Thursday, May 1, 2003
Take a seat! Use a chair, a soccer ball and a trusting friend to create a smooth transition.
When you “stand up” in your downswing and lose that consistent spine angle, your right elbow will often get trapped behind your right hip. Standing up also moves you farther away from the golf ball, forcing you to straighten your right elbow and wrist to reach it. Poor contact is the typical result from this scenario.
Note: Just as losing your spine angle can cause you to straighten your right arm and right wrist too soon, straightening your right arm and right wrist too soon can cause you to lose your spine angle. Either scheme is disastrous as a constant spine angle, a bent right elbow and a bent right wrist are needed for solid contact.
Chair Drill: Place a chair behind you, whereby at address you feel the chair on your rear end. As you make your swing, strive to maintain contact with the chair throughout, especially during the transition. This will help you to maintain your spine angle throughout your swing and facilitate the creation of the other two body angles.
Shaft Over Hands Drill: Place a headcover over the grip end of a clubshaft and have a friend hold this shaft so the headcover lies just above your hands at address. The goal is to make swings without hitting the headcover with either your hands or your club. If you keep your spine angle constant, you’ll have no trouble swinging without contacting the other shaft. On the other hand, if your spine angle changes and your rear end moves in, your chest and spine will “stand up.” This raises your arms and hands and you’ll bump into the shaft.
The three key impact club angles are created by: 1) the shaft leaning toward the target (ensuring a downward blow on the ball); 2) the shaft laying at an angle similar to that established at address (a phenomenon that aids hitting the ball in the center of the clubface); and 3) the clubface pointing perpendicularly at the target (controlling the direction in which the ball will travel).
A fundamentally solid grip invariably will help you achieve a square clubface, but as far as producing the first two club angles, a good transition is paramount.
As mentioned earlier, maintaining your spine angle while transitioning into your downswing with your lower body acting as lead will allow you to retain the bend in your right elbow and right wrist through impact. A bent elbow and wrist will help you achieve a forward-leaning shaft position. This forward lean, evident in the swings of all great ballstrikers, happens only when the wrist retains its hinge. If they unhinge too early, as they do when the club is thrown from the top, the clubhead will race ahead of the hands. This produces a reverse lean and shots that fly too high, too short and often too far to the right.
Maintaining that spine angle during the transition also fuels the creation of an impact shaft angle that mimics the angle the shaft held at address. In fact, it’s impossible to produce similar address and impact shaft angles if you don’t maintain your spine angle. If you make the mistake of straightening up in the downswing (i.e., lifting your rear end off the chair), the clubshaft angle will also straighten, becoming much more vertical than it was at setup. Expect poor contact and the gamut of bad shots. Use the Shaft Over Hands Drill (above) to better your expertise at maintaining spine angle and creating the key clubshaft positions.
Hopefully, you’ve come to realize that in order to get perfect at impact, you’ve got to be perfect during the transition. Above all, keep that spine angle intact. When you lose it, you’ll trap your right arm and force your right elbow and wrist to release too early, causing a reverse lean of the shaft at impact and that type of weak, flaring contact no golfer desires. But when your posture remains intact, and you sequence your downswing so that the bend in your right elbow and the hinge in your right wrist is held up to the moment of contact, you’ll achieve a level of ballstriking like you never have before.
Practice the drills and keep in mind the three key body angles and three key shaft angles. Soon, you’ll eliminate errors like clubhead throwaway and produce better impact.
PGA professional and Senior Instruction Editor Chuck Winstead is the Director of Instruction at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La., and English Turn G&CC in New Orleans.
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