Do you unleash the golf club into the ball with a flash of accelerating speed? Or do your shots produce a weak sound and fly with rapidly diminishing velocity?
In short, does your golf swing make an impact? If not, an impact bag could make you a more powerful player.
Available online and through golf retail outlets, impact bags are medium-sized cushions designed to be hit with a golf club. (A bean bag chair, a garbage bag filled with towels or any similar object can serve the same purpose.) Practicing with an impact bag is the most widely recommended method for increasing your clubhead lag, also called “downcock” or a “late release.”
Lag is created when the angle between the left arm and shaft is retained from the top of the swing into the downswing. Some golfers, like Sergio Garcia, manage to tighten this angle on the way down, generating an extremely powerful punch as the wrists and hands unwind into the ball.
Now for the impact bag. It's a great tool for golf drills that train specific movements, but which would be difficult to perform by hitting a golf ball. In fact, hitting a bag causes golfers to naturally drive into the impact zone using their whole body, rather than throwing the hands and wrists at it.
Working with a bag will ingrain a swing in which the hands lead the clubhead to contact – the key to compressing the ball against the turf with your irons and generating clubhead speed with the driver.
Here's a basic drill to get you started with an impact bag or suitable substitute:
- Using a short or mid-iron, set up with the back edge of the bag in the middle of your stance, the shaft and clubhead touching the bag.
- Move your hands toward the target, with the shaft pressing into the bag and leaning forward. Turn your hips slightly left with the shoulders square to the target. This is the position you want at impact.
- Make a few short swings where you take the club back to hip height, then return it to the impact position described above. Slowly rotate your hips left of target as the club makes contact.
- Make progressively longer swings, always leading the downswing with your hips and keeping the hands ahead of the clubhead.
This is a good drill to use regularly to maintain a sense of the correct impact position.
Impact Bag Great Tool for Creating Clubhead Lag
When you think about golf equipment, you probably think about things like clubs, balls, shoes, and more. However, the category of golf 'equipment' can also carry over in to training gear, as having a couple good pieces of training equipment can be a big help in your pursuit of becoming a better player. Fortunately, there are a number of training items that can be added to your collection for a relatively minor financial investment. You don't need to buy all of the golf practice equipment on the market, but choosing a key piece or two that you can use during your range sessions will be highly beneficial.
One of the pieces of practice equipment that you should consider is an impact bag. An impact bag is a relatively soft bag which can be used to check on your impact position at the bottom of the swing. The way it works is quite simple – you make your swing, strike the bag, and the club (and your body) stops in place at the bottom. Now that you are 'frozen' in your impact position, you can check on your technique to look for any points that need improvement. You shouldn't go full out into an impact bag, as you could damage your club or hurt yourself, but using one with less-than-full swings to check on your mechanics is a method many golfers have used over the years.
In this article, we are going to cover the idea of using an impact bag to learn how to lag the club head successfully. Lag is a concept that escapes many amateur golfers, which is why they usually aren't able to hit the ball as far as their professional counterparts. The ability to lag the club head is one of the most important skills you can have as a ball striker, since lag leads to both increase club head speed and improved quality of contact. In golf terms, the word 'lag' refers to the club head trailing behind the hands during the downswing. Ideally, your hands will lead the way coming down into the ball, with the club head only releasing through impact after the hands have arrived at the bottom. Of course, the average golfer fails to achieve lag in the downswing, instead allowing the club head to lead the way with the hands trailing behind. If you can flip this around and install some lag in your swing, you will notice an immediate boost in the power that you are capable of achieving.
Before you get started working on this concept, it is important to understand one thing – lag is a difficult concept to grasp for many players, and it is even harder to put it into your swing. If you are a player who is used to hitting the ball without lag, you are going to have to put in plenty of practice time before you will be able to execute a swing which includes lag. The added power in your swing might be immediate when you figure out lag, but it is going to take some time and plenty of practice balls before you can iron out your ball flight and use this swing effectively on the course.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
How Lag Is Created
Before getting to the impact bag portion of this task, we are first going to review what it is that you need to do in a golf swing in order to create lag. Specifically, there are three points that must be checked off if you are going to lag the club into the ball consistently swing after swing. Nearly every professional golfer that you see on TV is able to check off these points, and you should work hard to be able to say the same.
Following are the three keys that are required if you are going to lag the club nicely in your downswing.
- Set the club in the backswing. One of the main points that needs to be understood when it comes to lagging the club on the way down is that you have to set it on the way back. To 'set' the club in your backswing means to hinge your wrists into a position where the shaft of the club and your left forearm form a 90* angle. Some players like to get this set out of the way early in the backswing, while others prefer to wait until they are almost all the way to the top before setting the club. It doesn't particularly matter when you do the set – as long as it gets done. Many amateurs never set the club at all going back, and therefore they have no chance to lag the club coming down. Before you even consider working with an impact bag to learn lag in the downswing, make sure you are setting the club nicely in your backswing.
- Strong left hand grip. It is the left hand that is going to largely determine how well you are able to lag the club coming down into impact. You need to have a comfortable but firm grip on the club with your left hand, while your right can remain more relaxed throughout much of the swing. The left hand is going to pull the club down into the slot early in the downswing, and then it is going to lead the way into impact before the release begins to take over. If you are going to be able to reach a point where lag is an important part of your swing, you are going to have to be confident in the grip that you left hand has on the end of the club.
- Great lower body turn. Think of your lower body as the engine that drives the downswing forward through the ball. While you need your left hand to perform on the way down if you are going to strike the ball with great lag, you also need the rotation of your lower body to build speed successfully. Start the downswing by turning your left hip toward the target and keep that rotation going all the way through. Many golfers don't believe that the lower body could actually have anything to do with lagging the club behind their hands, but everything in the golf swing is connected. All of the world's top golfers are great at using their lower bodies as a speed generator, and you should make it a goal to do the same.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to the idea of lag, so it is best to go through the three points above one at a time. Are you setting the club nicely in the backswing? If so, that is one point that you can check off of the list. Is your left hand doing its job, and are your hips turning through toward the target? If all of these answers are a 'yes', you should be well on your way to a powerful downswing that has plenty of lag to launch the ball off into the distance.
Ideal Impact Position
To evaluate the position that you achieve when using an impact bag, you should first have a clear picture of what an ideal impact position will look like for the swing you want to make. If you are hoping to lag the club, there are some specific positions that your body needs to find at the bottom of the swing. The list below includes three positions that you should strive to hit when you reach impact – once you start using the impact bag, you can refer back to this list as you are determining what (if any) changes need to be make to your technique.
- Hands over the ball. This is the first thing you should look for when checking on your impact position with regard to lag. Your hands should be over the ball, or slightly in front of the ball (closer to the target), when you make contact. Unfortunately, this is where so many players go wrong. Instead of having the hands over the ball or beyond, the average player has their hands behind the ball at impact – which leads to weak contact and off-line shots. Checking your impact position is the best way to confirm that you have actually lagged the club on the way down. If your hands are over the ball or slightly beyond, you can be confident that lag has taken place.
- Right heel off of the ground. This point is a great indication that your lower body has done its job in the downswing. As you turn your hips aggressively toward the target on the way down, your right foot should begin to gradually come up off the ground. At impact, you should find that your right heel has come up slightly off of the turf, while your toes are still firmly planted on the ground. If you notice that your right heel is not coming off the ground at all by the time you reach impact, there is a good chance that your lower body is not doing its job correctly. Work on engaging your hips right from the beginning of the downswing and you should see that right heel begin to work its way of the ground by the time you reach contact.
- Eyes on the ball. Whether you are working on lag or anything else in your swing, it is always important to keep your eyes on the ball throughout the swing. As it relates to lag specifically, keeping your head down will permit your lower body rotation to continue on through the swing – which is essential for ball striking success. If you let your eyes and head come up out of the swing early, your lower body rotation will likely stop and you will make a weak pass at the ball through impact. Pick out a specific spot on the top of the ball and make that your focus until after the strike has been made.
Using an impact bag is a great way to freeze your impact position so that it can be accurately evaluated – but that will only be helpful if you have a clear picture in your mind of what you need to achieve. Review the three points above and then check to see if you are hitting each of them when you actually start using the impact bag during your practice sessions.
Impact Bag Practice
Now that we have reviewed the various technical details involved with lag and how it is created, it is time to go over how you can use an impact bag to improve your technique. Obviously, the first step in this process is to acquire an impact bag to add to your collection of golf equipment. There are a number of quality impact bags available today, and you can find them online as well as in your local golf shops. This probably isn't a piece of gear that you will want to carry with you on a regular basis when you head to the course, so you should plan on simply packing it up to take on days when you intend to use it.
With your impact bag along for the trip and your spot on the range staked out, set the bag in front of you and follow the steps below to use it successfully.
- To start, take one of your short irons from the bag. You can use pretty much any of your irons for this drill, but it is best to start with something like a pitching wedge. Try to avoid using any graphite shafted clubs with your impact bag, as they may be a little more susceptible to damage than the steel shafted models you carry. Of course, since you will be striking the impact bag at the bottom of the swing, you aren't going to need any golf balls at this time.
- Position the impact bag on the ground in front of you in the same position that the ball would occupy if you were hitting a normal shot. As you take your stance, make sure you do everything that you would do before any other swing – go through your pre-shot routine, pick out a target, settle in to your stance, and do anything else that you usually do to get comfortable. If this drill is going to be effective, it needs to mirror your normal process as closely as possible.
- When you are ready to make a swing, your goal is going to be to make your full swing while only using about a quarter of your normal speed. Shortening your swing in order to take speed out of it really won't accomplish the goal, because a shorter swing isn't going to tell you anything about your full swing impact position. Instead, go ahead and use your full swinging motion while only applying about 25% of your usual effort. It is important to make sure that you aren't swinging too hard when using your impact bag, or injury could result (or damage to the club). Start out moving extremely slow in your swing and gradually pick up the pace until you find a speed that is safe to use with the bag while still giving you the feedback you need.
- As you get to the bottom of the swing, the club is going to run into the impact bag – and it should stop cold as a result. When the club does stop, it is important that you hold your position throughout your body so you can analyze the results. If you let yourself move quickly after making contact with the bag, you won't be able to get a good read on your actual impact position.
- Now that you are holding your impact position after make a slow-speed full swing, you can look over the positions that your body is in and decide how you have done. Are your hands over the bag, or slightly in front of the position where the ball would be? Is your right heel up off the ground? Check on these important points to find out if your swing technique is allowing you to lag the club properly.
The nice thing about using an impact bag for a practice session is that the bag isn't going anywhere – you can hit it again and again, as many times as you would like. Unlike a bucket of balls that you buy at the range, the impact bag isn't going to run out after a number of swings. Remember, it is crucial that you don't hit the bag too hard, as you would be running the risk of damaging your clubs or yourself. Take it very slow at first, work your way up to a safe and comfortable speed (which will still be nowhere near your regular full swing), and learn from what you are finding in your impact position as the club is stopped by the bag.
The Benefits of Lag
When most people think about adding lag to their swing, they think about the distance that can be gained. It is true – you can certainly add yardage to your shots by learning how to lag the club. However, the distance benefits are only one part of the equation. Lagging the club in the downswing will actually help you in a number of different ways, making you a better ball striker all the way around. If you need any further encouragement to decide to work on your lag with the help of an impact bag, review the following non-power benefits to creating great lag.
- Clean strike. Hitting the ball cleanly should always be one of your main goals when you stand over the ball, and you will hit more shots cleanly when you are able to use lag. The way your body has to move in the swing to create lag will lead to a more consistent delivery of the club to the back of the ball, as compared to a swing that uses the hands early in the action. It might take some time and practice to sharpen up your ball striking with the use of lag, but the end result could be some of the best shots of your life.
- Get out of the rough. A lagging downswing will usually create a steeper angle of attack than what you would see in a swing without lag. With that steep angle of attack, you should be able to miss some of the long grass behind your ball when playing from the rough. It is the grass that gets stuck between your club and the ball that causes your shots from the rough to frequently come up short of the target, but you can minimize that problem when you use plenty of lag on the way down. If you are a golfer who typically has a lot of trouble with the longer grass, lag is one of the best ways to get over that issue.
- Rhythmic swing. Rhythm is important in golf, and a swing with lag is usually going to have better rhythm and tempo than a swing which releases the club head prematurely. That means that you should be able to make your swing more consistent day in and day out, leading to better scores in the long run. Many golfers ignore the importance of rhythm in the game, as they focus only on the technical positions that they need to hit instead. Technical positions are important, of course, but they aren't going to get you anywhere unless you have a beautiful rhythm to match.
The impact bag is a great tool that can be used to improve many parts of your game, including your ability to lag the club head into the ball. Use the information above to fine tune your swing technique as it relates to lag, and you could be on the road to hitting the longest and straightest shots of your golfing life.