Friday, October 14, 2011

The Top of Your One-Piece Takeaway

On one of last month's posts about one-piece takeaways Baptiste left me a 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 ?
I wrote back that I'd do a post and to be on the lookout for it. But it's going to be more than one post, since his question is very specific and I want to make sure my answer is clear.

Actually, Baptiste asks several inter-related questions in his comment. He mentions several different things which you'll hear teachers say when they work with players. But not all teachers mean the same thing, even if they use the same words.

For example, Baptiste wants to know what to do after the one-piece takeaway gets his hands in front of his hip pocket. This is a common image teachers use, although some only use it to refer to where the wrists uncock during the downswing. Since I don't want any confusion, we'll start with this "hip pocket" image.

I'm not sure the hip pocket position is correct for everybody. It depends on how much you turn your shoulders and hips during the backswing. For example, Tom Watson turns his hips a lot more than Yani Tseng because Yani's more flexible and doesn't need as much hip turn to complete her shoulder turn. Therefore their hip pockets wouldn't necessarily be in the same place during their backswings. You can see how that might cause some confusion.

Plus a good one-piece takeaway really should carry your hands a good distance past your hip pocket. If it doesn't, you're losing power and accuracy in your swing.

Here's a diagram I drew to give you a better way to identify when you've reached the end of your one-piece takeaway. This description should be the same for all of you, no matter how flexible you are:

Diagram showing what a properly-done one-piece takeaway looks like

The bottom drawing -- the one that shows your lead arm and club shaft parallel to your aim line -- is the main one to use. As long as your elbows are pretty straight, which they should be during a one-piece takeaway, this is when you finish your takeaway and are ready to take the club to the top of the backswing. At this point you've got a lot of shoulder turn, so you can (1) make a lot of power and (2) swing on the correct plane.

The other part of the diagram -- the part labeled "the Sweet Spot" -- has to be included because upright swing takeaways finish higher than flat swing takeaways. I've used this picture of Paula Creamer before when talking about one-piece takeaways because hers is pretty typical:

Paula Creamer's one-piece takeaway

As you can see, Paula's straight lead arm puts her hands at or just above waist high. (If you could see her trailing arm, you'd see that it's pretty straight also.) You'll also notice that Paula's hands are WA-A-AY past her hip pocket! If she stopped her hands at her hip pocket, she wouldn't hit the ball very far at all. So the hip pocket image wouldn't work very well for her.

Going back to your comment, Baptiste, the rotation of your shoulders gets your hands partway to the top of your backswing. That's because the one-piece takeaway takes your hands well past the hip pocket position where you expected to end your takeaway.

Like I said, Paula has a pretty typical one-piece takeaway. That's because she has a swing that's neither too upright nor too flat. That affects how high her hands are when she finishes her one-piece takeaway.

If you look at the "sweet spot" in the diagram above, Paula's hands would be a little bit above the dotted line at the bottom of the orange box. The very bottom of the box -- just below the waist, and much closer to that "hip pocket" image -- is where flat swingers like Paul Azinger or Rosie Jones would reach the top of their one-piece takeaways.

And the top of the box, just under their armpits, is where very upright swingers like Ai Miyazato and Bubba Watson would reach the top of their one-piece takeaways. For them, their lead arms would be almost parallel to the ground, as well as parallel to their aim line.

So the first thing Baptiste needs to know is that his hands probably aren't in front of his hip pocket at all. In fact, with both arms held fairly straight, his hands will probably be in front of his breast bone, the center of his chest. You have to remember that your arms stay straight because you turn your shoulders. If your arms won't stay straight, you probably aren't turning your shoulders enough... and that costs you distance and accuracy.

I haven't forgotten your request for video, Baptiste. That will be in the next post. But you need to understand this first. Your one-piece takeaway will take your hands quite a way past your hip pocket because of your shoulder turn.

A one-piece takeaway means you turn your shoulders enough that both of your elbows can stay pretty straight. So the next step is... your trailing elbow bends. And that's what we'll start with in tomorrow's post.

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