The Gate to Golf – Swinging from inside out (and feeling the ‘punch’)

Feel the “punch”! Feel the punch!  My golf coach in India (who can barely read or write – but knows how to swing a stick) kept repeating. What he was referring to was the part of the downswing between approximately hip height (hands are at hip height) and the ball. During that crucial few feet was when the hands had to take on a new life – and feel like they were about to “punch” the crap out of someone. What he was teaching me was the same thing the “golf impact bag” tries to instill. The entire left side needs to coalesce all its energy into that one instant. Some other analogies that readers may be familiar with include:

  • Imagine hitting against a “wall” on the left side.
  • Imagine hitting a rubber tire hard.
  • Karate – Focusing your entire chi into one instant

J. Douglas Edgar (who might be considered the inventor of the modern inside-out swing) spoke about mastering “the movement”. What is “the movement”? Edgar not only explains what he means by his “movement” – he details it in a 1920 book titled “The Gate to Golf”.

The “gate” of which he speaks is a simple device consisting of two brackets through which the clubhead was intended to pass (see figure below).

The trick was that – in order to get it to pass through the gate – one had to come in from the inside out.

The “Gate” through which the clubhead must pass



Do not let the simplicity of the device fool you (in fact, on the range, you can simply set up two tees in the positions shown to replicate the “gate”).  The brilliance of the device lies in the fact that if one thinks about moving the clubhead through this gate, one forgets everything about “hitting” the ball. As every high handicapper knows, curing the “hit” instinct is one of the hardest things to accomplish in golf – and something that any pro would highlight as the first thing that needs to be fixed in a faulty swing.

Having constructed my own gate (using two tees planted into the ground), I experimented with just swinging the clubhead through the gate (without a ball in the middle). After a few attempts, I was getting my entire body weight through the gate – and moving through it powerfully. Next, I placed a ball and tried the same thing. I do not recall thinking about anything except replicating the same “swing through the gate” feeling. It was the longest 4 iron of my life (it gets better – I pulled it off on the course on 3 occasions – using long irons).

Continuing with my self-devised gate, I tried different clubs, slowly moving up to the driver. I was armed with just a single swing thought – swing ‘through’ the gate. This thought actually consists of a second thought – which is – ‘forget the ball altogether’. Forget that there is a ball that needs to be hit. The instant you start thinking about the ball, chances are you will forget about swinging through the gate. Wonder of wonders – it worked just as well for the driver – as it did for the irons.

The “Movement”

While Edgar doesn’t go into details about what exactly constitutes ‘the’ movement, he does detail every step leading up to the movement. From these steps, one can infer that the movement refers to the split second when one swings throughthe gate. This is also when one is supposed to ‘feel the punch’. The ‘punch’ is the movement! If everything leading up to the movement is done right, one will be able to deliver all the body weight THROUGH the ball. As the hands catch up with the body weight, they will have no option but to PUNCH the ball.

In Edgar’s own words – “This has all the exhilarating effects of champagne without any of the after effects…”.

If you can replicate the ‘punch’ in every golf shot, I believe that you will find nothing more exhilarating.

The “Punch”

The “punch” is delivered by the entire body – most noticeably the core (the torso). While the hands eventually deliver all the energy, that part is just an effect – and not something that is consciously controlled. The part that can be consciously controlled – and controlled well – is the torso moving through the gate.  In effect, the “punch” delivered by the torso through the gate – IS the movement! The movement is the punch ! (the split seconds when the hands go through the ball).

What about the short game? What about putting?

The “movement” can be applied equally well to chipping and putting. The essence of the movement is ‘visualizing the punch’. In every golf stroke, there has to come a time when the hands move through the ball. This is as true of putting as it is of the long drive. That particular motion (the ‘punch’) needs to be visualized for every putt. you may think that the punch is a forceful striking of the ball. For full iron/wood shots, that would be a correct statement. However, the ‘punch’ is more about the hands going through the ball after the body has already finished transferring its weight to the left side. It is as true a statement that a putt has to be ‘hit’ in the end. Too many golfers start decelerating the putter head through the ball. This is possibly the biggest short-game flaw – and applies equally to chipping as to putting.

Appendix – Reading List

Read this article for  a list of recommended instructional golf books (including the Gate to Golf) .

Amateur golfer with no real claim to fame (unless club championships count). Sharing knowledge obtained from (far too many) golf lessons – from far too many pros.

Golf Tips – who has written posts on Anuj Varma, Technology Architect.


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