We've all heard time and again that we need to swing inside-out, and there is no shortage of drills and instruction out there designed to help us do just that. But like most things in golf, there's usually a huge difference between what we THINK we're doing and what we're ACTUALLY doing during our facsimiles of a swing. Often when we try hard to follow the target or aim line with the club, we end up unintentionally swinging over the top (OTT). That might be okay if you're trying to hit a fade or slice, but this isn't preferable or as powerful as swinging from the inside and hitting a draw.
I've written about swinging inside-out numerous times (including Ernie Els' clever "keep the box" thought)--a move that produces an inside path to the ball, which is one half of the equation to hitting a hook or draw. The other half of the equation is that the club face at impact must be closed to the path to some degree. Too much club face closure relative to the club face path and the ball will hook wildly or pull-hook. We've been told to swing to right field, swing towards one o'clock, hit the inside-left of the ball, etc. I've tried all of these and they've all worked and then later failed me in one way or another, and I believe that's because I was still making an unintentional OTT move by being fixated on the target or aim line and fixated on getting the club head back to the ball with respect to the target line.
I think it might be best to occasionally drill what a REAL inside path to the ball feels like. One should start with imagination: imagine a half semi-circle behind the ball. The smaller the club, the tighter that circle should be if attempting to hit the inside. Now, how can one swing inside WITHOUT trying to steer the arms through impact, which relies on timing and small muscles too much? In other words, how can you make an inside swing using--mostly--the big muscles in the lower body to drive the swing?
I don't think I've seen a better description lately than Martin Hall's drill/feel for hitting inside-out (video below). At address, imagine there's a large tent stake that's about waist high, inline with your rear foot, and about three feet away from you. Your first thought coming down should be to use your club as a hammer to hit that stake before rotating down. This will shallow the swing path to inside-out instead of the steeper outside-in move.
Another thought is to feel like the butt end of the club handle (and thus the entire club) is pointing out to right field shortly after starting down (back is still turned at this point and hands and wrists remain passive). But avoid the impulse to throw the club head at the ball from the top. When the club reaches near parallel to the ground and the hands are located close to belt level, the shoulders and the end of the club handle (and thus the whole club) will be pointing out to the right and appear to be pointing at the inside left of the ball or inside the target line. The right elbow will have dropped in close to the right hip and the right wrist can dorsiflex (bend back) even further (right palm facing the ground) to keep the end of the club pointing off to the right and on plane. Keep the club and shoulders pointing this way for as long as gravity and centrifugal force will allow. You may notice that the weight shift driving all this is naturally moving the way many teaching professionals (such Hank Haney and David Leadbetter) describe: The weight shifts first into the left big toe and then around to the outside of the left foot. The reason is that the weight of the club and arms are moving in this direction initially!
The club head will "fall" (creating the appearance of a loop) and be located well behind you at this point--NOT pointing at the target line, which would be an OTT move. This swing thought solves several problems. For one, it helps ensure an inside approach to the ball, which is essential for hitting a draw and avoiding a slice. It also ensures that lag is retained because of how late the butt end of the club is still pointing out to the right; as a matter of fact, lagging the club and swinging inside-out are closely related, just as casting and swinging OTT are closely related. The club head shouldn't just lag behind the hands relative to the target line; it should ALSO lag behind the hands relative to right field (lags behind the hands and also behind the body for a time). Finally, it flattens a steep swing and should therefore lessen fat shots.
In order for the club to return to that lined-up position at address, it must approach the ball on the downswing on an inside-out path. In fact, the proper swing path will cause the club to strike the inside quarter of the ball.
“On line” and “target line” are not the same. If you could take a string and attach it to the inside quarter of the ball on one end and to the butt of the club at the top of the backswing, then keep the butt of the club sliding straight down that string on the downswing, the swing would be “on line.”
So, the question is, “How do you get the club to the inside and in the ‘slot’ on the downswing?”
There are many ways to feel this. One of the most popular thoughts is the clock image. Feel like you are swinging the club from 7 o’clock to 1 o’clock. Some golfers need a body thought to get the club to the inside on the downswing. If this is you, you might want to think of getting your right elbow close to your right hip on the downswing. Too simple, you say.
Other golfers need to focus on the ball. If this is you, try to hit the inside edge of the ball at impact.
A good thought for you might be to keep your back to your target and swing your arms down to the inside. Just try to avoid starting your down with your shoulders and upper body as this will throw the club down on a steep and outside path.
For those of you who are very athletic and have strong legs, a good thought would be to move your weight to your front leg during the transition. This will allow the arms and club to fall down to the inside on the forward swing. Other people can relate to the butt end of the club. These people seem to gain distance (maybe 10 to 15 yards) simply by feeling the butt end of the club being pulled down at the ball. In any case, this seems to get the club on a good inside path.
Speed is another issue. If you have a fast change of direction it is called “hitting from the top.” If you are too fast during your transition, your club will never come down in the proper inside-outside approach angle. A good thought for you might be “slow at the top.’’
You may be hitting the outside of the ball at impact, imparting left to right spin. To correct this, you need to hit the inside of the ball at impact instead. To help you achieve this position, have the butt end of the club pointing inside the ball-target line as you swing your arms down. This will help you hit the inside of the ball.
As the downswing starts, the right arm and shoulder simply drop straight down as the feet press firmly into the ground and the knees make a slight lateral shift. There is no body turn at this stage the right arm cant drop straight down if the chest starts turning.
This straight down drop is what stores the lag angle at right elbow and right wrist as the club drops on plane into the slot half way down. The secret at this stage of the swing is to feel the pressure against the right hand trigger finger as the right palm faces down at waist-high. From the top of the backswing it feels like hitting your right thigh with the heel of your right hand while your right wrist stays bent all the way back.
At this waist-high downswing position of the hands, the butt of the club should point at the golf ball, toe of club points upward (but not quite straight up) and right palm is facing the ground, or more technically faces the ball on the ground.