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Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 6

I figure I have three posts left in this series. The final one, which I'll post sometime next week, puts everything together into a swing you can actually use. This post and the next will focus on the other drill I mentioned, where we work out how we're going to get the club from the top of the backswing down to the impact position -- which is what we learned in the original drill -- and how to blend the two into one smooth motion.

JB Holmes downswing sequence

The photo sequence above comes from a post I did back in 2010 on how J.B. Holmes creates power in his downswing. The lines show how he has very little wrist cock but his lead elbow is bent. We're going to focus on the first and third photos today. The third is very close to the position we started the first drill from, as you can see in this photo of HaNa Jang that I've used a lot in this series. (J.B.'s hands are a bit farther into the impact zone HaNa's, but you get the idea.)

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone

The 'downswing drill' we're going to learn is extremely simple. We're going to start in J.B.'s top of backswing position and swing down to HaNa's impact zone position. And to be quite honest, it appears so simple that you may wonder why we need two posts. The start and end positions are very clear:
  • J.B.'s wrists are at basically the same angle to his forearms that they were at address, with his trailing elbow bent.
  • HaNa's trailing elbow is still bent, and she's just swung it down near her trailing side.
It really is that simple. If you swing -- let gravity make your arms and club fall, if you will -- your trailing arm down from the top to your side that way, you'll get the club into position to complete the first drill.

Or is it that simple? If you look at the second photo in the J.B. sequence, you'll see that J.B.'s trailing wrist has bent toward his body on the way down. This is what we call downcock, and it helps create more clubhead speed in our downswing. And you need to understand both how and why this happens.

Hence, two posts.

Let's make sure you understand the terms I'm using, since there are three terms with '-cock' in them.
  • First we have a term almost every instructor uses, and which I've already used in this post. That's downcock, where your trailing wrist bends toward your body on the way down.
  • The other two are terms I created for this series to help me be more clear about how your wrists cock. The first was sidecock, the wrist movement you use if you make a karate chop with the side of your hand.
  • The other I dubbed backcock, where the back of your hand hinges toward your forearm.
In this post we'll talk about sidecock, which is the main cause of that downcock in J.B.'s downswing. Tomorrow I'll talk about backcock, which is equally if not more important and is in part a side-effect of the downcock.

During this series I've mentioned a number of players who create downcock with their downswings -- and yes, downcock is an effect in your swing, not a cause. Sidecock, and the downcock it causes, are both the result of relaxed wrist and forearm muscles being moved by a combination of gravity and momentum. That's not as complicated as it sounds.

If you relax those muscles and move your forearm as if you were using a hammer -- bend your elbow and then change direction without any noticeable pause inbetween -- you'll feel your wrist cock toward your body when you change direction and then cock away from you when your forearm stops moving away from you. If you tense those muscles, it won't happen -- no wrist action at all.

Armed with that knowledge, let's get in a position to start our downswing drill. Turn your shoulders a bit more than you did in the original drill -- 75-80° should be plenty -- and let your lead heel come off the ground to allow it. That will put you in basically the same top of backswing position that the first photo of the Holmes sequence shows.

Now, if you hold a club in that position, and if you relax your wrists and forearms, and if you put your lead heel back on the ground to start your 'downswing', and if you just let your arms fall to around waist high, you should get a little bit of downcock. That's because the weight of the clubhead doesn't want to move at first -- the physics term for that is inertia -- so your relaxed wrists will start to bend toward your body as a result.

Then the club will start to move outward, away from your body, as your hands get near waist high because gravity has your hands moving in a small arc away from you (that's because your hips are going to shift a bit to your lead side as your shoulders start to turn) and the inertia is overcome. The clubhead now has a bit of momentum and wants to keep moving until it straightens your wrists.

With your wrists relaxed, this downcock and change of direction probably won't feel very smooth. In fact, it's going to feel a bit jerky. That's okay. Part of that is because we don't have the speed of a backswing to load the shaft, which would cause the clubhead to have a little momentum in the 'body direction' before we start down.

And it takes some strength to control that initial momentum as you change direction, because you can hurt your wrists if you try to create too much downcock. That's why you see so many variations among the players who create downcock. Inbee Park has a small downcock but big old Jason Kokrak has a massive one. I'd recommend most players -- unless they're male pros who pump heavy iron when they aren't on the course -- stick with a smaller downcock like Park. You don't need a whole lot to get the benefits.

So you can practice this drill, letting your arms and hands drop down to the same position as the original drill -- we'll call it the HaNa Jang position. Here's another photo from my post on HaNa Jang's swing, so you can see it better. (Yes, I know her hips are turned more. But she's only 5'5" tall and is actually hitting the ball with a full swing. You'll do this naturally once you start making the full swing.)

HaNa Jang entering the impact zone, two angles

We'll do the two drills together in the next post. We need to get that backcock working first. Otherwise we'll have trouble getting the clubface to square up at impact. This is enough for one day!