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Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Swoosh at the Bottom, Part 2

Part of the Route 67 series

(Update: I wrote this post -- and Part 3, tomorrow -- before yesterday's Part 1.5, where Court and I debated some of the differences between the "swoosh" I cover in these articles and the more common "swish" drill recommended by many teachers and pros; it's a really good example of why so many different teachings exist, as you can see that Court is looking for different things in a drill than I am, and I want to make sure he knows I appreciate him taking the time to comment. However, in the process I forgot to make changes to this post, so the references here to "yesterday" and "the last post" actually refer to Part 1 back on Tuesday, not Part 1.5 on Wednesday. Sorry if that causes any confusion.)

Yesterday we talked about the swoosh itself, how to do it, and some of the "golf talk" that gets used to describe what you're doing when you swoosh. If you practiced any with it (yeah, I know my goal here is "minimum practice," but the swoosh will become second nature soon enough) you should be getting familiar enough with the feel of it to know when you do it and when you don't.

Now we need to learn how to "aim" it; this is a basic part of effectively stretching out the backswing. See, when you start to add a backswing, the tendency is to swoosh too early. You've heard teachers talk about "throwing from the top" or "casting the club" (that comes from fishing terminology) or "flipping the hands at the top." All of these are just ways of saying you swooshed at the wrong time.

And how did you do that? I'm sure you know by now. Since you start your swoosh by trying to straighten your wrists, it makes sense that straightening your wrists at the wrong spot in your swing is going to "throw" the clubhead out of its intended... let's call it an "orbit," since the clubhead is circling your body. Straightening your wrists (swooshing) at the wrong time causes the clubhead to move farther away from your body too soon; a properly-swooshed clubhead stays pretty close to your body until your hands are around that 8:00 position we talked about, at which point it has neither the time nor space to "cross the line." (Ok, it's possible you might swing a little out-to-in with this part of the drill, because you rarely turn your shoulders as much with this short swoosh as you do in a full swing. When we get to the full swing in Part 3, that should change.) Are you with me so far?

There are two techniques that help us do that. Since "aiming" is easy to practice at this point, we'll work with it first.

Remember that tee we used yesterday to represent the ball? That's going to be our target.

Warm up first. Just make some swooshes as suggested in yesterday's post. Don't make your swing any longer yet; just focus on getting your wrists fully-cocked when your arms are in that 7:30-8:00 position, then, when you feel the club shaft load and the change of direction, swoosh it. (If you've forgotten what any of these terms mean, re-read the last post.)

Are you warmed up now? Aiming is a simple concept, but it can be a slippery concept to get a hold on at first. That's why we're going to do it now, while we're still working with just the swoosh part of the swing. Here's what I want you to do:

You've been focusing on just getting your wrists straightened out by the time you got the clubhead to the ball; this is how you develop a feel for swooshing. Now, I want you to pick a specific spot for the shaft to point at when your wrists are straight. I'm going to suggest you pick a spot about an inch in front of the tee (or whatever you're using as a ball substitute) as your target. This will serve two purposes;
  • It will keep you from focusing too much on the ball.
  • You are less likely to hit the ball fat if you aim at the front of the ball rather than the ball itself.
For some of you, this is going to be a bit tricky but it will give you better control of your swoosh. Rather than having the club "going off in your hands," as someone once colorfully put it, you'll be choosing where you contact the ball. This will help you make better contact when the ball isn't lying particularly well, and give you a lot of confidence in your ability to strike the ball the way you want.

When we move to a full swing, aiming like this will help us time the swoosh properly. People fling it from the top because they aren't thinking about where they want to unleash their power; all they care about is swinging as hard as possible. Not you, my friends! You are going to be master of your clubs; they will make contact when and where you choose, in the manner of your choice. You will be the ClubMaster! (I'm afraid there are no movie deals to go with this title... but you may nab a few club championships when we're through!)

Spend a little time gaining control of your aim today, and we'll look at how the swoosh works in a full swing tomorrow.


  1. I have read other instructors talking about just keeping the wrist loose and it will release on it's own. This is what I had been working on and it does release by itself which makes the swing simpler but any tension in the wrist and it is going right. Straightening the wrist seems like a big timing issue.

  2. Mike, When you say "an inch in front of the tee", is that towards the target?

    1. Yes, exactly. You want the shaft pointing at your chest after the clubhead has struck the ball. I said "an inch in front of the tee" just to create an easy-to-see image, the idea being that you've just hit the ball if the cluhhead has moved past the tee toward the target. Is that clearer?