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Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Rest of the Way to the Top

Today we continue answering the comment Baptiste left on this post about one-piece takeaways. Here's the comment:
Do you have a video that explains the next step. When your hands are in front of your pocket. At this point, i guess there's a little action of the left wrist in order to bring the shaft to the target line and the face pointing to the sky?

Or it's only the rotation of the shoulders that bring the club in that position ?
In yesterday's post I answered some of those questions by starting with the one-piece takeaway so we would know our actual position when we started the rest of the backswing. Today we'll go from there to the top of the swing and, in the process, answer the rest of his questions.

And yes, there will be a video at the end. Two, in fact. ;-)

As I said yesterday, when we finish the one-piece takeaway our hands are about waist high -- maybe a little higher if we have an upright swing -- and our elbows are pretty straight. I also said that the first move from here is to bend our trailing elbow.

We turn our shoulders and our hips a lot during our swing, but our arms and hands don't move nearly as much as most players think. Let's imagine what it looks like if we eliminate all the turning during the swing and just watch our arms and hands. What you'll see is that your hands simply make a big V shape during the swing, and that V isn't much wider than your shoulders. Here's what it would look like:

Your hands start just below your belly button at setup. The one-piece takeaway lifts them straight up to your belly button or just above it, then your trailing elbow starts to bend. You lift your lead arm at the shoulder joint -- you have to, because your lead elbow still stays straight -- while your trailing elbow bends. At first, the upper part of your trailing arm doesn't really move. Almost all of the movement is at your elbow!

BTW, since one arm is straight while the other bends, your wrists start to cock. You don't have to make it happen. It happens automatically.

Your trailing elbow bends until your hands are at about shoulder level. Because your lead arm stayed straight, your hands move sideways a little so your hands are just to the side of your trailing shoulder. And from this point, both arms pivot up at the shoulders until your hands are about as high as your ears.

And now you're at the top of your backswing. The downswing just takes your hands back down around your setup position, then they make the rest of the V as you finish the swing and your hands move over your other shoulder.

Most of the action during your backswing is just a combination of your straight lead arm pivoting up while your trailing elbow bends. Believe it or not, this is the main motion that gets you to the top of the backswing. It also causes your wrists to cock. Your shoulders did most of their turning during the one-piece takeaway, so your hips just give you a little extra turn while your elbow bends upward. But it's the straight arm and bending elbow that do most of the work getting you to the top and pointing the club shaft down the target line.

Baptiste also asked about the face of the club. The back of your wrist determines where the face of the club is pointing. As long as your lead forearm and the back of your lead wrist stay "flat" -- that is, you could place a ruler against the back of your forearm and wrist, and it would lay flat against them -- the clubface will point where it should.

And now for some video. Here's Webb Simpson, smacking drives during a practice round at the U.S. Open this year. The second swing is slowed down much more than the first one, so it's easier to see what's happening in that one:

Webb's one-piece takeaway ends just before his hands reach his waist (the bottom of the "sweet spot" from my diagram in yesterday's post) because he has a fairly flat swing, and you can see his right (trailing) elbow start to bend. You'll notice that his elbow doesn't move much; his straight arm moves in front of it and then you can see his bent elbow beneath it, even though his shoulders aren't turning much at all at this point. Then, right at the end of this backswing, both arms make a final move up to get his hands up to his ears. (Yes, I know it looks like they're above his head, but you've got to remember that he's leaning toward the camera. His right shoulder is several inches higher than his left.)

Now, here's Ai Miyazato doing the same thing, but Ai's swing is much more upright. Notice that her one-piece takeaway doesn't finish until her left (lead) arm is nearly parallel to the ground, and that's when her trailing elbow starts to bend:

And if you look closely, you'll see that Ai's trailing elbow is never visible below her lead arm the way it is with Webb Simpson. This is because Ai's one-piece takeaway finishes so high and her swing is so upright that her elbow simply doesn't bend as much. If you could see behind her (and you can if you check out some other videos of her on YouTube), you'd see that her elbow does finally bend about 90°.

I hope that answers all your questions, Baptiste. If something's not clear, just leave me a comment and I'll try to do better. But I think it's pretty simple once you realize that, after the one-piece takeaway is complete, the move to the top is basically just a little "bend and lift" with your arms.

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