ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All About Pushes, Part 2

Good morning, class. Welcome to our second session about pushing the ball.

A quick note, just to make sure we're all on the same page: Rather than try to use left and right all the time when I have both left-handers and right-handers reading this, I simply use the terms lead and trailing. If you're left-handed, your left side is your trailing side; if you're right-handed, your right side is your trailing side -- and obviously your other side is your lead side. Got that? Good. Let's move on.

We ended yesterday's class about the first of two typical causes of pushed shots with this:
The club swings in-to-out -- that is, pushes the ball -- because your trailing shoulder is lower on the downswing than it was on the backswing. And to lower your trailing shoulder, you have to lean away from the target. So the more you lean away from the target, the more in-to-out your swing will be... which means you'll get a bigger push.
Almost every instructor agrees that your spine has to angle back away from the target a little bit. That's because your trailing hand is lower on the club than your leading hand, so your trailing shoulder has to be a bit lower. The big question becomes how much tilt away from the ball is enough?

This is where so many people get tripped up. We need to approach this from a couple of different directions to understand what's going on.

Gary CoilmanFirst, let me refer you back to a post I wrote in October 2009, only a couple of months after I started this blog. The post was called Meet Gary Coilman and it involved a little prop made from popsicle sticks and cardboard. (Isn't he cute?)

The whole point of that post was that you don't have to move your shoulders up and down during your swing to get the appearance that they're moving up and down as you turn. (Remember, you're trying to hit down on the ball at impact, so most people think that means you have to bend forward and dip your trailing shoulder. Wrong!) You can read the original post to get the gist of it -- Gary explains it better in a few pictures than I can here in words -- but I'll just say that you don't have to lean backward at all to get some downward motion of your trailing shoulder.

The second thing we need to realize is that some of the backward tilt we see in a golf swing is an illusion. It's caused by the way our skeletons are built... and the incorrect image most of us hold in our minds. Here, take a look at this diagram. (Yes, this is a right-handed version. The left-handed version is a little farther down, after the next paragraph, in order to visually separate them.) In it we're looking down from above -- the wide oval is your hips, the smaller oval is your head, and the dark circle is your spine:

Imagined vs actual hip and spine construction for righties

Most of us imagine our skeletons look like the top three drawings -- that our spines are in the center of our heads and hips. They're actually constructed like the bottom three drawings -- our spines are near the back of our heads and hips. This means that our heads and hips appear to be offset slightly as we swing back and through, not centered.

Imagined vs actual hip and spine construction for lefties

I've added dotted lines to the images to show how what we actually see differs from what we expect to see. In the backswing position I've drawn dotted lines at the outside of the trailing hip and lead ear. Notice that in the actual position it appears that both have moved backward, away from the ball, when the spine position in the drawings hasn't changed at all. (The head has also rotated slightly away from the ball. This tends to happen automatically for most players.)

Likewise, in the downswing position -- I left the head slightly rotated away from the ball because most of the pros whose swings we study in the videos tend to do that -- it looks as if the hips have moved much more toward the target in the bottom picture. That's totally because of the spine not being centered in the head and hips; in these diagrams I haven't moved the spine at all. That's important. I merely rotated the head and hips around the spine in all the pictures, as if the spine was completely vertical... but it looks as if the spine should be tilted, doesn't it?

Now let's jump back a few days to the post that included a video of Na Yeon Choi's swing. I've taken stills from the video showing the same three positions in the previous diagrams, but I've added a straight line representing her spine position. The line runs from the position of her spine at the base of her skull all the way down through its position in her hips. Notice how, although her body appears to have moved a large amount, her spine actually changes its tilt very little either way from its address position:

Na Yeon Choi in same swing positions

NYC's spine gets a bit more vertical at the top of the backswing (middle pic) and tilts a bit more at impact (rightmost pic) than it was at address. But that's not much at all, is it? Because her hips are rotating and her head is still turned slightly away from the target, it looks as if her hips have slid much farther forward during the downswing than they really have.

Again, this is a lot to digest so this is probably a good place to stop for the day... but I want to give you a way to start learning what a correct turn feels like. To do so, I'm going to give you a drill from an older post, but with a twist. (Actually, it's more of a tilt.) And you won't even need a club to do it, so you can do it anywhere, anytime, at no cost! What a deal, eh?

I want you to go to a post called More Indoor Practice. It links you to a drill at the Golf Tips Magazine site that teaches you how to make a correct turn back and through without a club. (It says it teaches you to make a body-driven swing rather than an arm-driven one, but a good swing uses both in a balanced way. This drill is good for learning the body part, and my post explains why.) The idea is that you learn how the proper coiling action and footwork feels, then you can learn to do the move with a club.

But I'm going to make a slight change to the drill because I want you to learn the Gary Coilman position. Instead of crossing your arms and placing both hands on both shoulders -- which will make your shoulders level when you stand up straight -- I want you to place your lead hand on your trailing shoulder but put your trailing hand on your lead elbow. Let me give you those instructions specifically for lefties and righties:
  • Righties: Left hand on right shoulder, right hand on left elbow.
  • Lefties: Right hand on left shoulder, left hand on right elbow.
This change will cause your trailing shoulder to be slightly lower than your lead shoulder during the drill, just as in the Gary Coilman post.

What will this body turning drill do? It will teach you to make a full balanced turn with an automatic downward strike and good footwork all in one! The new arm position will probably cause your lead shoulder to push your chin away from the target -- just like NYC's head in the video. (In fact, at the top of backswing position, your shoulders will be almost parallel to the ground even though your spine is tilted toward the ball. You can see that in the drawings at the Coilman post.) And when you turn in the downswing, it's going to feel as if you're hitting down -- trust me on this one.

If you do the drill correctly, you'll be able to make a balanced "swing," both going back and coming down, and your head will stay just inside your trailing knee. If you do it wrong, your lead shoulder is going to force your head and spine too far away from the target, and your head will end up leaning over your trailing foot.

A quick note: The higher lead shoulder position you'll use in this drill is different from some swing methods, such as Stack and Tilt. I'm not saying that SnT (or other methods where your lead shoulder swings more under your chin) are wrong. But SnT was created to fix a problem that I'm trying to prevent from ever happening in the first place. If you already use a SnT swing, just use the drill exactly as the Golf Tips Magazine article suggests.

Practice this drill some today -- leave me a comment if you have any problems or questions -- and we'll continue our session tomorrow. Class dismissed!

No comments:

Post a Comment