ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Manuel de la Torre on Arm Swing

Part of the Route 67 series

As I noted in the comments yesterday, one of the major teachers of the arm-powered golf swing is Manuel de la Torre, who works with LPGA golfer Sherri Steinhauer, among others, and has worked with players like legend Carol Mann. His father, Angel de la Torre, was (as I understand it) the first golf professional from Spain as well as a student of Ernest Jones, a teacher who has been commended by players as varied as Bobby Jones and Gary McCord.

Ernest Jones was an English golf professional who lost his right leg in World War I and set about learning how to play well without it. His book Swing the Clubhead is still available and considered a classic of golf teaching.

Manuel de la Torre is the current master when it comes to the Ernest Jones method. I don't like to quote extended passages from any book, but this introductory section from his book Understanding the Golf Swing is a brief explanation of the arm-powered golf swing that's probably better than anything I can do in a single post. Hopefully this will give you a clearer picture of what current arm swing teachers focus on; it's slightly different from the arm swing used by players like Harry Vardon, but only because the guy who developed it was missing a leg. It's from pages 8 and 9 of the book:
The swinging concept maintains that if you produce a swinging motion with the golf club:
  1. The left arm will be extended (not straight) by the centrifugal force produced by the swinging motion. It simply has to be responsive.
  2. The head will remain down sufficiently long through the instinctive human reaction of looking at whatever is going to be struck.
  3. The weight will transfer to the left foot (right foot for left-handed players) after the club strikes the ball by having the body respond to the centrifugal force created by the swinging motion.
  4. The body turn that takes place on the forward swing as the body responds to the club's swinging motion will produce a definite closeness of the body and the right elbow. It is not the elbow that gets close to the body.
  5. By using the arms in the forward swing, the club will start correctly from the beginning of the forward swing without trying to use a pulling action with the left hand (right hand for left-handed players) to start it.
  6. Wrist action will be an involuntary reaction to the coiling action (backswing) and the uncoiling action (forward swing) of the club. It is caused by the circular motion needed to swing the club over the right shoulder (left shoulder for left-handed players). In the forward swing it is caused by the centrifugal force created through the swinging motion.
The problem with trying to do any of these things consciously is that we overdo them, and, furthermore, whatever we try to do will be at the wrong time.

To repeat, the emphasis in our presentation is that, having set the club on a true swinging motion the golfer must then allow the body to respond to the motion of the swing itself.
Obviously, in #4, the right elbow would be the left elbow if you're a leftie, and what it means is that you don't consciously pull the elbow to your side; it just "ends up there" if you swing correctly. And yes, that awkward phrasing in #2 is copied correctly. Read it a few times and it will make sense.

The big difference here between this swing and a leg-powered swing is that the latter requires you to consciously perform actions in a certain order, while the arm-powered swing de la Torre is talking about focuses on swinging the arms and just letting everything else happen as a reaction to the arm swing.

It may sound bizarre when you read his intro here, but it's actually an amazing swing. I can swing both ways -- arm swing and leg swing -- and the two feel distinctly different. I can also tell you for sure that this arm-powered swing takes less energy than a comparable leg-powered swing, but it develops a lot of clubhead speed. It truly is a swing where feel means as much (or more) than technique, because the feel of the swing almost creates the technique.

Anyway, I hope this intro from de la Torre's book helps explain the arm-powered concept a little better. His book is one of the few I've seen that devotes a lot of time to using the swing to create different types of shots.


  1. GASP ! How could you leave out the great AJ Bonar !!?? :-D

  2. It's that weird baseball bat driver he uses. Creeps me out. ;-)

    I wonder if Ken Green has thought about visiting de la Torre... that would seem to be a good move for him.

  3. The principle difference between de la Torre's teachings (and Jone's) is that they focus on the movement of the club instead of the movement of the body or its parts. While de la Torre does give substantial time to describing and prescribing the use of the arms, that which is critical is not what you use to swing the club but that you use the club with a swinging motion and that the motion be in the direction of the target (for all clubs).

  4. Thanks for the input, GT. I don't disagree with you at all -- my focus in this post (and several of the other posts on "arm swings" and "leg swings") is more about how the swing feels when a player makes it. As I said, I can swing by feeling the swing both ways, but the way I feel it makes some minor differences in the actual mechanics, such as the amount of hip movement.

    One good example of this #6 in the list above. All players should be doing this, agreed? But (at least in my case) if I feel the swing being powered with my upper body, I seem to be "more aware" of my elbows. By contrast, if I feel the swing being powered with my lower body, I seem to be "more aware" of my hips.

    I think knowing how a player feels the swing is important to developing consistency. If, for example, you feel the swing is mainly powered by your lower body but try to incorporate moves that don't integrate smoothly into that feel, you spend more time thinking about your swing than your shot.

  5. I can certainly agree that the sensory experience of using the arms to swing the club is very subjective. The problem with using a "feel" to confirm that you are using the arms to make the swing is that feels change from day to day and feels are difficult to recall. Imagine drawing a triangle inside of a square. Wait a day and repeat the drawing. You'll find that you are unable to remember the feel but will vividly remember the image. Feels are fine. Mental images are more reliable.

  6. Feels do change from day to day, and you need something objective to help you check that your feel is accurate. I agree with you in principle, but the drawing example isn't a good comparison to a swing. You aren't standing inside the square, and your whole body isn't involved in drawing the triangle. Try instead to draw that triangle in a square with invisible ink, or by drawing it with your eyes closed. That's the closest you can get to making a swing with this comparison.

    The feel in a golf swing, unlike in the drawing process, is somewhat defined by your body's limitations. You could draw the triangle without remaining inside the square at all, but you can only make your swing within a limited area -- even if you aren't really trying to make a certain type of swing.

    In large part, the problem is point of view. Your POV is an external one when you make the drawing, while your POV is very different when you make a swing. That's one of my big problems with how "release" is taught; it's described as it appears to someone standing at a distance and watching the swing, rather than how it appears to the player making the swing. The external viewer sees the hands "pass over" each other, while the swinger sees his hands remain in pretty much the same relationship to each other throughout the swing.

    Ideally you use both feel and image when you swing. For example, while I like players to develop a feel for where the club should be at the top of the backswing -- I often describe it simply as "swinging up to HERE," wherever their HERE happens to be -- I also try to find some image that will help make that position more repeatable, such as having the right shoulder visible under the hands and between the forearms at the top position. You can check that to confirm that your feel is the same from day to day.

  7. I bought both torre's book and dvd. Been hitting about 70 balls a day a driving range and this principle of taking the club back with hands and swinging forward using the arms (arms are from shoulder to elbow) and letting body react to the swing is showing good progress. at first I lost some distance, my gap wedge was good to about 120yds and I could only hit it 100yds. but as the swing thought of swinging forward using the speed of the arms got better, the distance has returned. only using this method of manuel torres for about 4 weeks, so it to early to tell. but this method is so simple, results fairly good, that my frustration level when practicing is much lower. Benn playing golf at least 50 years and have taken many many lessons. lots of $ spent. as a teenager, I worked for Ralph Hutchison at Sacon Valley CC in Bethlem Pa. Ralph played on the tour with Hogan and Jones. He once asked me to hit a ball for him, and when I did, he took the club away from me. was an sob to work for.

  8. I'm glad de la Torre's book is helping. I suspect you lost the distance early on because his method is so dependent on rhythm. He and the late Jim Flick taught a lot of similar things, and they both preferred arm swing to body speed.

    But the reason you're less frustrated now is because a swing with good rhythm is much more forgiving than other swing techniques. Arm swing is much more natural to most people, and as you get older you'll probably keep your distance longer because arm swing is easier to maintain than body speed.

    And thanks for the feedback. It may help some of my other readers.

  9. MIKE: do you use arm-swing or leg-swing in your 4 books?

  10. I try for a balance. Instructors tend to stress one or the other to address the tendencies they see in their students. I've written posts both ways for that very reason -- some players over-emphasize one over the other when they swing. Often it's just a matter of flexibility.

    In my books, I try to keep both in synch. I want you to use your legs correctly, and that makes it easier to make a good arm swing. That's why I use the term "keeping your hands in front of you" as much as I do -- you have to use both your arms and legs correctly to keep your hands "in front."

    For example, if you try to do too much with your arms, you might lift your hands too much during your backswing and not get a good shoulder turn; and if you try to do too much with your legs, your hips can slide too far forward on the downswing and your hands get stuck behind you. Those aren't the only errors that can happen, but it gives you an idea.

    Just as a general rule, instructors who focus on arm swing deal with a lot of students who hit slices. Instructors who focus on leg swing often have a lot of students who hook the ball.

    1. Mike, thanks for your reply. In the last paragraph, you mentioned arm swing can cure slice and leg swing could cure hook. For a weekend golfer like me suffering from slice, should I go to Manuel de la Torre's swing approach? BTW, your accurate iron play in kindle edition is 4.99 or 6.99 USD? Check it :

    2. It's not so much that arm swing cures a slice or that leg drive cures a hook. It's more like not having enough arm swing can contribute to a slice and not having enough leg drive can contribute to a hook. You need to have both arm and leg swing in your swing.

      Most players find that they're attracted to one instructor or another because that instructor's method seems "right" to them. As long as the instructor is a good one -- and de la Torre is -- I say go ahead and follow your instincts. de la Torre will really help you with your rhythm, which almost all players need some help with.

      The Kindle edition of Accurate Iron Play is $4.99. The paperback is $7.99.

    3. Manuel has never said 'you swing your arms'. He does always say 'you swing the club USING your arms', there is a Big difference between the two.

    4. David, I may have misspoken there but I think it's a fair way to put it. Since most instructors these days characterize the alternative as "swinging the club with your body," I think it's logical to characterize de le Torre's method as "swinging your arms" to emphasize the freedom of the movement.

      Besides, if I don't think about swinging my arms, I tend to stay too narrow with my arms too close to my side, perhaps because of so many years thinking Hogan-style. I suspect many people would feel it the same way so just call my term a personal perspective.

    5. Sorry, but, I disagree. if you tell them to "swing their arms", or, that it is an "arm swing" you are giving them false information. It is "swinging the club using the arms" and I don't think the two are the same.

    6. You're certainly entitled to your opinion, David. I won't argue with you about it. But for the benefit of anybody reading these comments, let me quote de la Torre from his book Understanding the Golf Swing so they can understand where our disagreement comes from.

      The following material comes from Chapter 4, Analyzing the Swing.

      On page 55 of my copy, de la Torre writes:

         Swing the clubhead back with the hands and swing the entire golf club forward with the arms from the beginning of the forward swing to the finish of the swing in one uninterrupted motion in the direction of your target.
         If an increase in distance is required, increase your arm speed not your clubhead speed. If your arms have it, your clubhead will have it automatically.

      Earlier in the text (on page 51) he specifically defines the arm as "...that portion of the extremity from the shoulder to the elbow, the rest of it to the wrist is the forearm."

      Technically -- based on his definitions -- de la Torre only uses the arms during the forward swing. But the hands can't swing without the arms also swinging, plus it's physiologically impossible for the hands to swing the arms since the arms are connected to the body at the shoulder; the arms must swing the hands. And most instructors would take issue with his contention that the hands swing the club backward.

      If I may, let me explain why he says the hands are responsible for the backswing. In the classic hickory club swing -- which is where de la Torre's basic technique comes from -- the club is propelled backward at the start of the takeaway to give it enough momentum to help pull the arms around (as opposed to the modern concept of pushing the club back with the arms). As a result, most modern instructors refer to this part of the classic swing as "dragging the hands back to start the backswing," which is a complete misunderstanding of both the purpose of the move and how the hands actually work. (In fact, if you're interested, let me know and I'll explain a simple drill that will show how the backward momentum can be created purely by the arms, without actively using the wrists at all. After reading some of the old texts, that's how I believe it was originally done. de la Torre does say that his own teachings have been changed slightly from the original Ernest Jones teachings which he learned from, which were in turn changed somewhat to accommodate the stiffer steel shafts.)

      Since the forearms have to move in an arc during both the backswing -- after all, the hands can't move without the forearms also moving -- and the forward swing, and since I include the forearms when I talk about the arms, I think our difference of opinion is based on differing definitions about what an arm is.

      It also seems to me that de la Torre is simply trying to make clear where each movement is "focused" -- a vital concept for understanding the feel of the classic swing -- rather than trying to claim that the hands can swing to the top of the backswing without the arms (either upper arm or entire arm) actually swinging in an arc. I'm not going to argue about something like that.

  11. Regarding the price of Accurate Iron Play, now in Amazon Kindle store it is 6.99!

  12. Here's the link to Accurate Iron Play in Amazon's US Kindle Store. It shows $4.99 when I pull it up.

  13. I just picked up this blog exchange. I would be interested in the drill forusing the hands to take the club back.

    1. Okay, Dana. Keep watch over the next few days (in 2016, that is). I'll do a new blog post on how the "old guard" used their hands and arms to create bankward momentum in the takeaway.