Category Archives: golf swing

The Role of the Forearms In the Golf Swing

NOTE: A Basic Golf Swing is now available that develops the comments below in full, and more, in both words and video.

For about a year and a half I have been working on an idea that has changed my swing for much the better. I have not mentioned it to you because I wanted to develop the idea so I understood its essence, then put it to the test to make sure it worked.

I now feel that I can let you know what this very simple idea is.

It has to do with the hands–how to keep them from turning and getting the clubface out of alignment.

Everything changed when I realized that it is anatomically impossible for the hands to turn. The hands turn because the forearms turn, and that is not a trivial difference.

I changed my grip to one that is based on the way my forearms are built. When my forearms hang down in a neutral position, not turned one way or the other, the result is a strong left-hand grip and a neutral right-hand grip.

Because my forearms are in their neutral position with that grip, there is no cause for them to turn, which means the hands won’t turn.

Then I developed a swing based on the feeling of the forearms staying neutral throughout the swing, i.e., not turning at all, and with those two things the clubhead stays square and the ball goes very straight.

That is the essence of the idea. It deserves a deeper explanation, and I will give that to you in a few weeks.

But read those four key paragraphs carefully for now.

Relaxing the Arms

NOTE: A Basic Golf Swing is now available that develops the comments below in full, and more, in both words and video.

I hope everybody knows by now that a relaxed golf swing generates more swing speed and thus more power than a muscular effort. Relaxation as a general rule goes only so far, though. We need to know how to apply it.

As always, The Recreational Golfer to the rescue. It’s in the arms.

When you are at address, let your arms hang down freely from the shoulders in a state of complete relaxation. So far, so good, but anybody can do that. The trick is to maintain that kind of relaxation throughout the swing.

It can be lost the instant the club gets taken away, or if it survives that, the instant the club is brought back down.

Maintain that calmness, and that relaxation, by relaxing your mind. Before you take the club away, think to yourself, “One, half, half, half…” and feel the relaxation appearing in both your mind and your body.

Then you can take the club away and let that freely hanging feeling continue throughout the swing, instead of your arms and shoulders tightening up as when the arms and hands are full of “hit.”

That will generate more speed than you thought possible.

If you ever have a chance to swing with a launch monitor, you will find that you get a higher swing speed when your arms are relaxed than if you try to muscle your way to swing speed.

One more thing. You need to swing with a tempo that lets your arms stay relaxed. If your tempo is over your red line, your relaxation will be lost.

I Give Up On Swing Changes

One thing the vast majority of golfers have in common is the continual search for improvement. No matter how well you play you could always do better—make your good shots great ones and make your poor shots good ones.

Even the greatest players are not immune.

“Ian Baker-Finch, who won the 1991 British Open, decided he wanted to hit his ball farther. So he changed his swing—and stopped making cuts, much less winning tournaments.” (Jim Flick, On Golf)

“[Hogan] surely knew that all serious golfers are prone to come up with what they think to be ‘the secret’ but which usually turns out to be a snare and a delusion. I know that I had many of them, some of which I briefly thought were so valuable that I would keep them strictly to myself until I had won all the tournaments and money I wanted to.” (Cary Middlecoff, The Golf Swing)

I even think if I said I can show you how to play scratch golf for the rest of your life but you have to give up sex forever, a good number of golfers we find that an easy choice to make.

I have been playing golf for over 60 years. I have a good swing. It’s reliable. It hits the ball straight. Yet I keep wanting to make it better. (What that would be, I’m not really sure.)

I tried putting more width into my swing by extending my arms and getting my wrists hinged at the end of the backswing. All that did was put me into an unfamiliar position that left me wondering, “No what do I do?”

I tried starting the forward swing with a strong movement of my left hip but all that did was leave the club playing catch-up.

I watched film videos of the best golfers tried imitating the positions they got into. And I think I did but none of that made a positive difference and most of it made things worse.

And that is barely getting started on the list of things I tried to hit the ball even better.

All along, when I would get frustrated because my Fix-of-the-Week wasn’t working, I would say to myself, “Bob, just relax, stop thinking about how you hit the ball, and put the swing it you have been using for years. Decades. The one that is You.” And I would hit the shot I had been chasing for the last half-hour.

That swing is in there, I just have to learn to stop doing things that prevent it from coming out.

Looking back on all that effort there are only two things I have put into my swing that are of any benefit—the emphasis on tempo and rhythm, and the emphasis on the hands leading the club through impact. Two things of which this blog is filled to overflowing.

I know that if I keep my swing speed under my redline, and swing the club through impact with my hands working as one unit leading the clubhead, I can play a satisfying round of golf. I’m human, so I will make bad swings from time to time. But those don’t mean I need to install a patch.

So I’m finished with swing changes. The swing I have now I wouldn’t trade for anyone else’s. I’m going to stick with it and enjoy the ride.

Now if only I could putt better…

Weight Shift in the Golf Swing

From time to time you read about shifting your weight during the forward swing.

Stand up with your feet the same distance apart as in your stance. Now turn to your right, keeping your feet in the same place, and “shake hands” with someone standing at your right side, using your left hand. Your can lift your left foot so only the toe stays on the ground.

Now turn to the left and do the same thing with your right hand.

Did you notice that the first time your weight moved to your right foot and the second time your weight moved to your left foot, and that you didn’t deliberately shift your weight, but it just happened?

That’s all you need to know about weight shift.

The Left Hip In Transition

I like to try different things. Something new. You never know how it’s going to come out. So today I tried something new.

I thought to myself, one reason the golf swing is so hard is that it’s tilted. We don’t have any problem swinging something horizontally, like beating a rug (I know, that’s a dated concept, but its’ still a good image for this purpose).

So I had my 7-iron in hand, and started swing it like as if I were … beating a rug. I wanted to see how my body would move as I beat the rug in earnest. What would be moving, how, and when?

This is what I noticed. My hands and arms did not go first. To wind up my rug-beating backswing, my right hip went back first. That is the first thing that moved.

It took me a few swings to notice that, because I’ve never started a golf swing with my right hip moving back, so I wasn’t looking for it. But my unconscious mind felt that was what I had to do to get a good windup, so that’s what it made my body do.

Then on swinging forward to hit my imaginary rug, the left hip moved first. By a lot. And it moved backward. Straight backward–it did not turn. And it went back fast.

In his book, Five Lessons, Ben Hogan said of the hips in transition, “The faster the hips move, the better. They can’t go too fast.”

Actually, they can. If you throw your hips around by turning them, that puts a tremendous strain on your lower back. But if you throw your left hip straight back, you get the turn without the strain.

Back to beating the rug.

The movement of the right hip and left hip happened every time, not because I was trying to move them that way, but because that is the way my mind directed my body to move given the task it was preparing the body to perform.

So, I thought, that’s probably how my mind wants my body to move when I hit a golf ball. Why not try it like that?

So, I hit a few golf balls with my hips doing this new thing.

Result: much greater swing speed than normal with no effort at all, and a ball that went straight, high, and far. At least as far as Wiffle balls go.

Now the ball was on a tee. I tee up the ball when I have swing practice because I just want to work on club path and clubface angle. Trajectory is a skill all its own which I will practice using this technique later.

I’m not saying you should rush out and try this new idea because it would add 20 yards to your drives and lower your score by five strokes.

I’m saying I tried to find out how my body wants to move when I swing a stick at something in the most natural way possible and then try applying that to my golf swing. MY golf swing.

Make your own experiment to find out how your body wants to move and then apply that to YOUR golf swing.

The Essence of the Golf Swing – 1

The golf swing breaks itself down into two basic motions: the body turns, the arms swing. We can hang many details on each one of these two motions, but they are basically it. Today we’re going to talk about the body turning.

To take that little clubhead away from that little ball and be able to reintroduce them to each other, at speed, requires that you can’t be moving all over the place. If the body turns, it needs to be turning around something, and that something must be somewhat stationary.

That something is your spine.

Stand up straight, with your feet a bit apart, and rotate your upper body from your hips. Feel like your spine stays in one place and your torso is rotating around it.

Now bend over from your hips and do the same thing. Turn as far as you comfortably can in one direction, then turn fully in this way to the other side, keeping your spine still. You can let the sole of your foot opposite to the side you’re turning rise off the ground if you want to.

If, when you swing a golf club, you don’t do anything more complicated than this, you will do just fine.

It’s pretty easy to control ourselves in the backswing because all we do is turn away from the ball. The forward swing is the problem because we forget about turning, but think instead of hitting the ball, which makes us think we need to do more than is necessary.

To hit the ball you merely turn in the same manner that you did when you didn’t have a club in your hands. But that is so hard to do, psychologically.

We need a drill that will teach us how to do the right thing in the right way. The right thing is propelling an object way from us as we stand to its side. The right way is by turning.

In Ben Hogan’s book, Five Lessons, there is a drawing of what he calls the “old basketball pass.” “Old” is right, because if you ever see this on the court, I promise you that team’s coach has everyone making two-handed set shots.

Hogan shows a man throwing a medicine ball. Much safer to the furnishings in your house, and just as instructive, is to get a small towel, tie it in a knot, and throw that, à la the picture, while just turning.

Do this over and over to train yourself how to turn through the ball, because that moment is the most important time to be just turning. And all those details will have worked themselves out without you having to bother with them.

How the Arms Swing the Golf Club

There are many ways to swing a golf club, many movements that can be made to work. Some things that are not optional if a swing is to be maximally efficient. Swinging the arms the right way is one of them.

The arms swing, and they swing from the shoulders. That fact is not as obvious as it sounds.

Stand up and bend over a bit so your arms hang down in front of you. Gently swing them from side to side. Notice how they move freely inside the shoulder joint. That is how arms are designed to move.

Pick up a golf club. Swing it back and forth from about 3:00 to 9:00 while concentrating on the arms moving freely in the shoulder joint like they just did. Your body needs to turn some, too, so let it.

When this exercise gets easy and familiar, move on to making full swings, back and forth without stopping, with the arms swinging freely in this way.

The golf swing is made of the arms swinging, the body turning. This is how the arms swing.

Applying External Focus to the Golf Swing

Making external focus the basis of your golf swing means to transfer the basis of swing movements from the body to the golf club, and from there to the mind. You need to know what you want the club to do and then create a simple, precise, and easily understood image of the club doing just that. Then you use the image to place your unconscious mind in control of the stroke, which directs your body to move the club the way you want it to, automatically.

What we want the club, or more importantly, the clubface to do, is to face the target at the start, move away and back again, and at its return still be facing the target squarely and traveling directly at it. The clubface is the important thing because that is the part that actually strikes the ball. The rest of the club is irrelevant.

You will make a normal golf swing, nothing different there, but you will have an image of something else.

Take the clubface back square and along the ball-target line. As the backswing progresses, imagine in your mind that the clubface as it rises up stays directly over that line and is still aimed square to the target. This will not be so in reality, but imagine that it is, and it will feel like it is.

To get the clubface back to the ball, imagine in your mind you are swinging it along the ball-target line, and the clubface is square to the target, the entire time. Again, this is not reality, but your imagination will make you feel like this is what you are doing.

I know the body cannot move the clubface according to that imagination, but it does not have to. The physical swing does not need to mirror the mental image. The mind and body have different rules and operate in different ways to accomplish the same task.

We all know that feel is not real. You’ve heard that so many times. The physical swing creates a physical feeling that interprets into your mind as … something.

With external focus we do that same thing but in the opposite direction. We start with an image in mind that creates a feeling that is interpreted into your body. The strength of this approach to the problem of swinging a golf club correctly is that it follows an order of events that conforms to how human beings “work.” The mind leads the body.

When we base the swing on a physical movement (internal focus), one swing is seldom the same as the last one, and we can frequently be unsure. But if we have an image of what something outside ourselves is doing (external focus), in this case, the clubface, the image can be identical every time. That leads to much more accurate and consistent physical movement.

All this is not to say, get the right mental image and you’re done. You still need a good grip. You still need good tempo. The handle still leads the clubhead. Etc. Without good technique your mind can’t lead you in the right direction.

In a nutshell, with technique alone, we often swing with the hope that all the separate parts will add up to a well-struck shot. That way works sometimes. The function of the external focus process is to create a unity of technique that produces a swing that works all the time.