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Friday, August 25, 2017

A Thought on Starting Down from the Top

Today I have a simple quote from an old book called Such a Little Secret by John W. Barrett. It concerns the change of direction and the start of the downswing. I'm passing this on because it seems to be a good description of what happens, one that is helpful no matter what swing method you use.

Barrett likes to give movements numbers, so when you see Element Number Three in the text, that's just how he refers to the order of the change of direction in the swing sequence. Also, note that he assumes you're righthanded, so you lefties out there should substitute "right" for "left."
The correct hitting stroke should definitely commence with a transferring of the weight below the waist to the left foot and leg (Element Number Three). In many instructional articles this movement is invariably described as "shifting the weight" -- a misnomer that has bred more misunderstanding and early disenchantment with the game than anything else. If "shifting the weight" is ambiguous, then "Let the weight all flow to the left" or "Everything must move to the left with the shot" can be downright damaging. In fact it is only some of the weight which is transferred, that below the waist.

As the transfer is made, the upper body and head must retain their position in a vertical plane, remaining well behind the object to be hit.

The movement of the hips to the left should be just enough to plant the left heel firmly to the ground and lift the right heel from it as the weight transfers. Rotation of the hips occurs simultaneously with their small lateral move to the left. [p132-133]
Let me point out a couple of things here.

First, Barrett says "only some of the weight" is transferred, and that little bit is below the waist. He says at a later point that a "massive hip and knees slide" causes the upper body to move far too much, but that such a move is unfortunately taught all too often. If you keep those exaggerations out of the lateral move, you'll find that your upper body doesn't lurch forward when you swing. That problem is the result of using your legs incorrectly.

Second -- and this is the part that really caught my attention, because he stated it so well in that final paragraph -- is that the hips move toward the target just enough to replant the lead heel and lift the trailing heel. He also says that the hips rotate simultaneously with that small lateral move.

You got that? None of that "slide and turn" stuff. That is an exaggeration that changes all the correct posture you tried so hard to create at address! In past posts I've explained it as "almost falling" from the top of the backswing, because that lets gravity help create the small weight shift you need to get everything moving toward the target without overdoing it. But it doesn't matter how you feel it, so long as you don't overdo it!

This is a very simple tip, but it will do wonders to help improve both your accuracy and your distance, simply because it will help you deliver the clubhead to the ball with more consistency. And if there's a Holy Grail in this game, it's consistency.



  2. Another great observation, Mike. You seem to be big on letting gravity do the work in both the full swing and the short game, including putting. Are you an advocate of the Gravity Golf concept, or just a variation?

    1. To be honest, Dana, I've never explored Gravity Golf. But I've read old reports of how far Bobby Jones could hit the ball, and computer studies that show he accelerated his club just slightly faster than gravity. So I figure if gravity will do most of the job -- and gravity's free! -- then why not use it? I'll take all the help I can get!