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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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WATCH: What to do when you’re short sided

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney shows you how to avoid compounding a mistake when you’ve missed the ball on the wrong side of the green.

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Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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WATCH: Over-the-top vs. over-and-through: 1 destroys a swing, 1 can save it

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This video is about OVER-AND-THROUGH, which is very different than being over-the-top. Over-and-through is a great recovery from a backswing that is not quite in the right position. Over-the-top is flat-out a full default to the ball. See how you can bridge the gap with getting your swing to deliver better to the target!

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