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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fanning the Club Open on the Way Back

(PAY ATTENTION, RIGHTHANDERS! Normally I describe things as a righthander, and lefties have to transpose it. But Brian is a lefty and this is his project, so you righties will have to substitute “right” for “left” and vice versa. It will give you an appreciation for what lefties have to go through when they learn the game. But here’s a hint that will help: View the photos as if you were looking in a mirror.)

One problem Brian mentioned in our emails is that he fans the club open on the backswing and flips it shut on the downswing; this, combined with an over-the-top move, sometimes causes him to hit a duck hook. That over-the-top move should disappear when we deal with the rest of his swing, but I told him he can work on that other problem now. You’ll hear me say this over and over until I run it into the ground, but I can’t stress it enough:

The number one principle of good golf, whether you’re putting or driving or making any shot in-between, is that the clubface should remain square to the stroke path; the forearms should NOT rotate during the execution of the stroke.

This is non-negotiable! If you want to hit the ball a long way and do it accurately, you simply MUST follow this principle. The Deadhanded Approach Shot series listed in the sidebar has a simple drill with a drinking glass that will help you learn how it feels. You don’t even have to go to the golf course―you can do it inside, where it’s warm. (Specifically, the drill is in posts 2 and 3.) You don’t have to spend a lot of time on it, maybe a minute or so a day if you’re ambitious, and it’ll improve your game during the off-season.

For many of you, this one little drill will cure a multitude of ills. But am I finished? Oh no, not yet; let me give you two for the price of one.

When I had my lesson with Carl, I had the same problem (one of many!) that Brian has. Carl gave me a drill that helps you stop rotating your forearms. While you can use this drill during play, bear in mind that you probably won’t be hitting 300-yard drives with it. However, I’m only average height and weight, and I was able to routinely hit a 3-wood 230-240 yards off the tee using it, my driver around 250. (Admit it, some of you would pay for those drives!)

The drill uses an early wrist cock, which steals a little distance in exchange for an easy-to-feel forearm position check. But it’s very easy to describe and even easier to do:

When you take the club back, cock the club almost immediately. When your arms are parallel to the ground (halfway up to the top), you want to be sure the club shaft is pointing straight up in the air.

Yeah, I know this goes against everything you’ve heard about how important swing planes are, yaddy-yaddy-yah. But if you’ve been twisting your forearms on the backswing, your brain associates that twist with quiet forearms. This will teach you what non-twisting forearms really feel like.

And trust me, if you use this technique in a full swing, the movement of your upper body and the club’s weight will result in your club automatically following the correct plane… because you won’t be twisting it off the plane. Carl eliminated my banana ball in one lesson with this simple drill. At worst, I had a slight fade, which is a very nice shot to play on tight courses.

These two drills will help you learn to quiet your forearms on the backswing. Remember: Unwanted forearm action is the number one killer among weekend golfers today. But your donation of only $25 dollars a month can help us eradicate this terrible… well, you get the idea.

Of course, tomorrow is Limerick Monday, but the next post after that will tackle the delight of Buffalo that terrorizes many golfers… the chicken wing.


  1. Just being aware that I was rotating my forearms has already made a big difference to my swing - much better and more consistent sweet-spot contact. Who knew that such a subtle bad habbit could have such a harmful effect?!

    Thanks Mike - extremely helpful!

    I'll be taking this to the course on Wednesday - for what will probably be the last round of the year up here in frosty Canada!

  2. Like I said, Brian, rotating forearms is the number one problem most weekend players struggle with. (Is everybody out there listening?!?)

    It's easy to see why. When we look at someone swing from a face-on position (the most commonly photographed position), we can see the back of the hand at the halfway point and at the top of the backswing; we assume that comes from twisting the forearms. It just never occurs to us that we are turning our shoulders as well. If you hold your arm and hand straight out in front of you and turn your shoulders 90 degrees, the back of your hand is in the same position!

    Any practice time spent quieting those forearms will pay dividends in every aspect of your game, from putting right on through to driving.

  3. Seems I have a forward press that initiates that forearm action. Any tip on quieting that press?

    1. The forward press itself isn't the problem, it's the rotation on the way back that messes you up.

      Try this: After you do your forward press, try to keep the face of the club -- or your trailing palm, whichever you can feel more easily -- keep it pointed at the ground until your hands swing back so they're above your trailing knee. That's not a long way back, but it should be enough to slow down that immediate forearm twist.

      The trick here is just to stop the initial twisting motion. After you get used to taking the club back a little ways without twisting, you should have a lot less trouble with the twist later in the swing.

      Let me know if this helps you or not. Everybody's different. We just have to find out how you feel the correct motion best.