By Brian Manzella, Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, with Mike Chwasky
If you watched the U.S. Open this past weekend, you no doubt marveled at eventual champion Martin Kaymer’s opening pair of 65s en route to a dominant eight-stroke victory. You probably also saw clips of Kaymer on the range doing a drill with a tennis ball hanging from a lanyard around his neck and wondered what the heck he was doing. Well, that drill isn’t exactly something new to golf, but I’ll give Kaymer credit for finding a way to do it with a convenient device (a tennis ball and lanyard) that can be used anywhere, anytime.
The basic idea of the drill is to hold the ball between the forearms at address and to keep it there until just before impact. In the video, you will notice that Kaymer allows the ball to fall from his arms as he delivers the club down to impact, and you should do the same if you decide the try it.
Kaymer most likely uses this drill to help him maintain a more consistent swing width as he makes his transition in the downswing. If you watched his swing closely over the weekend, you probably noticed that he has a ton of lag (or downcock) in his transition, which is an advanced move that helps the best players create clubhead speed. But as desirable as this move can be, it also tends to get out of control in the transition, even for some of the world's best players like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia and Rickie Fowler. When players with this type of swing pull down too hard in the transition, the butt of the club and their arms can get too close to the body, creating an overly narrow position as the club moves to impact. The result is inconsistent ballstriking and poor distance control. Kaymer avoids this mistake by training with his lanyard and tennis ball, keeping tension on the lanyard in the transition and maintaining a consistent swing width.
If you’re a recreational player, it’s unlikely that you struggle with this same problem, but Kaymer’s drill can do other things to help your swing be more consistent. For one, holding a ball between your forearms in the backswing will effectively prevent you from rolling your arms too much in the backswing, which is a common error that can lead to an open clubface at the top and at impact.
Another thing Kaymer’s simple drill can do for you is prevent your arms from outracing your body in the backswing. This out of sync move is another common mistake that leads to all kinds of inconsistencies in the downswing that contribute to poor ballstriking. Practice this drill and your body and arms will be nicely coordinated in both the backswing and downswing.
A word of caution: If your swing features any lifting of the arms in the backswing, like Fred Couples or Kenny Perry, for example, this drill might do more harm that good. Be careful not to damage a swing that works for you by trying to swing like someone else.