Jimmy Ballard Connection
Good athletes in all sports use the entire body in a manner that produces the most effective and visually pleasing combination of power, accuracy and grace. Connection refers to the natural sequential wholeness and efficiency of their actions, and it invariably involves the use of the large muscles of the body.
Whether it’s Willie Mays in baseball, Rod Laver in tennis, Terry Bradshaw in football or Jack Nicklaus in golf, the best exponents of athletic achievement operate from the ground up through body center, and never depend solely on the smaller muscles in their hands and arms.
Feeling Connection In Golf
Here’s a simple drill for immediately acquiring the feeling of connection in the golf swing. Stand in your normal address position holding something fairly heavy such as a shag bag full of balls, a medicine ball or the like, and try throwing it with some authority toward a target about 15 feet away, as shown.
You will discover that to do this effectively you will naturally draw on the large muscles in your legs and back. To have a powerful golf swing, your whole body has to get into the act. If you rely primarily on your hands and arms to toss the shag bag, or to swing a golf club, you’ll lose both power and accuracy.
Going back to the shag bag throw image above, how would you naturally perform this action? With the weight equally distributed on the insides of your feet and legs, you would coil the entire upper body, the hands, arms, shoulders and torso together, against what I call a brace or set of the right leg. In the process, the head moves marginally to the right, simply following the spine.
As the bag reaches a point just above waist level going back, your weight moves onto the inside of the right foot and right leg, and your point of balance is 6 to 8 inches behind the mid-line of your body.
From here, you reverse the thrust of the legs from the ground up. Since the weight is predominantly “loaded” on the inside of the right foot, leg, and hip joint, you must start the weight transfer from there with a thrust of the right foot and right knee combined, followed immediately by a thrust of the whole right side, upper body, and hands.
In some respects, this particular image sums up Jimmy Ballard’s connection theory in a single image.
In order to throw a shag bag full of balls or a medicine ball about 15 feet away from, you will instinctively do several things.
Firstly, you would never attempt such a move with perfectly straight arms. If you want to move or throw a reasonably heavy object with both of your arms, you will automatically allow your elbows to bend, because it gives you access to the full strength of your arms, and it makes it easier to use your core to support the weight of the object.
Secondly, if you attempt this move, you will instinctively keep the weighted object in front of your chest. In so doing, you effectively create a connection between your torso, your arms, your core, and your legs.
Left Arm Connection
Golfers mistakenly think of their left shoulder in terms of the shoulder joint instead of the entire shoulder area including the surrounding large muscles in the back and chest.
If you take the club back with the shoulder joint rather than the entire shoulder area, you deprive yourself of the strength resident in those larger muscles, the “pecs” and the “lats” in weightlifter lingo.
Notice how our imaginary electrical plug rips out of the socket when the golfer uses only his arms to swing back. The swing remains connected and will yield much more power when the left arm and the left shoulder area operate as a unit taking the club back.
Of all the pages in Jimmy Ballard’s book ‘How to perfect your golf swing‘ this page is arguably the most important.
When most modern players investigate the idea of connection, they will usually be introduced to the ‘glove tucked into the left shoulder’ drill.
This idea is originally attributed to Sammy Byrd, who introduced it to Ben Hogan, and it has become synonymous with left arm connection.
To do the drill, you simply make short swings with something tucked into the crevice between your left peck and inner shoulder/armpit. The idea is to prevent the glove or handkerchief from falling out. Practicing half shots like this should force you to keep your left shoulder and your torso completely connected during the backswing. It’s okay if the glove falls down after impact. It’s not okay if the glove falls down before impact.
In essence, Ballard wants you to establish a solid connection between your left arm and the entirety of your left shoulder area. This connection is established at address, and you should aim to maintain it during the backswing and the follow-through.
Right Arm Connection
The most natural position of the right arm at the top of the backswing-akin to a throwing motion-is also the most effective because it permits the arm to work in tandem with the large muscles in the right shoulder area. Keeping the elbow tucked into the ribcage, or lifting it unnaturally high, as shown, are forms of disconnection because effective contact with the right shoulder area is lost.
Some golfers, such as Miller Barber, depicted here, naturally set the right arm in a higher position at address. Notice though, that Barber’s arm never changes in relation to the chest and ‘lat’ area of the right side. Arm and shoulder area move back as a unit and as he continues to coil, his left knee goes back and up with his arm. Barber does not have a ‘flying right elbow’ because he created connection at address and maintained it throughout.
Ballard’s ideas regarding right arm connection are actually pretty close to conventional golf instruction.
He is very much against the idea of a flying right elbow, calling it an ‘incorrect’ move that ultimately leads to disconnection. In addition, Ballard is also against the idea of trying to tuck the right elbow to your side for the entirety of the backswing.
Ballard wants a right arm movement that is comparable to what you would do when throwing a baseball. In essence, you are bending the right elbow during the backswing, while using the right shoulder to elevate the club, placing it in a powerful position from which you can start the downswing.
Connection In the Grip - Left Hand
Hold the club lightly in the left hand, exerting pressure only with the first finger, not the last three fingers as is often recommended.
The latter suggestion promotes disconnection by creating tension in the left forearm. Someone pulling on the club could yank you off balance because the only force you would be resisting with was coming from your forearm and shoulder joint or socket, not from the body.
If, however, you grasp the club under the heel pad, with your index finger simply wrapped around the handle, your arms would remain tied into your large back and shoulder muscles, which you could then use to resist the outsider’s pulling force.
Connection In the Grip - Right Hand
With the left hand properly on the club and held about waist high and the right hand facing the target (upper left), slip the middle and ring fingers of the right hand around the shaft, ensuring that the grip of the club is against and underneath the base pads of the fingers and that the club is resting in the fingers. Don’t let the right-hand slip under the shaft so that the grip is partially in the palm. The Large view shows assembled grip.
Proof of Connection Power
Springing or bending of the shaft at the onset of the downswing is visible proof of the kind of force created by a swing that emanates from the ground up.
Notice how Tom Watson’s right foot, right knee, right side and center have changed in the two frames. The bowing of the shaft is the result of a connected process involving the entire body.
Photos of the great ball strikers show that they create enough centrifugal force to bow or spring the shaft immediately as the club assumes the downswing plane, and maintain this pressure of the shaft through the impact area. In the swings of poor players, this phenomenon is drastically reduced or totally absent. Why?
Because it is impossible to create centrifugal force if you simply pull or drag the club toward the ball with a disconnected move of the arms and hands.
In his early years, Ben Hogan had an overswing and got into a lot of difficulty hooking the ball. As the smaller sketch shows, what really happened on his backswing was that he pulled his arms across the chest and the picked the club up, lifting from the shoulder joint.
In the remodeled swing with which he became dominant in golf in hi time, the left arm remained connected throughout the backswing, as evident in the larger figure.
Here he is coiled in a hitting position that not only will draw power, but great consistency from the use of his body’s major muscle groups.