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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blonde Bomber Secrets

No, not Brittany Lincicome. I'm talking about Cristie Kerr.

I remarked in an earlier post that Cristie was extremely long for her size -- she's only 5'3", yet she's 18th on the LPGA in Driving Distance. Well, for those of you who didn't see the Friday tape-delayed broadcast of the tournament, the commentators actually made mention of why she's so long off the tee.

The secret? Cristie cocks her wrists very late in her swing.

Photo of Cristie Kerr near the top of her swingI've been looking for some slo-mo footage of her swing for a while but can't find any. (Well, I found some once and bookmarked it, but it's apparently been taken down.) Hopefully YouTube'll post a copy of what they showed on Golf Channel's broadcast, but at least I managed to make a freeze-frame of her swing from a regular-speed video that's good enough to show you what it looks like. That's it just over to the side there.

I did some posts last year about Jim McLean (who just happens to be one of her teachers) and his research into the "V-Gap," which he said was the key to most of the big hitters' power. You can find the series I did on it on the "Some Useful Post Series" page; it's called "One-Piece Takeaways, Coils & the 'V-Gap' Technique."

At least this picture is good enough to show what's happening. As you can see, Cristie's arms are just past 9 o'clock in her backswing. By this point most players have the club shaft pointing straight up and down, making a right angle with their arm. Not Cristie! Her club is still pointing outward, away from her... and because the video was actually taken from more in front of her than face-on, the club looks more upright than it really is!

I wanted to show you this to clear up a possible misconception -- namely, that your wrists don't cock until the very last moment during a late cock. The later you cock your wrists, the more you can load the shaft... but it also puts more strain on your wrists. The real difference between an early cock (which most weekend players tend to make) and a late cock (which the big hitters use) is just a matter of degree:
  • In an early cock, the wrists begin cocking almost the moment you start taking the club away from the ball; and the wrists are almost fully cocked by the time your arms are parallel to the ground.
  • In a late cock, the wrists don't start to cock until your arms are almost parallel to the ground; and they don't reach their full cock until your hands reach the top of your backswing.
I hope that makes it clear for those of you who are looking for more distance and have decided to try using a late cock.

One other thing that may not have been clear in some of my earlier posts about the one-piece takeaway is that you don't have to use a late cock just because you're using a one-piece takeaway. That's the traditional teaching, but you can use an early cock with a one-piece takeaway also. The one-piece takeaway is about getting the club on-plane during your backswing, not how you cock your wrists. It just happens that Cristie uses a one-piece takeaway (as do most of the pros) and a late cock (for more distance) together.

And she uses them very well.


  1. I used to know a pro who taught a fairly early wrist cock. He didn't like the late wrist cock and would say "the last thing you do on the way back is the first thing you un-do on the way forward". (so the tendency of a very late wrist cock would be casting on the way down)

    It was an interesting theory, knowing that nothing is absolute in the golf swing from person to person - but watching a number of people on the range, you could see a lot of what he was talking about.

  2. (by the way - I'm fairly sure he was mostly talking about people who just flop the club over at the top - not so much people who hinge the wrists gradually on the way back)

  3. People with tight grips do tend to uncock early... but they do that irregardless of whether they use an early cock or a late cock. Without that softness in the wrists and forearms to absorb the shaft loading at the top, the change of direction is more of a bounce.

    And you're right -- people who "flop the club over at the top" tend to straighten their bent arm early. There's no way you're going to keep any wrist cock that way.