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Stickney: Plane shifts used by the pros

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One of the most perplexing aspects of golf for the average player is how the club should transition. In fact, the “over the top” motion is what keeps all of the teaching professionals in business! On Tour, you see many different ways to move the club on the way down and Homer Kelley, in his book, The Golfing Machine, identified seven different ways to transition the club. In this article, we’ll only discuss a few of them.

The first two shifts we’ll examine are the extremes of up and around.

Up and Under

This swing model is made famous by Jim Furyk and obviously there are many levels of up and under but the basic idea is to lift the club to the top which gives you more room to “drop it under” on the way down. Some people love this feeling and it is quite simple when practiced a time or two.

You will notice a takeaway that is slightly lifted and outside moving the arms into a more upright position at the top. From there the arms fall down and behind the player allowing the club to be delivered from the inside.

Around and Under

The opposite player of the Up and Under player takes the club more around the body into a short, flat, and tight position like Matt Kucher. It is here that some players feel that it is much simpler to come from the inside when the club is in a lower and more rounded position at the top.

This swing model is exemplified with a takeaway that works around the body off the start and continues all the way to the top placing the club in a “flatter” condition. From there the club basically returns from the inside as a slight shift is made to the inside. Some players feel this is the easiest way to move the club to the inside.

Now that we have covered the two extreme positions of Up and Around, the rest of the world is somewhere in the middle of these two positions. Personally, it does not matter where you play from as long as the club moves into a solid position on the way down.

Let’s discuss the middle positions and how to transition the club from there…

Reverse Shift

The Reverse Shift is shown best by Nick Faldo back in his hey-day. The club is taken to the top and the entire triangle formed by the arms is shifted rearward to begin the downswing thus moving the club into an inside delivery position.

When the entire triangle falls rearward it allows the club to flatten and the club to move from the inside. Transitional tempo is the key to this move because it won’t work if you get too fast.

Flatten the Shaft

Most of the players today on Tour are subscribing to this type of plane shift as the club shaft flattens out behind the player allowing the hands to move down the correct path. If the hands get too far behind the player then the path can easily shift too rightward in the above swing pattern but not with this swing model.

Here you can see that the club shaft flattened and the clubhead fell behind my hands lowering the center of mass and this places the club in an inside delivery position with the hands in the correct position at belt-high. This is a great way to transition the club for people who tend to get “stuck” on the way down.

So now that we’ve seen the most common plane shift models that move the club back to the inside which one is the best or the easiest? Basically, the one that makes the most sense to you as a player. One of these styles will feel “easier” than the other ones and allow you to shift your swing path more rightward during impact so you can move the ball right to left easier (for the right-handed player).

Enjoy trying these shifts and remember that all four can work for you at any given time!

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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: [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Jul 17, 2019 at 4:45 pm

    Hitting with the hands is much too timing dependent
    …however it is only by controlling our dominant hand
    can we consistently control the plan shifts.

    it has been said, wisely; that the hands are our external brain.
    Our entire physiology supports the intention we have of our hands
    and dominant hand in particular.

  2. geohogan

    Jul 7, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    Only from P6 achieved by Sergio Garcia or Ben Hogan, with clubhead far behind not only the hands but behind our body.
    is it possible, to square the clubface by rotation of the torso…. with no release.of the hands.

    Then and only then impact becomes: SIDE ON

    • geohogan

      Jul 8, 2019 at 1:57 pm

      Another P6 trait shared by Ben Hogan and Sergio Garcia
      is to have butt of club pointing at the ball, at P6. ie when club shaft is parallel to the ground in DS.

      Cant get stuck if we wait “delayed the hit”, for body turn to square
      the club head.

      Hitting with hands is much too timing dependent.

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Clement: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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