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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Thoughts on Keeping Your Hands in Front of You

I want to make the drill simple. In fact, the drill is simple. But it affects many different aspects of your swing and we need to talk about some of those things first, before we ever get to the drill. Therefore, today's post doesn't have the drill per se, although it describes a lot of what goes on during the drill. I'll be describing things for a right-handed golfer since I'm still using Lucas Glover as an example, so you lefties will have to reverse it. Sorry for the inconvenience.

First, this drill should eliminate a lot of excess mechanical swing thoughts. For example, I used Lucas Glover's swing to illustrate the top of swing position in yesterday's post. If you've been obsessing over your swing plane, obsess no more! Your setup position and where your hands are at the top of the swing create your swing plane. That's one less thing to think about!

Let's look at some stills I "borrowed" from that Glover video:

Sequence of Lucas Glover hand positions

The first pic shows Glover at setup. For simplicity's sake we'll assume his hands are located in front of his belt buckle, centered in his stance.

The second pic shows Glover's hands at waist-high. Note that he has used the one-piece takeaway that is almost a religious conviction on my blog, and remember that he got to this position by turning his shoulders early in his backswing, not by keeping his arms stuck out stiff in front of him. (The drill for learning a relaxed one-piece takeaway can be found by clicking this link.) Relaxed arms and shoulders that turn early in the backswing eliminate a lot of potential problems later in the swing.

A one-piece takeaway also keeps your hands in front of you. Note that his hands are still pretty much in front of his belt buckle, even though his wrists have begun to cock. (In case you're having trouble seeing it, the clubhead is just to the left of his elbow.)

And the third pic shows the position I pointed out in yesterday's post. In case you missed it (shame on you!), when your hands are in front of you and the club shaft is parallel to the ground at the top of your backswing, the shaft points over the center of your shoulder. See Lucas's shoulder peeking out between his forearms? As I mentioned yesterday, many teachers tell you to reach behind you for a deeper swing, but this is not a good idea. A large number of both feel-based and mechanically-inclined teachers recommend the position Lucas is using in this picture. (I gave Don Trahan and Martin Hall as respective examples yesterday, but they are not the only ones.)

Now, this little series of pictures demonstrate something most weekend golfers never realize: Your arms and hands don't move very much during a full swing.

Think about it. The hands are in the center of your body (ie., in front of your belt buckle) at setup. When the hands are waist-high, they're still in the center of your body. That means your shoulders have moved and not much else. Then, from the waist-high position, your right elbow bends and your left elbow doesn't, which causes you left shoulder joint to pivot up.

So your hands have only moved from your waist to just above your right shoulder, and most of that movement comes from bending your right elbow. That's not much movement at all!

Now your hands might move a bit higher if you swing high like Bubba, or both elbows might bend a little if you swing like Rocco, but basically your hands aren't moving very much.

This also helps us understand something that else causes debate among teachers and players -- namely, is there a pause at the top of the swing?

The answer is both yes and no. Because your shoulders turn so early in the swing when you keep your hands in front of you, your shoulders finish turning before your hands and club change direction. You got that? Your shoulders stop turning before your hands and club stop moving. That's where the pause comes from -- your shoulders pause, not your arms.

When you start your downswing, you basically reverse the process this way:
  1. Your lower body starts the swing, typically by returning your left knee just past its setup position. I already covered that knee move in this post.
  2. That knee movement pull the hips around to their setup position, which causes your shoulders to start turning.
  3. Your shoulder turn pulls your arms and hands down to a lower position, but your arms don't start "swinging" the club yet. This is where a lot of you are losing your wrist cock. The arms get pulled down a little, but that right arm stays in the same bent position it had at the top of the backswing! The arms are pulled down by the body movements I mentioned in the last few steps, not by straightening your right elbow or pulling with your left arm.
  4. Now, once your lower body feels like it's back in its setup position (or a little past) and your shoulders have started turning back and your arms and hands have dropped to shoulder level or a bit lower (whew, what a chain reaction!), now you can swing as hard as you want! Think of the movement from this point as if you were throwing a Frisbee; that will help you stay level, square up your clubface, and keep your left elbow against your side so you don't "chicken wing" the followthrough or leave the face of the club open. (If you do leave the face open, check your grip at setup. That's probably where the problem is.)
Wow, that's a lot to digest at once, isn't it? I'd better call it a day and end this post. But hopefully you can see how keeping your hands in front of you affects your entire swing from setup to finish.

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