Saturday, December 7, 2013

Do the Twist

As a former slicer, you may--through various compensations--have developed a hook that occasionally--or maybe usually--turns into a vicious hook. On a bad day, you pull-hook a lot, which is partly left over from your slicing days. And then suddenly one day, you'll go back to slicing the crap out of the ball. And you'll marvel to yourself and wonder why and set out trying to hook the ball again. That's golf. Fun huh? But wait! Maybe you've never broken the slicing curse and have resigned yourself to trying to make the slice work.

Magic Move
The Thumb Press

I've posted before about ways to square the club face and ingredients for various ball flights. If you start slicing the ball (i.e., curving left to right unintentionally), your club face is open to the path upon which the club head is moving; this is why you can hit a pull-slice (ball starting left of target usually with an outside-in path), straight-slice (ball starting at target usually with an in-out-in path), or push-slice (ball starting right of target usually with an inside-out path). So path has an effect, but you can see that slice basically means 'open club face' in all three situations. If you're hitting a push-slice (starts right and curves further right), you're almost there and just need the club face to close through impact! If you're hitting a pull-slice, you've got the most work to do, because you're likely over-the-top (OTT) with an open club face. But in all cases, the club face must be squared! That should be your first priority; then you can work on ingraining the correct plane and swing path. As the saying goes, you can go from slicing to hooking to good golf but can never go directly from slicing to good golf.

Many fine instructors, such as Brian Manzella, teach that OTT (and many other related golfing errors like flipping) is a symptom of an open club face, not the cause (though you'll find others that absolutely attribute a slice to an OTT path). Why is OTT a symptom instead of the cause, some say? Because in an effort to compensate for the open club face, you move OTT (and again, the open face could be causing other swing flaws) in an unconscious attempt to get the ball moving left, so that the ball might slice into the fairway instead of the right woods. So OTT may very well be a compensation for the open club face, not the cause. This means that the open club face is actually discouraging you from hitting inside-out, which is the correct path into the ball!

Assuming a netural to slightly strong left hand grip, you should use a dorsiflexed right wrist (DRW) to hit the golf ball, because you'll ensure a flat left wrist (FLW) at impact, and this may be one of the few universal fundamentals espoused by all great golfers and teachers. And I believe there are various places in the swing sequence where great golfers achieve this position. Some great golfers cup the left wrist at the top (e.g., Hogan, Couples, Watson, Clement, etc.) but dorsiflex the right wrist coming down (thereby flattening the left wrist). Others (e.g., Tiger Woods and Steve Stricker) achieve a FLW at the top, and thus, a DRW at the top before starting down. And some teachers espouse creating the DRW as you move off the ball in the takeaway (the point of this blog post). Most weekend and high-handicap golfers should only hinge or dorsiflex the right wrist in the backswing and forget the temptation to squeeze more power out of the conventionally taught upward vertical wrist cock (i.e., radial deviation or thumbs pointing more and more toward you); vertical wrist action feels powerful (and it may be marginally), but it will cup the left wrist and straighten the right wrist at the top, and that all has to be undone properly by impact to square the club face.

David Duval
Duval's Closed Takeaway

Grip strength plays a role on the left wrist. Stronger grips tend toward cupping at the top, while neutral to weak grips tend toward flattening or bowing at the top. Want to slice on purpose? Use a weak grip and then cup the left wrist at the top--instant banana ball without major compensations. That's actually a good combination to use in a greenside bunker; but I digress.

Why is a FLW at the top antithetical to left wrist radial deviation at the top? Because of biomechanics. It's easy to see how a FLW limits or restricts radial deviation (i.e., upward vertical wrist action); the more you cup or dorsiflex the left wrist, the more you can vertically cock the left wrist up and create what Shawn Clement calls 'snuff boxes.' With a FLW at the top, the left wrist is restricted and can't radially deviate more than 90 degrees, which is all that's needed--especially by weekend golfers. Likewise, the DRW can radially deviate slightly but is prevented from going too far because of the blocking action of the FLW.

Too much vertical wrist cock can contribute to collapsing at the top (in addition to opening the face), especially with weekend golfers. In Stricker's case, he uses very minimal vertical wrist action, and so he's very consistent and long enough to score well against the best professionals; he may have the best professional golf swing for amateurs to mimic because of its simplicity and minimal vertical wrist action; however, he uses plenty of right wrist dorsiflexion!

And now for the point of this post: Using one of Brian Manzella's teaching points (which other teachers such as Joe Dante and Tom Tomasello have also espoused in one form or another), try setting the club face in the correct position early--even as you take the club back, using only one conscious wrist motion. Manzella calls it "twisting" the club (i.e., "twistaway"), such that you dorsiflex your right wrist, palm down, without radial deviation, as you take the club away. The left wrist flattens immediately; it may even arch or bow slightly, and the back of the left hand faces slightly towards the ground. The club face is pointing more down at the ball, as you take it away, staying square to the arc (some detractors would argue "closed to the arc"). Then take it to the top (the club face pointing more skyward than a slicer is likely used to), keeping in mind that you must keep good width, good lower body pivot to start the downswing, and then return the DRW back to the inside part of the ball.

Some notes of caution about the downswing. You'll notice, when you "twistaway" like this on your takeaway, your right palm is roughly on top of the shaft, which means that your right arm is above your left arm. You should immediately discern that you can't come back down exactly the same way, or you'll be OTT, hit pulls, pull-hooks, tops, toe shots, and produce thin, toe-deep divots. During your downswing, you have to shift left (left hip bump over the left ankle) and your arms sort of reverse positions: The right arm feels as if it initially comes down UNDER the left arm (instead of on top of the left arm as it was in the takeaway). The right shoulder feels like it's moving down towards the right pants pocket. In a sense, you're opening the face up just slightly as you come down, because a strong lower body move to start down--in addition to adding tremendous power and great sequencing--has an opening effect on the club face that counteracts the closing affect of the palm-down DRW. This really puts you in a powerful impact alignment, pressuring the shaft, with the hands leading the club head down, with a FLW and DRW right wrist. You're making a bit of a loop--back steeper and closed, and down shallower and a bit more open, instead of trying to go back open and then close the face quickly on the way down (what's conventionally taught but is very tough to do consistently). In reality, your wrists aren't changing positions at all to create this more open club face position; your body and arms are changing to allow for the correct contact, so that your right palm comes back down a little more to the inside of the ball, as opposed to on top of the ball (which is how you executed the "twist" takeaway). Using the "twist" takeaway, get the feeling that the right arm and right hand are coming UNDER the left on the way down and you'll hit inside-out with a club face that's closed just enough--not too much, and with no extra, crazy squaring manipulations needed on the way through.

You no longer have to swing OTT, cast, or flip to keep the ball from going right; you've removed the cause. You no longer need to rotate the hands over in a flash to close the club face. You have to learn to trust that you can hit inside-out, start the ball to the right, and then draw it back to the left, because you've already ensured a square club face. No manipulation coming down is necessary, other than just starting down properly. Manzella teaches this in his "Never Slice Again" video, but he's also published parts of it on his web site and in Golf Magazine. Joe Dante's "Four Magic Moves" book is also an old classic that covers this precept. Many others teach very similar concepts, and just as many are opponents of this kind of thing (like many golf theories--lots of contradictory opinions, with everyone of them thinking their way is the "right" way).

David Duval
Duval Closed at Top

Are there touring pros who are or have been shut or appear shut at the top? David Duval, Zach Johnson, Lee Trevino, Graeme McDowell, Greg Norman, Boo Weekly, Payne Stewart, Tom Lehman, Tom Weiskopf, and Dustin Johnson to name a few. But remember that this "shut face" position can be achieved at the beginning of the downswing or at any point before impact, and many pros, including Tiger Woods, do it this way (i.e., club face angled more toward the ground coming into impact due to the right palm rotating down toward the ground). Hogan went from cupped at the top to bowed left wrist at the bottom. Taking the club back already in this position and keeping it that way prevents the timing issues associated with achieving the position on the way down--very important for weekend golfers!

Why do you think you slice, because you come ‘over-the-top’? Reverse Pivot? Cut across the ball? ‘Hang back’ on your back foot, etc.? Nope. You may do one or all of the above, but these ‘flaws’ don’t cause the slice, you do them because you slice. You slice, because the clubface is too open. Period. Fix the clubface, and the slice goes bye-bye forever. The compensations will often also go away quickly when they are no longer needed.

Brian Manzella - Never Slice Again!

Once the hands move beyond the right thigh, the right wrist will start bending back which is classified as "dorsiflexion." This bending back of the right wrist creates the corresponding "flat left wrist" that is so well known in golf instruction.

As the backswing continues to progress beyond the right thigh area and the wrist bends back, the right elbow will start to fold. The right elbow actually does not travel very far in a good backswing. It simply folds and points toward the ground as the right palm faces the sky in the classic "waiters’ tray" position at the top.

The best way to describe the right arm on the downswing is that it should be "pushing down and out."

"Pushing down" allows the right arm to actively straighten while maintaining its bend in the right wrist.

"Out" is the second half of the equation as it directs the right arm to deliver the club head from the inside. Most players need to feel as if they are driving the right arm not only "down," but "out." I often times describe this feeling as if the right arm is being directed more towards right field.

TPC News and PGA TOUR Golf Events -

The down cock of Hogan and Garcia has nothing to do with achieving distance. It is the maintaining of the cock [the hinge or DRW] in the right wrist until waist high in the down stroke that produces club head speed. The left wrist cock is unnecessary mechanical motion that must be recovered from. The left wrist cock[s] in a plane that is 90 degrees to the plane of the swing. Left wrist cock is one of the most unnecessary and hardest to recover from mechanical motions in golf.

"The Professor" Jack Kuykendall Answers Your Questions

When it is done, without moving the hands other wise, the right hand breaks backward at the wrist and the left hand breaks forward or inward, the hack of the left hand going under and facing, in a general way, toward the ground.

The Golf Backswing Part 3: The Thumb Press

Good wrist action is no wrist action. This is something I have been saying for years and years. It's one of my Surgisms. Yet, every so often I get a critic who is adamant that I actually cock my wrists. Well Surgites, today I'm going to let the video do the talking!

No Wrist Cock, PERIOD! | Swing Surgeon

A strong grip is by far the most common error I see with players who curve the ball too much from right to left. The right hand drifts to the right--away from the target--and moves underneath the club, as shown in the photograph below. With the right hand in this position, it will tend to turn over too much through impact. Because the position of the right palm roughly replicates the clubface, it's easy to see why this turning over of the right hand causes the clubface to close and the ball to curve left.

Hank Haney: Stop Losing Shots To The Left : Golf Digest

As you drive through the hitting zone, give the ball a slap with your right hand, changing your right wrist from bent back to bowed. Check the positions at left to see what it looks like.

Make a Power Release -

I have had tremendous success with this technique – primarily, I believe, because it taps into a [slicer's] instinct that screams – in order for my ball to not leak right I must swing as much to the left as possible. Essentially the drill gives the golfer a reason, something they’ve never had, to swing to the right.

  • Tilt the face down 30 degrees (1 hour)
  • Take normal grip
  • Adjust shoulders and arms to square the face at address
  • Swing out to right field

If you understand the above-described biomechanical maneuver, then you should realize that this "twistaway" maneuver is automatically/naturally used by a TGM hitter, who doesn't use a takeaway swivel action.


At this stage [downswing, shaft parallel to the ground] the right wrist should still be bent back fully but the palm is now facing the ground not the sky. With the palm facing down this insures the clubface is also facing down or toward the ball and requires no scooping or manipulation to be squared up in time for the hit.

Golf Lag: Stop Casting, Lag like Tiger Woods

A clubface that points down was said to be a closed clubface. We now know that this is not true and in fact is a square clubface position. The clubface angle should match the angle formed by the back of your left hand on the takeaway. The more you have to manipulate the hands, the more clubface control you will lose. So next time you swing a club look at the toe position at your waist height. Is it open, square, or closed? [Toe-up means the club face is open.]

clubface position at waist height | Golfeneur

This golfer eliminated the shank very quickly when we got him to stop rotating the face open during the take-away. At the start, he was rolling his arms, right palm toward the sky, on the backswing, and he changed that to keeping the right palm facing down toward the ground for as long as he could throughout the backswing. Yes, it felt awkward as could be. The shanks disappeared instantly, but returned every time he failed to execute the new move. That’s good. There’s nothing like immediate feedback! But now his solidly struck shots went well left of the target. I explained that he no longer needed to try to flip the club closed through impact to correct the formerly wide-open face. He began to hit far better shots when he felt like he was keeping the face from closing through impact. His sensation was closed back, open down. It worked! Funny game.

The Case for the Face | John Dunigan Golf

The philosophy of the golf swing is that the position of the clubface throughout the entire golf swing is the single most important fundamental there is. It effects all other major fundamentals and is the glue that holds the golf swing together. When we swing the club with a square clubface, we naturally improve the path in which the club head comes into the ball, the angle that we approach the ball, our ability to get into a great impact position, our acceleration through the shot and our overall rhythm.

What is a Square Clubface?

[Tiger Wood's] right palm twists outwards as he starts the downswing. The motion is as if you are directing traffic to stop coming from your right side. There is a little straightening of the right arm along with the palm rotating to face away from you. This is the little secret that no says much about. Yet it happens in most good golf swings.

One of the biggest misunderstandings of the golf swing is that the hands have to rotate through impact. While this may be partly true, it directs the attention of the golfer to a point in the swing where all is lost already. This golfer has the same odds at getting the clubface squared at impact as me getting into a size 32 pants There’s too much error built into the swing and we already know what’s going to happen.

Secret to Squaring Your Clubface

Do you know why golfers don't change club path on the course? It is because they don't understand and cannot control the club face. When you have a club face that is open, the golfer will always correct this by swinging over the top, or left. Simple.

It's the Club Face Stupid! | Jim McClean

In addition to Dustin Johnson, many tour players have played successfully from a closed-face position, including Zach Johnson, Paul Azinger and Rory Sabbatini. The common denominator amongst them is they all rotate their body very aggressively through impact. This rotation neutralizes the clubface and prevents the ball from curving left. This technique can hold up very well under pressure because these players are not required to consciously close the clubface at any time through impact. Rather, the opposite is true: the harder they rotate and do nothing with the clubface, the straighter the ball will typically fly.

Video: Analyzing Dustin Johnson's Swing : Golf Digest

"David’s [Duval] clubface is amazingly square through impact," says David Leadbetter. "His clubface is closed at the top, the face pointing a bit toward the sky, which along with the strong grip would be a recipe for hooking for some players. But David works the club `under’ on the downswing, a bit like Lee Trevino, and that move can make a player incredibly accurate, especially with the irons."

David Duval’s Golf Swing | Golf Swing Gallery



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