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.
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.)
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, 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. 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. A small inside to square loop SHOULD be present allowing the club to drop slightly down and behind you before starting back to the ball. Ideally, during the transition, you want to 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. 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.
Remember; the small inside to square loop actually straightens out a swing as it moves from one direction to the other. Without it you’re out of position coming down, fighting physics. To experience the correctness of just stretching back and hitting straight through you have to have this tiny inside to square loop as you start down to iron out the swing.
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.
I briefly experimented with another trend I’ve noticed on tour; the convex left wrist at the top involving a curling under of the hands going back. This finds the club face aimed more to the sky at the top and keeps the toe over heel release in check more thus keeping the face aimed at the target a little longer through impact. This, perhaps, does achieve more accuracy. It also caused my left thumb to injure itself, twice in three months, and so I have abandoned it and replaced it with a splendid combination of adjustments that is just as accurate and easier on the hands. It also works the body more vigorously. That some of today’s best golfers do use a convex wrist at the top without injury suggests that I was doing something wrong. Indeed, since, I have learned the value of making a slight “barrel roll” near the top allowing my arms / club assembly to rotate clockwise a little and drop just below my back swing plane like many pros seem to do. Nevertheless, I have to admit that my hands are far better off doing a toned down version of my original opening and closing of the club face back and through. Now I quiet my hands more until halfway back and 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 oft 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. 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 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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