Sunday, January 22, 2012

How to Close the Club Face

So, you're aimed slightly right, hitting from the inside (trying for a draw), and the ball is pushing well right (or even push-slicing). The ONLY problem here, then, is that the club face is too open for the path. As Hank Haney so correctly puts it, all slices (whether classic, straight, or push) are ultimately caused by an open club face, though other factors may be associated with or contribute to that open club face. To close or square the club face, the toe needs to be overtaking the heel through impact, while a fade has the toe and heel coming through together. The only question is: What's the best way that each one of us can achieve this goal?

The grip, hips, shoulders, and forearms must work together to square and then close the club face coming through. This becomes easier when you think of the arms crossing over ("let the wrists kiss") when the club shaft is "center mast" to the body (the belt buckle or belly button).

Here are some ways to close the club face. Be careful trying more than one of these at at time, because you might start hitting really low pull-hooks:

  1. Use less grip tension (waggle the club and relax the arms at address).
  2. Square the back of the left hand by the time you reach impact! Golfers who roll the forearms open in the backswing may leave the club face too open through impact and block, push, and slice the ball; they must learn to square the back of the left hand BY THE TIME impact occurs. If they overdo it they can start pulling the ball or hooking it. You may need to consciously think of hitting the ball with the back of your left hand--sort of like a tennis backhand. To do this requires EARLIER left forearm rotation than you might believe (missing right means you need to exaggerate rotating the forearm earlier). It's too easy to mistakenly roll the forearm late--once the hands reach the ball, which will usually just result in a flip with added loft. Begin rolling the left forearm once your hands reach the vicinity of your right thigh or right hip. This gives you time to square up the club face. The back of the left hand and the right palm will rotate down to point roughly 45 degrees towards the ground when the hands are in the vicinity of the right thigh; as a consequence, the club face will also point ~45 degrees down towards the ground when the club is parallel to the ground on the downswing. This should feel really closed to you if you've been leaving the face open. Now all that's required is a turn through. The continued roll or "crossing over" appearance after impact is just a product of the squaring action you started earlier!! Focus on leading the club into the ball with the left wrist coming through first--even slightly ahead of the left hand; this will prevent the left wrist from bending backward or cupping (called dorsiflexion) through impact. The left wrist should either be flat or it should slightly bow while the left forearm rotates! (This continued rotation post-impact is also called "the release"). This seems to be the best for getting a slight draw shape without a lot of manipulation. Hank Haney calls this squaring the back of the left hand, and some instructors have referred to this as making your watch face the target. Another added benefit is that this delofts the club slightly, lowering the ball flight and adding distance. If you begin to pull or pull-hook shots, you will either need to back off slightly on how early you rotate the left forearm, use a slightly weaker grip, and/or swing more out to the right. The disadvantage here is that it requires a bit of timing to ensure a square position at impact; too much rotation and you can pull-hook, too little, a block or push-slice. If you do this correctly, you'll say farewell to the balls that keep heading right; but you might say 'hello' to a pull or pull-hook. Then you'll have to think more about the way to get the ball started more to the right so that it can spin back to the left! This is a welcome dilemma if you've been a chronic slicer.
  3. Takeaway: Ensure the club face matches your spine angle! This is really just another way of accomplishing #2 above without having to reverse-roll your left forearm clockwise in the downswing. To do this, have the feeling that the back of your left hand faces the ball for as long as possible in the backswing (there should be no sensation of rolling the forearm counter-clockwise); this should make it easy to return the club face to square at impact. Another way to put this is to keep the club head outside your hands in the takeaway. Also, be careful to avoid the urge to lean left on the backswing when using no forearm rotation; make sure you still lean right and shift into the right leg.
  4. "Shake hands" with the target using the right hand. This doesn't mean letting the right hand take over, which can cause the left wrist to cup or flip as above; in a sense, the right wrist straightens and the right hand rotates slightly over the top of the left, with the watch facing the ground just after impact. This is the one that I can use to hit a big hook, because it's very hard to time properly (i.e., tough to know how much rotation is too much rotation and when). This one is often called letting the wrists kiss or cross over each other.
  5. Grip the club more in the fingers and away from the palm (automatically applies less tension).
  6. Use a stronger grip (rotate both hands to the right with "V's" towards right shoulder).
  7. Physically hood the club face at address (close it a few degrees then take your usual grip). This one doesn't work for me.
  8. Consciously turn the left hand knuckles down at impact. This another way to think of #2 above; but I think it's better to think of leading with the left wrist, as there's less manipulation involved than when using this swing thought. This is often taught as turning the door knob with the left hand or revving the motorcycle throttle.

It's important to keep in mind that the club path works in concert with the face to produce the desired ball flight. That is, the club face can be closed but still open to the path, causing some form of slice (push, straight, or pull--depending on the direction the face was aiming at impact). The club face must be closed to the path to produce a hook (hitting inside-out with a face that's closing is critical).

You'll know you've gone to far when you start duck hooking the ball or getting a really low ball flight. Tom Watson wrote in his book, The Timeless Swing , that you should use as strong a grip as you can without hooking the ball.

Don't be afraid to try the "left wrist leading" even with your fades. The kicker is to hold off the release (i.e., slap the ball with the back of the left hand and then let the back of the left hand--or the right palm--continue chasing after the ball instead of rotating over). With an open set-up, the ball flight should be a slight fade as opposed to a large one.

In addition, the left wrist should be flat or bowed through impact. In the April 1956 issue of Golf Digest, Hogan wrote, "I've noticed one thing that all good golfers do and all bad golfers do not. The good ones have their left wrist leading at impact. It seems a small thing, but I've found it to be universally true. At impact the left wrist of a good player is slightly convex, while that of a poor player is generally concave."

[From Grouchy Golf Blog]

The more you grip the golf club in the fingers (#1), the faster you can swing the golf club and the quicker the clubface will close (causing a hook or draw ball flight). If you grip the golf club further up in the palm (#2), the slower the golf club will travel and the longer it takes for the clubface to close (causing a slice or a fade). If you are slicing the golf ball, you will want to move the grip more into the fingers (the base of the fingers), if you are hooking the golf ball, you will want to move the grip more into the palm area (higher up in the left hand).

[From Golf Swing Instruction Articles and Lessons to Shave 7 Strokes Off Your Game]

While the left hand swings back horizontally so that the back of the left hand is always perpendicular to the ground (vertically-oriented like a door opening) it "feels" slightly supinated relative to the inclined plane on which the clubshaft is traveling, and a golfer "feels" as if the left hand is rolling slightly over (supinating) during the followthrough. Tiger Woods states that he he tries to get a "feeling" that the knuckles of his left hand start to rotate groundwards (supinate) immediately after impact, and what he is describing in simple "feel" terms is the "roll-feel" movement of the left hand during the horizontal hinging action. The back of the left hand should never face groundwards during a horizontal hinging action (even though there is a "roll-feel" during a HH action), and it should actually remain vertical to the ground.


There are only two options for the club to be released through impact. You can either keep turning the body through at a high rate of speed, or you can keep your hands soft and rotate the left wrist counterclockwise. Which one sounds more efficient?

Golf Left Hand Release Drill -

If the player is not aware of or not expecting that change, it can be frustrating to watch every shot go right after supposedly getting on the ideal swing plane. The secret is to make the necessary adjustment in wrist and clubface action to deal with the new flatter plane.

A key checkpoint is the half-way position in the downswing once the hands are about waist high. It is imperative that the right palm is beginning to face down as the back of the left hand is also facing down toward the ground. This is part of the infamous pronation and supination referred to in descriptions of Ben Hogan’s downswing and impact positions.

Picture turning your watch face down toward the ground during the downswing, assuming you are a right handed golfer wearing a watch on the left arm. Another way to see it and feel it is to turn the knuckles of the left hand downward so they face the ground and are essentially out of view at the waist-high position coming down.

Stop Slicing Pushing Blocking Golf Shots – Herman Williams Golf

Flick suggests a drill to eliminate flipping that works best initially with shorter irons. Practice hitting balls while letting your right hand come off the grip just after impact. This removal of the right hand emphasizes the need for the left hand and arm to lead the swing, bowing the wrist with the hinge, rotating through impact with the ball and finishing the follow-through by folding up at the elbow.

Drills For People Who Flip In Golf | LIVESTRONG.COM

Contrary to conventional wisdom, Tiger does not delay the unhinging of his wrists for as long as possible. As soon as he initiates his downswing, he starts rotating his left forearm. That action starts to square the face and begins the gradual release of the clubhead. Halfway down, his wrists are already uncocking.

Golf Swing Tips to Boost Power |

"At impact the back of the left hand faces toward your target. The wrist bone is definitely raised. It points to the target and, at the moment the ball is contacted, it is out in front, nearer to the target than any part of the hand.

"When the left wrist is in this position, the left hand will not check or interrupt the speed with which your clubhead is traveling. There's no danger either that the right hand will overpower the left and twist the club over. It can't. As far as applying power goes, I wish that I had three right hands!

Saturday Morning Tip: Supinate your wrists like Hogan : The Instruction Blog: Golf Digest

The back of your left hand, assuming you've got a decent grip, will show you where the clubface is through impact. The common mistake a high-handicapper makes is swinging through the shot with the back of the left hand -- and the clubface -- pointed up. When the side of the hand leads the way like that, you'll hit weak slices.

To hit straighter, more powerful shots, you need to release your hands through impact. As you swing into the ball, turn your hands so the back of your left hand -- the logo on your glove -- points down the target line. That corresponds to a square clubface.

Get back to square: Golf Digest

To create more speed, here's a great swing thought: Rotate your forearms counter-clockwise as you start down, turning the face of your driver to the ground. Another good feel is to get the back of your glove pointing down, as if you were going to drag your knuckles along the turf. This move will help you maintain your wrist hinge longer coming down. Remember, power comes from clubhead lag, where the clubhead lags behind your hands until your wrists release at the bottom of the swing.

One word of caution here: Because you're closing the clubface earlier than you're probably used to, you might start hitting hooks, until you adjust your path into the ball. Feel as if you're swinging out to the right of the target. Do that, and you'll turn those left misses into power draws.

Rick Smith: Turn The Face Down For Bigger Drives: Golf Digest

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