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Friday, October 9, 2009

Putting the Coil & Takeaway Together

OK, you’ve patiently waded through several days of seemingly unrelated posts. Today’s the payoff; today we tie it all together into a useful swing.

You’re ready to pound that ball down the fairway, so you set up normally. Your grip is slightly strong (I described the reasons for that in this post) and you begin your takeaway. You don’t rotate your forearms as you start back (this is the First Principle for all aspects of the swing) for the same reason you don't rotate them during a putt―so the clubface isn’t twisted open or closed. If it was, you’d have to make some adjustment on the way down, and we’re trying to avoid that. So far, so good.

But this isn’t a putt, is it? A putt is a fairly short stroke. You can only swing back so far without twisting your forearms… unless you coil your upper body. As you coil, your rotating shoulders allow you to keep the triangle formed by your hands and shoulders intact until you reach the first position shown in the Tom Watson picture in this post. Your shoulders will have coiled between 30 and 45 degrees at this point, and yet both of your arms remain relatively straight, in the same position as they were in your setup. Since your arms are in the same position and you aren’t trying to cock your wrists, your wrists also remain in the same position as they were at setup. This is the one-piece takeaway we’ve been talking about.

I can’t stress this point enough: We aren’t trying to cock the wrists or manipulate the club in any way. If we make this move properly, the wrists will remain relaxed and cock all by themselves. The less we have to consciously control during the swing, the more we let things happen of their own accord, the more consistent our swing will be.

Now, if we aren’t manipulating the wrists or arms, all that’s left is the movement of the arms at the shoulder joints. If we don’t lift or tilt the shoulders (that was yesterday’s post), the natural direction for the arms to move is to the top of the backswing. When they do, because of the shoulder angle you set up with (remember, one hand is lower on the handle than the other), the only natural way for the arms to reach the top of the backswing is for the right elbow to bend.

When the right elbow bends, the wrists cock of their own accord. The right hand is lower on the handle; bending the right elbow effectively shortens the right arm, so the right hand has to move closer to the player than the left hand. Unless you bend the left elbow as much as you bend the right, the wrists have to cock; it’s simple mechanics.

When your upper body is fully coiled, it stops turning away from the ball. You’ll feel the pressure of the clubhead against the back of your wrists as the club tries to keep moving (again, simple physics). When you feel this weight, you start to uncoil. The residual momentum of the clubhead resists the change, so the wrists “hold the angle” coming down. (Again, that was explained in this post.)

And the difference in the angle between the uncocked wrists of the backswing and the fully-cocked wrists of the downswing forms the angle that Jim McLean calls the “V-Gap.”

Take some time going over these posts until you understand what’s happening here. If you incorporate these concepts into your existing swing, you’ll eliminate a tremendous amount of tension from your body, and relaxed muscles are the key to building clubhead speed. Your grip may tighten slightly at the change of direction, when you feel the pressure from the clubhead against the back of your wrists. This is where strength training provides the most benefit; the stronger you are, the less you'll have to tighten your grip. (Bobby Jones was notorious for relaxing his grip here, but he acknowledged that he was unusual in this respect.)

These concepts are the key to turning your club into the equivalent of a bullwhip, which “cracks” because it breaks the sound barrier. That shoulder turn is called a coil for a reason! Combined with a properly-done one-piece takeaway, you should pick up some serious distance.

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