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Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Basic Principles of Good Approaching

We’re almost there! This is the next step up in my progression of how you carry the good practices you learn in a putting stroke into your full swing. We’ve moved from putting to chipping to punching to pitching… and now to approaching.

Approaching refers to any full swing shot that focuses on accuracy. The principles no longer change; these are the same as the Basic Principles of Good Pitching. However, the stroke has lengthened and we’ve added a new technique.
  1. The clubface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.
  2. Unless we have a good reason to do otherwise, the club should be held in a slant-parallel grip where both palms are parallel to each other but the grip is turned slightly strong. This allows us to keep the wrists firm through impact without tensing the hands and forearms.
  3. The club should be held no tighter than necessary, without tension in the arms or shoulders or hands.
  4. The club handle should be held more in the fingers, so that the wrists can cock freely. Some people will still keep the forearms close to parallel with the shaft, but this becomes less important. The uncocking action at impact, coupled with the length and speed of the swing, governs the actual position taken at setup.
  5. Unless making a specialized stroke, the club should never follow an outside-to-inside path (a cut stroke).
  6. The clubhead should travel on a slightly upward path on the backswing and more downward on the downstroke, in order to trap as little grass as possible between the ball and the clubface.
  7. The lower body should not be rigid, neither should it be consciously moved. It should move no more than the natural execution of the stroke requires.
The approach adds a new technique to the swing: Feeling the change of direction, which gives us extra control when approaching the green. This technique applies to any shot where you cock your wrists and are trying to hit the ball a specific distance.

It may surprise you that Principle 7 hasn’t changed. As I said in yesterday's post, many of you are consciously trying to move your lower body to get more power in your shots. You hear the pros (and their teachers) talking about driving the lower body to start the swing, and that’s fine if you're having trouble with a hook and you have enough time to do the practice necessary to sync that extra drive up with your upper body; otherwise, consciously driving your lower body may just get your body out of position and make you push and/or slice the ball.

On the other hand, if you coil properly, your legs will naturally begin the downswing; it’s simple physics. If you focus on proper upper body movement and just let your lower body respond naturally (as Jack says Tom does), you’ll probably find that you get more distance and accuracy with less work.

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