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Saturday, November 28, 2015

Cristie and Inbee's Swings... The Physical Side 1

So far I've done a post about Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park's swings, which I've decided to nickname the Hammer Swing because it uses movements that are similar to driving a nail with a hammer.

Inbee at top of swing

I've also done a post about the mindset you need to use this swing effectively.

Today we get down to the physical act of making the Hammer Swing.

I'm dividing the instruction about the physical side of the swing into two parts. Today I'll give you the basic swing -- which, btw, you can team up with the material in my Accurate Iron Play Quick Guide to become much more accurate with your distance control on your approach shots. Tomorrow I'll cover the "extra" wrist move because there's more than one way to do it and, if you know your options, you can choose the one that works best for you.

Inbee's swing probably amazes most of you as much as it does GC's Tripp Isenhour, who frequently remarks that he simply doesn't see where she creates her clubhead speed. That's because we don't recognize all the angles that are created during a golf swing. After all, we cock our wrists, we bend our trailing elbow, we twist our shoulders, we drive our legs, etc. -- and we don't understand the cumulative effect.

Clubhead speed is NOT created by wrist cock alone. Let me give you a better appreciation for just how much you're doing without even trying. Here's Inbee at setup. When she actually hits the ball, the club shaft will be in line with her lead arm. I've added a white line to demonstrate how much wrist cock she gets just by setting up.

Inbee at setup

As you can see, she already has some wrist cock to start her backswing. Everybody gets some wrist cock at the start. It's natural and automatic.

You also get a lot of "cock" from bending your trailing elbow. If Inbee were to do that in her setup position -- without turning her shoulders, which adds speed in its own way -- the shaft of her club would point somewhere between straight up and back over her shoulder. That's important because your trailing elbow doesn't straighten out until just before impact, which gives it a major effect on how much effective wrist cock you have in the impact zone. We'll come back to that in a moment.

Your shoulder turn and natural leg movements also create clubhead speed. That can be hard to visualize, so just be aware of it. You'll also note that Cristie and Inbee have very upright swing planes -- Inbee's is extremely upright -- but that helps them create more speed as it's easier to use gravity that way. My point is that you have plenty of natural "wrist cock" in your swing to begin with.

Bear in mind that we want to stay as relaxed as we can when we swing. Relaxed muscles can move more quickly -- that's something any martial artist or track and field athlete can tell you -- and ultimately we're interested in creating speed here, not the "grunt" effort we equate with power.

Which brings us to acceleration. Most of you think acceleration means starting your downswing by jerking the club up-to-speed as quickly as possible. But think about this for a moment. Let's say you manage to create your maximum swing speed with that move (and without jerking the club off-plane). If you're already at max speed, how can you accelerate during your downswing? All you can do is slow down.

To accelerate the clubhead, you have to start down slowly -- which helps keep you on-plane -- and speed up as you get closer to the ball. To do that, you have to maintain that natural wrist cock as long as possible. How do you do that?

By keeping your trailing elbow bent as long as possible. Here's another quote from the Jeff Flagg article I mentioned in the last post:
WHAT AM I THINKING ABOUT WHEN I SWING? My only real thought is, Right hand and arm drive the swing. That's it. I'm literally trying to make a sidearm throwing motion—like a 3-6-3 double play in baseball. If more golfers swung with the same motion, as if they were skipping stones, they'd pound the ball.
Since Flagg is a rightie, his right arm is his trailing arm. And this is his key thought for developing speed. Why?

If you take your setup position -- with both arms straight -- and then bend your trailing elbow while keeping your lead arm straight, your wrists will cock. Straighten your trailing elbow and your wrists will uncock. Your wrist cock is controlled by the bend in your trailing elbow.

So if you want to create more clubhead speed, you need to keep your trailing elbow bent until you reach the impact zone. And you need to use your hands and arms in order to do that.

Here, take a look at Cristie and Inbee at impact, taken from the videos in my original post. Cristie's elbow doesn't look quite as bent but that's because it's bent more toward the camera while Inbee's is bent more toward the target. Everything about Inbee's swing seems a bit unusual, doesn't it?

Cristie and Inbee at impact

To create this move, your trailing elbow has to move slightly in front of your chest during your downswing. If you have trouble, I bet it's because you're trying to keep your elbow ahead of your trailing hand. DON'T! Look at both Cristie and Inbee -- their trailing hands are AHEAD of their elbows! Practice moving your hand and elbow together, so that if you stand in front of a mirror it looks like your hand is on a straight line between the mirror and your elbow. Here's another pic of Cristie and Inbee during the downswing, just as their shoulders turn square to the ball. See how their hands are even with their trailing elbows?

Cristie and Inbee entering the impact zone

Just to make sure you understand where their trailing elbows are in relation to their bodies... From this photo angle their elbows look like they're laying against their bodies, but those elbows are actually extended toward the camera. You could see that from a down-the-line view; it's not that different from their setup positions.

The easiest way to practice this is to get your arms up to the top of your backswing -- lead arm straight, trail arm bent -- and practice swinging your hands down to waist high without altering their positions. That includes keeping your elbows the same distance apart as they swing down. Don't turn your shoulders when you first try this! It will feel as if you're swinging your hands in a diagonal line from above your trail shoulder to your belly button -- almost like a slashing move with a sword. When you actually swing a club and your whole body is turning, this move will look like an arc.

One other thing to notice here. See how the upper part of Cristie and Inbee's leading arms are pressed against the side of their chests? This is connection, and Hogan wasn't the first to teach it; I've found it taught in a Harry Vardon book from 1907. You don't twist your forearms to square the club; you roll your lead shoulder. Here's how to learn what that feels like:
Stand up and straighten your lead arm against your side like you're standing at attention. Then bend your lead elbow 90° so your forearm points straight ahead of you. Now, while you keep your upper arm against the side of your chest, make a sweeping motion with your lead forearm back and forth across your chest from left to right to left to right -- you know, like you're backhanding something.
Once you get used to that, straighten your lead arm again and make the same motion but with your hand swinging up and down as your upper body turns "away from and then toward the target." Your upper arm "rolls" up your chest on your backswing, then "rolls" down your chest during your downswing and separates during your finish. (That rolling motion helps square the clubface during your downswing.) This is how your shoulder should feel as you swing the club through the impact zone.
It's much simpler to do than to explain. Combine that diagonal arm move with the shoulder roll and do them together as you make your shoulder coil; the result should feel pretty natural. The diagonal arm move won't "swing parallel" to your toe line until you combine it with the shoulder turn -- by itself, your hands will move out away from you at first, then in toward your lead hip as you near "impact." But if you get comfortable with the diagonal move first you'll find it's very easy to square your hands at the impact position when you add the shoulder turn.

And you'll wonder why it seems so much easier this way, so I'll tell you. Because you haven't added any wrist cock besides what happens naturally, squaring the back of your lead hand at impact also happens more naturally.

Because you're using your arms so much, you can use shafts that are a little softer. Exactly how much softer depends on how strong you are, of course, but back before Hogan became "the guy," most folks turned to a book called How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time by the legendary Tommy Armour, aka the Silver Scot. (He taught Babe Didrikson Zaharias, among others.) And one of the things that Armour advised his students was to get shafts that were a bit softer than they thought they needed because it would help their feel and rhythm. You can certainly play with stiffer shafts, but that's worth knowing.

Okay, there's plenty more I could write -- maybe I'll do a Quick Guide about it -- but this should be enough to get you started. This is a very natural way to swing, once you learn to trust your feel, and you'll find that the correct way for you is generally the way that feels best.

Tomorrow I'll teach you some of the ways you can add that little "downcock" move that adds some extra zing to your shots.

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