Saturday, March 3, 2012

Swing Sequencing and Passivity

I've learned that normal instincts and proper swing actions diverge dramatically. Golf is full of these contradictions (i.e., swing left to make the ball go right, hit down to make the ball go up, etc.). Understanding these tenets intellectually is easy; putting them into practice is tough.

The swing instinct of the beginning golfer is to use the hands and arms to hit the ball; that's what feels natural. The resulting swing sequence of that instinct is something well known to frustrated golfers: the upper body leads the downswing, club gets laid off or across the line, the shoulders spin out, the arms are thrown out and away from the body, posture is lost, club casting, coming over the top, the knuckles of the left hand point up, and the ball pulls, hooks, and slices, depending on the club face position at impact.

At some point, with enough effort, the beginning golfer begins to implement the fundamentals that all the great teachers espouse: upper body turn on backswing (lower body resists), arms stay in front of the body, lower body leads on downswing (shoulders and arms resist), hips bump and turn, the club comes from the inside (drops in the slot), lag is maintained (no casting), no flying elbows (chicken wings), full extension, good release, left hand knuckles turn down, square/closing club face, etc. The feeling is described as effortless, passive, and a good impact feels like the ball isn't even there. The ball flight is either straight or a controlled fade or draw in the target direction. Of course, it takes time to implement the elements of a good swing and then to learn the proper order or sequence of those events. At some point, they move from being separate thoughts and actions that may occur asynchronously to a free-flowing, coordinated, sequenced series of moves that result in a passive, effortless swing and great, consistent impact.

The golf swing has vertical movement and horizontal movement movement. The vertical movement comes from the arms lifting up and down in front of the body; the horizontal movement is provided by the turning of the body. The small muscles in the chest, shoulders, and arms ARE NOT INVOLVED in getting the club back to the ball. The golfer must surrender to the quite correct tenet that he is not controlling anything with the arms; he is merely setting up properly (so that the ball is in the way) and then assisting natural physical forces to propel an object; when you feel "out of control" with the arms and small muscles, you're starting to learn the right feeling, which runs counter to intuition to use the arms in order to hit the ball.

  • One piece takeaway and backswing, where the arms stay in front of the body in a triangular formation and the right knee keeps the bend established at address.
  • Completed backswing has the shoulders turned 90 degrees (back facing target) and loaded into inside of flexed right leg. The arms are extended away from but still in front of the chest in their triangle shape. The right elbow folds naturally and the wrists set naturally, creating a "box" shape at the top of the swing that one should try to maintain for as long as possible. The club is pointing at the target at the top (not laid off).
  • Transition has the arms simply dropping (triangle still in front of the body) while the back remains turned and the weight shifts to the left leg and the left hip immediately rotates backward. The shoulders haven't rotated yet, so an X Factor is created between the shoulders and hips.
  • Get the feeling that the arms get to the top and stay there while the lower body moves and the arms drop down from the top (maintaining the "box" shape); the arms, hands, and small muscles should be completely passive and make no effort to swing or steer the club!
  • Downswing: As the still folded right elbow nears the right hip (from the arm dropping action), the hips rotate fully toward the target. This gets the arms coming from the inside--they cannot be thrown over the top in this manner.

The result is that the ball is hit effortlessly and the arms don't really do anything consciously (they're passive), which is the opposite of what one tries to do when beginning golf. The body can appear to move very slowly but the club head is actually moving quite fast; this is how pros like Ernie Els and Fred Couples can hit the ball far but appear to be moving in slow motion. A good ball flight with good distance results. The finish is natural and balanced (one can easily lift the right leg and remain balanced over the left). In short, it feels good, correct, and easy. Swinging faster is simply a matter of turning the hips faster; swinging harder is out the window, because there's no muscle tension involved. The body is learning to assist gravity and physics to let the club do the work. But the body's gut instinct is to tense up and rip it, which will result--consistently--in looking for one's ball in the trees.

It is important that a golfer understand that Hogan implied in his book that the arms/clubshaft are passively pulled down to waist level as a result of the lower body movement, and that a golfer shouldn't have to actively pull the arms/clubshaft down to waist level as a totally separate/independent action. Ben Hogan stated that his arms/hands "get a free-ride" down to waist level when he shift-rotates his pelvis at the start of the downswing [4].

[From Downswing]

Most amateurs try to help the club toward the ball by pulling on it from the top of the swing. They are, in effect, trying to help gravity—one of the greatest forces in the world. Mother Nature doesn’t need your help. She’ll get it done—if you don’t pull on the club.

When you’re at the top of the backswing in good balance, you literally let (key word even if it’s small) your arms drop through space as you turn your hips left and get your weight onto your left heel at the completion of what’s a lateral turn.

[From Golf Tips - The Fire Drill]

Williams, focusing on the speed of [Bobby] Jones's swing, calculated that from the top of his backswing to the point of contact with his ball Jones's hands and arms were accelerating at a rate of just over thirty-four feet per second per second.

What makes that interesting is that if you were to extend your arm and drop a golf ball, its acceleration rate as it fell to Mother Earth would be just over thirty-two feet per second per second. See where I'm going with this? It means that in the beautiful golf swing that propelled a ball 260 yards with a hickory-shafted driver, the great Bobby Jones did only a little more than let his arms fall out of the sky.

Bobby Jones depended on gravity to build his golf swing.

[From Ruthless Golf: Those Amazing Relaxed Swings]

Transferring your weight to start your downswing is crucial to an "inside" delivery-the key to cracking 90. From the top, you should transfer your weight from the back leg to the front. Resist the temptation to start your upper body or the club first. It's like a throwing or kicking motion.

[From Breaking 100-90-80: A monthly guide to the scoring basics - golf tips | Golf Digest | Find Articles]

No comments:

Post a Comment