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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

More on Wrist Cock and Swing Plane

In some ways I suppose this post could be called The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 9 since it adds some thoughts to that series. But this is some general info that can help all of you, no matter what your swing looks like.

This post is about how your swing plane can affect how your wrists cock and uncock during your downswing. How you think about your swing has a lot to do with your mechanics and how well -- or how badly -- you manage to keep your swing working.

I spent a fair amount of time talking about wrist cock in the elbow posts. I divided wrist cock into two parts:
  • The first was sidecock, the wrist movement you use if you make a karate chop with the side of your hand.
  • The other I dubbed backcock, where the back of your hand hinges toward your forearm.
I also talked some about downcock, a term most instructors use to describe wrist cock that happens during the downswing, after the change of direction. I said that we tend to think of it only in terms of sidecock, but backcock is actually a very important part of the action. Because of that, the place of sidecock in a swing is a bit difficult for most weekend players to get a handle on.

One of the reasons sidecock is a challenge has to do with your swing plane. Most of you know that your swing plane can be either flat or upright -- Dufner has a flattish swing while Bubba's is wildly upright, for example. If you're somewhere in the middle, teachers will often refer to that swing as a neutral swing.

But the part of your swing from around waist high down to the ball -- the impact zone -- acts pretty much the same no matter what your plane looks like. And that probably needs some explanation.

Here's the picture of HaNa Jang that I used in a lot of the elbow posts, showing her as she enters the impact zone:

HaNa Jang enters the impact zone

At this point, your wrist cock is mostly backcock. Backcock is the easiest way to chip, which is the way Pete Cowen, one of the top instructors on the planet, teaches chipping. This post included a video where he demonstrates the technique. And as you swing back to the position where HaNa Jang is in the photo, you bend your trailing elbow and that brings your backcocked wrist up into the position she's in.

Is that clear so far? No matter how flat or upright your plane is, at impact you're still swinging the club out away from your body as you turn and shift your weight to your lead foot, so you get the same basic rotary motion regardless of your swing plane. The distance your club travels in the impact zone is pretty much the same for an upright or a flat plane.

However, it's different with the upper part of your downswing, depending on how flat or upright your swing plane is.
  • In a flat swing, the down part is roughly the same as the around part. That is, you travel downward very close to the same amount you're moving toward the ball in a flat swing. Because of that, backcock is responsible for a lot more in a flat swing. A good example of this is a two-handed tennis forehand, where it's all backcock and there's no sidecock at all, simply because your arms travel parallel to the ground throughout the stroke. 
  • But an upright swing travels more down than around. Because of that, you create a lot more sidecock in the upper part of your swing. The backcock becomes most pronounced as you near the impact zone, simply because the momentum of the clubhead tries to stay on the plane as you come down. You try to turn, the momentum resists, and your trailing wrist bends backward more as your body turns to face the ball. Otherwise the club would ALWAYS come over-the-top on the way down.
My point here is that sidecock plays a much bigger part in an upright swing than in a flat swing. This may be why many instructors believe an upright swing creates more power than a flat swing, but it's also why it's harder to square the clubface with an upright swing than a flat swing. The flat swing primarily uses backcock so there's very little rotation involved when you square the face. But in the upright swing, it feels like you need to twist your wrists in order to square the face.

In the elbow series I focused on a flatter plane swing -- which most modern instruction also teaches, so most of you are probably more familiar with it -- because the swing is simpler to understand. I have an upright swing so, although I use a lot of backcock in the swing, I use a lot of sidecock as well. But my understanding of my swing -- my swing image, if you will -- uses lead shoulder rotation (which I talked about in the first few elbow posts) to smooth out the transition from mostly sidecock to mostly backcock during the downswing. That's a lot more difficult to explain in blog posts although the drills would help you create the move, even if you didn't understand it.

The purpose of this post is much simpler. I just want you to understand that, if you have an upright swing and you're having trouble getting backcock early in your downswing, there's nothing wrong with you. But you should be able to use backcock in the impact zone with little or no trouble. If you're having a problem there, it's just a matter of understanding how your hands and wrists work during impact, and working with the drills in the elbow series will help you develop that understanding by "digging it out of the dirt", as Hogan would say.

I hope that clears up any problems you might have. As usual, you can post questions in the comment section and I'll try to answer them.

8 comments:

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdpigRI3u78

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  2. http://www.golfchannel.com/media/morning-drive-lesson-harvey-penick/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQTizopYSZI https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXukI45h3Kg

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  3. http://www.golfdigest.com/story/4-ways-to-smash-it-like-tony-finau

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  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hcHR6BeqB0

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  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Dtjxj1_u0M

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. Mike, I know I said I was going to quit reading swing analysis papers, but I guess I'm just weak. Take a look at Jeff Mann's paper at http://perfectgolfswingreview.net/rightswing.htm. At the end of the article he gets into right arm swing -- a.k.a. side arm stone skipping -- and ties it back to the left arm swing of Hogan (and TGM, but that comes with his site). Looks like the "HaNa" position with a much more active right/trail shoulder to preserve the trail elbow and wrist cocking.

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    Replies
    1. Jean Luc, based on what I read in his How to Power the Golf Swing paper, I'm hesitant to spend much time on his theories. (In the paper you mentioned, he refers to this paper as necessary knowledge for understanding what he says.) While his Golf Machine explanations may be good, his explanation of swinging doesn't match up with either the work of Ernest Jones, which is the main text most players refer to, or with that of the great Harry Vardon, whose writings predate Jones by nearly three decades.

      Both Jones and Vardon describe the swinging motion primarily in terms of the right hand, not the left hand as Mann does. This is because the primary pivot point in the classic swinging motion is in the thumb and forefinger of the right hand, not the wrist of the left hand. The method Mann describes doesn't create the proper angles at the top of the backswing, which create the clubhead speed. Vardon considered 250 yards a standard drive for a professional... and he used a 7-wood length hickory-shafted driver and the hard rubber Haskell ball of the times.

      Mann's treatment of the Golf Machine is probably useful -- that's clearly what he's a proponent of -- but I don't think his analysis of the swinging motion will help you very much. If the Golf Machine uses the swinging motion he describes, it will be very easy to tear up your left shoulder. I learned that from painful experience.

      Just for reference, Vardon describes the swinging motion using soft shafts, while Jones adapted the motion to stiff shafts. There is some difference in technique because the shafts load differently during the swing, but both use the same pivot point, created by the thumb and forefinger of the right (trailing) hand.

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