Bucket Drill for Synchronizing Your Golf Swing

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Published: February 18, 2014

One of the biggest problems golfers struggle with, no matter what type of swing they're learning, is synchronization.

The Bucket DrillThe Bucket Drill

The word "synchronization" is used and tossed around a lot in golf instruction, but a lot of people don't really understand what it means.

We're going to discuss it from a few different angles today, and of course we've got a phenomenal drill for it. It's very, very simple, doesn't cost you anything, and it's the perfect way to learn how to sync up your golf swing throughout the backswing, downswing, and through impact.

Basically, when we talk about synchronization we're talking about the sensation of everything coming through impact together with the proper kinetic linking.

As you know, a good golf swing starts from the ground up, so you're going to get your weight situated onto your left leg. You're firing everything off in the proper sequence - hips, core, belt buckle, shoulders - but the sensation is that everything comes through impact together.

Get the Sensation

Visualize your belt buckle and the club head coming through impact together. It's a feeling of everything being synced up.

Of course, that's not what actually happens in the swing, but it's a great sensation to strive for. You feel like everything is under control, and that's how it feels to have things synced up.

Even Tiger Woods has said that when his swing is really synced up and he has good rhythm and tempo and everything is firing through together the club head feels like it's moving through impact with his core, at the same speed and at the same time.

Imagine the club is connected to your belt buckleImagine that the club & your belt buckle move as a unit

Again, it's just a sensation because of course the hips and club head are actually moving at very different speeds.

The other key to synchronization is learning how to use the big muscles to control the arms. We talk about passive arms a lot, and that's something a lot of people don't really understand. This simple drill covers both of those aspects.

Grab a Bucket

The tendency is to control the club with arms & handsThe tendency is to control the club with arms & hands

All you need for this drill is a bucket of range balls. It doesn't have to be a big one. You could also use a pail of water or a medicine ball - anything that has some weight to it.

Get into your address posture with the bucket of balls (or whatever you're going to use) held between your hands. As soon as you get into this position, you'll feel that in order to move the bucket, you're going to engage completely different muscles than you're used to using in your golf swing.

When you pick up a golf club, probably the first place you feel tension is in your hands and arms. If you're going to move the club, which is fairly light, your instinct will be to use your arms.

When you hold up that bucket, it's a completely different feeling. You'll feel your core muscles engage because the bucket is heavier. You know that if you're going to move the bucket, you're going to be using your big muscles.

Move the bucket from side to side. You'll notice that your arms stay very synced up with the rotation of your body. The bucket of balls swings basically at the same speed as your torso, staying in front of your chest and hips the whole time. This is what it feels like to be properly synced up.

The bucket stays in front of the bodyThe arms and bucket stay synced up with the body

As you swing that bucket, your goal is to move it with the muscles that you've just engaged - your core, your shoulders, your hips - all your big muscles. As you move the bucket back, your arms stay in front of your body.

Common Misunderstanding

Slightly behind the sternumThe bucket is just slightly behind the sternum

This is a misunderstood concept of the Rotary Swing. We do want our arms to swing back behind our body, just not nearly as much as a lot of golfers think.

You want to turn back and keep the bucket in front of your chest or just slightly behind your sternum.

If you look from down the line as Chuck demonstrates, you'll see that the bucket is just slightly behind the center of his chest as he rotates back. This is plenty of depth in the backswing.

You'll also notice that as he turns back, he's not going to spill the bucket of balls. You don't tilt your hands or rotate the bucket itself. You simply rotate your body, keeping the bucket level the whole time.

Transfer That Sensation to the Golf Swing

Now think about working the club through impact, and the muscles you want to use for that. When you pick up a club, you want to think back to the sensation of moving this bucket of balls so you can use these big muscles in the golf swing.

Some instructors teach a very deep arm positionSome instructors teach a very deep arm position

Remember this sensation so that when you turn back and fire through with a golf club, you'll be engaging the big, powerful muscles again.

You'll be synced up and your arms will feel like they stay more in front of your chest the whole time.

Let's take a closer look at how much the arms swing back behind the body because, again, that's something that's really misunderstood. Some instructors will actually teach you to get your arms way back behind you, as deep as you can possibly get them.

If you've tried to do that, you will have noticed that getting the arms that deep is an unnatural, awkward and non-athletic position to be in. You didn't really turn your body - you just pulled your arms back - so then you have to throw them across your body on the downswing.

That's not the right feeling if you're trying to use your big muscles to hit, instead of just your arms. You want to get the feeling of turning back with the bucket.

The 9:00 Check

Near-full shoulder rotation at 9:00 positionNearly full shoulder rotation at the 9:00 position

By the time you've turned the club back to about the 9:00 position, just like you did with the bucket in your hands, you should have made almost a full shoulder rotation.

Once you're at 9:00 there's only a little more rotation to go before you're firing back through on the downswing.

Look at it from down the line in the photos below. You want to get the arms just slightly behind the sternum, like in the first photo, not way out front or back behind the body.

There isn't that much rotation there. It only takes a little rotation of the body to get the club back.

When you go to that 9:00 position your hands should be just about in front of the right bicep, not way out in front of your chest and not way deep behind your body.

You just turn your body to get the club into the proper position. There's obviously a little bit of wrist cock, but your forearms are pretty level. You haven't dumped the bucket of balls, or spilled the pail of water, or whatever tool you used for the drill.

You just turn it back level, then turn through on the other side.

Arms in front of the right bicepThe arms are about at the right bicep (left), not out in front or deep (center, right)

Now Apply It in the Downswing

The Bucket Drill for synchronization will also help you in the downswing. Once you get the proper backswing and make a good turn, you want to be able to fire back through the same way and keep that bucket in front of you through the swing.

You'll notice that your arms will swing slightly behind you and slightly back through, but not that much.

Hit some ballsTake the sensation from the drill & apply it in a swing

Keep your arms feeling like they're a little bit more in front of you, especially if you tend to get too flat; the Bucket Drill keeps you in sync and keeps your arms from swinging too flat and too deep back behind you.

Once you get the feeling of swinging that bucket back to the 9:00 position, you should be able to transfer that feeling so you can take a ball and hit it very solidly a good distance.

Just make a simple little "bucket" swing, 9 to 3, for a simple little swing. Keep your arms in sync with your body and fire everything through together. Get yourself synchronized through impact.

Practice this drill with a bucket of balls or any big, heavy object that will allow you to get the feeling of using your big muscles to swing it through impact.

Use this drill. Take it out to the course. You can use a medicine ball, an impact bag - even your golf bag if that's all you have - anything that has some weight to it and will make you engage these core muscles.

You should find that you get your swing a lot more synced up. You'll be able to hit balls with a 9 to 3 swing and be very synced up and powerful through impact.

Checkpoints for Practice

  • You fire off hips, core, shoulders, etc. in sequence in the downswing but they should all feel like they come through impact together
  • Visualize the club and your belt buckle moving as a single unit through the impact area
  • Bucket Drill: Get into address and hold a bucket of range balls or other heavy object in both hands
  • Your big muscles will engage as you rotate back and through, keeping the bucket in front of your body
  • Transfer that sensation over and practice using your big muscles to sync up your swing

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