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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Some Help for Ramzi

Some of you may remember that Ramzi Abdullah from Malaysia left some comments on last week's post about Na Yeon Choi's swing, asking for some help with a pull. Ramzi has written before -- I did a post for him called Golfing Large, in case you missed it -- and he says it helped some. (That post focused on his driving, which he says has improved but still isn't great.)

Today I'm going to see if I can't give him some better help. I asked him a few questions in the NYC post comments, and he sent me an email with some answers. He also sent me a short video, so I have a bit more to work with this time. Ramzi says he shoots in the 104-110 range (I remember being stuck there once myself), and I definitely think we can help him get that down quite a bit.

Ramzi at addressThe video helped, but it was at the wrong angle to tell me everything I'd like to know. As you can see from this still of Ramzi's setup, it's neither a face-on or a down-the-line view... but I think I've found a few things we can work on, especially with the info he included in his email.

Just a note: Sometimes I'm speaking directly to Ramzi in this post, but often I'm talking to everybody because Ramzi's problem is a common one. Don't let the sudden change between the two confuse you!

Ramzi's address position actually looks pretty good. From this position I can't tell for sure, but it looks as if his knees aren't flexed enough -- but let me make this clear: From this angle I can't tell for sure. However, if Ramzi's knees are too straight, that would definitely contribute to an over-the-top swing. And if you come over-the-top, you'll almost certainly pull the ball.

But Ramzi, I can't tell for sure from this angle. Don't change your knee flex until you work on the other things I'm going to talk about. Even if your knees are too straight now, I suspect they won't be by the time we're finished... so just keep reading.

I noticed when viewing the video that Ramzi seems to be "losing the brace" in his right leg a little bit as he makes his backswing, but he knew about that problem and he tells me that he's gone to more of a "reverse K" setup since this video was made roughly 4 months ago. First, let me make sure you know what a reverse K setup is. Here's Michael Breed -- and yes, this is a Golf Fix video from Taiwan, but it's the only way I could embed it. The subtitles shouldn't cause a problem:

Note that I referenced this position indirectly in the 3rd All About Pushes post last week, only I did it using the "Gary Coilman"  prop. Gary's shoulder position gives you a reverse K setup.

Anyway, Ramzi says he's much more solid over the ball now and is hitting it more solidly. He describes it this way:
I seem to have better contact with all clubs when I feel that I've set my weight near the area around my big toe on the right foot.
That description sounds about right. In the last of my All About Pushes post series last week, in the 5th and 6th paragraphs, I talked about this braced position and how to learn it if you're having trouble. Try it and you'll see that Ramzi's "reverse K" is a good description of the proper position.

However, unless his address position has changed quite a bit from this photo, he's not doing exactly what he thinks he's doing. (That's not unusual for any golfer, Ramzi, so don't feel bad about it.) In his email he wrote:
I've learnt a new trick to maintain my swing plane before the backswing which is to push the club into the ground in a way to cock my wrist - and it works. This is combined with the reverse K (which I know opens my hips, and as a result I have to close my shoulders a bit before the swing).
But take a good look at the photo. Ramzi's shoulders are OPEN, not closed. (If they were closed, his right shoulder would be farther from the ball than his left shoulder, not closer as it appears in this photo.) That immediately sets Ramzi up to pull the ball because his shoulder line is now aimed to his left. (That would be "aimed to his right" for you lefties out there.)

And second, a reverse K setup doesn't automatically open your hips. If your hips are open, Ramzi, your reverse K setup isn't quite right. Again, don't worry about that right now; just keep reading. There's a bigger problem that we need to fix first, and it's more important. If we get the biggest problem fixed first, a lot of smaller problems will probably disappear on their own.

One of the things I asked you was if you were rolling your forearms during your takeaway. You wrote back:
Yes, I use a lot of forearm action. After I reach the top of the backswing I actually start pulling, rolling and releasing with my right arm. I know its wrong but I do believe that Tom Watson also did the same thing. Releasing from the top was what my first golf instructor told me to do to combat my slice. I'm very aggressive in the downswing (I do not know how to swing at 80% or 70%)
Even if you hadn't told me so, I would have known the second I viewed your swing video. Here are a couple of other stills I took from it. While I couldn't be sure about some things from this camera angle, it's perfect for viewing the biggest problem:

Ramzi's takeaway

See those arrows pointing at your right elbow? You don't just roll your forearms on the way down. You roll them on the way up! And I can tell because your right elbow is bent so early in your swing. You can't bend your elbow that way without rolling your forearms.

And if you go back and look at your swing video again you'll see your right shoulder and head diving toward the ball as you start your downswing. You're coming over-the-top, big man! And when you come OTT, you pull the ball -- it's just the natural mechanics of your swing.

When you roll your forearms on the way back, you lay the club off and come too much inside. Tom Watson -- and lots of players -- do teach you to roll your forearms. It's part of the reason they all have trouble hitting the ball straight when they're under pressure -- it's hard to roll them exactly the same amount coming down as you did going back. And, more importantly, this "rolling" happens on its own -- and in a very consistent matter -- if you don't consciously do it. Even Ben Hogan wrote (in capital letters, no less), and I quote:
The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club. (Five Lessons, p82)
I explained all the mechanics of it in detail in my Stop Coming Over-the-Top Quick Guide -- in fact, I included a drill that lets you go from address to the top of the backswing without ever twisting your forearms so you could see for yourself that it works. You can get the book if you want the full explanation. (I'm not plugging the book. I just want you to know that it took an entire book to explain all the details of why swings go OTT, which is why I'm not going to try and do it in a blog post! But don't worry, I've got stuff here on the blog to help you.)

So while I suspect that Ramzi has some setup problems, I'm much more concerned about his -- you guessed it -- lack of a one-piece takeaway. So here's what I want you to do: Go to the Some Useful Post Series page and find the listing for the Dexter's Coming Over-the-Top series. Read all of the posts in that series, but the drills are in the 3rd post.

Ramzi, let me stress that I don't want you to rotate your forearms when you do the drills. When your hands are at waist high, I want you to feel as if you're cocking your wrists straight up in the air! Although you'll be pointing the club shaft straight up in the air when you do the drill, it will actually be on the correct plane when you make a normal full-speed swing. I'm not going into the mechanics here -- as I said, that's all explained in the book -- but it has to do with all the angles that already exist in your swing. (Your spine angle, shoulder tilt, bent elbow, etc.)

As for you concern about your stomach -- which isn't as big as you think -- the one-piece takeaway will move your hands and club a bit farther away from your body, so it will be less of a problem than you think.

And after you get the hang of that one-piece takeaway, then you'll be in a better position to make changes to your setup if they're still needed.

So Ramzi, that's where I think you should start. Focus on the one-piece takeaway. You may need to adjust your grip slightly as you get used to starting back in one piece. Make as few changes as necessary until you feel comfortable with the move. Dexter found that fixing his takeaway made immediate improvements all through his game -- both in how far and how straight he hit the ball -- and his score started to drop within weeks. So give it a try and keep me informed on how it's going. Then we'll see if anything else needs to be changed.


  1. Thanks again Mike. I'll read the tips and try to put it into practice.

    I actually already bought the e-book a month ago but I haven't really studied it in detail.

    Stop rolling my right forearm!!!

  2. No problem, Ramzi. Even though you've got the ebook, check out that post series I mentioned and read Dexter's comments. They might help you too.

    BTW, Dexter's under a 10 handicap now and his best round is 75. He writes the Golf Tips & Quips blog listed in my first blog list in the sidebar.

  3. Mike, when I did take lessons about 4 months ago (after the video), the pro asked me to maintain a straight right arm during takeaway. I've tried that, but usually it's a stiff arm, is that OK?

    Do you have any grip tips for the right hand to make sure I don't roll my right arm? Weaken it? Thumb on top?


  4. If you're having trouble keeping your right arm straight without stiffening it, you're not turning your shoulders enough. The key to a good relaxed one-piece takeaway is turning your shoulders early in your backswing. It just takes a little practice -- that's why the drills start you making the shoulder turn while you're standing with your spine vertical and your knees bent. It's easier to learn how to do it that way.

    As for your grip, don't think about the grip itself. Let's start with the downswing.

    On the way down, think about slapping the ball with the palm of your right hand -- that is, your palm faces the target when the clubface contacts the ball. That's a move you can make naturally, so it's easier to imagine that than to think about not rotating your forearm on the downswing.

    Now, on the way back, use that same position in your grip. You want to think about pointing the club shaft straight up when you cock your wrists during your takeaway drill, and that's the grip you can do it with the easiest. The first few times you do it, actually cock your wrists at address so the butt end of the club points toward your knees and then swing back until your hands are near waist high and the club points upward.

    When you make a full swing, the club will naturally tilt onto the correct plane because of all the other angles in your swing... but your forearms will still feel the same way. You're teaching them not to consciously rotate during the takeaway, and it will feel natural soon enough. Check the ebook -- I have a couple of tips there to help you get your hands and forearms in the correct position.

    You'll probably end up in what most instructors call a neutral grip.

    Does that make sense?

  5. I'll try it out.

    I read your Dexter OTT articles & noticed that you mentioned that with a shoulder driven backswing I might have a shorter backswing.

    I'm confused, modern teaching says your backswing is complete when your back faces the target. Like Dexter I've noticed that my pulls are caused when my back faces the target. So due to my flexibility issues does it mean I stop my backswing when my shoulder turn stops & doesn't face the target?

    Thanks again Mike

  6. Modern teaching assumes that everybody can swing the same way and has the same amount of flexibility... which is clearly not true.

    That said, I wasn't talking about shoulder turn but swing length. I can see how that might have been confusing. Swing length is about how close the club shaft gets to parallel at the top of your backswing. Many people with flexibility issues try to get to parallel by arching their back and swaying off the ball, which is an overswing.

    The problem isn't your (or Dexter's) full shoulder turn. It's the over-the-top move that throws your right shoulder out over the ball. I don't want you to do that. Check out this post:

    Creating Power, Part 2: J.B. Holmes

    J.B. Holmes is one of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour... and this video shows just how short a "shorter backswing" can be and still generate power. Just stop the video around the :52 second mark. (There are pictures later in the post as well.) You'll see a swing that's nowhere near parallel -- a short backswing -- but J.B.'s back still faces the target.

    If you can't quite get your back to face the target, you can let your left heel come off the ground a little. (Tom Watson does it.) But I suspect that once you learn how to make a relaxed one-piece takeaway, you'll find that you have no problem getting a good shoulder turn. But based on the video you sent me, you already have a good shoulder turn. Learning to make a good one-piece takeaway should make things even easier for you.

  7. Besides JB Holmes, which other similar swing should I observe & study? Especially those with shorter backswing.

  8. Right offhand, I think Paul Casey and Jason Dufner both have those "short of parallel" swings with good shoulder turns. Jason's an average distance hitter but is extremely accurate, and Paul's fairly long off the tee. Focus on videos of Paul from 2009 and 2010, since he's been dealing with injuries in 2011 and 2012 that have affected his swing. Any video of Jason should be good, but especially since late 2011.