After a stellar amateur career and five up-and-down years as an LPGA Tour pro, Natalie Gulbis finally broke through for her first win with a playoff victory over Jeong Jang at the 2007 Evian Masters.
"Natalie has a very long, very powerful move through the ball," says Top 100 Teacher Dana Rader, founder of the Dana Rader Golf School at the Ballantyne Resort in Charlotte, N.C. "But it's a swing that features a unique compensating move: Because her right forearm is still under her left forearm through impact, she drops her head and right shoulder down after impact to create room to release her forearms. It's hardly textbook, but it's worked well enough for Natalie to put her in the top 50 in all-time LPGA earnings after just six seasons."
Analysis by Top 100 Teacher Dana Rader
Ballantyne Resort, Charlotte, N.C.
2 of 7Leonard Kamsler
1. Natalie's driver setup at address is strong and athletic. Her stance is wide and solid, which helps support the pivot of her upper body.
2. Perfect extension going back! The club stays in front of her hands as her shoulders pivot. This keeps the club on-plane on the way to the top.
3 of 7Leonard Kamsler
3. Natalie sets her wrists later than most, but she gets great extension of her left forearm. Her head is steady, and there's no wasted movement in her upper torso.
4. Once she reaches the top, her weight is fully loaded on her right side, and her spine is slightly tilted. Note how close to parallel she gets the clubshaft.
4 of 7Leonard Kamsler
5. In the downswing, her right elbow stays close to her body, letting her deliver the club to the ball from the inside, rather than from over the top.
6. The club drops to the inside as she rotates her lower body and back foot toward the target. The angle of the left forearm/clubshaft begins to open.
5 of 7Leonard Kamsler
7. Her right forearm is still a bit under the shaft at impact, so she must make a compensating move to give herself enough room to release the forearms after impact.
8. Notice how Natalie's head and right shoulder drop down after impact. This unique hitch lets her arms release. It's not something you teach at golf school, but it's natural for Natalie and it works for her.
6 of 7Leonard Kamsler
Like all good players, Natalie instinctively understands that the quickest way to lose power is to release the club early that is, to lose the 90-degree angle between your left forearm and the shaft. In the photo above, Natalie maintains a solid "L" position with her left arm and the clubshaft as she begins her downswing her wrists stay set, which creates a solid delivery position for the club and a ton of distance-producing leverage.
7 of 7Erick Rasco/SI
As she approaches impact, you can see that she has still managed to retain the leverage created by the 90-degree angle formed by her left arm and the clubshaft. It's not until her hands are almost past her right thigh that the "L" begins to unhinge and the stored energy whips the clubhead into the ball. This is a perfect example of how a good player keeps his or her hands ahead of the clubhead until the very last moment before impact and it's exactly the move you need for maximum power.
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