Me on golf technique;
This may be considered my; “I’d rather be driving a Titleist.” chapter as I really would rather
be playing the best golf courses in the world than driving around in my website van. For that
matter, I’d rather be playing on the senior tour in the thick of things. At the very least
I’d like to teach technique via a book or other mass medium as I have a lot to say.
THE CORE DRIVEN GOLF SWING
BY STEVE LIGHTFOOT
COPYRIGHT c 2017
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
(Actually, this is not the beginning part of this book. That would be at the beginning of “part two”, the “Overview” chapter. The whole book will be re organized later. Meanwhile I like the mystery factor until then. One third of these chapters will, no doubt, wind up on the cutting room floor, anyway.
Who IS Steve Lightfoot and why haven’t many of you heard of me in golf circles before? As I mentioned, my impact on golf has as much to do with my detective skills and problem solving skills than just my golfing prowess or lack thereof.
However much the sir name Lightfoot may sound like I must be native American Indian, Lightfoot, according to Gordon Lightfoot who told me, is a clan in Scotland, though it is thought to be an English name. So I am very golf oriented, after all. I do envy the Native American Indian, however, and would have been happier if I were born one in the year 1400, to give you an example of my philosophy and politics.
In fact, I am a pretty damned good golfer who would have made it into his first U.S. Amateur attempt had not a large crowd assembled out of nowhere to watch ME as I was the only man on the course who could get one of the eight out of 107 spots. I was at one under through 31 holes at the Country Club of Virginia, the James River Course, and in third place at the time. This is the very course where Nicklaus met Bobby Jones for the first time and Nicklaus, too, succumbed to the pressure of his spectators. I bogeyed three of the last five holes to miss by one stroke and, in spite of winning the playoff for alternate on the first extra hole, it was a jolt out of the blue that may have played heavily on my future, not to mention the world’s future.
That represents the best of my career as a certain socio-political event occurred in 1980, three years later, that wound up ensnaring my detective talents in mid 1982 snatching my life away from my golf career and into the jaws of political intrigue. The story I discovered has to do with government bold print codes in major magazines that prove we were all lied to about a big event and my need to live with myself put that issue ahead of my golf interests. As it so happens it is the biggest expose in U.S. history, possibly world history, and the world isn’t ready to stomach it, just yet. Way too controversial and scathingly scandalous. A watershed event, to say the least.
Meanwhile, I have decided to take back my life and contribute to my passion; golf technique, before the frustration of world apathy drives me nuts.
I did try out for the pro tour three times and emerged as an also ran who never made it past the first cut, each time. I was a two handicap then and determined to be number one in the world at golf or bust. My left leg, from the knee down, is a size or two smaller than my right lower leg and three quarters of an inch shorter. (Prior to writing this book, and for 64 years, I was under the false impression it was only a half inch discrepancy.) Not an insurmountable object but I knew that superior technique was my best shot at getting there. A shoe lift evens me out, now, and fills up my other shoe and my proportions are pretty even with shoes on, thankfully.
There is no doubt I had the drive, work ethic and intelligence and talent, otherwise, to have made it. I still think, after my politics is behind me and I can play more, that I can be a force to be reckoned with on the senior tour. And I’m already 63 years old! I may have to hit more club but I feel good about that prospect.
My very first round of golf, ever, on a par 70 nine hole muni course was an 83, I believe. I was 14 and was using clubs so old the shafts were coated with fake wood vinyl as steel had just been introduced. I was, frankly, bored it was so easy and quit for a few years. At 17 I returned and found golf less easy to master and shooting in the 90’s. Now I was challenged and determined to beat golf. I was always sort of a boy genius in school and even became the first human to ever trisect an angle with just a compass and straightedge. To briefly explain; I was 17 and my geometry teacher; Dick Nixon,(no kidding) told the class that no one has ever been able to do this, . Not Newton, Galilleo, Einstien, etc..I had to give it a try and solved it a week later with what you might call beginner’s luck. I simply applied the technique for trisecting a line segment (do-able) and noticed a distinct bias; progressively small, medium and large, sections. My first thought was to reverse everything going the other way and at least reverse the bias. This put four, not two, points on the arc, or angle. My next thought was to merely bisect these two groups of points and, viola!. success!. Mr. Nixon, after he found that it worked on all angles, told me I would be famous if I could explain how I did it, mathematically. I’m more a language than a math guy. Several years later I recall hearing Paul Harvey, the radio announcer, applauding the feat as another man got the credit. No big deal as it was pretty easy, anyway.
A year later I scored top 3 percent, nationally, in language and top 13 percent in math on my S.A.T. test. I guesstimated it through math but my language skills were validated later with my code cracking prowess. More than just vocabulary but a very nuanced appreciation for language and psychology. We’re talking top level intelligence codes that I cracked. Ever since these magazines have re hid their code activities elsewhere..
Others who know me from my youth will say I was the best artist in my grade school and high school, even. I did a mean bird of prey, especially. I also used to be falconer in high school. I remember making near professional model airplanes and ships and always had one or two keen interests as a young man to feed my curiosities.
This is what I have to offer golf technique; my detective skills, mostly. I can solve things others simply cannot at the present time. I know I have this one skill. I am a natural born detective. More than that, I am a golf swing connoisseur, if I do say so myself. I know truth in motion when I see it. Such a complex and elusive mystery is what I crave solving. It just so happens to keep me fit and young at the same time.
My golf is still pretty note worthy. In 1997, while hitting balls at the Stanford driving range, Matt Kuchar, then a youngster in a collegiate event there, told me what a great swing he thought I had. Andy Bean got an eyeful of me in my prime while pretending I was a pro at the big Pebble Beach event in 1981 hitting practice balls with the pros. No stage fright this time; I was bashing my driver like a copy machine spitting out replicas, 280 yards dead straight. My Ben Doyle style was so obvious that Andy remarked out loud to the crowd about me; “I guess I just don’t have the right guru”
Prior to all that I managed to break par with a 68 within my first year of golf and shot a 62 or 64 (I was so excited I forget) just six months later. Six straight birdies is all I can recall about it, that and how easy it seemed to get birdies. A one day super nova. Ultimately I was just a good golfer with high hopes averaging a few over par as a youth. I always did have a pretty good and correct swing. My hero was always Jack Nicklaus and I’ve seen him play in two Masters, at least as many U’S. Opens and dozens of other events, all in the flesh, on premises. I was lucky and smart to get all that under my belt. I saw how the greatest, ever, really did it, up close.
My run at golf was brief, maybe less than five years, including my mostly study years, and I have only modest claims of accomplishment. In all, not counting U.S. Open qualifying rounds and college and high school matches less than ten events in my life. I recall shooting 72 at Pinehurst # 4 in competition and climbing from second to last in the 1977 Southern Amateur in Miami, Florida (my first big event) to almost getting into my first U.S. Amateur, first attempt, all within just a few months. When I used to work at Pebble Beach as a busboy in 1979 I shot par twice from the blue tees there and nearly parred Cypress Point when I (admittedly) poached it my first try. I recall hitting 14 greens at Olympic Lake course in San Francisco in 1978(?) at the California Amateur qualifying. (not easy for the pros) but three putted too often that day to matter. Generally, in competition, my rounds were in the mid to high 70’s.
Today what would I shoot? My swing is miles better, I’m a young looking and young feeling 63 year old. I’d guess the low 70’s AFTER a few months of competition. Meanwhile, as I mostly just practice, lately, I’m several strokes off that mark. I know it takes the low high 60’s to make it on the Senior Tour and I am not ruling that out, mind you. Right set of circumstances needed, first.
My golf education came mostly from dozens of books by the greats I have read since I began the game. Palmer, Tommy Armour, Trevino, Boros, Casper, Snead, Bobby Jones, Hogan, Nicklaus, Devlin, Weiskopf, Lock, Lema, Ernest Jones, Nelson, Alex Morrison, Player, Ballesteros Johnny Miller, Tom Watson,Tiger Woods…frankly, so many I can’t recall them all. As for formal education: Ben Doyle of Carmel Valley, California who taught the Homer Kelly “The Golfing Machine” method, (Very scientific) whom I studied under for several years. That was a very complex method that I never fully grasped but managed to perform, nonetheless. Less than a handful of itinerant lessons on the side and that’s it. I taught myself, mostly. I did find Tommy Armour’s “How To Play Your Best Golf All The Time” a great book for the beginner golfer.
Naturally I had my preferences where style was concerned: Nicklaus, Snead, Ballesteros, Weiskopf, Littler, Boros, Couples, and lately, Mike Austin, to name a few. Today’s pros all swing very good compared to my era when there were more individualized techniques. Adam Scott seems to exemplify the modern technique which Tiger Woods inspired. I still think some of the modern moves are less than ideal but it’s a matter of degrees, mostly. Give me Mike Austin’s swing for a road map, any day. Very much like Jack Nicklaus’ style. Lots of range of motion in the hands and shoulders combined with efficiency of motion and a good measure of majesty and grace. The gravity golf method done properly. Just the right measure of tilt and turn and hand action. That I have hand picked these swings to promote should tell you whether or not I have a good eye for technique. Except for a slight straightening of his left leg at impact Sam Snead joins this elite group. All three with nearly ideal technique.
As for my technique. Well, of course I will display it for the purposes of this book from several angles. I don’t trust author’s who hide their own swings and I need to establish credibility, anyway. I think I have a very good swing and am proud to teach it. If it’s good enough for me it passes serious muster. I am an idealist, after all. I have come to my conclusions about technique the long, hard way, through trial and error and extensive field testing, all over decades of study.
As for the lost decades when I was preoccupied with a political expose, the danger made be brave and the confusion made me smart, like mental training. I have skills from that experience that serve you, the reader, well. I have been solving a lot about everything for a long, long time. In my case my life depended on knowing which way was up. It still does.
Who knows what might have become of my golf career? Politics became too important for me.
Jumping ahead of sequence here with soon to be entered chapter;
First, hand grip pressure; Enough to do the job but not so tight that you retard the dynamic, full and powerful release of the club. Like throwing a stick; primed with supple quickness but firm enough to still hold on and maintain control. Just that much pressure and no more. To throw a fast ball in baseball you HAVE to have a somewhat firm grip on the ball from the start. I used to grip too loosely. The old adage “grip it like holding a bird” means a bird that is trying to wriggle out of your grip. Don’t hurt the bird but keep it in your hands kind of pressure. Feel the action in your fingers and not just the hands, themselves. Grip with about one third of your potential grip force and no more is what I’ve learned. Less while putting. Whatever amount of pressure, whether light or firm or in between, try to keep your grip intact throughout, not allowing any part of it to pry itself loose or open including the right thumb and forefinger and the last three fingers of the left hand and all points between. It should be air tight throughout, both hands welded to the grip like a single unit, pliable but intact. Never tight, but slightly firm in your hands throughout. I used to imagine not smudging my finger and palm prints as I swung. The wrists absorb most of the stresses and motions, the hands connect. Most pros believe that the last three fingers of the left hand and the middle two fingers of the right hand are the pressure points that leverage a grip. Some, Sam Snead included, felt the right fore finger applied at impact was useful. Personally, I like my whole grip to be uniform, just holding onto the club evenly. You do want a swing that would bury the club, head first, into an imaginary muddy bank in front of you for proper release. Dynamic hand action.
A slightly firm”ish” grip applies to all golf shots, chips, lob shots, pitches and even putts. You can be just as delicate with distance and the rest with a firmer grip. The force requirements in putting are less than a golf swing’s and you adjust accordingly. Say 20 percent power vs. 33 percent power for a full swing. Having made the conversion, myself, I notice far fewer wandering lag puts thrown off line due to timing issues. It makes sense that short putts will also benefit with more accuracy. The main thing is to grip in such a way as to unite the whole body and integrate both arms to work together. A somewhat firm grip does integrate the whole body in a way a loose grip cannot. A loose grip wants to play “hot potato” with the club, back and forth between hands like an oar in a loose fitting. A truly gifted individual like a Freddy Couples or a Bobby Jones can master a loose grip, perhaps, but this book is for golfers at large. I happen to know that both Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson advocate a firm”ish” grip as being important. The last time I actually shook Jack Nicklaus’ hand I was amazed at how granite like it felt. Must be all that exercise.
An aside, I am one of those golfers who never gets any hint of callouses no matter how much I practice. It’s been like that since I was five years into the game. Now that I have a firmer grip I don’t see me suddenly getting callouses, either.
Sergio Garcia used to re grip his club several times before swinging. There was a little “squeeze” to his pressure, I noticed, not just a holding on. And, yet, his wrists are the most supple and dynamic in the business. He “cracks the whip” better than anyone and he does have a little squeeze to his grip pressure.
Jack Nicklaus, first, and Jim Mclean, a major golf instructor, taught me the value of maintaining a constant, unchanging grip pressure once you start the swing. This suggests that the best golfer, ever, used enough grip pressure at address to handle impact forces. I used to think that the grip automatically tightened with increased load nearing impact (and it may, unconsciously). I now appreciate that by focusing on a constant pressure, throughout, the arms are more soft and responsive to body pivot versus any tendency to taker over a swing and act independently. Now the arms and hands must wait for the proper timing and sequence if that fixed grip pressure is to still maintain adequate control. It’s a great way to force the arms and hands to allow the pivot to maintain overall control of the swing. So, deciding how much pressure is enough but not too tight is important..
Long or short left thumb? I prefer not extending the left thumb too far down the grip. It should end just slightly lower than your left forefinger. About an inch lower than your fore finger, only. Observe this relationship at a 90 degree angle.
Strong, weak or neutral grip position? I prefer a slightly weaker than usual tour grip position with the thumb joint at 12 O’clock and the thumb angled towards the right shoulder only slightly. Maybe on eighth of a turn to your right from straight up and down.The stresses of impact realign the left thumb to vertical, straight up and down on top of the shaft. This requires some angling of the left thumb at address to offset this fact. The “V” formed by my right thumb and forefinger I like at 12 O’clock pointing straight up and down at address. Both palms should exactly face each other forming a wall that aims to the target like the face of your driver, for example. This grip allows for perfect release and no need of steering, ever. Any deviation here will affect the whole rest of the swing. I teach a weak to neutral grip with both palms facing each other forming a wall to the target at address, the left hand just a little clockwise of vertical, the right thumb and forefinger exactly straddling the shaft equally, the “V” they form on top of the grip.
There is another yet untried grip I invented. I’ll call it the “Lightfoot Grip” before anyone else tries to lay claim to it. Instead of the above description, put the left thumb to the exact side of the club with both hands turned into themselves producing a strong left hand and a weak right hand position. The palms face somewhat downwards. If you open your hands wide for inspection I find that the left palm points just behind the right knee while the right palm aims just above the left knee after assuming the reverse “K” address I recommend in this book. I find only a ten finger or interlock style works best with this grip. The “V”‘s form on the sides of the grip, the left hand on the right side the right on the left side, each pointing to the opposite shoulders.
The advantage this grip has is it eliminates independent hitting with the hands. All they CAN do is hold on and hinge and unhinge according to body dynamics. Once mastered it is just a long and straight as any other.Are there disadvantages? I say it depends on your preference. Nothing is the be all, end all in golf. The traditional grip is perhaps more secure while the alternative grip offers more freedom and forces better coordination between club and body.
The reason this alternative grip is useful to you, the reader, is it shows you why all the hands do in a swing is hinge, unhinge and hold on. The body funnels power through them. If you decide you like the conventional grip this alternative grip is a good drill to sync the club and arms with the body. It forces the body to engage to propel the club. It’s one of the best devices for learning the core driven method of golf.
The most important geometrical angle of the entire swing is the way the club relates to the arms and target. This happens in your grip. How much the hands curl under or rotate over to the top and then back and through makes all the difference in a swing. How the shaft aligns itself at every juncture, again, lies in the hands and wrists. Essentially, however, the proper feeling for the hands is to have them just hold onto the club while training them to control mostly the club’s shaft alignment and angles.
There is the vital maneuver, the “barrel roll” of the forearms at the top, that routes the downswing just below the back swing path and opens up the club in a clockwise manner. This after first going back with somewhat still wrists the first half of the back swing. It feels like the hands are extremely quiet the first half of the back swing and get a lively burst of flamboyancy near the top during the transition that flings the club exactly opposite it’s return to the target. This deepens your wrist cock going down while simultaneously allowing a slight opening up of the club face. A small inside to square loop SHOULD occur in the transition. It’s a subtle move and not to be overdone. This routes the club around your powerful trunk instead of your neck and prevents the dreaded “over the top” move. It “irons out” the swing in the transition zone providing optimum athleticism for the downswing. It’s not discussed in most instruction but it is vital. I say it makes golf ten percent easier, all by itself. Without this tiny loop it’s hard to just stretch back and hit straight through.
Mostly, because an opening and closing of the hands is easier on the hands, I have chosen it over any curl under methods. Consequently some adjustments should be made to increase accuracy. Because the opening and closing of the club face naturally occurs due to mostly body rotation shots are better managed borrowing more from the target line path – a more straight back and straight through approach.- A more upright versus flat plane. This keeps shots from going to the right if you are late in the release. You don’t have to add to the closing of the club face. Let nature take it’s course. You still swing inside to square but you try to pull the swing back to the top like pulling back a bow string or pulling straight back from a vertically mounted roll of paper towels as your body winds back to accommodate this motion.
To make sure you are doing this try to imagine the club head go all the way around to the top so that you would see the club head kiss the very front of the ball on the tee, if you had that much flexibility, before starting back down. This is a more upright than flat style of swing. In my callow, youthful days I actually was flexible enough to actually see the club head peek out in front of me before I started down. Imagine that same club head now continuing all the way around even more until it could be seen kissing the very front of the ball before you started back down to hit the very back of the ball. It may sound a little extreme but insuring a full back swing and getting on proper plane are both solved with this mental imagery. In making this move use your shoulders and not just your wrists. Keep wrist cock at only 90 degrees at the top and increase the angle after starting down .A completed back swing sets up the correct dynamics for a downswing. It’s important. In fact, it’s one of the easiest things to overlook and one of the first things that leaves the aging golfer. Golf should keep you young so swing full, always..
A crash course on proper hand action is to make a golf swing and to practice throwing a club as far as you can after impact to the target (no ball needed) as it whirls through the air end over end. This is the motion that you want. This practice also ingrains the proper shaft angles through a swing’s many stations. This is one natural motion that converts directly to good hand action in golf. Find a safe place to practice this with no one around but you and use only a ‘throw away’ club from a used thrift store and not your own clubs. For me just imagining throwing the club to the target after impact is enough to give me automatic, correct hand action.
Fundamentally, besides aligning the shaft, the hands create an angle and just hold that angle until contact at impact. They don’t try to hit the ball. The body torque takes over to do that, instead, funneling power through the hands When performing the wrist action I am describing you still have to track the shaft of the club properly so that it swings as parallel to the target line as possible throughout. My reference points are whenever the shaft is parallel to the ground, that is one third back, at the top, halfway down and halfway through. If these junctures find the shaft aimed parallel to the target line you are on the right track The finish position pivots the whole body an extra 90 degrees and that is the only position where the shaft need not be parallel to the ground and also aimed at the target. If you can master this shaft control the face control should automatically take care of itself and you should never have to consciously think about it. Take care of the shaft and the face will take care of itself. With no fore arm manipulation of the club the face will automatically open 90 degrees from address to the top due to the 90 degree coil of your shoulders. By impact it will, again, square itself and, after impact, rotate 90 degrees closed from impact. This is all proper. It’s when you add or subtract from this motion that you get into trouble.
I offer two kinds of back swings in this book. The first is the traditional one piece style that has served the game for all these years. This is a lot like trying to swing the club back like a rope from your neck, the shoulders, arms and club all in one piece moving together the first few feet back with a strong sensation of feeling the weight of the club and how it creates a centrifugal pull against the swing’s center as it makes it’s way to the top position. You constantly preserve the tension of this centrifugal pull throughout the whole swing.
The other method involves an immediate cocking of the wrists as the swing moves off of address. I call it the early set swing. Like making a kink in a straw you merely create an angle right away and then deepen the angle to the top. This does not allow tension to form on the side of the shaft as it harnesses the club head weight off of address like the swinging sensation of the one piece method does. Instead it should have a feeling of rendering the club weightless, like balancing a stick in the air from your palm only balancing the stick, now, opposite the target throughout the swing. Dustin Johnson does this and it was his swing that educated me about this style the most. When I experimented with it I was amazed at how it relieved the stress in the wrists and the sensation of a weightless club becoming suddenly full of the weight of the whole swing at the moment of impact, and not before, like a ton of bricks. I feel it allows more leverage into the swing by taking stresses off of the wrists. It has a different kind of centrifugal sensation that may take a little getting used to but is has a constant centrifugal feel, too. I think the shoulder rotation is sensed more in this method.
The important thing is that both methods require a full body coil in both directions to work properly. The hands should not out cock the body but contribute, equally, with it, as one unified force.
I mentioned earlier how efficiently Davis Love III tracks his shaft. His wrist position at the top shows about three degrees, only, of wrist cupping. This is the edge of perfect. Go no farther than this very, very slight angle. I used to have almost ten to fifteen degrees of cupping before I got myself straightened out. I did it and, even if you once fanned the face open and cupped your wrists, so can you.
This is a critical point of golf technique; how this hinge at the wrists exactly function. It is the last lever to be released and it determines what the rest of your body does to an extent. Do the hands rotate only up and down or side to side or a measure of both? Both is the correct answer. By using two hinges you actually quiet unnecessary motion and retain essential motion. Why would you not implement the extra range of motion a side to side motion added to the up and down motion offers? Focus should be on shaft alignment, mostly.
Mike Austin described this use of two hinges in the wrists like a back handed slap with the left hand. That he “could break your scapula…” with just that back handed slap motion it’s so powerful. He used to complain that the other tour players failed to cock their wrists at the top because they left out that one entire hinge system relying, instead, on fore arm rotation, alone.
Mike Austin studied kinesiology, the study of anatomy in action, and knew that the side to side hinging motion had a greater range of motion than the up and down hinge motion. He reasoned that he was merely using his wrists as nature intended. Anyone who has ever seen Austin’s swing on film (Google search him demonstrating in a skeleton suit, for example) cannot deny the superb marrying of his hands to his body action. No one else I’ve ever seen manages to achieve maximum velocity after impact as effortlessly as Austin. It will shock you to listen as his effortless swing is silent until well after impact with the club swoosh. And it’s a mighty swoosh, indeed. Mike never rushed or lunged but kept things full and smooth with both shoulders and hands gathering leverage equally.
You will also find that one of the best ways to climb out of a slump is to swing bigger and fuller; add more club head arc and add more body coil and more arm extension instead of less. One of golf’s biggest secrets.
If you want to adhere to the one piece take away that all my heroes have used I won’t blame you. I have been golfing for many decades and can handle the sophistication I think this early setting of the club represents. One advantage my new method has is less strain on the wrists that no longer have to go from straight to cocked in mid swing and time things for proper arrival at the top and then cock even more into the start of the downswing. Now it’s just one fluid cock from start to the top that seems to just deepen into the downswing and release on it’s own, the club flung ahead of the hands past impact after first being compressed right before impact. It feels similar to the act of tossing a baseball up and hitting it as it falls back to earth, the wrist cock representing the state of suspension of the weight of the club until impact.
I suspect that the reason the “Iron Byron” machine cocks the club fully before anything else moves has to do with the bolts that hold the foundation to the floor. If it had a delayed cocking of the club the bolts would be too stressed and come loose from the stress loads. Maybe I’m on to something, here. I do know that Dustin Johnson starts his wrist cock right away and I wonder if this is the reason; it relieves wrist stress in a way the one piece technique can’t.
Another distance golfer of merit, Jack Hamm, stresses the importance of getting the left arm and club shaft angle as steep as possible midway down to impact. This is a must for proper technique. You must get that angle as steep as you reasonably can in your downswing yet still be able to fully release it past the ball with wrists loaded with range of motion as they multiply all the leverage the body provides. This is another vital fundamental that may not feel natural and you will have to focus on until it takes hold. Swing wide to the top, compress the coil and the club shaft in mid downswing by rotating the body counter-clockwise against it’s clockwise move to the top and fully release to the opposite side of the ball after impact. The club, ideally, should feel like it was shot out of a cannon below your head. Explosive, complete release.
If this aspect of technique does not come easily it is not absolutely mandatory, although highly recommended. You should at least achieve a 90 degree angle in mid downswing however. If you cannot achieve more acute angles you will need to rotate your body core back and through more like Tom Watson, for example, to make up the power loss.
Tom Watson, while on the subject of his swing, modeled his swing after Nicklaus’s style, I believe. He was as hard a worker at attaining sound technique as they come. He over achieved in some respects, his extraordinary body coil and uncoil affording him the perhaps more accurate more gradual release of the shaft through impact. Most golfers should allow more angle in the downswing with the club shaft for a more effortless power.
A note about the one dimensional plane that looks like a straight disc back and forward that Dustin Johnson uses versus the swing that follows a curve around the center of one’s gravity is this; Like a train speeding on a curved track has more friction slowing it down than when it is on a straightaway, the one dimensional plane may have less friction and produce more speed. This is in the theory stage as I write these words and only time may tell if this is factor or not. Like the early setting of the wrists versus the tried and true one piece take away, this matter of plane shape may represent yet another fork in the road for golf technique in the future.
In the one dimensional plane the butt end of the club tracks parallel to the ball target line, generally. As the rest of the body coils the club plane stays fixed like a board, controlled from the wrists. In the three dimensional plane swing the butt end of the club tracks along a gentle arc that parallels the ball target line. I imagine this extended arc to be about 25 to 30 feet long from stance line to stance line, intersecting the ball target line and curving back to the foot target line. That the butt end of the grip tracks such an arc. I believe Jack Nicklaus employs the latter. I feel it is more centered and natural. I feel it also provides more mass to the shot as the center of one’s gravity is always directly behind the force. On the other hand, if the one dimensional plane swing offers less friction – like a train traveling down a straightaway versus a curve – then there may be that advantage to that style. Experiment with both and decide which is more effective. As for myself, I aim the shaft at the target at the top and I swing out to the target after impact. I focus on keeping the shaft parallel to the target line, generally, as much as possible, throughout the swing allowing for the fact that the club travels from the ball line at address to the foot line at the top, then back to the ball line at impact and back, again, to the foot line for the finish. That should be enough for anyone to think about. Your body should find it’s preference, hopefully.
For conventional technique there is a variance in the back swing path and the downswing path of expert golfers: The back swing path is slightly more square than the return path through the ball. I think this is due to two things; the back swing orients itself around the right hip socket while the downswing orients itself around the left hip socket which created a very subtle square to inside loop. Perfectly natural. A kind of “figure eight” pattern your hips make from start to finish. Combined with the “barrel roll” maneuver with the hands at the top that creates a small inside to square loop starting down, everything is getting tracked for maximum leverage.
Another role of the arms and hands is to be well ahead of the ball at contact and not just even with or behind the ball (lob wedge shot excluded). The release of the head past the handle must be just after impact, accelerating and not slowing down. This assures that your body slung the arms and hands through impact with speed and not just the club head. This is a vital function of correct dynamics. Remember; one of the best swing tips of all is to pretend you are hitting the ball with your arms and hands and not a club at all, as if the back of your left hand were the club face. Whole club speed through impact. Mike Austin described it as; “swinging the meat, not the metal…” meat being his body and arms, metal being the club. Done properly it feels like two swings happening one ahead of the other, like an echo or shadow of the other. Body and arm swing first, delayed reaction club swing following just behind. Going down, the club swing is just behind the body swing, like an echo. The extreme cocking of the club halfway down helps to enable this powerful, effortless, easy on the body technique. The idea is to infuse more range of motion with your hands than you thought existed on both sides of the ball with full body participation to power that huge arc. Swing as though the back of your left hand was the club face and and allow the club to follow a millisecond behind. A “Ka – boom” effect. The fact is your body reacts just behind whatever your mind is thinking in this respect. Your swing allows for this nervous system relay factor. It’s one reason karate experts focus past the brick they want to break, for example.
When I suggest a snappy transition from top to impact it is really the body that moves quickly, here, ahead of the hands, yet still feels like the whole everything, body, arms and club, going down to impact in one piece from the top. While the transition may feel snappy and adroit – the hands really move fast there – but they should also move fast through the ball, ideally. This mental programming to obtain as much speed as possible between point “A” (the top) and point “B”(impact) tricks the body into making the proper sequence of movements, subconsciously. If you leave any speed “on the table” there you retard the proper sequence. Ideally it should feel like a full release of the club to the finish right from the top, like letting go of a bow string. BAM! You may notice in the photo sequence of Mike Austin (also in real time) that most of his body and arm speed occurs in the early half of the downswing, for example. I believe this has to do with simultaneously creating a severe club shaft angle with his arms at the same time which allows his body and arms the slack they need to race ahead of the club before impact as the body rotation changes direction. That the creation of this angle folded into this rotational compression is used for force later is what a swing is made of.
At address the right elbow must be a little below the left elbow. This offsets the fact that the right fore arm is raised higher because of the right hand’s position on the club. By placing the right elbow lower it evens out both fore arms so they align like a pie spatula to the target. At impact the right elbow is even lower until it straightens after impact and this address cue promotes this.
While the arms and hands work together there are a few things the arms must do, regardless;. They must allow the right arm to fold going back, allow the left arm to fold into the finish and allow both arms to also be straight; the left arm from address to follow through and the right arm from just past impact to follow through. A dance, if you will, similar to walking; right foot, left foot, arm straight, arm bent, depending on where in the swing you are. The arms involve a lot of separate levers that work dynamically for optimum leverage; two upper arms and two lower arms, joined at the shoulders and grip, wielding a single club
The arms must extend outward and gather volume as much as they can without pulling you off balance. They must never contract or pull inward as a pair until after the swing is over.
Some forearm rotation is necessary; clockwise going back and counter clockwise going forward. Be careful not to over do this until the impact zone or you will leak leverage and allow improper wrist motion. During and after impact, the release, is where the forearms rotate the most. Keeping both elbows configured towards their respective hip sockets while allowing them some freedom throughout the swing is vital. For example; making a downswing you will want your right elbow position aimed in front of you, not behind you and well ahead of the hands and club so that dynamics can launch it with the most leverage you can harness. Any other position is out of position. After impact, while the club is released to the target and the right arm is straight the left elbow folds with the elbow pointing towards it’s left hip socket. The elbows represent a circle within a circle; the outside circle being the hands. They lead the hands and club like a spear tip all the way down to impact.
A major force for power has to do with the right arm, not only releasing the wrist angle, but also the elbow angle as the blow is delivered. Both angles through impact, simultaneously,similar to a throwing motion down to the ball and out to the target. Combined with body rotation and weight shift this move is devastating. Make sure you properly use the right arm. It’s not a sin so long as the rest of your body and swing angles are correct. The proper use of the right arm, in fact, can properly activate the whole rest of the swing but should never be the “lone ranger” either. It is a very natural tool the body instinctively wants to use. It’s instinctive use is harnessed and disciplined by the rest of the body motions.
The right arm can actually straighten out a swing gone awry. Simply attach your left hand to the club to merely connect your right arm with the rest of your body, and swing as if your right arm, only, were making the whole swing. It’s a natural move, like throwing a rock underhanded, the club cocking at the top aimed to the target and then swing it down and through with just the right arm conducting the swing. The right elbow must lead the hands into impact, like a javelin thrower or a major league pitcher does. You may be amazed at how your old, correct swing returns in just a few minutes. If the right arm functions properly the rest of the body seems to fall in place all by itself. Without a correct natural use of the right arm the rest of the swing will be fighting nature, so make sure you get that body part working correctly. It is very much at the center of body dynamics and has to work just so.
As mentioned earlier, the arms keep quiet going back, minimizing rotation of the fore arms the first half of the back swing keeping your watch face looking somewhat at the ball. (By the way, don’t wear a watch while golfing. Golf is hard enough without imbalancing influences.) The reason is your body has to fully coil to the top. If you rotate the arms clockwise or cock the wrists too much too early this will retard body coil. So keep the arm rotation quiet until the hands get to past hip height. At that point your “firmish”, unifying grip forces the knit together arms to start to rotate open. During the change of direction, as you slightly “fling” the club away from impact, when all your body and the club is pulled tight, is when this rotation increases. As your hips and legs are rotating counter clockwise to the target the arms rotate even more clockwise – the opposite way – to absorb the stress. A small inside to square loop occurs. This finds the club falling a little flatter and behind you than it was going up. This is vital. It keeps the club under your back swing plane and starts your down swing from the inside to square. This configures the club to orbit around your shoulders instead of your neck for more leverage. This also allows you to deepen your wrist cock. This deepening of the wrist cock gives your swing enough slack to shift your weight to the target early in the down swing as it should. All forces are working together for powerful, efficient dynamics.
The club head that looked towards the ball going back now comes down with the heel ahead of the toe somewhat fanned open until below the belt line when it starts to again look towards the ball as the club is released head over handle and toe over heel 180 degrees from right hip to left hip. An all out release of all angles and levers.
The above instruction is all but not mentioned in most conventional writings on the subject of the golf swing, yet is IS SO vital! You keep the arms quiet going back to insure full body coil and then shift everything as you go back down allowing the arms and club to rotate clockwise thus setting up the correct dynamics in a golf swing. If you did not quiet the arms going back you’d lack body coil. If you did not then rotate the arm / club assembly slightly open starting down you’d frankly, hurt yourself. This “barrel roll” maneuver also wings your right elbow in front of you, where it belongs, instead of behind you. That all the other vital principles are achieved all in this one move is just a cornucopia of bonuses. Once mastered, your thoughts should be only of keeping your hands quiet as they merely hold onto the club while the shoulders do all the conscious work of the swing. When keeping quiet hands make sure to finish your back swing. your back swing.
When performing this subtle, vital move make sure to swing the club shaft, as much as possible, parallel to the target line.
Eastern martial arts teaches a “yin” and “yang” force. Every time you walk your legs do it when they relax between strides. One second the leg is working, the next second, relaxing, back and forth, with each leg. The relaxed state is “yin”, the working or active force is “yang” When you are at address you are in a “yin” state. When you make your back swing you convert to “yang” then back to “yin” at the top and then back to “yang” for the downswing and back to “yin” at the finish. Your arms have a “yin” and “yang” function as well. It’s a feeling, mostly, of each elbow moving the swing into the opposite sides of a swing. To get a deep coil I like to imagine my left elbow moving well into my right side territory and, for the downswing, I like to then move the swing by moving my right elbow well into the left side territory chasing the ball to the target. This is what I call boxing with the elbows. Some teach that the upper body powers you back and the lower body powers you forward but I think that the left side, mostly, makes the back swing and the right side, mostly, makes the downswing. At least where the arms are concerned. Regardless, this technique WILL deepen your coil. There is another kind of “yin” “yang” effect when your your right arm folds to allow your left arm to swing to the top and your left arm folds to allow your right arm to swing past it to the finish.
The arms automatically add power and speed to a swing due merely to their length from the shoulders. However fast your shoulders are spinning your hands and club are swinging so much faster merely due to added arc length. It’s important not to allow your left arm to swing independently past your chest before impact. It and the club must be slung through impact by unwinding shoulders powered by lower body weight shift to the target. Like ropes holding on, they are powered by the body pivot. After impact the arms do most of their forearm rotation as the club and arms are slung hard to the target. As if they are rotating from the elbows, counter clockwise to the follow through. This is the all important release of the club to the target past the hands. Like Austin was taught, try to bury the club into an imaginary steep, muddy bank, head first without splashing mud all over yourself, the club head like an arrowhead burying the club head first into the bank. It feels a little like throwing the club out of your hands to the target.
Mike Austin tried to keep a certain “L” shaped configuration intact as long as possible; the “L” shaped by his left arm and left collar bone until deep into the finish of his swing. As a youth he used to hone this technique by swinging a club horizontally into a heavy rug draped over a line. If his left arm swung out ahead of this impact; “Ouch!” He made sure his body swung his arms. When you imagine this image it’s hard not to see what happens instead; the right side is released into the shot, his whole chest now turning into the shot. An example of “yin” and “yang”. Passive left, active right, alternately, back and forth. And yet, with all this, the arms still try to work as one unit. It takes practice until it all feels like one piece.
Tucked right elbow or flying right elbow? Neither, but in between. Jack Nicklaus had proportionately shorter arms than most golfers and endeavored more to keep a steady head than others. Consequently his elbow, while not a flying elbow, was not a constrained one, either. For Jack it worked exactly as it should. The trend today is to align the right upper arm somewhat towards the target at the top rather than to let it creep behind your back too much. I suggest moderation, generally, in these matters but partly agree. Experiment and find what works best. If you keep a tight right elbow you must still extend the left arm to the top and get your shoulder past your chin.
It’s important, at address, that the forearms be aligned like a pie spatula to the target. That is; if you laid a plank on top of both forearms at address the plank would align itself to the target. This places both levers like a knife cutting butter at the bottom of the swing giving them maximum leverage. This alignment only lasts one foot into the take away going back and only during the impact zone going down but have both forearms delivering the blow aligned like a knife going through butter. This is made easier if your hands are ahead of the handle at impact. If you deviate at all it’s better at address and impact to have the right elbow bit lower, not higher, than the left. As you will notice, the right hand position automatically raises the forearm above the left and you must lower the right elbow a little to truly even out the angle. At impact, because the right arm is still slightly cocked, straightening only after impact, the right elbow is well below the left elbow. Both arms are straight, briefly, after impact.
Another thing most instruction teaches is that the arms maintain a fixed radius from the neck as they swing and that they be allowed to swing out and wide. Mike Austin invented a device called the “Flammer” which was an adjustable rod with a mount and socket that strapped to your chest the other end attaching the top of the grip. This device Mike could swing start to finish and look perfect doing it. This also kept the arms and hands in front of the body for maximum leverage. You must resist the urge to contract the arms at the top or any other part of your swing. Sam Snead said that power is on the top shelf, a phrase he used because it was like turning around and reaching for something on the top shelf behind you with your left arm. Keep the arms extended and let them fold only when dynamics forces them to, unconsciously.
The arms must allow the club to cock in the middle of the downswing and form a severe angle. This severe angle can range from about 95 degrees to about 110 degrees depending on the golfer and his particular style. One’s strength and athleticism determine how much. This allows the body some slack to move ahead of the club with as it transitions from a backwards coil to a forward uncoil. This helps absorb the stresses of this rotational compression and, at the same time, sets up the club for a release under the stresses that have now trapped it forcing the release. This is very much at the heart of why a swing has power: this angle setting and releasing of the club under the stress this rotational compression creates. Add the weight shift to the target and you have a powerful set of dynamics working somewhat effortlessly.
The arms connect the club to your whole body and the power of it’s full bodied pivot. How the arms match up with the club may be the most difficult and exacting part of the swing. The rest of the swing is merely a pivot and weight shift in both directions. Keeping the shaft, mostly, in correct alignment, naturally following the direction of the target line, especially whenever the club is parallel to the ground, is the main goal. Allowing for a very slight “barrel roll” as you change directions at the top marries the back swing to the correct down swing. Creating the most angle with the club in the first half of the downswing and releasing it after impact to the target is the other basic function The club head should square itself automatically if you keep the proper shaft alignment.
Heavier than other like sized other body parts, the head both stabilizes, balances and anchors a swing, the head and feet acting like vice grips holding the body firm as it shifts weight and coils and uncoils. At address the head should align with the shoulders so that when you swivel back and forth from ball to target the head swivels along the target line and not inside or outside that line. Better chin up a little than chin down, as well. It also helps to make sure your chest sticks out a little and not sunken in.
The head stays steady until near the finish when it comes mostly up and forward a little to ease the strain on your back. The worst move is to let the head travel target ward in the downswing. If anything, the head stays back allowing the lower body, instead to move left. Whatever else you do do not let the head travel forward in your down swing.
There is a small allowance for travel to the right from take away to the top, but only two inches. Once the down swing begins the heads stays put until well after impact. Bobbing up and down during the swing is to be avoided, as well. Tiger Woods, in his urge to get down to the ball before then pushing up against the ground at impact for centrifugal force, occassionally fell into this habit. This just proves that the real weight shift is somewhat circular in a swing and not just back and forth. The head is best kept steady, however.
Some like to look up sooner to release the weight to the front foot better. Annika Sorenstam and Dustin Johnson both look up early. I notice how Tommy Fleetwood seems to wrench his shoulders through by wrenching his head in a like manner during release. He is a gifted, natural player, too. Maybe there is some merit to all methods. I don’t knock what also seems to work but I’m used to and prefer the method that keeps the head angled with the chin back at impact so that I see a divot before I look up. This keeps me into the shot as the body uncoils beneath it. It also guards against the head shifting forward.
The Trunk and Back and Shoulders;
Just to look at this part of the body one would assume it delivers a great deal of the power to the swing. If it were all one muscle it would be the biggest of the whole body. It is, of course a group of back, hip, shoulder, neck and chest muscles, really, and they DO provide a LOT of power. The upper legs and hips are only the second most powerful part of the body, in fact. That’s one reason they control most of the weight shifting. They are one of your two biggest power sources. The trunk and shoulders may be even more powerful, however. Even the fact that there is a rib cage in the structure provides tremendous power. I used to call the back the “engine” of the golf swing when I ran a small golf shop in San Jose and gave lessons. Mike Austin credited the individual discs and vertebra as crucial to the golf swing. I thought differently than the mainstream, even then. Of course, the trunk coils and uncoils so much in a swing, tapping the large and small muscles of the back and shoulders it’s like the whole trunk is like a giant rubber band. Because the upper body is stretching away from the ball as the lower body resists the other way it forces the abdominal and trunk muscles to stretch. All this stretching is released coming down and through. It uses your lower body pivot and weight shift to the target to uncoil, powerfully, like a door slamming shut releasing the arms and club at maximum speed and control. Think of how an upright wash machine agitator rotates back and forth as it paddles the water and you get a feeling of what the trunk and shoulders do. Add to this a lateral shift away from the target and a larger, more powerful shift back TO the target, then also add the arms and club and you have real, explosive dynamics. This is the core driven style of golf swing. It starts from the ground, up, transmitted through the shoulders which, ultimately, do the most rotating. In order for the shoulders to rotate the lower body must wrench them into action and lead the action. The purpose of all this wrenching is to rotate the shoulders, like a perpetual motion machine, through the ball like a buzz saw. In a sense it’s like throwing the club through the ball with the shoulders, using the ground for leverage, the hands just holding on.
I believe that it is the shoulders that swing the upper body into action, back and forward, that they orchestrate the movements below like a marionette puppeteer controls his puppets from above. I believe that the ground tension up through the body moves the shoulders before the lower body, if just barely. They work in tandem with the subtle shuttle of the hips but control the whole upper body and even lower body. Like a record player has a peg that the record mounts onto and spins, the shoulders work the body to the top and then to the finish functioning in place allowing only slight head movement.
Just to coil one’s shoulders fully in both directions while keeping them centered in one space takes a lot of body strength. If you can also swing the club along the target line and wait appropriately between direction changes while shuttling your weight back and forth you have mastered fully half of the golf swing.
This clock wise back and counter clockwise forward rotation is powered by, are you ready?, the feet. It’s why the left leg is the first thing to move in the downswing, for example. For the back swing, even though the shoulders outpace everything else back to the top, it was made possible with the ground leverage of the feet. If you were standing on ball bearings it would be impossible to leverage the shoulders from the feet to make them turn . The traction your feet have with the ground gird your whole body up through the legs, hips and shoulders until the whole thing rotates and tilts FROM the shoulders. The back and shoulder muscles start the motion but require ground leverage to do anything at all, first. One way I like to think of the swing is teaming up your feet with your shoulders and letting those two elements conduct the whole swing. Of course, the hands and arms hold on and control and steady things and cock and release the club, but they are more like ropes being swung by the larger rotational forces operating below with the whole body.
This girding back and forward has a clockwise and counter clockwise working of the feet and not just back and forth action as conventional instruction suggests. If you’ve ever noticed at a big box golf shop with a net range, after about 25 balls you have to re adjust the mat because it has twisted in a counter clockwise manner due to this very rotational girding of the feet as it makes it’s powerful downswing. If the back swing were as vigorous the mat might twist clockwise. The point is that the weigh shift involves this rotational “working of the shoulders” from the feet, up. To move the shoulders back grab the ground in a clock wise manner, to move the shoulders forward grab the ground in a counter clockwise manner. All this while also shifting your weight, back and forth, from hip socket to hip socket. All of this makes up most of the power of a golf swing. The full body pivot.
Yet, another facet of the swing that fate has left me to point out before others.
Another way of understanding this is to think of shifting your weight at the top to, say, four or five O’clock on a watch face instead of at three O’clock (If you were standing at the center of the watch face and facing twelve o’clock) and for the forward swing to shift the weight to, say, eight or seven O’clock instead of nine o’clock to the finish. This helps add torque to your swing. It’s exactly like the fancy foot work a discus thrower or a shot putter uses as they dance in a circle, first clockwise and then counter clock wise. The only difference is the golfers feet remain in one place, throughout. Yet, another way to think of this is to imagine a revolving door going clockwise back and counter clockwise forward while also being shuttled slightly back and forth in the process. In a real swing the only difference is that the head and feet can’t move.
The first part of the back swing activates the shoulders and back, mostly, which activate the arms and hands and club. After a few feet the stresses build and the hips begin to turn and tilt while offering a resistance as the shoulders try to out coil the rest of the body. Like wringing out a wet wash towel you allow the shoulders to coil tightly against the resisting hips and legs. This can absolutely be overdone but most golfers under coil the body between the hips and shoulders. I prefer, rather than pitting the shoulders versus the hips, to pit the shoulder coil versus the knees, instead. This allows the hips to coil and still maintain the proper tension while putting less strain on your lower back. The resisting left knee is finally forced to kick to the right to complete the shoulder turn at the top but is also the first thing to kick back to the target once the downswing begins. The shoulders and hands are the last thing to uncoil. The downswing is from the feet, then the knees, then the hips, then the shoulders which delivers the arms, hands and club. In fact, slow motion reveals just this sequence, each just a step ahead of the other and occurring mostly during the actual strike of the ball.
To the top you want to move the left shoulder to just behind or even with the ball, depending on which club, whatever else you may do. This is like pulling back the arrow to your chin before releasing the arrow. You’ve got to introduce tension all throughout your back muscles and shoulder muscles like a stresses bow and yet keep things loose and smooth and ready for fluid motion. For the finish you want your right shoulder aimed forward of your head, fully released around your whole left side.
Alex Morrison taught me that it is two basic positions which really power the swing; back to target to the top versus chest to the target at the finish. Your shoulder blades and back muscles are like a catapult launching pad if “paddled” back and forth properly. All this torque is powered from the feet up through the body to the shoulders.
The ideal back swing turn is, I’d say, 90 to 100 degrees in the shoulders with about 45 to 60 degrees in the hips. The ideal finish would find the shoulders over 120 degrees from address (220 degrees from the top!) with the hips facing the target at 90 degrees. The arms don’t absolutely need to finish behind your head so long as you fully released the club past the ball. Most golfers may lack the flexibility to do this but try the best you can.
I’m sure the average tour pro turns his shoulders 90 degrees and his hips 50 degrees to the top. At least manage these parameters.
A word about the right shoulder; Extend it at the top. Just like you extend your arms outwards as you swing, do the same with your shoulders. From the center of your spine extend the shoulders outwards. At the top your right shoulder may even want to creep around towards the target a little behind your neck. So long as you you don’t coil past 105 degrees with your shoulders this is fine. Kind of like lifting a weight. If you want your right shoulder to hit down on the ball it helps to lift it up above the ball, first. By winding up a little at the top with also your right shoulder you are using the principle in drawing back a bow string. You pull it tight, first, then let go, for more power. Conversely, if you allow your right shoulder to stay scrunched and smothered at the top, there is little snap to that.
Much has been written by others about maintaining your spine angle as you swing. It only makes sense to keep any spindle type of machinery from wobbling off it’s axis and losing the speed it is supposed to create. Once your hands reach shoulder height in the follow-through you may then come out of posture and allow your head to swivel and move forward and up as you finish. This term “spine angle’ refers to the forward tilt to the ball angle, mostly. While you must swing the bottom of your spine towards the target several inches to provide proper weight shift, keep the over all angle of tilt towards the ball at address constant until well after impact..
There is a little mini swing with the spine in this regard. First the lower hip girdle and spine swing away from the target an inch or two or three to help shift the weight to the right hip socket, Then the hip girdle and lower spine swing several inches, even up to a foot, to the target going down. Very much like a pendulum on a Grandfather clock as the spine swings subtly below a steady head. A strange observation, if nothing else.
One other thing you must do when coiling and uncoiling your shoulders and hips is introduce SOME “tilt” and not just turn to the action. Some up and down rocking with the shoulders and hip sockets. I will explain why below.
Legs and hips;
Mike Austin did not recommend that the legs do anything except for one thing; “Start out with 60 percent of your weight on your right hip socket (for a driver) and then rock to your left hip socket making a forward press and then shift back to the right hip socket taking everything else back to the top” WITH just that move. Nothing else mentioned! Having studied this I find that that is almost all I need to think about as well. Austin, by rocking onto his left hip in the forward press, rehearsed his downswing. By setting up with his weight on his right hip before this move he had already rehearsed his back swing and all he had to do was then rebound off of his forward press not having to think about either move back or forward with the hips. You do move the hips left but you move the rest of the swing with them delivering the club like a sledge hammer. In fact, once I arrive at the top, although my weight actually redistributes itself to the left hip at impact, it is a move of the left leg that precedes the downswing as the body and club are arriving at the the top. The one thing that moves first in the downswing is, in fact, the left leg as it begins to wrench the lower body target wards in a counter clockwise manner. This wrenching left of the whole left leg accounts for most of the lower body force, in fact. The right leg acts as a foundation or axis allowing this to happen. This ‘wrenching around’ of the left leg begins quietly, sneaking ahead of the rest of the body, remains constant and intensifies at impact and beyond. This move transfers the weight to the left hip and pulls the weight off the right foot. This wrenching of the body with the left leg was a mystery to me until I wrote this book.This wrenching of the lower body, initiated by the left leg, is what pulls the shoulders, arms and club through, in fact. This lower body move ahead of the upper body down is followed by the shadow effect of the club swing. A “ka..boom” effect, for lack of a better description. From the transition point at the top the lower body wrench of the left leg ahead of everything else is followed, like dominoes, by everything else above. As unconventional as this may sound, photos of the greats (Sam Snead, especially)reveal that the right leg holds most of the weight one third into the downswing thus allowing the left leg to wrench out to the target, first, to catch the weight transfer this wrenching, in part, creates.
This is the move a baseball pitcher makes, instinctively, when he hurls his lead leg forward before he unwinds his upper body. Golfers need to think about it more. As mentioned elsewhere in this book Ted Williams, the great baseball hitter, used to swing his knees away from the pitch as it came at him to reflexively fire his knees TO the pitch to ensure good leg action..
In reality Mike Austin started his address with equal weight on both feet and then did about two, quick back and forth, miniature shuffles with his hips and made his back swing by rebounding off the second forward press. More of a lower body activation to start his swing. I liken the difference to stepping into a canoe versus solid ground. Stepping into a canoe or a small boat on the water is far more lively and active and you have to gird against the instability. This is how you feel activating the lower body and connecting it to the upper body before going back. Yet another analogy could be sitting in a race car and then turning the motor on. Now you have a power source below you. It’s activated and ready to shuttle your center of mass back and forth.
I should also add that Mike was interrupted when explaining the role of the legs in Mr. Reed’s book, but one of his long drive champ students, Mike Dunnaway, expressed a move of about 12 to 16 inches from the top to impact with the hips as one of his secrets for length. It’s impossible to attain the 16 inches Mike achieved unless you are exceptionally strong and athletic. A foot of forward hip travel with the driver is enough for most golfers. For shorter clubs the distance is even shorter. This comports with my notion of the hips acting like one’s fingers do when spinning a weighted object. The move forward is so powerful because that is where the most centrifugal force is needed. So Mike Austin, no doubt, added this powerful forward shift to his back and forth forward press maneuvers that I described earlier.
As opposed to most instruction that urges you to use your hips to transfer the weight back and forth, I prefer mind focus on the upper legs to do this weight shifting. The biggest muscles of your body excluding the trunk muscles. The upper legs. They should have a “free to move” feeling in them. Elbow room, for lack of a better description. This helps provide a lively lower body dynamic versus a frozen, non dynamic motion. They have to supply a trucking motion to amplify the rotation of the shoulders. They work WITH the shoulders, back and forward.
A powerful wrenching of the whole body towards the target from your left leg accounts for most of the force you create in your lower body, believe it or not. Both legs work together, however. The right leg collects most of the coil of the back swing and then uncoils it going down, the upper body spinning from the compression as the weight is shifted from the right leg to the left. for example.They both work together to wrench things in both directions.
One golfer once told me; “You’ve got to get your ass into the shot.” I agree. There is a lot of muscle and useful connective force to tap there. Push through to the target with your butt, too, as you follow through.
It can be argued that, with no leg activity at all, the mere movement of your shoulders, arms and club away from the ball will automatically shift your weight back to your rear hip. This is true. It does not allow for the fact that the lower body must be alive and active, like standing in a canoe versus static,solid ground in making a take away. In a sense the hips and legs do smoothly wrench the shoulders to the top – even though the shoulders outpace everything to the top – A truly “one piece” feel to the first few inches back, the whole body plugged into the act from the start. Think of the legs as a mighty truck offering a shuttle effect, backwards and then forwards, to the upper body. Of course, at impact, if you are not also landing hard on your left leg you are defeating the laws of nature and physics.
The legs job is to shuttle the hips back and forth and to use their strength to push up hard at impact against the outward pull of the club head. The left leg wrenches the whole body around towards the target and, upon impact, the left hip pushes up hard against the club during impact creating most of the power of the swing when all the formerly created angles and levers are brought to bear and released. Like landing on a power button with the left foot at impact pushing the hips and shoulders up against the momentum of the club weight.
A mentioned a “vertical compression” of the shoulders arms and club being thrown down to the ball against this upward pushing of the hips and legs during impact. As far as I know no one else has even identified this element of the swing. Add to that the clockwise and counter-clockwise body rotational compression in a swing and a weight shift and you have one powerful dynamic.
The legs work very specifically as they provide the subtle shuttle of the hips; To begin with, both the hip girdle and shoulder carriage tilt somewhat downwards towards the ball when they rotate back and forth as opposed to where they may aim at address. Not a 90 degree turn from the spine that aims above the ball. This involves a tilting up and down of the shoulder blades and hip sockets as well as the traditional more horizontal turn. This both prevents over rotation in the hips and allows them to harness body forces efficiently and powerfully. It also keeps the shoulders from spinning out early as well. As the downswing begins the left leg bows out, wrenching, to get ready to catch the weight of the swing at impact when the left hip socket supports the swings forces. The right leg, at first, just stays flexed leaning to the target as this occurs creating a squatting posture.(Snead, Nicklaus and Austin all epitomized this bowed left leg first move down technique.) In reality the weight is shifting DOWN to the ground and also towards the target at the same time and the legs are lowering and moving powerfully left at the same time. As the club arrives near impact the centrifugal force of the club from your shoulders is such that both legs must push up away from the ground to support and increase this force without straightening, after, if you can help it. The tilting up and down of the hips in tandem with hip rotation keeps the move efficient and loaded with maximum leverage guarding against over rotation in the hips. The similar tilting/turning motion of the shoulders towards the balls position keeps things efficient with no wasted motion.
It happens to work brilliantly. Just rock and shuffle your hips back and forth at address, rebounding off the forward press, to start the swing up to the top landing on your right hip socket and, from that solid as a mountain platform, swing EVERYTHING; club, arms, body left WITH your hip shift to the target. It feels like leaning on a car to push it by bearing down on it from your right foot at first, all the way to the finish and less like a separate, independent move of the hips. Rather than stress the hips that shift your weight I prefer to use the thought of the upper legs and hips. I like to think of the upper legs both seeking a little “elbow room”, side to side, back and forth. This active freedom in the hips and upper legs will cause the lower spine to swing like a Grandfather clock pendulum back and forth a little, especially forwards in the down swing. This is the only part of the torso that moves forward until after impact. The big shift to the target is done by the legs and hips.Remember that the transition, after however slight a pause at the top, must be snappy and quick to get ahead of the club with the arms and hands. In making this shift and unwind to the target make sure you achieve the sharp angle with the club shaft you need in mid down swing. This gives your body the slack it needs to race ahead of the club, a point I will make several times in this book. It also creates an angle sandwiched in between your rotational compression that you can exploit by releasing it, later.
Remember; this book accepts that what one thinks makes a huge difference;, how a move is considered. In this regard look to the action of a baseball pitcher or a football quarterback; The baseball pitcher rocks back to his rear leg and then throws his lead leg forward before planting it as the ball is released – a back and forth weight shift. The quarterback trots backwards about six steps after the ball is hiked, stops, takes about two forward steps and throws. Again, a back and forth weight transference that multiplies the power of the pivot. Like throwing a rock from a 60 mph truck bed versus just static ground.
One original thought I offer about weight shift dynamics is this; Imagine watching a chick try to hatch out of it’s shell. While there is some movement you can see from the outside, there is a lot more going on inside that you can’t see. Now imagine you are surrounded by a cylinder with slots that allow for arm motion. Now coil and wrench and shift weight all you want but keep it from disturbing the outward appearance of the shell you are surrounded by. In other words, be athletic, be dynamic, but stay relatively centered.
There are some sensations that apply to the correct feeling of the proper weight shift also found when riding an elevator. As the downswing begins you should feel as if a still elevator suddenly begins to go down. Your body wants to go down with it, like the image of Sam Snead’s famous squat as if he’s jumping, bow-legged out of an airplane. In the second phase of the downswing you want a lateral shift, a pronounced lateral shift to the target, slightly inside to out as you send the club from the stance line to the ball line. In spite of this inside out shift the club head will arrive square at impact. By impact the sensation is like standing in an elevator when it suddenly stops after going down. Now all your weight is pressed down into the ground as you are now mostly on your front leg. This powerful thrust upwards of your legs against the downward force of the club is what produces most of the power at impact. The finish is just a result of this last upwards thrust. That is one way to understand the weight transfer. It’s slightly circular but mostly lateral keeping the tension always opposite and just ahead of the swinging, weighted object to amplify centrifugal force.
Naturally there is much more to leg action that just shuttling the hips back and forward; they must be flexed at the knees and aligned at address parallel to the target. The hip and shoulder “tilt” up and down acts like the sides of your bath tub as the waves you might make climb up the side. The side of the tub catches the waves force, loads the force and returns it like a bow string, almost. If the hips and shoulders just turn out of the way they lose some of that leverage. The legs simply add the dimension of a moving truck to your swing. How strong they are makes a huge difference, too. If you throw a rock as far as you can from the ground it will fly “X” amount of feet. If you make the same exact throw from a truck bed traveling down the road at 60 mph the rock will travel a whole lot farther from it’s point of release than the rock thrown from static ground. That is the essence of what the legs and hips do. I noticed how Austin always shuffled his hips a little to start his swing and never left the starting gate without this activation of his hip girdle, first. Subtle but vital activation of the lower body that supplies a trucking or a shuttling of all the apparatus operating above, all anchored by a steady head and shoulders. I never start without this subtle activation of the hips button to also start my swing. This also helps loosen your whole body up, in general.
You may all be surprised to see that when you move the weight of the club and the entire swing from your loaded right hip socket at the top as it shifts target ward your right heel is actually off the ground at impact though it was the club’s weight, mostly, you were thinking about sending target ward. The actual loads distribute perhaps 80 percent of your weight to the back foot at the top and even more on the front foot at impact and beyond with the longer clubs.. The hip girdle definitely moves back and forth; a few inches going back and a foot, almost, to impact from the top. It is the force that replaces the move you make with your fingers when spinning a weight on a string; always opposite and ahead of the direction of the weight you want to move.
Even before Mike Austin’s methods were known to me I advocated a throw right from the top to impact and the finish of the club wasting no time from start down to impact. Allowing for a slight pause but with a snappy transition zone. Austin describes this first move down as where most of the effort is made in a swing and that the rest of the body reacts to this stimulus. I agree. It’s hard to throw a baseball overhand, hard, without first throwing your leading leg ahead of it’s action as it is hurled from the right to left hip socket and released to the target. Though the hands are throwing the BALL, mostly, forward the body manages to stay ahead of it to create and maintain and increase centrifugal force. Similarly your front leg bows target ward as you begin this throwing motion from the top, just like a baseball pitcher. Austin described the swing as a step and throw from the top all the way to the finish. Austin and I both believe that a throwing, versus a pulling or pushing motion is where big dynamics occurs.
Jack Nicklaus, too, is known for saying that so long as one keeps his left side in position ahead of the right until impact you cannot hit to hard or too soon with the right hand.
I translate all of this into the thought of getting from point “A”, the top, to point “B”; impact, as fast as you can after first collecting yourself at the top so that everything starts down in one piece.
While on the subject of centrifugal force, a circular or rotational force is more powerful than a linear force when it comes to golf. Try this; Take a putter and stroke the ball as you normally do. Your arms and hands will likely travel in a linear fashion. Now try swinging the putter by only tilting your shoulders up and down forcing everything to revolve around your neck joint from the collar bones like a teeter totter.. You manage a lot more force with a lot less energy you will find. The same principle applies to the full swing. If you try to add distance by traveling in any linear fashion you will retard power instead. The hip shuttle provides all the linear motion you need and even the spine is swinging like a pendulum from the head, right to left, when this occurs. A small swing hidden in the swing you might otherwise not notice. Even this right to left move originates from a central point that provides a rotational force.
The subtle shuttle of the hips back and forth, I now believe, represents the central circular motion one’s fingers make when twirling a weight on a string. That tiny, constant circular motion directly against the weight at all times to keep the string taut. The reason your forward shift is about a foot and your back swing shift only a few inches has to do with how much force you are trying to generate to swing that weight. Nearing impact you DO pull hard against the club weight to generate centrifugal force, just like fingers move to spin a weight on a string.
Similarly, when the club is above your head at the top the inclination is to first pull down and then to the target once the club is opposite the target. So there is likely a circular, counter clockwise shift, ever changing depending on the club’s position, hidden in the over all weight shift. Only I have pointed this phenominon out, to my knowledge.
When you add the tilt to your shoulders you will find both shoulders going under the chin and not just in front of the chin when you swing. Now your collar bones rotate towards the ball position instead of above it. Ditto for the hip sockets. This fact adds leverage to your swing.
Byron Nelson, the so called father of the modern swing, is a text book example of what tilt looks like. His hips slid as much as turned and his shoulders dipped towards the ball’s location and not just 90 degrees from his spine angle as he swung.
I think I understand why tilting versus just turning is important: The baseball player has the ball at hip level and he can afford to align his shoulder blade rotation like a record atop his spine at a 90 degree angle. The golfer, on the other hand, has a ball at ground level and should rotate his shoulders like they were a dinner plate’s edges aimed towards the ball requiring a turning AND a tilting motion to swing.
One does not have to align the collar bones rotary motion exactly at the ball’s location. It’s mostly important that a measure of tilt be allowed into your coil. Maybe two thirds coil and one third tilt feels about right to me, for example.
I notice a host of benefits to my swing since incorporating hip and shoulder TILT and not just turn. Better aesthetics to my swing. Now my hips are looking like Mike Austin at impact like I could never do before. Now both my left and right sides are like one big bow leaning into the shot at impact. I look more loaded with my hips at the top now that I tilt them a little. My arms and club look better and everything WORKS much better. I have identified what tilt really is. It’s proper aim of your action parts; namely your hip girdle and collar bones and/or shoulder blades. Though both are aligned aiming above the ball at address, you must simply move them so they rotate in the direction of where the ball is and not just 90 degrees from the spine. A whole new motion, entirely, that creates all the leverage you need and also removes unwanted motion that leaks power from a swing. That Austin was swinging vigorously his whole long life tells me, also, that this motion in a swing is only good and essential.
Mike Austin knew tilt worked, I think I know why it worked. Both Jack Nicklaus and Seve Ballesteros (Two of the best swings you’ll find) incorporated a tilt with a turn in their hips and shoulders. Both were explosive with their power.
Shoulders versus Hips; the “CORE” dynamic;
At the very center of your swing a dance takes place between your shoulders and your hips that supplies the bulk of your power. It’s an efficient application of leverage between the two. In it’s basic form it feels like merely cracking open a door and then slamming it shut as your swing revolves around your left hip socket as you shift your weight left through impact. In other words; as you swing your arms and club back you take the shoulders with them while your hips are resisting at first. This creates an angle or differential between your shoulder bones and your hip bones. From the top you maintain this differential as your weight shifts down and to the target. As you start down with your left leg as it begins to wrench back to the target, this differential even increases, or compresses. At the same time your club angle cock increases to absorb the compression. As your weight is transferred from your right hip to your left hip socket you then unwind this core pulling the shoulders around from the legs and hips which lead the move. In mid downswing it’s as if the shoulders and hips stay in their configuration of hips ahead of shoulders, even increasing the differential slightly. Hip bones leveraging shoulder bones around after first creating a differential between the two. By the time you land with all of your weight on the forward hip and leg at impact, as the club falls equally hard on the ball, everything is sprung into a full release.; Cracking a door open and then slamming it shut using hips versus shoulders dynamics.. A compact, compound move from the center of your body. Torque applied. The differential is created between the two, then maintained and finally released, the hip shift launching the trailing shoulders to unwind around the axis or pivot point of the lead hip socket while the club and arms revolve around the shoulders fully releasing to the target. To sum it up in one word, you wrench your whole body from the ground up through the shoulders and, finally, into the club.
This is the heart of technique, this torque relationship between the shoulders and hips, mostly. Of course without the feet grabbing the ground and supplying traction this is impossible. When I introduced this book I referred to a smooth but mighty wrenching of the body proper as being what powers a golf swing. Much of the backward wrenching to the top position is done in consideration for what happens in the delivery zone where most of this torque will be applied in the downswing. Marrying the ratios of backwards wrench with the forward wrench so that impact is where it all explodes is where much of the issues concerning timing are concerned. One reason it is good to be smooth in your take away and start down is to respect the fact that impact is where everything must arrive together. Being smooth everywhere else allows this to happen more often than not.
The best drill I can offer you to understand how this shoulder bones versus hip bones dynamics feels like is to teach you the Moe Norman swing. As I mentioned before his technique is a whittled down, pure essence of just the required elements needed to swing a club.
When I first tried his method it came quickly after my first twenty shots went to the left. Soon it gelled and I was surprised at how little motion was needed to transmit so much force. I had to spread my stance quite a bit and straighten my legs without locking them. Then I had to stand farther from the ball because I also had to raise my hands and arms up so they drew a straight line from my shoulders to the ball. The idea was to swing the club back on a single plane from the ball to the shoulders like record tilted from the shoulders to the ball aimed to the target. I then had to position my club several inches behind the ball which was just inside my left instep for a long club. This placed my swing in the first stage of the back swing before I even got started. My weight was already where I would have it at the top. It put, in my mind’s eye, the need to move left to the target to get to the ball no matter what else I did. Because this address represents the first stage of the back swing my shoulders were a little closed at address with my hips straight ahead. My left hip was slightly ahead of my left shoulder at address as well creating a spinal tilt away from the target. Now that I was employing all of Moe’s address requirements I began to practice. I was happy to find that the hand action I teach in this book – equal amounts side to side and up and down hinge action – works fine with Moe’s swing style. Because my legs were so spread out my hips were, in effect, locked in place unable to move side to side. They could tilt and turn but little else. Because my arms were raised and extended almost straight they, too, were restricted in their use. Even my hand action with such a constricted swing felt limited. And yet, as I swung the club into the ball, mostly only my hips and shoulders were moving at all. Of course the arms and club moved but as if only from the motions being produced from my core. I was enjoying the way the shoulders were able to throw the weight of the club down and out into the ball due to it being farther away from me. I was now having to go after the ball with all my weight at impact delivered into the ball. It actually felt easier on my body being on the offense versus the defense mode as I poured all my mass into the shot. My distance was identical and my accuracy was just as good as the swing I normally use only everything felt simpler, more concentrated and efficient.
As I walked away from that first test session I was aware of just how it is the shoulders being leveraged from the hips that make a swing after every other part of the swing is choked off from any possible false moves. This was Moe’s reasoning; to eliminate any false, unnecessary moves by subtle address changes. Now the swing depended on the hips and shoulders torquing against each other combined with a right to left weight shift from the top using the left hip as an axis to create power from.
Now that the swing was distilled down to it’s essence even a subtle leveraging of the shoulders against the hips – even just an 80 degree shoulder coil and a 20 degree hip turn to the top – managed to pack a lot of wallop. It’s all in how effectively you lever the two against each other and understanding that this is the “master move” of the swing, it’s heart and core. Golf is easier if this part of the body calls the rest of the shots, you’ll find.
From an aesthetic point of view the swing looks less than elegant and awkward with such a wide stance. That, alone, will discourage many from giving it a full commitment. Nonetheless, it actually works better than a number of better looking techniques. Moe epitomizes core power to make a swing. Everything else is reigned in to a secondary role. What is surprising is how little hip or shoulder turn one needs to create real power. Moe’s swing looks like a three quarter swing it’s so compact. Even his finish finds him with his club aimed to the clouds towards the target.
Just follow the above outlined procedure or get a book about Moe Norman to make this drill a pivotal part of your golf swing progress. Don’t practice it too much as the wide stance aggravates the knees and any swing deviation will creep into your real swing. It’s mostly a drill to force you to use your shoulders and hips against each other after most of the rest of the body has been limited in it’s motion. Once you understand the feel of the dance the hips and shoulders make just go back to your regular swing and apply this new feeling to it.
This answers the question I had when I began this book regarding my letter to Jack Nicklaus in 1979 about an epiphany I had that launched my game to a new level by, seemingly, letting my hands and forearms do everything. Now that I have studied the matter I agree with Lee Trevino who says that the trunk (the body) swings the branches (arms and club), not vice versa. Or as I put it, the dog (body) wags the tail (club and arms).
There IS some mysterious relationship the hands and body have that I don’t pretend to understand. Perhaps, on the other side of everything, there is a similar result focusing on the hands. I was in my mid 20’s when that method worked. At that age you can do almost anything. I now believe that the best way to swing focuses the mind, instead, on the shoulders and hips more than the hands and letting the shoulders coil everything back using traction from the feet to the top which shifts your weight to the right hip socket and then shifting aggressively to the target to your left hip socket, now reversing the ground traction from clockwise going back to counterclockwise going down. This transition zone is like a pitcher throwing his lead leg out in front of him as he prepares to launch the ball forward. It is quick and puts your center of gravity ahead of the arms and club now being launched right from the top with your weight shift, an all out point “A” to point “B” delivery as quickly as possible allowing the club to release past the hands to the target after creating a severe arm / club angle on the way down, first. The way the hips and shoulders pivot against each other in a scissor like fashion in tandem with this weight shifting is what this book is partly about.
Now, while on the subject of mind focus on the hands and that decades old epiphany I once had, I have learned that when you focus on hand action it is best to focus mostly on what they do in the forward, not backward swing. Especially the blow through the ball. I have already mentioned this but it deserves to be repeated.They seem to operate best with an offensive move versus a defensive or other kind of move. They seem to want something to DO. They work best when the focus is of them applied to the ball through impact as they unwind to the target.
My alternate style of pre setting the club angle as soon as the swing begins, because it incorporates a pro active, not just reactive role, puts the hands, too, in the thick of things with the hip and shoulder dynamic. It’s such a new technique – it occurred to me while in the middle of writing this book – and I’ll have to see where it leads, but I think it will show me the true role of hand use in a swing and whether or not it makes up a holy trinity; (hips / shoulders / hands) to compliment my core driven method.
Accompanying all this there is a trucking motion back and forth with the hips. That subtle shuttle, like grabbing a ski lift rope to ascend a hill. Active hips work with the shoulders supplying the centrifugal force one’s fingers make in spinning a weight on a string. To get things to the top they shift mildly right, then left, only now with full force, nearly a foot, to spin the weight as fast as possible. These active hips propel the shoulders, arms and club to unwind around your lead hip socket for leverage, as well as your neck where the upper body is concerned. Meanwhile your shoulders are supplying another rotational force as they unwind the arms and club. A compound leveraging of your whole body, hips and shoulders, accompanied by a weight shift back and forth.
The hands, on the other hand, monitor club shaft and club head positions and keep the swing wide. They do “HIT” but only after the rest of the body has maneuvered them into ideal dynamic positions, first. The arms make sure that the right elbow leads the hands to the ball and that the right side fires past impact. Mostly, though, the body pivot and weight shift does all the heavy lifting allowing the arms and club to explode as they create and release angles.
Remember’ If you simultaneously wind your hands and shoulders, fully, neither can over wind and your swing should balance out perfectly. The dynamics in between, while complicated, are made easier when you focus on your core rather than your extremities.
I sometimes imagine that my elbows function as if they were the hands, letting the hands just ride along. This helps integrate the whole body into one cohesive machine. At least for me. This particular swing thought may be a little too foreign for most of you, I’ll admit.
Ask any architect and he’ll stress the importance of a building’s foundation. I believe one reason Jack Nicklaus excelled was his vastly superior footwork compared to almost all other golfers. Sure, he sometimes lifted his left heel at the top but that was to complete his back swing against so strong a set of muscles. At impact, every time, he was planted squarely on his left foot with his right foot balanced like a butterfly on his instep, his heel slightly off the ground. Every time, like a Swiss watch. He was never found with his left foot rolled to it’s outside edge until his follow through. At the impact zone he had control of everything with his feet. They were stable and athletic and active. Nicklaus never let his lead hip pass his lead knee in the downswing. Mike Austin and Sam Snead came close but also kept the hip behind the lead knee. Snead’s left leg straightened a little more than I prefer but his footwork was artful as well. Austin found his right foot dragged forward slightly by his left side after impact a little but this is fine and shows proper weight shift. I believe Payne Stewart did the same and he had one of the all time best swings ever. He kept his hip behind his lead knee, even to the finish.
As we all know, Tiger Woods had back problems. I point to his tendency of getting too close to the target with his lead hip at impact which rolled his left foot towards the outside edge. This put undue stress on his back, I believe. I also think he restricted his hip turn too much in his quest for body torque in his past and over rotated to his finish with his left arm well behind his back. Now that he has made a remarkable first post fusion back operation showing at the 2017 Hero event in the Bahamas – at one point leading – I am pleased to see swing changes to guard against that. He has also managed to track his shaft more to the target versus a laid off pattern he once had. I hope he makes a full comeback and stays healthy. He may, indeed, have some more majors left in him, I think.
The feet do more than just accept and transfer weight. Already mentioned but worth repeating, they grind clockwise against the ground going back and counter clockwise going forward. This is how you actually rotate the shoulders. Imagine your feet are the bottom of a tin can turning the top of the tin can. As your feet grind so turn the shoulders. As the body coils they pivot from their insteps. That is, the left foot rolls to it’s instep to the top and the right foot rolls to it’s instep before impact. Both heels may lift, too, but this inward rolling of the feet is important. Nicklaus did this the best, I think. On the way to the top the right foot never lets the weight shift roll it to it’s outside edge. Instead it keeps pressure along the inside of the right foot, not unlike the pressure a sprinter makes against the blocks as he prepares to sprint. Once the downswing has begun you must guard against the left foot rolling to it’s outside edge before impact, It should be stable and flat on the ground while the right foot balances almost weightless at impact balancing on it’s instep. After the follow through it’s normal for the weight to roll to the outside edge of your left foot.
I noticed the footwork of Bobby Jones and was surprised to see his left heel lift off the ground a little in mid back swing. Kind of surprising since his weight shift to the right was somewhat minimal compared to others. Yet, this photo proves his weight is put into his right foot going back. By the time impact arrived Bobby Jones was almost 100 percent on his left foot, however.
At address the weight is about 50 / 50. At the top as much as 90 / 10 to the right foot and as much as 95 / 5 to the left foot at the finish. It’s less drastic with shorter clubs. There is a definite transfer of weight in a swing. Even impact registers at about 90 / 10 on the lead foot.
During the take away, if you have a forward press kind of motion, you may find a paddling up and down of the feet, right to left before you start your swing, helpful. Trading your weight from foot to foot to get them ready for the swing. Activating the feet. The feet actually initiate everything above them and, in fact, begin the weight shift to the right with the shoulders and the shift to the target afterwards.
Athletic, aggressive, yet a little quiet and disciplined as they supply the rest of your body with the leverage it will need throughout the swing. I notice how quiet the modern tour stars feet seem until the right foot merely rotates up onto it’s toe at the finish. There is a little wrench at impact as the left foot absorbs the blow but, otherwise, you’d never be able to tell by looking at the pros how much their feet really are working.
The feet are a vital chain link to the rest of your swing. Make them a strong link. Gravity is pressing your body down into the ground. This gives you the opportunity to use the ground for leverage. This is where the feet come in. They move in a rotational clock wise / counter- clockwise manner to coil and uncoil the body above and in a left and right manner to lever the club against the ball in a single direction.
That’s right, the club. No one ever seems to devote any instruction to what the club, alone, must do. Believe it or not, due to a weight shift there are two swing centers and two distinct club head paths in a swing. The back swing circle is about a full foot behind the downswing circle. The low point of your back swing, for example, is several inches behind the ball while the low point of your downswing is several inches in front of the ball. From face front it resembles the shape of a crescent moon, the inside edge more steep than the back side edge from the top to impact. Like two large Hoola Hoops leaned side by side against a wall, one being about a foot ahead of the other. As I said, this is due to the shift to the right going back and the shift to the left going forward. A third Hoola Hoop representing address would be only a few inches ahead of the backswing arc. The shift forward is twice whatever the backswing shift is. Once you begin your forward swing the whole center of gravity has moved forward almost a foot for longer clubs. This results in the whole arc shifting about one foot forward from the back swing arc’s path. All beneath a steady head and upper body. Strobe images of Bobby Jones bear this fact out. From face front he takes the club back to the top and then the camera shows how his downswing arc slips ahead of his back swing arc. So you do not trace the same path back and forward but a weight shift moves your center of gravity and your whole swing arc forward from the top. Making sure to take a divot beginning in front of the ball will aid in achieving this shift to the target with your hands ahead of the ball.
The club also has two different paths back and forward when viewed from behind facing the target. The back swing arc is a little more upright and above the shoulders while the downswing arc is a little flatter and around the hips more. This is also due to weight transfer and center of gravity transfer and other considerations relating to anatomy in the process. This produces a path back that is also slightly more straight back from the ball compared to a slightly more inside / out path coming down into impact.
The general path of the club is at an angle from the ball through your shoulders going back and just a little lower in the body coming down like a tilted plane aligned to the target. This means that, at the top, you allow your wrist to roll a little to flatten out the downswing plane allowing a small inside to square loop as the whole arc shifts left towards the target.
The toe rotates progressively around the hosel going back and then back the other way going through. Not dramatically, but 180 degrees spread out from top to follow through. (Clockwise going back and counter clockwise going down from your perspective.) As this book points out, you limit the rotation going back some to keep your left wrist from cupping at the top cocking, instead, your right wrist forming wrinkles across the back of that hand to the top and until impact. Most of the forearm and club rotation occurs in the transition and during and after impact.
Another matter involves where speed is applied; Always more after impact than before impact. That is the feeling to strive for; starting out smooth with the take-away and smoothly finishing like a bullet to the finish. The target side of the ball is where you want the speed. Even if physics proves speed is greatest just before impact strive for after impact speed, regardless.
The Swing; A Comprehensive View.;
Now that I have shown you the grip and stance (Elsewhere and out of sequence) and have given you an overview of the swing and it’s many body parts and how they all work, we come to executing the swing, itself, from withdrawing the club from the bag to putting it back in the bag.
I’d like to start, right off, with a new development I am enjoying; the alternate early wrist cock swing versus the one piece take away swing that is commonly taught. I will definitely also teach the conventional method as my new breakthrough style is cutting edge technique as far as I know. Only Dustin Johnson of the pro tour seems to employ this method of an immediate setting of the wrists upon take away and, as such, I doubt most of you will start off with this style. I’d like to get it out of the way, early, so you have a chance to try both methods, first, to see if you prefer one or the other. It’s early in the stages of research and development but I already feel confident that this new technique will render the one piece take away style obsolete as the early wrist set is easier on the body and especially the wrists and seems a lot easier to master, believe it or not.
In reality the early set take away should be called the one piece method while the so called one piece method should be called the three piece method. In the early set style the wrists start to activate at the same time as everything else and stay in sync with the rest of the body throughout the whole swing. In the one piece take away style the body moves first, the hands set second and, third, they arrive at the top, hopefully set properly, and that’s just the back swing. This tried and true method actually stresses the wrists in multiple directions unnecessarily. Going back there is a stress to keep the wrists frozen, the club swinging as if an extension of the left arm. This stress is akin to the stress that makes the shaft flex as it moves the club head weight. Then the wrists unlock and start to hinge gradually to the top. Then they must be timed to properly transition into the down swing, cocked just so. This transition puts reverse stress on the wrists as they change directions. In the early set method the wrists are always cocked until they are un-cocked. Simple. Less back and forth stresses on the wrists. The early set method allows one to hold the upper body coil into the downswing better and, because the wrist angle was set right away, the urge to further wield the club in a head over handle manner is ingrained. This same tension helps them hold onto their club angle better, as well, into the down swing. Another way of looking at it is this; Because the club is rendered weightless from the hands immediately, the shoulders, instead, feel the weight of the arms and club together, as one suspended, connected unit and ,in so doing, preserve the coil better so as not to disturb the tension or lack thereof in the hands with the club until impact. A feeling of the shoulders cradling the arms and club and keeping them tension free until impact. This keeps them coiled longer and better, I think, than the traditional technique that finds the hands always sensing and resisting the tension of the weight in the club head. In my early set technique you let the shoulders do all that, instead. The hands are just a connection until impact.
Both methods have their advantages but I believe the one piece take away grew out of a need to swing hickory wood shafts which flexed and twisted some and had to be swung like a rope to minimize this fact. All along, I believe, the early set style was waiting to be discovered to make golf simpler. I think it’s about time. So allow me to present my first impressions of the early set style of back swing;
It’s basically a matter of rendering the club weightless and free of stress by smoothly popping it into a cocked position as soon as you begin your swing. You try to mimic the postures the club will have just prior to impact as far as it’s geometric positions are concerned; a little inside of straight back and cocking the same way a baton twirls as it is spun from the center of the shaft, spinning a little like a propeller blade, end over end. The same action you get when throwing a stick end over end. The image of a weed whacker, it’s nylon filament line cutting grass as it spins furiously, may help in describing the rotation of the whole club as it whirls through impact.
If you examine a swing you will find that the club rotates head over handle one and half times going back and three and a half times going forward. And all this time you thought it was one time around your body. Nope. At address the club is vertical. Three quarters to the top it is vertical only the handle has rotated to the bottom (one) to the top add another half rotation. Going down the club rotates once from the top to late downswing, again trading handle for head; (one). From there to mid follow through, again; (two) and from mid follow through to finish (one and one half) rotations more! So, indeed, the feeling is not just a head over handle feeling but, rather, a head over handle over head over handle feeling. Really rotate that club shaft like a propeller through the ball. Pro active hands have a place in golf. Again, like I described in the chapter about hands, what they do going forward, not backwards, is where your mind focus should be. Especially during the strike as they are actually applied.
Who but I would point out that a club rotates head over handle FIVE TIMES in one swing? I can’t recall ever reading about that glaring but almost invisible fact, before. The lesson to take away from this insight is to go after the ball like the whole club was a buzz saw rotating end over end over end over end over end over end, over end over end, for it actually IS.
In reality the shaft spins like a single propeller blade, not two, around it’s axis, in golf’s case the hands. You may have to imagine that it does so twice to the top and three times back to the finish to grasp the kind of shaft dynamics I’m trying to describe. Think of how an ice skater tucks his or her body in to spin the fastest and how they slow down as they expand their arms. You want that compressed feeling that produces speed. Making a back swing kind of feels like curling everything to the top the way one rolls a jelly roll into it’s cylindrical shape. The innermost curl is the hands, the middle your shoulders, the outside layer your lower body. The club shaft curling into an angle, then the arms and body. A little like rolling a carpet into a cylinder and then unrolling it flat for the downswing. The beauty of this new technique is that it removes harsh shaft stresses and body stresses from take away until impact when the full weight of your body is transferred into the club head as it clobbers the ball like a buzz saw with unstoppable force, the shaft like a stick flying end over end through space and less like a stick merely swinging back and forth. At impact you get a distinct feeling of twirling the club like a baton, end over end through impact, head over handle as if doing so several times and not just one rotation. It’s a feeling, I’ll admit, but it seems to best describe the proper dynamic.
One way to get a sense of how this new wrist set feels is to simply balance a club from the palm of your hand, the shaft pointing straight up as it balances. The club has weight but no side stress on the shaft. In the one piece take away the rear side of the shaft is stressed as it is swung, pendulum style, slightly bowing the shaft.. Conversely the front side of the shaft is stressed coming down to the ball. In my new style you gingerly, and smoothly just relieve the shaft of any side stresses and cock the angle in the proper direction and posture and continue to cock the club all the way to the top pulling the rest of the body into it’s cocked position as well. All body parts simultaneously cock to the top, wrists included. This is a smooth and unhurried motion that even allows a smoother transition zone requiring less speed to get ahead of the club for the forward blow. The sensation is like a Cobra snake rising up out of it’s basket, hovering above the ground, coiled and supported by it’s coil. Coiled tight as a drum yet completely relaxed and in control. Conversely, the one piece style finds the arms swinging to and fro more and depending on timing to function, almost like two acrobats catching each other as they fly in space, frankly. In the pre set style you coil up like a spring and are able to hold the cocked angles longer at the top without stress and stay cocked longer into the downswing, waiting until the delivery zone to stress the club shaft and unleash your pent up, stored power.
We used to marvel at how Tiger Woods could stop a swing in mid down swing. From 50 mph to zero in a few feet. I imagine that he was still holding his coil halfway into his downswing waiting for the explosive release of all the angles created to that point. My pre set style seems to tap this ability to suspend one’s coil at the top and have control of everything as you transition retaining some of the body tension you made going back into the early downswing. After all, your wrists, by setting an angle right away, put the proper tension in the hands to better hold the backswing back. The swing started out with a cock of the wrists that set up a chain reaction all the way down to the feet cocking the whole body to the top. Because you activated this cock of the wrists from the start this wind up body tension was easy to feel and identify and thus preserve as you made the transition. Less back and forth energy and more direct coil from the ground up. You still do use the hip shift back and forth to power centrifugal force except your swing seems more stable and straight up and down from your stance compared to a sway sensation that accompanies the one piece style back swing.
In a profound sense it feels a little like taking command of the club rather than letting it take command of you. Right away it is subdued and tamed until it is wielded, like a snake hovering in it’s coiled state waiting for the moment to strike.
Another way of grasping how this swing feels different is to compare the action to the action one makes when playing what we (playmates) called “Three flies, up” a baseball game where the batter would toss a ball up in front of him and hit it as it descended to his hitting zone to waiting fielders trying to get their three flies for their turn at bat. The early set style take away feels like the club is tossed into weightlessness, like the ball as it rises before falling. From that point it seems to hide from stresses until the impact zone where upon it is wielded with an unstoppable, highly leveraged force to the target side of the ball. Just like the batter doesn’t feel alignment considerations with his bat, only it’s timed use, the golfer senses where the target is and where the ball is and aligns itself accordingly by feel. By considering the shaft’s relationship to the left arm as it swings you should be able to compliment the two for ideal leverage and direction. There are four things I consider; ball position, target, left arm, shaft. How best do I use these two levers together? Another way of appreciating this is to imagine swinging through a giant wall that is aimed to the target. A direct 90 degree attack that would not bend a nail if it were fixed into the back of the ball, but drive it straight through. This wall is aimed like your driver’s club face. You simply try to bust through it at a 90 degree angle and the shot should go straight. How the left arm and club shaft align themselves as a unit as you swing should help you solve any accuracy problems. It’s a little like Babe Ruth at bat; You sense the target, you sense the bat and you sense the ball and find the proper recipe for results, almost instinctively.
By the way, speaking of Babe Ruth, his whole talent as a batter seems to be summed up in the phrase “Less is more.” He stood at bat very unassumingly and calm and relaxed, his bat merely held in his hands up near his side, a stride into the swing and unwound everything like a propeller blade through the swing. Bobby Jones had the same calm demeanor at address, readying himself for the move with the least wasted motion.
Because this centrifugal tug is constant you must move quickly once you start down to stay ahead of this tug, this “weight”. That is why I emphasize this so much. You have to stay ahead of the spinning weight, especially in the transition. By comparison, with the pre set style you have more trunk control and can creep into position with your lower body before releasing your trunk coil. You don’t have to rely on timing quite as much as you can hold your coil in place better with a weightless club.
Now we come to the swing. I stated that my method will use as it’s platform the Gravity Golf System taught by David C. Lee. Essentially it uses weight transfer back and forth and body coil in the swing to propel extended and relaxed arms and hands and club powered by the large body muscles of the back, shoulders, hips and legs as the weight moves from the top, first going down and then forward, landing on the lead hip as an axis, and rotating the body out of the way of the arms and club through impact. As if the arms and club just fall into impact leveraged by the larger body muscles with the weight shift.
In a nutshell: rebounding into your back swing from the forward press weight shift, you simultaneously move the club to the top and coil your body and shift your weight to your right hip socket. As you transition into the forward swing you shift your weight to the left hip socket thus increasing your wrist cock into the downswing as you lead your upper body and club into the ball with your lower body. Both back and forward, the hips provide a moving shuttle, like your fingers make when spinning a weight on a string – always tugging opposite of the weight being moved. This is why you have to shift slightly away from the target with your whole body about an inch BEFORE the club can follow to make a back swing. Similarly, going forward the body must shift target ward an inch BEFORE the club can follow. Just like your fingers move to spin a weight on a string. That is the role of the hips, mostly. They provide that centrifugal force. Meanwhile the upper body coil and arms and club are held back until impact and release.
Coming into impact, the club shaft now severely angled from the wrists halfway down, as the weight is landing on the left hip socket the weight is deflected slightly away from the target line and opposite the weight of the club at impact. Dennis Lee describes this deflection as some seventy degrees left of the target line. Just know that your legs will have to exert themselves most at impact to offset the centrifugal force of the club head wherever it may happen to be at any given moment. Your arms and club weigh enough to pull your shoulders first back and then forward as they traverse forward. You must counter fall against this pull and by impact, with the club all the way to your leading foot and the ball, that direction is slightly left of the target line and back towards your stance line. Leaning back against the club weight. By the time your shaft is aimed to the target you pull directly against that, for example. During impact there is a hard landing on your left hip that pushes up against all the centrifugal force that the club head creates. Your swing pivots around that socket and allows the arms and club to swing past the body and to the finish. As the club goes down to impact you have to push up against that force with especially your left leg to increase and maintain the centrifugal force that is produced. Since you swing down and right of the target to meet the ball, initially, this defection of weight is inside the target line somewhat. The counter fall is the ricochet from inside out to square at impact and then outside in. As I remarked earlier you have the inside to square shift to the ball because it is on the ball line while you are on the stance line. The ball is forward in you stance and your club head swings in an arc. Because of these factors you must swing inside out just to be square at impact with the ball that far forward in your stance. From impact you must then counter fall back to inside the target line because that is opposite where the weight is at that moment. Again, like spinning a weighted object on a string you’re always tugging opposite the position of the weight at all times. In fact, just a shade ahead of it
Dennis Lee calls this the “counter fall”. This is the power pivot point of the swing where all the angles are brought to bear and they are forced to release.
This unleashes the club and now you have to release everything to the target past the ball position. The club shaft that was once aimed away from the target as it entered the hitting zone is now aiming directly to the target having rotated 180 degrees head over handle. Now you enter the finish almost completely on your left leg and hip, your body uncoiled fully to the target your right foot rotated up on it’s toe.
That’s the gravity technique as I understand it. Pretty simple. Let whole body coil and all the big muscles get involved and use a weight shift to unleash the package around its many pivot points delivering the club squarely to the target through the impact zone. The arms and club are whip slung through impact and remain passive and extended and relaxed throughout.
Dennis Lee did not invent this technique but helped identify elements that make it work. There is no doubt that many greats have used this technique from golfs first days. Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead used it so let’s examine both of their swings before I go into my instructions.;
As I explained, I have real time film of Snead that reveals timing and tempo considerations so let’s start with his swing.
Sam is relaxed and natural at address with a slightly closed stance. His back swing is definitely one piece with his left arm and club matched until the club is knee high at which point it starts to cock naturally due to momentum that he created at takeaway. Enough momentum to propel the club and arms all the way to the top position. You can observe that his left knee resists his upper body coil all the way back but his body otherwise accommodates this coil. This upper body coil is prodigious, indeed. As if Snead equates coil with power as if he equates arm extension and club width with power. He lingers at the top position a long time after first making sure he tapped out his coil. As he transitions into his downswing he keeps his arms wide and away from his shoulders and his lead knee, mostly, wings out to the target to get ready to catch all of his body weight at impact. His right leg is mostly just holding firm as his weight moves first down to the ground and then target wards as he enters impact. It almost looks like he is jumping out of an airplane, bow legged his weight is going down to the ground so much at first. Midway down his weight seems evenly distributed on both legs and by impact almost all of his weight is on his left leg. His club shaft angle increases as his arms move into the impact zone. He has held onto his upper body coil as his lower body leads the the way into impact. He has kept his head steady as he shifts his weight to the target. Now all his pivot points; his shoulders, hips, wrists, etc are in perfect leverage positions. His weight shifts all the way to his left hip socket as his whole body braces for release of the club. The release is complete and opposite of where the club was as it entered the impact zone. Now it is fully rotated to the target and even the club head and forearms rotate counterclockwise leaving nothing behind in the effort to deliver maximum speed and power. Sam’s arms and body look almost identical when the shaft is parallel to the ground at both the top and the near finish positions. The main difference is the amount of hip rotation – much fuller to the finish. It’s as if he uses his upper body like a huge coil and his arms like fixed extensions and that he swings this apparatus as if from his lower body. Sam Snead’s trunk is actually vertical at the top, not leaning away from the target as I recommend. So are many tour pro’s. The important thing is it is not angled whatsoever towards the target. It’s so important to keep the upper body back while the lower body moves to the target going down.
Compared to Jack Nicklaus Sam Snead has a relatively straight left leg at impact but otherwise is very similar. They both tap the power of their body coil and all the big muscles to make sure that nature does most of the work. As Moe Norman once said of the weight shift element of the swing; “It’s as easy as falling off a log.” Well, almost.
Now Jack Nicklaus’s swing;
Jack more exemplifies the reverse “K” address position. His head position is slightly to the right with his hands opposite his left hip. Jack keeps his right arm above his left more than Snead going back but uses the one piece takeaway all the way to hip height at which point his club cocks from momentum to the top. Because Jack is so powerful in his hips and legs his knees travel a lot compared to Sam. ( I recall as younger man plotting on paper the amount of knee movement in his swing and it outpaces everything except his arms.) Never are either of his legs caught in an extended or straight position but always with some degree of flex present at all times. Like Sam, Jack taps out his upper body coil and extends his arms and club outwards throughout his swing. Both players know that it is body coil and arm and club width that allow the weight shift to do it’s work. In the transition Jack’s powerful legs charge into action his knees leading the way. Jack’s right leg kicks to the target a little earlier than Sam but his left knee at impact is definitely more flexed as it catches the stresses of impact allowing the lead leg and not just the hip to absorb the blow. Jack’s swing is a little more reverse “C: than Sam’s in the finish, his head still nearer his address position instead of rotating forward and allowing his body to straighten up like Sam.
Mike Austin’s swing:
I think, perhaps the best non touring pro swing ever, Mike Austin must also be compared.
Mike is a little more on his right leg at address and his hips swing back and forth under his steady head more than Sam or Jack. They slide away from the target, without spinning behind himself, in a tilted manner. Similarly his shoulders tilt a little more than the others. Unlike Sam and Jack, Mike cocks his wrists a little earlier in the swing as his weight slides to his right hip socket. Unlike the other two, Mike makes most of his shoulder and upper body coil LATER in his back swing rather than immediately coiling them from the takeaway. Into the transition Mike wings out his lead leg like Snead and, as he enters impact, really shifts his hips to the target creating a massive spinal tilt at impact that finds his hands ahead of the club at impact. He keeps his knees flexed at all times allowing his left hip and leg to absorb his weight through impact as his right foot is pulled up on it’s toe. Mike stops rotating his hips after his club is extended to the target. He does not spin out, whatsoever. Back and forward his hip and shoulder tilt catches the momentum of the swing like a sail or a catcher’s mitt. Observing Mike’s tempo you will find that he does not rush the sequence of his fluid swing style. He starts the club back smoothly and keeps the motion smooth waiting until his extended arms and club finish their move to the top before he smoothly starts down. Even though his shoulder coil is executed a little later in the back swing than Sam and Jack his shoulders tap out and have to wait momentarily for the arms and club catch up. You see, it was the body coil that propelled the arms and club and they lag behind slightly. He relies on gravity to dictate his tempo. This has a way of harnessing all his power and delivering it in an effortless manner. His club head arrives at impact with all his weight behind it. Sam Snead shares this trait of waiting for gravity and momentum to finish the back swing before starting down. Jack, too, has a smoothness that helps synchronize his whole action for maximum leverage and effortlessness.
Even though Mike waits for the back swing to come to almost a stop, once starting down he moves fastest from the top position to half way down and describes this part of the swing as where the most energy is required, where the dye is cast and speed is created, that the release is a response to this first move down. I describe this move as getting from point “A” (the top) to point “B” (Impact) with utter dispatch and speed, leaving nothing on the table. I suggest that this thought tricks the body into the best body / arm / club sequence to create speed for impact. All three golfers seem to cover a lot of ground in this small space in the swing. Even Bobby Jones described this first move down as the most important move in the swing which involves a weight shift to the target.
None of these three swings emphasizes the arms behind the head finish position of many modern swings. They all have the elbows somewhat above or in front of the head. Especially in Mike Austin’s case, the club has been fully released to the target and needs no further manipulation after. Much of the finish position represents the brakes that the body has to apply to any swing to bring it to a halt, anyway. If you can spare your back unnecessary strain and keep the elbows from traveling too far behind your head at the finish, I say all the better. As for myself, I swing just how my body wants to the finish and immediately release my body from the stress of the finish position once I arrive there. No posing necessary is my opinion.
That Mike makes most of his shoulder coil late into his back swing is good in two aspects; the shoulders are applying speed even before the transition zone giving him a head start with speed and one of the best downswing thoughts you can employ is to make one last crank back at the top of the shoulders before you start down. This move encourages that. That he times his shoulder coil later in his back swing helps make sure that his shoulders are the last thing to move backwards before he starts down. This may aid the proper sequence of events and I encourage this move of emphasizing shoulder coil especially at the top rather than too early.
In viewing Mike’s top of the back swing position it would seem that he was doing Jack Nicklaus before Jack Nicklaus. The only difference is Mike travels laterally slightly more with his upper body. His head moves maybe three inches back and forth, like many tour pros. Jack, remember, was taught to vigorously keep his head still.
Jack’s arms are proportionately shorter than Sam and Mike and, as a result, they have to extend a little more at the top to be in proper position. No flying elbow, here.
I’ve explained the differences, but what about similarities? They all three swing wide with their arms to the top and fully, even lifting their left heel off the ground momentarily. They all arrive at the top with a fully coiled trunk and their weight over the right hip socket and they all then shift the weight to their left hip socket as the arms and club fall to the delivery zone. They all allow the club to cock most fully halfway down to the ball. They all lead the downswing with their left knee and foot and lower body while holding onto their club cock and body coil until the last minute. They all land hard on their left hip at impact leveraging everything from that socket. They all fully release the club to the other side of the ball after impact allowing the arms to release the club as the forearms rotate with the club, itself. They all find it unnecessary to unwind the arms behind the head at the finish and allow them to stay above or in front of their head. While Nicklaus may linger with his head back a bit the other two allow some straightening up of the body at the finish. They all swing on a somewhat upright plane. They all extend their right shoulder to the top allowing it to travel around into camera view. Similarly, they all extend the left shoulder all the way under the chin at the top. A fully extended set of shoulders and arms throughout the swing.
Nicklaus and Austin’s hand and club action back and forward are almost identical – the early wrist set of Austin and the late set of Nicklaus excepted. The club goes to the top traveling up the side seam of the body whereas Snead has a more direct path back. All three make a move from the top to impact that is slightly inside out until impact were the club is traveling square. They describe this as a feeling of swinging down and out to the target. The laws of physics automatically returns the action back to the inside after impact and up over ones’s left shoulder but it is a feeling of inside to square in the forward swing. As I explained earlier, this has to do with the fact that you are swinging from the stance line to the ball line from the top and must swing out to meet the ball. The forward positioning of the ball combined with the fact that the club travels in an arc requires an inside out path to impact just to arrive square at impact. All three minimize wrist and hand and fore arm manipulation to the top arriving with the driver’s face aligned with their left arm at about a 45 degree angle, their left wrist straight, neither cupped nor bowed. If any of them err on the side of a cupped or bowed left wrist at the top they err on the side of being bowed a little. This keeps the club below the plane and makes it easier to send the club outwards to meet the ball which is several feet in front of you. Were they cupped it would be like having a screw loose on a hinge rising out of position thus requiring the talent of a Fred Couples or Bobby Jones to take advantage of whatever extra freedom it offers.
They all use the gravity swing that moves the big scaffolding of the body parts wide around a steady head; the shoulders, back, arms and club, hips and lower body and in both directions. This is facilitated by shifting weight off of the left foot to free the left side up so it can coil around the right side. As the passive arms and club reach the stall point at the top the weight is transferred back to the left hip letting the right side unwind around the left side, thus tightening the whole coil. Now the fall to the left hip socket unleashes all that power and coil as the left side pushes up against centrifugal force at impact unwinding the whole everything under a steady head.
Think of the inherent power of an action that wraps the whole left side around the whole right side with a shift off the left side with the shoulders coiled at least 90 degrees and then transitioning to the opposite force; shifting the weight to the target and off the right foot and onto the left foot now allowing the whole right side to release around the whole left side, all this powered with a massive weight shift to the target that lands the weight hard on the left hip socket at impact as the body and club pivot around that socket. The arms must stay relaxed and extended, going along for the ride, but they are then whip slung through impact with massive power, all that your body can produce. Because it was the body core and the big muscles that did most of the work it feels almost effortless. The role of the hands and arms is to properly align the club shaft, mostly, throughout the swing, to stay extended and tension free and to allow the body pivot to propel them to the target.
Completely counter intuitive to most of man’s instincts and sensibilities. Childlike in it’s imagination, it is the best technique ever used by anyone, ever. At least so far. I doubt this will ever change as long as humans are constructed as they are. My three favorite swings; Nicklaus, Snead and Austin and hundreds more have used it all along.
This technique uses the shoulder coil and the hips with a weight shift to propel relaxed and extended arms and club. It’s very integrated and one piece and less prone to breakdown.
This technique likes width and volume and coil and hates constriction and timidity. It’s a very free and soaring kind of feeling as the ball rockets skyward like an arrow released from a powerful bow, your weight supported by your left leg at the finish with your whole body stretched out. Mostly, you’ll notice it feels effortless for all it’s power and accuracy. This technique taps gravity and the large muscles of the body. It uses the joints and pivot points for maximum effect.
Think of all the bones and muscles your body has and make sure to mostly use the largest ones to propel the club. The hands and arms multiply all the forces they create. In fact, in studying Austin’s swing, you will notice how his left arm allows the right arm and club to release past it before it allows swing momentum, not arm manipulation, to continue it’s motion to the finish. Going back to his childhood drill of swinging into a heavy rug on a line, his left arm does not swing out ahead of his body during impact but lets a released right side pull it forward after impact.
Creating Centrifugal Motion;
During the take away you create centrifugal force, right away, whether using the early cock or one piece method. This is done mostly through the shoulders; Imagine that your shoulders are like a giant wheel atop a post, like a carnival ride with carriages that hang from cables fixed atop the wheels perimeter. When the ride is off the cables hang straight down. When the machine is activated and the wheel on top starts to rotate around the pillar the carriages below begin to swing out a little due to centrifugal force. The cables are swinging out at about a 45 degree angle when the machine speeds up.
This is the essence of creating centrifugal force, initially; rotate the shoulders like a wheel atop a pillar as you simultaneously shift your weight to your right hip socket, the club swinging like a weighted rope away from the ball. This move will get centrifugal force acting on your arms and club as the body coiling swings everything to the top. Make sure you get your left shoulder all the way under your chin at the top. You should not snatch the club away from address or unduly increase grip pressure but, rather, ease into motion with a proper amount of force. The Gravity Swing technique refers to a release of the club early into the back swing, a wrist cock if you will, that releases the club and arms from any arm tension required to initiate the back swing motion. Mr. Lee suggests that the amount of “heave” away from the ball with the shoulders and back muscles and this release point be right on the money, neither too weak not too powerful. Just enough force to propel the arms and club all the way to the top at which point they reach a stall point and start to fall back to the ball. Once centrifugal force is activated you maintain this force and increase it during impact, also with body rotation now going the opposite way forward, the hips tugging against an opposite force of the club weight like fingers spinning a weighted string. As the club is allowed to cock fully midway into the downswing and by the time you land on your left hip at impact, centrifugal force reaches it’s maximum force. At this point your hands are busy just holding on and allowing the swing to release past the ball.
It should be said, also, that to create centrifugal force the feet grind in a clock wise and counter clockwise fashion as well as back and forward. That is they act like the bottom of a tomato can: To spin the can’s top you must spin the bottom in the same direction. Similarly, to rotate counter clockwise going forward you must gird in a similar fashion with your feet. All this while also shifting weight right to left, back and forth. The fact that a golf mat spins in a counter clockwise manner for a right handed golfer suggests, indeed, that this rotational girding of the feet takes place, especially in the forward swing.
In a simplistic view it could be said that the feet rotate the shoulders and swing the arms and club while the hip shuttle adds the needed punch when it comes to creating centrifugal force. In this sense the hips are a little like the force you use to start a lawnmower by pulling on the cord. While you want to have enough tilt to avoid spinning out and losing your leverage, you also want to “pull the cord” with your hips through the ball. That is the force that acts like fingers spinning a weighted object.
In observing Sergio Garcia’s enviable impact zone last year in slow motion I noticed that his hips and feet and shoulders did most of their rotational work through the impact zone. This dynamic replaces what would otherwise be an independent action of the arms swinging out ahead of the body. Once the arms pass the body rotational body force is retarded. Garcia uses body rotation to swing his arms and club forward, not vice versa. It bears repeating that when Mike Austin swung a club into a heavy rug on a line and kept his left arm from swinging out ahead of his body it forced his entire right side to rotate and crash into the shot like a wave breaking on the rocks. The minute you try to tense up the arms and use them independently the proper body rotation is prevented.The dog wags the tail, not vice versa.
This is the best point to end my swing technique section, right there with the slow motion footage that proves that the body does most of it’s rotational work during the actual strike of the ball. That the body either swings the arms or the arms swing themselves but can’t do both at the same time. That the best technique has the arms and club swung by the body mechanics, not the other way around.
This answers, for me, the question I always had ever since my 1979 letter to Jack Nicklaus about my success with the thought of just thinking about my hands and nothing else to make the swing work. I don’t discount the possibility that certain hand thoughts can trigger correct body actions but I have to say that, for now, it seems that Jack Nicklaus was correct, all along, and I was a student raising my hand out of turn, perhaps, at the time.
I recall then that Jack devoted his monthly Golf Digest lesson’s section to just the hands for about a year, straight, after my letter. I looked for other hints of my role in his swing philosophy or any references to my letter at all and found only one true reference; It was from his lifelong teacher, Jack Grout, who remarked about his sudden swing changes, then; “Too handsey..”. Jack then went back to his roots and began extending the club more on both sides of the ball and won the U.S. Open at Baltusrol, as I recall, and the crowds were yelling “Jack is back!” He was slumping before my letter but I regret any distraction I may have contributed to then and hope this book makes up for some of that. That Jack took all of this in stride is emblematic of how he handled adversity on the course his whole life. A true champion, through and through.
Jack, going to my Carmel, California post office and seeing your letter with the Golden Bear seal and your name addressed to me is a thrill I will always cherish. Thanks for writing me back.
This may also be the time to bring up Alex Morrison’s influence on me and Jack Grout, for that matter, who promoted Morrison’s teachings to a young Jack Nicklaus.
As I mentioned, my first foray into big time competition was the Southern Amateur in Miami, Florida in 1977. I came in second to last due to my inability to avoid all the lateral water hazards on that course.(many holes with creeks on both sides) Just months later with only a few more events under my belt, there I was in third place in the U.S. Amateur qualifying event after 31 holes at one under par. It was a tight, wooded, dogleg kind of course and I was playing solid golf. I credit my reading Alex Morrison’s book; “A New Way To Better Golf” written in the 30’s or 40’s, with vaulting my golf to a new level.
It really occurred when I saw two photos, side by side, of him without a club at all. One photo showed him with his shoulders turned away from the target. The other photo showed him with his shoulders turned to the target, his arms at his side. When I saw this I thought how stupid it was to think that that move had anything to do with the golf swing. Once I tried it I realized that that move had EVERYTHING to do with the golf swing. Pretty soon my whole swing was orchestrated from those two position, like bookends, virtually making my swing. The footwork, the hips, the arms and club, everything flowed into proper sequence when I achieved those two positions which required the shoulders to rotate, fully back and forward. By taking care of the shoulder positions at the top and the finish the rest of the swing took care of itself, in a sense.
Jack Nicklaus used to hear from Jack Grout “Turn more” in his lessons. “Extend more” Things Morrison stressed. Alex Morrison pointed out how the large back and shoulder muscles get pulled back like a sail full of wind on the back swing and are then unleashed into impact in the downswing. Big muscles making golf more effortless. He was ahead of his time in doing so and quite successful with his book. I recall how he managed to get scores of professional Broadway dancers all swinging like a pro without taking out each other ankles on the same stage in just days. He told them all the right moves and they all swung like Sam Snead within a few hours. That book made a difference in my life. Only Jack Nicklaus’s books influenced me more. By the way, “Golf My Way” by Jack is the best selling instructional book of all time, I recall reading once.
I now believe that the shoulder focus helps anyone get results faster than other body parts and it so happens that the shoulders, the space between them, at the base of one’s neck, also happens to be the center of the whole swing once you add a golf club to your hands. Go ahead, hold onto a golf club and raise it above your head. It’s about the same length away from your neck than your neck is to your feet. Right in the middle of your whole machine.
From your feet which give you traction to move any part of your body at all, the shoulders are the last thing they connect to not counting your arms and club. In this respect you turn your shoulders to a coil from your feet and everything else in between gets it’s proper amount of coil almost automatically. The hips only half as much as the shoulders staying proportionate to their distance from the ground.
That the focus on shoulders helps one finish his back swing before starting down is crucial to correct technique. Too often, if one is thinking of other body parts, he may race down before his body has finished it’s coil and throw the whole motion out of whack. There are lots of reasons why mind focus on the shoulders takes care of the rest of the swing. This is the only stable part of your body besides your feet. Everything else is moving all over the place. The shoulders, however, are centered for most of the swing only coming out of their posture to stand upright at the finish. It can fairly be said that any centrifugal force emanates from this region, the shoulders and neck, and that the hip shuttle and weight shift merely adds punch at the right moment. The very fact that the body rotates first clockwise back to the top and then reverses direction in the opposite direction compresses the swing and creates most of the power in a golf swing. Focusing the on the shoulders gives one the best chance at a fully integrated technique that balances out the whole body in all the right amounts. Learning how to marry this body coil with the shoulders with the club and the arms is the secret to golf, in my opinion.
I recall once looking down at the ground at my bare feet and hands below me on the carpet of a hotel I was in in the 70’s while playing a tournament. My hands face down together between my feet. I thought then, maybe these extremities held the keys to golf technique. Now, decades later, I suppose, if that’s true, that the feet swing the body and club and the hands just hold on and align things, mostly. They also create, store and release an angle with the club to maximize dynamics. Maybe it sounds simplistic, but that’s how I see it. By focusing on the shoulders you focus on the center of the swing and I believe that brings the best results. You turn the body from the shoulders, back and forth, they get traction from the feet to do that. The shoulders swing the arms and club. Ultimately the feet are involved, perhaps more than the hands.
THE CORE DRIVEN GOLF SWING; RECAP.
For enduring the painstaking detail I regret it takes to lay out this knowledge, congratulations if you have made it this far. Now it’s time to simplify things and just recap the swing in a broad and general way so that it makes sense as one fluid motion that you can conjure up at will, someday. Someday all you should have to think about is the exact shot you are trying to produce and just pull the trigger. That is the essence of playing golf; losing yourself to the shot, only. I suspect most tour pros focus on the shot more than anything else. They have already paid their dues and know how to swing a club.
As it so happens, this stage of the book finds me coming off of a month long layoff from hitting balls since a left thumb injury (not golf related) forced me to. Normally after a layoff like that I’m a little, if not quite, rusty for at least a few days until I get my swing back. Not so this time. It was like I never lost a day at all. In fact I hit the ball even tighter than usual. And with only a 3 metal and no warm up. So, it would seem that writing this book and reformulating even my own swing where it was awry has paid of in spades. Now golf really IS like riding a bicycle. It is now natural and accessible and at my beck and call.
I promised you, the reader, the ability to create out of thin air a powerful and correct swing by simply applying your swing technique knowledge to your various body parts and covering just a few basic tenets to succeed.
I suppose the first tenet, once a correct stance and grip are employed, is a steady head. Not frozen still but reasonably steady. The head and shoulders area must stay centered, not unlike your feet, as the body performs it’s functions. They both swivel and rotate but stay centered until the finish whereupon the upper body is allowed pivot forward a little and to stand up straight, somewhat. If anything, a little sway back and forth of a few inches, only, is preferable to a reverse sway of forward and then back. If you ever see the T.V. show where a Cheetah is fitted with a camera atop it’s head you will be stunned to find that the head of a Cheetah, even while running over uneven ground, is as still and steady as a new car on a smooth paved road. Uncanny! This proves you can move very athletically around a steady head.
The second basic to get under your belt is the full turn, back and forth, of your shoulders and to let that motion orchestrate most of the rest of your swing. Your connection to the ground for leverage with your feet makes this motion possible. They gird the ground both clockwise and counter clockwise as well as back and forth away and to the target. This combination of rotating in two directions, one against the other, creates a rotational compression. It’s one reason why the club shaft cocks in the downswing, to absorb some of this compression and deliver it at the last second during impact. While making the back swing resist against the shoulder coil with your knees a little to get a tight windup of your muscles and keep the lower body ahead of the upper body until after impact. While gathering up maximum leverage with your shoulder and body coil match it with the gathering up of your wrist cock to arrive at the top with the proper balance; both fully tapped and ready to unload.
Another tenet is to incorporate into this pivot a weight shift back and forth mostly from hip socket to hip socket and from foot to other foot to amplify the power of the pivot and coil. At impact most of your weight should be on your front foot. Arriving with your weight on the lead hip socket and foot is like landing on the power button and where most of the power occurs. This is a result of upwards thrust of the legs versus downward thrust of the club, now heavy with centrifugal force, coupled with the unwinding of your body and the un-cocking of the club. This shift from hip to hip replaces the motion one’s fingers make when spinning a weight on a string, constantly keeping tension opposite where the weight is at any given moment. It is especially important to shift your weight TO the target as you start down. A virtual must. The most reliable method I know of to do this is to wing the left leg out before anything else moves in the downswing. This prepares a landing pad for impact and gets you into position so you CAN move left with the lower body. This is best timed when the club is changing direction at the top. Except for this one move the body otherwise all travels in the direction of the club. When it is going back the body goes with it and going down, the same. The hips may only move a few inches going back but must move forward almost a foot from the top to impact for longer clubs The gentle opening of the whole body to the target up[on impact and beyond functions like a bow slinging everything else target wards. The body is not static at impact but always rotating. The tried and true technique of taking a divot in front of the ball is one way to see if you are properly transferring weight to the front foot and ensuring that your hands are ahead of the club at impact. A shallow, dollar bill sized divot should begin just in front of the ball for a mid iron. If not, you need to work on your weight transfer and hand action.
Regarding this pivot and weight shift of the body it is useful to incorporate a little “tilt” and not just turn to the motion. To move your hip and shoulder girdles not just 90 degrees from your spine as they pivot but also a little angled towards where the ball is on the ground. More vertically. Just a little, mind you. This directs the orbiting joints to the ball position imparting a little more leverage while also restricting too much turn which can leak power out of your swing. That Mike Austin did this disproves the notion that you can’t rotate too much. You can. His power swing proves what is and isn’t important in that regard. None better. The ideal.
Another basic is to keep the arms and club extended and not to let them contract until the finish. To keep them soft and responsive to the body pivot and not tense up and try to take control of the swing. They are swung by the pivot much like the club is also swung. Both as a complex scissor-like apparatus. They go along for the ride, mostly, supplying vital length from the shoulders to magnify the speed of the pivot. They also function dynamically, positioning the elbows for maximum leverage as they swing the club. They align the shaft of the club through all it’s stations more than anything else. There is a yin and yang factor with the arms, like your legs when they walk. You want both handle speed and not just head speed at impact. It’s useful to imagine hitting the ball without a club and just your hands, as if the back of your left wrist were the club head, to get the feeling of this zippy move past the ball.
Another tenet is to keep the club shaft aligned as much as possible along the target line throughout the swing. To do so as the club is swung from the ball line at address to the foot line at the top and back to the ball line at impact and then to the foot line at the finish. To swing the club shaft along the target line on a tilted plane. There are two ways to do this; One involves tracking the ball target line like a laser beam with the butt of your grip, the other; tracking an extended arc that parallels the ball target line with the butt of your grip. The former may, possibly, allow more speed the latter, possibly, more leverage. Try both methods and find which agrees with you the most.
A very important tenet is to gather leverage with both the shoulders and your wrists, simultaneously. By doing so your swing balances itself out, neither one beyond the ideal. This encourages a full use of the body and arms and club. A one piece, fully integrated feeling.
Another tenet is where the speed is applied; mostly on the target side of the ball as opposed to the back side of the ball. To get from the top to impact with utter dispatch and speed. Not to lunge, but to wait for the body to collect itself at the top and to go down to the ball in one piece, body and club, like a bullet, right from the top with most of the speed occurring at impact and beyond. This thought tricks the body into the proper sequence forcing the lower body ahead of the upper body and the arms and hands ahead of the club before impact.
Another tenet is to keep the hands and wrists quiet until halfway back to the top at which point the hands and club open up 90 degrees. This creates body coil that would otherwise be lost if you over cocked or rotated your left forearm too early.
A vital tenet is to create a small inside to square loop at the top as you change directions to iron out the back and downswing. This requires a slight roll of the hands that slightly flattens the club plane from it;s rise to the top. The right palm is faced more skywards as the club falls slightly down and behind the path it made up.
Another vital tenet is to create a severe angle with the club shaft and arms in mid downswing. To do this amidst all the other flurry of coiling and uncoiling and shifting of weight. This move allows your body the slack it needs to get ahead of the club and on the lead leg for impact. To get the feel for this practice it first with a pitching wedge and half swings. Allow the club to increase it’s cock immediately as you make the downswing, releasing it late with pop and leverage. It’s also a great way to chip and pitch, generally. Gradually ramp it up to your driver swing and it’s not all that difficult since it is a natural athletic move, anyway. As described earlier, achieving this severe angle in the downswing traps the club between the clockwise and counter clockwise rotation, or rotational compression of your core and then forces it’s release.
Another tenet is to swing the club head over handle, (in fact, five times in one swing) but especially from right hip to left hip when the shaft goes from aiming away the target midway down to where it points directly to the target midway to finish. This motion is violent and dramatic and leaves no room for steering the shot. It’s a feeling of complete release. Not only does the head rotate head over handle but the club head rotates toe over heel as well. This is where all the angles of your coil and uncoil as well as where all your wrist angles are released. The release should feel like burying your club into a muddy bank in front of the ball at hip height, head first, allowing the club to fire like a bullet to the target. Not unlike the feeling of letting go of and throwing and releasing the club to the target By this point all your weight is on your front leg and the swing is merely on it’s way to the finish. If your hands need a prompt imagine the tee in your grip riding down the tilted bicycle rim pointing to the ball until just before impact and then turning over pointing to where the ball was right after impact. A dramatic rotation of the whole club intersecting with the ball, the hands swinging briskly ahead of the club head.
Once your swing has performed it’s task un task it and stand upright and watch the shot as if you were a spectator. The sooner you relieve the stress of the swing from your back the better. One reason I suggest this is because you are more likely to swing to a fuller finish if you know that your body will bail out, anyway, with less concern for the stresses. Swing all out and then bail out, in a sense. You might even want to put the club on the ground and lean on it’s grip like your playing partners are probably doing. A proper swing should have enough speed, even at the finish, to pop the arms out of position as they recoil in front of the body and relax. I say let the whole body relax once your swing is finished.
Not too much to it, people. Not a cinch, either. I suggest that by just following these basic rules, layering them one atop the other as you practice, will find you in one piece swing mode in no time. Your core will be doing the heavy lifting swinging the arms and club dynamically as the swing happens automatically like it should. There is some sequencing, in the downswing, mostly, you have to get right but these steps take you there.
Now, let’s walk through a swing from start to finish. Let’s begin with a driver;
You sense the exact shot trajectory and distance you want, a fade or draw or straight shot and you sense the impact sound and speed you will need to produce the shot you see. You sense the club and body angles involved and you sense where your body parts all are before you swing. Since the driver swing differs from a normal swing it is O.K. to have 60 percent of your weight on your back foot. Most other shots will want the weight 50 / 50 or even more weight forward for shorter clubs. As you step into your address you check off some twenty key points that all have to be in an exact configuration; ball location and the location of all your body parts. This takes several seconds. I use it to program my swing, much like others use a waggle. It’s not unlike a jet pilot checking all his gauges before starting down the runway. I do waggle a little, myself, also. By the time all the check list items are in proper place and alignment you are now ready to start the swing. Begin with a slight rocking of your weight to the front hip socket and then a rebound off the front socket now to the rear hip socket. Take the whole swing with this shift backwards; club, arms and the whole body as you coil resisting a little with your target wards inclined knees. If you are using the traditional one piece back swing this is like swinging a weighted object on a rope to the top maintaining the sensation of centrifugal force. If you are using the early wrist cock method you merely start cocking the club right away relieving it of any side stresses on the shaft rendering it almost weightless. In this instance you still sense the overall centrifugal forces of the rest of the swing. This is produced from the back and shoulder region of the upper body which heaves the club and arms enough from the start to smoothly send the club all the way to the top position. The connection to the ground with the feet allows this coiling of the whole body. The arms gird to the torso so they move together with the trunk. The arms and hands make sure to track the club shaft in a target wards alignment as much as possible making sure not to roll the left wrist open into a cupped position but, rather, a square position that finds the wrist flat with the club face aligned with your left arm at the top. You should be allowing equal amounts of up and down and side to side motion with your wrists. The arms have remained passive and extended and stay so, throughout. Most of your weight is on your rear hip socket. Your left shoulder is under your chin, your back to the target. Your lead knee is now brought back a little as the coil is finished. It will be the first thing to fire back with your left thigh to the target as you start down, your whole body, with the club, seemingly, in one piece.
Now you arrive at the top and both your body coil and your arm swing with the club find you coiled like a spring, your shoulders turned away from the target. Now you are ready to recoil against that turn the other way compressing the rotation you have achieved as you simultaneously allow the club shaft to cock even further as you begin the downswing. This cocking of the club gives your body the slack it needs to jump ahead of the club before impact. At the same time it creates a powerful angle with the club that can be exploited as it un cocks. As your downswing unwinding occurs your weigh is shifting, first down, and then hard to the target. Once the downswing begins it goes all out to impact and beyond in a flash, one motion, maximum velocity saved for after impact. Like striking a match. Your lower body goes target ward while your upper body remains centered. This attempt to get to impact in a flash triggers the lower body to lead, automatically. Meanwhile your hands and shoulders hold onto their coil until lower body stresses force them to unload their angles. As this happens your right elbow drops down against your side going under your left arm angled ahead of the hands and both elbows lead the hands into impact. The middle of your body is rotating counter clockwise with a measure of tilt as well, staying ahead of the action pulling the entire upper body and club through. Meanwhile your hands are keeping the angle you formed with the shaft until actual impact, as well. Every angle in your swing is now at maximum compression and the acute angle you made with the club shaft going down now has to uncork. At this point of the swing you simply ALLOW a full release to occur. All the hit your swing needs is already supplied. Your whole body is rotating counter clockwise through impact from the feet up through the hips, up through the shoulders, arms, hands and club and in that sequence, each just ahead of the other. Your weight is landing hard on your left leg and hip and pure physics and the laws of nature demand a powerful accurate release of the hands which mirror the action I described of pointing an imaginary tee in your grip handle riding down the inside of a slightly tilted bicycle rim aligned to the target and aiming it at the ball until impact and then aiming that same tee the opposite way after impact to where the ball was, a 180 degree turnover of the whole club, head over handle and toe over heel, all of this at the bottom of the swing. The hands, it should be pointed out, are also being swung and also have speed and beat the club to the ball, slightly ahead of it, resulting in the bottom of your downswing being several inches in front of the ball. As the club goes to parallel past impact it should be pointed directly at the target as your fore arms and shoulders uncork all their angles. At this point your right shoulder seems to goes vertically below your left shoulder. At this point of the swing physics merely brings all this dynamic motion to a stop at the finish. Immediately upon completion of your swing allow your body to come out of posture and relieve itself of all stress. You may want to simply stand like a spectator and just watch the great shot you just hit. Think of Babe Ruth NOT posing after hitting one out of the park, just swing and then run to first, or just stand for you golfers.. This will add years, if not decades, to your back, I believe, and it might allow a little more freedom to the finish since there is a bail out of all stress option waiting for you at the end.. ….(To be continued….)
The mental aspect of forcing the game to be easy is a whole other department but I have laid out what my experience has taught me works the best. Some of what I write is original and found only here; the clockwise and counter-clockwise girding of the feet, for example. I offer the golfer new information that I believe will stand the test of time though it is new, now. The main thing is to find a way to enjoy golf at a high level of skill. Then it really is a great game, almost like flying, and that is where the real allure lies for me. I hope you find your efficiency improve as you read this book and apply it’s tenets.
Putting and chipping and pitching.
Because putting is so personal I will use the term “I” in describing this section as opposed to “you”. It’s a far less athletic move and more of a case of what works for some does not necessarilly mean for all. I do believe in my method, however.
A putt is a miniature golf swing. A chip or pitch is a miniature golf swing. They all swing on a slight arc as opposed to a straight line. They all require a steady head and upper body and correct address and technique. They should all have a similar tempo. A two foot lob shot should take as long as a full swing, for example. There is a pause between directions you have to wait for. If the shaft is to be likened to a rope just swinging then you want to disturb the rope as little as possible, especially on putts. Depending on the circumstances certain chips and wedge shots and even putts may require different punctuation in the swing. Only a putt keeps lower body action to a minimum, except for long putts. For putts over 40 feet you actually SHOULD engage a little hip pivot action during impact to help your arms and shoulders swing the club. In fact, to swing a putter like a regular golf club, I find it necessary to let the core, the area around your belly, without actually moving, wrench counter-clockwise during impact and use that part of the body to deliver power funneling that power through the hands which are mostly just holding on. Otherwise you’re introducing effort into the shot you don’t need if you can do things more easily. A counter clockwise girding to add leverage to the stroke. Mostly, though, you try to keep lower body movement out of your putting stroke and allow the shoulders to move, instead. I like to imagine a point at the base of my neck that I pivot the stroke around. I imagine that my shoulders are like the crust of a slice of pie and that the pointed end of the pie is the the club head. I further imagine that my neck is like a pivot point around which my pie piece swivels, club, arms and shoulders as one integrated piece, swinging together arriving like a wall at impact and beyond. A point representing the center of the crust. First, the shoulders must be aligned with the target line. I allow for a slight inside to square to inside arc for the club head but make sure it is parallel to the line I want to start the ball on. I even allow for a little oscillation of my imaginary pie spatula configuration as the shoulders open and close a little. As similar to a regular swing as possible is my rule of thumb. The face of the putter also opens and closes a little as it makes it’s journey. For a putt I swing the whole club from grip to head like a rope back opposite the target, one piece with my arms and shoulders. Exactly straight back from the impact I want. No loops allowed in a putting stroke. No inside out or outside in paths allowed either. Just a straight arc exactly opposite the direction of your starting line, the putter arriving at right angles to the ball exactly. If it is a very long stroke I allow for the club head to swing up away from the ground so as not to lose the natural arc of the motion. I want to avoid any steering or straight lines to my stroke. For longer putts I like a little wrist break at the start and to keep that subtle angle intact through the strike and beyond. No roll over as with the full swing. Other than that one thing a putt is like any other swing. Because putting is a less demanding technique I sometimes leave the set angle out of my stroke and putt like the shaft is a rope I am swinging a weight at the end of. Just like a pendulum. Experiment to see which works best for you. The latter degenerates less into inside out or other kinds of loops, I’ve noticed.
In the full swing, because the hands mostly just preserve the angle until impact rather than try to hit the ball, is it possible to putt with this same dynamic? Sure it is. I touched on this above. There is no wrist cocking, per se, but you can duplicate the feeling of letting the body hit the ball using belly area torque at impact and applying that force through the hands. That’s what I do. I think a putt should be just like a miniature golf swing. Keep golf simple.
One tip that will help you all is this; make sure to swing your elbows and hands and club head all together on the same line. Even though there may be an arc involved versus a straight line all these parts should swing in the exact same direction. This will straighten out your stroke and give you confidence.
The address and correctness of technique is almost all you have to trust once you pull the trigger for that all important putt you need to make. Can you stand still and make a correct stroke from start to finish and trust it? To keep the pace and tempo correct? Do you know the configuration OF a good stroke? It’s shaped a lot like the full swing pattern. Mostly, can you visualize the putt you need to make, it’s exact journey? You really have to apply visualization technique to be a great putter. You need to so vividly see the putt you are about to make that all you seemingly have to do is touch the ball for a successful strike, after. You have to sense the energy impact will require and the speed of the strike, the weight of the ball, the friction of the grass, the dryness, the wetness, the wind, the lack of wind, the grain, the type of grass, the exact slope, the barometric pressure, the altitude, the temperature, etc. etc. etc.. Putting is an art in this respect. You have to master the elements of gravity, friction, weight and even irregularities in the green, itself. You even have to allow for the fact that your heart is beating and your lungs are moving. No wonder it can make such a difference in one’s game. A tour player can go from 120th to first if he can shave a few strokes off his putting game. Just that, alone. It’s just you, the weight of your putter, the weight of the ball and the friction factors and lay of the green you have to calculate, exactly, as often as possible. More, you must mentally and spiritually conquer putting. It is a mind game, just like the long game, maybe more so in fact. I’m sure some pro’s imagine a tiny spot inside the hole they are aiming for rather than just the whole hole, itself, and other mental tricks to make them a better putter. Regarding my visualization routine, if I don’t actually see the ball start to oscillate and creep forward a millisecond before it is hit I am not focusing enough on visualization. The ball should look as if it is a living, breathing entity with it’s own mind and not just an inert piece of plastic. Another visual I use is to imagine a bar code receipt that spits out just in front of the ball as it is struck as if there is a specific code for that exact putt designating direction, force, angle; all the ingredients needed for that specific putt. In other words; at the exact moment of contact a specific formula is applied to the ball with all the needed ingredients included. I find it helps to imagine what iron do I need for this length putt? A 3 iron, 4 iron? As if the hole were a distant green I was trying to reach with an iron. This helps determine the force I will use.
A slight firmness should be present in your putting grip. Compared to a third your force in a full swing the putting grip requires only 20 percent power at address.
My own putting stance is a lot like my full swing stance. I place the ball forward of center and my eyes directly over but slightly behind the ball with my hands grazing my left thigh while my head is centered over my right hip or just a little inside of it, like a regular address. One good tip is to assume your stance, look down at the ball getting a feel for where you are aimed and then look up to where you think you are aimed. Often as not it is not where you thought you were aimed and you should adjust accordingly. Taking your own sweet time is better than rushing your putt. Imagine the shot executed as you intend in your mind’s eye a few times, observing the likely outcome until the outcome says “plop!” Some find that using just the line on the putter to focus on helps. I like to see the whole shape of the head, besides. Then make your steady stroke, always aiming for a spot within the hole and not just the hole, itself. See the journey, first, and just make square, accurate, solid, accelerating contact to complete the picture. Keep your head and whole body steady and follow through.
Smooth must part of your stroke however you make it. Smooth starting back and smooth starting forward. I liken the image to a man carefully exiting his crowded garage in reverse with his, large, expensive car straight back, exactly, so as not to bump anything. Once he is clear of the debris then he can gradually add speed to the back stroke. This insures that you have not allowed any twisting or manipulating of anything the first few inches. On the other hand the stroke is one, un-interrupted, flowing motion and, like the heave away from address of the gravity golf technique, there is a certain amount of over all energy that must be present with the back stroke to carry it back enough to match the force needed going forward. Trust your stroke and make sure you make a correct stroke after first visualizing the putt and putting your mind in the balls position and perspective, first and foremost.
There are two ways to achieve over spin. The first is to let the loft of the putter propel the ball away from it’s resting spot, air born the first few inches, until gravity brings it back to earth and in contact with the abrasive texture of the low cut grass. This contact with the grass immediately imparts lots of over spin to the ball to get it rolling and taking advantage of gyroscopic stability. This is the technique I use for choppy or uneven green surfaces, warding off any unsuspected early mi skick from the green in it’s journey. The fact that putters have about three degrees of loft has to do with this function, in fact; letting the grass contact upon landing spin the ball forward.
The other method I use for pure and true greens if I want extra roll. If you hood the face a little so that the handle is ahead of the head you de loft the face and find impact on the ball just above it’s equator instead of below it’s equator. This automatically imparts over spin, right away. Use it only if the greens are smooth and true or whatever surface you “glue” the ball to may kick it off line..
One technique I should stress is to mirror impact with address. That is, arrive at impact with the hands, elbows, shoulders and club as they were at address, not ahead of or behind the club head but as they were at address. This wards off misalignments and bad timing issues.
Timing and tempo is the other must. Wait for the transfer of direction, just like a full swing. Always smooth and always accelerating through the stroke.
On long, lag putts I aim for the exact hole location. I allow for the ball to stop as close to point “B” from my address point “A” as possible. I die the ball at the hole on long puts. On shorter putts I try to roll the ball with enough speed to go only 18 inches past the hole if I miss. Otherwise subtle irregularities can topple the ball off line and defeat a good stroke. I plan on making 100 percent of my 18 inch putts, back, besides.
There are two schools of thought here; The one suggests leaving the ball below the hole so your next putt is easier, the other that you have no chance at all of going in unless you fall in on the pro side from above. I am neutral on the matter. It’s what you feel comfortable with.
On some long putts I play mind games to get the distance right. I imagine I am playing an iron to a green rather than a putter to a hole as if the hole were a green, instead. Is it a 3 iron force, a 4 iron or what? As I described earlier, a putt is just like stroking a one iron to a green in many respects. The same basic swing, only much smaller. I even consider my putting stroke a dress rehearsal for my next swing; the driver, usually.
How good are the pros? They probably make 50 percent of their ten foot putts, I’m sure, if not 60 percent. At least when they practice. I find that if I hit a dozen balls I can make 8 percent of my 90 footers because the earlier putts show me the exact line, slope and speed and all the nuances along the way until I dial the last few putts in. Just watching the other putts helps me visualize, besides.
This brings me to the subject of what grip to use. The conventional grip is just fine; the reverse overlap which places the entire right hand on the club with the first finger of the left hand draped over the right hand, the left hand on top. I sometimes use a ten finger of double regular overlap grip or whatever feels best. Whatever grip you use I recommend that both palms face each other and that the wall this union creates is aimed like a wall to the target, just like your putter face. The same as your full swing grip. I even like to use the right hand pincher style with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand draped over both sides of the grip. Sometimes I allow my right thumb to just lay down the center of the top of the grip like my left thumb, though. You may experiment to see what works for you. You must find a grip that allows you to putt for hours without causing grip discomfort. I putt many hours every week and I know some grips just don’t measure up in this regard and I discard them.
(At the time of this writing I use the conventional reverse overlap grip only I also extend my right forefinger down the backside of the shaft so that both hands have the forefingers acting like book ends.)
Finally, settle on a favorite putter and stick with it. You can only hone in to your putting potential if you stick with one putter. I know. I have dozens and dozens of putters. I’ve owned hundreds in my life. Once I started to putt with just one putter I noticed a big over all improvement in my putting. Just that one thing made a big difference. Get a putter you can marry, in a sense. It has to go with you down the road. It is part of your body as far as you’re concerned. Experiment at first with all kinds and then decide on a good one made with quality. One that looks good to your eye and gives you a good feel and good results. Face balanced putters rotate toe over heel less than heel mounted putters which require more toe over heel technique. One is no better than the other although I am leaning towards the face balanced style because it stresses the hands less. It’s about what YOU like the best. Experiment with grip sizes and shapes, first, also. I have one putter very much like the tiny Bristol blade putter Jack Nicklaus blazed his record with. It is a very well balanced and effective putter, indeed. It has an asymmetric shape that lets you know exactly where it is aimed just by glancing at it, besides. No accident Jack did well with it. Today science has suggested other designs are better. You must ultimately decide which is best for you. Some designs I find, when they are moved, are just too large and distracting. Some designs are obfuscated at the edges due to the color or lack of contrast. You will find the right size and shape and feel, eventually.
(I can’t resist letting you know that some of my putter designs have been picked up by the biggest names out there and copied. Certainly key features. I used to show my drawings around a lot, in fact. I started the “wings” at the outside toe and heel as well as the illusion of water running down a drain of the putter channel section and things like that.Those involved know I’m telling the truth, here. One rendering was even named with my persona in mind. Less than flattering, I’ll keep that name a mystery. I’ve lived a very rough life, after all, and don’t blame them for my condition, then. Frankly, I’m honored that we agree on taste and I don’t mind the intellectual borrowing. – I’m busy everywhere, ever the architect, I know. If I were making putters they would all be smash forged, above anything else, for maximum feel.)
CHIPPING AND PITCHING;
Pitches and chips require the weight transfer from hip to hip. Not so much for very small chips but even a ten foot chip requires weight shift dynamics. Just make it a miniature golf swing and trust it. Always make sure you accelerate through impact no matter what kind of shot you make. There are a lot of shots, maybe unlimited in scope and variety, when it comes to the short shots. Rather than detail every kind of shot I’ll give you some and let you enjoy the journey of learning the rest on your own. It all boils down to physics, weights and forces and green friction and slope conditions, mostly. The tempo’s are mostly similar, like a regular swing, but not always, depending. Even a small swing takes the same time as a large swing and you may find that you have to wait to change directions, at first, with the small shots. Avoid the sudden stab or the rebound away from impact after impact that resembles a stab. Try to finish longer on the target side of the stroke than the back stroke. Except for lob or high trajectory shots always lead the hands ahead of the club at impact hitting down as little. The small, low trajectory shots are hit with firm wrists while the lob shot is almost all wrist action, the club head flying AHEAD of the hands at the moment of impact. It’s the only shot in golf that applies to. For the lob shot you open your stance, open the blade and begin the swing with the wrists cocking sharply. On the down swing the wrists fully un-cock past the hands with a vigorous flourish and follow through. Because the blade is impacting the ball at such a severe angle it has very little mass behind such a glancing blow and the swing must be almost twice the power you think it needs until you master this shot. One move that really helps with the lob shot is a target ward leaning of the legs throughout the back and downswing. It takes practice but it is the least used shot in pro golf compared to it’s merits that I can think of. It’s a lot like a sand explosion shot in this regard. In the sand explosion you pretend that the ball is just another grain of sand that explodes out together with the rest of the sand. You have to swing extra hard to offset the fact that a layer of sand one inch thick is cushioning impact. With the lob shot it is the glancing blow that has to be accounted for, instead.
The sand shot is like the lob shot except that you enter the sand at least one to two to three to four inches behind the ball , depending, taking out a good patch of sand in the process. Bigger than a regular divot. Most sand explosions don’t need the head swung ahead of the grip before impact and you still need to hit down on any shot, lob or not.
On lob and most sand shots you open up your stance several degrees and also open up the blade and swing outside in. Guard against over doing this, however. As you open up your swing angle you impart a more glancing and less dependable impact. Keep it to a minimum.
Some shots around the green are better made with, say, your 3 and 4 iron instead of a shorter club like the 8 or 9 irons, for example. The advantage is there is no spin to factor in. Just like tossing the ball at a low trajectory with your hand letting the shot roll itself out. This is a firm wristed technique with minimum hand action.
In general, if you want the ball to stop more you retard the roll over of the toe past the heel after impact. If you want the ball to roll more you allow more toe over heel action after impact. For example; on a lob shot that you want to land and just stop allow the club head to fly past the hands before impact but also, at the same time, prevent excessive toe over heel action in your follow through. If you want the ball to hit and run, generally, regardless of what type of shot, then allow the natural toe over heel motion into the follow through, even exaggerating it a little. An inside out impact offers more roll than a outside in impact which does the opposite.
The wedge game is full of contradictions and variables. Hitting down usually makes the ball go up, even when the club is swung ahead of the hands, for example. Approach this part of golf like a scientist. How much force and weight is required to get the ball however far you need it to go? It’s so much like tossing the ball to the hole with just your hands it should be regarded as such, I think, spin shots not included. It’s just different clubs with different lofts and weights, lengths and different circumstances you need to adjust for. Just approach the short shots like a regular shot with it’s own peculiar needs. Again, assume the position and perspective of the ball, first, just like putting.
The above is before the editing out of some 20 % of content
Below is draft one, soon to be replaced with draft two, above..;Just saving the notes for now.
Shoulder coil and shoulder recoil – wrists creating and releasing an angle. – These two forces, all by themselves, when performed simultaneously, make a golf swing happen. It just so happens that these two forces are the two most powerful moves in golf and each occupy the two major centers of centrifugal force in the swing. Even the weight shift is a consequence, not an instigator, of of these two competing forces. Maximum shoulder coil and recoil along with adequate wrist / shaft angle and release are the goals. Because the two forces compete against each other at the same, exact time they each cancel out any over usage on either side. The wrist angle and release put a check on too much shoulder turn and the shoulder turn puts a check on too much wrist cock. Like a pair of book ends, so to speak, they compliment each other and truly orchestrate the whole swing all by themselves.
This wrist / club angle and release component of the swing is not a muscular effort but rather a sensing of where and when these two motions happen for maximum power. The arms are but extensions and just hold on while the body core does most of the rest of the work. The arms stay in front of the body as the body rotation slings them with speed through impact. At that point the right arm, especially, prepares to un-cock all it’s angles in a throwing motion right down to the ball; the elbow bend and wrist bend extend into a straight line down through just past the ball. In fact, provided your core turns fully back and you are extended at the top, your arms and hands do throw the club to the ball as fast as possible in a seemingly straight line from the top. A most instinctive and natural move, the urge to hit, made possible with proper coil, first. In fact, the body won’t allow a throwing motion unless it re positions itself, first, instinctively. This means that before you can “throw down” with the right arm your lower body will automatically pivot out of the way and your club angle will automatically increase as a result of instinctive moves only a throwing action triggers. It’s one way to guarantee club head speed at impact; to build speed right from the top with as much dispatch as possible. You need to also make certain to lead the hands into the ball with the right elbow and make your low point a few inches in front of the ball, not at the ball. Not to be confused with an arm only action, this is part of a larger whole body pivot move and falling left towards the target after the top position is reached and the weight shifts left as the lower body pivots and clears the way for the club and arms.
The placement of your feet, more than anything, determines the path your swing will make at impact. Except for sensing where the target is with your swinging arms and club there is no need to steer the swing so long as you maintain proper body posture throughout. A steady head is critical until after impact, for example. Wrist angle and release, powered by body coil and recoil, create the power, not effort.
dynamics are correct. The real engines of the golf swing are shoulder rotation, both ways, and of the wrists storing and releasing an angle with the club shaft. Those two forces will help you, t
To make the golf swing a natural motion that puts all the moving parts in order one has to think an unnatural thought. It just so happens that this thought has to do with manipulating the part of the swing where the center of centrifugal force lies; the shoulders. Any other part of the swing won’t work as well and will only complicate things. Centrifugal force has a gyroscopic quality t
Since that entry I have re-discovered the art of throwing the weight of the club down to the ball, direct line, from the top, as fast as possible, with the right arm and hand, unloading all it’s angles, ensuring vertical compression and satisfying the urge to hit something, a vital part of any swing. (I think hitting a golf ball hard is preferable to constant wars, don’t you? Certainly more sane). This, too, was part of my 1979 epiphany. The hands DO hit. Just as vital, I understand, now, how swinging the arms and hands ahead of the club at the start of the downswing creates the lag and dynamic body sequences that, literally, “make” a swing.
A proper golf swing is a seemingly effortless culmination of forces created from the whole body core that emanates to the tension free arms and hands whose primary job is to hold on and to direct the position of the club shaft, as well as create and release an angle with the club shaft and mostly to keep things as target oriented as possible throughout the stroke. If done properly, the hands are mostly busy with just holding onto the enormous centrifugal force your body pivot creates in the hitting zone, the club head being the final multiplier.
I ascribe to the Bobby Jones school of complete relaxation at address and throughout the stroke and that the ball be positioned forward in the stance, the feet parallel to the target line. The proper feeling is that of releasing an arrow from a bow, the ball sailing high and far without effort. Jones also emphasized that the golf shaft is more about creating club speed than leverage.
This is a departure from what is usually taught in golf technique. Usually one is told to shift your weight to the target starting down. Not there isn’t a shift left, but this misses much of the equation, I think. For example: If your weight at the end of the shaft is above you at the top position than an opposite pull against that would be down and as the weight of the club moved to halfway down then, indeed, a shift to the target would be an opposite pull to maintain centrifugal force against that position. As you reach impact and the weight of the club is all the way down then your whole body and your legs and arms and hands would have to resist against that force to maintain and increase centrifugal force. By then your earlier actions have re distributed most of your weight to your left foot but you are still pushing directly upwards at impact, like jumping straight up in the air. After impact, with the club now pointing to the target, your body pulls it away from the target and eventually the brakes bring it all to a stop. It’s simply the same principles involved in swinging a weight on a string – a constant tugging against the weighted object at all times – that tiny circular motion the fingers have to make. That subtle wrench of the core of your body away from the target that starts the swing activates gyroscopic forces and, once amplified, like gaining speed when learning to ride a bicycle, it becomes a matter of keeping those forces activated.
I believe the elusive, smaller rotating force that creates the larger rotating force begins in the rotating of the shoulders atop one’s spine that coil and swing the back, the arms and club away from address to the top and that the whole body core pivots directly against that motion in the opposite direction starting down bolstered by powerfully positioned elbows, hips and knees that drive to the target compressing the swing so that all the angles and forces you have stored are released as the club and ball are launched past your body.
In trying to recall another example, Lee Trevino described the hip action as a “hula” action similar to working a hula hoop. It makes sense as one has to swivel the hips constantly against the weight of the hula hoop to keep it glued to the body lest it fall. A circular, ever changing motion. Lee believes in the dog wagging the tail philosophy of technique where the body rotation swings the hands and arms, not vice versa. Jack Nicklaus, my number one golf hero, does, also.
I believe it is a mistake to move the swing faster than gravity allows. For example; Hold a golf ball over your head and drop it. Your downswing should be the same speed for effortless power. How you manage to punctuate this fixed time zone makes a difference.Too slow of a move from the top to the ball will also retard powerful dynamics. It is hand speed that throws the handle well ahead of the club, the elbow leading the way, into the downswing that creates powerful leverage. Like a lightning bolt, once you start down, get to the ball quickly. Think of it as not leaving any speed on the table you could have used. It is truly amazing how this natural throwing of the club straight down to and through the ball to a low point four inches ahead of the ball triggers the most efficient responses from your body. Contrary to a lot of what has been said about this throw hidden in a swing, I say take advantage of nature and use it to succeed. It is often equally amazing how dead a swing can be without it. Just attaching your left hand to the club should bring your whole body into the act to assist the right arm at the right time.
Golf instruction is challenged by what we may feel and what is. The horse “pushes” the harness, the harness pulls the cart, for example. Even though one is pulling against an outwardly swinging club-head during impact it can feel as though one is throwing his entire body weight down through the shaft into the ball. Golf instructors hope to sort it all out.
SWING APPRECIATION AND ME;
When I study sequence photo’s of a young Jack Nicklaus it’s as if I am glimpsing at all the properties of geometry and leverage and motion all in perfect harmony. When I watch film of a young Bobby Jones it’s as if God is impersonating a human being and teasing us all. Many feel the same way about the swings of Snead, Hogan and others. I grew up just after Arnold Palmer made his mark and Jack Nicklaus was the most fascinating person in golf. It seemed he did everything that much better than the rest. All positions, every facet. His arching finish and majestic, flowing, swinging style, full and powerful and smooth, hooked me on golf as much as anything. When I was out playing the amateur circuit I noticed the swing of Bobby Clampett and was impressed with a whole new concept of technique. To the point that I moved to Carmel , California to study under his teacher, Ben Doyle, for several years. At the time, 1977, Bobby was the best amateur player on earth winning over half of everything he entered. His swing was a thing of wonder. Technically perfect, it seemed. He was hitting drivers on the range and flying the ball over 270 yards in a pattern as small as a typical green, his caddy catching each ball after one bounce in a towel, barely having to move at all. His swing had a futuristic, otherworldy quality that called to me. Every bone and movement in it’s proper place. The slow backswing, slight pause at the top and the perpetual unwind blew my mind.
GRIP AND STANCE:
Perhaps the most important part of a swing, the grip and stance, must be correct to play golf properly. Otherwise any number of bad habits will automatically fill the void. Get this correct and golf becomes somewhat easy instead of impossible. Never change these correct postures, through thick or thin, except for specialty shots.
Most instruction teaches us to have the left hand so that the thumb points to one’s right ear or shoulder showing a few knuckles and with the right hand thumb and forefinger following suit. I like to refine this to having the left thumb on top of the shaft at the 12:00 O’clock position with the thumb angled only slightly towards the right ear, showing maybe one knuckle, with my right hand occupying the 9:00 O’clock position with my thumb and the 3:00 O’clock position with my forefinger. The left hand pressure point has the thumb on top and the right hand has the club straddled by the right thumb and first finger, their pressure points at 90 degrees from the left thumb equally on the sides of the grip. 12:00 , 9:00 and 3:00 O’clock pressure points. These pressure points stabilize the face. The right forefinger does leverage itself at impact against the shaft. Sam Snead called this the “payoff finger” of the swing. The other pressure points on the grip concern the last three fingers of the left hand and the middle two fingers of the right hand. These pressure points are more about wielding and leveraging the club. This position is a little weak by most standards. When I was growing up it was called the square to square grip. Johnny Miller used it and he called it the palm to palm grip since both palms face each other like a wall facing the target. As I said before, Ernie Els also uses this grip and his is among the most envied swings on tour for it’s effortlessness and power. I use it because allowing the club to pass the hands during impact, releasing the club past the ball, is part of my technique. It is the most powerful part of the swing – this transfer from one side of the ball to the other – while the head is passing the hands. I make sure this happens AT impact and only the square grip allows the face to properly arrive on line just letting gravity do its thing.
Another vital matter is grip pressure. Better a little firm than too loose. A loose grip does not unite and integrate the body and both arms as well as a firm”ish” grip. Not tight, but air tight throughout the stroke, both hands pressing against each other as well as the club. They should feel like one unit welded to the club yet pliable at the wrists. As mentioned earlier, my own pressure is about a three or four on a scale of one to ten.
True gravity, or centrifugal force, happens when one, using foot contact with the ground for leverage, turns back the body and moves his shoulders circularly with the arms and club attached like connecting rods around the neck to the top. Just as this push of the club back is about to reach its end, as the body comes to a steady position at the top, an all out throwing action of the right side and arm straight down and through the ball occurs with all out speed. This throw down motion of the arms automatically pivots the body into proper position and out of the way. This compresses the swing to unleash all the body’s levers and then the club releases, completely, past the hands to the target side of the ball. Only the square grip allows all of this to happen in a true centrifugal swing. This grip allows full body integration to thrive.
This exact grip, used my many top pros, came to me after I experimented in 2015 by imagining that only my right hand was attached to the club and in control and that my body was brought into the picture by attaching the left hand; that the right hand naturalness of golf be served. I found that my left hand position then needed to be brought in line with a weaker position than it had been. Now both palms faced each other forming a wall aimed to the target.
As for the way the hands hold the club, I place the left hand so that the club, when viewed from the side after opening the grip, lays diagonally just above the first small pad that connects the fingers and the slimmer end of the grip crossing about the middle of the left forefinger. For the right hand I hold the club more in the fingers near to where they connect to the hand. A slight diagonal angle included. Grip pressure I liken to throwing a stick a good distance. Loose enough to have snap, tight enough to hold on without smudging one’s hand prints too much in the process. Once the centrifugal force tightens, of course, the hands tighten,instinctively.
Regarding baseball, Vardon and interlock variations with the small finger of the right hand, I prefer the interlock. The baseball grip, while good for leverage, is just too spread out on the grip for maximum speed and rotation and can slow a swing down. The Vardon is great, I just like the interdependency I get when both hands are intertwined and committed as one unit forcing both sides to co-ordinate. My wrists are flexible. Less flexible wrists might prefer the Vardon grip.
There is another grip out there just waiting to be exploited that sets the left thumb on the side of the shaft instead of the top. This requires a re configuring of the hands, however. It requires a strong left hand position balanced by a weak right hand position. Your left “V” points to your right shoulder while your right “V” points to your left shoulder. In spite of all this the palms roughly face each other like a wall to the target. Even if you choose the conventional grip this new style is a great drill for timing your club action with your arm action as you are forced to just hold on versus hitting independently with the hands. Once mastered it is just as good as the conventional grip. It is also easier on the hands. It does require a ten finger or interlock style and may even accommodate the Varden style of overlap. The wrists are turned into each other but otherwise function like the conventional grip. It is more like the grip used in baseball, in fact.
For putting I actually now use this ten finger strong left / weak right hand style only less biased inward, the palms exactly facing each other like a wall to the target. Both thumbs hang symmetrically on opposite sides of the grip and not the top. It’s a great putting grip, I think. It feels extremely intimate like holding your newborn child’s arm for the first time. A very sensitive feel is produced. I still use 20 percent grip pressure on most putts instead of the very loose grip I once used.
There is a “sweet spot” factor to the stance that I will get out of the way first. This sweet spot set up allows even poorly timed swings to produce good results. It does not feel natural at first but it must be employed to play great golf. The sweet spot stance is exactly this;
Stand with your feet, hips, and shoulders all aligned parallel to your target. Place your ball just opposite your left foot instep. For shorter irons you may place it back, a few inches, only. Now, align your grip and left arm with the ball position, decidedly left of center. Now, and this is crucial, place your head opposite your right hip socket or just inside of it.. This posture feels like your hands and ball are forward while your head is leaning back. This is how it SHOULD feel at first. When putting your head into position make sure that your weight is evenly distributed on both feet. This may require that you shift your hips a little forward to balance your stance foot pressure. Then make sure your head, when it swivels from ball to target, back and forth, that it swivels along the target line aligned with your shoulders..
Now you simply turn in place allowing your weight to shift to your right hip socket and, once at the top, shift your weight to the target keeping a steady head. Because your head is back you can shift left with all your might and the shot will come off as planned. The ball it trapped by perfect posture at address because your body parts are pinned down in their proper configuration, first.
One way to get this feel of the perfect stance is to start out with stiffened legs and arms and crisp angles through out your body including a straight back and you will really feel this correct geometry. Because it is correct even a stiff legged and stiff armed setup works. Not so if your head and hands and weight are off even a little. After you can feel this distinct relationship of your body parts at address and understand the proper set up you may go back to your somewhat flexed legs and arm swing.
Jack Nicklaus absolutely nails this geometry if you need a visual guide. It should be noted that a relatively steady head throughout is also required.
The stance is an unnatural position that you have to constantly fight for as it is natural to want to let the ball position creep back to the middle of your stance and for you to allow your arms to lay directly in front of you and for you to want to open your shoulders to address a forward positioned ball and for you to want to let your head fall towards the center of your stance. You will also want to raise your right elbow up above your left. All of this feels natural but it is pure poison to a correct golf swing.. Even the worlds very best golfers constantly find themselves chagrined to have to conform to the correct stance. It’s exactly what most tour pro’s are thinking about as they settle over the ball. It is the very most important part of the golf swing excluding, perhaps, impact itself. It may feel like an impossible position to swing from, with your head back, your arms and club and ball forward, shoulders square, but it has to be this way and you rarely, ever, naturally fall into it. It’s the biggest secret to good technique; a proper stance.
Now, on with the rest of the stance.
To begin with, after approaching the ball from behind, walk up and address the ball with both feet together and take your club shaft and hold it right up to your face so that it aims at 90 degrees from the two points your ball and feet make. Look up and see where the shaft is aiming. Ideally, right at the target. If not, start over until it does. Then move only your right foot back about a foot, or two feet for long clubs, parallel to the target line. This places the ball forward in your stance opposite just forward of the left ear if your head is properly positioned and opposite your left instep. Keeping the right foot at about right angles to the target then open the left foot to the target a little so your body can pivot past it to the finish unencumbered. The shaft of the club should be vertical or find the hands leading just a little. With a driver the hands can be ever so slightly behind the ball since you may be hitting on the upswing to reduce backspin for maximum roll. In this case the driver position, only, may be a little ahead while, because of a progressively laid back club face with the shorter irons, those clubs may be nudged back an inch at the most, except for specialized shots. Because their face is laid back the wrists roll a bit more before ball and club make contact, so this is adjusted for. Regarding an allowance for a slightly open foot stance. It only appears that way as the left toe draws back from the target line a half inch as it wings out. The heels of both feet should be aligned to the target.
This correct set up finds the hands blocking your view to your left foot instep and places them opposite the left inner thigh, the right arm and leg angling forward to a more vertical left arm and leg giving a reverse “K” look. That’s fine. Because the right hand is lower on the club than the left and the right shoulder is lower there is a slight tilt away from the target with the spine, itself. This is proper. In the swing the body remains basically within the space it was at address, staying flexed but not swaying as it rotates. There is a slight shift to the target with your lower body and hips that send the whole body to the target side of the ball but otherwise you swing mostly in place. Stand more upright than stooped and not too far from the ball and keep your body angles crisp, the flex of your waist and knees moderate and all hips, feet and shoulders aimed along the target line. Because the ball is forward you will have to guard against opening your shoulders to face the ball. All major body parts; shoulders, hips, knees and feet must face straight ahead in spite of the fact that the head is back and the grip and club are forward. Weight is evenly distributed on both feet ready for action. The arms hang mostly down and slightly out, depending on the length of the club. The right elbow, when viewed from down the target line, should not be above the left elbow but, in fact, just a little lower than the left elbow or even with it.. Stick your chest and rear end out a little for good posture. One last thing is to angle your knees slightly towards the target, a little like two bows with a slight tension, to prevent the lower body from collapsing or folding like a wet noodle in the back swing, and to ready them for the forward drive from the top of the back swing when they must drive target wards to start the down swing. Maintaining some tension in the legs against your shoulder coil back insures a powerful wind up that involves all your stomach and trunk muscles.
Now, and just as important as all the above, be completely at ease and relaxed. Not tense like a linebacker about to knock helmets but like an Olympic swimmer on the block as he readies for his long and hard dive into the pool. His attention is on being as calm and as relaxed as possible so his big muscles will fire as fast as possible and he can react to the starter pistol instantly. It IS a lot like golf. Still one moment, exploding into action the next. Relaxation is key to effortless, powerful golf. Picture the laconic action of Freddy Couples and realize that power can be effortless. Also, rehearse your full swing in your mind before you swing. Once you start you shouldn’t have to think about your swing, so imagine your full swing; the back swing, the transition and full release to the finish until your shot and your swing are firmly in your mind’s eye.
To trigger the swing I do paddle with the feet a little and heft the club weight. In actual golf conditions I agree with some who recommend a shift of the knees, first to the target and then away from the target and the back swing continues off of that motion. It wakes up the lower body and smooths things out. I suppose if I were to invent a new method it would be to pivot very subtly counter-clockwise towards the target and then reverse the direction to away from the target as if my body were a peg, the kind a record slips onto, and have the back swing rebound off of that motion So much of this part of the game has to do with personality and each player, if he needs one, will find his best trigger to start the swing. One that does help me is to jiggle my whole body to let it know where it’s various body parts are located at address for reference. Brandt Snedeker, in fact, does this. Lately I’ve been performing a slow motion full arm / wrist windup with the right elbow stuck to my right hip just to wake up the arm and club assembly and remind them of what they must do.
While over the ball focus on whatever swing thoughts you may need at the time but also be focused on the trajectory of the exact shot you want to hit. Everything settles into achieving this image. One reason practice is easier than play is you have a fresh, crisp image of what your shot will be like. You just watched it the last ball you just hit. This image is fresh in your mind. It should be just as fresh from a cold start. When I play my best it’s the only thing I think of; the shot. I’d say the average tour pro gives this maybe 70 percent of his attention and only 30 percent to swing thoughts, if any. Every action is made easier if it has a clear purpose.
The same applies to putting. The ball has a job to do. What is it? How WILL it break to the hole. How will it look getting there? What properties must you apply at impact to effect this exact result?
Speaking of putting, I regard the putting stroke as a miniature three iron stroke or driver stroke, just like a regular swing, only much smaller and less involved. A slight arc and opening and closing of the face as it makes its journey. If there is one modification it is to keep the right wrist bent and the left wrist straight during shorter strokes, a lot like the full swing dynamics that keeps lag intact and the club cocked. Instead of releasing the head past the hands like a full swing the hands stay locked in place while the shoulders take over the follow through. I position the ball just like an iron shot. Simplicity. Your very next shot is usually a drive so why not rehearse that with your putting stroke? It’s more about what the ball has to do than the putter head. You don’t fixate on the club head with your other shots. Except for bent arms at address it’s the same motion.
Regarding my own putting grip I use a ten finger style that finds both thumbs symmetrically down the side of the grip, not on top – the left thumb at 9 O’clock the right thumb at 3 o’clock and the palms facing each other like a wall aimed to the target.
In the preceding chapters I compared the swing to rotating one’s shoulders around the neck in a circular motion swinging the arms and club to the top. At some county fairs you may have noticed a ride that has a circular contraption at the top of a pillar that rotates like a record player high in the sky with cables suspending carts that passengers strap themselves into and, as the pillar rotates, the circular contraption swings these carts slightly out and away from the pillar and their former, vertical position. Not too dramatic, but thrilling enough for most passengers.
This is the motion I’m talking about. Your shoulders represent that circular contraption and your left shoulder point rotates back just like a record player as if dragging a heavy, wet mop for a golf club. I mostly use this image of a wet mop to convey the necessity of swinging the club centrifugally, throughout, instead if lifting it artificially. This, besides allowing more lower body coil earlier in the back swing, is also a more natural style that works as well as any other. John Daly, Jack Nicklaus to a lesser degree, and other smooth swingers of the golf club find that their takeaway has the club hugging the ground swinging around toward their foot line and away from the ball’s target line. The feeling is that of the ride at the fair, a circular device at the top suspending people in carts from cables that are swung outward from a centrally rotating pillar. The rotating pillar instigates the centrifugal effect.
Another reason I use the heavy mop analogy: If you did have to swing a heavy mop to the top of your swing you would have an easier time of it dragging the mop around to nearer your stance line than the ball’s target line before you lifted it. Easier on the back. So, instinctively, once centrifugal motion is set into action, the body subconsciously seeks out maximum efficiency the way a snowflake forms in the elements. Now that centrifugal force is active you can even regard your shoulder, elbow and wrist joints like omni directional ball swivels letting centrifugal force cock the club as it sees fit and letting the face fan open a little just because inertia wants to. I recall that in my teacher’s methods he referred to this churning and turning of the body core as feeling heavy and slow instead of fast and dainty. Building a lot of bang for the buck into ones coil is how I describe it. The recoil should be able to trap all that leverage the back swing has made.
If you can start the swing with a centrifugal swing away from address instead of a steer and lift action you have made it past the first and all important hurdle. If sensing centrifugal force isn’t easy then coil and extend in place with the club shaft aimed at the target at the top.
All of this ability to coil and uncoil must come from the feet and then up through the body to the shoulders. It would be hard to swing while standing on marbles or ball bearings, wouldn’t it? To get the leverage needed to move anything above the feet the feet must engage, first. Jack Nicklaus says that a downswing occurs from the ground up. This is what I think he means. Photos of great players show that the unwinding is most advanced the lower one goes in the body. This is compatible with my notion that the right elbow and whole side and knee thrust hard against the back swing starting down. It just so happens that at the other end of all this the feet and everything in between gird for leverage to do so. This is just the subject that bedeviled me in 1979 when I had the practice session of my life up to that point doing the whole everything with just my hands, it seemed. The hands have desires and needs and perhaps the body can respond to their anticipation in mysterious ways but, combined with wrist cock, the actual forces in a swing are body rotational forces created from ground contact for leverage with the feet, up through the body, winding and unwinding the shoulders, even involving a vertical body compression of shoulders against legs during the strike that throws weight down on the ball via the arms, hands and club forcing a full release to the finish position. That’s the dynamic. The dual thought of creating a healthy wrist cock and shoulder coil at the same time synchronizes everything, almost magically. The tour pros have about an 85 to 105 degree wrist cock with a 90 to 120 degree shoulder turn. Most average level golfers would do well to have a 90/90 degree balance of the two. Of the two, exaggerate the shoulder coil more than the wrist cock.
In studying body action it is the shoulders, not the hips, that rotate most. From address going back, at least 90 degrees and from the top to the finish some 180 to 200, plus, degrees. A whole lot of rotating going on. I am comfortable that it is here that the real center of the swing lies and where centrifugal force emanates from. If you measure the distance from feet to shoulders it’s four and 1/2 to five feet. From club head to shoulders, almost the same. In this sense the shoulders really ARE in the middle of everything. In studying the above rotation measurements I hope it is clear that it is the downswing and forward unwinding of the trunk that is the more important motion. Most golfers don’t unwind enough. The pros do. Like Tiger Wood’s image of cracking open and slamming a door shut, the shutting of the door is what the cracking open of the door was all about in the first place.
When I compared the downswing to a strong surge with the right elbow and knee and side driving against the direction of the back swing those things occurred, yes, but did so naturally in response to the mind thinking about getting the shoulders to meet just two requirements. When I first saw this described in a book decades ago and in a book written in the 30’s or 40’s from an author named Alex Morrison I said to myself; “C’mon, are you kidding?! That looks ridiculous and stupid. It can’t be that simple.” Once I actually tried this move it was like getting into a 60’s VW Bug and finding out it had a performance Porsche engine in the back. WOW!!! Did it ever work. The only other thing I had to do was hold onto the club and hit the ball. All of the body parts; the hips, knees arms, legs, feet and hands all responded in perfect co-ordination and I felt my back being used for the first time. Uncanny!
The photo’s in his book that had as much effect as anything else I ever learned about the golf swing were two photos; In the first photo Alex Morrison was standing upright, facing the camera, not even in a golf posture, his arms hanging at his sides and he had his shoulders turned back 90 degrees from address. They pointed at the camera, directly. The other photo was of him standing erect only with his shoulders now turned 90 degrees from address the other way, his body aimed to the target. Again the shoulder line aimed at the camera only now it was his right shoulder that was closer to the lens instead of the left as in the first move. That simple move, all by itself I learned, forces the body, hands and club to orchestrate in perfect sequence and harmony and with maximum power and minimal effort. Perhaps all golfers meet the requirements of these two positions, to be sure, but the mind’s focus as making this move the “Boss” of the swing and not box car number 12 or so, makes all the difference. What swing thought one uses determines more than you might think. This thought is “On base” as opposed to being “Off base” because it focuses the mind on the center of the centrifugal action. Right on the button, in fact.
If there is one magic move in a golf swing it is this “back to target / chest to target” body pivot that literally acts like a puppeteer with marionette strings from above compelling the whole body and arms and club assembly to work absolutely perfectly, right down to the club shaft and club head motions. The only hard part is to think of this move when you swing and trust it.
In a tour swing those shoulder angles are more severe but just this simple thought works fine. It goes a long way to making sure the forward unwinding is as full as the back swing was and much, much more, besides. At once you’ll notice that the forward unwinding has to be full because the mind has the image of the finish shoulder position and not impact or some other point in between as some conventional teaching suggests. A Rory Macilroy or Seve Ballesteros style of super athletic swing will be better off thinking of positions like 110 degrees back and, from top to finish, maybe some 250 degrees of return rotation. Just don’t hurt yourselves, guys.
Now, this may well be the second best swing thought a human being can have in his head to make a correct golf swing, to take a sport known for being an unnatural move and make it, magically, natural. If there is a better thought I’d like to suggest that it is this. If you want to smooth out the balance, steady the head and better synchronize the whole body, replace that brilliant thought that Alex Morrison gave us with this;
Imagine that there is a small peg just like a record slips onto. Not a “45” style peg but the smaller, LP type of peg. Imagine the size of this round peg being no larger than a sleeve of golf balls, say, or even as small as a crayon ( I prefer crayon ) Imagine that this imaginary peg is located exactly between your shoulders inside your body cavity and that it’s shaft aims between your feet where it needs to get leverage from the ground with. Now, just like a record player starts when you turn it on, smoothly at first, turn that peg clockwise to the top of your back swing and then reverse direction, pitting your body exactly against the back swing motion and let the peg now spin fully and completely the other way, counterclockwise, to the finish as fully as you comfortably can. By narrowing down the point of rotation you also allow more club speed to occur. You may notice that when swinging a weight on a string the faster you spin it the smaller that circular motion your fingers makes gets.
Once at address you should be thinking this exact thought. With your shoulders, “turn / full return.” Simultaneously you’re thinking about creating and releasing as much wrist angle as you can where it will help, most. The only other thought you must have is to hold onto the club and hit the ball. That’s it, folks. That is the nub of it, no pun intended. There is some training of the arms and club shaft to keep shots going straight but we will get into that and more, later, including how the body supports this feat. In essence, the proper swing is a fully extended swing with a throwing motion of the arms to the ball from the top to impact; a body pivot swing with a quickly delivered “throw/hit” hidden in the mix.
If you should get lost refer to the last sentence preceding this one. It’s everything in a nutshell.
Whether you think of the two shoulder positions Alex Morrison demonstrated, my concept of spinning the shoulders like a record player turntable backwards and forwards or “paddling” the shoulders in place, it is important that you think of the shoulder pivot over other thoughts as other body parts thoughts work less efficiently in getting the whole body properly involved. “Go to the top”, as they say, for results. When it comes to golf technique and mental concepts “Mind over shoulders matters.” Remember, between your shoulder blades lies the center of your centrifugal motion. Focus on mostly that. It’s amazing how this elusive thought “trick” works.
That I would be so influenced by such an off beat book “A New Way To Better Golf” from the 30’s or 40’s gets even more curious; Alex Morrison was, among other things, a choreographer for Broadway productions. He recounted one job that had him teaching some several dozen dancers to swing a golf club on stage all standing just feet from each other. He had them all swinging like pros and nobody got clubbed in the head or ankles in the process. This was one of the basics he taught them. His golf book was also quite popular. But that’s not what makes this Alex Morrison connection interesting;
The hands are that final pivot point of the swing between the center of the shoulders and the club head. They are the last thing to fire. To get them to work at peak efficiency think of yourself as a baseball pitcher throwing a baseball over home plate. You want to get as much “snap” out of them as you can. The baseball pitcher uses his whole body and kicks his leg up in the air and then plants it towards the front of his stance and pivots to the plate and throws the ball as hard as he can, the hands releasing last for that snap. It takes a little practice to conjure up this feeling of springiness but I do know that Jack Nicklaus has used this comparison for the swing in general. I think it goes a long way to describing what role the hands have. They work together and do a lot of swiveling and such. So they should. The mind’s focus on letting the body pivot the shoulders, clockwise and counter-clockwise, will iron all of these matters out. Also keep in mind the importance of leveraging the right forefinger (Sam Snead’s “payoff finger”) against the shaft for added leverage at impact. This helps insure a well preserved angle until impact.
Then there is the matter of the head. It is heavy compared to other body parts for it’s size and contributes to balance and resistance against body gyration. Think of it as an anchor stabilizing your upper body. Mostly it operates your whole body depending on what is is thinking. The right thoughts make a huge difference.
If your brain is activating the body by thinking of turning the shoulders around a fixed point located in the center of the swing’s centrifugal force, both back and then around the other way to the finish, then your whole core girds itself to turn grabbing traction from the ground with the feet and transmits this tension all the way up through the whole body. As the tension tightens to the point that the shoulders, club and arms start to move, the muscles that connect the arms to the shoulders tighten to make sure everything moves back in one piece the first one to two feet back. The shoulder rotation that started this move has, by now, activated centrifugal force and all of the bones in your body react, instinctively, to the task. They orchestrate for maximum efficiency automatically, I’ll say it again, like a snowflake conforming to the laws of nature. The club cocks and un cocks where it is most dynamic in the swing. I find that the angle is created all the way to the top, increasing in the early downswing and released at a point a few inches in front of the ball position. This sequence happens automatically as a result of the instinctive throwing action of the hands down to impact. The secret lies in minimizing the time it takes to reach impact and to also imagine as straight a line of delivery as possible. This unleashes all the right body moves and weight transference, all of which are ingrained in our primitive make up. The motion is like a child adjusting his body in a child’s swing to keep the centrifugal force active. To keep centrifugal tension taut the elbows and hands fire ahead of the club on the way to impact creating a severe club shaft angle after which point the club angle is fully released. The whole body supports this effort girding counter clockwise on the downswing to stay ahead of the racing hands. So obediently has the lower body pivoted out of the hands way that at impact, from your eyes perspective, only your lower right leg is behind the ball. Everything else has pivoted ahead of the ball, leading the hands to impact.
If you observe Sam Snead’s wonderful swing you might observe that his hips swivel away from the target even before his back swing starts and then the shoulders and rest of the body follow that tug back. This would suggest that, with Snead, at least, even the back swing starts from the ground, up. I agree. In fact, I suggest that the weight is shifting just as Snead’s hips are swiveling, circularly. In most tour swings the shoulders and club and arms move first. In fact the tension that may move the shoulders first comes from ground tension with the feet felt all the way up through the rest of the body in between. My teacher taught me that the shoulders lead and power you back and that the hips lead and power you forward.
So, there is a co-mingling of two different kinds or rotary forces. The cylindrical shape of the body like a skyscraper turning a giant turntable (shoulders), first clockwise then counter clockwise, and another rotary force of the club head making its way around on a tilted, more vertical path. There is no other way you can make a half pound weight like a club head at address turn into maybe 200 pounds of weight at impact. A simple back to forward shift of the weight can’t do this. The weight is rotationally spun around your body and even your feet are trying to jockey it, circularly, around your body, both backwards and forwards. Whatever left to right shifting occurs from the resulting arm /club structure swinging to one side or the other of the body and the need to pull opposite that weight at critical times. Is there a right to left move? Yes. Because you are swinging to a target that is left you shift the center of your swing at the top several inches to tug against the club in that direction. The shoulders and head don’t shift. Mostly the lower body does, racing ahead of the club to sustain and increase centrifugal force. The impulse to throw the club straight down to the ball from the top triggers proper pivoting of the lower body out of the way of the strike. Both an upward thrust at impact and a lateral right to left thrust occur at the same time even though conscious thought of doing so should not be necessary. It’s a natural response to swinging a weighted object in any one direction.
This takes us back to the body motions one makes while swinging in a child’s swing and how they occur in the transition zone, mostly. In actuality there is a constant tension that is held in the whole body throughout the swinging back and forth. Swinging forward the tension is across the front of one’s body and the backside going backwards. In the transition there is a neutral sensation.
This introduces my concept of right and left elbows duke-ing it out with each other in a swing. To simulate this body tension of a child swinging I like to replace that with the thought of swinging the left elbow straight away from address a foot going back and swinging the right elbow back deep into left side territory in the downswing ahead of the hands to past impact. The left elbow makes the back swing and the right elbow makes the downswing. The whole left side, back and shoulders and arm travel past the chin to the top following the cue of the left elbow moving away from the target. On the downswing you want to replace that tension with the right elbow leading the way to the target side of your body, to the left. A different tension. The right elbow precedes the hands all the way to impact, in fact. While performing this mental drill you may notice how completely your whole right side pivots to power the swing with effortless force as it clears out of the way to the finish. During this keep your upper body steady. This left elbow going right for a back swing and the right elbow going left for a downswing seems to force a fully extended back swing and downswing fully pivoting the whole body core for effortless power. Not all drills work for everybody. If this drill is too alien for you then just focus on shoulder coil back and then down. Between these two power moves there lies the moment at the top when there a moment of suspense and all is somewhat steady as the club is about to change direction. It is here that mind focus is key. Allowing for a slight pause you ready for as speedy a blow as you can muster with the club from the top to impact. You get from point “A” to point “B” instantly, if possible, AND on as direct a path as possible, to the point it feels like a straight line from above your right shoulder through the ball to a low point just four inches in front of the ball. Your hands and club still swing in a circle, it just feels like a straight line delivery. This instinctive throwing action of mostly the shoulders, right arm, elbow and wrist unloading all their angles is what triggers proper body pivot which supports this move. All weight transfer and pivoting is a result of the throwing motion. Sensing the centrifugal force and staying ahead of the club should result in automatic mechanics. It must be stressed that a fully extended top position is a prerequisite of the arm throw or casting may result. Get the left back side turned behind the ball with extended arms and a full wrist cock, first.
Ironically, one of the best downswing triggers I’ve found is a last crank back of the shoulders before starting down. It almost makes the downswing automatic. Kenny Perry of the senior tour, now, best exemplifies this move. He makes a back swing and then gives his shoulders one last extra turn back before the body explodes to impact. That is the feeling. How convenient that this takes no thought except for that last crank back. That it is the shoulders that trigger such a downswing move is no surprise to me.
Another transition move I suggest is to sneak the right elbow ahead under the left arm while starting down, along with the whole right side, to the target and drive hard ahead of the club head to create what is called “lag” or shaft angle from the hands. This move is so powerful I am surprised more tour players don’t take more advantage of it. It takes talent to make this move as expertly as Sergio Garcia does. In fact, while watching slow motion film of his swing during this 2017 U.S. Open you can see how his rotation of the hips, knees, elbows, etc, intensify during the impact zone to keep this lag sustained as long as possible. Even just knowing this fact should help you a lot.
One way to enhance this lag effect is to swing so that your lowest point is ahead of the ball by some three to four inches instead of at the ball. This is an extension of the golf maxim “take the divot after the ball” I learned this from Bobby Clampett’s book “The Impact Zone” while writing this book.
In fact, try these two thought at the same time for an automatic downswing; Think about the last minute extra turn back with the shoulders at the same time you think about the speedy throw down to the ball with your right arm and hand. Bam!!!
As the downswing progresses your wrists want to wield their power with the release of the shaft angle it created. Your right elbow, fully loaded, also wants to unload. At the same time your shoulders are wanting to unleash all of their power with body pivot. In keeping with the laws of physics the body races ahead of the weight of the swinging club in a circular, constantly changing direction, accordingly. When the weight is directly away from the target at the half way down point the legs, hips, elbows, etc. are all pulling TO the target, left, hard. This puts your center of gravity ahead of the club and keeps the centrifugal tension intact and even increases it. This pulls the weight off of your right foot and on to your left foot and, as you are near impact, itself. More accurately the weight is redistributed throughout body joints to maintain centrifugal force. At impact your legs want to push, hard, straight up against the weight at the bottom and the heel of your right foot now comes off the ground. This vertical compression of arms throwing down to legs pushing up while the whole body pivots counter clockwise is what makes effortless power and accuracy. The right forefinger is leveraging against the shaft at impact as the hands reach a crescendo. Just sensing the point 4 inches ahead of the ball your club will bottom out at is enough directional reference to make an accurate shot. (do visualize the shot, however) This is the business end of the swing; the impact zone, and some interesting dynamics take place here. In particular, the vertical compression between the legs and shoulders, both pushing upwards and downwards against each other, dumping the weight of your whole body down the club shaft and into the ball as it’s struck. A bearing down on the ball with your shoulders kind of feeling at impact that puzzles the mind. This is the throw down with the hands and arms that is hidden in the heart of the full core pivot. The feet are pushing up, how can these swinging arms also be throwing weight down the shaft at the same time? They are transmitting this force and stress just like a golf shaft does under load. The load, in fact, is so great the right forearm starts to release along with the hands, right after. The shaft releases and, now, finally, even the toe of the club head releases past the heel and impact occurs. This is the ideal. This final “L” shaped lever, the toe over heel rotation, puts the cherry on top of a perfect swing. If executed perfectly you will swear you whiffed your drive and completely missed the ball as you stare incredulously as your ball sails far and straight. Impact wasn’t even felt and it seems like both the ball and club head were fired from the tee together. Even for the world’s best golfers this occurs maybe once in a thousand shots, so don’t beat yourself up too much if it doesn’t come easily at first. As the swing progresses to the finish the club head passes the hands at impact a few inches past the ball and shoots the shaft and arms straight to the target. Because you had the image of a full rotational return with your shoulders your back muscles, the big latissimus dorsi muscles, that Alex Morrison discussed at length in his book, engage and sling your whole core around to a full, complete uncoil. You haven’t stopped swinging. You even got your back into it, so to speak. That you look like Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus or any great golfer you’d name is a bonus.
All of this was made possible with two forces working in concert; As full a shoulder rotation in both directions as possible to power the body with as full a cock and uncock of the wrists as possible, both at the same time. That’s what professional golfers do that amateur golfers don’t do, in so many words. It definitely helps to be toned and in top physical shape. I use the golf swing to keep me in shape, in fact. I hit a lot of balls and recommend you do, too. Practice should be a magnet that makes you work at the game. Find a spot that forces you to hit the target or lose balls, for example. Get your own shag bag and balls if you want to really improve. Concrete and mats aren’t a good idea and discourage the divot after the ball you need for proper dynamics. Make it a slice of cake in your day. Practice.
The drill most of you will have to make is to free up your back so that it is pliable enough to move as if re positioning a sail on a boat some 110 degrees to catch some wind. When doing these drills pay no attention to how you will look doing so. You may overturn your hips and feet to get your back moving freely like a great big lever moving past your chin and behind the ball. The point is, move that back around behind the ball to the top and then fully the other way to your finish. Your finish should happen automatically if you achieved impact from the top with maximum speed to a point just in front of the ball.
That’s what this book is mostly about. Only if you first do this big pivot move, which makes power effortless to begin with, can you properly employ the throwing action of the right arm and hand in the downswing.
APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES;
Now, the drill section of the book to help you actually perform the correct body pivot, club angle collection and release, right arm throw down and creation and sustaining of centrifugal force.
The high shelf drill;
Stand with your back against a wall with a shelf offering a spot just above your right shoulder. Using both hands, your feet fixed, take a trophy shaped object (Why not?) and turn around and place the vase or whatever you can find on the shelf above you to your right. This is the back swing drill. Repeat, only now turn around and place the trophy above your left shoulder. This is the downswing drill. This is the feeling you must achieve when swinging a golf club. Snead used to say “Power is on the top shelf” in this respect. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of achieving this fee roaming shoulders feeling. It can be made without stress if you free yourself up a little.
Another Sam Snead note; He used to say that a back swing resembles the move you make to look behind you. He meant ALL the way behind you, not just to your right, away from the target. As if you wanted to look behind you 180 degrees from the address position, not just 90.
The arm / hand throw down drill.;
Like Sam Snead, who was a baseball pitcher before he played golf, brush up on your baseball pitch you had as a kid. You’ve probably lost a lot of the snap you once had and some strength, too. Or try throwing anything from your top position straight down to the ball with just your right hand. Work on speed and force and make sure your shoulder is turned well back, first. In fact, put your left arm across your chest and make a back swing, first, to coordinate the feeling of a full swing. Make sure to lead your hand with the elbow as you practice your throw. Push down past the throw with your right shoulder. (Amazing! Golf Digest is now featuring a similar drill after I first wrote about it . In their drill a tennis ball is used and they urge you to bounce it into the ground in a manner that rebounds back to you so you can catch it.) While on the subject of tennis balls, I suppose throwing a tennis ball into a floor and wall corner to rebound back to you would be good drill for warming up your childhood pitching arm. Wind up, then throw.
The arms swing drill;
Find anything to hold in your hands that will make a noise such as a water bottle without the cap, aimed down and make it whistle loudest through impact. This ingrains the
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