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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Why Your Wrists Cock

Are you wondering why I've included this post in the "mindset" category? It's because too many players have a mental hang-up about power, and it keeps them from making the correct moves. If you have the right mindset, proper wrist action is almost automatic.

And remember, I'm writing this because of a question from Dexter, who's a righthander. You lefties will have to reverse the "lefts" and "rights." Sorry about that.

So we've talked about "back cock" and flipping -- the wrist movement that many teachers don't talk about -- and we've talked about why it's hard to keep your wrists cocked by trying to do it. But we've also said that it's important to keep your wrists relaxed. Now it's time to see why relaxed wrists can cock and stay cocked all the way down to the hitting area when we can't consciously make them stay cocked.

If we keep our wrists relaxed, some of our wrist cock happens because of the turning of our bodies and the motion of our arms. First we're turning our shoulders and swinging our arms in the direction of our backswing, then we change direction. When we change direction, the club doesn't want to change with us, so it causes our relaxed wrists to cock. The cocking action works much the same way an airbag does -- it slows the club down, and continues to slow it down for a few moments while we start the downswing. That lets us get down near the ball before the downswing motion causes the club to move fast enough in the new direction that it uncocks our wrists.

That's simple enough, but how do we know how much cocking motion is the right amount? The movement of our arms determines how much our wrists cock. I'm going to try and explain how this works in today's post.

For a right-hander, the left arm stays relatively straight and the right elbow bends at the top of the backswing. If you think about it, this really isn't a lot of motion. Once you eliminate your body turn from the equation and think about hand position relative to your navel, your hands only move a couple of feet or so from their original setup position. That's all!

Forget about turning for a moment. Just take your normal setup position, which probably puts your hands just below your navel or maybe a couple of inches to the left of it. Now keep your left arm fairly straight while you lift your hands up to "the top of your swing." If you're like most people, your hands will move up and to your right -- either above or just outside your right shoulder. When one arm stays straight and the other bends at the elbow, your hands HAVE to move diagonally like that. In fact, you may only feel as if your right elbow is bending; if your left arms stays straight, it has to move toward and above your right shoulder.

But in addition, your wrists will cock. Again, they HAVE to -- the only way you can stop it is by keeping your wrists rigid. But we want relaxed wrists, remember? As a general rule, the more you bend your elbow, the more wrist cock you get. And this may help you understand why some teachers advise certain positions at the top of the swing.

For example, you hear teachers talk about keeping your bent elbow close to your side. Obviously, the closer your elbow is to your side, the farther it is from your hands... and that causes you to cock your wrists more. Try it -- just hold your club out in front of you and push your left arm as straight away from you as you can, while pulling your right elbow as close to your chest as possible. You can create a wrist cock that really strains your left wrist.

This is also where plane comes into the picture. Your plane affects how much wrist cock you get because it affects how much you bend your elbow. Flat planes cause more wrist cock because your elbow is so much closer to your side. Have you ever heard a flat-plane teacher who didn't tell you to keep your right elbow close to your side? Flat planes make you bend your elbow more.

Upright-plane teachers tend to stress "depth of arc," which simply means you get your hands as far behind you (outside your shoulders) as possible. That's because if you have a "shallow" swing, where the club is more above your right shoulder, the right elbow can stay fairly straight and not cock the wrists as much. (When Jack Nicklaus rebuilt his swing in 1979-1980, he said he did it because he had gotten "too upright." This is what he was talking about.) If you push your hands back "behind you," your elbow has to bend more and you get more wrist cock. You can check this by simply lifting your clasped hands above your shoulder -- your elbow doesn't bend much at all. But lower your hands a few inches and push them out to the right -- a "deeper" position -- and your elbow will bend a lot more.

If your move to the top is smooth -- all the lifting and bending happening as one fluid motion -- you may be completely unaware of when or how much your wrists cock. But whether you can feel them cock or not, it happens most consistently when you relax your wrists and just let it happen. The key is not how you maneuver your wrists, but how your arms -- your straight arm and your bent elbow, working as a team -- move.

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