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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Adding Wrist Cock to the Tempo Drill

For those of you who didn't hear, the end of the world has been postponed. This means you'll have plenty of time to practice your swing tempo! Isn't that great news?

Of course, I assume you've already been working on the traditional tempo drill I wrote about last week. Now you're ready to learn how wrist cock changes the feel of that drill.

And it does change it. One of the problems we face with drills is that most of them focus on a single aspect of the swing... which means they ignore other equally-important aspects. I'm going to tell you how to add a "late cock" to the drill, which is also a traditional way of doing it. I believe this is the simplest way to feel the correct tempo.

If you prefer to use an "early cock," where you start cocking the club almost as soon as you start your backswing, you'll still find this post to be useful. I was originally taught an early cock (and it does have some advantages, I'm not saying it's a bad thing), and the main difference is that the "cocking pressure" of the club isn't as strong. That just means you'll have to pay more attention to what you're doing in order to get your tempo right. Otherwise it all works the same way and you'll get the same benefits from the drill.

If you've worked with the tempo drill and gotten to where you can do it with a club and no "string aid," you're probably making a nice rhythmic pitch-length swing. And you've probably noticed that there's almost a pause at the top of that little swing; that's caused by the club slowly coasting to a halt at the top of the backswing, then slowly gaining speed as gravity pulls it downward. I'm not so sure that "pause" is a good word to think about here, since too many people will try to literally stop the club at the top. It's more accurate to call it a moment of weightlessness, where the club isn't going up but it isn't going down either. It's almost too short to feel.

Well, what makes that moment of weightlessness feel like a perceptible pause to most people is their wrist cock. The wrist cock starts just before the club reaches that weightless moment, and the cocking action is an upward motion. When the backswing stops, the wrists are still cocking and they prolong the feeling of that moment. It's important for you to understand this: It isn't that the club has paused and is staying in place; rather, the wrists start cocking just before that moment of weightlessness and cover it up. It just seems like the club pauses.

The problem with adding wrist cock to the tempo drill is that it makes the top of the swing harder to detect. People who can make a swing with beautiful tempo when they don't cock their wrists sometimes lose all their timing once they add that wrist cock. If you could watch your swing in super slow-motion, you would see that the club starts down just a split-second before your wrists finish cocking.

So what you want to feel is the moment your wrists finish cocking; that's when you start down. The club will actually already be moving down, so you won't be as likely to jerk the club from the top. And you can feel this moment when your wrists stop cocking because the weight of the club makes some pressure where your thumb and your wrist meet. Fortunately I posted a diagram of this a little over a year ago, and here it is again! The pressure point is labeled 'b.'

Diagram of a late wrist cock
When you feel that club pressure at 'b,' that's when you want to start your downswing. And you can see why an early cock can be more difficult to feel than a late cock, since the club doesn't have quite as far to travel after the early cock (that angle labeled 'a' in the diagram) and thus it creates less pressure on the wrists. I suspect the idea behind the early cock is that you will be swinging faster, which should help the club create more pressure.

Whichever way you cock your wrists -- early or late -- that pressure between your thumb and wrist is what you're trying to feel. If you start down when you feel that -- and you keep your wrists relaxed, so you aren't fighting the club's natural movement through all this -- your wrists will stay cocked until your hands are down around waist level. That means you'll "hold" your wrist cock longer, which means you'll release the club's stored-up power later in your swing and hit the ball farther.

So why do the pros spend so much time doing weights? The stronger your wrists and forearms are, the faster you can swing the club without messing up your tempo -- that is, the sequence and relative timing of each of the movements in your swing. But you don't have to do lots of weights to have good tempo and develop a lot of clubhead speed -- Ai Miyazato is a prime example.

So the key to adding wrist cock to your tempo drill is to try and feel the pressure that the club creates between your thumb and wrist at the top of the backswing. That's your key to start your downswing. If you "wait" for that moment, you'll tend to make a swing with good tempo.

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