Your wrists hinge in two ways in the golf swing. Every golfer does one of them, but to have a complete golf swing you have to do both. Find out what those ways are and how to do them.
[August 2019. I’m keeping this post here for historical purposes, but you are better off reading The Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV.]
In their book, How to Become a Complete Golfer, Bob Toski and Jim Flick tell this story:
“There was once a pupil at our golf schools who, when he was instructed to release the clubhead through the ball, threw the whole club down the practice range. So we have to be very careful to define what we mean by release.”
Well, releasing the club is one thought, but today’s thought is throwing the club and it isn’t a bad idea. Or, at least, swinging as if that is what you were going to do, but not letting go of the club.
This does four things for you:
1. It gets you off your trailing side and onto the leading side during the forward swing,
2. It guarantees the hands will lead the clubhead into the ball,
3. It gets your mind off hitting the ball and puts it on swinging the club,
4. And because of that, it evens out your rhythm and tempo.
Those are four very good things to have built into your swing because they are the solutions to four prevalent swing problems.
If you would like to give this a try, it is easiest to do at first with a driver swinging at a ball on a tee. You don’t want the ground in the way on this one right now.
The idea is to feel like the function of the forward swing is to throw the club directly at your target downrange, but without actually doing it. Get the feeling of a smooth throwing motion and then try hitting a few balls.
Shawn Clement has a really good, and short (for him) video on this very idea.
So try it out. It’s a different way of thinking about how to swing the club, and maybe something will click for you.
Over the years I have sprinkled certain themes throughout my posts. I say them over and over because they work—not only for me, but for everybody.
To save you the trouble of searching for what you might not know is even there, here it all is. This post summarizes my thoughts. If you do all these things (and there aren’t many) you will play better golf.
Control your tempo by starting the club forward at the same speed with which you brought it up.
Do not let the suspension point move.
Your hands must lead the clubhead into the ball. Accomplish this by feeling the butt end of the handle moving leftward from the start of the forward swing through impact.
With a chip and a pitch, think of sliding the sole of the club underneath the ball. Do not hit down on the ball.
With a chip, use one swing and several clubs to regulate distance.
With a pitch, use two or three lengths of swing (your choice) and several clubs to regulate distance.
Hit the ball on the sweet spot of the putterface.
Let the length of the backswing be the sole distance generator.
Technique is less important than mentally bearing down the hole.
[August 2019. This works, but there is a much easier way to hit the golf ball. See Your Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV.]
A few years ago, I published a post about a move that let me hit a 9-iron 145 yards.
This all started when I asked my teaching pro how to make sure I hit the ball first and the ground second. He showed me a move, and I talked about it in that post.
I also said in the post, “I won’t tell you what it is, not because I want it to be a secret, but because it’s difficult to describe, and if you got it wrong it would be disastrous. Besides, your pro should be able to teach you what to do.”
Now, after almost eight years, I’m going to reveal what that move is. It’s very simple to do, but does take lots of practice to get right.
It’s a Johnny Miller move he calls covering the ball.
If you go on YouTube and search for “covering the ball,” you’ll find several ideas about what that term means. One of them is to keep your chest over the ball, i.e., “cover” it, through impact.
I won’t argue with that, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about here.
(Left-handers, in what follows read “left palm” for you.)
I’m going to use Miller’s definition, which is “the act of angling your right palm toward the ground” as the club comes through impact.
Instead of facing the target directly, the right palm FEELS like it is angled slightly toward the ground, hence “covering” it with the palm of your right hand.
You don’t PHYSICALLY turn the palm down to cover it unless you want to hit a great big hook.
What you will get by applying this feeling is a de-lofted clubface which will send the ball farther. And straight. You will also get the ball first, ground second contact that is the key to good golf.
It will take some experimentation to figure out how to do this. I would suggest getting into an impact position with a feeling of the right palm being angled down, but with the clubface still square to the swing path. (Hint: Your hands have to be ahead of the ball.) Then work the swing, always starting in this position, making bigger and bigger swings, slowly, that keep arriving back to this position.
IMPORTANT POINT: DO NOT do this when the ball is on a tee. Ground only.
The Miller quotation is from his book, Breaking 90 with Johnny Miller.
I was talking with my son last week about golf and his problem hitting the ball straight.
My son said he could hit the ball straight sometimes, but too often hit a huge banana slice, and the conversation went from there straight into talking about lag.
Lag is the Holy Grail of recreational golf. The more the better. Get that clubhead way behind you and whip it into the ball and your tee shot will go for miles.
I’m a right-to-left player, and when I hit a huge slice it’s because I forget myself and do what I just described. Only when I do it, my body gets way ahead of my hands and arms and the clubhead gets left too far behind. It has no chance to square up and comes into the ball wide open. Hello, adjoining fairway.
You see, when you TRY to create lag, creating it artificially, bad things can happen.
Lag is created by the hinging of your wrists, and the flexibility of your wrists in the process.
You want all the lag you can get at the top of the backswing, and maybe starting down. But once your hands get to about hip height on the way into the ball, the lag starts disappearing NATURALLY and the hands lead the clubhead by a few inches.
Trying to hold on to your lag for too long doesn’t work.
Many of today’s touring pros have with their body way out in front at impact, but they get away with it, because they don’t out-swing their arms. We’re not them and we can’t get away with it.
Forget about lag. Just pretend you never heard the word. If you hit the ball with the hands leading the clubhead in the way this drill teaches you , you will have all the lag you need and can use.
[August 2019. This advice is way too complicated. See Your Hands Lead the Clubhead – IV instead.]
I’m going to tell you about a few key elements in how I hit the golf ball straight. Straight means it doesn’t curve. Accurate means the ball goes where I aimed it, and that’s a different post.
For the ball to go straight the clubface has to be square to the club path at impact.
This can be difficult to achieve, since there is so much time and so many ways for the clubface to get out of whack.
The first thing is for your hands to lead the clubhead into the ball. There I go, beating that drum again. But it’s true. If you try to hit with your trailing hand, the clubface will lead, and it is very difficult then to keep the clubface square.
Leading the clubhead into the ball is only part of what the hands need to do. They still have to stay aligned.
At address, you square up the clubface to the target and assume your grip. That fixes a relation between orientations of the trailing palm and the clubface. That relation stays the same throughout the swing. They will always face the same direction, unless your hands slip. Where that palm goes, the clubface goes. The trick is for the palm not to go anywhere, that is, turn.
Pick up a club and take your grip. Notice the FEELING of your trailing palm being oriented in a certain direction. The ball will go straight if you return that palm to impact with the same feeling of orientation it had at address.
Read that paragraph one more time to make sure you understood what I said.
Hold the club so it is pointing straight away from you, parallel to the ground. Now rotate the club very slightly clockwise. Do you feel your palm is oriented in a different direction?
Go back to neutral and rotate the club very slightly counter-clockwise. Again, you will notice that your palm is now oriented in a different direction.
Of course, the palm IS oriented in a different direction each time you rotate the club, but do you FEEL that difference in your palm? That is the important thing.
What we want is for the feeling in your trailing palm at impact, your neutral feeling, to be the same as it was at address.
The best way to start getting this into your swing is with slow half swings, back and forth. Do not force your palm to stay oriented or guide it, rather let it stay oriented.
It will help if you think of your hands merging into one unit, instead of holding the club with two different hands. I go into this point in more detail in Six Fundamentals, number Two.
An earlier post gives you a different way of feeling your trailing hand, but with the same concept of the address feeling not changing.
Hitting the ball straight (without curvature) isn’t that hard to do if you play attention to these details.
This conversation occurred between me and my wife after I got back from hitting a golf ball around the big field near my house with a 6-iron.
Me: I learned something today, for the umpteenth time, and maybe this time I’ll remember it. But I’m never sure.
Wife: And what would that be?
Me: We, and by that I mean every golfer living, wants to hit the ball a long way.
Wife: What’s wrong with that? I would want to do that if I played golf. Which I don’t.
Me: But which you will someday, knock on wood. The thing is, we keep thinking to hit the ball far, we have to hit hard. That means swing hard. In reality, all we have to do is put a swing on the ball, with the distance the designer built into the club, and we get all the distance we need.
Wife: In other words, stop trying so hard to make it happen.
Wife: And you’re still learning this after having played golf for how long?
Me: Sixty years this coming June, but that’s beside the point. It just seems natural to want to hit hard, We try not to, but we can’t help ourselves. It’s like we don’t trust the swing and the club to get the job done. It’s so effortless when you do it right that we really can’t believe it.
Wife: So why don’t you just say to yourself you’re going to swing easier, then do that?
Me: I do. And I suppose other golfers do, too. I take the club back easy, but when I finish my backswing and am about to start the club forward, I think, “HIT THE BALL!” and all my self-restraint goes out the window.
Wife: Maybe you could tell yourself something at that point other than “Hit the ball.”
Me: That’s right, and that’s what I did. Right before I started the club forward, I said to myself, “Center of the clubface.” Or rather, I thought that, because it’s quicker to think that than to say it. But it worked out the same. In this shorthand way, I replaced one conscious thought with a different conscious thought. You have to be thinking about something, and it’s just as easy to think about the right thing as it is the wrong thing. What this did is prevent me from adding that little extra something that doesn’t add, but subtracts. Now my swing was slower, but it wasn’t deliberately slow. I let my unconscious mind take over and it made me swing only so fast that I would be able to get that center hit, which is slower than my “hit” instinct wants. But, boy, did it work. Straight, great ball flight, and all the distance I want out of my 6-iron. It turns a power swing into a finesse swing that has power.
Wife: So you finally have it figured out? This time for sure?
Me: Yes, at least until the next time I hit golf balls. When I’ll have to “discover” this all over again. And I’ll come home and tell you all about it like it’s the first time. Again.
There are roughly 25 million recreational golfers in the United States. Thus, there are 25 million different golf swings. I try to put things in these posts that can be used by the greatest number of golfers, but I have no illusions that every swing will benefit from a particular post.
Except this one.
I promise you, no matter who you are, if you work on these two things, which can fit into ANY golf swing, you will see greater improvement than by working on any other swing thing.
Long-time readers of this blog already know what I’m going to say, but if you’re one of those and you haven’t worked on them yet …
If you’re new to the blog, read carefully. Magic coming up.
First: Get your tempo right. Swing tempo is the overall speed of the swing—how long it takes the clubhead to get from takeaway back to impact.
➙ Swing the club only as fast as you can to hit the ball consistently on the center of the clubface.
Start the club forward at the same speed with which you took it up.
You might have to slow down your swing a bit to get to the center, but that will be more than made up for because the key to distance and accuracy is (drum roll) hitting the ball on the center of the clubface.
Second: The clubhead must approach impact properly, and there is only one way for that to happen.
➙ Your hands must be ahead of the clubhead at impact. Your hands must lead the clubhead into impact. The hands must pass the ball ahead of the clubhead. However you want to say it.
Every good golfer does this. No bad golfer does it. It’s as simple as that.
See this post on learning how to do this.
Third: Your suspension point must not move.
If you spend a few months learning these three points, and get good at them, it will be like you’re playing a different game.
Ben Hogan said, “The average golfer’s problem is not so much a lack of ability as it is a lack of knowing he [and “she”] should do.”
This is what to do.
One of the best comments I ever read on a golf forum was to “slow down your swing and learn to live with the extra distance you get.” The reason eluded me until recently.
I got the November 2018 copy of Golf Digest magazine. You know, the magazine that has playing tips every month that work for world-class professionals, but not for you?
Here’s one that did work, and it was from Daniel Berger. He said you’re never going to get the distance you’re due until you learn to hit the ball off the center of the clubface, and he gave us a drill to work on that.
He said to hit balls with your 7-iron (everybody’s favorite club) at 30 percent of your normal swing speed until you start connecting with the center of the clubface consistently. Then move up to 50 percent, then 70 percent.
Thirty percent is pretty slow. If it takes you one second to go from takeaway to impact, that’s now three seconds from takeaway to impact. Pretty slow.
He also mentioned you would be surprised at how far the ball goes even with those slow swings if you hit the ball on the center of the clubface.
That rang true to me, so I went to the driving range I live next door to. Actually it’s not driving range, but the Oregon State Fairgrounds. It has a big field that is used for a parking lot that is 560 yards long and 235 yards wide. I go there every day and hit a few balls.
So I went out there with a 7-iron and a few golf balls to try this tip, swinging at what I felt to be 30 percent. Slowing down that much is harder than it sounds, but I think I got it.
Wow. Triple wow.
Berger is exactly right. Slowing down the swing makes it easy to get centered contact and when you do, the ball flies off the center of the clubface, and goes farther than you could imagine it would.
I’m working up slowly to a faster speed, but only so fast that I can still make contact on the center of the clubface.
I my Living Golf Book, I define tempo as “the fastest you can swing through impact and consistently hit solid shots off the center of the clubface.” Berger’s drill is a fantastic way to find that tempo. (Yes, I’ll be revising LGB accordingly for December 1.)
Try it. You’ll find that tempo doesn’t have to be very fast to hit shots that go straight (slowing down your swing takes the tension out of it, which is what introduces many of your swing errors) and to a distance I know you can live with.
See the video post at Hinging Your Wrists in the Backswing.