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Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill, Part 8

Finally! This is the last post in this series. Everything I've written about in the previous posts are fundamentals that you can use in pretty much any swing, but today we'll put it all together into an example swing you can actually use.

In addition, I'll be talking about one more fundamental that I call the trigger move. I think this will help you make your change of direction more easily and consistently. But first I'll outline one way you can integrate all of these fundamentals into a usable swing.

Ha Na Jange entering the impact zone

For lack of a better name, I'll call this the Compact Full Body Swing:
  • Compact, because it assumes you can't make a full 90° shoulder turn. If you can, that's great, but this swing is designed to give you some serious clubhead speed even if you can't.
  • Full body, because most swing methods focus on either leg drive or arm swing. In this swing, I've tried to balance the two, in order to give you the most swing speed possible with the reduced shoulder turn.
Here's how you put the Compact Full Body Swing together:
  • You start with a one-piece takeaway, to make sure you get a wide arc that will be on plane when you reach the top of your backswing. If you don't know how to do a OPT, here's the link to the post where I explain it. It's part of the Dexter's Coming Over-the-Top series, to which you can find links on the Some Useful Post Series page.
  • Wrist cock during your backswing can take three forms:
    • early wrist cock, where your wrists are fully cocked before you reach the top of your backswing;
    • late wrist cock, where they don't cock until the last moment at the top; and
    • no wrist cock, where (DUH!) you don't cock them at all during the backswing.
    This swing will work best with either early wrist cock (Cristie Kerr is a good example) or no wrist cock (J.B. Holmes is one example). The late wrist cock needs to be timed in a slightly different way -- I know because I use a late wrist cock -- and that just complicates this swing.
  • At the change of direction you use the trigger move I'll discuss in a few moments. It's an easier way to change direction than trying to feel a pause or something similar.
  • The downswing and finish is the move that I taught you with the drills in the earlier posts. It attempts to recreate the sidearm throwing feel that the long drive champions use to get distance. The key 'position' that you swing through is the "bent elbow at your side" position you see in the Ha Na Jang photo that I've used in most of these posts. (And while I don't know how she'll finish, as I'm writing this post Ha Na is leading the LPGA event this week after three rounds. How convenient since I've used her as a model!)
That should be a fairly straightforward swing once I explain the trigger move, which is what the rest of this post is about.

I spent a fair amount of time on wrist cock in the previous posts. I divided wrist cock into two parts:
  • 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.
I also talked a bit about downcock, a term most instructors use to describe wrist cock that happens during the downswing, after the change of direction. We tend to think of it only in terms of sidecock, but backcock is actually a very important part of the action. Downcock helps create more clubhead speed, but it's a bit difficult for most weekend players to get a handle on.

Enter the trigger move, a way of creating downcock by focusing more on backcocking than sidecocking. While downcock tends to be created by 'letting' gravity and momentum flex your relaxed wrist and forearm muscles -- in other words, it's something that 'just happens' rather than something you 'do' -- the trigger move gives you something to consciously 'do' that creates the downcock. It's always easier to 'do' something than to 'not do' something!

If you're confused, don't worry. It'll be clear in a moment.

We finally had a decent day of weather this past week, which means I had a nice sunny day to take photos. Since I had to do them by myself, I only have one hand on the club -- my trailing hand, which happens to be my right hand. Your trailing hand is the one that you primarily feel the trigger move with.

The first pair of photos here shows the start and finish of the trigger move. The left photo shows my trailing hand at the top of my backswing, just as I start to change direction. The right photo shows the finish of the trigger move, after my hand has moved down slightly.

The start and finish of the trigger move with the trailing hand

Please understand that there are TWO things happening here, and neither of them is a huge move:
  • My hand has moved downward. (And away from me -- see how my hand looks a bit smaller in the second photo?) The move down is only an inch or so.
  • The tricky part is the apparent rotation of my hand. See how my fingers and the heel of my hand below my thumb are clearly visible in the left photo but are both pretty well covered by my thumb in the right photo? If you look closely, you can also see (because of the shadows on my thumb) that my thumb has rotated forward a bit. The shaft is a bit more vertical in the second photo but that's because I was trying to maneuver the camera with my other hand; if I was making a real swing with both hands, the shaft would actually be on the same plane or slightly flatter.
Why do I say that the rotation is 'apparent' and that it's the tricky part? That's because you don't feel the move as a rotation, but rather as a push.

And yes, I'm going to teach you what that feels like. It's actually a very simple thing... and I have more photos to prove it.

These were taken inside the house, in a room where the sun would cast shadows (for depth perception, since there's movement TOWARD the camera) as I did this little drill. Again, the photo on the left is the start of the move, the one on the right is the finish. Because doorjambs don't move, we have to do this drill by tilting our trailing hand backward. But once you've done it a few times, it's easy to translate it to a push move. The explanation is under the photos.

The start and finish of the trigger move drill

As you can see, on the left I've put my hand on the doorjamb as if the ridge was the club shaft. The pad at the base of my thumb is against the flat side of the doorjamb that faces the camera. Nothing tricky there.

In the right photo I've used my thumb pad as a pivot point and bent my hand backward -- creating backcock, as it were. When I do, my thumb and fingers move back away from the doorframe. The move creates the same angles as the apparent rotation in the outdoor photos above. It's not a rotation so much as seeing the back of your hand at a different angle.

If you do this backcocking move a few times, it won't take long before you can start feeling it as a pushing move. The easiest way to get the hang of it is to place your hand higher on the doorframe; I found 'forehead high' was a good place. If you drop your elbow a bit so your thumb pad 'rolls' slightly downward to create the backcock, it's pretty easy to feel as if you're pushing your hand away while it moves down.

Remember, when you actually use a club to do this, the momentum of the clubhead at the change of direction will help create the backcocking action. And with both hands holding the club handle, this move will actually cause your lead wrist to bow slightly, a position many players try unsuccessfully to create in other ways.

When you first insert this trigger move into your swing, make the swing more slowly. This isn't a sloppy move, so the club shouldn't wiggle around all over the place! Make shorter swings, then gradually lengthen them as you get used to the move. This trigger move should make it much easier to create that sidearm throwing feel with the drills in the earlier posts.

And that wraps up this post series. Hopefully this info -- and if you need it, the Compact Full Body Swing I created to demonstrate it -- will help your game. As usual, if you have questions you can just put them in the comments section below the relevant post. I've got the blog set up to alert me whenever a new comment appears, so I should be able to answer it within a day or so.


  1. Thanks for a post series that gently leads us into the swing. The step by step acquisition of the feeling of the swing was unique in my limited experience (IMLE?). You have use Jang and Park as exemplars, but does Lucas Glover's swing fit as well -- he doesn't seem to load the club until near half-way down, whereas both Jang and Park seem to load from the transition. Thanks again.

    1. There are A LOT of players who use a version of this move, JL. In many ways it mimics a natural movement, although that movement is typically performed with only one hand -- a tennis forehand, for instance. So if you look, you'll see a lot of players who have this kind of move as part of their downswing.