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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Fear the Beard's Swing

Yes, grasshopper, I can tell you're getting tired of all those "fear the beard" jokes. First it was all about San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson and that whole "ESPN meets Stephen King" thing:

and now it's spread to Lucas Glover's very similar whiskers, which I doubt went to the same obedience school as Wilson's. But after years in the wilderness of swing changes, the Mountain Man is once again stalking the fairways of the PGA Tour and we might as well accept that we'll be hearing the joke for a while.

So why don't we just focus on the action taking place beneath the beard, eh?

Finding useful footage of Lucas is somewhat complicated by his lack of good swings over the last two years, which is the result of swing changes. (Why do good players win big tournaments and then change their swing? Beats me.) Lucas himself said he just found something last Tuesday -- he mentioned a change in his hand position at setup -- but admitted that he didn't know if he was really "back" yet. And footage of his swing from two years ago doesn't necessarily tell us why he played well at Quail Hollow.

Fortunately someone posted this footage from Sunday's round. And since I usually try to find something you can use immediately in your swing, this clip turned out to be perfect:

A few weeks ago I did a post in which I put the phrase "(Note to self: Do a post with a 'keeping your hands in front of you' drill.)" I forgot about it, but Peter didn't. He dropped me the following email:
hi, mike.  love your blog and great tips.  back in the jason day post you had that note to yourself to do a "keeping your hands in front of you" drill.  will we see that anytime soon?
I wrote back that I had forgotten and would try to get one up this week. How ironic that Lucas would give me some help!

There are several things involved in "keeping your hands in front of you," one of which Lucas clearly demonstrates in this video. It's right around the :15 mark when he reaches the top of his swing.

You've probably heard teachers say you should make a "deep" swing, which means you reach as far behind you as you can. This supposedly helps you make a better swing. Au contraire, mon frère! That's actually bad advice. It encourages you to get your hands too far behind you, which will cause you to "get stuck" on your downswing.

Now, this isn't something I made up on my own. Many teachers caution against this, from the super-technical Martin Hall to the more feel-based Don Trahan. (If his name sounds familiar, it's because his son is Tour pro D.J. Trahan.) So where do these teachers say your hands should be at the top of the swing?

When your wrists cock at the top of your swing, the club shaft should cross over your shoulder and point on a line parallel to your target line. Simple enough to check, eh? And that's just where Lucas has his hands in this video. He's using a short iron so his swing is short, but you can see from this down-the-line shot that his hands are right on that line; you can even see his shoulder peeking between his forearms.

Now, if you've been a "reacher," this position is almost certain to feel as if your hands are stuck straight up in the air. But this position is vitally important if you want to keep your hands in front of you throughout your swing. It's an extremely strong position that helps you keep your downswing on line and also retain more of your wristcock down into the hitting zone.

I'll be coming back to this later this week, but for now this will help you start getting used to this more powerful position.

The beard is optional.

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