Saturday, March 10, 2012

Unclutter Your Swing--and Ruin It At The Same Time

Golf Digest April 2012  p. 126

This article is the kind that so often results in players concluding that Golf Digest is more a source of headache than help.  Reading the following will help you better understand this article and introduce you to how careful we need to be when we are attempting to learn to play better.

Chuck begins by referring to a problem of "rolling the elbows".  Unlike the wrists which are a ball and socket joint and can be rolled, the elbows are a hinge and cannot be rolled.  He mentions that the clubface should not be facing skyward.  In the "N" photo notice that the arms and elbows are nearly identical with the "Y" photo.  The difference is that Chuck has rolled his wrists (note the orientation of the black logo on the back of his glove).  Secondly, because the wrist are ball and socket the don't "naturally bend the left wrist flat".  They can bend any way we want them to.  Finally, he explains that one elbow bends and the other stays straight.  At Chuck's age (any most anyone over 30) we have lost our full range of motion in our left shoulder.  To make a full backswing as Chuck has done, you will note that is left elbow is anything but straight.

While, Chuck does a good job of describing the legs' movement in the hip socket, this clutters a much simpler idea.  When you make your backswing, maintain the balance you have at address.  If you keep that balance you will not shift your weight laterally and will turn instead.  Before we move on to the next section, look at the "Y" photo and notice how flat the back of left wrist is relative to the forearm.  In this position the clubface is severely out-of-square.  If Chuck's swing returns the club to the ball with the wrist in that position the drive will land deep in the right rough.  To see this for yourself, set up with your driver as you normally would.  Leave the club head positioned behind the ball while you move the grip end of the club so you can flatten that left wrist.  You will see that the clubface is now facing to the right.

Chuck gets a little confused about his anatomy.  Your shoulders are not on a ball and socket joint (your arms are).  Your shoulders rest on the top of your spine like the top of an upper case "T".   As the swing passes the address position, the hips and shoulders should turn in sync resulting in no twisting of the spine.  At the end of the swing the hip line and shoulder line should be close to parallel.

Bottom Line:  When we address the ball, the back of our left hand and our left forearm are at an angle to one another.  The more you play the club toward the center of your stance, the bigger that angle.  If you want to return the club to the ball as you have it at address, you do not want that angle to change during the swing.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New Fundamentals--Wrong Fundamentals

Golf Digest April 2012 / p.47

By their nature, golf instructors are always looking for new insights into the golf swing or how to teach it.  Since we have been at this for hundreds of years, we should consider it rare to come upon "new" fundamentals.

In his article, Travis Fulton proposes: "When you're preparing to make a full swing, your right forearm should be roughly parallel with the club's shaft at address."  First of all, instructors need to do better than using words like "roughly".  That can leaves it open to the golfer for interpretation and poor results.  Secondly (and more importantly), if we look at the photo of Travis at address, his forearm is no where close to parallel to the shaft.

Travis further implies that this forearm/shaft relationship exists in putting.  Here he explains: "Your right forearm should be in line with the shaft."  Different from the situation with the full swing setup, here Travis's right forearm demonstrating precisely what he is prescribing.  However, does the prescription result in improved putting?  Take a look at the putter head.  Notice how the putter is angled and resting on its heel.  From this setup we know of four problems that are created:
  • the putter face is facing left--this is more apparent if you setup a wedge and rock it back on its heel.  You will find this cause the clubface to face to the left.
  • promotes clubface twisting--look at the leading edge of any putter.  You will find that the sole is rounded off at both the heel and the toe.  This effectively raises the sole off the round near the heel and toe.  This is done to reduce the likelihood of the heel or toe touching the ground and resulting in the putter face twisting.  Travis's setup nullifies this design feature and forces the sole of the putter to contact the ground at the heel.
  • misaligns the eyes--If you putter is the correct length for you, rocking the putter back on its heel will push you further away from the target line and move your eyes from being over the inside of the ball and instead position them 2-3 inches inside the line.
  • elevates the leading edge--Again, this can be more readily observed by rocking a wedge back onto its heel.  You expose the leading edge to the ball and make it less likely to contact the club on its sweet spot (MOI).
Those are the drawbacks to attempting this technique.  What are the benefits?  Here is what Travis says is the benefit for the full swing: "Many amateurs address the ball with their arms rigid and the right forearm too vertical."  Are your arms rigid and too vertical?

Here is the benefit Travis says his setup brings to putting:  "This address position allows you to easily move the putterhead on its natural arcing path without any extraneous hand adjustments."  Does your putterhead move on its natural arcing path without and extraneous hand adjustments?

Bottom Line:  Regarding the setup for a full swing, the photo reveals that what Travis is recommending is not what he is demonstrating.  Regarding the setup for putting, we have suggested that it results in four negative conditions for the putter.  We need instructors to always look for better ideas.  Before we commit to them, we need to make sure they are in fact better.