Me on golf technique – part 2
(Author’s note: The following is not edited, yet, and not properly organized. Eventually I will weed out the extraneous and put what’s left in it’s proper place, hopefully.
(Actually, except for the part a few paragraphs down where my title and copyright are listed, everything else is being substituted out for what starts there having learned a lot during my six month layoff. I must simply pare down and concentrate to limit the amount of words needed.)
Also; Since my mother died last summer I have taken a sabbatical from writing this book to rethink the whole idea. I have also been recovering from a left thumb injury I sustained while experimenting with other tour pros methods last summer. I will have to re-edit what is below as my thoughts have been modified, now leaning towards a more body friendly use of the wrists and hands that promotes a more toe over heel release during the strike to absorb the stresses of impact and keep you injury free for life. Nothing exaggerated, just a free-er opening and closing of the hands and fore arms during the swing.
(I should point out that I am experimenting (out of absolute necessity) with a new grip that I would not be surprised overtakes the Vardon grip, someday. Except for two changes it’s just like the Vardon grip, It sets all the bones of the fore arms and elbows just as before, the only difference is this;
The left thumb rides side saddle, not on top, and the right thumb lays off the club and across your grip somewhat between vertical and horizontal to the ground resting over your right forefingers touching parts of both hands.
Once the left thumbs settles to the side of the shaft it automatically sets that hand slightly stronger. To compensate for this subtle change you must position the right hand slightly weaker to balance the grip out.
Now the grip feels like the regular Vardon grip where all other bones are concerned and the club is swung exactly in the same manner. You will notice some differences, however;
The hands now cannot control the swing. They are too weak to do that except for holding on and cocking and releasing, which is ALL they CAN do. You must still hit with the hands at impact WITH the body that also applies IT”S hit during the strike but the hands must now rely on timing to cock and uncock as the body pivot and weight shift provides the power to the hands.
I use the interlock or overlap but think the 10 finger style is too polarized and cumbersome. This new grip is actually less polarized than the Vardon grip.
I actually really did just happen to run into the great, the one and only, Jack William Nicklaus last August at Pebble Beach near the ninth green and I tried to tell him about this new grip but he, understandedly, did not want to cloud his mind with anything of the sort and I left the conversation where it was, explaining my new book; The Core Driven Golf Swing. He asked me about it so I told him; “The shoulders orchestrate the swing and they get their leverage from foot contact with the ground. With mind focus on the shoulders the rest of the body gets into proper sequence almost automatically. Impact is less about hitting with the hands but, instead, about wrenching the body proper open to the target to allow the arms, hands and club to follow behind. – At that point I tried to explain how a new grip forces the hands to merely hold on and respond to the pivot and weight shift, but I was probably talking too fast at that point to make sense, I think.
For those of you not already familiar, I wrote Jack Nicklaus in 1979 and he wrote back. At the time I was espousing the exact opposite following a breakthrough day where the hands seemed to orchestrate the swing. Who knows what is what? The golf swing is famous for being elusive to understand. Peter Croker teaches a method similar to what I experienced in 1979 that allows for the hands to throw the club and push it through right from the top. In reality the feet provide leverage for the whole swing and somewhere inbetween the hands and the club the body has a function. I now think that the body pivot and weight shift is at least most of the swing being careful only not to let your hands become too docile and disengaged. Even with this new experimental grip I have to use now while my hands are healing they must still contribute a hit during the strike WITH the rest of the body.)
Had the Vardon grip been perfect I would not have injured myself to begin with, even trying out other tour pro’s methods. I was hitting about 400 balls a week at the time, perhaps too quickly. Alex Morrisson, a teacher I draw from in my book, also advocates a left thumb to the side grip, though I just learned about that fact. He was a pioneer and a legend, even back in the day.. The right thumb across the grip and off the club is all my idea.)…………..
In fact, this is the beginning of the book. Website limitations have forced me to two part this book, here. My webmaster got it out of sequence but that’s alright. It will all be re organized later.
Perhaps one third of what’s in these two sections will wind up on the cutting room floor.
If you are expecting to see my Lennon murder related chapter(s) just pan all the way to the bottom of this page until other chapters appear. The one titled “SITE HACKED” is where you want to start. I just happen to be using my site to write a book about golf technique to at least balance out my life from just being society’s messenger / janitor / exorcist. I actually have high hopes for it and it’s what I’d rather be doing, frankly.)
THE CORE DRIVEN GOLF SWING
By Steve Lightfoot Copyright c 2019 All Rights Reserved
INTRODUCTION / BIOGRAPHY:
Insert; Dec. 3, 2019
What is below is subject to a lot of change as my journey to find the best words to make the most difference in your progress is ever changing. A noteworthy day in particular last week. I had just recovered enough from a left hand finger injury and was finally good enough to hit balls and I learned a lot in just this one session. Coming off of a two month long layoff gives me fresh perspective and I nailed down at least three things that I now consider to be paramount.
Number one: In making a backswing extend your left arm and club away from your neck as you journey to the top. As if you were trying to reach through a hole in a fence to grab an apple on the other side. Not just a coil and swing of the arms but an additional extension move that activates the collar bones early and gives the swing depth and leverage. A lowering of the left shoulder and a stretching out of the arms and club. Just maintain a steady head is all. It’s a little like hooking your left shoulder onto a farther rung that requires this deliberate lengthening of the left arm as it coils to the top. The purpose of this is to get your collarbones coiling right away and grabbing all the arc you were born with using your body.
Number two: Block your left arm a little with a right arm that stays a little straighter a little longer than normally. Nicklaus embodied this move. I have found this blocks any excessive, unnecessary wrist cock or wrist roll over or cupping with the wrists and makes the swing feel much more like just pulling back a plunger and releasing to the target with minimal hand flourish. While the club wraps around to the point that the shaft is aimed to the target at the top, it feels like it is only aimed vertically while the shoulders have already made a deep turn back thanks, in part, to the extending of the arms going back and the activation of the collarbones to work early. No Ben Hogan style of complicated opening and rolling open and returning of the club but a body coil providing the horsepower, instead. Keep the shaft balanced opposite the target as it journeys to the top – aimed target wards as much as possible, throughout. – Instead of the image of a man balancing a stick vertically in his palm imagine he is balancing the stick horizontally, as if to keep it aligned to the target throughout.
Number three: The often confusing subject of coil and hips and shoulders can all be summed up in a simple, more basic concept, entirely. Imagine two basic positions of leverage, only. The first is to facilitate a backswing and this position is about 40 degrees facing away from the target line. The second position of leverage is the same 40 degrees from the target line only, this time, the opposite direction; 40 degrees open towards the target. This is the angle to achieve during the impact position, more specifically. The trick is to pit both opposite leverage positions against each other to maximize torque and leverage at impact. You open up your body, in general, as a whole, about 40 degrees away from the target to make a back swing. To make a downswing you achieve the same 40 degrees, only now towards the target, at the moment of impact. You will feel a falling of your weight land on your forward leg as well as your, now 40 degree open, leverage position finds impact, simultaneously. 40 degrees open to the top against 40 degrees the opposite direction at impact.
It would seem I am describing the hip angles and leaving the shoulder angles out of consideration. In a sense that’s the case. I find that by just focusing on two elementary opposite leverage positions, one 40 degrees away from and the other 40 degrees towards the target, and leveraging each opposite force against each other, that the shoulders will, without stress or thought, gather more coil, automatically, and that just the basic overall two opposite positions are required to consider for top results. It’s as if the instinctive extra coil the shoulder’s make is an insurance policy to maintain the hip’s 40 degree position. As if to suspend the hips in place by stretching out the remainder of what is left above the hips, unconsciously. Just two leverage positions: 40 degrees away against 40 degrees towards target by impact, the two paddling against each other like a washing machine agitator. There is an allowance for the weight shift to the target but otherwise it should feel exactly that simple and minimal. It takes a little practice to find how to create the most torque for impact within those parameters, but that’s all the angle of opening and closing of the body proper you should need to think about. 40 degrees away from the target to the top versus 40 degrees of openness TO the target by impact. Find a way to squeeze the most force out of these two opposite motions.
From above it looks like an shallow “X”, not at 90 degree angles, but a softer less aggressive set of angles. 40 degree opposite angles on each side from the target line instead of harsh 45 degree angles is all that is required.
That is one powerful hour on the practice tee, indeed.
First of all, if anyone completely understood the golf swing, every aspect of it, he would likely find himself pretzeled up in a wheelchair like the late astro physicist, Stephen Hawking who, perhaps, knew more about our world than a human is supposed to know. I can’t think of any sporting feat so intricate and complicated and misunderstood. So much of it involves feel and physical feedback one can get lost in the weeds. In fact, after starting to write this book I learned a lot I didn’t know before and have had to step back and really concentrate on the matter before embarking on the rest of the book. There’s a lot I need to know before I am confident of giving you, the reader, my best book on the subject. My backround is modest, I am only a once upon a time tour aspirant also ran whose greatness as a golfer was diminished by other matters that took over my life. My best event was in the 1978 U.S. Amateur qualifying rounds when I finished first alternate. Sixth or seventh out of 108 players, I think. I would have made it in my first attempt except a large crowd who came to watch me at one under through 31 holes spooked me. This put me at third place with only several spots and five holes to go but I was unprepared for the sudden fame I was getting and choked a little down the stretch. The biggest matter that distracted me from pro golf, though, started with a visit to the library in 1982 that found me accidentally cracking government codes about an issue too controversial to mention here. Just to crack the codes in major magazines requires a specialized kind of person. Now, having to solve matters of human apathy and silence I have my hands full, but I consider myself the worlds most talented detective and, if not, at least the only one brave enough to tackle my political issue. Just maybe I can solve what I can about the golf swing and make it a simpler game for all.
Although not worth going into detail here, when I was 17 I became the first human to trisect an angle with just a compass and straight edge. (This occurred a few weeks after my geometry teacher, Dick Nixon, told the class on day one that no one had ever done this before. I almost fell into the answer accidentally it was so straightforward.) When I heard Paul Harvey announce another as being the first to get credit for it years later I noticed it was the same method I invented, first. It just seemed so obvious to me that one bias deserved another to reach the answer. I do have a knack, I have to admit, for detective related work. Mr. Nixon can vouch for this if you ask, I’m sure. – Healdsburg High in northern California, 1971.- He was beside himself when I showed him. What I AM amazed with was how fast it all came to me. Maybe fifteen minutes from sitting down to solving it with three correct hunches in a row and just that.
Compared to most, this book may seem a little on the cerebral side but only because I think that to get better you have to understand what’s happening and then how to go about putting a swing together with that understanding. Who knew, for example, that one’s body mass moves in a mini circle of it’s own to make the club head do the same thing, or that the middle region of your body is the free agent that moves the weight, redistributes the weight, more precisely, to effect this above mentioned dynamic? And so, bear with the complexity so that it may seep into your subconscious because that’s where good golf is played from to begin with.
Compared to one book I studied this is actually pretty straightforward using, hopefully, as few words as possible to get my points across.
Basically I will try to teach you how to use your body core – everything but your arms and club – and then teach the proper use and geometry of the arms, hands and club shaft and club head. Mostly a golfer uses the ground with his body for leverage and coils his body to the top up through the shoulders with resistance from the lower body. There is a freedom required between the knees and shoulders and one must work this area like wringing out a towel, coiling up with your stomach, back, chest and mostly shoulders to the top with extended arms and then unwinding from the ground up in the downswing. Going back most of your weight automatically shifts to your right hip as a result of your arms and club going to the right. While the sensation of momentum starts laterally, away from the target at first, as if the left shoulder is pushing the club head straight back, once the club passes your body the momentum of this backwards move shuttles the weight of the swinging object straight up as well. You want to transfer as much weight as you can while keeping all this activity contained just between your insteps and no further. This is how the pros help stabilize their head. The trick is to constantly wind your shoulders as the club travels, even when your shifting of the club’s weight goes straight up before it parks itself above your shoulders, the grip end just to the right of your head, the shaft aimed at your target.. All that weight redistributed, your body wound up with your back to the target and your arms extended wide. You’ve transferred a lot of weight back and up above you and, at the same time, you’ve created a powerful body coil. The downswing is mostly a drop down on top of the ball from there. Like dropping the weight of a house on top of the ball. The downswing unwinds from the ground up wards the mid section rotating ahead of the shoulders until after impact at which point they out rotate the hips. and, in the transition, you transfer your weight to your front hip. Much of this weight transfer involves different parts of your body accepting weight loads at various stages of the swing so as to maximize leverage and speed. How does one transfer all his weight to the back foot to the top and then transfer all his weight to the front foot at impact while maintaining a stable center of gravity? This is but one aspect to the swing I have never seen explained before. Once wound up it’s the the torso’s most natural response in the world to unwind, especially aided with the help of gravity as you free fall to impact and beyond, also transferring weight towards the target. To what extent does the counter weight that a club actually is influence this complex exchange of stress loads on different body parts in the dynamic process that is a swing? The physics involved in swinging a weight on a string help explain why the center of gravity tugs almost opposite wherever the club head is at any point in a swing and not simply back and forward. There is an up and down weight shift as well as a back and forth weight shift. The up and down shift is at least as powerful as the lateral shift.
Once this body core function is mastered the equally important role of the arms, hands, club shaft and club head will be explained. Mostly it is geometry that matters here. One should swing the club SHAFT parallel to his target line, generally. That is, the shaft should point parallel to the target whenever it is parallel to the ground. Do that and half the battle has already been won. The club head, itself, must turn over, toe over heel, after impact for maximum release and transfer of club head weight. This move is only natural and, yes, requires some athletic ability. It also takes strength and athleticism to make a club head go from a half pound at address to the equivalent of over a hundred pounds or more at impact.
The Hand’s / Body Connection;
Perhaps the most important part of this book is your hands / body connection. As much as the body provides the horsepower the hands are the “Diva” of the swing and can’t be rushed or left behind at any point in a swing. Hogan used to liken this part of technique to pulling an electrical plug from it’s socket in mid swing and losing all connection. Whatever style of swing you use you have to buffer the hands from the stresses of the rest of your motion so that they may always be ready to deliver a powerful FORWARD blow into the back of the ball at impact. A natural, instinctive move. Like cracking open a door to shut it, the backswing is just to get leverage for the slamming shut of the door. To make it easier. The pulling it shut is what counts. Especially in using backswing thoughts it’s necessary to add this function of the hands hitting the ball forward at impact to the equation. The simple act of hitting the ball forward at impact with, yes, your hands must never be left out of the equation of any swing. Give them and your forearms the support and the space they need to do their job in delivering the club through the ball in a natural athletic motion. Focus on the impact requirements must be foremost in the mind. The rest of the swing is designed around this point of impact.
To keep your swing connected, as Hogan described, I believe you have to keep your hands awake and always ready to apply themselves through impact with all the help the body can contribute. To never lose this readiness. The body must go down WITH the hands attached.
Now that I have converted to a firmer grip that puts me in “command” of the club I have found that you shouldn’t start down until your hands are ready to hit the ball and get from the top to impact, or even the finish, in one fell swoop. No speed should be left on the table from point “A” – the top – to point “B” – impact. Like striking a match. Every inch of the downswing should add speed. Start right from the top. The lower body should automatically and instinctively get the jump on the hands as you start down the way a pitcher throws his lead leg out as he starts forward. His mind is on speed of the ball and he starts immediately from the top to the release.. One fell, body assisted swoop achieving leverage from the ground, up.
A mental image I use to get the correct hand action through impact is to pretend the hands are hitting the ball all by themselves with speed instead of the club head. As if the hands were the club head and club face. They should accelerate for all they’re worth even though the club will slow them down as their momentum is transferred to the club.
Stop action camera work shows that the hands slow as the club is released. They have to surrender their momentum to transfer momentum to the club which races past them. They are trying to swing as fast as possible in spite of the illusion they aren’t accelerating. It’s only the club slowing them down as the energy is transferred.
Similarly, stop slow motion reveals that the hips also slow as the club is released, again just an exchange of energy. They, too, are not deliberately slowing. They should always lean as hard as they can into the shot.
Most of my life I used too light a grip pressure, about 10 to 20 percent power, 10 percent being feather light, 100 percent being full grip pressure. I have found that 30 to 40 percent pressure unites all the bones of your body better. like one, integrated scissor mechanism. I find it locks them all into place as a team. When I found that Nick Price recommends even as much as 75 percent pressure and tried it I was amazed to see an automatic increase in distance, besides.
VITAL VISUAL – THE CORE OF THE CORE DRIVEN GOLF SWING TECHNIQUE:
One mental drill I will use in this book to teach you the role of the body, arms and the hands in a swing is the drill where I ask you to imagine that you are swinging a golf club just like a pro would, only from a wheel chair. That’s right, a wheel chair. Let’s say one modified to approximate your normal distance from the ball. A taller seat position with seat belts, even. It’s an image I find works in isolating the upper body and arms and hands and what they have to do. The first thing you must do is not fall out of your imaginary chair while swinging, as if your situation wasn’t handicapped at all. Like you had just as good a chance of nailing your drive 250 yards down the middle, no problem. You should find that, indeed, you can power a very good shot without any concern with what the lower body is doing. In fact, this drill will help the lower body work exactly as it should, without any thought just by imagining this, I’ll admit, somewhat bizarre imagery.
Before I continue, why a wheel chair versus, say, a bar stool? At first I thought it was because it emphasized the need to only rely on your upper body as if you were in a wheel chair for a reason and couldn’t move your legs. To force you to commit to using just your hips and shoulders and arms and club to make a swing. Then I realized that the wheel chair also adds an important element to the whole swing; With the large wheels that are aligned like one’s feet, at 90 degrees to the target, they resist side to side travel, just like your feet do in a swing. Their configuration also allows for some give and will pivot slightly as your rear end squirms to coil. The chair responds to the stress and gives a little, just like your legs do in a swing.
I happen to believe that the little tug against one’s hips in this respect helps explain why no thought is necessary regarding what your legs instinctively do.. When the chair is brought to the point that it pivots a few inches to accommodate the shoulder’s need to coil it wants to then return to where it was before this interruption. Similarly, the vital leg drive you want to occur is a knee jerk reaction to this tug away from the target of your hips. They instinctively want to power back the opposite way they were tugged. This all mimics what the hips and legs do in a real swing.
Then there is the matter of being able to lean over to reach the ball. A wheel chair has foot rests to allow this and another smaller set of wheels to prevent any forward tipping over. And, finally, if you should fall too far forward or backwards the chair might roll away. It keeps you from any weight shifting except right to left.
The one thing I’d remove is the back rest and the arm rests. Nothing should interfere with the right elbow’s need to precede ahead of the hands in mid downswing. The taller seat position should take care of this concern leaving nothing in the arms way.
For all these reasons a wheelchair imagery works the best I think. You have to imagine this without any props. I suppose a gadget could be fashioned with two smaller sets of wheels and a swiveling bicycle seat, but, for now, just use your imagination before and during your swing.
Right away you should discover that you have to wait with your arms and hands in starting down. If you were to start down prematurely with the hands and arms you would topple out of your chair right away, for example. More than that, you will find that the hands must preserve the angle you have created to the top a little longer than you may think. If they open up too soon, again, you will topple out of your chair. Like two ice skaters holding opposite ends of a rope swinging in a circle opposite each other, your body acts as much like a counter weight to your club as your club acts like a counter weight to your body. They must unwind powerfully without you toppling out of your chair. It must be balanced by disciplining your arms and hands to preserve their activities until they are needed. All the while keeping the arms extended
You should feel, in going back, that your lower back and stomach muscles are put into action right away as the shoulders try to cock the club back into position with the shaft aimed to the target and your back aimed to the target as well. Your rear end is planted on a seat cushion and can’t move too much and you have to activate these muscles you’re probably not used to using in your normal swing to get to the correct top position..
In every other way this is just like making a swing as if there was no wheel chair. By having to worry about concerns like losing your balance and popping your swing or your hands out too early by imagining you are seated and immobile from the rear end down, you achieve proper swing sequence. The club and the body must maintain a perfect balance between the body mass and the club’s mass. You coil with your core muscles back. You activate the swing from your core muscles and ignore the lower body functions, completely. You use these powerful muscles like you’re not used to. Like the sun to our earth these muscles are the center of your swing’s universe. You wait for the club and arms and hands to start down with the lower body, you hold onto the angle of the club until releasing it won’t result in you falling out of your wheel chair. All of these concerns are achieved with this bizarre imagery. Even the back and forth and up and down exchange of weight with the lower body happens automatically, without any thought, whatsoever. It’s as if your natural instincts are unleashed with a mental trick concerning just your upper body, arms, hands and club.
It can often feel like a single fell swoop with the hands and body united right from the top to well past the ball. Like hitting a home run in baseball.
In another chapter I explain how long drive champ Kyle Birkshire achieves an impact position with his left leg angled backwards, like a baseball swing. This after a massive right to left weight transfer between his hips. The point I am making is that, for his lead leg to be angled exactly at the angle it was at address means he has not moved his hips very much in the process, left or right. A little like making a swing from a wheel chair. Stay centered there, shift weight and keep the counter balancing forces of club and body mass in harmony with each other at all times.
Coil with your core muscle to the top, wait fore the arms to join the rest of the body before starting down and hold the angle with the hands until releasing it won’t throw you off balance.
The Arms, Hands and Club;
The geometry of the upper arms, lower arms, hands, club shaft, club head and the shoulder bones that connect the arms and club to the body may be the most difficult part of the swing to really master. It is also the part of the swing with the most variations. Once perfected you can swing away with the confidence that accuracy will not be an issue. The posture of the arms is extended as you swing a club, not constricted. Both the body core and arms / club structure move as one, initially, the first few inches. You may introduce a slight wrist set at the same time but it’s a matter of preference..You still have to transfer weight properly and coil and uncoil properly. I have learned that a good rule of thumb is to equally use one’s shoulders and hands. 50 / 50. You have to use your body but you must also use your hands WITH your body. They can’t be too disengaged. The golf swing is an integrated motion. Most golfers err on the side of not enough shoulders and too much hands. Even on a short putt you will notice that the great Jack Nicklaus rocks his shoulders. Shoulder coil has always been integral to the swing of Jack Nicklaus and most of the greats of the game. Much of this book will focus on the shoulders as I believe them to be the center of the swing and that mind focus on them is the best path to improvement. By focusing on the shoulders the rest of the swing falls into place the fastest. The legs let them coil while providing enough resistance and the legs help propel the upper body to uncoil, arms, club shaft and club head included. Once the differential of 45 degrees between your hips and shoulders has been established at the top, once the 90 degree angle between your arms and club shaft has been established, much of the downswing is all about maintaining that differential until everything is released to the other side of the ball. In fact, to allow the body some slack to move into position ahead of the hands and club, the wrists will increase their cock in the first part of the transition, coming down simultaneously, loading the club for release after impact. A distinct sensation of the hip region leveraging the upper body and club through DURING the strike slightly ahead of the hand release is key. The hip region is where the body can shift it’s weight around the most, too. A 180 degree release occurs from the back side of the ball to the front side of the ball, all from the hitting zone when the club shaft is below the hip line. Not only does the shaft rotate 180 degrees below one’s belt line, the club head, itself, also rotates 180 degrees as well. I believe that maximum power occurs exactly AS the club head races past the handle during the strike. The Core Driven Golf Swing teaches you to use your body to store and release energy and actually “wrench” your body core to power the arms and club through during the strike. This helps set up the hands to work efficiently storing and releasing the club along the proper path back and through.
THE MAGIC DRILL:
To illustrate how easy it is to learn the core driven golf swing and how effective it really is, I think I could take a raw beginner and have him hitting impressive shots, if not right away, within a few days. To do this I recommend a half to three quarter backswing, only, with a full forward swing with somewhat locked and stiff wrists to get the hips and shoulder levers working properly. Although the swing arc is cut short and the hand action is muted, the shoulders still try to make a deep coil creating a stretch or differential between the hips and shoulders. A slight pause at the top may or may not be needed before making a full throttle return through the ball.
Think of your hip area the way you think of a bow, the handle part of the bow. Imagine thrusting your arm that is holding the bow out to the target a little extra just as you release the string. Like pulling back the string, the stretching out to the target of the other arm tightens the stress between the bow and the string. This is how you should regard the hips during the strike. They pull and rotate through ahead of the hands and club.
Once you have learned the proper grip and address (The most important part of a golf swing – impact excepted), while applying about 30 percent pressure with your hands on the grip,(Another important maxim) but not too light , stiff arm the club and arms back away from the target on a natural path that curves inside a little but finds the shaft aiming to the target as it arrives parallel to the ground. The shoulders should outpace the hips by a two to one ratio. Since this is only a short backswing with a full forward swing you might arrive at the top position with the hips coiled 20 degrees and the shoulders coiled at about 70 degrees. Let the wrists cock only about 60 degrees. Now, for the downswing, maintain that approximately 45 to 50 degree variable or differential between the hips and shoulders including whatever amount of wrist cock you have the first part of the downswing as you approach impact. Because you are using a short backswing against a full forward swing this drill stimulates the hips to jump ahead of the hit as soon as the club changes direction. The hands are already halfway to impact and the lower body is forced to get into position ahead of the hit. This next part is the key to proper technique; Instead of hitting at the ball with your hands and arms, wrench the shoulders arms and club through with HIP torque DURING the strike. Keep this torque action of the hips working all the way to the finish. Use your hips like the handle of the bow applying leverage as the string is propelled forward. If the drill isn’t working right away just hit the ball harder as if it was a full shot. Eventually your hips will kick into overdrive and get ahead of the hit.
The idea is to lever the shoulders and hips against each other to power the club and arms through impact to the finish. So, with a slightly firmish grip, swing back somewhat stiff armed just past halfway back and with just a little wrist hinge. Now, your hips already in position ahead of your shoulders, upper body and club, maintain that differential starting down and get your pelvis in position ahead of the hit and, while at a 45 degree angle opening towards the target, hit the ball by wrenching your hips to the target to release the hands and club. You will find that the feel of this hip lead maintains itself all the way to the finish and that the part of the swing AFTER impact seems to be where the real effort lies. This requires a holding back of the shoulders a little as you start down. Your body core serves the purpose of a bow and your arms and club are more like the string and arrow attached. All of this leverage, of course, relies on foot contact with the ground and the unwinding starts from the ground, up through the shoulders and down to the club. It would be difficult to stand on ball bearings and do all this. You need the leverage the ground provides and the feet transmit that leverage up through the body.
Think of a pro golfer hitting a shot over a distant tree using minimal arm and hand motion as if a branch is restricting his backswing but with a full throttle finish and you sense the feel of this swing. Steve Stricker (Who just won a major senior event running away, recently) is a great example of the core driven technique. Very simple action with quiet hands and an active body core. He hits it as big as most, too.
That’s how easy the core driven golf swing is. Once you have mastered this reduced backswing / full forward swing technique with somewhat locked hands and club then you will want to wind up the upper body and club more. Now your hips will arrive at 45 degrees from address to the top, your shoulders from 90 to 100 degrees, and your wrist hinge at about 90 degrees. The path your hands, arms and club take back to the top and back down are not straight back and way from the ball but slightly inside to square. That is, even though the shaft is swung parallel to the target and the club head arrives on a straight to target path at impact the path you take from the top to the finish is more inside out. Imagine the ball at the center of a clock face with your feet at six O’clock and the ball in the center of the dial. Even though your club goes through impact from roughly three O’clock to nine O’clock, your delivery of the blow of the arms and club from the top is more along the path of four O’clock to the ten O’clock position. While, in fact, your club goes back to the inside of the ball line after impact the feeling is that it goes straight out to the target after impact. If you try to swing everything straight back away from the ball you will throw yourself off balance towards your toes. This is a misunderstood topic in golf technique circles but it’s important. You can only draw strength from wherever your center of gravity or mass is and that is nearer your stance line where most of your body mass is. You can’t deliver a blow from where your body isn’t, but from where it is. From there you swing out to meet the ball on the ball line. Imagine holding a basketball with both hands and winding up to the top position and then throwing the basketball straight at the back of the golf ball while keeping your head back, your elbows leading the hands. That kind of directional force. I don’t advocate thinking of two different paths while swinging so I have a simple method to better track the target; To help achieve the proper path for your arms / club assembly lay a club or alignment rod down, not above the ball, but just in front of your feet and align your over all motion to THAT reference. Especially the hands. That is where they operate from and aligning whatever they do with the club is best done from your toe line alignment rather than the ball line. This way when your club rotates it’s butt end backwards at the top position and follows the toe line your shaft will actually point to the target instead of to the left of it at the top as occurs when you use the ball line reference. When your club shaft is aimed to the target halfway back and halfway through it lays across your toe line, more or less, in the first place. You want your club and hands to work along a line they work along and it is there at your toe line, not way out by the ball. What happens when one aligns everything to the ball target line is the swing wants to lay the club off of target and aimed to the left at the top. This is because the butt end of the club will want to trace back to that line after the club head passes the hands going back – as if a flashlight pointing from the butt of the grip would track that ball line.- By positioning the target line reference to just at the toe line of your stance that tracking process will be more target oriented. Jack Nicklaus used the make sure his club was aimed at the target at the top and that works, too. This is the part of the golf swing that baffles even the best golfers in the world. Once you feel what it’s like to deliver the blow from from slightly inside to square instead of slapping across, outside in, you will understand how your body mass and center of gravity are used to add force to the swing. Another way of thinking of the concept is to arrive at the top with the shaft aimed at the target and to then swing out to the target after impact to the finish. One other way to simplify this concept is to imagine swinging exactly 90 degrees into an imaginary wall aimed like a driver face to the target. Just smash the wall at exactly 90 degrees and let nature worry about exact alignments. Even after mastering the correct alignments to the top you will still have to let the shoulders continue coiling back, fully, before they start down to stay on the same track you went back with. You have to finish your coil, the shoulders being the last thing to return back to the ball. You still have to make sure your head stays back as you start down allowing the lower body to redistribute mass to the target ahead of the shoulder uncoil.
As for the, yes, important ball target line, I find that the exact image of the shot you want to make and putting that in your mind’s eye is a better thought. Meanwhile, reference whatever line you use to control the club via hands along a line they work along, the toe line. Even more, I think this method keeps one better balanced, besides and mitigates the inside to square confusion.
When your whole swing is balanced you can “floor it” with less worry. You’re still ‘swinging exactly sideways’, (the art of golf) just inside to square to stay in balance. Factually, one swings the club from the ball line to the foot line to the top then back to the ball line at impact and then, again, above the foot line at the finish. In the process your weight goes mostly to your right leg to the top and by impact almost all the weight is on the left leg as it also pushes up against the ground to add centrifugal force at impact.
Now, this drill I have devised works for a number of reasons:
By severely choking off the use of the hands and using only a reduced backswing an entire ‘can of worms’ is removed from the equation. The proper, full cocking of this intricate assembly of the arms, hands and club is complex. Right now we are skipping that part to teach you body rotation mechanics, first. Using your shoulders just move the club and arms away from the ball opposite your target. This should automatically shift your weight to your back foot. Your arms may reach shoulder height but no more. Your club may cock some 60 degrees but no more.
In a golf swing there are two rotational forces; One is the rotation of the arms, club and club head around one’s body and the other is the clock wise and counter clockwise rotation of the body core from head to feet.. Think of it like a propeller shaft and the club as the propeller blades.. If you’ve ever played “Foosball” you know you spin the toy player, head over heels, with a horizontally mounted shaft which spins the player like a bicycle wheel. That would represent the club / arms part of the swing. Now imagine a player spun with a vertical shaft and a hockey stick coming out from the side which got spun around horizontally, more like a baseball swing. Another good image to use is a stick with a propeller blade at the top. Maybe you once had such a childhood toy. You spin the stick in hour palms and the propeller sends it flying straight up into the air. That would represent the core part of a swing. That motion with a back and forth weight shift included. These two forces work with each other. A golf swing is a more complicated version of the same thing. Think of the agitator paddles inside an upright washing machine that go clockwise 30 degrees and then counter-clockwise 30 degrees in opposite directions. By facing your shoulders even that much away from the target and returning them back against that move 30 degrees to the target going forward and just holding onto the club you are creating a lot of torque with that small, big body parts move. Inch for inch it is the small bones between your shoulders and neck that deliver the most wallop. Move them even a little and watch your club head move a lot. There is also the clockwise and counter- clockwise rotational force of one’s arms as they deliver the club and cross over each other, especially after impact. This, of course, also adds the rotation of the club head, toe over heel, during the strike. A whole lot of rotation going on, everywhere. This book focuses mostly on the body core rotation. There are many ways to swing a club but the body core rotation applies to them all.
By using the half to three quarter backswing against a full forward swing the lower body is stimulated to IMMEDIATELY and FORCEFULLY get active and into position ahead of the hands and club before anything else happens. A tiny pause at the top may help for some. This correct maneuver is harder with a more complete backswing. The fact that the hands are already halfway to impact starting down is the reason the lower body is forced to “giddyup” more than usual. The legs have to transport your hips forward and open for impact. If the hands wanted to hit they couldn’t until they had something in front to pull against. That’s why your hips automatically spring ahead, first thing, with this drill. That’s what you want. During the strike you want your hips wrenching counter-clockwise with your weight landing hard on your left leg as it pushes up against the centrifugal weight of the club head. At impact your left shoulder is going up while your right shoulder is going down.This propels the shoulders, arms and club through. Starting down the unwinding starts from the feet to the legs to the hips to the shoulders to the arms and then the club and in that order. For whatever reason the wrenching is felt most in the body’s middle region, the part that can move weight around the most. For the BACKSWING the leverage starts with the feet but it is the SHOULDERS that start turning first and lead the rest of the body back. The lower body resists a little in the process to collect coil. Conversely, the shoulders are the last to return while the LOWER BODY leads the move DOWN, unwinding from the ground up, against a from the top down backswing. This effectively “wrings out’ your whole body for all the torque it’s worth. It should feel silky in the transition zone keeping your arms / club unit wide as your left shoulder completes it’s turn and smoothy slots into the downswing mode and returns to a finish.
Besides all this you have a left side and a right side. In a golf swing each gets wrapped up in a twist around the other like two ropes of taffy being mixed. Think of how your extended left leg, left backside and left arm all get wrapped around your right leg and side to the top and of your extended entire right side as it is then wrapped around your left leg and side to the finish. This is where real power is happening, this dynamic that uses the large muscles and bones leveraging itself like one, big, integrated complex of levers. Add a punctuated weight shift and watch that ball fly.
By getting one’s hips into position ahead of the hit and opening them up about 45 degrees to the target, actually wrenching everything through DURING impact, they are out of the way of the hands and club and you have put your weight, your center of gravity, towards the target, to your left. The feet and steady head can’t move and so your hips are the free agent that can redistribute your weight the most. Now your hips act like a pylon for the rest of your swing to unleash from.
I first got the idea of this powerful drill years ago while watching an unknown professional practicing at the annual Pebble Beach event near where I live. He swung the club magnificently using less than a three quarter backswing. I could tell by the sound of the ball that he was flying his driver at least 250 yards at sea level. To me, a self admitted snob when it comes to golf technique, this golfer convinced me that it is possible to play well with a limited backswing arc, after all. It merely eliminated a middle region of transition, some of which may or may not be necessary. It demands a strong reaction with the lower body as soon as the direction changes.
I, personally, use a full swing with the arms at about the 11 O’clock position (From face front), my shoulder turn at over 90 degrees and a club cock angle of about 90 degrees, but no more. I urge you all to swing fully, as well. Reign in excessive motion where you can in the process. This chopped off backswing vs. full forward swing drill just works like a miracle. I should patent it, if I could, it works so well. You could play professionally using it, only, but you’d sacrifice about ten percent of your power. The tour is too competitive for that approach. I presume some of you would like a career at playing golf, right? Once this drill is learned you can carry the feeling into a more full swing. If your swing ever goes awry this drill can get you back on track, quickly.
While on the subject, I used to have a ‘Hogan-esque’ swing with a pronounced, even cupped, wrist cock and much more hand action than I do now. It’s entirely possible to play well rolling your wrists open clockwise and fanning them into a cupped position so long as the shaft is tracked to the target, throughout. For some golfers with an artistic inclination it actually buffers the transition zone giving your body time and stretch to maneuver ahead starting down and can add power via the increased cocking and un cocking. I sometimes use it to free up my action and maybe it is a superior technique. Who really knows? The facts prove all this flourish unnecessary where power is concerned. Then, again, there is a smoothing out of the change of directions it offers. As for the opposite technique, the arched wrist position to the top that many new stars are showing up with; I only comment on what I test drive on the practice range. I won’t risk the muscle memory considerations but you should always swing in as body friendly a way as possible. Perhaps there are secrets in that technique that explain the successes with that style. I simply don’t know the answer to that question. Adhere to the laws of physics and keep everything trimmed to it’s simplest equation. A 90 to 100 degree shoulder turn with a 90 degree wrist cock is all one needs to reach maximum power and accuracy. It is the big bones and muscles of your body proper that get the job done when they are used dynamically. This trend is appearing more and more on the modern golf tour. Now I reserve pronounced hand action for mostly lob shots, the very shortest of which are 99 percent wrist action, alone, and felt more in the fingers as well. The wrists, in fact, cock most as the downswing begins to offer slack for the body to move into position. During the transition they may cock almost 120 degrees. Wait for that stage of the swing to allow for any extra wrist cock.
This brings up another change I have made; grip pressure. Not everyone has Fred Couples talent or his ability to use centrifugal force with what I presume is a light grip. Fred is one of my favorite golfers to watch on the range. Poetic power and artistry. Mesmerizing. If Fred uses a light grip I would only advocate that you use a not so light grip. Maintaining a snug grip, feel free to have as supple wrists as you like. Fred hits more pure shots than most pros and he can get away with it. Wrist cupping is acceptable so long as the most cocking occurs in the downswing and not at the top and that the shaft tracks to the target throughout.. Not everyone can perfectly time a swing that finds the hands opening at the top like a Bobby Jones used to, either. I made a change from about a ten percent squeeze at address to about a 30 percent squeeze (100 percent would represent your full force) at address for the sake of my hand’s health and for the sake of my distance. One cannot really move the ball out there without grabbing a hold of the club and commanding it from the start. When I used to start out with a light grip I would HAVE TO grip tighter in mid swing by the time impact arrived or the club would naturally HAVE TO fly out of my hands. Why introduce this extra move that, if not perfect, exposes one’s hands to the jarring that occurs with mishits or mistimed releases? Especially if one hits his practice balls too quickly as I used to. Ouch. Ouch, ouch. Be in command of and not at the mercy of the club. This requires a somewhat firmish grip from the start.
I have had the honor to shake Jack Nicklaus’s hand a few times in my life and I noticed that he has hands like granite. He writes that his grip pressure is on the firm side as does Tom Watson and a lot of other greats. Now that I know how to “Paddle” my pelvis bone against my shoulder bones my big muscles power my swing and I NEED a somewhat firmish grip to go along with it. A firmish grip also forces the whole rest of your body to co-ordinate better, besides. It firms up the hand’s/ body connection, I think.
Like a lob shot, which allows for a lighter grip, or a putt, a firmish grip is mostly for regular full to three quarter shots.
As I write these words a whole roster of new, young golfers are making their mark. Some have orthodox methods and some like to do what comes naturally to them. Mathew Wolff is such a standout and his swing takes a page from Jim Furyk, both of whom take the club head straight back and straight up – like tossing a baseball into the air before swinging a bat at it – and then loop it at the top to bring it down from their stance line, inside to square. The point is, regardless, one must deliver the mass of the club from the center of one’s body mass from the top to the ball to have any power. Slightly inside to square. My method just makes this path a constant. One less move to make.
Mathew Wolff, by the way, just won his first event drilling a thirty foot eagle putt on the final hole to edge out Bryson DeChambeu who ALSO eagled the same hole. Mathew Wolff is a golfer who understands his body, his club, the ball and the target and how they all relate to each other. His immense talent allows him to write his own rules to some extent. Examining the rest of his swing he uses the same core technique as the rest of the tour. Golfers of his caliber are thinking mostly about the elements of the shot they are about to hit and less about how they are going to do it. If this book is a success with you that’s what you will be thinking about someday, just the shot you are trying to hit. That is when golf becomes the most fun.
As unique as his swing, Mathew Wolff’s forward press move is one of a kind. He rehearses with his hips the position they will be in at impact. He opens them up to the target while moving them towards the target a little just like they will be at impact. He then rehearses his wrist lead to impact and then rebounds into his backswing. I never saw him swing until after I came up with my drill that focuses on just this move.
Bryson, by the way, exemplifies the core driven swing and noticeably uses his body more than his hands and even points his shaft TO the target or even a little right of it at times at the top, a refreshing change from a trend that finds a lot of tour players swinging the club laid off at the top a little. Bryson has won about 25 percent of his events lately, in fact.
My favorite swing of all time happens to be the swing of Jack Nicklaus. While there is a lot to be said about the modern swing exemplified by Adam Scott, Justin Rose, Tiger Woods and a list of others, while some may say his elbows were a little “airy” at the top and his foot work a little flamboyant and his famous reverse “C” finish less than ideal, I regard his as the best footwork of all time, his overall mastery of every position in a swing unparalleled by anyone. He had fewer awkward angles than any golfer I have ever observed. Indeed, most of his positions screamed perfection to my mind’s eye, over and over. For his build he swung perfectly, I think. He was thick in his hips and shoulders and legs and used them perfectly. His arms, being proportionately shorter than most, were used properly in their extended posture. No one did a more diligent job of putting together a swing than my hero; Jack Nicklaus. No other golfer ever displayed such perfect technique or position throughout the whole motion. Like a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo, he was, in my opinion, a true artist in perfect harmony with the laws of leverage and physics.His swing template accounts for much of the look you see, today, on tour. He was truly lucky to have a Jack Grout steer him correctly from the start.
The Core Driven Golf Swing does not dictate whether you will finish like Jack with his elbows aimed somewhat targetwards and together or whether they will spin all the way around with your left arm and shoulder behind you. Your body type and physique will mostly dictate this matter for you. You will find your best method. Maybe there is something to be said for finishing more over your left foot to ease strain on the back. The latter must allow for some head travel up and forward after impact, however. On the other hand, finishing with the elbows in front may improve accuracy. Harvy Penick changed his teaching to promote this elbows forward characteristic, I know. Also of note, the elbows forward posture does reduce back stress a little by arresting excessive rotation you may not actually need.
Enough of my gushing over the sterling swing and game of Jack Nicklaus. It’s almost as if his successes were directly in proportion to his devotion to correctness, throughout the swing.
I will try not to observe the techniques of today’s superstars except when appropriate. There is one other golfer out there who, like Tiger Woods before him, innovated new techniques that never existed before. Dustin Johnson has a unique way of tracking his club, almost like a one dimensional disc radiating from his shoulders. As perhaps the best tee to green golfer in the world right now, I have to admit he may be on to something that I don’t yet understand, fully. Tiger, it seems to me, took the best elements of some of the greatest golfers ever and wove them into one swing characterized by a wide extension with the upper body against a restrained lower body. As he has changed, lately, he is swinging as beautifully as he ever did, just not as violently. His club is tracking to the target again after flirting for a few years with what I describe as a slightly laid off style. I think he has a few more majors in him, still. Didn’t he just WIN The Masters this year?! Certainly Tiger Woods may, indeed, be one of the two best golfers who ever lived.
I would rather comment, however, on golfers who are out of their competitive years where my opinions won’t interfere with their attempt to make a living. A pioneer / prodigy from the 40’s and 50’s named Mike Austin will be featured in this book. His technique was like Jack Nicklaus before Jack Nicklaus emphasizing big body muscles doing most of the work. His swing was one of the most powerful of all time averaging over 350 yards with old technology. Beyond his power his swing was graceful and flowing. The PGA logo with the golfer in mid follow through could actually BE Mike Austin’s swing it was so perfect. Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus will also be featured as they exemplify the body powered swing. that lets gravity and nature work in harmony.
Only lately, now that golfers are averaging several birdies per round, do I think that golfers are getting better than they were when I was growing up. I still think Jack or Tiger in their prime could beat anyone out there today. Individualism and personality are factors that matter, still. There will always be one golfer who, by force of his nature, simply tries harder and works harder than the rest of the world. Ego, pride, whatever you want to call it. This makes up for a lot of what becomes of anyone in any endeavor. Hogan might clean the clocks of half of the tour today were he in his prime is what I am trying to say.
And, yet, golf is getting more streamlined and better understood. The loops and idiosyncracies and flamboyant wrist actions of the past are making way for a more compact body swing that finds the hands and arms used more like connecting rods. The club and wrists still cock in the downswing and release past impact with the arms crossing over each other but other wrist actions are more muted than in the past. The ball and the clubs and the grooming of the courses all play a role in this evolution but today’s pro golfers are better than they used to be, for sure.
In my prime in the late 70’s and early 80’s only a handful of golfers in Monterey could beat me. Today over 100 golfers in Monterey could beat me even as I was then. Golf has improved.
Of all the books I read in my early years – and I’ve read half of everything on the subject, by the way – it was a book by Alex Morrison, a renowned instructor from the 1940’s, that propelled me from second to last in my first ever major amateur event to almost third place in the U.S. Amateur qualifying round just six months later. “A New Way To Better Golf ‘ is the title of this book and, it turns out, Alex Morrison influenced Jack Grout, Nicklaus’s teacher. Something about using your back and shoulder muscles to leverage the ball really moved me forward in my golf. Like using your left back side like a sail to catch wind, only catching leverage. It taught me to turn my back to the target. This book not only struck a chord but was the “Core Driven Golf Swing” golf instruction method of his day as I am suddenly made aware.
Not counting pros of today my favorite golf swings include Seve Ballesteros, Tom Weiskopf, Julius Boros, Gene Littler, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Billy Casper, Bobby Clampett ( I suppose it would be a sin not to include Ernie Els and Payne Stewart, Fred Couples, Steve Elkington, Mickey Wright) and a list of others just as deserving. Bobby Clampett made a huge impression on me and changed my life. At the time he was the world’s best amateur golfer winning almost every tournament he entered! He was just a teenager when I met him, 140 pounds, under six feet tall and utterly mind blowing to watch him swing. The positions he achieved were from another planet it seemed and beyond perfect to my eye. He was flying his driver on the range that day over 275 yards and his caddy caught every one after one bounce never having to move more than five feet doing so. His super smooth backswing paused a little at the top and then he unwound like a perpetual motion machine finishing utterly balanced and spent.. This was at the 1978 Eastern Amateur we were both competing in. That was all I needed to see and I was off to Carmel, California to learn from his teacher; Ben Doyle. Ben,one of America’s 100 best instructors at the time, a sweetheart of a man and soft spoken, taught from a book titled The Golfing Machine by Homer Kelly. Super scientific and technical, I never fully grasped all that he tried to teach me but a lot of it must have rubbed off and my game got better now that my head was moved back a few inches and I learned all about levers and fulcrums and vectors and such. (Ben has since passed, recently I am sorry to say.) In 1980 I was clawing my way back to my goal of a life as a professional golfer when a world event that hurt us all completely sidelined me as I was not about to let it go down without a fight. It was a grim event that hurt everybody and I won’t mention what it was here. My goal of being so good I would be able to get away with wearing a peace sign on my visor and changing the world as a golfer was suddenly in jeopardy. I had to solve what happened in late 1980 before I did anything else with my life.
I sold my car and put my valuables in storage and, after losing three jobs in a row due to the distraction I was lost in, bought a twelve speed bicycle and took off for a year or so living outdoors just to exhale and reinvent myself. A year and a half later, completely by accident, I stumbled onto bold print government codes in the world’s biggest magazines that spelled out what really happened to upset my world and it took over my life. Suddenly I was at the center of the biggest expose in human history and my life was in utmost danger. I could make a four part movie just to chronicle the wild ride that followed.( Writing this book takes my mind off of all that drudgery.)
Fast forward to 2014 and I found myself hungry to conquer my old love, golf, and even write a book about technique. It began in 2014 following a pivotal day at the practice range that found me re arranging my grip to a stronger left hand position complimented by a weakening of my right hand position. It seemed to have an accuracy advantage. Ultimately I found myself back to a conventional grip and immersed in the golf swing all over again and I began writing this book. By 2019 I had learned so much from having to concentrate on the matter I actually had to start all over, several times, in fact. I even had to take a half year break to let my then injured hands recover I was experimenting so much. So, now, mid 2019, fresh from a layoff, my hands healed again, everything just fell into place, amazingly. The drill I described above just came to me right away and I was off to finishing this book and here we both are. Now I see a clear path to the finish of this book and I think I know what I’m talking about, now. Nobody more than I wants this book to be anything but the gospel truth of the matter. I have to live with the legacy. I am confident the world will be able to make some real hay out of this book, indeed. Lord knows I have spent ten percent of all my thoughts on the golf swing these past 40 years. It’s time to unleash what I’ve learned.
As the very platform of this technique I borrow from David C. Lee’s “Gravity Golf” tapes which use the forces of gravity and the large muscles to do the work. The weight shifting from back to front in tandem with a coiling and uncoiling of the whole body being a big part of the method. The same action Nicklaus and Snead and others have used in the past. Nobody invented gravity and I certainly did not invent the core driven golf swing. Most of the pro tour players are already doing it, more or less. I have better identified it than others is all and have laid out a method to learn it for life.
Although this is a book mostly about the core driven golf swing, I will also offer my own preferences about putting methods and other aspects of the golf game as I may have an insight or two never before seen or explained by others.
While the introduction may seem a little foreign to many of you let me introduce you to the very basics of the golf swing, first.
The grip is somewhat firmish. Not tight but offering a feeling of being in command of the club. I’d say about 30 to 40 percent of your strength only. For three quarter, touch shots and pitch and chip shots use whatever pressure you like. Personally, I distribute the pressure evenly throughout the hands including the fingers. You want both palms to end up facing each other like a wall at 90 degrees from the target. with the right thumb and forefinger straddling the shaft at the top while the left thumb rides on top of the shaft slightly inclined to somewhere between your chin and right shoulder. The left thumb should be cradled in the valley of your right palm and thumb. The grip is felt in the fingers and not just the palms with the shaft falling from the first joint of the left forefinger to just above the line where the fingers meet the palm at an angle. The shaft in the right hand falls at a squarer, less diagonal angle, mostly where the fingers meet the palm.
The stance is a little cock-eyed compared to what most humans want to adopt. It has to be just right if you are to achieve any success with any method. The correct stance has a ‘sweet spot’ you want to fall into every time you swing a club. You have to be in good, erect posture, no slumping or crouching with somewhat crisp angles from the knees, hips and shoulders. You want these body parts to also be aligned parallel to your target (For straight shots) Your right foot points nearly straight ahead while your left foot wings out towards the target a little. You want your left shoulder higher than your right shoulder. You want your grip and ball position left of center out by your left instep. You want your head behind the ball with your left ear in line with the ball. From your perspective your hands should block your left instep from view. All of this will force a slight tilt away from the target with your spine while your hips remain a little forward. The weight should be pretty even throughout your stance (For normal shots) if anything slightly favoring your left side. (For big tee shots favor the right side) Your right elbow should fall below where your left elbow is (When viewed from behind) partly because it is bent while your left arm is straight and you want to let the club travel a little to your inside going back and from the inside going down..
For a beginner what is there to say except; with a steady head and with a straight left arm, using mostly the shoulders, swing the club away from the ball to the top, like slinging a bag of laundry over your shoulders while extending your arms and club, and then swing it down, tucked at first, as your body races ahead to get into position, releasing the club below the belt line through and past the very back of the ball all the way to the finish, finishing on your front leg. The club tracks around your shoulders like a tilted bicycle wheel aligned with the target. Turn your back to the target at the top. Your finish should find your belt buckle facing the target. These two positions are a good pair to mix up in your head to make a correct swing. In taking a divot make sure you take it in front of the ball, hitting slightly down on the ball and fully release past impact to the target. Think of the exact shot and see it in your mind’s eye before you swing, putting, included.
The Meat Of The Matter; The Core Dynamics; WHAT Happens;
Someone once said, maybe Lee Trevino, but others as well; “Big muscles” (Pointing to his legs and torso) “Little muscles.”(Pointing to his hands and arms.) His point being that it’s easier to move the ball with your big muscles than your small muscles. Lee also said that he regards his body as the tree trunk and the arms and hands as the branches and that the trunk swings the branches, not vice versa. This is where I explain, as best I can, how to do this with your body core. That’s where the meat is on your bones and that’s what you should be using, anyway. Timing a weight shift with a body coil and uncoil with arm extension is at the heart of the matter.
For you somewhat already golf oriented types we have the swing, itself. With a steady head and straight left arm, it is made exactly sideways from where you are standing. 90 degrees from your target. You swing the club away from the target allowing it to ride up to your stance line from the ball line while aligning the shaft to the target at the top. This is made mostly through the shoulders chest and back muscles which out turn the lower body which maintains some resistance to force your body to coil and not just turn. This means working and stretching this region a little. The arms extend and allow the club all the width it needs, too. You do this while aligning the shaft to the target whenever it is parallel to the ground; one third back, at the top, two thirds down, halfway through past impact and, depending on your style, not necessarily so after halfway through. When viewed from behind the overall shape of the club’s motion resembles a tilted bicycle wheel, more vertical than horizontal and aligned towards the target. This imaginary wheel goes through your chest back and shoulder region, mostly. This bicycle wheel configuration actually shifts about a foot or slightly more (Depending on force) to the target when you make your downswing. This is a result of a powerful shifting of your weight to the target as you start down and it even causes a slight downward blow during the strike. It also accounts for the divot taken after impact. Swinging back to the top the weight transfer of your club and arms to the right automatically sets your weight over your right hip and leg as the left shoulder goes under your chin. The shoulder turn is now about 90 degrees from address, the hips half of that The wrist cock is now about 90 degrees. The very first thing that happens when you begin your downswing is your left leg and hips jump out towards the target and fall so that you can catch your weight on your left leg at impact as you simultaneously push off of your right foot and release your right side and club past it, after. This redistributing of your weight, which is only possible through your middle region and legs, gives your upper body and arms and club mass to attach itself to and use for leverage. Putting the horse before the cart. It is important that you plant this weight ahead of the strike so it pulls your swing to the target. In reality the weight shift from the top to impact and the finish is also straight down and to the target at first, like jumping out of an airplane (The famous Sam Snead ‘squat’ look in mid downswing.) If a single direction was to be described it would be diagonally down and forward. This is required to position your weight low so you can push up against the ground during impact to increase centrifugal force as your left leg accepts the weight of the whole swing pushing up against the weight of the club as it collides with the ball.
That this element of weight shifting hasn’t been pointed out before puzzles me a little. It is visibly obvious that one’s legs flex most as you start down (To lower your mass weight) That this occurs when the club is high and above suggests that centrifugal force is achieved by tugging, at all times, a little ahead of the exact opposite position of the club or ‘counter weight’. Then, in mid downswing, when the club is opposite the target the most, you make your biggest shift TO the target pulling just ahead of the opposite position of the club. By impact you are now seen straightening the left leg to push UP away from where the club is as well as to the target keeping just ahead of the opposite position of the counter weight. By mid follow through, the club shaft now pointing TO the target, your arms and body are seen pulling it AWAY from the target and thereby starting the deceleration process to a finish. In all cases you can see how the body’s center of mass is maneuvered in a circular manner almost opposite of wherever the club head is at any given moment. Centrifugal force observed and presented as I’ve never read before. It’s exactly like the small circle your fingers make when spinning a weight on a string. A mini circle inside a bigger circle, always just ahead of opposite the position of the weight being swung.
Why “Just ahead of” the opposite position of the counter weight? Why not exactly opposite? That would a static, not a dynamic motion, is why, I believe. I think it has something to do with giving a direction to the motion to get it to spin.
So, folks, there is an up and down as well as a back and forward element to shifting your weight to move the club. A small, circular or perhaps oval shaped pattern, in fact, that your whole body instinctively engages without thought. Tiger Woods used to occasionally be seen dipping or bobbing his head up and down as he tried to maximize this up and down force. Ta da! Explained here, first, as far as I know.
A weight shift is a lot like the small mini circle one makes with his fingers while spinning a weight on a string, only now it’s made with the body’s center of mass as it swings the arms and club around it’s smaller, similar motion.
All the greats have a few things in common, here. One of the commonalities is that they all re positioned their lower body (Hip region and left leg) forward, before the upper body was allowed to unwind. They all landed heavily on their forward leg at impact while releasing the club and their right side past it after impact. The coordinated coil and uncoil was full bodied and balanced.
From address a slight shift of weight away from the target allows the club to move back. In fact one’s neck moves a half inch away from the target, first, to do this. The shoulders lead the coil to the top, the backswing occurring from the top down even though it is the feet that offer the leverage to do so.
The downswing occurs from the bottom, up, further tightening the stretch made to the top. From the top it is the feet then the knees that are first to move as the weight of the hips falls down and to the target. (I’ve examined this fact watching the greats in slow motion, stop, start action.) Then the hips start to unwind ahead of the shoulders. Mush of the first half of the downswing involves maintaining the differentials achieved at the top. In fact, to allow some slack for the knees and hips to shuttle target wards, the wrists allow some additional cocking as the downswing begins. This is O.K. as additional leverage is being stored in the wrists for release later. By mid downswing the hips have caught up to the knees and by impact they have passed the knees. Only after mid follow through do the shoulders out rotate the hips and continue to outpace them by almost 90 degrees at the finish.
So, you can see that the backswing is lead by the upper body and the downswing is lead by the lower body which has positioned itself ahead of the hit during the downswing. Like stretching a rubber band from both ends. The ‘tuck’ I mentioned one makes in starting down refers to the elbows, mostly. Do this while maintaining a large arc with the clubhead. A feeling of drawing into one’s center. while the rest of the swing stays wide. Similar to the way a skater will spin faster by drawing the arms tight, this ‘tuck’ starting down allows the body to spin ahead of the club which is actually cocking even more providing the slack to allow this. By impact the hips are spinning out of the way of the release pulling the upper body and club through. By mid follow through the upper body and club have passed the lower body and now the dynamics are set up for deceleration. In a sense the swing is stretched tight by the shoulders to the top, one’s weight mostly on the right leg, and then stretched even tighter by the lower body as it leads the downswing to land on the left leg and hip at impact, culminating in a true release of everything around the left leg, ultimately.
My teacher, Ben Doyle, used to repeat this line, often; “Shoulders lead and power you to the top, hips lead and power you to the finish.” Now that I understand how a swing is like wringing out a towel to the top from the shoulders, down, and then doubling down by unwinding everything from the ground, up, creating a deep compression that releases with whiplash effect, it all makes sense to me, now. The tip I offered beginners about marrying two thoughts together; one of turning your back to the target at the top and of turning your belt buckle to the target at the finish helps animate the body to make this very dynamic move.
The Arms, Hands and Club; WHAT Happens;
So long as you use your shoulders at least as much as you use your hands you can use your hands for all they’re worth. It’s a competitive world out there and I see every resource available being used in professional golf today. I think that there are two circles working together in a swing; the one made from your shoulders and the one made from your hands. If one out paces the other the swing falls out of sequence and out of balance.
I offer two kinds of wrist action; the familiar one piece style that finds the club and arms in line the first few feet back and I offer the pre set style that simultaneously cracks a small angle as you start. The second style seems to protect the hands better from the two and fro of the first style keeping them suspended in a cocoon of ‘feelinglessness’ until impact. Most of what I describe in this book applies mostly to the one piece style unless otherwise stated.
As for the hands and the club, itself, the club opens up 90 degrees from address to the top as do the forearms. From mid downswing to mid follow, alone, the shaft rotates 180 degrees or more, the ball caught in the middle of all this rotation The club face, itself, also rotates 180 degrees toe over heel DURING the strike and after. The arms, in fact, cross over one another as the full force of the swing is released to the target.
Like one’s fingers put themselves out ahead of and opposite the weight they are swinging on a string, so does the lower body position itself ahead of the upper body and club until after the hit. This is body core dynamics explained in the simplest way I know how. There is a lot of torque created through the body core and it is unwound for maximum effect. The weight of one’s swing goes from neutral to the right leg to the top to fully onto the left leg by impact and beyond. In the process a powerful coiling and uncoiling of the body, like a propeller shaft, has occurred. This weight assisted coil / recoil is what happens in a proper golf swing. The arms and club accompany this churning and shifting of the body loading and releasing angles from the wrists. How these angles are collected and released is key. The cocking to the top is gradual. The cock then increases as you start down and stays that way until the club is below your belt line. From there to mid follow through it’s an all out release of all the stored angles you have, not only in your arms and club, but your body parts as well. Wrenching everything through is your mid section spinning counter-clockwise through the strike.
You will notice with stop action / slow motion that the hip rotation slows during the strike a little. This is not because they are rotating or wrenching any less but because the weight of the club, now being launched like an arrow, puts a drag effect on the hips that are launching it forward. The weight of the club is borrowing from the mass of the hips and that is why they are slowed down during this transfer of energy. The hips are working all the way to the finish.
Your arms and hands want to keep the shaft, especially, aligned along a single line parallel to the target, both back and forward.. It is vital to start smoothly and unhurriedly, making sure to finish your backswing so you can re trace the path you made to the top back down. Not completing your backswing opens the door for problems that can put a swing off track and force you to apply effort instead of proper form to do the work. If the left shoulder fails to go under your chin and your back is not turned to the target you are not properly cocked for the downswing. A visual image I use is to pretend I’m slinging a bag of cloths over my shoulder. I swing it along the target line like a club and up over my shoulders until it aims at the target, arms extended, and I make the downswing before it falls onto my shoulders. This encourages a deep coil and a turn of your back to the target.
If you torso isn’t coiling for every inch your club is moving you’re leaving power on the table you need for the downswing. Don’t outpace the club in doing so but keep pace with your club with your shoulder coil.
As I described earlier in this book, what starts out as a lateral move of the club straight away from the target in the takeaway reroutes the centrifugal tug of the club’s weight from lateral to vertical. You sense the weight of the club going straight back and straight up at the same time in a sense. This prevents swaying and unnecessary effort. Just make sure that you coil your shoulders back as you lift the club up into position above your shoulders. The lateral shift is contained between your insteps. The vertical weight shift, especially forward, is unlimited and is achieved with your mind’s imagination to a degree. Whether you use the delayed wrist break technique or the setting of an angle at take away technique, you want to start everything together, head to toe, the first six inches of the swing back. If I said that the neck shifts away one half inch away from the target to allow the swing to move in that direction, I meant to say everything moves a half inch back that first six inches of the backswing. Undoubtedly the same rule of motion probably applies starting back down, but these subtle moves must be restricted to JUST one half inch and no more. A steady head along with grounded feet serve like a vice to stabilize the body and squeeze power out of it. Do not sway. Keep your head back as your lower body leads the downswing.
I like to use the armpits, that’s right, the armpits, to reference my shoulder region and use that region to animate and orchestrate my swing. This is where the arms connect to the body and where they “gird” the arms to the rest of the swing. If you prefer to think trunk or shoulders or back or chest or all of the above, that’s fine. What’s important is that this region orchestrates the swing as much as any other body part. The shoulders smoothly start turning in conjunction with this subtle shift away from the ball carrying the arms and club as one letting whatever wrist break style you prefer to occur at a smooth, even pace. Only because the shoulders are coiling does the rest of your body join in, resisting just enough to create coil as you create a differential between your hips and shoulders of about 45 degrees at the top. All the while your arms remain extended as your left shoulder goes under and behind your chin. Naturally the right arm has to bend but they both reach out throughout the swing. After impact the left arm naturally has to eventually fold.
There should be no undo fanning open of the club head or hooding of it to the top but, rather, a diplomatic middle ground that should feel somewhat benign. The clubface should align with the angle of your left arm at the top somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees, depending. One third into your backswing when the shaft is parallel to the ground it should aim to your target and the face should be just a little aimed to the ground, not quite straight up in the air. Conversely, halfway past impact with the shaft also aimed to the target the club head folds over beyond vertical, naturally. The idea is to get to the top with the shaft aimed to the target with a 90 degree wrist cock but little else going on in the process.
If you prefer the early wrist set make it subtle, just crack an angle, and gradually add to it up to 90 degrees at the top. The early wrist set is a little tricky to master but takes a lot of stress off of the hands as there is less back and forth pressures exerted on them. Just a set and KAPOW! at impact is all one should feel.
If you prefer the one piece style that finds a straight line start between the club and hands then let them cock naturally once the hands are nearing knee or hip height. Be prepared for the straight, to cocking, to stopping, to starting, to cocking more as the downswing begins exchanges felt in the hands using this style.(I, personally, am switching to the early set style even though it forces me to align the shaft correctly, immediately with that first cracking open of an angle at the start. It’s a lot like uniting the two disparate rods of shaft and left arm as one kinked rod efficiently getting to correct top of swing position gradually with no unnecessary manipulation.)
The club, itself, rotates head over handle from address to finish not one, not two, not three or four, but FIVE times in a swing. Do the math. One and one half 180 degree rotations to the top and three and one half 180 degree rotations to the finish from there. Five. Before I began writing this book even I though maybe one or two. Imagine throwing a club like a boomerang end over end five times in it’s flight. It’s as if the swing reveals a rotor tiller effect inside the swing no one has noticed before.
All of this rotation inherent in the body core, the arms, the club and club head accounts for much of the dizzying power today’s tour pros display. Add a brisk weight shift to it and that’s golf.
Once at the top and the lower body pull engages with the shoulders and starts to unwind them the body wants to plant itself somewhere forward of the hit. The hip region is free to do so and redistribute mass forward. To accommodate this ‘leap to the left’ to start down the wrists accept stress in the form of cocking more than at the top creating some ‘slack’ with which to do so. Mostly the legs re distribute the mass of the hips into position. From this tightly compressed stage of the swing as the lower body is tightening the squeeze between them and the shoulders in mid downswing the right elbow socks into your right side positioned to lead the hands into impact. This tucking in allows the body to rotate ahead of the club. The intense angle created in mid downswing that also allows this now begins to release below one’s belt line 180 degrees to the other side of the ball reacting to the intense stress loads your swing has created. By impact your weight has been transferred to your front leg as you launch the ball. Now it’s all about letting go and accelerating to the finish. The hands have snapped the clubhead past the grip and the big power release finds the shaft chasing the target line. All the while you feel your hips pulling everything through in concert with your hands.
Having already laid out the importance of maintaining a hands / body connection, giving the hands authority over the body in beginning a downswing so that they can strike forward, forcefully from the top in one motion to the finish, allow me to explain the other important matters.
So, much of the hands function in a swing is to ALLOW to ACCOMMODATE the club’s need to move in whatever direction force compels them to move in. To allow the positioning of the shaft to occur and hold on is half of the hand’s job. To act like a disciplined, but omni directional sockets giving the club freedom to move in proper alignment. Flexible enough to allow the vital hinging and cocking and releasing of the club through it’s many stages.
Besides that they must know when and where to cock or un cock. I recommend a smooth gradual cock to not more than 90 degrees at the top and then, as the downswing compresses the body coil, to allow even more cocking so that the body can have some slack to move into position for impact and to then hold that extreme angle until the club is below the belt line at which point the hands allow the club to somersault 180 degrees, head over handle to the other side of the ball including the shaft and the club head, itself. An all out release to the target and the hands have to allow the proper path at all times. During impact the club is rolling from open to shut and after impact it rolls over, completely. The hands have to allow for all of this motion.
This brings me to a subject that compelled me to actually write Jack Nicklaus in late 1979 about the subject of hands vs. body in a golf swing. (He actually wrote back.) Back then Square To Square technique was the rage and a lot of pros agreed that the hands are somewhat dormant in a swing and mostly just hold on while the body hits the ball. That’s, in essence, is what THIS book is about, to hit with hip torque and not just with the hands during the strike.
What happened was this; I had just blown another VW motor and was at my wits end and desperate enough to challenge myself with the argument; “Either you have what it takes or you don’t. Find out, for both of us, please, today!”‘If you can’t just grab the club and smash the ball using your hands then forget it.” And so I went about startling myself as I hit the ball just like a tour pro 20 percent better than at any other time of my life. I just HAD to let Jack know what I discovered. Like a fool I lept before I looked and I’m sure I confused Jack more than anything else and still was left not knowing the answer to my questions.
In hindsight I now wonder was it the mere fact that I must have increased my grip pressure that day, and that alone, that made the difference. For decades I wondered and wondered. That’s one reason why I wrote this book, I’m sure, to find out for myself.
This is why I mentioned this hands / body connection early in this book. It’s one thing to put the horse before the cart, (The Core Driven Golf Swing) it’s another thing to make sure the horse is connected to the cart.
Having done all the hard detective work these past few years I can now say that the hands do accompany the body hit and add their own hit to the shot. The famed Mo Norman, as body core only kind of a swing you’ve ever seen, swears “… it’s all about the hands.” I’ve heard. So, go figure. It’s like getting wound up like a pretzel trying to figure was it the chicken or the egg that really came first. Still, all of this mystery existing, I now believe that the hands are better prepared to apply their contribution by commanding “Diva” status demanding that the body wait for them to join the downswing so they can apply a single, forward hit right from the top. This is why the swing slows at the top to almost a stop to assure this. All the pieces fall into position, the hands now ready to strike with utter dispatch, and only now does the body get the jump on the downswing and help the hands go “All out” to the finish.
GRAVITY: “That’s Heavy, Man”
Gravity. How is it utilized in a golf swing? Mo Norman, a teaching legend in golf circles, says the weight shift is as easy as; “…falling off a log.” Maybe for him it was that easy, but there is a lot more to gravity and golf. The speed of a proper downswing, for example, I believe to be the exact same time it would take to drop a golf ball from your shoulders to the ground. Faster isn’t needed and slower is also counter productive. Swing at the speed of gravity. Start slow and smooth and gradually, constantly accelerate, especially after impact.
Actually, I learned recently that Bobby Jones said that one should swing at one mile per hour faster than the speed of gravity. I will defer to Bobby Jones and modify my above remark. Always be accelerating. Don’t get caught swinging slower than gravity, that’s for sure.
While the weight shift is certainly back and forth it is also up and down. I imagine that the backswing is a lot like wenching a HOUSE up on ropes above one’s head and then dropping it for all the weight it’s worth straight down onto the ball for your downswing. Now THAT”S a weight shift!
I had the pleasure to watch Kyle Birkshire, the reigning long drive champ (summer of 2019), hit a drive that flew over 400 yards before it stopped at about 430 yards. Kyle has just recently starting using a paddling back and forth with his feet before he starts his swing. He rocks his weight onto his back foot, actually lifting his front foot off of the ground, then he rocks back the other way, now lifting his back foot off the ground. From here he starts his swing using the momentum of the rocking of his weight back to his rear foot only, this time he keeps his front foot somewhat grounded. He swings back wide in one piece, a lot like Jack Nicklaus, to the top and then falls vertically at first, then shifts laterally in mid downswing as he then spins his hips as the club is released past a left leg that is slanted backwards like a pro baseball swing while his arms and shoulder and club go through beneath his still head to the target.
His entire lateral shift is as small and unhurried and as simple as Moe Norman’s analogy; “Falling off a log.” A rocking back and forth between both feet and that is all.
The move reveals a fact about a weight shift. As I watched the replay in slow motion I noticed that his actual swing uses the exact same cadence and tempo as the one used in the rehearsal shift. No extra burst of speed at any point, just a rocking back and forth of the weight from back to front foot and at about the exact speed of gravity. There is no point in a downswing when one jumps onto his left hip. It all happens gradually and evenly, his body working in harmony with his arms and club and the laws of gravity. However powerful a shift is, it occurs between his insteps and the rest of the weight shift is vertical, where real power, I think, happens. The lateral shift is a very subtle but powerful move, not a wild, all over the place move. If you can drop the weight of the club like dropping the weight of a house on top of the ball AND your body is strong enough to push up against the ground to catch the fall and create the resulting centrifugal force you have tapped into the essence of real weight redistribution in a swing. That’s one reason why I think a backswing should travel straight up as well as straight back, simultaneously. Coil, all the while but also lift the club above your shoulders to prevent swaying and unnecessary effort..
When interviewed, after, Kyle remarked that “It’s not how much effort…. but how good you swing…”
As already discussed, the forces involved in spinning a weight on a string is circular and ever changing just ahead of the opposite position of whatever weight you are swinging. There is gravity involved in that, for sure. Centrifugal force, itself. Putting the equivalent of over a hundred pounds of force in a club head during impact that weighed a half pound at address involves gravity. I got excited about writing a golf instruction book after listening to David Lee’s “Gravity Golf” tapes. Only after I rediscovered the effortless, full body swing that he teaches did I know which general technique to attach myself to. The one with the biggest bang for the buck. How convenient that my favorite golfers use it, anyway.
David Lee describes a “counter fall’ to start down from the top after first loading the right hip with your weight back to the top. From the top to impact you almost fall straight down onto your lead leg against the initial weight transfer to the right hip. I learned, using this big muscles technique, that power can be effortless and that is why I decided to make his technique the one I would recommend to the world. Jack Nicklaus is one of his models and Jack writes about the same things in different words in his books and they are great. I think “Golf My Way” has passed Hogan’s “Five Modern Fundamentals of Golf” in fact, lately, as the number one most sold instructional out there. I am choosing Mr. Lee’s interpretation partly because I don’t want to favor my hero too much in this book. He might not appreciate that much adulation. Mr. Lee also impressed me with his independent thinking and pioneering spirit.
Mike Austin, Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus; Seeing Is Believing
To show you how all of what I described thus far applies to an actual swing I have chosen three of the best swings I could find; Mike Austin, Sam Snead and Jack Nicklaus. You may say; “Who is Mike Austin?”
Mike Austin is a golfer from Sam Snead’s era. He was known for being the longest hitter on tour, then. He averaged over 350 yards with old school equipment and he did it with a silky, smooth, flowing, graceful swing that it even resembles the PGA Tour logo of a golfer in mid follow through. He was swinging like Jack Nicklaus before Jack Nicklaus, especially his finish. Since his was the most powerful swing of Jack Grout’s day I would be surprised if Mr. Grout didn’t actually use Austin’s swing as a template to teach Jack Nicklaus from. Had he been a better putter you would have heard of him more. He holds the Guinness Book of Records for longest drive in a PGA event with a drive of 515 yards. He flew it over 400 yards with only a 25 mph tailwind on a level hole in Las Vegas during the Senior U.S.Open. He did this astounding feat at the age of 63. In one exhibition (His forte) he hit a green over 350 yards away with 90 percent of his shots. He was accurate as could be. His ‘swoosh’ and it was a mighty and loud one, occurred AFTER impact, unlike most pros. His swing seemed to unlock more secrets than any other I have seen. In his prime, using today’s equipment, he might be the only golfer driving 400 yards or more is my guess.
He was built for speed and too highly strung for military service, in fact. Over six feet tall and almost 200 pounds of weightlifter physique he was a rare specimen, indeed. I wonder were his long thigh bones a key to his power. Even if one fully understood his swing, copying it would have it’s limitations. I’d say the same thing of Jack Nicklaus’s swing. Jack’s legs were as strong as tree trunks and his knees led his hips more than most golfers with normal builds. Still, one can aspire to utilize their techniques and try to keep in shape so you can.
( A Word About Fitness;)
Golf SHOULD be a regimen for staying fit. I’d go so far as to say that you should try to whip your body into shape with a swing as much as hit good shots with it. The two ideas go hand in hand. Natures tonic, in a sense. There’s a reason an ‘effortless’, big muscle swing will find you panting and out of breath at times. You’re using your body correctly. Every muscle, in fact. Your whole body is getting stretched out and used. If you aren’t willing to at least get your legs into shape be willing to sacrifice results. Personally, I know from a loss of twenty yards in one year’s time, that a desk job and soft legs can do just that to a swing. I found this out a year after I took a job managing a custom golf shop. My former jobs had me on my feet, non stop. Only after I sat at a desk for a year and saw my game fizzle did I see the light about physical fitness and how it relates to golf. Don’t be a dummy. Golf is an athletic sport and you must me strong to do it right. How great it is that correct technique can keep you there, besides.
Am I guilty of slacking in this regard? I have a lower back issue (From a work injury) that requires I strengthen my core muscles and I’d rather not have to do it but I am forcing myself to feel better by doing the work. I keep the rest of myself as fit as I can with activity, golf and a good diet. It’s just a better way to live. Fit, that is.
Sam needs little introduction as his is considered by most to be the best swinger, ever. Full bodied and natural he coiled up fully in an extended posture and paused at the top longer than others before falling into his famous bow legged ‘squat’ in mid downswing, culminating in a silky unwinding of his hips that landed him on his front leg at impact before releasing the club poetically to his balanced finish. Indeed, today’s swing owes a lot to his example, then.
I’ve already gushed profusely about this swing but it bears repeating how full bodied and athletic it really was, his finish high and his arc noticeably bigger than others. His arched finish more majestic than any other word that comes to mind. ‘His Majesty’ to my eye. What a triumph of human talent, proper technique and athleticism. Not a swing everyone CAN copy but one worth trying to copy as it is still correct. Only a slightly bigger lead at impact with your hips than knees is all you might notice in your motion. Your arms might want to stay a little closer to your side at the top but not by much. I am proud to use this template that was more correct at impact than any other and achieved the most consistent distance control I’ve ever seen.
It would be folly NOT to tap whatever insight one can from these three amazing swings. I picked them very carefully you can be sure. Hogan would be there, too, as his was a great swing. His cupped wrist style is the only reason he is not among this group. His core action was as good as it gets if you want to see a great use of hips versus shoulders.
(Everything below was written months ago and is repetitious regarding the above late entry.)
The core driven golf swing can be most simply described as this; Using your trunk (shoulders / back / chest / waist – everything from waist to shoulders ) girding your arms and club assembly to your shoulders, applying leverage from ground contact with the feet up through the legs, rotate this large mass like an upright top loading wash machine tumbler clockwise going back around the axis of your right hip socket and counter clockwise going forward around the axis of your left hip socket. The transfer to the left hip occurs in mid downswing as the club angle between the arms and club increases before it is then is released through to the target 180 degrees head over handle as well as toe over heel.. This move incorporates a rotational force and a weight transfer, combined, that effortlessly provides maximum power with minimum effort. The rest of the swing involves a precise use of the extended arms and hands and club to route this dynamic force to the target. There is cocking of the club and a releasing of the club at precise junctures. Even though it is mostly body rotation and weight transfer the hands must also hit WITH the body at the moment of impact. I recommend mind focus on the shoulders to orchestrate the whole swing as this is the center of the swinging action and even the center of your mechanical structure – the distance between your shoulders and feet and your shoulders to ball being almost equal distant. like a nutcracker extended out from it’s central hinge.- Body and legs on one end and arms hands and club on the other end. This mind focus on the shoulder and chest region best integrates the whole structure to perform in and extended, unified manner.
This book offers new mental thoughts to effect body results. Some thoughts work better than others, I have found. For example. If you move the entire left arm and club back from the target and move it as if you were pulling a bowstring back to your chin or behind your chin, even better, you will find a perfect shoulder coil in the process. Certainly there is a cocking of the wrists at some point and this whole assembly of left arm and club are felt as one lever. This THOUGHT, however, of pulling that hinged lever and club back away from target may actually BE the purpose of a shoulder turn. Another thought I use is to imagine that the club would reach around and kiss the very front of the golf ball at the top if your shoulders could turn that far. They can’t, but this thought puts your swing on the best plane and path. The mind focus on the shoulder region as opposed to other body parts puts one’s mind at the center of activity. The distance from shoulders to ball is about the same as the distance of one’s shoulders to feet. Stretch out your club in front of you and raise it up a little and your body resembles a nutcracker that opens from the shoulders. It just so happens that by focusing on this area of the body the rest of the body falls into place better. “Happy shoulders and happy hands” is one thought that harnesses, in equal measure, the forces of the body and the hands. When they both vie for power and role they equal each other out and a swing becomes balanced. I used to over cock my hands and under cock my shoulders, for example. My swing used to be out of balance.
The one thought I learned a s a kid was “straight left arm with steady head.” It’s a pretty good swing thought that reigns in a lot of good moves that follow. This book recognizes that certain thoughts trigger better results than others.
When mastered, the core driven golf swing feels like this; You stand comfortably at address with the proper stance and grip, a slightly firm, uniform grip on the club. Not tight but air tight at all points. While keeping that moderate grip pressure secure and intact, throughout, and while disturbing the hands as little as possible, throughout, you activate only your shoulders, back and chest muscles to make a back and downswing. Going back your lower body acts like a bow always tugging to the target. Your upper body acts like the bow string, one against the other. If your shoulders could turn as far, (they can’t – please don’t try) you turn to the top AS IF you would see your club reach all the way around to kiss the very front of the ball before you start back down to pound the very back of the ball. It’s a feeling, not a fact, but it should accompany your motion to make sure you complete the back swing and are on plane. The rest of the swing, the weight shift, the club and arms path, the body sequencing, the natural opening and closing of the club as it revolves around your body, the forming and releasing of a club shaft angle and the whole package should automatically take care of itself. The body coils and uncoils. The shoulder region, only, is consciously activated to make the swing. Amazingly, this mind focus tricks the rest of the body into a natural reflex engaging the legs, hips, feet and everything else into dynamic action. The hands and arms, allowing for a subtle opening and closing of the club and creating and releasing an angle, just hold onto the club.
That’s this technique in it’s simplest description. Of course, there’s a little more to it and I hope to cover all the bases so that, eventually, the simple version is all YOU have to think about. Because there are a variety of ways top players articulate the hands and arms and club and, following a testing process of all methods, I have decided on a move that protects the hands from injury, allowing a slight fanning open and closing of the club and fore arms but short of any excess cupping of the left wrist more than a few degrees. The amount of wrist / club shaft angle used going down is up to each golfer’s capabilities and preferences, the important part being where and when.
There is also one variation I must include in the process, a move I believe will replace the conventional take away, the pre set angle take away. A take away that very slightly sets an angle right away in the wrists. It feels like a tandem move of both the shoulders and hands cocking together right from the start. I believe it is more body friendly and easier on the wrists in that it removes the side tension that occurs back and forth with the club and wrists from take away to the top. It has the effect of suspending the stresses and weight of the club until impact occurs. It will be included at the end of the book so that you can learn this technique the conventional way, first, with the one piece take away. Then you can decide which one you prefer.
What is core dynamics?
A smooth but mighty wrench of the body, both back and forwards, but especially through impact, versus a swinging with the hands back and forward, is what makes a proper golf swing. A succinct description I offer in this book resembles a vertically mounted, spring loaded roll of paper towels. This represents your body proper. You return to impact with more rotation than you made going back to the top. That is, if you turned, say, two paper sheets from address to the top, you return to impact unwinding about two and a half sheets exerting a little extra wrench and weight shift through impact. The purpose is to fully coil and uncoil stable shoulders which orchestrate the swing. Once the arms and hands begin to consciously hit the ball and race past the body this wrenching of the body proper is usurped and rendered less than fully tapped. It is better that the hands just hold onto the shaft angle you created in mid back swing until actual ball contact is made and to allow the body pivot of the legs and hips, mostly, to take up the slack to power the club through. Not that the hands don’t also hit the ball, they do. If the arms and club and body swing together properly all the hands really have to do in a swing, besides aligning the club shaft along the target line, is simply hinge, unhinge and hold on. This technique merely provides them with all the leverage the body can give the hands to hit with. Because the hips and legs are rotating, opening up counter clockwise to the target, they are pulling the shoulders around to catch up which are pulling the arms and club through and in that successive order. Once impact is made this body dynamics and geometry automatically releases the club to the target side of the ball, the right side of your body firing completely around the left side of your body, your whole body pivoting 90 degrees to the finish. You must coordinate the arms, hands and club with the body pivot but it is the body pivot, clockwise going back and counter clockwise going forward, combined with a back and forth weight shift, that powers a proper golf swing.The feeling should be one of being stretched out and of your body getting a workout, besides. A proper golf swing, while feeling effortless, gives the whole body a vigorous workout. It’s a feeling like releasing an arrow from a powerful bow. It’s a little astonishing to find yourself breathing heaviest after swinging in an effortless manner. The idea of the core driven golf swing is to use your big muscles to power the swing and to defer your arms and club to reactionary status and let them cock and un cock to multiply your body forces. This means you use your feet more than you once thought possible. This is a from the inside, out, approach to golf versus an outside, in, approach and just happens to be the method used by the greatest golfer of all time, Jack Nicklaus, but also Sam Snead, and hundreds of others. Snead, in fact, once said that he feels like he is hitting the ball with his stomach at impact. These greats let nature and gravity do most of the work. This fully integrated technique is, I believe, also the most dependable way to play golf, besides being the most powerful, as well. The core of your body, besides providing the dynamics for power, also represents your center of gravity. It must be active, not dormant. From your feet to your shoulders you coil and uncoil. The arms and club coordinate with this, cocking and un cocking at the proper time.
Think of the swing as operating from the ground up through the body from the feet up through the knees, through the hips, through the shoulders, through the elbows, through the hands, and, finally, through the club, and in that order during the delivery. For that matter, the backswing as well only, interestingly, in reverse order. It, too, starts from the ground up even though the shoulders outpace the hips. You will notice that the shoulder led backswing stretches the upper and lower body away from each other and that the lower body led downswing further stretches this relationship as the downswing begins. This represents that extra half sheet of paper towel you add to your downswing, in fact. It gives you a jump on the tightening of this stretch and occurs during the transition and beginning of the downswing. There exists a tug of war, in fact, between the upper and lower bodies. The upper body wants to coil back like a bow string while the legs want to hold firm and tug towards the target simultaneously. Though it may feel like your body would snap in two, you want the feeling of arching your legs towards the target as you start your backswing even as your upper body coils away from the target, all the way to the top, making sure to extend your arms out above your shoulders before starting down. Your legs will give a little near the top but should retain their target ward tension. This forces abdominal and torso muscles – the ones between your shoulders and hips – to stretch. This stretch uncoils with quite a bit of force on the return downswing. It represents, in fact, one of the power sources of the core driven golf swing. If you can do this the downswing explodes all by itself, almost, and in the proper sequence. By stretching your shoulders away from your hips going back your hips are already in proper place for the downswing, now ahead of your shoulders. In a proper golf swing you want the rotational and weight shifting forces in your body proper to whip sling the arms and club through, reflexively, as if the wrists are operating like omni – directional ball sockets and going along with the flow the body provides. The role of the arms and hands is mostly to stay extended and relaxed and to properly control mostly the shaft of the golf club so that is naturally hinges in a target ward direction as much as possible throughout the swing. They also coordinate a wrist cock and release. The release, itself, feels a little like throwing the head past the grip at impact like a missile, yet keeping the hands always racing ahead of the head at the same time. You want a feeling of simultaneously beating the club to the ball with speeding hands while still releasing the club ahead of the hands like a hammer clobbering the ball. The image of burying the club, head first, into a muddy bank a few feet in front of the ball after impact. Both hands and club head competing, all out, for speed through impact. The other matter concerns club face alignment requiring a quieting of fore arm rotation going back. This helps create body coil early in the swing. After half way back the arms rotate and the hands open. During the interval when the club is above the shoulders, during the transition from back to down swing, there is a very slight shift in the geometry of the wrist and club assembly that allows the club face and arms to rotate slightly open and the plane to flatten which very slightly redirects the club to go down from inside to square. This is the “barrel roll” maneuver already mentioned.This is mostly to prevent you from coming “over the top” or above your backswing plane going down. Some golfers are exact enough to the top they need just a hint of this “barrel roll” maneuver. Not a deliberate loop, the ideal path would trace the same path you went back. However, you must guard against any outside loop in the transition. Ideally, during the transition, you want to find the elbows traveling away from the target as your knees begin to move directly to the target and simultaneously gently fling the clubhead exactly opposite the direction you want it to swing back down on. A feeling of “airing out” the swing during the transition. As you take advantage of this outward fling of the club let it’s centrifugal force also pull your hands out and away from you to extend your arms to the top. This accompanies an increase in the angle between your club shaft and your left arm which stores power for release, later. Like an arrow shot straight up in the air that momentarily stalls to a stop as it falls over and starts back down, this maneuver is made during the change of direction in your swing. At the top it may feel a little like flinging the clubhead away from the down swing direction, a last flourish just before starting down towards the target. Ted Williams, the great baseball hitter, used to swing his knee caps directly away from the pitcher as the ball was on it’s way to prompt his legs to fire forward TO the pitcher in a reflexive move. This fling of the club head does the same thing. The feeling of cracking a door open before slamming it. Counter intuitively, the sensation of flinging the clubhead away from impact at the top and preserving that feeling until after impact is the sensation you want. The body, itself, hits the ball as it powers through in a counter-clockwise rotation from the feet to the shoulders. From face front at the top (12 O’clock) position and back to 9:30 O’clock going down is when the wrist / club angle is the greatest. This acute angle is held until about 8:00 O’clock whereupon everything is released to the target side of the ball, body uncoiling powering the arms and club through. The other point in the swing when the fore arms rotate is during release and after impact. Clockwise at the transition, counter clockwise going through. One way of thinking of the proper geometry is to imagine you are going to let go of the club after impact and throw it out to the target as far as you can. This will usually find the shaft is aimed to the target whenever the shaft is parallel to the ground, that is one third back, the top,halfway down and halfway past impact. Because the swing naturally finds the club over your stance line at the top and you swing it down to the ball line at impact there is a natural inside to square component involved in delivering your body mass to the shot . While on the subject, a club rotates end over end five times in a swing; one and a half times to the top and three and a half times back to the finish (go ahead and count!).This understanding should free up your hand action and use of the club so that it acts like a rotating lever, end over end, and not just a swinging vine. Rototiller the club through the ball, end over end, in a sense.
A golf swing is made with the shoulders, more than any other part of your body, They coil fully in both directions while remaining locked in space allowing mostly just for a change of direction and shaft alignment. A core driven golf swing pits the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the body against each other. I call it “rotational compression”. The compression it creates puts so much stress on the body and club during the impact zone that they are forced to unload. Just the act of holding the shoulders steady in a full swing takes a lot of physical strength. A lot of return power is stored in coiling this way automatically uncoiling the body in the downswing. The steady feet and the steady head act like the jaws of a giant vice compressing everything else going on in between holding the center of the swing steady for maximum speed. A weight transfer to the left leg during impact amplifies this dynamic that much more. The hands are pretty busy just holding onto the club as it releases automatically. Most people want to swing mostly from the hands and arms, instead. This is the big difference between pro and amateur golfers. That the lower and middle section of the body wrenches them through the impact zone has to do with ground leverage, unwinding everything from the ground, up, always leading, until impact forces the club to turn over past the hands after impact. The hands still have some throw to them but the shoulders do most of the throwing in a swing. It’s very much a feeling of grabbing the ground with your feet to unwind your body, like a top, counter-clockwise through the ball. Like the sprocket on a bicycle moving under the pressure of the pedals your shoulders don’t have to move a lot to exert power. Just like the pedals rotate the sprocket your feet grab the ground to coil and uncoil your body, especially, the shoulders.
All of this body and arms and club dynamics is made possible with your feet being able to leverage against the ground to power your body into a coil to the top and to then uncoil the body the other way using a weight shift to the target to help power the club through. That is, you coil your shoulders 90 degrees or more through the feet up through your body and this coil is what swings the arms and club to the top. Because it is the body that swings the arms to the top the body often has to wait for the arms and club to catch up before everything, body and club, all start down together, all out to the finish. You do have to wait for the change in direction. In fact, that is how you time your swing. You coil with your body to the top making sure to wait for your arms and club to catch up and only then, when they have swung to the top and there is a change of direction, does everything, from the ground upwards, go forward, all out to the finish. Again, using the bicycle analogy, a little sprocket rotation goes a long way but the shoulders, in this case the sprocket, can’t just burst ahead out of sync. They orchestrate the swing. They exert forward and come against resistance. The feet are grabbing the ground to turn the shoulders up through the rest of the body towards the ball. Until that resistance is relieved by rotation and motion, until the club gradually moves and the body with it it has to just keep the pressure on continually until the whole machine is gradually powered through. It feels a lot like shifting to a higher bicycle gear and patiently just applying constant pressure with the pedals – in this case the shoulders which get traction from the feet – until it moves the weight of the whole bicycle forward. As you focus on the shoulders moving the swing the weight drops down, hips slide targetward and begin to open and the club cocks into the downswing and the weight is transferred to the front leg and the arms drop down ahead of the club and the machine starts to move, ever increasing in speed. You keep applying pressure from the shoulders all the way through to the finish. You want to sequence your motion so that your clubhead is fastest after impact, like a professional tennis player wields his racket. Rotational compression of the whole body from feet to shoulders, back and forward. Imagine turning your shoulders back and forwards with your hand like they were a door knob in such a manner as to maximize clubhead speed through impact. There is a proper pace and punctuation. I teach a smooth start back that progressively increases in speed until well after impact. Like tossing a ball up to hit it with a bat, the first motion is gentle, then the ball ascends, then it stops and then it falls. That kind of a tempo. A downswing, in fact, should take exactly as long as it takes to drop a ball from shoulder height and with the same progression of speed. A feeling of using the laws of gravity describes it well.
This method, in stark contrast to being hard on the back, is actually good for the back because it conditions and exercises the back. It’s when one baby’s the back that improper technique creeps into your swing. It’s important to be in shape and to strengthen your core muscles before anything else, in fact. Otherwise I recommend a gradual approach, at first, until you are properly working your core muscles and they get in shape that way. You must also have strong legs to play golf properly. A desk job without exercise will rob you of 20 percent of your potential power, besides. The beauty of the core driven golf swing is that it keeps these vital muscles in shape and strong. In fact, golf SHOULD be a fitness regimen if done properly. A low impact, muscle stretching and muscle strengthening sport. A good way to stay young and live longer.
My father was doctor and I am very health conscious, generally. I would be surprised if professional golfers don’t start practicing from both sides of their bodies to balance out their muscles or at least engage a regimen that strengthens the opposite side of their body to compensate for the fact that a golf swing has a built in bias that works the left and right sides differently and, if not balanced out, can get in the way of both distance and your spinal health. If anyone wrenched his hips through impact it was Tiger Woods. Perhaps too much so, in fact. More left knee flex during impact may have warded off injuries as well. I suspect his muscles got out of balance because he did not develop a program to balance out his musculature. It is now early 2018 as I write these words and we’ll see if this workout trend, in fact, develops. Any chiropractor will tell you that a golf swing develops one’s right side more than left side above the belt, for example. My chiropractor told me I should swing left handed and actually hit shots to get both sides of my body developed symmetrically or I will hit a distance plateau. So I credit him for passing on this vital information regardless of what system you use to swing a golf club.
Before letting go of issues relating to the health of your body, tour pros, who practice many hours a week, should consider the bias involved in constantly looking at the ball and then the target, always asking the head to rotate only to the left. I practice putting a lot and if I don’t gently but firmly coil my head to my right several times and hold it there to balance my muscles out, I WILL get a sore neck. Similarly, if you use the computer you want to avoid carpel tunnel syndrome from developing in your hands by alternating hands when using the mouse. I channel surf so much with the television remote control I have to constantly switch hands and even fingers and thumbs to keep my hands healthy. If you find yourself using a cellphone a lot you need to do exercises that involve interlocking your hands behind your neck and stretching your face to the sky to keep your neck healthy. Golf is like any other sport or activity. It needs a balanced set of muscles and that involves using compensatory exercises and perhaps even buying a left handed club to hit balls with, occasionally. Golf should be sustainable for a lifetime, in my opinion. It should be a medicine for health, in fact. It should add quality and length to your life. Beyond that it should also be a great vent for aggression and tension allowing you to be as violent as you want with a round piece of plastic. It should keep you tranquil and happy if you do it right.
The arms and club:
In a swing there are two forces working together; the body from your feet to your shoulders including the neck and head, and the other, your arms and club which are connected at the shoulders. The body pivots like an agitator in an upright washing machine, clockwise back and counter- clockwise down only with a back and forth weight shift to amplify power. The arms and club, on the other hand, are busy mostly keeping themselves tension free and extended while aligning the clubshaft for maximum efficiency throughout. They keep the shaft parallel as possible to the target line and they cock and un cock in precise patterns. Everything from the way the shoulders behave to the elbows and hands is disciplined, to say the least. They perform all of this while also releasing the club with all the abandon and freedom they can muster.
The arms and club and the hands, learning to properly configure them throughout the swing, is the hard part of golf technique. It may be pretty easy to coil and uncoil your body from the feet to the shoulders and incorporate a weight shift back and forth unwinding around your left hip and leg through impact, all while maintaining a steady head. Learning just exactly how to position your arms and club and clubface at the same time is not an easy thing to master. Learning how to keep your arms relaxed and tension free and extended throughout and other matters I will try to sort out in this book. For example; the simple act of coiling your shoulders 90 degrees from address to the top position will automatically open up the face of your club 90 degrees. Coincidence or connected? This occurs without independent arm or wrist manipulation. It’s just the way your body is knit together when using a proper grip and grip pressure and keeping that union as undisturbed as possible. Halfway to the top, as your back swing progresses and your right arm starts to fold and momentum starts to create an angle with the club, your fore arms and club rotate clockwise a little. It stays this way, even deepening, until the club is below your waist line going down at which point the fore arms and club rotate counter clockwise, fully. By impact the face is back to square and by waist high on the follow through the face is closed exactly 90 degrees. It’s important that this rotation be kept at 90 degrees on both sides and not to add or subtract to this with arm or wrist manipulation. This should occur even though it feels like you are merely holding onto the club and disturbing your hands as little as possible in the process of swinging the club. From mid downswing to mid follow through the face rotates 180 degrees. In fact, much of this is due to body rotation. The hands mostly hold on. This neutral, natural opening and closing of the hands is easiest on the body. It mates best with a somewhat upright swing plane.
If you prematurely rotate your arms going back, or cock the wrists too much, too early you will retard your vital body coil to the top. Quiet hands and fore arms, initially, solves this. After half way back you have to open the hands and club a little, even flinging the club away from impact a little at the top to start your downswing. This fling is made in the exact opposite direction you want your downswing path to take. As important in putting as the full swing, this subtle fling of the clubhead away from the ball as you move into your downswing determines the path your downswing will make. In putting you simply pendulum back through. In the full swing this feels like that is all the hands do in a swing. The next sensation is impact, itself, as they automatically release. While the hands may have to actually stop some at the top the clubhead actually doesn’t. It makes a tiny fish hook maneuver just beneath the path to the top, not a “V” configuration, but a “U” configuration, allowing the club to stay in motion as if you are gradually increasing speed from take away to past impact. Even if the club actually stops it should feel like it is barreling through a fish hook U-turn to preserve the feeling of maintaining a gradual increase of speed, a U-turn that involves, also, a very slight inside to square return path that is just below the backswing plane. Imagine a “U” shaped joint in your home plumbing and how water flows just as fast through it as everywhere else. A “V” shaped kink, not so much. This “U” shape is no larger than the diameter of a golf ball. This shift just mentioned, involves a small loop that also occurs at this stage of the transition. Compared to the club’s path to the top it falls slightly straight down, away from and behind the golfer creating a small inside to square loop. This is part of the natural straightening of the club and the left arm as the body draws tight. I describe the move as a “barrel roll” with the wrists. It’s important not to force a loop but rather guard against a loop above your backswing path as you transition.. The right palm rolls slightly skyward. This is a result of your body lowering itself to get down to the ball as it starts down as well as a move left. As your lower body starts to wrench counter-clockwise towards the target your wrists absorb this stress by rotating a little the opposite way – clockwise – in this instance. You don’t bob your head up or down. It’s a sensation of shifting your weight to get in position for delivery. This inside to square loop, however small, is vital to making golf an easier game to play in spite of the lack of coverage it gets in most instruction books. It is a key move in a good golf swing. Besides routing the club around your shoulders for power, it sets the club up to swing out to where your ball is sitting, well in front of you. Best of all it keeps you from coming over the top on the way down, a death move. Meanwhile the clubhead path, but for that tiny “U” shaped, inside loop move, resembles a crescent moon from takeaway to impact. The post impact path reveals that the entire arc has shifted about a foot from back to downswing paths. Like two very large hula hoops leaned against a wall one a foot ahead of the other. In this book I refer to a snappy transition zone. This is one reason why. You want gradual acceleration from take away to the finish. This subtle fling of the clubhead away from impact as you start down also instills the vital sensation of centrifugal force and lets you know where the clubhead is. This is the hand’s one, conscious chance to contribute to the core driven golf swing technique. Except for a precise move the first few feet back with the club, arms and shoulders all acting as one, and keeping the wrists quiet until halfway back, this fling at the top is all you should have to think about regarding your hands in a swing. Allowing for a small inside to square loop, make sure it is exactly opposite the desired path back down. It develops a reflexive downswing and “airs out” the transition. Like tossing a ball up before you hit it. Like cracking a door open before slamming it shut. This fling away from impact as you transition can be more or less pronounced depending on one’s particular style or pace. It is not an absolute requirement but I recommend it to help trigger a responsive downswing. A subtle move, not a radical one.
I used to cup my left wrist at the top, like Freddy Couples does, for decades. Few golfers I have ever seen in the flesh swing as beautifully as Freddy does. Poetic power is how I describe his action. I learned, while writing this book, that I am less gifted than he and I now use a more reliable technique that finds my left wrist relatively straight at the top with the club face parallel to my left arm. This involves less clock wise rotation of my arms going back, my club opening only 90 degrees. Whereas before my wrist cupped about 15 degrees and my club face rotated about 105 degrees. I feel much more solid and efficient now that I have made the change. Efficiency versus flamboyancy of motion.
On the other hand, I experienced hand injuries while experimenting with a convex wrist style that some pros use. Even the straight wrist position has caused some problems, perhaps having to do with another experiment with altering clubhead paths back and down. I have adjusted to a very slight cupping at the top. I find that the clockwise and counter-clockwise rotation of the arms and the open to close rotation of the club head,- toe over heel – through impact is vital to NOT injuring myself in the future.
Now I recommend quiet hands until halfway back and then I allow for an opening of the club to the top. I make sure I don’t cup my left wrist more than three or four degrees. The amount you create when simply making a fist. Beyond that things can get out of control easily. Now I allow the natural 90 degree opening and closing of the club on both sides of the ball. Not counting the extra foot pivot at the finish this allows 180 of total rotation. No more and no less. This still requires me, given my old habits, to emphasize almost zero knuckle rotation the first few feet back. For you just keep the hands secure and as undisturbed as you can as your shoulders swing the club back. As if your club, grip and fore arms were cemented in a cast with the the club initially, the unit going straight back from the ball the first few feet. Momentum, alone, will allow them to cock a little as everything starts to climb inward and above your stance line. You don’t want to swing straight back and get pulled off balance towards your toes. You have to swing square to inside a little going back. Going back the face looks towards the ball at first. Going down the heel of the club leads the toe which follows like a comet’s tail until the release zone below the waist. This is a result of that subtle “barrel roll” at the top with your arms / club assembly. This change going down allows you to also draw power from your shoulders more as it maneuvers the club around your shoulders instead of your neck. To make this as accurate as the other method I, instead, borrow more from the target line swinging more directly straight back and straight through. It’s still a square to inside to square back to inside path but more straight back and upright than before. Shots to the right are inhibited because the club HEAD is at least going straight to the target even if the face is a little open at impact. The shot won’t go as far right. Similarly, because the after impact direction of the head is also straight, any over closing of the face will be offset by the heads straight path. That’s because the swing is less inside out than before. In either case, there is no extra effort to open or close the face but, rather, just allowing physics to play itself out, naturally. This method is also easier when playing from the rough. This motion creates a larger club head arc and, in turn, winds the body up more as well. I believe this is the method Jack Nicklaus used, in fact; opening and closing the hands a little back and through while borrowing from the target line more with a more upright plane. A devastatingly accurate combination. As mentioned elsewhere in this book, the release is like throwing the club ahead of the hands at impact, as if to bury the club head first into a muddy bank a few feet ahead of the ball, while swinging the hands always ahead of the club at the same time. On the one hand you are throwing the club ahead of the handle like shooting it out of a cannon. On the other hand your hands are just as determined to beat the club through and beyond impact. An all out, two horse race borrowing a little extra from the target line.
So, you see, there is a transition back and down that occurs between the club and hands. As the swing tightens itself and draws your club and left arm straight your wrist / club assembly falls ever so slightly down and behind you a little, everything a little flatter going down than it was going back. A slight clockwise rotation of the forearms as your lower body starts it’s counter-clockwise move down helps absorb the stress of the change of direction. This routes the club around your powerful back and shoulder muscles instead of just your neck. At the same juncture you also begin to increase your club / wrist angle. During the transition and the first part of the downswing is the proper time as the body can race ahead of the hands while the club angle is increased. The angle increase creates slack for the lower body to move left without undo resistance. Two birds with one stone.
When you watch Rory Mcilroy make his poetic move you will notice that his back swing seems a little more straight back than his down swing which loops ever so slightly down and behind him before it’s all guns blazing to the target. This is what efficient mechanics looks like. Much of this has to do with the fact that the downswing arc is a foot or more towards the target than the back swing arc. Even Jack Nicklaus, who stressed trying to match the back and downswing paths, had an element of this crucial move. ( I’ve checked and he BARELY makes this move, but he makes it.) You will notice that, as his lower body starts to pivot counter clockwise to the target, his fore arms simultaneously fold clockwise, the opposite way, allowing the face to rotate open pivoting his right elbow in front of him as he collects an angle with his left arm and club on the way down. Whether your hand action is flamboyant like Sergio Garcia or subdued like Steve Stricker or in between like Jack Nicklaus, this is a vital part of any golf swing.
Finally, you have to have the correct paths back and forward so you don’t have to compensate. I recommend the following; swing the club handle straight back to the top so that it arrives above your stance line – a line between the heel and balls of your feet – and above your right shoulder. The actual club may get a little behind your stance line as it nears the top but not the grip end. Once the club is parallel at the top then the entire club should be above your feet. In other words, there is a ball target line and a stance target line. Your hands start out somewhere between these two lines. Swing the hands from their address position straight back at first and let them arrive directly above your feet. Do this while keeping the clubshaft aligned as parallel to the target as you can. Then you will not have to compensate coming down and you’ll get the most out of your technique. The correct pro path is more direct and straightforward than contrived. When standing behind a golfer looking down the target line a path from the ball up through just above the shoulders is the general path the pros take to the top. There is a swing inside as the club moves to above the shoulders but it is slight. The club head may get a little behind them near the top half of the backswing but never the grip end. The downswing descends just below that backswing plane as the left arm and club tighten into a straight line. This moves that line from the ball directly through the shoulders. The other way to achieve correct geometry is to try to make a back swing that would find the club head at the top kissing the very front of the ball, from your point of view – if you had so supple a set of shoulders in the first place – before it went down to pound the very back of the ball. It’s a feeling to strive for, even with a three quarter swing. A common trait among golfers who start back too inside is they come down too outside and vice versa for those who start back too far outside. They come down too inside. The idea is to iron out all those kinks and compensations with a straightforward tilted plane and minimal distortion, sewing the two motions into one whole allowing for that small inside to square loop as you transition forward, all while keeping the club shaft parallel to the target line as much as possible. I mentioned that this more upright plane involves a more vigorous use of the body. It does. Imagine a spring loaded roll of paper towels mounted VERTICALLY and imagine it’s top is your shoulders. Now, pull straight back PARALLEL to the target so maybe two sheets are pulled back. Now, return those two sheets back to impact but add a little extra tug and wrench to the return so that you actually return from the top to impact using maybe two and a half sheets. This represents the weight shift and the body wrenching that tightens the link between body and club that produces centrifugal force. It’s a great image to describe a golf swing, generally. Actually, the preceding sentence sums up the essence of what I teach. Imagine pulling the sheets straight back from the shoulders parallel to but not aimed at the target line. Your body coils somewhat straight back instead of more to the inside. This forces the body to “giddy-up” and coil even more to reach the top and finish positions, say an extra five percent in both directions. The feeling is like reeling out more fishing line than you’re used to as the body and arms gather width. The return is just as dynamic.You will find your body core coils and uncoils more like a revolving door does in this kind of swing. You will find even your feet getting a workout in both directions. It’s important that the shoulders coil the swing and clubshaft back PARALLEL to the target line and to align the club shaft PARALLEL to the target line rather than aligning or aiming TO the target line. The top of the paper towel roll that represents your shoulders is the point from which you pull straight back PARALLEL to the target line. Like a SEPARATE railroad track that is also parallel to the target line. One reason many tour players find themselves laid off at the top is because they are aiming the butt of their grip TO the target line at the top instead of aiming it PARALLEL to the target line. Golf is hard enough and swinging everything in one general direction, which happens to be PARALLEL to the target, is all you should need to worry about.
This epiphany regarding hand action is almost like the one Ben Hogan had after his car crash. While I don’t advocate his cupped left wrist and some other adjustments he used, the concept is the same. By adhering more to the target line, straight back and through, whatever club face miscues exist are minimized by the club HEAD direction which is more accurate all by itself. This method allows you to naturally open up and close the club but keep the shots straight by keeping the club PATH straighter. Jack Nicklaus personified this move. That it increases your coil and arc is a bonus. A swing this full and flowing takes time and you should avoid rushing things, allowing the speed to happen relying on a powerful target ward weight shift and pivot of the lower body and a full turnover and release of the club. Focus on the coiling and uncoiling of the stable shoulders and being smooth but snappy during the change in direction, saving the most speed for impact and beyond.
There is another way to track the club; along an extended ARC instead of a line. That is, if there were a tee inserted into the butt end of your grip, instead of tracking straight back parallel to your target it would track an arc about 8 to 12 yards long, depending on which club, that extends from your stance line through your ball line instead of a line parallel to your target. This is a more centered way to play golf and makes it easier to keep your center of gravity. This is how many greats have played. Just think of the target line, instead of being a straight line, as being one big arc aligned in the general direction of the target and swing the club along it’s path, the ball positioned at it’s apex. I like to think of this as swinging from the ball line to the foot line to the top and then back to the ball line at impact and then back to the foot line at the finish. Regardless of which style you use both methods find the club swinging through along an arc and not a straight line. The club orbits around your center of gravity, from top to finish. This style may be better for elderly or frail golfers who have lost some of their youthful vigor. If mastered it can perform as well and as powerfully as the more upright, body stretching style. Even the world’s best golfer could succeed with this style. Some think it is a more natural Experiment with both techniques and you may find one works better for you than the other.
There is also the matter of where and when to cock the club and where and when to maximize this angle and where and when to release the club to the target. All of this will be explained in this, dare I say it, ground breaking book about how to swing a golf club. You will find that only I am discussing much of what is inside.
I believe that HOW one thinks about a movement makes all the difference. How an idea is explained. I hope to give you, the reader, the best thoughts to create the best results. The word “wrench”, for example, best describes what I believe a body does in a golf swing.
To get you up to speed with all this allow me to just present a lot of what is inside, up front, at first, to just get you oriented a little.
There are some very important thoughts one needs to swing a golf club correctly; things like having your lower body angle slightly towards the target at the top position while the torso angles slightly away from the target……making sure that the hands and arms move quickly ahead of the club once the downswing has begun…. learning to make your shoulder rotation, clockwise and counter clockwise, orchestrate the rest of the body…keeping the shoulders centered in space at the same time…..girding your feet in a clockwise manner going back and a counter-clockwise manner going forward in order to move the shoulders in like manner….doing this in tandem with a right to left weight shift of mostly the hips to increase tension between your weight and the club weight like fingers do spinning a weighted object on a string; that small circle of motion operating the larger circle at the other end, always staying just ahead of it at all times end…swinging your arms and the club outwards throughout the swing…starting your back swing with the arms and club and mostly back and shoulders floating together, one piece, the first few feet, all operating in tandem with a subtle shuttle of the hips, back and forward…having both body and hands trying to accumulate leverage, simultaneously, to the top and finish and how these two competing forces cancel out over use on either side providing a fantastic balance, like book ends, for a swing…getting from the top position (point A) to impact (point B) with utter dispatch and speed, like releasing an arrow from a bow, all out to the finish, right from the start down…pitting your counter-clockwise downswing rotation against your clockwise back swing motion to create rotational compression…..arriving with the club face parallel to the left arm at the top position….making sure that maximum wrist cock occurs only after the downswing has begun, the first half of the downswing, and not elsewhere…. leveraging or “wrenching” your body in the hitting zone while holding the hands back until ball contact….swinging the club shaft parallel to the target line as much as possible throughout the swing….relying on shaft alignment to control face alignment…transferring your weight hard onto your left leg before impact… going back the upper body leads the lower body…. going forward the lower body leads the upper body through impact to maximize centrifugal force pushing upwards with your legs against the downward thrust of the club…fully releasing past the ball, head over handle and toe over heel….doing all of the above beneath a reasonably steady head.
And that’s just some of the thoughts that I have recognized, lately, as vital to good golf technique. In fact, even if you happen to be a Sam Snead or Seve Ballesteros, who taught themselves mostly, you really must rely on certain swing thoughts to make your body perform what is considered an unnatural motion. When I was taught golf all I needed was to think of taking a divot in front of the ball, straight left arm and steady head. My boyhood days of skipping rocks on water, throwing a baseball, hitting a baseball, bowling, and such allowed me to require just a handful of thoughts to get a grasp of a good golf swing. Some of the golf swing is a natural motion and some of it must be taught. Even the world’s best golfers need to be taught what they weren’t born knowing. Exactly what you think and how you think of a golf swing makes a huge difference.
Certain thoughts are like magic while others fizzle and don’t work. I have identified the ones that really do work and have my own opinions about how much hand flourish and wrist action and other style elements give one the best chances of success. It really is the brain that is the most important muscle in a swing, the central computer, if you will, of a swing. Certain body parts work better than others in orchestrating a swing. I have identified the shoulders as the swing’s true center and have discovered that using them to dictate the rest of the upper body motions works like magic and makes the swing more integrated and less isolated and prone to failure or breakdown. I say that the back and shoulders lead the body back and forward through ground contact with the feet against a resisting lower body going back that is always tugging targetward. This gives your torso muscles a good workout. In that sense the upper and lower bodies work in tandem, together. Going back the shoulders outpace everything to the top. Going down, just the opposite. The left leg begins to wrench forward first but mostly because the feet, which hide their dynamics from the eye, are leveraging the ground unwinding everything from the ground up. This even though your mind is focused on your shoulders making the down swing. At impact, as your weight lands onto your left leg, the middle of your body is wrenching your upper body through. By the finish the shoulders have released, passed up and outpaced everything that led them to impact, rotating more than any other part of the body. From top to finish the shoulders actually rotate approximately 220 degrees! The hips only 135 degrees.
I have learned that the traditional right to left weight shift most instruction teaches fails to account for the rotational clockwise and counter clockwise, girding of the feet that must rotate the shoulders, likewise, in both directions and that the body senses where to re-distribute weight to various body joints to best enhance the production of centrifugal force and that the whole notion of weight shift must be re examined. For example; there is a downward shift of your weight as you start the downswing before the right to left shift is added to that. You have to shift diagonally down and left, in other words. When you catch that weight at impact landing on your left leg all your coil dynamics are forced to release.
Another thing to consider is the riddle involving all this motion while maintaining a fixed sense of balance. Is it possible that the weight shift is really a result of the body redistributing body parts via muscular control? Sometimes it feels like the center of gravity stays constant even while the left foot, for example accepts the brunt of weight at impact or the right foot at the top. The golf swing is a motion made while standing still. Only the lower body and lower spine moves left and right with the club while the upper body holds it’s ground mostly just coiling and uncoiling in place. So what is weight shift, really? There is the indisputable fact of a general shift of weight to the target from the top which results in a foot long lateral shift of the swing arc between the back and down swings. One large Hoola Hoop leaned against a wall next to another a foot in front of the other as mentioned earlier. There is also the shift going back to one’s right foot and hip. In this regard there is a third Hoola Hoop just a few inches ahead of the backswing arc that represents the address position, the forward shift being the greater, by far. Is this shift made by simply moving body parts in a manner to redistribute pressure points at various intervals during the swing to maximize centrifugal force? It’s very possible and I don’t pretend to know the answer. Just manipulating the shoulder muscles moves club and arm weight to the right which will automatically shift weight to the right hip. Even without foot pressure manipulation. And yet, this very act automatically engages the feet which have to maintain balance. The shoulders can’t move at all if the feet won’t support the move. It would be hard to swing the club while standing on a floor of loose ball bearings, for example. Going down is more complicated. You have to get out ahead of the club before you can move it forward. This requires moving various body parts into position, first. This redistributes pressure to various body joints at different intervals. This has a dynamic effect on the club and how much body weight it can transmit. I prefer to think of a move of my center of gravity beneath a steady head to the target during the change of direction at the top. This seems to make the legs and hips shuttle to the target, unconsciously, which tightens the coil made going back. By the time the weight is on the left foot the body is coiled so tight it has to explode and unwind around the axis of the left leg and hip during impact and beyond. And, yet, your overall balance stayed intact and in one place. The whole motion was confined to space between your feet.
Beneath this entire dynamic is the quest to create the same motion one’s fingers make in spinning a weight on a string; a tiny, circular motion that places the grip tension of the string exactly opposite the weight it is swinging. A pulling tight of the string at all times. An ever changing dynamic that depends on where the club is at any given juncture. This happens to thrust various body parts into various positions to best harness and release all this motion. A combination of pressure points and body parts dancing in tandem with a club and club head. This all suggests that there is a circular weight shift and not just back and forth. When Tiger Woods, for example, occasionally bobbed his head up and down he was, no doubt, trying to lower his weight so that he could then push up with his legs at impact to spin that weighted object using centrifugal force. If I had to limit the move to one direction instead of a circle I would suggest a diagonal move down and left from the top with the weight and that the weight would then transfer to a pushing up of the left leg and hip against the downward force of the swinging club head as it releases through impact and beyond.
So, overall, I’d suggest that the real weight shift is more of a small circle within the larger circle of the orbiting club head, back and forward and up and down, always tugging opposite of and ahead of the weighted object being swung. No up and down bobbing of the head or moving left and right outside the boundaries of your feet. yet preserving that circular force throughout. Think of watching a chick hatch out of it’s egg. There is a lot of movement going inside the shifting egg even though the egg, itself, remains in place.
Some other notions I encourage is shaft control to achieve accuracy; keeping it aimed to the target whenever it is parallel to the ground (finish excluded) that is, one third back, at the top and halfway down and halfway through past impact. Making unnecessary moves such as too much forearm rotation slows a swing down as opposed to a move that is more economical. What’s especially important is shaft direction control. I think it’s better to have a smooth back swing than a fast one. I think the transition from back swing to downswing should be smooth but adroit and quick, once you start down, to stay ahead of the club and that the top to impact zone should be done with utter dispatch while saving your fastest speed for impact and after. As I mentioned earlier, the arms and hands should be slung ahead of the club, which lags behind, as you start down. Not only that, but as if they, alone, with no club, were hitting the ball, full of speed at the impact zone. I believe that the whole club, not just the club head, needs speed at impact. Although it may feel like all parts are going down together, all out to impact, it is the body that races ahead of the arms and hands and that they then race ahead of the club creating an acute angle with the club in mid downswing. You see, this is what creates the powerful angle between the hands and club head; this slinging action of the arms and hands before the club. Even before the arms and club can do their job, like a pitcher throwing his leading leg forward to throw a pitch, the hips and legs race ahead of it all in that first burst of speed from the top.
The golf swing is more like a throwing motion than any other motion. In my technique the throw is made more from the shoulders than anywhere else. The arms and club are thrown as one synchronized unit from the shoulders. It must be said that the hands remain active, too, they have their fair share of throw, but are part of a greater throw made from the shoulders. The shoulder rotation is made possible with ground traction and mid body wrenching to power them back and through. This is what separates the pros from the amateurs who throw just with the hands, in a sense. In order to throw the arms and club through from your shoulders your lower body has to get into position, first. The all out attempt to get speed all the way from the top position to impact tricks the lower body to do just that. That’s why the transition zone is no place to dawdle. The club does catch up, automatically, but also automatically slows the hands down in the process. You must swing in such a way as to resist this slowing down of the hands and swing all the way to the finish. The proper dynamics is an inside to square move that transfers weight slightly to the right of the target line even though the club goes through impact square. In other words the weight is transferred from 4:00 O’clock to 10:00 O’clock (if you were standing on a clock face facing 12 O’clock) even though the club goes from 3:00 O’clock to 9:00 O’clock. Besides shifting weight to the target you must also transfer your weight DOWNWARD on the shot at the same time, hitting down on the ball. Once at the top position the hands swing from above the right shoulder towards the target line, down, and then chase the ball flight with the club head until the club is over your left shoulder at the finish…..an “under, up” move going back and a “down and out” move down versus an “over, down and across” move. Use a take away that cocks the club without undo forearm rotation as it climbs to the top and then swing down slightly inside to square sending the hands chasing the ball’s flight. An out to the target move until well after impact at which point the club travels back up over the left shoulder. Some modern swings today violate this law and it costs them leverage and distance, in my opinion. It has to do with one’s center of gravity and the fact that it is operating from the stance line and transferring energy to the ball line. Jack Nicklaus, for example, has the correct move; inside to square to inside to square, not just straight back and through. Another way of describing the proper shift is from ball line to stance line back, and then from stance line to ball line down and back again to stance line at the finish. On the other hand, as I write these words, golfers like Dustin Johnson are showing me a new way to swing the club that involves a one dimensional plane as well as a wrist cock that begins as soon as the swing does that deserves consideration. Like Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson is inventing technique as he searches for the truth. It may be groundbreaking even though I do not yet fully understand it. I don’t think anyone has ever swung like Dustin Johnson since golf began. So there is always something out there to be discovered that might improve golf. Nobody has all the answers. Especially about golf.
The fundamental thrust of this book is to show you HOW your body works so that your body can swing your arms and club – a system also called the Gravity Golf system . It requires grabbing the ground with your feet in a rotational manner – clockwise and then counter-clockwise and letting that force rotate the shoulders, mostly, in both directions and not just a weight shift laterally, back and forth. In fact these two motions occur at the same time; lateral weight shifting back and forth as well as the rotational foot action, clockwise back and counter-clockwise forward. The hands and arms and club must position themselves for maximum efficiency but mostly just go along for the ride while the shoulders coil and uncoil. Whatever natural instincts the hands and arms have to hit the ball are but part of a bigger system of levers that merely incorporates them to add their influence. Their job is to stay extended and soft and responsive, all the while making sure the shaft is aligned properly and cocks and un cocks properly. In a counter intuitive way, the proper feeling is to set an angle with your wrists early in the back swing and, without any attempt to hit the ball with your hands, just maintain that angle until impact, itself. You will find that this mental thought process forces the body to gyrate through impact in a counter-clockwise manner as it should, allowing the shoulders and wrists to hang onto their cock until the last moment, whereupon everything releases to the target beneath a steady head. In simpler language, by quieting down the hands you automatically liven up the body. To understand why this is a vital, even central point of this book, you need to appreciate that, if you independently try to swing the arms past the body and use the hands to hit the ball this will automatically retard your core body rotation through impact. Conversely, if you retard the hands during the impact zone and hold back the angle you created until actual ball contact it will automatically force your body core to wrench counter-clockwise, instead. This is what slings the upper body, arms and club through past impact. As I said earlier, consider the golf swing a throw of the arms and club, together, through impact from the SHOULDERS rather than a throw of the club from just the hands and arms. If you do this both arms and club function properly, automatically so long as the elbows align ahead of the hands towards impact while allowing everything to turn over after impact. It is definitely a move that takes some practice to master and you will find you have to use other thoughts, sometimes opposite thoughts at times, to make your swing work, but this is, in my opinion, the secret to top level golf technique. After contact is made the club releases to the target because your body is leveraging it to. Jack Nicklaus and many of the greatest golfers of all time used this method that puts the big muscles to work to pivot the body rotationaly, like a record player, around it’s center to generate centrifugal force. As opposed to swinging WITH the hands and arms, this method swings THROUGH the hands and arms which get their power from body forces. They are the conduit that releases the forces the body weight transfer and pivot create. Swinging from the inside of your center of gravity out, not vice versa. This is a much more reliable and effortless and powerful way to play the game. It is also somewhat unnatural for most people who are not born with natural talent to learn and needs a little explaining. A child might, on the other hand, stumble onto it all accidentally, it’s so correct, if his mind is free of all other incorrect concepts, first. In his quest to want to use his hands to their utmost he subconsciously calls upon the rest of the body to assist and give them maximum leverage. The body comes to the hands rescue to give them force, instinctively. Most people, however, use their hands in other things in ways that get in the way of proper golf technique.
One way to feel how the body swings the arms is to quiet the hands down to zero motion – no appreciable wrist cock or anything,. throughout, and swing back and through the ball anyway, powering the whole swing with just your chest, back and shoulder muscles.. You will discover your body pivoting in a rotational manner as if standing on a record player, spinning from the feet up through the rest of the body. This exaggerated style also produces some of the straightest shots you’ll ever hit.
To make a conventional core driven golf swing you just add a little hand flourish near the top, allowing the hands to then rotate open a little and make a wrist angle going down and Ka-Boom!.
Whenever you hear the phrase; “You quit on the shot” or “You didn’t stay with the shot” it really means that your body stopped wrenching the rest of the swing through. When that happens the club goes through like a wet noodle. Throughout, the body is more like a tornado, either clockwise going back or counter-clockwise going forward, than like a fench post.
These are some of the key points I try to illuminate to hurry you, the golfer, along the best path I know of to become a better golfer.
My apologies if you are left handed. To save ink and paper I have written this book for the right handed player. My father was a lefty, too. Just reverse the left and right and you’ll be fine.
All of this intense concentration has taught me that there is no black and white, all or nothing, approach to a golf swing. It’s a combination of shoulder and body coil and recoil and arms and hands, combined, all compounded by the hip shuttle back and forth with the legs and feet. They all have an ideal way to function and my job is to get your body to do just that. I intend to give you the right mental thoughts so that you can virtually manufacture a good swing out of thin air, look up and see straight, long shots with seemingly minimal effort, consistently. There IS a single “best” way, depending on build, I believe, to swing a club, one with no extraneous motion but with all the best motion that taps the elements of nature. More, I hope to give you a road map you can trust so that you don’t waste time and effort on the wrong things. You should be able to fix your own swing with what I hope to teach you. I teach the “why” behind the “what” in golf so you will know how a swing works or fails. Maintaining a swing is like maintaining a long lived automobile. There are lots of areas you always have to stay on top of and these areas of focus change as your game does. Much of what you can control concerns body parts and I hope to give you an operators manual covering that department. Ultimately I show you how to tie everything together and, if necessary, provide some drills that I find helpful.
My golf credentials have as much to do with my prowess at solving mysteries that confound others as much as my golf back round which is less outstanding, but considerable, perhaps. Even just writing this book has taught me a lot I didn’t know until having to actually sit down for several months and think about it very seriously, every facet. When I occasionally would run into a contradiction I had to come to a resolution, once and for all. Hundreds of practice sessions where I tested all these ideas for merit, over and over, have shown me which ideas work and which don’t. I am a much better golfer for it, besides. So, if writing this book can help me, I think reading it can help you, too. Beyond that I am advantaged in that I think more outside the box than most other authors or instructors.
When I began this book I had at least three swing flaws that I’ve corrected. (1): I used to over rotate my forearms going back, even cupping the left wrist slightly, and then rotate them the other way going down. Now I only move what is important and find myself getting more effective cocking in my wrists with more of a neutral motion than an opening of the wrists going back, which collapsed my wrists as it turned out. Not a bowed configuration like many modern players but a straight wrist at the top instead of a cupped left wrist like I had before. The club face now sets at about 45 degree angle at the top and not the toe down shape I once had. I now get more, not less, distance. 2): The second change I made while writing this book was to introduce SOME hip and shoulder “TILT” and not just turn to my swing. 3); My grip was not intact enough or firm enough. It has to be air tight and firm enough to keep it that way. I now have a medium, light pressure at address and more firm than before. You CAN have too loose of a grip, I have learned. In fact, a slightly firm, unified grip better coordinates your whole body as the arms are better integrated. The wrists remain supple.This applies to all golf shots including chips, lob shots and pitch shots and even putts. Whereas my former grip pressure was 2.0 on a scale of 01 to 10 it is now about a 3.5 with evenly distributed pressure in both hands. In putting I went from a 1.0 to a 2.5 grip pressure.
As you will find I am introducing a second method of swinging a club that employs an immediate wrist cock as the swing begins that changes body tensions and works a little differently but both methods adhere to what I teach in this book, otherwise. This alternative method I stumbled onto after beginning this book and it has impressed me enough to make it a must read item. Indeed, I would not be surprised if most tour players use it in decades to come. The major difference is you have to consciously coil the shoulders, feeling them as they spin in space, since the centrifugal tension of the club hides until impact.
I use analogies to give the reader a mental picture of what I’m trying to describe; Using the inside of a bicycle rim and tracking a golf tee sliding down the rim to impact as it sticks out of your grip’s end, as if you stuck a tee into the hole of your grip, exactly describes how the hands work and release in a swing. The tee points to the ball going down and then, after the hands turn over through impact, the tee now points to where the ball was before it was hit, the shaft now aiming to the target, yet the tee still rides the inside rim of the wheel like a tilted circle aimed to the target. That’s just one example. I don’t have the luxury of hands on teaching and these analogies are the best way I know how to convey the information you will need.
This book was inspired decades ago when Jack Nicklaus, no less, personally responded to a letter I sent him about the golf swing about an epiphany I had that vaulted my golf to a new level. Whatever the import of what I had to say I knew I would have to satisfy myself what the real truth was, after all. Now that I am motivated to find out, after a decades long sabbatical from serious golf, I had a very good notion of what a good golf swing was all about and came across David C. Lee’s Gravity Golf tapes and realized, whatever else I did, to make this basic approach to a swing my framework to start from. I couldn’t deny the effortlessness of the technique or that Jack Nicklaus, perhaps, used it, fundamentally, anyway.
This technique involves mostly a heaving of tension free arms away from address originating in the shoulders and back, transferring weight to the right to the top and then counter falling left, your weight landing on your left leg at impact as your hips pivot out of the way of the club with the club swinging to the target as if gravity, itself, seemingly carries the club through to the finish, the ball just getting in the way, I knew that this was the way I wanted to teach golf. As such, this book is titled; “The Core Driven Golf Swing” as it is the big muscles and body parts that provide the bulk of power coupled with proper weight transference. In a sense, similar to lifting a barbell over one’s head and then dropping the weight so that it falls as hard as possible on the ground, letting gravity do a lot of the work. This book title recognizes that it is the hips and the shoulders and how they work together in a scissor like manner to power the swing along with the weight transfer. The use of the arms and hands maximizes the dynamics in how they create and release an angle with the club shaft in conjunction with the right arm folding on the back swing and straightening at impact. Add to that the hip’s shuttle effect in conjunction with developing an acute angle with the club shaft in mid down swing all trapped within the rotational compression of your whole body, first clockwise and then counter clockwise, and you have a compound action loaded with dynamics. I had many other influences I will go into as well, at least fifty, plus, books I have devoured over the years. Additionally, I studied for several years under Ben Doyle of Carmel Valley, California decades ago. Ben passed away recently and I always wanted to pass the torch he was teaching. He was renowned in teaching circles and taught the one time best amateur golfer in the world, Bobby Clampett, achieving top 100 teacher status in America. He taught from Homer Kelley’s “The Golfing Machine”, a very scientific approach, with a good measure of Ben Hogan style in the mix. Jack Nicklaus, my hero, of course, was my biggest influence yet an obscure book from the 30’s or 40’s from Alex Morrison really did wonders for my game and this, too, will emerge as a big part of this book. Alex Morrison showed me the value of using the shoulder turn as a fundamental move for golf and orchestrating a swing from basically just two positions; a turn a way from the target and a turn through to the target, the shoulders being the focus. It’s amazing just how much the shoulders have to do with the rest of the swing, as if they were at the center of activity, throughout. There is a hands and arms component that works in conjunction with this fully integrated body pivot but the pivot is at least as important. It is the reservoir of force the arms and hands rely on for support.
As much as I am a fan of Nicklaus’ technique, his is pretty close to Sam Snead’s and I happen to have a face front swing series of Snead in his prime, so I will use both as a template and also to teach myself, from studying their positions, what really happens in a great golf swing. The series with Snead is over one hundred shots of one swing in real time and it is an invaluable tool as such as timing and tempo can be analyzed and not just form.
Both Nicklaus and Snead share a full swinging style of technique, Jack using his legs more aggressively, Snead relying on mostly shoulder coil and recoil. They both seem to epitomize the “Gravity Golf” system of letting nature do most of the work, the big muscles powering the swing in an effortless manner, full of soaring power, like releasing an arrow from a strong bow.
Additionally, I include the swing and teaching’s of Mike Austin, an under appreciated virtuoso golfer who also happened to be the world’s longest golfer, ever. All with a swing so graceful you’d swear he was only using half his strength. Nicklaus’s body action is so similar I’m curious did Jack Grout teach him the Austin swing, all along? I know he shaped a lot of golfer’s swings in his day and was once among America’s top ten golf instructors.
Mostly, just to teach you how to activate your “core”- the use of leveraging your shoulder bones against your hip bones – I will introduce you to the Moe Norman technique. Moe Norman is a legend and considered, perhaps, the best ball striker and most consistent and accurate ball striker, ever. With a wide spread stance and outreaching, raised arms his is a study of choking off the legs and arms and reducing the swing to just the minimal use of the body core to propel the club. With the ball several inches farther away at address it also teaches you to throw your shoulders down into the ball as it is struck. Moe addresses the club almost a foot behind the ball position at address which requires him to move to the target to get to the ball from the top – a distinct right to left move that uses the left hip as an axis to leverage the upper body around. His weight is already shifted back at address and it feels like a one sided shift to the target around the left hip socket, mostly. Every good swing should have a little of the Moe Norman logic behind it and, of all the techniques I have found, his actually produces startling results. It certainly has the fewest moving parts of any other technique I have seen. The most notable characteristic of his swing is that his address places his hands in a straight line from his shoulders to the ball duplicating impact angles before he starts his swing. This eliminates the slack that normally has to be adjusted for as centrifugal force straightens out the arms and club during impact. This is considered a one plane versus a two plane swing.
If you beginners, especially, find that his technique works for you, good, however, I only use a measure of his technique in what I teach.
You may ask why I don’t promote Hogan’s swing more? I do promote Hogan’s swing except for his cupped left wrist at the top. He also had a tendency in his early years to reverse pivot with an insufficient weight shift away from the target. Ultimately, after years of experimenting, he achieved a remarkable body dynamics, his hip versus shoulders dynamics as good as it gets.
What I add to all this is a lot. A better understanding of the golf swing and new mental techniques that trigger the best body participation. I introduce many previously un discussed elements such as vertical compression between the upper body and lower body in the impact zone when the upward pushing up of the legs compresses against the downward throwing action of the arms and club, exploding the club through. I introduce rotational compression or the clockwise motion of the back swing against the counter clockwise motion of the downswing. I show why tilt of the hips and shoulders prevents power leakage and I introduce the concept of the feet coiling and uncoiling the shoulders up through the rest of the body using the ground for leverage and how all body motion originates from the feet. This re-examines traditional thought regarding the weight shift. I contend that the shift left to the target is a natural move to get ones center of gravity in front of the swinging object in a centrifugal motion just as the shift to the rear hip going back is to lead the club, also. The same principle involved in spinning a weight on a string; keeping a tension opposite the direction of the weight at all times requiring a circular, back and forth shifting. I add to all this the churning the feet must make back and forward, clockwise and counter clockwise, to rotate the shoulders back and forward and include this in the weight transfer dynamics. That it is this function that powers the rest of the swing which feeds off of the rotational power hidden within the body pivot. The pivot needs to have tilt and not just turn in the hips and shoulders due to the ball’s position at ground level or you will leak power and waste motion. My technique puts the shoulders at the center of the upper body swing, like a puppeteers’ strings manipulating the marionettes below, and the arms and hands co ordinate with this force to maximize their role of creating and releasing an angle in the proper manner. All of this tied to a subtle shuttling back and forward with the hips.
Examining Snead’s swing I am elated to see that his is absolutely a shoulder oriented motion as is Jack’s. Very few great golfers did not have a healthy shoulder coil and recoil, in fact. I could just as easily include Freddy Couples swing, or Seve Ballesteros or Tom Weiskopf to name a few of my favorites. Steve Elkington has a beautiful, unusually correct swing, both in it’s form and club control; back and down on nearly the same path. Bobby Clampett, in 1977, had one of the best swings I have ever seen and that is why I moved to Carmel in 1978 to begin with; to study his technique. Ernie Els is another wonder swing I admire. While they all differ, slightly, in their shaft control back and forward, I prefer Nicklaus’ style as it seems to keep the whole club, at all times, in harmony with his center of gravity. There is no adjusting necessary, back or forward. He aims the shaft TO the target at the top, a move fast disappearing with the new swings on tour that seem a little laid off. Today I admire the way Davis Love III tracks his golf shaft. No wasted motion no wasted power. He “slices butter” back and forward as purely as can be. In a slightly different manner, Phil Mickelson does as well. Dustin Johnson has a unique style that seems to move the club on a disc like plane with no inside to square or outside to square component, just a little fade plane is all. More one dimensional. I am intrigued and wonder is there a better way, after all? Would Dustin’s plane work as well with a straight left wrist at the top? I’m not so sure, as I write this book, so I’m sticking to the one I use, very much along Jack Nicklaus’ style.
As I mentioned earlier, there is one feature of Dustin Johnson’s swing as well as Johnny Miller and Seve Ballesteros and others – an early set of the wrists upon takeaway – that I will recommend as an option. This move starts very first thing in the swing and never subjects the shaft to that stress tension on the back side going back but, instead, almost suspends the entire weight of the club until it is delivered at impact. I’ve learned that, while a one piece takeaway is perfectly fine and exemplified by Jack and Sam, an early set of the wrists takes a lot of stress off of the wrists and keeps the stress off until actual impact. It accounts for Dustin Johnson’s ability to give the ball unlimited power without undo stress to the body. His booming distance comes from an effortless technique, I’ve noticed. When I try the early set the club is rendered weightless and hides that way until impact which is powerful. In this respect I am the student and teacher, at once, as this is a new subject of study that just came up in the course of writing this book.
The simplest way to explain this style is to imaging bending a straw until it kinks as soon as you start your back swing.. In golf this would be between the shaft and the left arm. Just any amount of angle, only deepening it at the top and on the way down. To bend this angle properly imagine you are trying to throw the whole club to the target as far as possible, underhanded, like a regular golf swing. There is a maximum power route from the top that is from your stance line to the ball line and through to the target after impact. With this route in mind bend the angle, early, accordingly and, once it’s set, just hold onto it until impact, itself. “Set it and forget it” in a sense. Your hands are trying to just hold the angle, not hit the ball. Your body proper does that, instead, slinging the arms and club through.
The standard “One Piece” take away makes the same angle only later in the back swing. Both styles hold onto the angle until impact.
I advocate a square to square or palm to palm grip, as Johnny Miller describes it, one that is weaker than what most technique calls for. It came to me one day while orienting my swing around my right hand only. In other words my left hand connected my body to the swing but the right hand did the motion all by itself. I discovered that the full rotation I like of the club head passing the handle through impact was best served with this grip. Complete release without the need for any manipulation. Many, many great golfers, including Gary Player, Mike Austin and Ernie Els used this grip, Nicklaus, included, especially in his early years.
I advocate the tension free, completely relaxed approach to a golf swing. I keep a crisp posture with my chest and butt out a little but also keep relaxed while swinging. Even the arms I keep extended but relaxed, using them at the right time and place and manner, but allowing them to respond, in concert, to the larger body pivot. Allowing the mind to control the club with it’s imagination and allowing the body to stay out of the way of this freedom and just facilitating the motion is important. Gaining control by giving up control. Trusting the swing.
Since I lack distance – mostly due to an old back injury (work, not golf, related) – I am benefiting from the Mike Austin method. He once hit a drive over 500 yards long on level ground in competition. (at 64 years of age in the Senior U.S. Open) A lot like Tom Weiskopf’s swing only fuller. At the top like Nicklaus only with a little head sway and a more tucked right arm. I think one of the three best swings I’ve ever seen, in fact, if only on film and paper. The familiar golfer position at mid follow through that the P.G.A. uses today for it’s logo could actually BE Mike Austin’s perfect swing. The biggest difference with his swing and others is that he manages to get his arms and hands ahead of the ball at impact and achieves his fastest speeds after impact (similar to Dustin Johnson) This means that he swings his hands and arms fast past the ball and not just the club. I believe that the power point in any swing is when the club head passes the handle. He gets it after the ball and with soft wrists that capitalize on range of motion on both sides of the ball. Like Bubba Watson, he can afford to ease into his finish because he has unloaded so much speed just after impact and enjoys the luxury of being able to save his back, after. No need to get his elbows behind his head at the finish. The same was also true of Nicklaus and Snead.
I think it interesting that Mike’s very first lesson was to bury a club head into a steep, muddy bank without getting mud on his sleeves. This taught him to release the club head ahead of the grip after impact throwing the club into the bank like a spear, head first. In spite of this mental image he managed to sustain very good lag and wrist retention until after impact. And so his swing will factor into my teachings as I am convinced of it’s greatness.
My overall swing theories are in accord with Nicklaus, Snead and Mike Austin. In fact, it is assuring to know that much of what Mike Austin teaches I was already practicing before I knew about him at all, including a shared unison on controversial aspects of technique. All three of these players use the gravity swing technique, besides.
Mike Austin, in his storied prime, used a neutral, somewhat weak grip and slightly opened and closed his hands arriving with his club face parallel to his left forearm at the top. Later in his career, following a stroke, he changed to a more convex configuration to the top with his wrists. You should keep this in mind if you research his other works. I teach the former method that proved to be a world beater.
I’ll cover the grip, stance swing, putting, chipping, mental, physical and other aspects of the game of golf but mostly the swing, itself, which has always been something of a mystery. I happen to respect the innate wisdom’s of old that gave the game it’s spark as well as some of the developments it has seen along the way. I will suggest what I think is the proper recipe or measurements to best wield the club. I don’t pretend to know it all but I think I know a lot that the world can benefit from and maybe even break some ground in the process. Hopefully golf will be an easier game, after, for the effort.
Now that I’ve unloaded all that information on you all at once I’ll get on with the job of laying it out in a constructive manner, later, as well as introduce myself, now.
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