Scottsdale, AZ (Sports Network) --
As I set here watching the Major League All Star Game, a thought occurred to me about my next article for SportsNetwork.com. The golf swing and baseball swing are incredibly similar. When I was a kid, my parents constantly told me my baseball swing would screw up my golf swing and vice versa. So I quit playing baseball and focused on golf. I also came to this decision because I had no arm, and warning track power (at best) in a little league park!
Through my career as a teaching professional, I have continued to use baseball analogies to help students understand the principles of the correct golf swing. There are many similarities and only a few differences. Recently, I had the opportunity to break down these similarities and differences with a Major League catcher from the Mariners organization.
Here is what we came up with:
1. The first obvious difference is that there is no takeaway in a baseball swing. This also leads to the first similarity. Power hitters in baseball stand with their shoulders closed and their back to the pitcher to create torque and delay the hit to come around with maximum power. Golfers should do the same in the backswing. In the takeaway, turn your back to the target.
2. The initiation of the forward swing in both sports is completely identical. Both forward swings are initiated by the lower body. In baseball, the hips slide toward the target and begin rotating open while the shoulders hang back and stay closed. The golf downswing begins the same way. The hips should slide slightly toward the target and begin rotating open, while the shoulders hang back and stay closed. This creates the ?X-Factor? many of you may have read or heard about.
3. The motion of the arms toward the ball is also identical for both sports. In baseball, the trailing elbow (right elbow in a right-handed swing) tucks to the rib cage as the bat flattens, getting the butt end of the bat handle pointing at the ball as it comes toward the batter. In golf, the same sequence occurs. The trailing elbow tucks to the ribs while the club flattens, pointing the butt end of the grip at the golf ball.
4. A major difference with the 3rd point is the posture for both swings. A baseball player will remain upright because the ball is in the air. The move in step 3 will make the bat swing level to the ground. In golf, the ball is on the ground and it is necessary to hit down on the ball. The club shaft will be more upright in the golf swing as long as the golfer maintains his/her spine angle over the ball.
5. The arms rotate through impact at the same rate in both swings. When I have students make baseball swings, their arms rotate correctly through the hitting zone. But as soon as that student swings at a ball on the ground, the arms stop rotating. I blame this on trying too hard to get the ball off the ground. The club is designed to get the ball airborne, let it do the work. You need to make a swing through the ball similar to a baseball swing. In both swings, the trailing arm rotates over the top of the lead arm through the hitting zone - this is called "releasing the club."
6. Remember, the grips are different in both sports. Baseball players grip the bat more in their palms. Golfers should grip the club more in the base of the fingers. This creates a major difference in the release of the club. The trailing hand of a baseball player will be under or behind the bat at contact. The trailing hand of a golfer will be more on top of the club at impact.
7. Finally, the finish is different in both swings. Baseball players do not have to play their foul balls; therefore they can swing for the fences and not be punished if they drastically miss one. This aggressive swing usually results in an off-balance finish or a finish on the back foot. Golfers must play his/her foul balls. Therefore, you should swing at a pace which allows you to finish balanced on your left side.
So the next time you have the itch to work on your golf game, maybe head over to the batting cages. Getting a little work in on your baseball swing can help your golf swing as long as you understand the similarities and differences. You can also try the baseball drill on the driving range. Tee a few golf balls up, make a couple of baseball practice swings, gradually getting closer to the ball each time until you finally have the club on the ground behind the ball. Make your golf swing feel like your practice swings and you will be rewarded with a great golf shot! Good luck with your games and watch a little more baseball this summer!
PGA professional, Doug Hammer, is the Director of Instruction for Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale, AZ. Doug has been with Troon Golf since 1998, teaching full time since 2001. Doug has studied under some of the game's greatest teachers in Tim Mahoney, Hank Haney, and Mike and Sandy LaBauve. Since 2001, Doug has taught in 10 U.S. states and a short stint in Japan. With this experience, he brings a very patient and consistent approach to the lesson tee, and feels that he can help all levels of players reach their goals.