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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Clearing Your Hips -- An Update

As most of you realize, I keep the comments open on all my old posts in case somebody reads one and has a question. The blog emails me anytime somebody makes a comment, and then I can zip over and see if I can help. And it's a good thing I leave them open, since a lot of you do go back and re-read the old posts.

Back in 2010 I did a post called Clearing Your Hips. And a couple days back Paul left me a question that I tried to answer but the blog wouldn't accept it. Apparently my answer was too long! So I left Paul a note that I would do a new post today for him. (I've done that for a number of you, so this is nothing new.)

In the original post I was trying to get you folks to stop moving toward the target so much when you start your downswing, so your hips would unwind more naturally. Paul's question was simple enough, and it's a logical one:
If you're opening up your hips the right shoulder must come out thus the over the top, isn't there a lateral component to start first ? This I can get away with with my woods and hybrids but not irons !!
So first let me re-post a photo of J.B. Holmes that was in that post, since I referred to it in my answer, and then my answer will follow.

J.B. Holmes downswing sequence

I understand why you're confused, Paul. I've made this mistake too, just like everybody else. And I've been trying to figure out a way to explain this more clearly so my answer will make more sense to you. Hopefully this will help you see what you're missing.

And I do mean see. You've forgotten about your spine angle. We have a tendency to think of our swing the way we see it in the Holmes swing sequence above -- from face-on. But there are also some important things we would only see from a down-the-line swing photo. So, in the interest of clarity, let's start with what we normally see, as in the photo above.

I want you to imagine that J.B.'s hips and spine -- and your hips and spine as well -- are connected like an upside-down T. There's a "crossbar" connecting your hips, and your spine sticks up halfway between them, like the tall line of the T, with your head at the top.

NOTE: If this were really your spine, the tall line would tilt slightly away from your target. That's because your trail hand (in your case, your right hand) is lower on the club than your lead hand, so your shoulders have to tilt a bit. But thinking of your hips and spine at 90° angles is easier.

So your head is roughly centered between your hips at address. Are you with me so far?

What you're forgetting is that your spine (the tall line) ALSO tilts toward the golf ball. You're bent over just a little.

Now, when you turn your shoulders away from the target during your backswing -- we'll say you make a standard 90° turn -- your trail shoulder (the right one) is now well behind your back -- behind your spine -- away from the ball. If you were to draw a swing plane, like the glass plane drawn in Hogan's book, your right shoulder would be well below that plane.

At the top of your backswing, your lead heel has come off the ground and your lead knee and hip have moved away from the target. But your head is still roughly halfway between your hips. Look at the first picture of Holmes in the post above; you can see that clearly.

When you start your downswing, the first thing you do is put your lead foot down flat on the ground and your lead knee moves over almost straight above it. That's your lateral move, but it isn't a big move forward. Rather, you pushed your lead foot DOWN and your hips turned back toward the ball. Your body moved DOWNWARD just a little.

And when your body moved down, so did your trail shoulder. Not out over the ball, but DOWN toward the ground. You're correct that your right shoulder is moving forward, but it was already below your swing plane and now your downward motion lowered it even more. In fact, it may still be a little behind your spine at this point.

From this point on, that trail shoulder will come at the ball from UNDER the plane, not over it, no matter how much you turn in your downswing. That's because your spine is still straight and your head is still basically halfway between your hips.

So why are you coming over-the-top? It's because of your trail knee (your right knee). I wrote about this in my book Stop Coming Over-the-Top because it happens so much. (And yes, I struggled with it for a long time before I figured it out. Like I said, it's a common problem.)

What SHOULD happen when you start down from the top is that your trail knee -- your right knee -- should stay slightly BENT. Your trail foot is flat on the ground at the top of your swing, then it rolls to the inside as you start down. That lets your hips move naturally and shift your weight to your lead foot.

But what most of us do is we try to hit the ball hard. And to do that, we STRAIGHTEN our trail knee. That pushes our trail hip UP, and that pushes our head TOWARD THE TARGET. Instead of your spine staying vertical, it leans toward the target and your head moves too far over your lead foot. That moves your right shoulder UP instead of down, so it comes over the swing plane instead of under it. Make sense?

If you want to practice the correct move, check out the "Body Movin'" drill in this post. You don't need a club and you can practice it anywhere. It's the best drill I know to teach you how the correct move feels.

So let me give you a new answer to your question above. You think, like so many instructors teach, that you start your downswing by moving laterally and then turning. THAT'S WRONG. You want to start your downswing by moving DOWN and then turning. Because of the way your hips naturally work, the downward movement creates all the lateral movement you need.

And the more you can use your body's natural movements, the easier and more consistent your golf swing will be.

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