ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Answering Questions about Swinging (Videos)

A few days back I did a post called Hitting VS Swinging, and Dana left the following questions in the comments:
Mike, can you speak more on the swinger preference and feeling the club pull the hands back. I've been taking lessons from a student of Manuel, and he says 'use the hands to take the clubhead back, then swing the entire club forward.' Also, any youtubes on good swinging motions?
That's a lot to cover in one post, but I'll see if I can at least start clearing up some of the confusion.

I'll start with the last question first. It's really hard to find videos that demonstrate a "historically accurate" swinging motion, because of Ernest Jones. As I noted in that other post, Jones adapted the original classic swing -- which was intended for use with soft hickory shafts -- to stiffer steel shafts. In doing so, he had to drop some of the original techniques that didn't transfer well.

A good example is what many modern teachers call "regripping at the top of the swing." In my copy of the Jones book Swing the Clubhead, on page 33 he specifically says that this is an error that many great golfers did unintentionally. That puts him at odds with Harry Vardon who, in his book The Complete Golfer (which is in public domain here in the US and can be found in several free digital editions at this Project Gutenberg link), not only said that the regripping was on purpose, but told how much movement there was and where to measure it! But Vardon played only hickory and Jones taught his students how to play steel. The "regrip," which really isn't a regrip because those fingers aren't gripping the club -- they actually sense the shaft tension to help you feel what the clubhead is doing -- didn't allow you to load a steel shaft properly. (Don't understand what that means? Check out this post.)

Having said that, the late Manuel de la Torre -- who I have often recommended as an alternative to Hogan for those who requested an option -- based much of his teaching on Jones, and he taught several LPGA major winners. There are some YouTubes of de la Torre, but I have posted one of an old Academy Live show below. I originally posted it at this link, but this will save you some time. Note that, as I noted in my original post, the first five minutes may sound like crazy geometric stuff, but hang in there because there's a lot of good material in this show.

Now, about that "use the hands to take the clubhead back, then swing the entire club forward" comment. I have talked about "flinging the clubhead back" in past posts, which may have added to the confusion. I'm going to try to explain both phrases here, and then I'll call it quits for today.

Here is a video of Harry Vardon I found that illustrates the classic "flinging" motion. I've set it to start at the 1:45 mark (to give you time to close any ads that might appear) where you'll see text that says
The "slowed" view. Note how the hands move back before the head of the club.
If you watch the sequence there closely, you'll see Vardon waggle the club, place the clubhead behind the ball, forward press very slightly, and then the hands will move back noticeably before the clubhead begins to move.

Have you ever heard Gary Player talk about "striking a match" with the clubhead? This is the same movement, only on the backswing. In Player's drill, if you set the club behind the ball and then "strike the match" as you swing to your finish, you'll feel pressure in the back of your trailing wrist. When the clubhead overcomes the friction of touching the ground, it will be flung forward and the motion will feel as if the clubhead is pulling your hands forward.

"Flinging the clubhead back" is the same sort of motion, except you do it on the takeaway and it creates that pressure in the back of your LEAD wrist. When the clubhead starts to overcome the friction of the ground, it is flung backward and feels as if it is pulling your hands upward.

Then, at the change of direction at the top, the pressure will again move to the back of your trailing wrist, just as it did when you "struck the match" earlier. This feeling is caused by the clubhead lagging on the way down as your wrist cock is retained (or whatever terms you want to use to describe it). Your wrists finally start to uncock around halfway down because the increasing speed of the clubhead (acceleration!) starts catching up to the much slower speed of your hands.

In other words, your hands take the clubhead back and then you swing the entire club forward.

This doesn't mean you aren't using your lower body to drive the swing. The laws of physics DEMAND that your swing start from the ground up, both when you start your backswing and when you start your downswing. The problem comes when we start to interfere with the natural motions. Then we create exaggerated motions that overpower the natural motions our bodies are trying to do. And that causes more inconsistency, because we don't overpower the natural motions quite the same way every time. (That's part of the reason pros have to practice so much and yet they still struggle.)

I can hear your protests -- the golf swing ISN'T natural! Well, yes and no. It would be more correct to say that it isn't natural to all of us. Ever wonder why baseball players, quarterbacks and hockey players seem to be much better at the game than the rest of us?

It's all about the shoulder coil. See, most of us never learn what a natural shoulder coil USING BOTH ARMS feels like. Pick up a ball in one hand and throw it overhand. Take a look at yourself in a mirror. I bet your shoulders haven't turned more than maybe 30°, if that. Your hips barely turn at all.

But those three athletes I mentioned, they all learn to coil their shoulders while they hold one object with both hands -- the baseball player swings a bat, the quarterback uses both hands to take the ball up to shoulder height (to secure that large ball in case he gets hit), and the hockey player uses a stick. And the hockey players are typically the best of the three, simply because the hockey stick has a flat surface that they have to learn to control if they want the puck to go where they aim it. So the hockey players are much better with hand/clubface control as well as making a better shoulder coil. These are skills that work for both swingers and hitters, but they really make a swinger into a formidable opponent.

So there you have it. That's sort of a basic course on how the swinging motion works and why some folks are better at it than others. I hope it answers yours and Dana's questions. And as usual, you can drop extra questions in the comments below and I'll try to answer them.


  1. Wow, Mike. Lots of good observations here. As I recall, Mickey Wright moved her hands first going back also. And didn't Hogan say she had the best swing (man or woman) he had ever seen?

    One follow-up question, when you say the back of the leading wrist going back, is that the left hand for a right-handed golfer?

    1. Yes, your leading hand is the one at the end of the club. You can also just remember that you play "trailing-handed."

    2. Thanks for the videos and explanations, Mike. I played with this type of backswing this weekend with great success. For me it really helped with the short shot yips. Good stuff from the classic players.

    3. Glad it helped, Dana. No matter what swing method players use for their full games, the short game has always used some version of the classic swing. (That's why the pros have to practice so much; most of them are learning two different swings, one for full game, one for short game.) The better you understand it, the better your short game will be.

  2. Mike, if you are done with this topic, that's fine. At some point I would like to hear more of your thoughts on two things you mention here. 1) Practicing two different swings and 2) Short game always being some variation of the classic swing. I know Manuel always advocated for the same swing for all shots (and that is what my instructor who studied under him continues to teach me). Some days that works better than others on the short shots.

    1. Give me some time, Dana. I'll see what I can do.