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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

All About Pushes, Part 1

Today we're going to start looking at the mechanics of pushing the ball, as I promised Dmitri and his friends in Bali. Is everybody ready?

The first thing you need to know is that pushing the ball is the exact opposite of coming over-the-top. If you're doing one, you're not doing the other. I want to make sure everybody is clear on that so you don't get confused into thinking that you're doing both. That's a sure path to madness!
  • When you come over-the-top you pull the club across your body, so it travels from outside your aimline to inside your aimline. For righties, that means the ball starts to the left of your intended line; for lefties, it starts to the right.
  • When you push the ball, your club travels from inside your aimline to outside your aimline. For righties, that means the ball starts to the right of your intended line; for lefties, it starts to the left. Now that you know the difference, we'll focus on the pushes.
The ball may curve either way as it flies farther from you, depending on where the clubface is pointed when you actually hit the ball. Your push can be a push-hook, a straight push, or a push-slice. But...

The second thing you need to know is that the push part deals specifically with the swing path, so that's where we'll start.

And the third thing you need to know is that there are really just two things that cause a push. If you do only one of them during your swing, the ball might curve in any direction after you hit it. It just depends on how you manipulate the face. (Don't worry, we'll come back to that in a later post.) BUT if you do both of them, you'll probably hit a push-slice. That's because if you do both of them, you'll almost certainly twist your forearms and open the clubface.

Alright, those are the basic things you need to know. If you're clear about them, you're ready to learn about the two moves that can cause a push.

The one that I think causes the most problems is leaning backward away from the target during the downswing. That's because so many instructors over the years have taught that a proper weight shift -- or starting your downswing with your lower body -- means you move your hips noticeably toward the target. Some teach this as a slide, some a twist, some a combination of the two. A lot of this comes from the way Ben Hogan's teachings were interpreted.

Below you'll see drawings from Hogan's book Five Lessons. These drawings show Hogan's concept of how the hips start the downswing and -- very important -- how this tilts the downswing plane so it points out to the right for a right-handed player. In other words, the basic move Hogan used created a slight push. The reason he did this is something we'll come back to in that later post, but for now you just need to know that (1) he did it on purpose and (2) he did it for a reason.

(NOTE: You can click on the pictures to go to the webpages where I got these images, rather than scanning them from my own copy of the book. I don't know if the pages will help most of you, but I wanted to credit them for the images. I'll explain the important stuff as we go.)

Hogan's downswing hip shift

Hogan's downswing plane shift

The caption on that bottom picture with the planes says:
"The golfer gets on the downswing plane when he turns his hips to the left to initiate the downswing. The plane for the downswing is inclined at a shallower angle than the plane of the backswing, and its lateral axis points slightly to the right of the golfer's target."
I added the emphasis there because that's the important point -- the hip move that starts the downswing drops your trailing shoulder (and the club) below the backswing plane and gets you swinging a little bit in-to-out. That's a very slight push, and I stress the words very slight. Even Hogan uses the word slightly to describe it.

Although Hogan's swing is considered very modern, this particular little move is part of what is called the classic (or two-plane) swing. In a truly modern swing -- the so-called one-plane swing -- you don't make this drop under the backswing plane, so your weight shift doesn't cause this aim change. For some of you who have been reading a lot of golf books, this is part of the reason you're confused. This one little difference between the classic and modern swings has a huge effect on how you swing and the results you get.

If you study these pictures, here's the main thing you should get from them: The club swings in-to-out -- that is, pushes the ball -- because your trailing shoulder is lower on the downswing than it was on the backswing. And to lower your trailing shoulder, you have to lean away from the target. So the more you lean away from the target, the more in-to-out your swing will be... which means you'll get a bigger push.

This is a good place to stop today because this is a lot to digest. Tomorrow I'll get more into why this happens, and we'll look at Na Yeon Choi's swing to see what a good modern weight shift and hip move looks like.

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