I recently took a few online video lessons with Hank Haney's cadre of instructors and learned some really good information. First (probably left over from my S&T days), I tended to be a little upright in my swing plane and I took the club inside, which caused a slight over-the-top move with an opening club face through impact and a nasty push-slice. Yes, I managed to get some in-to-out motion occasionally with that steeper inside swing and occasionally drew the ball as I intended, but I also hit more than my share of straight-slices, pushes, push-slices, and even pull hooks. Why the hooks? Because in addition to trying to force in-to-out motion using a steep approach, I was having to make manipulations with my hands and forearms to try to square the club face (or use a stronger grip which doesn't feel natural to me). When I didn't hit the ball fat, my divots on the target side of the ball were always DEEP…too deep, starting shallow but ending an inch or two down into the turf.
I knew about all of the positions I was told I should be in, and I would always get confused by the instructors who would contradict each other--some saying those positions happened naturally and some saying they had to be conscious thoughts. You've heard about these positions and characteristics of a good swing before (i.e., flat left wrist at impact, rolling forearms, retained lag, foreword leaning shaft, retracing the backswing plane with the downswing plane, etc.).
So, during a recent 9-hole practice round, I decided to copy some advice I heard Hank Haney give several of his famous pupils on The Haney Project who suffered from some of my identical mistakes: Learn to reverse the OTT loop--take the club back slightly OUTSIDE the line and then come UNDER the plane with the club head on the downswing. This move gets the golfer approaching more naturally from the inside on a shallower downswing plane. The feeling that I had was that my hands and right elbow were dropping towards my right hip with the hips leading (the club dropping slightly behind me and flattening); the club made a shallow arc when in the vicinity of the ball. I could feel slight tension in my grip and left forearm, as it rotated and squared the club into impact; the feeling I could best associate with this is like closing a gate with the back of my left arm. The club stayed in the middle of my body, even into the followthrough. My divots shallowed out and my contact was better. I was drawing my 3-hybrid and 4-iron and the ball was launched on line!!! And the real test? I left with the same two balls with which I started! I usually push-sliced the devil out of that 4-iron, sometimes ending up 30 yards right of my target or out of bounds. Let's not even discuss the driver, which I would usually push, push-slice, or hook into trouble. Occasionally, I would get a low draw that would put me in the fairway, but with no real distance.
In reality, what's causing the hands and elbow to drop towards the right hip is FEELING THE WEIGHT OF THE CLUB HEAD FALLING BEHIND ME, making a loop (see Jim McClean's video below on the slot swing). And all of this means that the RIGHT SHOULDER IS ACTUALLY DIPPING DOWN while the back is still turned to the ball. All of this creates a Figure-8 oval shape with the club head. Keeping a loose grip at this stage of the swing really helps to feel the weight of the club head, and this also means that the transition from backswing to downswing feels more continuous (i.e., no real pause in the motion).
I also should add another important point I got from my online lesson; the instructor noticed that I set my wrists late and suggested that I set them earlier to increase my lag. So I work to set my wrists once the club passes above my waist, and this seems to work really great along with dropping the club head and reversing the loop. Also important: 90-deg shoulder turn. Getting a full 90-deg really helps with getting an inside swing path (in a sense, it helps automate the loop).
I have focused on this halfway-back position via what's become known as an 'early wrist set'. It's quite simple: I look for my wrists to be fully hinged and the club 'set' up on a good plane by the time my left arm is at horizontal.
Bobby Jones in his book Bobby Jones on Golf had similar advice on bringing the right elbow in close and keeping the wrists set:
If you look around on the internet long enough, you'll see this theme repeat over and over:
Start the downswing by stepping down on your left heel and letting your left hip move slightly toward the target. As your lower body starts to move, pull your hands down, keeping your right elbow close to your right hip as long as possible.
Jim McClean calls this the Slot Swing:
Here's a drill from Jeff Ritter that uses the waggle to prep the body to hit a looping swing ("…your slice will be gone forever.")
So, after that wonderful practice round, I decided to do some research on the subject and found Bradley Hughes--a retired golf professional from Australia who now teaches in South Carolina. Hank Haney's teaching differs from Hughes in so many areas, but in this one area--the reversed loop 2-plane swing--they seem to agree. And the common thread seems to be a universally admired golfing hero--Ben Hogan. Both Haney and Hughes admire Hogan and incorporate his teachings to various degrees (Hughes more so). Whereas Haney seems to gravitate towards this approach as a last ditch effort, Hughes seems to embrace it as the only way to swing.
Hogan (and many of the professional golfers preceding him and following him up until the 1990s or so) swung the golf club this old way. Even Tiger swung this way in the beginning, using the older wooden clubs with flatter lie angles. Hogan was so flat coming down that many 'experts' criticized him as being laid off. Jim Furyk receive the same criticism. But Hogan's results are undeniable, and many of the professionals who swung like him coming down were also consistent greats, including Jack Nicklaus--the greatest of all time based on results. I'm not talking about their backswings, which are irrelevant according to Hughes. Nicklaus was fairly upright on the backswing. Consider Jim Furyk's backswing--it's nearly vertical, but he loops, drops his hands and right elbow to his waist coming down, and hits a nice, shallow, powerful ball, and then ends with a high finish (no pushing the upper left into the chest on the followthrough--the so called "connected" finish). He and Sergio Garcia are two examples of the few modern professionals who still swing the old way but get criticized for it, unfortunately. If Garcia could putt better (and he's working on that), he would be one of the best EVER! In some cases (like with Garcia) it's hard to notice by looking only at the hands and right elbow (pay attention to the club head).
And low and behold, several other positive benefits happen, according to Hughes. The flat left wrist, bent right wrist, lag, forward shaft lean, head behind ball, bent knees, and so on all happen naturally when using this downswing. No artificial rolling of the arms or flipping the wrists is necessary to square the face. Hughes says to forget the backswing and grip--so many differences in those fundamentals among players that they should not be considered fundamentals. The impact area is the only true fundamental.
Still not convinced? Look at these videos and articles (there are MANY others):
The cherished ball strikers of days gone by (see below) all had the common theme of retaining their knee flex....and swinging on a shallower plane into impact....which allowed the right arm to stay quieter UNTIL well after impact.
This bred the consistency of their ball striking and allowed them to play much more flawless, easier hassle free golf without having to conjure up miracle shots and have to hole 25 foot putts on every green to salvage a score.
Brad Redding: Reverse Your Loop
Fire Your Lower Body
Haney to Romano: Reverse the Loop!
If You Slice, Read This
How to Fix an Outside Swing in Golf
Over the Top Golf Swing
How to Fix Your Golf Slice
Learn From Sean O'Hair's Downswing Loop
10-Yard Guarantee: Right Elbow, Right Hip
Drop the Hands to Hit Inside-Out (my previous blog post on the subject)