Todd Sones was recently named one of Golf Digest’s 50 Best Teachers in America for 2015-2016 and has been a Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor every year since 1995. He’s also on the Golf Academy of America’s National Advisory Board and made a visit to the Phoenix campus just last month.
Todd is based out of Vernon Hills, Illinois (about 30 minutes outside Chicago), and in these cold winter months, he really encourages his students to work on their swing mechanics. Playing this time of year is really not an option. In a recent email blast, Todd explained the importance of using the offseason to master the concept of lag.
Todd says lag is an important concept. It’s what all great players have but not many amateurs do. He says lag is why great players look like they swing the club so smoothly and still hit the ball so far. Lag is basically delaying the energy needed to strike the golf ball.
There are four part to the golf swing: the lower body, the upper body, the arms, and the golf club. What you’re trying to do is store the energy of the golf club.
From the top of the backswing, a great downswing transition or sequence starts with the lower body. As the swing starts down, the weight transfers to the left side, and then the left side firms up. The next part to go, like the cracking of a whip, is the upper body. As the lower body slows down, the upper body begins to snap. As the upper body slows down, the arms begin to snap. The energy then transfers to the arms, and finally, the club head snaps. The best players lag the club head to the last possible moment so all their energy is dispersed at impact.
For most people, the concept of lag has to first be understood, and then it has to be practiced. Here are three drills Todd likes for improving lag:
Place the club behind the golf ball and drag the golf club so it rises prior to impact. You’re not actually hitting the golf ball. You’re just learning to drag the golf club. One thing you’ll notice in players with great lag is that the grip handle actually moves up at impact because the left shoulder’s going up, the right shoulder’s going down, and they’re lagging.
When players cast the golf club, the grip handle moves backwards. It never moves up. The drag drill is designed to let you feel that. Even if you top the ball, that’s okay. You’re getting the feel of what it’s like to pull through with your left side. The left shoulder goes up.
Hinge Drill (courtesy of Dave Phillips, TPI Academy)
Hinge the golf club to about the right knee and stop. From there, try to hit the ball as far as you can. The goal is to get your hands out in front of the clubhead and strike the ball solidly. Hit it while squaring the face. This drill teaches you how to pull through with the handle and create some speed.
Preset Drill (courtesy of Chuck Cook)
Set the hands in front of the club head and the club head in front of the golf ball. Start by hitting little chip shots. Pull through, feeling the lag. Turn a little and pull through. If you’re hitting off mats, you can hear the sound if you hit it correctly. You can hear the ball being struck by the club and then the club striking the mat. If you hear the club striking the mat before it strikes the ball, you know you’ve lost your lag.
As you get proficient at that, start letting your backswing get a little longer. You’re learning how to feel lag and what it should feel like at impact. The heel pad of your right palm should be pressing forward and that pressure should be applied against your left palm. You should feel the back of your left hand bow while pulling with the back three fingers of your left hand.
Often people use their right hand and flip the golf club. All the pressure is in the front of the right hand instead of the heel pad. These are positions you have to learn and practice. They’re skills. They don’t come naturally. Todd demonstrates these drills in the following video: