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The Science of Square: Is a wrist position at the top like DJ better for your swing?

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I recently wrote an article called “The Science of Square: Understanding the relationship between the wrist and the club face,” about the wrist action during the swing and what happens when you change conditions from address to the top, and how that affects the club face. In addition, I suggested that the average golfer plays from a more square condition at the top, rather than one that is radically shut (i.e. Dustin Johnson). I did not say that the average player could not play from a slightly shut condition, but remember, compensations have to occur.

However, there has been a growing number of better players who have had wonderful success playing from conditions at the top that range from slightly shut to super-shut. Think about the swings of John Rahm, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, and Dustin Johnson at the top.

So in this article, let’s examine the shut club face position at the top using Hack Motion’s Wrist Sensor so you can see how the wrist action changes when this type of position occurs during the swing. I took a few sample swings with the new “modern” swing… slightly stronger grip working into a flexed lead wrist at the top, which causes the shut face at the top like DJ. Here is what we saw…

At address we see that the wrist in the stronger position possesses 32 degrees of extension, or cupping at address, which is common with stronger grips showing more knuckles.

At the top I moved from 32 degrees of extension to -12 degrees of flexion a change of 52 degrees from address to the top. I will tell you that moving your wrist from extended to flexed is hard enough and to do so like DJ is superhuman!

Now here is where it gets interesting… in the chest-high position on the way down I still possess -7 degrees of flexion, meaning the club now swinging from the inside has a face that is slightly shut. These two things together will cause the ball to move from the right to the left easier because I won’t have to think about the “release.”

Above is the delivery position around belt-high, the lead wrist is still into flexion and will also deloft the club and deliver some extra shaft lean coming into the ball. Great for players with a ton of speed.

Impact (above) for me is with a neutral lead wrist, which means that the club was delivered with solid impact alignments. But why isn’t mine flexed more at impact? Because with my lack of Tour Quality Swing Speed, I simply cannot get the ball to go high enough or stay in the air long enough to work for me, thus, I have to hit the ball in a more neutral impact position. This is one of the biggest reasons why this position will not work for players without higher than normal swing speeds.

In fact, many great teachers feel that this has merits for the slower swing speeds as well, but with a caveat. Brian Manzella, a Golf Digest Top-50 Teacher and a Golf Magazine Top-100 Teacher, says

“To me, all club faces are open at the top relative to the target, so armed with a stronger grip, the face is less open during the swing. This helps some slicers by giving them less to close by the time of impact, and helps some good players hitting fades easier at high speed, by unwinding their bodies more and having their hands more forward at impact. However, the main advantage for folks with more neutral top of the backswing positions, is that if your wrist is flexed late, you can start to go toward extension to add speed and still have forward lean at impact.”

Basically he’s saying that for neutral players, if you have some bowing of the left wrist within your deliver position, you can get away with some “throw” at the bottom and still have solid impact!

The bottom line is that you must figure out what position works best for you and your game. For me, I play better from a more neutral position due to my lack of speed, but that shouldn’t deter you from trying the stronger grip and more shut position at the top; heck it just might be YOUR key to success.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. BooBoo

    Sep 18, 2018 at 8:53 am

    Either bow it (DJ) or cup it (Hogan) but don’t neutral it (Tom?!?) unless you want two way misses and failing under pressure even when you practice hours every day…

  2. op

    Sep 15, 2018 at 3:19 pm

    Stinkney floods the forum with superficial tips and ignores questioning and accountability.

    • op

      Sep 16, 2018 at 10:00 pm

      Stinkney just waits until his article falls off the main website page. Wotta woose

  3. stevet

    Sep 13, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Tom, another question. You can set or reset your lead wrist in static positions — at Address and at Top of Swing when reversal occurs. Once you start your swing what influence does the trail hand have on the dynamic positions of the lead wrist? Thanks.

    • geo

      Sep 14, 2018 at 10:43 am

      DJ’s trail hand has palm facing the sky. The lead wrist can be cupped or bowed, as long as trail palm faces the sky, the golf swing will stay , Inside the ball.

      The proverbial “waiter carrying the tray” position at the top of the swing, is the key.

      Ref: The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1992.

      • stevet

        Sep 14, 2018 at 2:55 pm

        I can see that too but what does the trail hand do in the downswing and how does it affect the position of the lead wrist? Remember that the lead wrist must windmill freely so that the club can fully release into impact.

        • geohogan

          Sep 15, 2018 at 7:38 pm

          The hands simply hold on to the golf club.
          With DS taking less than 1/4 second and impact 5/10,000 of a second, we cannot know where the club is in space in real time during the DS, nor can we consciously initiate any change once the DS has begun.

          What happens to the lead wrist in DS is a result of Lag. Lag is the lodestar and palm of the trail hand facing the sky from the top of the BS is the key to lag.

          REF. The Hogan Manual of Human Performance: GOLF, 1992.

          • ogo

            Sep 16, 2018 at 3:31 pm

            Stop refering to Hogan, 1992 because his book is filled with technical flaws and his concepts are erroneous. He calls the wheel a “lever system”. It’s not; it’s a torque system. He refers to levers and forces but doesn’t understand torque. He’s not science educated. He’s a fraud.

  4. stevet

    Sep 13, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Okay, Tom, but what about the “100 lbs. centrifugal force” in final release that stretches out the lead arm and wrist and straightens them out? If you try to maintain a flexed or extended lead wrist through impact you are consciously compensating over milliseconds. Not possible unless you are slowing down going into impact. Thanks.

    • geohogan

      Sep 15, 2018 at 7:50 pm

      Slowing down it is. It is deceleration of proximal that is cause of acceleration of distal. REF: TPI, Kinematic sequence.

      So as a result of the deceleration of the arms in the DS, the lever (golf club) accelerates with the wrists acting as free hinges.

      The example written about in 1992, was the analogy of the runner hitting a trip wire.

      When the runner’s ankles going at a constant pace, hit the trip wire, the runners head hits the ground; his head accelerates due to centripedal acceleration through the radius (from his ankle to his head being the radius).

      • shane

        Sep 16, 2018 at 3:00 pm

        You are not Tom Stickney so buzz off

        • geohogan

          Sep 17, 2018 at 12:59 pm

          Waiting for Godot???

        • geohogan

          Sep 17, 2018 at 1:18 pm

          “I’ve gone back to a lot of stuff I used to do with my dad and how he first taught me how to play golf,” Woods said. “I f “I’ve built this golf swing … with my hands. My dad always used to say that’s the only thing we have direct contact with the club, so trust your hands.”

          Move over, Chris Como, Tiger’s hands are in charge now!
          “Playing baseball as a kid, you have to trust your hands,” Woods said. “I’ve trusted my hands again.

          more on hands in the golf swing: 1992.

        • geohogan

          Sep 17, 2018 at 7:47 pm

          and your not stevet, so sod off

      • stevet

        Sep 18, 2018 at 12:12 am

        “… the lever (golf club) accelerates with the wrists acting as free hinges.”.
        A “lever” cannot pivot around a “free hinge”, because a lever requires a fulcrum; the point on which a lever rests or is supported and on which it pivots. Where’s the fulcrum?

  5. stevet

    Sep 13, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Reread the first article before reading this article to see the whole picture. Tom, this Hack Motion Wrist Sensor data is pure scientific data that eliminates the “feel” factor. Keep it coming because this is the only way to eliminate anecdotal subjective comments. Thanks again.

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Tip of the week: Let the left heel lift for a bigger turn to the top

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In this week’s tip, Tom Stickney gives a suggestion that would make Brandel Chamblee proud: lift the left heel on the backswing for a bigger turn.

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How I train tour players

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There is a lot of speculation about how tour pros train, and with tantalizing snippets of gym sessions being shared on social media, it’s tempting to draw large conclusions from small amounts of insight. One thing I can tell you from my time on tour is that there isn’t just one way that golfers should train, far from it. I’ve seen many different approaches work for many different pros, a strong indicator is the wide variety of body shapes we see at the top level of the game. Take for example Brooks Koepka, Mark Leishman, Ricker Fowler, and Patrick Reed. Put these four players through a physical testing protocol and the results would be extremely varied, and yet, over 18 holes of golf there is just 0.79 shots difference between first and last.

This example serves to highlight the importance of a customized approach to training. Sometimes common sense training programs backed by scientific evidence simply don’t work for an individual. One of the athletes I work with, Cameron Smith, over the course of a season recorded his slowest club-head speed when he was strongest and heaviest (muscle mass) and fastest club-head speed when he was lightest and weakest. That lead me to seriously question the widely accepted concept of stronger = more powerful and instead search for a smarter and more customized methodology. I’ll continue to use Cam and his training as an example throughout this article.

Cam working on his rotational speed (push band on his arm)

What I’m going to outline below is my current method of training tour pros, it’s a fluid process that has changed a lot over the years and will hopefully continue to morph into something more efficient and customized as time goes on.

Assessment

I have poached and adapted aspects from various different testing methods including TPI, GravityFit, Ramsay McMaster, Scott Williams and Train With Push. The result is a 5-stage process that aims to identify areas for improvement that can be easily compared to measure progress.

Subjective – This is a simple set of questions that sets the parameters for the upcoming training program. Information on training and injury history, time available for training, access to facilities and goal setting all help to inform the structure of the training program design that will fit in with the individual’s life.

Postural – I take photos in standing and golf set up from in-front, behind and both sides. I’m simply trying to establish postural tendencies that can be identified by alignment of major joints. For example a straight line between the ear, shoulder, hip and ankle is considered ideal.

Muskulo Skeletal – This is a series of very simple range of motion and localized stability tests for the major joints and spinal segments. These tests help explain movement patterns demonstrated in the gym and the golf swing. For example ankle restrictions make it very difficult to squat effectively, whilst scapula (shoulder blade) instability can help explain poor shoulder and arm control in the golf swing.

Stability and Balance – I use a protocol developed by GravityFit called the Core Body Benchmark. It measures the player’s ability to hold good posture, balance and stability through a series of increasingly complex movements.

Basic Strength and Power – I measure strength relative to bodyweight in a squat, push, pull and core brace/hold. I also measure power in a vertical leap and rotation movement.

At the age of 16, Cam Smith initially tested poorly in many of these areas; he was a skinny weak kid with posture and mobility issues that needed addressing to help him to continue playing amateur golf around the world without increasing his risk of injury.

An example scoring profile

Report

From these 5 areas of assessment I write a report detailing the areas for improvement and set specific and measurable short terms goals. I generally share this report with the player’s other team members (coach, manager, caddie etc).

Training Program

Next step is putting together the training program. For this I actually designed and built (with the help of a developer) my own app. I use ‘Golf Fit Pro’ to write programs that are generally split into 3 or 4 strength sessions per week with additional mobility and posture work. The actual distribution of exercises, sets, reps and load (weights) can vary a lot, but generally follows this structure:

Warm Up – foam roll / spiky ball, short cardio, 5 or 6 movements that help warm up the major joints and muscles

Stability / Function – 2 or 3 exercises that activate key stability/postural muscles around the hips and shoulders.

Strength / Power – 4 or 5 exercises designed to elicit a strength or power adaptation whilst challenging the ability to hold posture and balance.

Core – 1 or 2 exercises that specifically strengthen the core

Mobility – 5-10 stretches, often a mixture of static and dynamic

An example of the Golf Fit Pro app

Cam Smith has followed this structure for the entire time we have been working together. His choice would be to skip the warm-up and stability sections, instead jumping straight into the power and strength work, which he considers to be “the fun part.” However, Cam also recognizes the importance of warming up properly and doing to his stability drills to reduce the risk of injury and make sure his spine, hips and shoulders are in good posture and moving well under the load-bearing strength work.

Training Sessions

My approach to supervising training sessions is to stick to the prescribed program and focus attention firstly on perfecting technique and secondly driving intent. What I mean by this is making sure that every rep is done with great focus and determination. I often use an accelerometer that tracks velocity (speed) to measure the quality and intent of a rep and provide immediate feedback and accountability to the individual.

Cam especially enjoys using the accelerometer to get real-time feedback on how high he is jumping or fast he is squatting. He thrives on competing with both himself and others in his gym work, pretty typical of an elite athlete!

Maintenance

The physical, mental and emotional demands of a tournament week make it tricky to continue to train with the same volume and intensity as usual. I will often prescribe a watered down version of the usual program, reducing reps and sets whilst still focusing on great technique. Soreness and fatigue are the last thing players want to deal with whilst trying to perform at their best. It’s quite the balancing act to try and maintain fitness levels whilst not getting in the way of performance. My experience is that each player is quite different and the process has to be fluid and adaptable in order to get the balance right from week to week.

Equipment

Aside from the usual gym equipment, resistance bands, and self massage tools, the following are my favourite bits of kit:

GravityFit – Absolutely the best equipment available for training posture, stability and movement quality. The immediate feedback system means I can say less, watch more and see players improve their technique and posture faster.

Push Band – This wearable accelerometer has really transformed the way I write programs, set loads and measure progression. It’s allowed the whole process to become more fluid and reactive, improved quality of training sessions and made it more fun for the players. It also allows me to remotely view what has happened in a training session, down to the exact speed of each rep, as demonstrated in the image below.

Details from one of Cam’s recent training sessions

Examples

Below are some of the PGA Tour players that I have worked with and the key areas identified for each individual, based of the process outlined above:

Cam Smith – Improving posture in head/neck/shoulders, maintenance of mobility throughout the body, increasing power output into the floor (vertical force) and rotational speed.

Jonas Blixt – Core stability, hip mobility and postural endurance in order to keep lower back healthy (site of previous injury). Overall strength and muscle growth.

Harris English – Improving posture in spine, including head/neck. Scapula control and stability, improving hip and ankle mobility. Overall strength and muscle growth.

Recommendations

My advice if you want to get your fitness regime right, is to see a professional for an assessment and personalized program, then work hard at it whilst listening to your body and measuring results. I’m sure this advice won’t rock your world, but from all that I’ve seen and done on tour, it’s by far the best recommendation I can give you.

If you are a golfer interested in using a structured approach to your golf fitness, then you can check out my online services here.

If you are a fitness professional working with golfers, and would like to ask questions about my methods, please send an email to nick@golffitpro.net

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Me and My Golf: Top 5 putting grips

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In this week’s Impact Show, we take a look at our top 5 putting grips. We discuss which grips we prefer, and which putting grips can suit you and why.

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