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Vijay Swing

How to practice, if not play, like the world's No. 1 golfer

The world's top-ranked player is famous for his relentless practice. Vijay Singh is often seen on the range after a round, working on his swing well past dark. Unlike most pros -- but, as a matter of fact, a lot like you -- Singh has no swing coach on the payroll. He mostly works out by himself, using the kind of drills long familiar to diligent hacks and journeyman golf teachers. The swing aids reinforce key fundamentals -- alignment, timing, club head path -- that amateurs ignore at their peril.

"I don't like working with videos [of the swing] because you see so many different things," Singh told reporter Glenn Sheely of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Then you try to make the swing look pretty, instead of effective."

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The photo at left shows the man at work. We've asked Ryan Donovan, an instructor at White Flint Golf Park in Rockville, to explain how the drills -- or similar ones that target a typical recreational player's weaknesses -- can improve your swing.

Perform these drills diligently and you may clean up your swing a bit, possibly hit a few more fairways. Perform each one 10,000 times a week for a decade and we can practically guarantee you'll become one of the top players in the world.

No, just kidding. With a swing like yours, buddy, you're going to have to hire a swing coach.

1. Club shaft on the ground, parallel to the target line.

This helps ensure the feet are aligned properly -- not pointed at the target itself, but parallel to the line of the ball's intended flight. "Your eyes can play tricks on you," deceiving you into thinking you're set up properly, Donovan says. "The club on the ground helps ingrain the habit of proper alignment." For Singh, the club also provides a visual guide for his swing path.

2. Golf glove tucked under left arm.

This helps the golfer "stay connected," Donovan says, meaning the arms and body turn together. If they get out of sync -- if, say, the arms are turning faster than the body -- the glove drops to the ground. "This drill is mostly for advanced players," Donovan says. More important for developing golfers' timing: learning to keep the arms and hands very relaxed throughout the swing, which permits them to turn more easily with the body. "Arm tension can ruin your timing," he says.

3. Plastic water bottle about a foot in front of and an inch to the right of the ball.

If Singh's club head or ball hit the bottle, the club is moving from inside (his side of the ball) to outside (the far side of the ball) rather than straight down the target line. But, Donovan says, most amateurs have the opposite problem -- swinging from outside the target line to inside, the dreaded "over the top" swing path which invariably produces a slice. (For fix, see next item.)

4. Club shaft stuck in the ground behind the golfer, matching the angle of the club at address.

Keeping the club "on plane" -- neither too vertical nor too horizontal -- is essential to a repeating swing. The shaft provides Singh with a visual checkpoint for his plane on both backswing and downswing. But this may distract less experienced players, Donovan says. A more "feel"-related drill to improve swing plane: Use a training aid like the "Inside Approach" ($80, www.insideapproach.com; knockoffs made of PVC pipe are available via eBay for about $15) or the homemade model Donovan recommends (fashioned from a range ball basket, a club shaft and a length of foam pipe insulation). All prevent a too-vertical swing plane, which creates the out-to-in slice-maker move. Or try this drill: Grab a driver, tee a ball up high and hit it from your knees. This ingrains a horizontal, more baseball-swing-like motion. It also stabilizes the body and ensures club head release. Take that feeling back to your regular stance and watch the ball fly.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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