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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Swoosh at the Bottom, Part 3

Part of the Route 67 series

Today we're going to tack our swoosh onto the end of a full swing, so we can put the hammer down on that little white ball!

The other swing component that gives us control of the swoosh in a full swing is something you've already had a little experience with it. It's feeling the change of direction, which is another part of "feeling the clubhead." By controlling when we feel the change, we control when the swoosh begins.

The actual technique, which you've heard me mention before but never explain in as much detail as I will today, is called "delaying the change of direction" or "delaying the release." Some teachers call it "delaying the wrist cock," but this is technically wrong since we're delaying the wrist uncock.

How do you delay the change of direction?

First let's clear up a possible misconception. Technically, there are TWO different changes of direction in the swing, which I have referred to by different names to avoid confusion. Until now it wasn't important to differentiate between the two; now it is.
  • The first change of direction is when the hands and arms reach the top of the backswing and start coming down, but the momentum of the clubhead keeps going back. (This is what I have been calling "loading the shaft.")
  • The second change of direction is when the momentum of the clubhead stops going in the same direction as the backswing and starts moving in the same direction as the downswing. (This is what I have been calling "feeling the change of direction" or "feeling the clubhead.")
Do you understand the difference? When the hands and arms start down, the clubhead is still going back; the tension loads the shaft, and you feel it as the pressure of the shaft making your wrists cock because your hands and arms have changed direction. Then, when the clubhead momentum is spent and the shaft stops pushing against your wrists, the pressure on your wrists eases off because the clubhead has also changed direction.

Our goal is to delay that feeling of the clubhead changing direction. Why? Because that's when our wrists begin to uncock without our help and the swoosh begins. It's the momentum of the clubhead going back while our hands start down that "holds" the wrist cock. All those gizmos you've seen on TV that are supposed to teach you how to "hold" wrist cock? You don't need them. Wrists stay cocked because of physics, not muscles. Our goal is to move in such a way that the club shaft stays loaded as long as possible, so we can consciously decide when to uncock our wrists.

We do this all the time. If you know how to use a hammer, a flyswatter, or a rolled-up newspaper, you can do this. If you need a specific explanation of how the above items work, just check out this post from the "How to Use a Single-Plane Loop" series. Obviously, we hold a club with two hands rather than one, but the principle is the same. If you look at the fifth and final picture in that post (which shows all the positions from the previous pics at once), you'll see that the hands are all pretty much on a line except for the fourth one -- the one at the change of direction is lower than the others. You get the same effect letting the right elbow (left elbow for a lefty) flex a bit more when your hands start down. You don't have to try and consciously bend the elbow; the loaded shaft will put enough force on your elbow that it will flex on its own unless you tense up your muscles... which generally means you're getting ready to muscle the club at the top, not swoosh it at the bottom.

The best way to learn this is by slowly lengthening your backswing. Start with the aimed swoosh we practiced in the last post, then gradually lengthen the backswing. Let your arms go to 9:00 and make some swings until your cocked wrists kind of "slide" their way down to the 8:00 position and you can perform your aimed swoosh. Then move it up to 9:30 or 10:00, and try again. When you can do it there, move it up to 10:30 or 11:00. Your swoosh may move up a bit higher as your swing gets longer; as long as it doesn't move up past 8:30, you should be ok.

If you have trouble, adjust the speed of your backswing; swinging faster creates a stronger loading effect, but many people find that it hurts! (For an example of this, just watch Nick Price. You'll also note that fast swings tend to be shorter.) However, if you have trouble with uncocking too soon, I'd try slowing down my backswing first. Too much speed during a long backswing can put too much load on the shaft and cause a "springing" effect, where it literally kicks your wrists out of their cocked position. (Now you know why power hitters claim they want a slow backswing.)

If you still have trouble, remember that your hands start down before the clubshaft momentum starts pressing against your wrists -- in other words, you change direction with your hands before your wrists are finished cocking. That's what happens in the flyswatter swing, so making a few "swats" with one may help you understand how this feels. Bear in mind that you'll need more forearm and wrist strength when you use this technique, because the force against your wrists will increase. This may require you to slow your backswing even more at first, until you get used to it.

But whatever you have to do to get the swoosh at the proper position is ok. The primary cause of clubhead speed is the swoosh, so performing it properly is your primary concern; make whatever adjustment to your swing speed is necessary.

Quite frankly, on the backswing your arms may never need to go past the 11:00 position during the backswing. Fred Couples -- in fact, a lot of the longest hitters with slow swings -- don't go any further than that. (That's what some teachers call a "three-quarter backswing.") It's definitely easier to make an accurate swing if it's shorter. Again, as long as the start of your swoosh doesn't move up past 8:30 or 9:00, you should be pretty darn long of the tee.

When you incorporate the swoosh into your full swing, your shot direction may be a little off at first. I suspect most of you will swing slightly inside-to-out, which would result in a push shot. Of course, the rest of you will pull shots slightly. (If you get way off line, your swoosh is happening too early in the downswing.) This is because you're used to making extra moves to make up for the swoosh you didn't have before! Don't worry, we'll fix that as we learn how the power sources work in their respective swings. The fixes are minor timing fixes and they aren't difficult, but you need to understand how your swing works in order to make them.

Finally, each of the power sources we're going to talk about does the exact same thing -- provide swoosh power -- but the swoosh feels a little different, depending on which source you use. The upper body power source feels as if the arms are pushing while the hands straighten; the lower body power source feels as if the legs and hips are pushing while the hands straighten. This distinction will become clearer as we discuss the power sources themselves.

Tomorrow I'll try to tie up some loose ends and put this move in historical perspective -- that is, point out some ways teachers and players have mentioned this move when describing their own swings.


  1. Mike, I just discovered the 'swoosh' articles took up 5,611 words and the word 'swoosh' was used 77 times.

    What happens if I turn the club rightside up and swing it with the handle? War and Peace?

    Only kidding...

  2. Actually, since the club IS rightside up when you use the swoosh, I think it actually works out to around 3300 words for the swoosh and 2300 for the swish (the upside-down version).

    The 5600 words are free. War and Peace is gonna cost ya. ;-D