Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Golf Swing Move That Changes Everything

My son is learning how to play golf. He he didn't start until he was about 30 years old. Best to start when you're about 10, and I tried, but he was 10 in the heyday of Michael Jordan, and basketball won out. My son is fairly athletic and hits the ball a long way, but neither he nor I have any idea of where it's going to end up most of the time. The reason for that, and the one thing that he is struggling to learn, involves his left wrist. This post is not about him, though. It's about over half the recreational golfers I play with who do the same thing he does. They flip.

In an earlier post, I talked about pronation and supination. This is one of my most-read posts, because it is something that Ben Hogan went into at length in his book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. The Hogan mystique makes amateurs think this is the magic move that if they get figured out, will change everything. For once, they're right. It means simply this. At impact, the cup (backward bend) in the left wrist MUST BE MAINTAINED. That wrist must not be straightened out at that moment, and it must certainly not be bent forward (flip).

Pronation means to turn downward, and supination means to turn upward. Think of supination : sky. If you let your left wrist straighten out or bend forward before impact, the left palm will be turned upward (facing the sky) and this is the move that just ruins everything. You just can't do this and play anything close to good golf.

Supinating the left hand is a natural move for many golfers, though. Because you are left-handed, you want to get the ball in the air with that hand, and you likely use a throwing motion which ends up bending your wrist forward. Many golfers do this because they learned how to throw a baseball before they learned how to swing a golf club. When you throw a baseball, the wrist bends forward after you release the ball in the same shape as when you supinate your wrist (incorrectly) in the golf swing. Hitting a golf ball, though, is not a throwing motion. It's a hitting motion.

If you want to do something with your left hand, think of driving the ball forward with the palm of that hand. The club will get the ball in the air. Drive that ball forward, and you do that by keeping the left palm facing the target. At impact, your left palm needs to be in such a position that if there were a rod coming straight out of it, the rod would point right at the target.

The hard part about learning this is that you might have to change a firmly established habit of turning that palm upwards. Fortunately, that is easy to do if you are willing to put in the time and can accept that it might take several months for the changeover to be complete.

Stand at address, with no club in your hand, and swing your left arm across your body so the left wrist is centered. Now bend the wrist so the left hand points straight down to the ground (Figure 1, below). Notice that my hand is curled as if it were gripping a golf club.

Now swing your arm back and forth, a few inches on either side of center, not letting the angle in that wrist change (Figure 2, right). Your hand should continue to point to the ground and you will feel a decided stretch in your left upper arm and shoulder (good). Straighten the left wrist and the stretch goes away (bad). Got it? Now spend a week doing nothing but this. Do not pick up a club. Just do this empty-handed drill.

Week two, pick up a putter and swing the putter, with your left hand moving through impact the same way -- so that the angle in your left wrist does not change. If anything, it might even increase. Make sure you get that stretching feeling in your left shoulder.

Week three, chip with a 6-iron. Same thing. The angle in the left wrist stays the same or even increases. Notice how low to the ground the club stays in the follow-through. That's the driving ahead motion, and that's a good thing.

Week four, pitching. Since the swing is getting bigger, the right arm now becomes a problem. Let your right elbow bend and keep the right arm tight to your torso. That way you can maintain the impact geometry of the right arm, clubshaft, left arm, and especially the left wrist.

Week five, full swing. By now, this move should be fairly comfortable and habitual. And all you should worry about is the left wrist being bent at impact. This is a good cure for casting, that is starting the downswing with your hands, because you cannot arrive that the impact position you have been working on for four weeks if you cast. Start down with your body and let the momentum of the swing carry the wrists and arms where it will afterwards.

This is a five-week plan, but if you need more time, take it. If it takes five weeks or ten, that's a small investment of a lifetime of good golf to follow.

If you top, hit fat, push, slice, or your short game is not what you want it to be, chances are that flipping is your number one problem. I even see putters who flip and they can't putt worth a lick. Put this move into your golf from drive to putt and you will be a different golfer, and golf will become a different game. I absolutely guarantee it.

My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.

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