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Thursday, July 12, 2012

All About Pushes, Part 3

Wow, you came back! You must be serious about not pushing that 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.

The first two posts dealt with what I think is the most common cause of a pushed shot -- leaning backward during your downswing. Today we'll look at the other most common cause of pushes.

That problem is letting your lead elbow drift away from your body during your downswing.

It makes sense if you just think about it. When you come over-the-top, your trailing elbow gets out away from your body during your downswing. That throws the club out over your target line and you end up pulling the club back across the line toward your body, which creates a pulled shot.

In a pushed shot you do just the opposite. Your lead elbow drifts out away from your body during your downswing, so the club starts the way you wanted but then it gets farther away from your body instead of curving around it.

There are several things that can make this problem even worse:
  • If you're leaning backward during your downswing, that tilts your shoulders and moves your elbow away from your body even more. If you're leaning backward AND your elbow drifts away from your body, you're probably looking at a huge push-slice.
  • If the problem's not real bad, it might just make you "chicken-wing" your followthrough.
  • Since this move can also make a slice worse, it might cause you to flip your hands and you end up with a big hook. This is a problem many of the pros fight against. Sometimes this is the problem they're talking about when they say they "got stuck," and you'll see them doing things like practicing with a glove stuck in their lead armpit.
But no matter what you do, if you try to fix this problem without understanding what causes it, there's a good chance you'll be fighting a push for a long time.

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you've heard me preach about one-piece takeaways until you're sick of it. But a bad takeaway is the place where this kind of push gets started, so let me quickly explain how it happens.

Ben Hogan correctly said that your elbows should point down at the ground throughout your swing. Too many people start their backswings by twisting their forearms to the side. In addition to all the other problems this can cause (there's a full technical explanation in my book Stop Coming Over-the-Top, complete with a load of diagrams, if you're interested), twisting your forearms causes your lead elbow to point at the target instead of the ground. When you reach the top of your backswing your lead elbow is still pointed sideways instead of down, and the natural way to start your downswing from that position is to pull sideways... which will cause you to bend that lead elbow and move it away from your side.

Hogan's solution to this was something he called connection, which I've also written about on this blog. When you're connected, your upper arms rest lightly against your chest the way they did at address. Basically, Hogan said that if you kept your elbows close to your side this way during your swing -- at least when your hands are not above your shoulders, because then your trailing arm has to move away a little -- your elbows will point down at the ground all the way through your swing.

That's why pros sometimes put a glove or a towel under their lead armpit. The glove (or towel) will fall to the ground if they get "disconnected." But unless you make a correct takeaway -- a connected one-piece takeaway -- you'll have your elbow in the wrong position from the start. Then you'll be struggling to twist your arms back into position on the way down. That's just doing things the hard way... which is a shame, because this cause is the easiest to fix.

I have a good explanation of how to perform a one-piece takeaway in this post, complete with drills. You can do the drills with or without a club so, like yesterday's drill, you can do them anywhere. I'll leave you to work with those today.

Tomorrow I'll try to wrap this all up and fill in any blanks I may have missed by tackling each problem separately -- things like why you might lean backward on the downswing and how a bent elbow can make it worse. After all, some of you may be making both mistakes at the same time!

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