Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The REAL Secret Move in Golf

Part of the Route 67 series

Yes, today we're going to talk about the REAL secret move in golf. It's the move that causes most of the differences between one teacher's technique and another's.

I call it the REAL secret because nobody really talks about it. If a teacher mentions it, they just assume that it's obvious... and yet sometimes I wonder if they really understand how much it shapes the differences between the various swing methods.

If you follow what I'm talking about over the next few posts, you'll be able to quickly figure out if a tip you saw on TV or heard from a pro will really work with your swing, or whether you should look elsewhere for help.

Intrigued? Good. Stick with me for a moment.

We already talked about how easy it is to make a short game swing with no conscious wrist action; that's something anybody can do. We've talked about how having your wrists cocked until you're almost ready to hit the ball is the secret of power in your swing; that was the whole point of the "swoosh move" posts. And hopefully you tried a full swing using that "no conscious wrist action" swing and found you could get a good amount of distance for very little effort. So far, so good.

But I probably left the impression that you'd have trouble making a power swing with this technique. I hope you tried it; if you did, you understand why: Your wrists start uncocking almost from the moment you start your downswing.

Uncocking too early

That's not a completely bad thing. If you look at the posts in my "Basic Principles of the Game" category, you'll find that this short-game-swing-stretched-long is what I call an approach shot, and I spent 4 posts describing it as "The Deadhanded Approach Shot" (which you can find on the "Some Useful Post Series" page). That gradual uncocking of the wrists gives you a great amount of distance control, which is why it works so well for both the short game and for improving your GIR percentage from the fairways.

But if you want to hit the ball as far as possible, it's a bad thing. To hit the ball as far as possible, you've got to keep your wrists from uncocking until your hands are down near the ball. How can you get your wrists to cock at the top of the backswing, but not uncock until you reach the hitting area during the downswing?

That's what the REAL secret move in the golf swing is: It's the move that keeps your wrists from uncocking before they get close to the ball.

Secret Move Diagram

Now here's the trick: There is no one way to do it, but the way you choose will shape your entire golf swing.

Over the next few posts, I'll be looking at some of the different methods golfers have devised to solve this problem. If you can identify which method is being used by a given teacher, you can decide if that teacher can possibly help your game. This will both save you time and help you avoid a lot of frustration.

I bet you'll recognize the first one immediately, but you probably didn't realize it was meant to solve this problem...

4 comments:

  1. You'd get backup from Harvey Penick on this from his Little Red Book. He wanted his students to think of dropping the elbow down to the hip as the start of the downswing.

    Michael Breed gave a similar idea last night with a mental picture of the move as standing in a pool waist deep and hitting the water with the hands and butt of the club first - never the shaft or clubhead.

    Good stuff, Mike

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  2. Thanks, Court. Pennick was very "old-school," which isn't a bad thing at all -- he turned out quite a few champions. I think we've made a mistake by throwing out classic technique just because it's old.

    I may be getting a bit ahead of things because I'm writing about Hogan in a couple of days, but there's a difference between Penick and Hogan's teaching about the elbow (although their moves look somewhat similar) that's worth mentioning since you brought it up. It's a matter of force -- Penick wanted you to let your elbow fall down to your hip on the downswing, while Hogan literally drives the elbow to the hip. Hogan's swing is more compact than the swing Penick taught, so Penick's move is more leisurely. In a very real sense, Penick teaches a swing while Hogan teaches a hit. For most players, the Penick move is much easier and much more repeatable.

    I didn't get to see all of Breed's show last night, but I was really blown away by how he helped the veteran with the paralyzed left leg. That's one thing I really like about him -- he seems more concerned with helping people enjoy playing than with getting them to "swing properly," if you know what I mean.

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  3. I know what you mean - but the more I read and watch on Hogan, the less I think his style should be copied. The guy was a physical phenom who worked harder than most of us ever want to to overcome a serious swing problem.

    The guy was amazingly strong, and mentally strong enough to consistently control the shot that plagues most of us - the slice - and turn it into the fade we all admire.

    In one of Penick's books, he tells a story of having lunch with some Japanese executives who asked him to help them with their slice. Penick asked them if they had been reading the Hogan book, and they said that they studied Hogan's method very carefully.

    Penick turned their hands to the right to strengthen what they had learned in the book - the thing Hogan had to change to get rid of the hook that nearly ran him out of the game. Penick wanted them to draw the ball, saying that it is better for the average golfer.

    Pretty amazing guy. Penick knew that most of us just don't have the strength or discipline to hit the Hogan fade.

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  4. When I said in an earlier post that Johnny Miller was the only person I knew of who had ever had anywhere near the success with the Hogan method that Hogan did, I think a lot of people may not have realized that Miller was a leftie who played right-handed. I don't know if he could have ever gotten into those wrist positions of Hogan's if he hadn't been. It takes some powerful wrists and forearms to make that move.

    And like you said, it's just not a swing designed for the average player. When you struggle with a slice (the way most players do), it makes no sense to adopt a swing that's designed to make you slice unless you do it perfectly.

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