more toward a center”.
In my experience I have encouraged more pull effect in the stroke than I have emphasized push. But I have had a few players that over-dragged the handle (not letting the club arc and release naturally through the impact zone), particularly related to pitching and putting. And players that are deficient in pull effect tend to line up the lead arm and club shaft too soon prior to impact.
Certainly these are concepts that have been around awhile and are seemingly simple. But they have seemed to have lost favor in modern golf instruction. They are more of a ‘macro’ concept in terms of movement potential and force. As an instructor, your knowledge of the various ways that each of these principles should be communicated with an individual golfer requires a fair amount of discussion, consideration, and work experience so you become more adept in their use.
Though I do my best to keep abreast of the current ideas in teaching, the ‘old school’ golf pros that I was mentored by seemed to offer more advice in these terms than much of today’s popular instruction. As PGA professional instructors, don’t we owe it to our students to be versed in multiple concepts that contribute to their improvement? Keeping up with the old and the new, the push and the pull, will help golfers to thrive.
Your thoughts are appreciated and welcome.
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