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Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Silver Scot on Using Your Hands

Tommy Armour is a legend of the game and a great teacher, one whom the great teacher Harvey Penick named as an influence on his own teaching. Armour's book How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time was THE golf manual before Hogan's Five Lessons became popular.

I've been posting quite a bit about using your hands lately, so I thought I'd add some of Armour's thoughts from his book. These are some various thoughts from his tenth chapter, called (appropriately enough) The Art of Hitting with the Hands. Where Armour mentions the right hand, you lefties can substitute the left hand. He's just talking about using your TRAILING hand.
Whether you or anybody else calls the pay-off a hit or a swing, I don't care. That's only a matter of terminology. The action is that of whipping the clubhead through the ball with the hands. Not slapping it, waving it, flinging it, stiff-arming it, but whipping it with a tigerish lash.

The great hitters in golf are those who move their hands faster than those whose distance and precision are inferior. That also is the case in sports other than golf. A fighter accomplishes knockouts by having his fists move with devastating speed. Ruth's home-run record was set during seasons when the liveliness of the ball varied, but because The Babe's hands moved faster than those of any other batter, he was supreme as a long hitter. When Jimmy Thomson was consistently the longest driver in golf, motion pictures showed his hands moving at amazing speed.

To let you in on one of the great secrets of good golf, which really isn't a secret at all, one golfer gets more distance because he uses his hands for power, while the other fellow is trying to get distance by using his body.

The long hitter gets his body in position so his hands can work most effectively.

What misleads people into thinking that swinging and hitting are different is principally a matter of the player's temperament. Macdonald Smith and Byron Nelson have been generally identified as swingers because of the graceful appearance of their actions. Hagen and Sarazen were labelled hitters because their common characteristic was to wield their clubs with what appeared to be violent and impetuous slashing.

But, all four of them – and every other great player – had the clubhead coming in with all the speed they could command while retaining steady balance of their bodies.

Hitting the ball a long way isn't a matter of size or weight of the player. It depends on effective use of the hands, rather than on trying to throw the weight of the body into the shot or even, within reasonable limits, lengthening the backswing in the belief that a longer backswing will enable one to accelerate clubhead speed more and get the clubhead moving at maximum speed at contact with the ball.

The more you can get your hands ahead of the clubface in the downswing, the more power you can apply with the right hand.

The late uncocking of the wrists, or the delayed hit, as you may hear the effect called, instinctively causes a decided acceleration of right hand action at the most effective period.

If you'll pause to consider, you will realize that if your hands are behind the ball at impact, you can only scoop the ball up. But if your hands are in front, you've got to smash the ball with lightning speed.
That's a cross-section of what he says, but it gets his main points across. Here are two specific things to note:
  • Even lengthening your backswing has limited effect if you don't use your hands. That means flexibility isn't as important as you may have been led to believe.
  • If you get your hands ahead of the ball at impact but don't use your hands to get the clubhead to hit the ball at the same time, you won't hit the ball very far.
He says more in the chapter, obviously – I can't print the whole chapter for copyright reasons – but this should be enough to let you know how important using your hands is to getting distance.

How to Play Your Best Golf All the Time is an underused instruction book these days. If more people read it and applied it, we'd be a world of better golfers.

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