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The 6 Actions of the Wrists and Forearms

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Wrist Actions

Before I became a professional golfer, I was a computer engineer and before that I went to college to be a pharmacist.

Little did I know at the time that the pharmaceutical courses I took covering physics, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, etc., would serve me well in my golf career as far as understanding things like angular momentum, pendular motion, coil springs, lever types, joint functions, etc.

In this article I want to spend a little time going over six actions of the wrists and forearms and then discussing how those actions can affect the golf club.

Medically speaking, the six actions are pronation versus supination, radial deviation versus ulnar deviation and palmar flexion versus dorsiflexion.

Now for the big questions — what do those actions mean in simpler terms, what effect do they have on the golf club and what are some pros and cons of one versus another?

Supination

Supination is the rotation of the hand and forearm (not to be confused with rotating from the shoulder socket) so the palm faces upward. The mnemonic I use to remember this one is to rotate the palm up to hold soup in it.

Pronation is the opposite rotation of the hand and forearm (also not to be confused with rotating from the shoulder socket) so the palm faces downward. This action would pour the soup out of the palm.

In golf terms, these are often expressed by telling someone to roll the wrists over through impact.

Another analogy that you may have come across that has the same rolling effect is to shake someone’s hand on the backswing (which rolls the club open) and then to do the same on the opposite side of the through swing (which rolls the club back over).

Pronation

Pronation and supination are very commonly taught. One reason why some instructors teach these hand actions is that they say speed can be added to the club head. While it can be argued that this is true in that the toe of the club would be moving faster through the hitting zone than the heel, hitting the ball consistently straight becomes much more difficult because the club face is constantly pointing to a different spot when you pronate and supinate.

Also, the extra club head speed may not even correlate to more ball speed.  Despite impact happening in approximately 1/2000th of a second, that’s still enough time for a club with a high rate of rotation to have a glancing impact blow (the center of gravity of the club probably wouldn’t be driving directly through the center of gravity of the ball) and adversely affect the shot.

That being said, there are no doubt many PGA Tour players that use this type of hand action through the impact area. However, most that do it have likely been doing it for a long time and they also practice and play more than the majority of people. Rolling can work, but it’s also a type of action that I would consider to be high maintenance and these type of players can be streaky.

If you are struggling to hit the ball straight and have unpredictable and inconsistent curvature, I would look to minimize the amount of rotation you are using in your swing, especially through the hitting area.

Be careful when looking at club-face rotation in your swing to not confuse it with the club-face rotation that can come from the ball and socket joints in your shoulders. In my observation, that has a tendency to happen in the back swing from people that pull their lead arm well across their chest and conversely when the trailing arm gets pulled well across the chest in to the follow through.

On the flip side of wrist rolling, perhaps you have also heard of counter-rotating the club on the back swing. This action wouldn’t have the same level of directional problems with the club face as rolling and I would definitely advocate it to my students over rolling. However, it is still a level of manipulation that may or may not be worth doing.

Ulnar Deviation

Ulnar and radial deviation are also fairly common. Ulnar deviation is a bending of the wrist toward the pinky. I remember ulnar deviation by thinking that the pinky is under the thumb when I grip the club.

Radial deviation is the opposite bending of the wrist towards the thumb.

Golf-wise, you may hear of radial deviation referred to as cocking and ulnar deviation as uncocking.

These hand actions are often used together with pronating and supinating. For example, someone might say:

“Rotate the club open on the way back and cock it upwards on the back swing. On the way down, uncock the club, roll it over through impact, and re-cock it in the follow through.”

That’s all four actions being used.

Radial Deviation

Using radial and ulnar deviation by themselves aren’t all that bad. For one thing, there aren’t the directional and timing problems that come with the wrist rolling of pronation and supination. But personally, assuming a neutral grip position at setup, for some reason I find radial deviation difficult to conceptualize and I lose sense of where the club is in the back swing. However, with a stronger grip (where I turn my lead hand clockwise around the grip as per my vantage point), radial deviation with my lead hand in the back swing works great for me.

Lastly, palmar flexion is a bending of the palm towards the forearm or inside of the wrist. I think of this one as flex the palm.

Palmar Flexion

Conversely, dorsiflexion is the bending of the back of the hand towards the forearm away from the inside of the wrist.

Palmar flexion is sometimes referred to in golf as having a bowed wrist, where as dorsiflexion would be having a cupped wrist.

A related taboo golf term for these hand actions through impact would be flipping. Although, in many cases I don’t think flipping is so much a problem with the hand and wrist action as it is an inactive lower body. If you look closely at swings of various Tour players and golfers like Graeme McDowell, Dustin Johnson, Vijay Singh or Mike Austin you’ll see some hit, slap or flip in all of their swings as they move through the hitting area. It’s just that they’re not stalling with their lower bodies.

Dorsi flexion

I would characterize players that flip as golfers who might generate more spin and who could be high-ball hitters depending on some other variables.

Like ulnar and radial deviation, it’s also nice that palmar and dorsiflexion don’t have the directional problems associated with the club face as when pronating and supinating. Some might argue that palmar and dorsiflexion will cause trajectory problems, but I don’t think this is always the case assuming you swing in a pendular fashion. If you don’t try to over-control the pendulum, gravity can take care of getting the club face back to the same place every time. Besides, on average, there is more of a full-swing problem with directional ball flight control than distance control. Palmar and dorsiflexion can be a good choice for having directional control.

27WristPositionCombinations

Assuming that each of the six actions has a neutral position, that’s 27 different combinations per wrist/forearm not counting the degrees of variation between all of the positions.

Depending on where you start your wrists and hands at setup, there are certainly a lot of different things you can do throughout the entirety of the swing, each with their own pros and cons.

This may be a lot to take in, so here are a few final summary comments and general suggestions that you might consider, at least for the part of the swing when the club is coming through the hitting zone.

  • Excessive rolling through impact can be inconsistent for controlling shot curvature. Sometimes rollers will try to play only a draw or only a fade because they will likely have the most difficult time controlling the accuracy and precision of their shot curvature. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but certain swing styles and teaching methods have come about that focus more on hitting only a draw or only a fade versus learning to hit straight.
  • Despite the taboo term, a flipping action can give you more spin, shot height and pop on the ball presuming your lower body isn’t stalling and possibly some other variables. Mike Austin, the man who hit a Guinness World Record 515-yard drive in the U.S. National Senior Open, is a good example of this. Austin hit the ball really far, high and was all carry. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a good putter (he three-putted for bogey on the par-4 he hit the 515-yard drive) but that’s another story.
  • Going from a cupped-lead hand position at the top of your back swing and bowing through impact will probably spin the ball the least (some guys do it well but I have a hard time doing this).
  • Having a non-wrist action can be good for pitching or where you need consistency and control of direction and trajectory but not power. Steve Stricker uses a little bit of rotation during his swings and pitches, which I wouldn’t advocate, but other than that he’s a pretty good example of the success of relatively passive hands and wrists.
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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the creator of Sterling Irons® single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Two of his articles for GolfWRX are the two most viewed of all time. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also shot the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has helped millions of golfers and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s amateur golfers and tour players pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons® here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – Millions of views!!!

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. justin

    Jun 26, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    great article jaacob. I damaged my socket joints on my left shoulder and left elbow when i was younger and i tend to stop releasing making me go straight right or flipping it over to compensate. Due to this problem i spin the ball too much on every club. i even have my club speed about 108-110(driver) and i only produce about 155-158 ball speed. i feel like i’m losing speed at impact do to this problem. what would you recommend me to try?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 6, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      Thanks, Justin.

      The mean smash factor on Tour is about 1.481 or 1.482. So with 108-110 club head speed, getting in the 159-163 range should be doable for you assuming you play a normal lofted driver by Tour standards (the higher the loft on a club the lower the smash factor and less ball speed you get and vice versa).

      It sounds like you are either not hitting the sweet spot very consistently (I’m guessing you’d mostly be between 1.409 to 1.473), perhaps you are using a driver with too much loft, or maybe your club head could be somewhat unstable due to how you are moving the club through impact.

      How is your ball striking? Impact tape or some foot powder can help you see where you are hitting on the club face.

      What kind of spin do you have on the driver? What’s the exact driver loft? Know your launch angle? Perhaps less loft on your driver would help but whether or not I would recommend changng that partially depends on your launch conditions among other things.

      Beyond that, it’s a bit difficult for me to say without seeing some video of you.

      If you’ve got some and can get the info I was asking about above, feel free to shoot me an email through one of my websites and we can go through it.

  2. viper

    Mar 19, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Jaacob do you think the Joe Dante’s early wrist cock is consider palmar flexion?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Jul 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

      Hi Viper, I don’t have my “Four Magic Moves” book handy, so I’m going by memory…but if I remember correctly, yes, it would be left hand palmar flexion and right hand dorsiflexion for a right handed golfer assuming a setup grip where the palms basically face one another.

  3. joaquin

    Mar 11, 2013 at 12:46 am

    I’m trying to limit myself to one swing thought. 6 actions NOT to do and thats the wrist alone? Oh my. So what do I do now?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Mar 12, 2013 at 5:25 am

      Hi Joaquin, yeah, some people like to get in to the nitty-gritty of what you can do and what is possible. Especially for teachers, this can be good.

      But it’s not always necessary or ideal for everyone. In the end, in particular when it’s time to play, I think it’s better to get rid of swing thoughts or limit yourself down to just one or maybe two.

      What do you currently think of? Does it work well for you?

      If you want some assistance feel free to shoot me an email through my website. I’d be glad to try to help.

  4. Oeystein Ikdahl

    Feb 6, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    How important would each of these be for distance, and how actively are the long hitters using their hands/forearms? I cant imagine you can hit a 380yds shot with “dead hands”?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 7, 2013 at 8:07 am

      That’s another good question and also one worth further research.

      With 27 different positions each wrist could be in at any given point (not counting all the spots in-between each of them), that’s a lot of combinations to compare and contrast.

      I agree with you that the dead hands one wouldn’t be the most powerful. It’s definitely not something I would recommend for a long drive competitor. Although, I would say it’s incredibly consistent for regular golf. For pitching (or maybe if you only ever play short and tight courses) it’s worth a look.

      As an example, when I first turned Pro, I had become a long hitter and I played a bomb and gouge strategy. But during one several month stretch, for the sake of experimentation, I tried playing the straight, short, and safe strategy and used nothing but dead hands all the way around the course.

      One of the tournaments was on a relatively short course by Tour standards. I shot 71-68 to make the cut. Hehe, I remember someone saying I was boring to play with because I was always hitting fairways and greens. But then the next tournament was at one of the longer tour courses I’ve played. I hit pretty consistent and straight again but I just couldn’t compete on the longer course because I was always so far back in the fairway for my approaches and I wasn’t reaching any par 5’s in two.

      So the gist of that is, yes, the dead hands one isn’t the most powerful, but it does have advantages.

      To your other questions…in my observation, to be a long hitter you simply have to use your forearms/wrists in at least some fashion to take advantage of them as an additional point of leverage and speed generation.

      But, like you ask, which one (or combination of more than one) is best for distance?

      Since I haven’t sat down and exhausted every single possibility, I can’t say for absolute certainty what’s optimal for distance. There’s also the added complications to consider of club face control (as opposed to just swinging a plain old stick), transfer of energy in to ball speed from impact dynamics, finding something that you can conceptualize and repeat, working with what you naturally do, etc.

      That said, here are some thoughts…

      I don’t think pronating and/or supinating through the hitting zone is a good idea. Since those cause a rotating club face, controlling where you hit the shot becomes much more difficult. Plus, as I mentioned in the article, an overly rotating club face won’t have as quality of a strike and you could lose power on average. That’s not to say you couldn’t use pronation and supination elsewhere in the swing. I just wouldn’t intentionally do it anywhere through impact.

      Perhaps putting together all six could generate the most club head speed. Consider a rear-hand submarine throwing motion. Assuming you start out at setup in a neutral rear-hand position, in the back swing you could dorsiflect, pronate, and radial deviate (basically winding up to throw). The downswing would start with supinating and ulnar deviating back to neutral (starting to build momentum by unwinding)…followed by palmar flexion through impact (taking the momentum buildup and transitioning in to slapping or throwing).

      I’ve hit as far as anything else doing that, but on the downside I’m a little inconsistent with that sequence. For some reason I lose a bit of club awareness during the windup.

      Presently, the thing that I’m doing that I feel like is giving me the greatest blend of accurate and controllable power is this…

      At setup I start with a fairly neutral lead hand grip. Although, if you were to look at me face-on it would look like a strong grip because my natural and relaxed wrist position is a little bit strong looking, plus my arm gets rotated a little bit from the shoulder socket when I put my arm up over my chest. So even though the grip has a strong look, it’s actually a neutral wrist position for me.

      On a side note, I think a neutral grip is a good general start for the setup…for a couple reasons. First, swinging with as little tension as possible is important for distance. You’ll hear a lot of long drivers talk about that. Think of it like opening a door that has a rusty hinge. You use a lot of energy muscling the door open, but it’s much more efficient and the door can move faster if you oil it up and let it move freely.

      Second, there’s a lot of centrifugal force (outward pull) when you swing the club…so why fight or try to control it? Sort of like a tether ball, just let the ball pull the rope out. Don’t try to control the length of the rope. It’ll come around to the same spot on the other side on it’s own.

      Last, muscles that are shortened or stretched will tend to go back to a neutral spot anyway when relaxed. So just make it easier and start out in a neutral spot because if you don’t try to control it you’ll just get pulled back there at impact anyway.

      From there all I do is just ulnar deviate in the back swing (which with the stronger setup gives me an overly “closed” looking club face at the top)…and radial deviate back to impact. Very simple, basically just a chopping lead hand motion. I don’t even really have to try to control it because the momentum of my back swing will set my wrist cock naturally.

      After impact, to avoid injury, my shoulder socket rotates my lead arm slightly so that I can then dorsiflect with the lead wrist and also ulnar deviate.

      As for the trail hand, I start out fairly neutral, dorsiflect in the back swing and palmar flex to impact (basically a slap), have a slight bit of rotation of the arm in the shoulder socket after impact, which leads in to some ulnar deviation. For me, it’s a simple and natural motion that I can do with a nice level of consistency, accuracy, and power (what you were asking about) that I can control.

      It’d be a big project, but at some point I think it’d be cool to look at a large sampling of both long drivers and also tour players to see what they are doing with their wrists/forearms and look for patterns…and then to contemplate all the sequencing possibilities in general to see if perhaps there are better ways to do it that people aren’t doing or being taught.

      • Oeystein Ikdahl

        Feb 14, 2013 at 11:38 pm

        Hi Jaacob, – thank you for the elaborate reply – much appreciated.

        It seems to me that the swing you are describing is a bit similar to what another long hitting golfer, Jamie Sadlowski, is doing although his grip is from what I can tell very strong. I believe in line with with your description that a fairly simple swing, where you can utilize Radial/Ulnar deviation with limited other complicating movements, can increase swingspeed.

        When I try this I can fairly easily add 5 mph on the radar – but most of the time I end up with a bad push slice due to pulling the club through with an open clubface. (Maybe that is suggesting that I am supinating unconsciously in the backswing and not pronating again in the downswing? – hmmmm – have to check that) Its a tough game 🙂

        • Jaacob Bowden

          Feb 15, 2013 at 3:40 pm

          Sure thing, glad to help.

          I’d be curious to know if Jamie’s strong looking grip is coming from a turning in his shoulder socket or in his wrist. A little difficult to tell from just looking at video…but yes, good observation.

          I think with my hand action I actually fall a bit between where Jamie is…and Ryan Palmer. If I were still competing in long drive I would probably utilize my hands more like Jamie. But for regular golf, it’s more like towards Ryan’s end of the spectrum with a slightly stifled hand action. I cock a little bit more with my lead hand than Ryan at the top of the back swing, but other than that it’s really similar.

          Search for him on YouTube and notice how simple his back swing and downswing hand action is…really low maintenance. I like it a lot because it’s relatively simple to conceptualize, easy to repeat, and I don’t have to worry as much about the timing problems from pronating and supinating (he does pronate/supinate eventually, but it occurs a foot and a half or so after impact).

  5. Flynn Kavanagh

    Feb 6, 2013 at 12:30 am

    Interesting – Just wondering if any of these wrist/hand moves done excessively would contribute to injury i.e golfers elbow?

    • Jaacob Bowden

      Feb 7, 2013 at 5:43 am

      Hmmm, that’s a good question, I don’t know. This would make for a good research project.

      None of the moves in and of themselves would cause you to get hurt…but certainly any human movement done excessively could cause injury and my guess is that there would be better and worse combinations of these movements. For example, perhaps it is good to transition from one movement to another from impact to finish as a way of braking the club and spreading out the strain of stopping the club on any one part of the body.

      A site that I find rather interesting that you might look at is RacquetResearch.com. It’s a tennis site and the racquet data is over 10 years old, but the science and research I think is still applicable towards golf.

      Some of the things I actually read there about tennis elbow made me change some things in my golf game…using bigger grips, heavier shafts, vibration dampeners, and trying to employ more of a semi-sweeping swing rather than a digging one (I’ve hurt my wrists before from taking repeated divots and/or striking the driving range mats too hard and too often).

      • Flynn

        Feb 7, 2013 at 11:02 pm

        Yeah golfer’s elbow is definitely a perplexing (and frustrating) injury for me, appreciate the feedback.

      • Blanco

        Feb 18, 2013 at 5:52 pm

        I can say that after taking up the game I used an interlocking grip which took me from rare hand/wrist pain associated with my work (writing), to early stage carpal tunnel and advanced tendinitis, all within 10 months or so. It also produced weak ball striking and slicing as I could never fully release the club with my pinky and index finger entwined together. My play with wedges and general touch around the greens was always exceptional however.

        Out of necessity I experimented with a ten finger grip and almost immediately dropped 10 strokes off my handicap, because of a newfound ability to play without pain and make true athletic passes at the ball- allowing my hands to turn over through the ball as they would with a ping pong paddle or tennis racket.

        Thanks for the article– I always appriciate learning more about the physiology behind the swing.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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