Like many first-time major winners, Martin Kaymer seemed to fade a bit after his maiden major, the 2010 PGA Championship. Unlike some of his peers, however, the young German came roaring back.
Granted, it was nearly four years between Kaymer’s PGA breakthrough and his dominant win at the 2014 U.S. Open – long enough to alter his swing and fall off peak form, then find a simple drill to bolster his fundamentals and regain his place among golf’s elite.
The swing change came because Kaymer, who’d always relied on a fade as his bread-and-butter shot, wanted to refine his draw in order to contend at The Masters. (Augusta National Golf Club tends to favor golfers with a right-to-left ball flight.) It didn’t go so well. While Kaymer enjoyed a solid 2011 season, his results – and his world ranking – steadily declined for the next two years.
Eventually, Kaymer re-embraced his natural fade. He also discovered a drill which cured a long-time swing issue and accentuated his strengths. Next thing you know, the 29-year-old had won the 2014 Players Championship and U.S. Open in the span of a month – a feat never previously achieved.
We’ll analyze Kaymer’s silky smooth action for components that can work for anyone.
Kaymer’s signature: Creates wide arc with unique tennis ball drill
What it looks like: Tall and lanky, Kaymer uses his length to great advantage by sweeping the club well away from his body and reaching high at the top of the backswing. This creates an extremely wide and powerful swing arc, a la Davis Love III.
Having struggled to keep his arms close together going back, Kaymer found a homemade device to use for a practice drill. Basically, it’s a tennis ball clipped to a lanyard (a nylon necklace with a fastener for holding various items). Kaymer hangs the lanyard around his neck, gently squeezing the ball between his forearms at address and into the backswing. The ball falls out as he nears the top; Kaymer ignores this, swinging down and through the shot.
Why it works for Kaymer: For one thing, it’s simple. Kaymer blames his slump on a mind cluttered with swing thoughts, so focusing on a single, critical key provided much-needed clarity. It’s also easy to mentally replicate on the course, even without the tennis ball in place.
To keep the ball secured during the backswing, Kaymer’s arms must stay close together while turning in sync with the shoulders. This effectively shortens his backswing (which is still quite long) while adding width. That’s a powerful combo.
How it can work for you: If you want to try Kaymer’s drill, it’s important to rig the training aid correctly. The ball should be positioned just a couple of inches above your left (lead) wrist during your setup; be careful not to hunch over or cup your shoulders inward to keep it in place. The lanyard should be stretched comfortably – not too loose, but not so tight that it tugs at your neck.
Start with some very short swings without hitting a golf ball. Take the club back until your left arm is parallel to the ground, then swing through. The idea is to turn your shoulders and arms simultaneously, keeping the arms in front of your chest throughout the backswing. When the shoulders stop, the arms should too.
Very few golfers possess Kaymer’s limb length and flexibility, but anyone can learn from his wide, in-sync takeaway. Whether or not you use his tennis ball drill, keeping the arms together and turning with the shoulders can improve your distance and accuracy.