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Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bob Toski on Feeling Your Hands

The Mouse was a formidable opponent though he was never very big. He won 11 or so major tournaments (five on the PGA Tour) but he's probably best known for his instruction. This quote is from his book How to Feel a Real Golf Swing.

Bob Toski

Modern instructors are finally beginning to teach that you need to use your hands in your swing. However, teaching "feel" is never easy, and teaching it from a book is even harder. Yet Toski does an admirable job in this section from a chapter called -- appropriately enough -- Feeling Your Hands.
"Some players might as well stick their hands in their pockets," said the great golf instructor Seymour Dunn, "for all the use they make of them." Think back to the swing in the park [Toski was talking about a child's playground swing in an earlier chapter]. Let's say it's not a swing now, but a tennis ball hanging from a rope attached to the swing crossbar. You find it at rest and you want to start it swinging. How do you begin? Do you butt it with your body or nudge it with your shoulder? Do you push the rope with your arm? Or do you set it gently swinging with an easy push of your hand so that the ball climbs and falls back before you send it on its way again? And if you use your hand, do you clench it tightly or hold it just firmly enough to start it on the natural path limited by the length of the rope? Do you stiffen your wrist or let it flex? Which will keep the ball moving without bowing or jerking the rope? In a similar way, do you "flick" your wrist slightly at the bottom of the club's arc to add speed and send it forward faster? Or do you twist your body and lunge forward to quicken the club's pace?

The freedom and motion that we spoke of in Chapter 1 emanate from the hands. The hands start the clubhead moving, keep it on its natural path and sustain its centrifugal motion. It would take very little movement on your part to get that tennis ball moving at its maximum speed, and most of the movement would come from your hands. And so with your golf swing.

The hands, Dunn said, are the leaders of the swing. And that surprises most golfers. You see them on the practice range struggling to lift the club with their arms or pull it with their shoulders or help it along with their legs and trunk. They twist and turn and slap and hit, clutching the club in a grip so tight their hands lose all of their natural power. "Most poor golfers," Ernest Jones said, "merely use their hands to hold the club. They don't understand that it is through the hands and fingers alone that they can influence the behavior of the club." [p20-21]
Think about how you throw a ball or swing a racket or bat. You don't freeze your wrists; you allow them to move. But neither do you leave them "floppy" like a wet noodle, bending all over the place; rather, you tend to finish with your hands and forearms in a fairly straight line. (And just a note: If your lead wrist is bent backward after you hit the ball, you aren't letting your shoulders turn fully into your finish. The natural "pull" of the club as your wrists uncock on the downswing is to point the clubshaft straight out from you, so your shaft and arms form a nice Y-shape when seen from the front. If you don't get that, you're interfering with the natural motion somehow.)

In fact, I think that's why so many teachers and players -- John Daly comes to mind -- practice a one-armed swing with only their lead hand on the club. As the club swings into its finish, your lead arm and club tend to remain in a straight line as they swing upward. Again, to get that same kind of wrist action naturally with a two-hand grip, you have to let your shoulders turn fully into your finish.

Practicing the feel of your swing is a nice thing to work on during the winter since you don't have to hit balls. And Toski's description of the process may help you wrap your mind around that elusive thing we call "feel."

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