Downswing

 

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Introduction

 

I have noted that this downswing chapter is my golf website's most popular chapter, and I recently decided to completely rewrite this chapter (in February 2009) so that it reflects my latest (much more advanced) thinking regarding the optimum method of executing a downswing action. When I *originally wrote this downswing chapter in December 2006, I mainly focused my attention on describing the initiating lower body move that starts the downswing, but I now believe that there is much better way of thinking about, and describing, the entire downswing process.

(* I revised this downswing chapter for the second time in November 2012, and I have added a significant amount of new golf instructional material)

When a golfer thinks of the primary purpose of the entire downswing process, he should break it down into its necessary components. The first purpose of the downswing process is the need to generate swing power. The major source of swing power in the modern, total body golf swing is the pivot action, and a modern day golfer primarily uses his pivot-drive to power the swing. However, swing power is not transmitted directly to the swinging club. Rather, swing power is transferred from the pivoting torso to the swinging arms, which then apply that power to the clubshaft. I will describe the process of how that power is generated and transmitted to the swinging club in the downswing in the next section of this downswing chapter.

The second purpose of the downswing process is to ensure that the clubshaft moves in space in the "correct" manner so that it will allow the golfer to produce an in-to-square-to-in clubhead swingpath through the impact zone. If a golfer learns how to keep the clubshaft "on plane" during the downswing, while shallowing the clubshaft plane, then it will allow the clubhead to approach the ball along a shallow inside track, and eventually move in-to-square-to-in through impact. The third purpose of the downswing process is to ensure that the clubface is square at impact, so that the ball flight will be straight. If the clubhead swingpath is in-to-square through impact, and the clubface is square at impact, then the ball should fly straight towards the target (presuming a level strike on the sweeetspot of the clubface). I will describe the optimum method of achieving these goals in a following section of this downswing chapter.

In my description of the mechanics/biomechanics of the downswing, I will primarily be describing a left arm swinger's action (which represents the traditional/conventional swing action). It is also possible to perform a downswing using a hitter's action or a right arm swinger's action, and they operate according to a different set of golf swing fundamentals. I have described the fundamental differences between left arm swinging, right arm swinging, and hitting in another review paper called "Left Arm Swinging, Right Arm Swinging and Hitting".

 

How to generate swing power in the downswing

 

Most professional golfers, who are left-arm swingers, generate swing power using a pivot-driven swing technique. During a pivot-driven swing, a golfer pivots in space and the energy derived from the pivoting torso causes the left arm to be propelled towards the ball. The left arm is essentially inert in the golf swing, and it doesn't produce energy by itself. The left arm is basically swung across the front of the rotating torso and it swings the club towards the ball after the club is released. How does the pivot action transfer energy to the swinging golf club?

A popular method of understanding, and describing, how the pivot action powers the golf swing is the kinetic link theory (or conservation of momentum theory).

Here is a diagram depicting the kinetic link theory.


Diagram depicting the kinetic link theory - from reference number [2]


The kinetic link theory is based on the belief that energy is transferred from one body part to the next body part in a set kinetic chain sequence and that energy is conserved during this energy transferral process (according to the law of conservation of momentum). This conserved energy is finally transmitted to the golf club, which is the final link in this kinetic chain sequence. According to this theory, energy is produced when the golfer shift-rotates his lower torso against the resistance of the ground. That energy causes the pelvis (lower torso) to rotate in space. Then, according to the law of conservation of momentum, that energy is transmitted from the lower torso to the upper torso when the lower torso decelerates. According to this theory, the transmitted energy will cause the upper torso to rotate roughly twice as fast as the lower torso. Then, the upper torso will transfer that energy to the arms when the upper torso decelerates and the transmitted energy will cause the arms to rotate twice as fast as the upper torso. Finally, the kinetic link theorists believe that the energy (which was conserved throughout this transmission process) will be transferrred to the club in the late downswing.

I personally have very little sympathy for this oversimplistic kinetic link theory. I think that it is far too simplistic from a conceptual perspective, and I believe that there is little scientific evidence to support this theory. I can readily accept the idea that energy is produced when the lower torso rotates at the start of the downswing, and I can readily accept the fact that a certain amount of this energy is passively transmitted to the upper torso (via the spine and external torso musculature). However, I believe that most of the energy required to rotate the upper torso is derived from the active muscle contraction of mid-upper torso muscles, and that only a certain amount of the energy required to rotate the upper torso is passively derived from the rotating lower torso. I also don't believe that energy is transmitted from the rotating torso to the swinging arms across the shoulder joint space according to the principle of conservation of momentum - like energy is transmitted down the length of a whip when a lion tamer cracks his whip in a circus ring. I actually don't believe that any energy is transferred from the rotating torso to the left arm across the left shoulder joint (as occurs in the uniform structural material of a cracking whip). I believe that the left arm is essentially equivalent to an inert lever and I believe that the left arm is totally passive in a golf swing. It simply acts as a passive lever that is moved in space in a pivot-driven golf swing due to movement of the rotating upper torso (secondarily reinforced by the muscular contraction of the left shoulder girdle muscles). During the backswing the left arm is loaded across the upper chest wall, and a golfer can sense the loading pressure at pressure point #4 (the left pectoral area where the upper left arm presses against the chest wall) at the end of the backswing. During the early-mid downswing, the upper torso rotates at a fast speed, and a golfer will experience increased loading pressure at PP#4 when the upper torso rotates against the inertia of an inert left arm. The inert left arm will travel at the same speed as the rotating upper upper torso in the early/mid downswing because it is simply being passively pushed down-and-out-and-forward towards the ball by the rotating upper torso. The following diagram depicts the kinetic sequence in a pivot-driven swing. 


Kinetic sequence during the downswing action in a pivot-driven golf swing


Rv = Rotational velocity = Angular (not linear) velocity.

In a pivot-driven golf swing, the pivot action's kinetic sequence should start from the ground-up - the pelvis should rotate before the upper torso. According to this diagram, the pelvis starts rotating at the start of the downswing, but in many professional golfers the pelvis will actually start rotating in the late backswing (while the club is still moving to its final end-backswing position). The pelvis (lower torso) starts rotating before the shoulders (upper torso) and a certain amount of the energy used to rotate the pelvis is passively transmitted to the upper torso via the spine, paraspinal muscles/ligaments and external torso musculature. The shoulders actually start actively rotating almost immediately after the pelvis starts rotating, and the shoulders don't have to delay their maximum speed of rotation until the pelvis decelerates (as predicted by the kinetic link theory). The pelvis starts to decelerate (with respect to its motion in a left-lateral direction, but not necessarily with respect to its rotary motion) at the end of the early downswing (roughly when the hips become square to the ball-target line) due to the fact that the golfer has transferred his weight onto a straightening left leg, that becomes increasingly weighted/braced. The straightening/weighted/braced left leg acts as a firm supportive post that resists any left-lateral forward movement of the pelvis - especially if the head is kept stationary (because the stationary head stabilises the upper spine). The shoulders (upper torso) start actively rotating very soon after the pelvis starts rotating at the start of the downswing, and the shoulders often reach their maximum speed of rotation very soon after the pelvis reaches its maximum speed of rotation - occurring in the earliest part of the mid-downswing, when the shoulders are nearly square to the ball-target line (see small inserted image of Aaron Baddeley in the above diagram). The upper torso naturally/automatically decelerates when the mid-upper torso muscles (that actively rotate the upper torso) shorten in length. At the end of the backswing, these mid-upper torso muscles are optimally stretched, and they contract very forcefully in the early downswing thereby causing the upper torso to rotate very fast in the early/mid downswing. When these actively contracting mid-upper torso muscles shorten, they can no longer produce much energy and the upper torso rotation naturally/automatically decelerates during the later phase of the mid-downswing. When the upper torso decelerates, the left arm can freewheel away from the chest wall towards impact at a faster speed because there is no impedance to  the freewheeling movement of the left arm away from the chest wall. One can think of the left arm being passively catapulted away from the chest wall, and the distance between the hands and the right shoulder should progressively increase during the mid-late downswing - as can be seen in this photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's downswing.


Ben Hogan's downswing - capture images from a swing video


Ben Hogan starts the downswing pivot action with a pelvis shift rotation movement (lower body movement) - images 1 and 2. Note that the left arm separates away from the right upper chest wall and *freewheels towards impact after it is catapulted forward by the pivot action - note how the hands move progressively further away from the right shoulder in images 3-5.

(* I now think that it is over-simplistic to think of the left arm as being a freewheeling inert lever in the later downswing that is simply catapulted away from the chest wall by an active pivot motion, because a golfer is also simultaneously using an active contraction of his left shoulder girdle muscles during the downswing to maintain the downward-forward speed of motion of the left arm, and the straightening right arm may also be applying push-pressure at PP#1 to synergistically assist in maintaining the forward momentum of the left arm. I have described the right arm's potential role in synergistically assisting in the release of PA#4 [via the application of push-pressure at PP#1] in great detail in my Critical Review: Brian Manzella's Release Ideas review paper)

A beginner golfer needs to understand two very important points about a pivot-driven golf swing - i) The kinetic sequence should evolve in a set manner (pelvis => shoulders => arms); and ii) The left arm should swing freely, and with progressively increasing speed, towards impact. A golfer must avoid getting the kinetic sequence out-of-order by starting the downswing with a shoulder (upper body) and/or arm movement. If the kinetic sequence is not optimised, then two major problems occur. The first problem is that an out-of-order kinetic sequence (where the arms move before the torso) decreases the amount of swing power - because the power of the pivot-drive action is not available to move the inert left arm if the left arm is pulled away from the chest wall before the torso starts to rotate in space. The second problem that often occurs when the kinetic sequence is out-of-order is that the clubhead path becomes out-to-in, rather than in-to-square-to-in, through the impact zone.        

Consider this diagram from the "Swing Like a Pro" book [3].



Downswing clubhead swingpath - from reference number [3]
 

The optimum clubhead path is depicted in blue, and the non-optimum clubhead path is depicted in black. A high handicapper, beginner golfer often starts the downswing by simultaneously performing two moves that are out-of-sequence from a kinetic sequence perspective - i) actively pulling the club down-and-outwards in the direction of the ball with his hands while ii) actively turning the right shoulder down towards the ball in a too-horizontal roundhousing manner. Those two moves throw the clubshaft outwards away from the body in the direction of the ball-target line, and the clubhead soon crosses the toe-line (start of the black line path). From that point on, the clubhead passes along a steep path down to the ball and reaches the ball from a slightly out-to-in direction (black arrowed path), which causes a pull (if the clubface is square to the clubhead path at impact), a pull-hook (if the clubface is closed to the clubhead path at impact) or a pull-slice (if the clubface is open to the clubhead path at impact). Beginner golfers who execute this over-the-top move sometimes seem to be spinning their shoulders in a circle around a passive lower body (pelvis) and inactive legs. As a beginner golfer gains more experience, and more control, of his pivot action, he learns to minimise the rotary spinning motion and he steepens his shoulder turn at the start of the downswing - and this produces a downswing motion, which the SLAP authors call an "upper body dive" action [3]. The upper body dive action can be perceived to be an upper body move that gives an outside observer an impression that the beginner golfer is lunging at the ball with his upper body, as demonstrated in this next photo from the "Swing Like a Pro" book [3].


Upper body dive - from reference [3]


You can sense that the golfer (model) is throwing his upper body towards the ball in the above photo. Note that the right shoulder has moved horizontally outwards towards the ball-target line, and note that it is starting to cross over the toe-line in the early downswing. Note that the hands have been thrown away from the body and they are well forward of the toe-line. To complete the downswing and hit the ball, the golfer (model) has to execute an out-to-in hand swingpath by pulling his hands inwards across the body (in the direction of the blue arrowed line). He then subsequently has to complete the followthrough/finish phase of his swing by moving his hands inside-left, and very close to the left side of his body, along a low followthrough hand swingpath that causes the club to exit below the left shoulder (on a DTL view).

Consider the "real-life" series of images of an anonymous golfer performing an "upper body dive" downswing movement.


Anonymous golfer performing an "upper body dive" downswing movement


Note how the anonymous golfer starts the downswing with an upper body movement (right shoulder rotation) that throws the hands and club over the toe line along a steep downswing path (image 1). Note how the steep "over-the-top" movement of the hands then produces an out-to-in clubhead swingpath through the impact zone as the anonymous golfer pulls his hands inwards towards his body during the remainder of the downswing and early followthrough (images 2, 3 & 4). Note how the club exits below the left shoulder in image 4.

To correct this problem, the beginner golfer needs to re-think his entire approach to the downswing, so that he can achieve the type of downswing clubhead swingpath used by the majority of professional golfers.


Downswing clubhead swingpath - from reference number [3]


Consider the downswing clubhead swingpath of an idealised professional golfer model - The ModelPro (in blue). 

Note that the clubhead first moves backwards (away from the ball-target line and towards the tush line) before it descends in a shallower arc towards the ball along an inside track. How does the professional golfer execute this backwards move (away from the body, away from the ball-target line) of the clubhead in the early downswing. You may imagine that the ModelPro golfer deliberately, and actively, first pulls the clubshaft backwards with his hands and then secondly loops it down to the ball. However, the hands are essentially passive in the modern, pivot-driven downswing, and the clubhead first moves backwards (away from the body, away from the ball-target line) because the first downswing move is a lower body move. That is a key element in the modern, pivot-driven downswing - the lower body moves first, and the upper body moves secondarily.

 

Starting the downswing pivot action - the magic move



Ben Hogan, the famous golfer, can be considered to be the originator of our fundamental ideas regarding the modern golf swing, and he described his ideas about this critical downswing move in his famous book "Five Lessons" [4] first published in 1957.

Ben Hogan stated that one should think of starting the golf downswing from the ground up. In other words, the downswing should start with the lower body moving first, and the upper body moving second.

Ben Hogan stated that the motion of the modern golf downswing is very similar to the motion of a baseball infield player throwing a side-throw (half side-arm, half underhand) ball to the first baseman.

Here are posed photographs of Ben Hogan demonstrating this side-throw ball throwing motion in posed (simulated slow motion) photographs.


Ben Hogan performing a side-throw ball throwing movement - from reference number [2]


Hogan stated that a ball thrower first inaugurates the side-throw ball throwing action with a lower body (pelvis) shift-rotation movement towards the target. Then, secondly and near simultaneously, a ball thrower brings the right elbow down to the right hip area (to a pitch elbow position) so that the right elbow leads the right hand. The sequence of movements can be thought of as occurring in the following sequential manner-: pelvis shifts to the left and transfers the lower body weight onto the lead foot => right shoulder moves downwards-and-forward while the right elbow simultaneously moves down to the right hip area with the right hand held back behind the right elbow (after the right hip has "cleared" thus making space for the right elbow) => right elbow actively straightens, right wrist unhinges, and the ball is released.

Ben Hogan also stated that one should conjure a mental image of a boy skipping flat stones across a still pond. The boy would deliberately shallow the plane of his side-throw throwing action so that the stone would travel nearly parallel to the ground - in order to increase the likely number of skips-across-the-pond.

Ben Hogan stated that one should think of the golf downswing in a similar manner - as a side-throwing (stone skipping) action across the body, whereby the clubshaft angle is automatically/passively flattened during the early downswing.


Ben Hogan simulating the initial downswing motion - from reference number [2]


Note five important features of Ben Hogan's simulated initial downswing action-: i) The pelvis shift-rotates to the left (hip squaring action) and this lower body move initiates the downswing action; ii) the right elbow is pulled down to the right hip area (into a pitch elbow position) - partly as a result of this pelvic shift rotation movement, and partly due to an active adduction movement of the right upper arm - and the right elbow leads the hands; iii) the right shoulder is pulled downplane in the direction of the ball and the right arm is brought close to the torso; iv) the 90 degree angle between the left forearm and clubshaft remains unchanged in the initial downswing; v) the right forearm remains at a ~90 degree angle relative to the clubshaft; vi) and the clubshaft plane is automatically shallowed (flattened) causing the clubshaft to bisect the right upper arm in the second photo. 

It is important that a golfer understand that Hogan implied in his book that the arms/clubshaft are passively pulled down to waist level as a result of the lower body movement, and that a golfer shouldn't have to actively pull the arms/clubshaft down to waist level as a totally separate/independent action. Ben Hogan stated that his arms/hands "get a free-ride" down to waist level when he shift-rotates his pelvis at the start of the downswing [4]. Note that the intact power package arm assembly (left arm loaded across the chest wall and bent right elbow with the right forearm at right angles to the clubshaft) seemingly gets passively pulled down to waist level. Ben Hogan implied that he is not actively pulling his right arm towards the right side of his torso and that he is not actively pulling his right elbow down to his right hip area as a separate/independent action. However, all of these three events are happening simultaneously. I therefore personally think that it is better to think of these three motions, which are happening simultaneously, as being active motions - i) a shift rotation movement of the pelvis; ii) a downplane motion of the right shoulder and iii) an adduction motion of the right upper arm towards the right side of the body so that the right elbow gets driven towards its pitch position alongside the right hip (with the right elbow leading the hands). I particularly believe that it is important for a golfer to ensure that the right arm moves actively towards the right side of the torso, so that the right elbow remains bent and the right forearm flying wedge maintains its constant relationship with respect to the left arm flying wedge - thereby keeping the power package's internal alignment intact. In other words, I believe that the right upper arm's adduction movement must be conceived to be an active motion, and not a passive phenomenon (as Ben Hogan implied when he stated that the "arms get a free ride").

Here is an animated gif image (created by Kelvin Miyahira), which demonstrates how the right elbow is actively brought down to its pitch position - via an active adduction movement of the right upper arm (while the right elbow bend is maintained).


Alvaros Quiros

Note how the active adduction movement of the right upper arm causes the clubshaft to shallow-out during the early downswing - while the pelvis is shift-rotating. It is incorrect to think that the active pelvis shift-rotation movement independently causes the clubshaft shallowing action. If a golfer incorporates this active right arm adduction movement, that actively pulls the right elbow down to its pitch location in front of the right hip area, then he is less likely to get "stuck" - which is a problem that has plagued Tiger Woods throughout his golfing career.

Here is a capture image from a swing video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PplQjd6ZP88 ) showing Tiger Woods describing/demonstrating his "stuck" position - where his pelvis has out-raced the arms (power package slotting phenomenon), and where his right elbow is trapped behind his right hip.

Tiger Woods demonstrating his "stuck" position - capture image from his swing video 


This "stuck" problem is less likely to occur if a golfer actively adducts the right upper arm at the same time, and at the same speed, as he performs the pelvic shift-rotation movement that initiates the downswing action. There must be perfect synchrony between the rotating torso action and the power package slotting action, so that the arms are essentially rotating at the same speed (rpm) as the rotating torso. A golfer must "feel" that he is keeping the arms in front of his rotating torso at all times in the downswing, and he must avoid allowing the torso to out-race the arms (from a rotational perspective).

Consider the downswing pelvic action in greater detail.

If you look at Ben Hogan's leg movements, you will notice that the left knee is bent and the left heel is seemingly unweighted at the end of the backswing. Then, during the initial pelvis shift-rotation movement, the left knee moves away from the right knee as the lower body's weight is transferred onto the left foot (replanting of weight onto the left heel). The left forefoot is still significantly weighted at the end of the backswing, and when the left leg gets increasingly re-weighted in the early-mid downswing, most of the re-weighting "feeling" should be "felt" in the left heel (as the left pelvis is pulled back towards the tush line).

If you look at Ben Hogan's pelvis, you can sense that the pelvic movement is primarily a rotation of his left buttock backwards (away from the ball-target line and towards the tush line) while he is simultaneously transferring his lower body's weight onto his left foot - as if he were turning his left back trouser pants pocket back away from the ball-target line in a left hip clearing action

Ben Hogan has an interesting diagram in his book [4] highlighting this initiating pelvic movement.


Idea of an elastic strip inducing a left hip clearing action - from reference number [4]


Ben Hogan stated that one should "imagine, that at address, one end of an elastic strip is fastened to a wall directly behind one's left hip and that the other end is fastened to the front of the left hip bone." Then, during the backswing, when the pelvis rotates approximately 45 degrees to the right, the elastic strip becomes stretched. The downswing starts when the elastic strip snaps back, rapidly rotating the left hip around to the left (hip squaring action). It is important to appreciate the fact that a *very small lateral shift of the pelvis to the left must accompany the rotation of the the left hip around to the left because the elastic band is attached to the front of the left hip, which has rotated centrally during the backswing's rotary pelvic action.

(* Addendum added June 2007:  I have written a detailed review paper called the "The Backswing and Downswing Hip Pivot Movements: Their Critical Role in the Golf Swing". This review paper provides much more explanatory detail regarding this important downswing lower body movement, and it is available in the miscellaneous topic section of this website. I have also described this pelvic motion in much greater depth in another new 2009 review paper called "Book Review: The Slot Swing - Jim McLean")

To better understand Hogan's "left hip clearing action" (which is the pelvic motion that initiates his downswing action), consider this overhead swing video of four famous golfers - Gary Player, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Mike Souchak.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StKkT9sTTtQ

All four golfers manifest the same rotary pelvic motion (rotating-in-a-barrel pelvic motion) and I will arbitrarily select Jack Nicklaus as an example.

Here are capture images of Jack Nicklaus' swing action.


Jack Nicklaus' pelvic action - capture images from the swing video


Image 1 shows Jack Nicklaus at address - I have drawn two vertical red lines in line with the outer border of his two forefeet and they show that his pelvis is roughly centered between his two feet at address.

Image 2 shows Jack Nicklaus at his end-backswing position. Note that he rotated his right hip joint clockwise (as viewed from above) during his backswing action, so that it moves backwards (away from the ball-target line) and also towards the target. I have drawn a blue line over the position of his natal cleft (cleft between the two buttock bulges) and that blue line shows the position of his pelvic sacrum at his end-backswing position.

Image 3 shows how he starts the downswing with a Hogan-style "left hip clearing action" where he rotates his left hip joint counterclockwise (red curved arrow) so that it moves backwards (away from the ball-target line) and towards the tush line. I have drawn a yellow line over the position of his natal cleft (sacrum) and one can see that his sacrum has moved further away from the target - even though his left knee joint and left hip joint is moving closer to the target.

Image 4 shows him in his late downswing, and one can see that his left knee/leg is abutting the left vertical red line, representing a slide of his left knee towards the target. However, note that his natal cleft/sacrum (green line) has moved even further away from the target due to the rotary nature of his pelvic motion. 

Most importantly, note that his downswing's early pelvic motion is primarily a pulling-back of the left hip joint towards the tush line, rather than being a premature motion of the right hip joint away from the tush line (which is a vertical line drawn along the back of the right buttocks when it reaches the end-backswing position). 

If a beginner golfer starts the downswing with a pure rotatory right pelvic movement, rather than a left-lateral pelvic shift-rotation movement, then that pure rotatory right pelvic movement will cause the right hemi-pelvis to leave the tush line and immediately rotate forward of the toe line (hip spinning), and it may secondarily cause the right shoulder to immediately be thrown forward of the toe-line (an "over-the-top" upper torso spinning movement that must definitely be avoided). The right shoulder must initially be held back behind the toe line, and not prematurely cross the toe line in the early downswing. By starting the downswing with a shift-rotation movement of the pelvis (a hip squaring action due to a pulling back of the left hip joint towards the tush line while the pelvis is shifting left-laterally towards the target), a beginner golfer should experience a right shoulder "side-bending feeling" - a distinct "feeling" that the right shoulder is dropping downplane towards the ball. Note how Ben Hogan's right shoulder has dropped downwards-and-ouwards towards the ball in the above pencil diagram, as the right elbow moves rapidly down to the right hip area at the start of the downswing. To achieve that "side-bending feeling" of the upper torso, a beginner golfer must have a distinct feeling that the rightwards tilted spine is tilting even further away from the target during the initiating pelvic shift-rotation movement (and this increased degree of rightwards spinal tilt is called secondary axis tilt). Secondary axis tilt occurs because the left-lateral pelvic shift movement towards the target at the start of the downswing causes the lower lumbar spine to also move leftwards. If the head is kept stationary (thereby stabilising the position of the upper spine), then the entire spine must acquire a greater degree of rightwards spinal tilt in the early downswing as a result of the left-lateral pelvic shift movement. That increased degree of rightwards spinal tilt causes the right shoulder to move downplane when the shoulders start to rotate perpendicularly around the upper thoracic spine in the mid downswing.

Here is a link to an excellent video of Ben Hogan demonstrating the initiating shift-rotation move of the hips - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL_6M_xZvq0

Note how Ben Hogan starts the downswing by pulling his left hemi-pelvis back away from the ball-target line (and towards the tush line) in a hip squaring action. Note how his entire power package assembly is "seemingly" pulled down to waist level as a direct result of his initiating lower body shift-rotation movement.

Now, consider the downswing-initiating movement of another PGA tour golfer - Aaron Baddeley. 


Aaron Baddeley starting the downswing - from reference number [1]


This photo demonstrates the first active body movements that occur when Aaron Baddeley initiates the downswing. In particular, note-: i) that his left pelvis has rotated backwards (towards the tush line) thus squaring the hips; ii) that there is a definite lateral shift of the pelvis to the left (towards the target); iii) that his left knee has moved away from the right knee causing a widening of the distance between the knees; iv)  that his lower body weight is replanted back onto the left foot. I believe that the left knee moves automatically, and without any need for conscious thought, as a result of the weight transfer to the left that occurs when a golfer shifts weight back onto the left foot and shift-rotates the hips. In other words, I think that a golfer only has to think of simultaneously replanting weight onto the left foot (primarily the left heel) and shift-rotating the hips by performing a "left hip clearing action" (as described by Ben Hogan), and that he doesn't have to consciously think about his knee action.

A key thought for a beginner golfer is the thought that he must only bump the pelvis left-laterally to a small degree, so that his lower body weight is transferred onto the left foot - but never beyond the left foot. A golfer must never slide the pelvis too far left-laterally, so that the outer border of the left pelvis gets beyond the outer border of the left foot. If the pelvis slides too far left-laterally in the early downswing, that excessive sliding motion usually causes the spine and head to be pulled too far left-laterally, and that phenomenon predisposes to push-sliced shots (due to the fact that the hands get ahead of the ball by impact, which prevents the golfer from being able to square the clubface by impact). A golfer must acquire a distinct "feeling" that he is bracing his left leg/knee as he transfers weight onto the left foot, and that this "bracing of the left side" phenomenon creates a "feeling" of establishing a "firm supportive left side" that prevents a pelvic over-sliding phenomenon.

Note that a few right arm movements occur at the same time. Note that the right elbow is leading the right upper limb's movements (it can be seen below the left arm in image 2 above). Note that the clubshaft is still at right angles to the left forearm, which means that there is no active wrist/hand movements (no uncocking of the left wrist and/or unhinging of the right wrist). Note that the right forerarm is still at right angles to the right upper arm, and that there is no active extension of the right elbow, demonstrating that there is no active attempt to straighten the right arm (straighten the right elbow) during the early downswing.

Consider an image of Aaron Baddeley a moment later in the downswing.


Aaron Baddeley downswing - from reference number [1]


Note that Aaron Baddeley has continued his pelvic shift-rotation movement - the left hip has slid slightly more forward in the direction of the target, and the left pelvis is rotating backwards away from the ball-target line while he pivots over a straightening (increasingly braced) left leg. Note that the outer border of his left pelvis is still within the vertical boundary of his left inner foot. Note that the right upper arm has been pulled inwards against the right side of his torso and that the right elbow is adjacent to the right hip in a pitch elbow position. Note that the right elbow has not straightened, and note that the right forearm is still at right angles to the right upper arm. Also, note that the clubshaft is still at right angles to the left forearm and that the left wrist has maintained its cocked-up appearance and that the right wrist is still hinged back.

Consider the initial downswing body movements in this behind-view of Nick Faldo (at roughly the same point in the downswing).


Early downswing - from reference number [5]


Note that the left pelvis has rotated back towards the tush line thus squaring the hips (image 2). Note that weight is being transferred to the left foot when he shifts his pelvis weight to the left and that it causes the left knee to automatically/naturally move away from the right knee. Note that the right elbow drops below the left arm on its way to the right hip area - due an active adduction of the right upper arm towards the right side of the upper torso.

Note that the lower lumbar spine has moved towards the target (as a result of the pelvic shift-rotation movement) and that he has acquired a significant amount of secondary axis tilt as a result of the hip squaring action. The secondary axis tilt allows the right shoulder to move downplane when the shoulders start to rotate perpendicularly around the rightwards tilted spine.

It is critically important that a golfer move the right shoulder downplane, and not horizontally (roundhousing) or vertically (tilting), at the start of the downswing. A golfer must acquire a "feeling" that the right shoulder is moving downplane - roughly in the direction of the ball - and the right shoulder must move roughly parallel to the turned shoulder plane.

Here is an excellent video lesson by Robert Baker on his O factor concept, and he demonstrates how the initiating pelvis shift-rotation movement causes secondary axis tilt, and how that increased degree of rightwards spinal tilt allows the right shoulder to move downplane when the shoulders start to rotate around the rightwards tilted spine. 

http://www.golf.com/golf/video/article/0,28224,1595277,00.html


Robert Baker demonstrating the downplane movement of the right shoulder - capture images from his swing video


Robert Baker brilliantly demonstrates, using *two hula hoops, how the shoulders are rotating along an angled axis (upper hula hoop axis) while the lower body is rotating along a more horizontal axis (lower hula hoop axis). 

(* Robert Baker has recently revised his swing video lesson, and he no longer uses the two hula hoops in his revised swing video presentation)

During the downswing, one should start the downswing move with a lower body shift-rotation move that eventually causes the left pelvis to slant upwards (when the left pelvis lifts up over a straightening left leg). This composite photo shows Robert Baker in the same mid-downswing position - from three different views. Note how the lower hula hoop axis is slanted slightly upwards (to the left) and that it causes the spine to be slanted in such a manner that the upper hula hoop axis of rotation (which is perpendicular to the rightwards tilted spine) becomes more vertically oriented at an angle to the ball-target line. The right shoulder should travel parallel to the path of the upper hula-hoop's loop-circumference in the mid-late downswing. If a beginner golfer understands this interlinked relationship between the two hula hoops, then it will allow him to understand how a "correct" lower body move (pelvic shift-rotation move) at the start of the downswing helps the right shoulder to move downwards and forwards along the "correct" downplane path and how it helps avoid an OTT move (roundhousing move of the right shoulder).

From a down-the-line view, one can more easily see how the right shoulder moves downplane, rather than horizontally (roundhousing).

Here is a DTL view of Sergio Garcia's driver swing.


Sergio Garcia - capture images from a swing video


Image 1 shows Sergio Garcia at the end-backswing position. The green line represents the shoulder turn angle in the backswing - note that Sergio Garcia turns his shoulders relatively horizontally in the backswing. The yellow line was drawn from the ball to the right shoulder (at its end-backswing position) and this line represents the right shoulder plane line (RSP line), also called the turned shoulder plane line (TSP line).

In image 2, I have drawn another yellow line across Sergio Garcia's shoulders as he rotates his right shoulder under his chin in the late downswing/early followthrough. Note that this line is at the same inclined angle as the RSP/TSP plane line drawn in image 1, and this image demonstrates that Sergio Garcia has a steeper shoulder turn during the mid-late downswing (compared to the backswing), and that his right shoulder descends downplane at an angle that is roughly parallel to the RSP/TSP.

Rotating the right shoulder downplane is very important, because it helps direct the right arm/hand along an inside track - similar to the hand path taken by a person who skips stones (using a side-throw/underhand right arm throwing action). However, the hand path, and therefore clubshaft path, can vary significantly between different golfers - similar in manner to the way that different baseball pitchers have different degrees of side throw-versus-underhand throw hand motions during their pitching action.

The issue of the downplane motion of the right shoulder is very complex because many biomechanical factors affect its specific direction of motion at different time points during the downswing.

I have implied that the word "downplane" means that the right shoulder moves in a direction towards the ball, but I think that it is better to think of "downplane" as being a zone of acceptable motion for the right shoulder.

Consider a capture image from one of Sergio Garcia's swing videos.


Sergio Garcia at his end-backswing postion - capture image from a swing video


The red zone represents the downplane zone and if the right shoulder moves into that zone during the downswing, then it is moving downplane. The yellow zone represents a horizontal zone and if the right shoulder moves into that zone then it is moving too horizontally (roundhousing). The blue zone represents a vertical zone and if the right shoulder tilts too much groundwards and enters that zone then the right shoulder is moving too vertically.

When the right shoulder moves downplane during the downswing, it doesn't constantly move along a single planar path and the right shoulder's path can be continuously changing during the downswing due to the influence of multiple interacting biomechanical factors. Consider some of these factors.

A major factor that affects the directional motion of the right shoulder is the spinal bend inclination angle.

Consider a diagram showing two very different spinal bend inclination angles.


Diagram showing two different spinal bend inclination angles 


This diagram shows the legs (black), spine (blue) and shoulder turn angle (red) as seen from a DTL view. Presuming that the shoulders turn perpendicularly relative to the upper thoracic spine, one can see that the shoulder turn angle will be oriented more vertically (steeper relative to the ground) if the spinal bend inclination angle is greater (and the golfer is more bent-over at the level of the hip joints). 

Keegan Bradley is an example of a golfer who has a more bent-over posture at address, while Brian Gay is an example of a golfer who has a more erect posture at address.


Keegan Bradley (image 1) and Brian Gay (image 2) at address - capture images from swing videos


If their shoulders turn perpendicular to their upper thoracic spine during the downswing, then Keegan Bradley's right shoulder will move more vertically than Brian Gay's right shoulder (presuming that all other biomechanical factors are unchanged/constant).

The second biomechanical factor in play is whether the spine remains relatively straight during the entire downswing action or whether the golfer's upper thoracic spine becomes more flexed/bent over due to a forward bending motion involving the lower-mid thoracic spine.

Consider a diagram portraying this biomechanical phenomenon.


Diagram showing the effect of forward bend of the mid-thoracic spine during the downswing


Diagram 1 depicts a golfer who maintains a relatively straight spine during the entire downswing action. If the shoulders rotate perpendicular to the upper thoracic spine during the downswing, then the downswing's shoulder turn angle will also be perpendicular to the lower spine.

Diagram 2 depicts a golfer who has a significant amount of forward bend (in the direction of the ball-target line) involving the lower-mid thoracic spine, and that biomechanical phenomenon causes the upper thoracic spine to become more horizontally oriented. If the shoulders turn perpendicular to the upper thoracic spine, then the shoulder turn angle will be more vertically oriented (relative to the ground).

Paula Creamer is an example of a golfer who exhibits this particular biomechanical phenomenon.


Paula Creamer's spine bend angle and shoulder turn angle - image derived from a magazine photo


Note that Paula Creamer's upper spine is far more bent-over than her lower spine (in a forwards direction relative to the ball-target line), and that causes her downswing's shoulder turn angle to become much steeper (more vertically oriented).

However, this spine bend issue is much more complicated because i) the spine can also bend sideways (laterally) at the same time, and ii) the right shoulder can simultaneously become depressed as it rotates around the upper spine.


Diagram depicting three biomechanical phenomena - 1) shoulder depression and 2) secondary axis tilt and lateral bending of the mid thoracic spine.


Diagram 1 depicts the spine from a face-on view if the golfer stands erect with a straight spine (colored in blue). The shoulders are normally oriented perpendicular to the upper thoracic spine if the clavicles are horizontal to the ground - see solid red line. The red dotted lines show the range of depression/elevation of the shoulders that can occur if a golfer deliberately depresses/elevates the shoulders, and this phenomenon can occur unilaterally or bilaterally thus causing the affected shoulder to move at a non-perpendicular angle relative to the upper thoracic spine.   

Diagram 2 depicts a face-on view of a golfer who has i) secondary axis tilt causing the lower spine to become more rightwards-tilted and ii) lateral bending of the upper thoracic spine to the right (relative to the lumbar spine) and iii) a certain amount of right clavicle/shoulder depression that all synergistically interact to cause the right shoulder to move along a slightly more steeper path.

Jamie Sadlowski is an example of a golfer who manifests all three biomechanical phenomena.


Jamei Sadlowski's late downswing action - capture images from a swing video

One can clearly see that Jamie Sadlowski manifests all three biomechanical phenomena - i) significant secondary axis tilt, ii) right-lateral bending of the upper spine (relative to the lower spine), and iii) depression of the right shoulder - during his late downswing action.

There is no "gold standard" rule that mandates a "fixed" right shoulder path during the downswing because different golfers have different physiques and different biomechanical motions of the spine and right shoulder. Each individual golfer can experiment to determine which of these biomechanical phenomena he can fruitfully utilize during his downswing action. 

 

Power accumulator release mechanics/biomechanics

 

So far, I have only discussed the biomechanics of the pivot action and I have not specifically discussed the motion of the arms/hands during the downswing action. 

It is important to realise that a golfer can only move the golf club with his hands, which are attached to the grip end of the club. Swing power generated by an active pivot action must work via a biomechanical mechanism that allows the rotating torso (specifically the two rotating shoulder sockets) to move the two arms, which then move the club via passive hands. I think that the best method of understanding this process is to understand Homer Kelley's TGM (The Golfing Machine) concepts. I discussed the TGM system of power accumulator loading/release in great detail in my How To Power the Golf Swing review paper, and I will only point out certain important TGM principles in this downswing chapter.  

The major source of swing power in a swinger is due to the release of a loaded power accumulator #4 (master power accumulator). During the backswing action, PA#4 is loaded when the left arm is drawn back against the chest wall. Here is a photo from Homer Kelley's TGM book, that depicts the loading and release of PA#4. 


Loading and release of PA#4 - photo from reference number [5]


PA#4 is loaded at the top (end-backsing position) when the left arm is brought to a position that is close to the upper chest wall. Only flexible golfers can get the left arm to lie tightly against the surface of the chest wall, and most golfers will have an air-gap of variable size between the left arm and chest wall (see acute angled V in the above left-sided photo). PA#4 is fully unloaded when there is roughly a right angle between the left arm and the upper chest wall, and that occurs roughly at the end of the followthrough (P7.2 position). Many TGM-literalists think of PA#4 unloading as being due to the outward movement of the left upper arm away from the chest wall, but I prefer my personal interpretation/definition of PA#4 unloading. I think that many good golfers (with a very active upper torso rotation) have very little outward (away from the chest wall) movement of their left arm during their downswing action, and they keep the left arm relatively close to their upper left chest wall during their entire downswing action. I therefore prefer to think of PA#4 unloading as being primarily due to the downward-and-forward movement of the left arm towards impact, and PA#4 unloading is deemed to start when the distance between the hands and right shoulder starts to increase in the early downswing. 

When should the hands start to move away from the right shoulder during the downswing action?

I believe that it is optimal to keep PA#4 fully loaded during the early downswing (*between the P4 position and the P5 position).

(*See my Glossary of Wrist Movements and P system of Classifying a Golfer's Swing Positions review paper if you are unfamiliar with the P classification system)   

Consider Jamie Sadlowski's downswing action.


Jamie Sadlowski's early downswing action - capture images from a swing video


Image 1 shows Jamie Sadlowski at his end-backswing position (P4 position) - note that he has fully loaded PA#4.

Image 5 shows Jamie Sadlowski at the P5 position (when the left arm is parallel to the ground) - note that he still has a fully loaded PA#4 and the distance between his hands and right shoulder has not started to increase. What is happening biomechanically between the P4 position and the P5 position is that the torso has started to rotate (pelvis first, upper torso/shoulders second) and the left arm is being passively pulled along by the rotating left shoulder socket. The right elbow remains fully bent and there is no straightening of the right arm during this time period - and that allows the power package (consisting of an intact LAFW and RFFW and right shoulder/upper arm) to remain intact/unchanged during the early phase of the *club slotting process.    

(* I have described the club slotting process in great detail in my Book Review: The Slot Swing - Jim McLean review paper, and I have demonstrated how different professional golfers move their power package along different club-slotting paths)

PA#4 should optimally start to unload soon after the left arm bypasses the P5 position - during the early phase of the mid-downswing. PA#4 unloading is causally due to the pivot action catapulting the left arm in a downwards-and-forwards direction, synergistically assisted by the muscular contraction of the left shoulder girdle muscles +/- an active right arm straightening action that applies a push-force against PP#1. When PA#4 unloads, the left arm moves progressively downwards-and-forwards towards impact at great speed. Because the left arm is simply a straight inert lever of fixed length, the hand arc path between P5 and impact (P7 position) is determined by the 3-D movement of the left shoulder socket in space and the independent movement of the two humeral heads within their respective shoulder sockets.  

If a golfer starts the downswing with a pelvic shift rotation movement, followed by an active right shoulder downplane movement, then the intact power package assembly can be passively brought down towards waist level along an appropriate down-and-forward path that will allow the golfer to generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead path through the impact zone.

Consider that phenomenon in Ben Hogan's swing video lesson where he demonstrates the lower body move - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QL_6M_xZvq0


Ben Hogan's hand arc movement - capture images from his swing video


I used a spline tool to trace Hogan's hand movements during his downswing.

Image 1 (P5 position) shows how his hands move down-and-out-and-minimally backwards in the early downswing as a result of the pelvic shift-rotation movement and secondary shoulder socket motion. The hands are not being actively pulled down in that direction by an independent arm-lowering action. The hands simply move in that direction because the entire/intact power package assembly is pulled down to waist level as a result of the lower body shift-rotation movement that initiates the downswing's kinetic sequence. Note that Hogan has already transferred a significant amount of his lower body weight onto the left foot by P5 and this weight-transfer action braces the left leg creating a "firm supportive left side". The hips have nearly squared and the pelvis has already started to decelerate. The shoulders are also close to reaching their maximum rotational speed at this time point (which usually happens between the P5 and P6 position). 

Image 2 shows what happens in the mid-downswing when the shoulders start to decelerate. The left arm moves downwards-and-forwards away from the right shoulder and starts freewheeling towards impact (yellow-colored area) at a faster speed - note how the hands are moving further away from the right shoulder (and this represents the unloading of PA#4). 

Image 4 shows the directional change in his hand arc path that accompanies this left arm unloading action (arrow 2). It is important to note what effect this directional change in hand arc movement has on his clubshaft - note that the club has started to release and it is starting to catch up to his left arm. What causes the club to release at this time point? It is not due to any active uncocking action of the left wrist (using the left forearm flexor/extensor carpii ulnaris muscles). It is primarily passive and due to a centrifugal release phenomenon - and this club release phenomenon occurs automatically when the hands abruptly change direction and move in a tight-radius circular arced motion. During the first part of the hand arc (arrow 1) the hands were moving in a relatively straight line direction - mainly down towards the ground - and a straight line pull force along the longitudinal axis of the clubshaft doesn't induce the club release phenomenon. The club releases when the hand arc becomes more tightly circular (arrow 2), and the speed of club release depends on i) hand speed during the time period when the hands are moving along a circular arc and ii) the radius of the hand arc's circular movement. The faster the hand speed at this time point and the "tighter" the hand arc turn radius - the faster the club will release. The CF-release of the club represents the release of PA#2, and adding a PA#2 release action to the release of PA#4 (creating a double barrel swing action involving the release of two power accumulators) significantly increases the magnitude of obtainable clubhead speed by impact.  

Here is a link to my video demonstrating how a centrifugal release happens automatically/passively when the peripheral hinge joint (equivalent to the left wrist) of a double pendulum swing apparatus moves in a circular direction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBu30VbvBRY

If a golfer understands these two points, then he should have a clear understanding of how a golfer (swinger), like Ben Hogan, produces swing power in a full golf swing. It starts off with a pivot-driven swing action that starts from the bottom-up (lower body moves first, upper body moves secondarily). The pivot-driven swing action causes the left arm to be catapulted off the chest wall when the pivot-drive action automatically/naturally subsides in mid-downswing. The club automatically/passively releases shortly thereafter due to a centrifugal action. In other words, there is no obligatory need for right arm muscle power in a swinger's action. Note that Hogan's right elbow is still bent at a right angle in image 4, which means that he is not supplying right arm push-power to the clubshaft by actively straightening the right elbow in a thrust action (which is used by hitters). Watch Ben Hogan's swing video over-and-over, and try to imagine how fast his left arm and clubshaft must be traveling between their position in image 4 (where the club is at the delivery position) and impact. They are traveling so fast that it is probably physically impossible to get them to travel faster by supplying a "right arm hit action" in the late downswing - by actively straightening the right elbow in the late downswing.

Many beginner golfers make the major mistake of trying to supply additional swing power when the hands/clubshaft reach the delivery position - clubshaft is parallel to the ball-target line = third parallel position = P6 position - by actively using right arm push-power in a deliberate attempt to get the clubshaft to move faster in the late downswing. Any attempt to add right arm push-power to a swinger's mid-late downswing action can potentially disrupt the swing action, and interfere with the centrifugal release action.

What I have described so far in this "swing power generation" section of this downswing chapter are the swing fundamentals of a swinger's action. A swinger usually powers the golf swing via a pivot-driven swing action that causes the left arm to be catapulted towards impact. The freewheeling left arm/hand pulls the clubshaft towards impact, and this pull-action is called drag-loading. The right arm does not supply any push-power in a swinger's clubshaft-releasing action. If a golfer wants to apply right arm push-power in a drive-loading manner, then he can learn how to become a hitter. A hitter's action is very different to a swinger's action. A hitter doesn't use his pivot action in the previously-described "pivot-drive" manner in order to catapult the left arm towards impact. A hitter primarily uses a pivot action to move the right shoulder closer to the ball in the early downswing before he actuates power accumulator #1 (PA#1 release = an active right elbow straightening action). The right shoulder can be conceived to be the launching pad for the release of power accumulator #1 (the active right elbow straightening action), which causes the right forearm/right hand to push the clubshaft towards impact (drive-loading). The straightening right arm not only pushes the clubshaft towards impact, it also pushes the left arm/hand towards impact. In other words, a hitter doesn't use the pivot-drive to catapult the left arm towards impact - he uses the straightening right arm to push the clubshaft and the left arm towards impact. There is no centrifugal release of the club in a hitter's action because a hitter drives the clubshaft into impact (using an axe handle technique). I am not going to describe a hitter's action in any detail in this downswing chapter - interested readers can consult two of my detailed review papers - "How to Power the Golf Swing" and "Left Arm swinging, Right Arm Swinging, and Hitting" - for further details.

Different golfers generate different hand arc paths and they therefore release PA#2 at different time points in their downswing action. If the club starts to release before the golfer reaches the P5 position, then that release action is labelled a sweep release action. If the club starts to release between the P5 and P6 position, that is labelled a random release action. If the club starts to release between the P6 and impact, that is labelled a late release action.

I have discussed the physics/mechanics/biomechanics of the club release action in much greater detail in the following three review papers - i) How to Maximise Wrist Lag and Avoid Casting; ii) Understanding the Club Release Phenomenon - The Endless Belt Concept; and iii) Power Mechanics of Swinging, Hitting and Swing-hitting.


Keeping the clubshaft "on-plane" during the downswing - and how to square both the clubhead path and clubface orientation angle by impact

 

I have described how a golfer (swinger) should power the golf swing in the previous section. In this section, I am going to describe how a golfer needs to move the clubshaft "on-plane" during the downswing if he wants to generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead swingpath through the impact zone that will allow a golfer to square the clubhead path at impact (actually low point). An in-to-square-to-in clubhead path through the impact zone allows a golfer to hit a straight shot - if the clubhead path and clubface orientation angle is zeroed-out at impact (presuming a level strike on the sweetspot of the clubface). A golfer who deliberately chooses to hit a push-draw shot, or pull-slice shot, does not have to be on-plane during the downswing - *and he can either generate an in-to-out clubhead path through impact to hit a push-draw shot or generate an out-to-in clubhead path through impact to hit a pull-slice shot. 

(* I have described how different variations in clubhead path and clubface orientation angle at impact influence ball flight in great detail in my Ball Flight Laws review paper)

Consider the plane shifts that frequently occur in a golf swing. I am going to use Aaron Baddeley as an example because he is reflective of the double plane shift swing that most professional golfers use in their full golf swing.

A plane is defined as an imaginary inclined plane of constant pitch where the base of the inclined plane usually lies on the ball-target line, and where the surface of the inclined plane always remain parallel to the ball-target line. The plane can vary in pitch and the inclined plane can be steeper or flatter. Homer Kelley defined different planes in his TGM book [5].


Clubshaft planes - capture images from a swing video [1]


Note that Aaron Baddeley has his clubshaft on the hand plane (green line) at address - where an imaginary extension line drawn from the butt end of his clubshaft would point at his belt buckle.

Note that Aaron Baddeley's hands/clubshaft moves to a higher plane during the backswing and that his hands/clubshaft end up just above the right shoulder plane (also called the turned shoulder plane = TSP) at the end of his backswing. The TSP is represented by a line drawn from the ball-target line to the right shoulder at its end-backswing position (blue line). Most professional golfers get their clubshaft to the TSP, or near the TSP (either just below the TSP line or just above the TSP line), by the end of their backswing.

Note that Aaron Baddeley's clubshaft descends to the elbow plane by impact (defined as a plane line drawn between the ball-target line and the right elbow at address). An imaginary extension line drawn from the elbow plane line exits the mid-back roughly halfway between the pelvic crest and the neck (red line). Most professional golfers get their hands down to the elbow plane, or very close to the elbow plane, by impact. Ben Hogan's clubshaft is slightly below the elbow plane at impact (and it is closer to the hand plane) while Brian Gay and Phil Mickelson have their clubshaft on a slightly steeper plane at impact (closer to the TSP than the elbow plane).

Aaron Baddeley has a double plane shift swing - the clubshaft shifts from the hand plane to the TSP in the backswing, and from the TSP to the elbow plane in the downswing. When the clubshaft descends from the TSP to the elbow plane in the downswing, it usually reaches the elbow plane by the time the club reaches the delivery position (third parallel position = P6 position). A golfer can get the *clubshaft to move abruptly down from the TSP to the elbow plane at the start of the downswing (via a vertical drop of the hands) and then the golfer can pull the clubshaft down along the elbow plane to the delivery position - and that particular clubshaft-shallowing pattern is characteristic of Sergio Garcia's swing. Alternatively, a golfer can move the clubshaft slowly and gradually down from the TSP to the elbow plane during the early-mid downswing. Most professional golfers, like Aaron Baddeley, adopt that pattern.

(* I have described these alternative clubshaft-shallowing patterns in much greater detail in my review paper "Book Review: The Slot Swing - Jim McLean") 

When the clubshaft shifts planes from the TSP to the elbow plane during the early-mid downswing, a golfer must ensure that the clubshaft remains "on-plane" if he wants to generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead path through the impact zone. The concept of keeping the clubshaft "on-plane" was described by Homer Kelley in his TGM book [5].

Homer Kelley stated in his TGM book [5] that a clubshaft is deemed to be "on-plane" if the end of the club nearest the ground always points at the base of the inclined plane (which is usually the ball-target line if the golfer's body stance is square to the ball-target line), and that the only time that this condition need not be met is when the clubshaft is parallel to the base of the inclined plane (ball-target line). The clubshaft usually becomes parallel to the ball-target line at four time points during an idealised on-plane golf swing - i) at the end of the takeaway (first parallel); ii) at the end-backswing position (second parallel); iii) at the delivery position (third parallel); and iv) during the early finish phase (fourth parallel). At all other time points, the end of the clubshaft (the end of the club that is nearest to the ground) must point at the ball-target line (or an imaginary extension of the ball-target line).   

Here is an example of a perfect "on-plane" clubshaft motion during the downswing - Anthony Kim's swing [6]



Image 1 (end-backswing) and image 5 (delivery position) demonstrate that his clubshaft is parallel to the ball-target line. At all other time points, the end of the club nearest the ground (butt of the club in images 2, 3, 4 and clubhead end of the club in images 6, 7) points at the ball-target line (yellow dotted lines). Anthony Kim's swing is a perfect example of a swing where the clubshaft is always "on-plane" during the downswing - even while it is shifting planes from the turned shoulder plane (at the end-backswing) to the elbow plane (at impact). While it is shifting planes, it also fulfills Homer Kelley's definition of being "on-plane".

If a golfer keeps the clubshaft "on-plane" throughout the downswing and followthrough, then he can be sure that he is generating a clubhead swingpath that is symmetrically in-to-square-to-in relative to the ball-target line, and I highly recommend that all golfers try to routinely achieve an on-plane downswing if they prefer to hit straight shots (rather than curved shots). There are different methods of practicing how to achieve an on-plane golf swing. One technique uses a dowel stick, and I demonstrate that technique in the swing videos that accompany my review paper on How to Move the Arms, Wrists and Hands in the Golf Swing. I also describe a second technique, using a flashlight (or clubshaft with in-built laserlights at either end of the clubshaft) placed in the right hand, in my review paper on How to Hit the Ball Straight. The flashlight/laserlight drill is very useful because it teaches a golfer that the right forearm/hand (via PP#3) is responsible for keeping the clubshaft on-plane. In other words, if PP#3 always traces the straight plane line (SPL), which is the base of the inclined plane (and usually the ball-target line), then a golfer knows that the clubshaft will always be on-plane. A golfer needs to realise that his "mind" must be in his hands (specifically PP#3 of the right hand), and he must realise that he can keep his clubshaft on-plane during the downswing by acquiring "educated hands" that allow him to consistently trace the SPL using PP#3.

Another good method of checking whether the clubshaft is approximately on-plane is to look in a mirror while performing the downswing pivot action in slow motion while using a golf club (or dowel stick). The mirror should be positioned so that one can obtain a down-the-line view of one's arms/clubshaft in the mirror. Then, one can check to see if one is passing through certain checkpoints that indicate an on-plane clubshaft movement - as the clubshaft smoothly/gradually shifts planes from the turned shoulder plane (at the start of the downswing) to the elbow plane (at the delivery position).

Consider Aaron Baddeley's downswing - as viewed from a down-the-line (DTL) view.


Aaron Baddeley - capture images from his swing video [1]

Yellow dotted line = Ball-target line (base of the inclined plane).

Checkpoint 1 (image 1) - when the left arm is parallel to the ground, the butt end of the clubshaft should point at the ball-target line indicating that the clubshaft is on-plane. The back of the flat left wrist should be parallel to the inclined plane (which is on, or preferably just below, the turned shoulder plane).

Checkpoint 2 (image 2) - when the left hand has moved down slightly further it is now on a shallower plane (intermediate between the turned shoulder plane and the elbow plane). The back of the flat left wrist should be parallel to this shallower plane. The butt end of the clubshaft should point at the ball-target line (point X) indicating that the clubshaft is on-plane. The clubshaft should cut across the right mid-lower biceps.  

Checkpoint 3 (image 3) - when the left hand has reached a position below waist level, the left hand should be on the elbow plane. The butt end of the clubshaft should point at the ball-target line (point Y) indicating that the clubshaft is on-plane. The clubshaft should appear in-line with the right forearm.

If the clubshaft passes through these checkpoints successfully, it indicates that the clubshaft has remained "on-plane" while smoothly and progressively shifting planes from the turned shoulder plane to the elbow plane. 

If a golfer can successfully get his clubshaft to the elbow plane by the delivery position using an on-plane swing action, then it much easier to get the clubshaft to remain on-plane between the delivery position and impact - because a golfer merely needs to allow his clubshaft to descend down towards the ball along its pre-determined path.


Clubshaft path - from the delivery position to the end of the followthrough position


The above composite photograph of Aaron Baddeley demonstrates how the clubshaft moves from the delivery position (position 1) to impact (position 2) and further onwards to the end of the followthrough (position 3). This motion of the clubshaft through the impact zone should occur automatically/naturally, and a golfer doesn't need to use any active wrist/hand manipulation technique during this phase of the golf swing to keep the clubshaft on-plane through the impact zone. The clubshaft will automatically remain on-plane if a golfer allows the appropriate hand/clubshaft motions to occur without any interference. The reason why it will occur naturally/automatically is due to the fact that the club has already released (due to the centrifugal action - due to the release of PA#2) and it will continue along its circular arced track if the golfer simply allows it to happen without any interference - without making any attempt to "steer" the golf club in a straight line direction towards the ball. If the clubshaft was "on-plane" on the elbow plane at the third parallel (delivery) position, then it will continue to run along the surface of that inclined plane if the golfer allows it to happen in a biomechanically natural manner.

The following video sequence shows a clubshaft traveling on an inclined plane board.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIw1DERYvps

In that video demonstration, I am simply allowing the clubshaft to remain on the surface of the plane board while it descends towards impact (low point of the clubhead arc), and continues onwards through impact (beyond the low point of the clubead arc). A golfer must imagine his clubshaft remaining on his "selected" impact plane (eg. elbow plane) through the impact zone - from position 1 to position 3 in the above composite photo of Aaron Baddeley - without making any attempt to alter the directional motion of the clubshaft during the clubshaft's passage through the impact zone.

Note that the clubface and back of Aaron Baddeley's flat left wrist/hand rotates about 90 degrees between the delivery position (position 1) and impact (position 2).  This 90 degree left hand/clubface rotation is primarily due to the release swivel action - a biomechanical phenomenon that can happen automatically/naturally, and that doesn't necessarily require conscious/deliberate thought. 

Consider the biomechanical actions that occur during the release swivel action - representing what Homer Kelley called the release of PA#3 [5].


Aaron Baddeley's release swivel action - capture images from his swing video [1]


Image 1 shows Aaron Baddeley approaching the delivery position - note that the left arm-clubshaft angle is approximately 90 degrees. Note how the club releases as it bypasses the P6 position and note how the clubshaft becomes progressively more straight-in-line with the left arm during the late downswing (images 2 and 3). This club release phenomenon (due to the release of PA#2) requires the left wrist to be relaxed so that it can passively uncock in the plane of left wrist cocking/uncocking and become level by impact (neither upcocked or downcocked), and this uncocking action of the left wrist occurs passively/automatically due to a centrifugal release phenomenon (due to the release of PA#2) and not due to any active left wrist uncocking action.

Also, note how the back of the flat left wrist (and right palm) partly faces the ball-target line in the early swivel phase of the downswing (images 1 and 2) and then note how the back of the flat left wrist (and right palm) faces the target by impact. This 90+ degree rotation of the flat left wrist occurs naturally/passively and it is partly due to external rotation of the left humerus at the level of the left shoulder socket and partly due to a left forearm supinatory movement. A golfer only needs to be relaxed so that these biomechanical actions can occur naturally/automatically/passively - the straight left arm naturally wants to adopt a *neutral position by low point (when the left hand is vertically below the left shoulder socket) if the golfer adopted a neutral left arm alignment at address. 

(* a neutral left arm is a left upper arm that is neither significantly internally rotated or externally rotated, and a left forearm that is neither significantly supinated or pronated).

Note that most of the rotation of the FLW/clubface occurs between the P6.5 and the P7 position - when the clubshaft has nearly caught up to the left arm and the clubshaft-and-left arm are nearly in a straight line relationship. This late rotation of the clubface is primarily due to rotation of the left forearm in a counterclockwise direction (due to a left forearm supinatory motion). If the left forearm supinatory motion occurs too early (between P6 and P6.5 when the clubshaft-left arm angle is still close to 45-90 degrees) it will throw the clubshaft off-plane - therefore, to keep the clubshaft on-plane between P6 and P7 a golfer must delay the release of PA#3. 

Most professional golfers use the release of PA#3 in their downswing action because they have a neutral left arm and neutral left hand grip at address/impact, but golfers who adopt a very strong left hand grip (4-knuckle grip) will not use a PA#3 release action in their downswing action. Golfers who adopt a slightly strong left hand grip (2-3 knuckle grip) will use less PA#3 release than golfers who adopt a weak left hand grip (1-knuckle grip).

It is important to understand why left hand grip strength has a major effect on the amount of PA#3 release action that must occur during the late downswing in order to square the clubface by impact. To understand this point, re-consider the factors that enable a golfer to hit the ball straight.

To hit the ball straight, a golfer must zero-out (square) the clubhead path and clubface orientation angle at impact (presuming a level strike on the sweetspot of the clubface). To zero-out the clubhead path at impact (presuming that the ball is placed at low point), a golfer must first generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead path through the impact zone.


Optimum in-to-square-to-in clubhead path for a straight ball flight


The blue line represents the ball-target line and the curved red arrowed line represents the clubhead arc through the impact zone. Note the symmetry of the clubhead arc to the ball-target line. To create a clubhead arc that is symmetrical to the ball-target line through the impact zone, a developing golfer first needs to learn *how to trace a straight plane line (SPL) and he also needs to learn how to keep the clubshaft on-plane during his downswing and early followthrough action - as previously described.

(* to see Martin Hall tracing a SPL with a Smartstick training tool, you can view his video at - http://smartstickgolf.com/why-it-works/plane. Click on the button to view the Martin Hall video)

Presuming that a developing golfer has already learned clubshaft control so that he can trace the SPL of the ball-target line, he then has to ensure that he sucessfully learns how to control the release of the clubhead (via a controlled release of PA#2) so that it becomes square to the target at low point (impact if the ball is placed at low point). That requires that he perfect the release of PA#2 so that the clubshaft catches up to the straight left arm by low point (which is vertically located below the left shoulder socket).

Presuming that a golfer has succesfully learned how to control the clubshaft, and also learned how to control his clubhead, then he needs to learn how to control his clubface through the impact zone so that he can consistently achieve a square clubface through the immediate impact zone (where the clubface is square to the clubhead arc and also square to the target). To learn how to achieve that goal, he needs to learn how to optimise his hand release action through the impact zone.

What represents the optimum hand release action pattern through the impact zone - a hand release action that will allow a golfer to consistently achieve a square clubface through the immediate impact zone?

I think that, from a purely theoretical perspective, that the optimum way for a golfer a to control the clubface through the impact zone is to simply keep the clubface square to the clubhead arc throughout the entire downswing action, so that the golfer doen't have to rotate the clubface to square during the later downswing (between P6 and P7). That will avoid a timing-issue problem that is intrinsic to the biomechanical process of having to rotate the clubface to square in the late downswing using the biomechanical mechanism of a release swivel action - what Homer Kelley called the release of PA#3 [5].

The following diagram shows a clubface that it square to the clubhead arc through the impact zone (between P6.5 and P7.5).


Diagram showing a clubface that is square to the clubhead arc through the impact zone

The straight/short black line represents the clubface, and I have drawn the clubface as being square to the clubhead arc during the entire passage of the clubhead through the impact zone. If the clubface is square to the clubhead arc throughout the entire downswing, and therefore during its entire passage through the general impact zone, then the clubface will automatically be square to the target at impact if the golfer has perfect clubshaft/clubhead control. Who uses this technique?

There are a few professional golfers who use this technique, and prime examples include two long-drive competitors (Jamie Sadlowski and Dominic Mazza) and one PGA tour golfer (David Duval). There are a number of other professional golfers who also use this technique, but it is not frequently seen because it is biomechanically very difficult to use this technique in a "real life" golf swing.

To use this technique (often called the square technique because the clubface is square to the clubhead arc throughout the entire backswing/downswing/followthrough), a golfer needs to adopt a very strong left hand grip (4 knuckle grip) at address. I will demonstrate the biomechanics of this square technique using Jamie Sadlowski as a role model.

Here is Jamie Sadlowski' swing action - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep-qidwgCII


Jamie Sadlowski's backswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows Jamie Sadlowski at address - note that he has internally rotated his left humerus and fully pronated his left forearm so that he can place his left palm directly over the top of his grip - this represents a very strong left hand grip (4-knuckle grip). Note that the back of his left wrist/hand is roughly parallel to the ball-target line at address.

Images 2-6 show his backswing action. Note that he can get the back of his left wrist/hand to be parallel to the inclined plane by his mid-backswing (images 3 and 4) by simply moving his left arm backwards - without needing to use a takeaway swivel action. He then keeps his left arm moving back during his mid-late backswing action while still keeping the back of his left wrist/hand parallel to the inclined plane. Note that his clubface is square to the clubhead arc during his entire backswing action. I think that it requires enormous flexibility of the torso and left scapula (which has to rotate the left shoulder socket around-to-the-right), and also enormous shoulder joint flexibility, to be able to successfully perform this square technique backswing action.

If Jamie Sadlowski didn't have to rotate his clubface open during the backswing, and if he kept the clubface square to his clubhead arc during his entire backswing action, then he will obviously not have to counter-rotate his left arm, and therefore clubface, in the opposite direction during his downswing action.

Consider Jamie Sadlowski's late downswing action.


Jamie Sadlowski's late downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows him at the P6 position (delivery position) and image 4 shows him at the P7 position (impact). Note that the back of his left forearm/left wrist/left hand remains roughly parallel to the ball-target line between P6 and P7, and this ensures that his clubface remains square to the clubhead arc during this entire time period. Note that the ulnar border of his left wrist/hand (and not the back of his FLW) is facing the target at impact. Note that if Jamie Sadlowski can perfect his club release phenomenon so that the clubhead catches-up to his left lower arm by impact, then his clubface will automatically be square to the target at impact, and he doesn't have to perform a rotary left hand release action (release swivel action - PA#3 release action) between P6.5 and P7.

Now, although this square technique is mechanically very advantageous, the majority of professional and skilled amateur golfers do not use this technique - presumably because it is biomechanically too difficult and too uncomfortable to perform this square technique. The majority of professional golfers adopt a *neutral left arm and neutral left hand grip at address, and that means that they must roll their left hand into impact in the late downswing in order to square the clubface.

(* I define a neutral left arm as a situation where the left humerus is neutral [not significantly internally or externally rotated at address] and where the left forearm is neutral [left forearm is not significantly pronated or supinated at address] and I define a neutral left hand grip as being either weak [1-knuckle grip] or neutral [2-knuckle grip])

As an example of a golfer, who uses a neutral left arm and neutral left hand grip - let's consider the swing action of Ernie Els.

Consider this Ernie Els swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5cK-INFcCc


Ernie Els' backswing action - capture images from his swing video 

Image 1 shows Ernie Els at address (P1 position). Note that his left arm/forearm is neutral at address and that the back of his geometrically flat left wrist (GFLW) faces the target. Note that his clubface is straight-in-line/parallel to the back of his GFLW.

Image 2 shows Ernie Els at his end-takeaway position (P2 position). Note that he has rotated the back of his GFLW about 90 degrees to get the toe of the club pointing upwards - and, from a biomechanical perspective, this biomechanical action is due to some internal rotation of the left humerus (while the left shoulder socket is moving downwards-and-backwards due to rotation of his upper torso around his rightwards-tilted spine) and due to some left forearm pronation. This rotary motion of the left arm/forearm (that allows the back of the FLW to become parallel to the inclined plane by the P2 position) represents the takeaway swivel action

Image 3 shows him in his mid-backswing when the left arm is parallel to the ground (P3 position). Note that the back of his GFLW is still parallel to the inclined plane - and it may require a small amount of further clockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm to get the back of his GFLW to lie parallel to the surface of the inclined plane.

Image 4 shows him at the end-backswing postion (P4 position). Note that the back of his GFLW is still parallel to the inclined plane.

Note that Ernie Els never allows his left wrist to bend (dorsiflex) or arch/bow (palmar flex) during his backswing action, and his clubface is always parallel (straight-in-line) to the back of his GFLW throughout his backswing action. Note that his clubshaft is also always straight-in-line with his left arm from the P2 position to the P4 position - which means that he has an intact LAFW during his backswing action.

As a general rule (for a golfer who adopts a neutral left arm/forearm at address), the amount of clockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm required to get from the P1 position to the P4 position depends on the shallowness of the backswing's inclined plane - a golfer whose hands go up a shallower inclined plane will have to use more clockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm than a golfer whose hands go up a steeper inclined plane.

Note that the clubface is opening relative to the clubhead arc during the backswing action, and that it is roughly parallel to the inclined plane during the late backswing (which means that the clubface is significantly open relative to the clubhead arc). 

What happens in the downswing? It is obvious that the biomechanical process must reverse itself so that the back of his FLW, and therefore clubface, can face the target at impact - and that means that there must be a counterclockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm in the downswing. But when does it occur? It is important for a golfer to understand that most of the counterclockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm only occurs between the P6.5 position and impact (P7 position). In the early-mid downswing (between the P4 position and the P6 position), the GFLW will remain parallel to the inclined plane, which means that there is very little counterclockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm happening during this phase of the downswing. What happens after the P6 position?


Ernie Els late downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 - P6 position - note that Ernie Els' GFLW is parallel to the inclined plane, which explains why his clubface is also parallel to the inclined plane and why the clubface is open to the clubhead arc. Ernie Els still has to rotate his intact LAFW, and therefore clubface, to get the clubface square by impact.

Image 2 shows Ernie at the P6.5 position. Note that the club has released, and that it has released in the plane of the LAFW. In other words, Ernie Els has released PA#2 by approximately 75%, but he has still not started to significantly release PA#3 (note that the back of his left wrist/hand is still nearly parallel to the inclined plane and it is only partailly angled relative to the ball-target line).

Image 3 shows Ernie Els at impact (P7 position) with a clubface that is square to the clubhead arc, and both the back of his FLW and clubface face the target. To get from the P6.5 position to the P7 position, he needed to perform a release swivel action (release of PA#3) that is biomechanically due to a left forearm supination movement combined with external rotation of the left humerus (while the left shoulder socket continues to rotate up-and-away). This is the key biomechanical maneuver that all swingers (who use a neutral left hand grip) have to execute between P6.5 and P7 in order to square the clubface by impact, and it also represents the rotation of an intact LAFW into impact (while the club completes its CF-release action within the plane of the LAFW).

The following diagram shows how the clubface rotates from an open (to the clubhead arc) alignment in the first half of the late downswing to a square alignment by the time the clubhead reaches the ball-target line.


Diagram depicting the rotation of the clubface between the P6 and the P7 position
 

Note that the clubface is open to the clubhead arc between the P6 position and the P6.5 position, and it rotates to square between the P6.5 position and the P7 position due to the biomechanical actions that are responsible for the release of PA#3 (release swivel action). These biomechanical actions can happen automatically/naturally and they do not necessarily require conscious thought. 

Note how Ernie Els' right arm also straightens during the late downswing, and note how the right palm faces the target at impact. This right arm straightening action causes the right forearm to paddlewheel into impact, and that right forearm paddlewheeling motion can synergistically assist in the smooth release of PA#3 if it is perfectly timed. It is critical that a golfer doesn't straighten the right arm too actively in the late downswing, which can interefere with the smooth release of either PA#2 or PA#3. A golfer should have the distinct "feeling" that both hands are moving at the same speed between the P6 position and impact.

It is also important to realise that the left forearm supinatory motion must stop at impact (when the clubface is square to the target) and a golfer should not continue to supinate the left forearm beyond impact.

A golfer should also never attempt to actively roll the left hand into impact via an active hand-wrist rollover action that causes the left forearm to continue to supinate beyond impact.

Some golf instructors incorrectly teach a swing methodology where they recommend that a golfer actively roll the hands over through the impact zone - and this active hand roll-over action is called a hand crossover release action.

Here is a link to AJ Bonar's article on his "magic move" - http://www.golf.com/golf/instruction/article/0,28136,1565175-1,00.html

AJ Bonar uses this composite photo in his article to demonstrate his magic move - which is an active hand crossover release action through the impact zone.

 

AJ Bonar's Magic Move - an active hand crossover release action through impact

In this composite photo, one can see that the right hand is pronating while the left hand is supinating post-impact (image 3) and one can see that this roll-over action is happening while the hands are below waist level.

AJ Bonar recommends that a golfer perform the hand roll-over action in the following manner-: "Now the fun part! About two or three feet before your hands reach impact, assertively rotate them toward the target. Imagine you're gripping a screwdriver and turning it counterclockwise. This closes the clubface, generating big-time power."

This "active hand roll-over action" golf tip recommendation is terrible advice, because the success of this "magic move" depends on perfect timing through the impact zone. Professional golfers don't use this "magic move" maneuver, because they cannot hope to time the move correctly. If a professional golfer cannot master this move, what's the likelihood of an amateur golfer mastering this "magic move"?  Even AJ Bonar concedes that perfect timing is required, and in his article he concedes that imperfect timing can cause a hooked shot (if the clubface closes too much by impact).  On page 4 of his article he answers a hypothetical question:

"Q. I'm hooking it. Now what should I do?

Don't panic. That means you're turning the face over, which is a good thing. But you're doing it too early. You want to feel that your right palm is facing the target at the moment of impact. Try holding off turning over your hands until they pass the ball. Also, experiment with opening the clubface even more at address. I like about 10 degrees, but more or less may work for you."

Note how he addresses the issue of a hooking problem due to an imperfect performance of the "magic move". He states that the hooking problem is due to a too-early turn-over of the clubface (due to a too-early supination roll-over action of the left hand and/or too-early pronation roll-over action of the right hand) and he recommends that the golfer should delay the clubface roll-over action. However, that represents a huge "timing" problem and it is very unlikely that an amateur golfer can perfect the timing required to consistently execute a perfectly timed clubface roll-over action. His second solution is even more ridiculous! He suggests opening the clubface at address by 10 degrees to compensate for a too-early clubface roll-over action. Now, a beginner golfer is forced to juggle with two interacting factors - trying to determine the amount the clubface should be open at address to counteract the effect of a too-early clubface roll-over action. 

All golfers must avoid this active hand roll-over action through the impact zone (between the third parallel and the fourth parallel postions), and they must clearly understand the biomechanics that cause the clubface to naturally roll-over during the clubhead's passage through the impact zone.

If a golfer has a problem squaring the clubface by impact, then he must first determine the "true" cause, and secondarily remedy that causal problem, rather than attempt to use any unreliable active hand manipulation technique in the impact zone. A golfer must think of his hands as being clamps on either side of the club's grip, and he must swing the club through the impact zone without attempting to actively manipulate the club in the vicinity of the ball. I have discussed this issue in great detail in my review paper "How to Move the Arms, Wrists and Hands in the Golf Swing" and also in the accompanying swing video lessons.

 

Rhythm

 

One of the most important concepts in a swinger's full golf swing action is the concept of rhythm. I believe that the best definition of rhythm as it pertains to a full golf swing is the idea that the motion of the rotating body and rotating arms/club should be perfectly synchronised so that the body and arms rotate at the same rpm during the downswing/followthrough giving a golfer a distinct "feeling" that he is keeping the arms in front of his rotating body at all times during the mid-late downswing and followthrough. The best video example of a rhythmic golf swing that I have found is this Annika Sorenstam video where she is performing a practice drill with a yellow plastic ball wedged between her arms.

Annika Sorenstam swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ODdv5pmib4

Here are capture images from that video


Annika Sorenstam's downswing/followthrough swing action - capture images from her swing video


Note that her straight left arm is parallel to the ground in image 1 and that her straight right arm is parallel to the ground in image 3. Between image 1 and image 3, she is rotating her upper body and arms 180 degrees. Note that the ball remains centralised in front of her rotating mid-upper torso during the entire 180 degreees of rotary motion, which means that her ams are always traveling at the same rpm as her rotating torso. That's a great example of perfect rhythm!

A golfer must avoid swinging in an unsynchronised manner - where the body out-races the arms, or where the arms out-race the body. In other words, an idealised golf swing not only consists of a perfected pivot action and a perfected arm motion, but it also requies that there be perfect synchrony between the torso motion and the arm motion.

 

Further downswing insights - presented in a question-and-answer format.

 

I will progressively add more content to this section over a period of time.

 

Question number 1

Does increasing pelvic rotational speed increase swing power?

Answer:

Not necessarily.

Watch the following swing video of Anthony Kim's swing and listen to the TV commentator's comments.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8finF6n64Qg

This TV commentator, like many TV golf commentators, is very unknowledgeable regarding golf biomechanics. He is making the irrational claim that Anthony Kim can generate a great deal of swing power because he has "fast hips" and that "fast hips" produces a large degree of torso-pelvic separation at impact (hips more open than the shoulders at impact) - and that this "increased degree of torso-pelvic separation at impact" phenomenon is causallly responsible for Anthony Kim's considerable swing power. This assertion is wrong-headed!  In fact, if the hips (pelvis) outruns the upper torso and/or arms, then it is more likely that a golfer will have less effective swing power because he is swinging in an asynchronous/non-rhythmic manner that will likely prevent the pivot action from releasing PA#4 in an optimally efficient manner.

What happens if a golfer has a very assertive pelvic shift-rotation movement at the start of the downswing that causes his lower body to outrace the upper body? What will likely happen is that the arms will get left far behind and get stuck behind the right hip - and this phenomenon causes "blocking". This "blocking problem" has always plagued Tiger Woods' swing, and he is always fighting this problem. Consider a comparison of Tiger Woods swing from age 16 years versus age 24 years.


Tiger Woods swing - from reference number [7]


This comparison photograph of Tiger Woods' swing - aged 16 years (image 1) and aged 24 years (image 2) - was copied from his book [7]. Note that Tiger Woods' pelvis was nearly 90 degrees open to the target when he was 16 years of age, compared to about 45 degrees open when he was 24 years of age. Tiger Woods has always had very fast hips, and he has stated that "too fast hips" has been a life-long problem for him. He stated that when his pelvis rotates too fast in the downswing, that his arms get trapped behind his mid-upper torso and that he gets "blocked", which means that he has difficulty getting his arms around his right hip in the downswing. If he gets severely blocked, then he cannot square the clubface and he ends up pushing the ball to the right. He has also stated that he can sometimes "rescue the shot" and get the ball to fly straight by snap-flipping his hands through the impact zone in order to close the face down by impact. Tiger Woods has stated that he tries very hard to prevent his lower body moving too fast (relative to his upper body), and that he always tries to achieve better synchrony between the lower torso's rotational movement and the upper torso's rotational movement in the downswing.

It is very important that a golfer realise that the kinetic sequence must evolve in a set sequence of accelerations/decelerations, and that if a golfer wants to hit the ball further by rotating his pelvis faster, then he must also be physically capable of performing the entire kinetic sequence faster. If a golfer cannot get the upper body, and arms, to also rotate appropriately faster when he starts the downswing with a very fast lower body shift-rotational movement, then his swing will become uncoordinated/asynchronised, and that will result in a loss of swing power and control.

Another important point is that the "true" cause of increased swing power in a pivot-driven swing (actuated by a faster pelvis shift-rotational movement) comes from an ability to swing the left arm faster (release power accumulator #4 faster). Power accumulator #4 is released by the upper torso, and not the lower torso, and one also needs to rotate the upper torso faster in order to generate a greater degree of swing power. An additional point that a golfer needs to understand is that the entire power package assemply release phenomenon must still remain synchronised and it must always occur in a set power accumulator release sequence (PA#4 release => PA#2 release => PA#3 release). A golfer will not get the clubhead to swing faster through impact in a controlled manner if he releases power accumulator #4 faster, and if he gets the left arm to freewheel towards impact at a faster speed -  if he is physically incapable of also speeding up the release of power accumulator #2, and then power accumulator #3, in a very synchronised manner, that allows him to square the clubface by impact, so that he can hit the ball squarely on the sweetspot. It is very easy to swing the hands down to impact very fast, but it is not easy to get the clubshaft/clubhead to keep up with the hands. If the hands get to impact well ahead of the clubshaft/clubhead, then the clubface will likely be too open at impact and this will predispose to push-sliced shots. Experienced golfers (who use a neutral left hand grip) learn that their left arm/hand has to slow down momentarily just prior to impact, so that they can efficiently complete a release swivel action that will allow them to square the clubface by impact. 



Question number 2:

Ben Hogan stated in his book [4] that he wished that he had "three right hands". Does that mean that Hogan was a hitter, and that he used right arm/hand power to hit the ball with increased force?

Answer

This question has been endlessly debated in many online golf discussion forums, and many forum participants have unequivocally stated that they "know" that Hogan was a hitter who used his right forearm/hand to supply increased swing power. The problem with their assertions is that their assertions are unsupported by any scientific/visual evidence and their assertions are also logically incoherent from a biomechanical/mechanical perspective. They often claim that Hogan "hit with his right hand" when he entered the "hitting zone" - the impact zone between the 3rd parallel position and the impact position. However, I have never read a theoretical explanation that could rationally explain how Hogan could efficiently apply increased "hit power" with his right hand during the late downswing.

Between the 3rd parallel position (P6 position) and impact, the clubshaft is traveling extremely fast in a swinger who has sequentially released power accumulator #4, and then power accumulator #2, in an optimised manner. I cannot understand how a golfer can efficiently apply additional push-pressure against the grip end of the clubshaft (at pressure point #1 and/or pressure point #3) using his right arm/hand at this late time point in the downswing in order to increase clubhead speed - if the golfer has an optimised release of power accumulator #4 and then power accumulator #2.

Ben Hogan addressed this question in his book [4] when he stated-: ""What is the correct integrated motion the two arms and hands make as they approach the ball and hit through it? What does it feel like as it is happening? Well, if there is any motion in sports which it resembles, it is the old two-handed baseketball pass, from the right side of the body."

Hogan used the following diagram of a two-handed basketball pass in his book [4].

 

Two handed basketball pass - from reference number [4]


Hogan stated that one should imagine throwing the heavy ball towards the bulls eye of a target situated about 5 feet away. This throw motion is a two-handed motion involving the rotation of the torso and arms while the hands are situated on opposite sides of the ball. The motion does not involve any independent forearm rotary movements below the elbow in a twisting (corkscrew) motion as that would cause the ball to rotate around an imaginary horizontal axis passing through the center of the ball while the ball is being thrown towards the target. The throwing motion primarily involves a rotation of the torso and the arms at the same rpm so that the golfer "feels" that the ball is always in front of the rotating torso until the ball's release point. That's the "feeling" a golfer should experience when swinging his arms across the front of his rotating body - the arms should swing in perfect synchrony with the rotating torso, and the hands should "feel" like passive clamps on either side side of the grip end of the clubshaft.

If you think more deeply about this two-handed basketball pass, then you should realise that the two hands have to work in perfect unison, and the left hand should not pull the basketball faster than the right hand is pushing the basketball (and vica versa). The same analogy applies to a golf swing - the left hand is pulling the grip end of the golf club (secondary to the release of power accumulator #4 which causes the left arm to freewheel at a fast speed towards impact) and the right hand is pushing against the grip end of the club via pressure point number #1 (secondary to a right elbow straightening action). The right elbow has to actively straighten in the late downswing, so that the bent right wrist/hand can apply increased push-pressure against pressure point #1 and synergistically help in maintaing the forward speed of motion of the grip end of the club, but the right hand must not apply excessive push-pressure - because the right hand should not push the grip end of the club forward faster than the left hand is pulling the grip end of the club forward. A golfer should "feel" his right elbow actively straightening in the late downswing/followthrough phases of the swing, and the right triceps muscle must contract with enough active force to allow the right hand to keep up with the left hand. However, a golfer (who is a swinger) should never "feel" that the right hand is pushing the grip end of the club faster than the left hand is pulling the grip end of the club. The two hands have to work in perfect unison - as a perfectly synchronised unitary club-grip propelling structure. Hogan stated in his book [4] that the left hand must hit with the same amount of force as the right hand! If a golfer really had the equivalent of "three right hands", then the right hand would very likely overpower the left hand! I think that if a golfer has an irrepressible urge to hit with the right hand, then he should seriously consider becoming a hitter and not a swinger.

To those golfers who persist in believing that they need to power the golf swing with the right hand when the club reaches the impact zone (between the P6 position and impact) - while still being a left arm swinger who uses a triple barrel 4:2:3 power accumulator release sequence - consider this swing video of an one-armed swinger.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUTk7m5PozQ

Note how fast he pivots his torso during the downswing and note how fast he swings his left arm due to an efficient release of PA#4. Also, note how fast his club releases in the mid-downswing due to the passive release of PA#2. How would that golfer use his right arm/hand to get his clubshaft to move faster in the late downswing - considering the efficacy of his sequential release of power accumulator PA#4 and then PA#2? I believe that any attempt to "hit with the right arm/hand" in the late downswing will more likely interfere with his efficient CF-induced club release action and it may actually result in a decrease in clubhead speed. A golfer can definitely hit the ball further using two-arms, compared to using only the left arm alone, but only if the right arm is applying push-pressure at PP#1 in perfect synchrony with the left arm's grip-pulling action (due to an efficient pivot-induced release of PA#4).

I have discussed this issue in much greater detail in my Hand Release Actions Through the Impact Zone review paper and my Critical Review: Brian Manzella's Release Ideas review paper.

 

Question number 3:  

Some golfers think of the left-side of their torso pulling, rather than the right-side of their torso pushing, in their downswing. What is the correct "feeling" that a golfer (who is a swinger) should attempt to acquire (with respect to his torso) during his downswing?

Answer:

I think that is biomechanically disadvantageous to think of the pivoting torso exhibiting a "left-sided pull-force" rather than a "right-sided push force" if a golfer uses an active pivot-induced downswing action to release PA#4.

I believe that the human torso is an unitary structure, and I believe that a golfer should not attempt to rotate the left-side of the upper torso faster/differently than the right side of the upper torso when using an active pivot-induced swing action. I believe that when a golfer rotates the upper torso in space during a pivot-driven downswing, that the entire upper torso should rotate as a single unit, and a golfer should not attempt to rotate the left-side of the upper torso faster than the right-side of the upper torso. Now, although the upper torso should optimally rotate as single unit, it may "feel" that the left-side is doing the pulling if a golfer is a "pure" left-arm swinger who uses a reactive pivot action (rather than a swinger who uses an active pivot-induced release of PA#4 swing action).

Consider Leslie King's "left-arm swing" swing methodology.

Here is a link to Leslie King's opinions on his method of starting the downswing with a pulling of the left arm downplane while keeping the shoulders back.

http://www.golftoday.co.uk/proshop/tuition/lesson11.html

Here is a copy of Leslie King's instructional statements from that lesson.

Now, maintaining the shoulders in the fully turned position, we simply commence the downward swing of the left hand and arm. That is how the downswing starts, and nothing could be simpler!

I stress again, the SHOULDERS MUST REMAIN IN THE FULLY TURNED POSITION at the beginning of the downswing! The same left foot action that has "charged" the hands with power is enabling us to control the shoulders.

By keeping the shoulders fully turned the left hand and arm can swing freely from the left shoulder, taking the club-head down into the ball on a club line that will result in a swing into and along the line of flight through impact.

Hold your shoulders in the fully turned position as the left hand and arm begins to swing down... this ensures good club line through the ball.


In other words, Leslie King recommends the immediate release of PA#4 at the very start of the downswing - while keeping the right shoulder back. This will result in a sweep release action if the right shoulder is held back while the left arm is pulled downwards-and-forwards towards the ball. There is no pivot-thrust action in his swing methodology and the torso pivots reactively to support the movement of the left arm across the front of the body.

When using Leslie King's left arm swing methodology, one is using left shoulder girdle muscles to pull the left arm across the front of the torso.

Here is a diagram demonstrating the left-sided torso muscles that are used to pull the left arm across the front of the torso when using Leslie King's left-arm swing style.


Left shoulder girdle muscles - image derived from reference number [8]


The left shoulder girdle muscles (colored in red) are used to pull the left arm away from the chest wall in a "pure" left arm swinger's action, and a golfer who uses that swing style will experience a left-sided pulling "feel" on the left-side of the torso. 

However, when a swinger uses a traditional/conventional pivot-driven swing, the downswing starts from the bottom-up with a lower body shift-rotation movement, and the upper torso moves secondarily. A golfer should "feel" the upper torso being pulled by the lower torso (with a variable degree of torso-pelvic separation, which primarily depends on a golfer's level of spinal rotary flexibility), but the entire upper torso should move as a single cohesive unit when the shoulders start to rotate perpendicularly around the rightwards-tilted spine, and there shouldn't be a "feeling" of the left-side of the upper torso pulling away from the right-side of the upper torso. Instead, there should be a "feeling" that the right shoulder is simultaneously moving downplane while the left shoulder moves away from the chin in the early downswing, and that synchronous motion allows the power package to remain intact between the P4 postion and the P5 position, and it allows the rotation of the torso and rotation of the arms to be more rhythmically synchronised. 

 

Question number 4:

Do you think that a golfer will hit the ball a longer distance if he uses JimMcLean's X-factor principle?

Answer:

No.

Jim McLean believes that a golfer should restrict the pelvic turn in the backswing, so that a golfer can rotate/coil the upper torso against the resistance of a lower torso's restricted backswing turn. Theoretically, that should allow a golfer to stretch-tighten the mid torso muscles, which should theoretically produce a greater force of upper torso elastic-uncoiling in the downswing (partially based on the idea of the muscular stretch-shorten cycle principle). I discussed this issue in great depth in my review paper on Jim Mclean's triple X factor - a critical review.

I don't believe that there is any solid evidence that demonstrates that golfers who use the X-factor principle (of creating an increased amount of torso-pelvic separation in the backswing by restricting their hip turn) hit the ball further than golfers who allow their pelvis to rotate freely in the backswing.

Consider the swings of two long hitters - Sam Snead and Phil Mickelson. They both allow their pelvis to rotate freely in the backswing, and they both have no problem hitting a golf ball a long distance.

Sam Snead

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i63JYlDUHN8

Phil Mickelson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrJjTJcIMhY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtEfOAruVco

The reason why they can both drive the ball a long way is because they have a full backswing that allows for a complete loading of power accumulator #4 (left arm loaded against the left upper chest wall during the backswing). They also have a superb downswing pivot action that allows them to fully and efficiently release power accumulator #4. If a golfer can get the left arm to swing freely and fast towards impact in the downswing, then he will hit the ball a long way. Power accumulator #4 is called the master power accumulator, and it supplies most of the swing power in a left arm swinger's action.

A very convincing demonstration of how effectively one can release PA#4 without using the X-factor principle can be seen in Shawn Clement's one-leg swing video lesson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2FnfZlRwak

Here is a composite capture image from that swing video lesson.


Shawn Clement's one-leg swing action


Note how freely Shawn Clement rotates his pelvis back during the backswing. He essentially has zero X-factor in his swing because he rotates his pelvis back as far back as he rotates his shoulders. Yet, he can still hit the ball over 200 yards with his five-iron while swinging in this manner. If you watch his swing action in that swing video, you will understand why - it is because he loads PA#4 adequately during the backswing and unloads PA#4 very efficiently during the downswing, thereby allowing the left arm to swing at an optimum speed in the late downswing.

The important learning point, from a developing golfer's perspective, is that a left arm swinger primarily needs to release PA#4 fluidly and efficiently and produce a free flowing left arm swing motion that reaches its maximum speed in the late downswing (and not the early downswing) - if he wants to hit the ball a long way. Some golfers will generate their maximum clubhead speed using a great deal of torso-pelvic separation, while other golfers will generate their maximum clubhead speed using a swing style that allows for a greater amount of pelvic rotation during their backswing action (ala Sam Snead).

 

Question number 5:

What is the optimum clubshaft downswing plane angle (angle of the clubshaft's inclined plane) when the club reaches the impact zone?

Answer:

There is no perfect answer to this question.

When the golf club reaches impact, it should roughly be at a 40-60 degrees angle relative to the ground. The exact amount depends on the club - shorther clubs are swung along a steeper inclined angle than long irons and woods. In general, there is an advantage to having a shallow angle of attack when using a driver and woods, because one wants to have the clubhead traveling nearly parallel to the ground as it approaches the ball. The clubhead swingpath of a driver should be U-shaped and relatively shallow in the region of the impact zone.

Consider the clubhead swingpath of Aaron Baddeley's driver swing.


Aaron Baddeley's clubhead arc - capture image from a swing video [1]


Note that the clubhead is still descending down to the ball pre-impact (within a distance of 18" of the ball), but note that the clubhead swing path is shallow, and not steep, in the immediate vicinity of the ball. One can get a better idea of the clubshaft's inclined plane angle as the clubhead approaches impact when viewing the swing from a DTL view.


Aaron Baddeley's clubhead path - capture image from a swing video [1]


Note that the clubshaft is moving on an inclined plane that is near the elbow plane when the clubhead is below waist level. Most professional golfers have their clubshaft near the elbow plane (either just above the elbow plane - nearer the TSP, or just below the elbow plane - nearer the hand plane) when their clubshaft is traveling below waist level in the downswing.

A good method of ensuring that one is not coming down too steeply is to examine one's DTL swing video when the clubshaft passes the toe line.


Tiger Woods clubhead attack angle - capture image from a swing video


In this photo, I used a spline tool to trace the path of Tiger Woods' clubhead through the mid-downswing (red curved line). Imagine an imaginary vertical glass wall placed just in front of Tiger's toes - represented by the yellow line. Note that the clubhead would crash through the imaginary glass wall at the level of Tiger's right knee. That is a sign of a shallow clubshaft attack angle. If the clubshaft crashes through that imaginary glass wall above waist level, then the clubshaft is too far off the "optimum" inclined plane and the clubshaft attack angle is too steep - frequently due to starting the downswing with an OTT "upper body dive" move (rather than a lower body pelvic shift-rotation move). The clubshaft's inclined plane angle in the impact zone (between the P6 position and impact) should optimally be "somewhere" between the TSP and the hand plane (crashing through the imaginary glass wall "somewhere" between the waist and the right knee).

What mechanical/biomechanical factors affect the steepness of the angle of the inclined plane that the clubshaft travels on during the clubshaft's passage through the general impact zone (between the P6 position and the P8 position)?

Consider a diagram of two golfers who have their clubshaft on different inclined planes in the general impact zone.


Diagram showing the clubshaft plane through the impact zone


The black line represents the legs and the blue line represents the spinal bend inclination angle of the torso. The green line represents the straight left arm and the orange line represents the clubshaft. The curved red-arrowed line shows the size of the accumulator #3 angle between the left arm and clubshaft. The size of the accumulator #3 angle is greater if that angle is smaller (and more acute) - as seen in image 1, and the accumulator #3 angle is less if that angle is more obtuse and closer to 180 degrees - as seen in image 2. A major factor that affects the accumulator #3 angle is the way the golfer holds the grip end of the club in his left palm - a mid-palmar or high palmar left hand grip decreases the size of the accumulator #3 angle and makes the clubshaft and left arm become aligned in a near straight line at address/impact, while a finger left hand grip increases the size of the accumulator #3 angle and creates a clearly visible acute angle between the left arm and clubshaft at address/impact. A second major factor that affects that left arm/clubshaft angle through impact is the angle of the left arm (relative to the ground) at impact. In image 1, the left arm is near vertical at impact, and that promotes a larger accumulator #3 angle, while the accumulator #3 angle is less if the golfer angles his left arm more outwards through impact - as demonstrated in image 2.

Consider two golfers who manifest a different accumulator #3 angle, and who have their clubshaft on different inclined planes, through the impact zone - Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson.

Sergio Garcia.

Sergio Garcia approaching impact - capture images from a swing video


Note that Sergio Garcia's clubshaft is on a shallow plane at impact (close to the hand plane - note that the butt end of his club points at his belt). Note that his left arm is near-vertical at impact and note that he has a significant accumulator #3 angle at impact.

Phil Mickelson.


Phil Mickelson through impact - capture images from a swing video


Note that Phil Mickelson's clubshaft is on a steeper inclined plane through impact (and it is just under the TSP - represented by the red line drawn between the ball and his rear shoulder in image 1). Note that his lead arm is angled away from his body through impact and the lead arm and clubshaft are nearly in a straight line (representing a smaller accumulator #3 angle). Note that Phil Mickelson uses a CF-arm release action and a full-roll hand release action through impact. 

As a general rule, golfers (like Phil Mickelson) who use a full-roll hand release action and CF-arm release action are more likely to have their clubshaft on a steeper plane through impact, while golfers who use a no-roll hand release action and CP-arm release action are more likely to have their clubshaft on a shallower plane through impact. It is also more likely that golfers who have their clubshaft on a shallow plane through the impact zone (like Sergio Garcia) have a more bent-over posture and more lateral lateral bend of their spine through impact, while golfers who have their clubshaft on a steeper plane through impact are more likely to have a more erect posture (more "standing-up" posture) through impact. Finally, golfers who have their clubshaft on a steeper plane through the impact zone (like Phil Mickelson) will likely have their right shoulder traveling on a more horizontal downswing plane through impact, while golfers who have their clubshaft on a shallower plane through the impact zone (like Sergio Garcia) will likely have their  right shoulder traveling on a steeper downswing plane through impact.

 

Question number 6:

Should the rear shoulder's motional path be parallel to the clubshaft plane in the late downswing and at impact - as recommended by Mike Jacobs in the following video presentation-:  http://vimeo.com/32528723?

Answer:

No!

Mike Jacobs' opinionated "belief" that the right shoulder should move parallel to the clubshaft through the late downswing and through impact is irrational and totally wrongheaded.

Here is Mike Jacobs demonstrating his "belief" that the right shoulder's path must be parallel to the clubshaft through impact.


Mike Jacobs demonstrating the path of the rear shoulder through impact - capture image from his swing video


The orange-colored stick represents the plane of his rear shoulder's path through impact and it is parallel to the clubshaft at impact.

Mie Jacob's video presentation is totally artificial and unrelated to a "real life" golfer's swing biomechanics. Mike Jacobs talks about a "tabletop swing" where he swings the clubshaft parallel to the ground (as if the clubshaft is traveling parallel to the surface of a tabletop) while i) standing erect, while ii) keeping his spine vertical to the ground, and while ii) angling his right arm, right forearm and right wrist in a particular manner that will allow the clubshaft to travel horizontal to the ground in a "tabletop swing" manner. He then bends over at the waist (thereby mimicking the forward spinal bend posture of a golfer) and swings the clubshaft at an angle to the ground i) while maintaining a constant spinal bend angle, ii) while avoiding any secondary axis tilt or lateral bending of his spine/upper torso and iii) while maintaining the same right arm, right forearm and right wrist angles, and under those particular/arbitrary circumstances the right shoulder will obviously move parallel to the clubshaft (as he demonstrates in his video). However, that video scenario is artificial and over-simplistic, because it doesn't take into account the many biomechanical factors that can affect the path of the rear shoulder in the late downswing - i) the degree of mid-thoracic forward bending of the spine thast causes the upper torso to become more bent-over than the mid-torso, ii) the degree of secondary axis tilt and the consequent degree of rightwards tilt of the lumbar spine and mid-torso, iii) the degree of lateral bend of the upper spine (relative to the lower spine) which affects the degree of lateral bend of the upper torso relative to the mid-torso and the iv) the degree of right shoulder depression (secondary to a right clavicular motion at the right sterno-manubrial joint) that may be present (to a variable degree) in an individual golfer. I discussed these biomechanical factors (that can influence the path of motion of the rear shoulder in the downswing) in the main section of this chapter. The issue of the rear shoulder's motional path in the downswing is very complex, and discerning golfers should avoid being influenced by over-simplistic biomechanical explanations that are unrelated to "real life" golf swing biomechanics.   

 

Question number 7:

Is it a good idea to start the downswing by kicking-in the right knee?

Answer:

No.

There are some golf instructors who teach their golf students to kick-in their right knee at the start of the downswing. I think that it is not a good idea to start the downswing by thinking of either the right knee and/or right hip, because it may encourage the right hip to spin outwards prematurely at the start of the downswing. If the right buttock prematurely leaves the tush line, it may cause the right pelvis to spin outwards in a rotary manner. If the right pelvis spins outwards excessively at the start of the downswing, it will likely cause the right shoulder to also spin too much outwards in the form of a horizontal/roundhousing OTT move.

A golfer should preferably have the *distinct "feeling" of keeping the right buttock back on the tush line at the start of the downswing. It is perfectly acceptable to push off the inside of the right foot at the start of the downswing as one transfers weight onto the lead foot. In fact, for many golfers, pushing off the inside of the right foot is a very desirable method of initiating the weight shift onto the left foot and it may cause the right knee to move slightly inwards (in the direction of the left knee) and it will cause the right thigh to slope towards the target. It will also cause the right foot to roll inwards and that's also perfectly acceptable. However, pushing off the inside of the right foot at the start of the downswing shouldn't cause the right knee to move outwards in the direction of the ball-target line prematurely (at the very start of the downswing). There should rather be a "feeling" of the pelvis shifting left-laterally at the start of the downswing (which causes the right thigh to slant more in the direction of the target), but the primary "feeling" should primarily be of the left pelvis being pulled back towards the tush line (rather than the right pelvis moving outwards away from the tush line).

See this Shawn Clement video for more detail on this issue.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNwSfz0_KDM

Note how his right thigh slants more towards the target as a result of the pelvis shift-rotation movement that initiates the downswing. Note that his right knee only moves inwards slightly during this time period when he is shifting his pelvis left-laterally. Note that his right knee only moves outwards in the late downswing when his pelvis rotates to face the target.

Consider this swing video of Phil Mickelson's swing. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ISYYkjiwzDk

Here are capture images from that swing video.


Phil Mickelson's downswing pelvic action - capture images from his swing video


I have drawn a red line against the back of his rear (left) buttocks when Phil Mickelson (a lefty) is at his end-backswing position (image 1) and that red line represents the tush line.

Image 2 shows his early downswing pelvic action - note how much he has pulled his lead (right) pelvis back towards the tush line while still keeping his rear (left) buttocks against the tush line.

Image 3 shows him in his mid-downswing and one can see that his rear buttocks has pulled slightly away from the tush line, while his lead buttocks is now abutting against the tush line.

Image 4 shows him at impact with an open pelvis and with his lead buttocks against the tush line. 

Note that Phil Mickelson's rear (left) knee only moves outwards towards the ball-target line in his late downswing (as his pelvis becomes more open to the target). In a right-handed golfer, the right knee should only move outwards (towards the ball-target line) in the late downswing when the pelvis rotates to an open position by impact. During this time period, the right heel should also lift up passively as the pelvis rotates to an open position by impact. The amount that the right knee kicks-outwards, and the amount that the right heel lifts up, mainly depends on the degree of openess of the pelvis at impact (and also partly depends on the stance width and the golfer's flexibility). A flexible golfer who has a narrow stance may not need to lift his right heel off the ground much in the late downswing when the pelvis becomes more open to the target.

( *Addendum added in November 2012: I now believe that it is optional, although not necessarily optimal, to allow the right buttocks to move away from the tush line at the start of the downswing at the same time as the left buttocks is being pulled back towards the tush line - as long as the degree of right hip joint motion doesn't exceeed the degree of left hip joint motion. I have repeatedly noted that many professional golfers manifest this pelvic motion pattern, and although it promotes a small amount of hip spinning and secondary roundhousing of the upper torso, the degree may be small and not deleterious. For example, Sam Snead has a reverse slot swing action and his clubshaft motion at the start of the downswing has a small OTT motion, but the degree is very small and it doesn't affect his ability to generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead path (relative to the ball-target line) through impact. 

Diagram showing Sam Snead's reverse slot swing action - from reference number [10]

Note that Sam Snead's downswing clubhead path is steeper than his backswing clubhead path - but he can still generate an in-to-square-to-in clubhead path through impact. 

Excessive roundhousing of the upper torso that causes an out-to-in clubhead path through the impact zone is much more problematic if a golfer wants to hit the ball straight, and a golfer must avoid excessive hip spinning that may promote a roundhousing swing action and an out-to-in clubhead path through impact)

Another problem that can occur if a golfer pushes off the right foot in an over-active manner is the problem of the pelvis sliding excessively in a targetwards direction - to a degree that allows the outer border of the left pelvis to move beyond the outer border of the left foot.


Oliver Heuler demonstrating a pelvic over-slide action - capture image from his swing video [18]


The red line is drawn along the outer border of his left pelvis - note that it shows that his pelvis has slid left-laterally beyond the outer border of his left foot (note that his left thigh is slanting targetwards). That excessive pelvic sliding action can move the lower spine (+/- upper spine and head) too far towards the target, and that will likely cause the golfer's hands to get too far forward of the ball by impact, which can result in push/push-sliced shots.

Finally, a premature thrust movement of the right pelvis away from the tush line at the start of the downswing can predispose to a phenomenon called "goat-humping".

"Goat-humping" is an off-color (but very descriptive) term used to describe an outward thrust motion of the pelvis (in the direction of the ball-target line) at the start of the downswing that predisposes a golfer to "stand-up" through impact and that also predisposes to push/push-sliced shots. 

Consider an anonymous golfer who manifests a "goat-humping" pelvic movement at the start of his downswing action.


Anonymous golfer manifesting a "goat humping" pelvic motion - capture images from a swing video


Image 1 shows the anonymous golfer at his end-backswing position. He has a reasonable amount of pelvic rotation during his backswing action for a golfer who adopts an erect posture at address. The yellow line drawn against the back of his right buttocks at his end-backswing position represents the tush line. Note how his right buttocks immediately leaves the tush line when he initiates his hip-squaring action at the start of the downswing - image 2. Note how that "goat humping" pelvic action drives the pelvis outwards in the direction of the ball-target line and it also drives the pelvis under the lumbar spine causing the golfer to "stand-up" through impact (images 5 & 6). A "standing-up" phenomenon through impact makes it biomechanically difficult to get the right shoulder to rotate under the chin in an unimpeded manner and it also decreases the space in front of the right pelvis for the arms/club to move into impact along an in-to-square-to-in path. A golfer who "stands-up" in the late downswing and becomes jammed will therefore more likely direct the arms/club away from the body in a direction that is slightly to the right-of-the-target. Golfers who "stand-up" through impact as a result of a "goat humping" pelvic motion will also tend to have a less open pelvis and square shoulders (rather than slightly open shoulders) at impact - as seen in image 5. 

Here is another series of capture images - involving the same anonymous golfer - taken from a swing video that was performed 6 months later (after he had repeatedly sought advice from a number of professional golf instructors).


Anonymous golfer manifesting a "goat humping" pelvic motion - capture images from a swing video


Note that he still has a major "goat-humping" pelvic motion problem. I think that he needs to understand the biomechanics of the downswing's pivot motion, instead of going to a number of different golf instructors who cannot identify this major swing fault.

I would recommend a more rotary pelvic motion (rotating-in-a-barrel type of pelvic motion) for a spine-flexible/hip joint-flexible golfer, and I think that best way to initiate the rotary pelvic motion at the start of the downswing is to pull the left pelvis back towards the tush line (in the manner described by Ben Hogan) and which I arbitrarily label a "left hip clearing action". During a "left hip clearing action" the left hip joint (left femoral head and left acetabulum) is pulled back towards the tush line, and there is no deliberate attempt to prematurely push the right buttocks away from the tush line. The speed of movement of the right buttocks away from the tush line during a "left hip clearing action" is dependent on the degree of loading of the right leg during the transition phase that occurs at the start of the downswing. The more the right leg is weight-loaded during the "left hip clearing action", the less likely the right hip joint will prematurely move outwards at the start of the downswing - because the weight-loading of the right leg impedes the free motion of the right hip joint (right femoral head and right acetabulum). The right hip joint will eventually move freely outwards in the later downswing when the right leg becomes increasingly unloaded - and this phenomenon happens automatically/naturally when a golfer progessively transfers more weight onto a straightening/braced left leg during his "left hip clearing action". 

A good example of a rotary pelvic motion can be seen in Keegan Bradley's swing action - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veavFTeSCgQ

Here are capture images from his swing video.


Keegan Bradley's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


I have drawn a red line against the back of his right buttocks when he is at the end-backswing position (image 1), and that red line represents the tush line

Note how he starts the downswing by pulling his left hip joint back towards the tush line - image 2. Note how he keeps his right buttocks against the tush line during this early downswing transition phase, and he doesn't prematurely allow his right buttocks to move away from the tush line. 

Image 3 - note that the right buttocks is now starting to move away from the tush line after a momentary delay in right hip joint movement at the start of the downswing. However, note that the left hip joint has moved backwards (towards the tush line) more than the right hip joint has moved outwards (away from the tush line). 

Note how his left buttocks gets pulled back against the tush line in his mid-downswing (image 4) and note how he acquires an open pelvis and slightly open shoulders at impact (image 5). Note that he maintains his bent-over spinal inclination angle throughout his downswing action, and note he doesn't have a jamming problem - i) he doesn't have a problem getting his right shoulder to rotate in an unimpeded manner under his chin and ii) he doesn't have a problem creating room for his right elbow to bypass his right hip area in an unimpeded manner.


Question number 8:

Why is it important to brace the left side during the downswing action?

Answer:

I think that a golfer needs to brace the left leg, and therefore the left side of his torso, during the downswing action so that he can avoid any left-lateral sliding of his pelvis and upper torso in a targetwards-direction. Also, by bracing the left leg as a "firm supportive post", a golfer can also fluidly rotate his left pelvis around that "firm supportive post" during the "left hip clearing action". 

During the backswing, the average professional golfer rotates the pelvis about 45 degrees clockwise, and during this process the left leg becomes relatively more unweighted, which causes the left knee to bend. At the start of the downswing, a skilled golfer should start the downswing with a shift-rotation movement of the pelvis left-laterally towards the target, which involves i) a replanting of weight on the left heel; and ii) a movement of the left knee left-laterally so that the left lower limb becomes progressively straighter. The left knee is incapable of more than a few degrees of lateral-bending and it resists any left-lateral forward motion. In that sense, the straightening left leg becomes like a "firm supportive post" that impedes/resists the lower body from moving further left-laterally towards the target. If a golfer also keeps the head stationary during the downswing, then he has created a braced skeletal structure - extending from the head, down the spine, through the pelvis, down the straight left leg to the left foot - that slows down, and thereby, stabilises the lower body's pivot action in a left-lateral direction, but allows the left pelvis to easily rotate counterclockwise during the "left hip clearing action"

Consider this swing video lesson by Shawn Clement, where he demonstrates how he braces the left leg/spine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI3i936JRd0

Here is a capture image from the swing video lesson.


Shawn Clement - braced tilt posture

In this video lesson, Shawn Clement starts off talking about how one should adopt a slight degree of rightwards spinal tilt at address, and how one should maintain that same degree of rightwards spinal tilt during the entire backswing. At 0.55 minutes into the video lesson, he talks of a "feeling" where one can apply downward pressure from the head down to the left foot as if there is a downward-directed force that provides a stabilising pressure from the head via the spine to the pelvis and then down through the left leg to the left foot. That "feeling" is the feeling that a golfer should experience - a "feeling" of acquiring a stabilised lower torso/left leg, that will allow the golfer to pivot his pelvis inside-left around the "firm supportive post" of his braced left leg during the "left hip clearing action".

One can clearly see that happening in Ben Hogan's downswing.


Ben Hogan - capture images from a 1953 film

Image 1 shows Ben Hogan at the end-backswing - note that his left knee is bent.

Images 2 & 3 demonstrate the pelvic shift-rotation movement that starts his downswing. Note how his pelvis shifts left-laterally to a small degree, and note that the left knee moves left-laterally as the left leg becomes increasingly straightened/braced. Note that his pelvis doesn't shift more left-laterally during the remainder of the downswing (images 4-7), and that the outer border of his left pelvis is still within the boundary of his inner left foot at impact (image 7). During the mid-late downswing, Hogan can rotate his pelvis counterclockwise around his straightening/braced left leg - and during this pelvic rotary process the left buttocks first rotates back towards the tush line and then rightwards (away from the target). One can clearly see this biomechanical phenomenon happening in this next swing video of Ben Hogan's swing - filmed from behind.

Ben Hogan swing video -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vSppPR2ChI

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Ben Hogan's downswing pelvic motion - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows Ben Hogan at his end-backswing position. Most of his weight is situated over his braced right leg, and his flexed left leg is relatively less weighted.

Image 2 shows Ben Hogan starting his "left hip clearing action" where he transfers more weight onto an increasingly braced left leg while he simultaneously pulls his left pelvis back in an inside-left direction towards the tush line.

Image 3 shows Ben Hogan at the end of his mid-downswing - note that he has pulled his left buttocks back against the tush line and he is now rotating his left buttocks counterclockwise (in an away-from-the-target direction). 

Image 4 shows Ben Hogan nearing impact and image 5 shows Ben Hogan immediately after impact - note how he has established a straightened/braced left leg and note how much he has rotated his left buttocks counterclockwise (in an away-from-the-target direction). By straightening/bracing his left leg, he can rotate his left pelvis fluidly in a non-stop (continuous) manner around his straightened/braced left leg, and that allows him to avoid any further left-lateral sliding of his pelvis towards the target while he simultaneously maintains his speed of pelvic rotation during the late downswing and early followthrough. Ben Hogan's "left hip clearing action" perfectly exemplifies how it is possible for a golfer to avoid pelvic rotary deceleration during the late downswing and early followthrough - while simultaneously preventing the pelvis from sliding too far left-laterally in a targetwards-direction.  

One can clearly see the phenomenon of a straightened/braced left leg in this back-view swing video of Geoff Ogilvey's swing.

Geoff Ogilvey swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owamnCPutYo

Note how Geoff Ogilvey straightens/braces his left leg, and prevents the pelvis from sliding left-laterally towards the target. Also, note how he keeps his head stationary. By acquiring a stabilised head combined with a stabilised left leg, he has created a stabilised pivot action around his straightened/braced left leg that allows him to fluidly perform a "left hip clearing action" (like Ben Hogan). 

Another major advantage of creating this braced/stabilised skeletal structure (extending from the head to the left foot) is that it stabilises the position of the upper swing center (fulcrum point for the left arm's pendular downswing action) and it allows the golfer to maintain a consistent low point (and consistent divot position) in swing-after-swing. Optimally, the deepest part of the divot (representing the low point of the clubhead arc) should be in the same position (just inside the left foot) in every full golf swing - see image 7 of the Hogan face-on view sequence above.

 

Question number 9:

What is meant by the phrase "right forearm paddlewheels towards impact".

Answer:

The term "paddlewheeling" is used to describe the way the right forearm paddlewheels towards impact during the late downswing (between the P6 position and impact) - because the right forearm looks like a canoe paddle that is being paddled through the water by a canoeist (when viewed from a face-on view).

During the early-mid downswing, the entire power package assembly (and the loaded power accumulator system) is pulled down to waist level as a result of the pelvis shift-rotation movement that initiates the downswing. The right elbow gets pulled down to to a pitch elbow position alongside, or in front of the right hip. During the late downswing, the right elbow will remain in close proximity to the right hip area - while the right elbow progressively straightens during the remainder of the downswing. When the right elbow straightens, it will cause the right forearm to paddlewheel towards impact.

One can clearly see the right forearm paddlewheeling into impact, to end up on-plane behind the clubshaft at impact, in this Stuart Appleby swing video.

Stuart Appleby swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jqJ9R2LypY&NR=1

Here are a series of capture images of his downswing action.


Stuart Appleby downswing - capture images from his swing video


Note how his right elbow comes down to his right hip area in the early/mid downswing, and note how the right forearm paddlewheels towards impact, so that it is on-plane behind the clubshaft at impact. When the right forearm paddlewheels into impact on-plane, it helps ensure that power accumulator #3 releases correctly and that the back of the left wrist will be facing the target at impact - because the right palm progressively faces the target during this right forearm paddlewheeling process. The actively straightening right arm also applies continuous extensor action via push-pressure at PP#1, which helps ensure that the left arm remains straight through impact, and beyond impact to the end of the followthrough.

 

Question number 10:

What is casting (clubhead throwaway) and how does one avoid the problem?

Answer:

Casting (clubhead throwaway) refers to the premature release of the 90 degree angle between the left arm and clubshaft in the early downswing.

During the backswing, a golfer needs to load power accumulator #2 - which means that the left wrist must upcock during the backswing so that the golfer establishes a 90 degree angle between the left arm and the clubshaft by the top of the backswing. Then, during the early downswing that 90 degree angle should be retained and only released in the mid-downswing when the hands get down to about waist-high level. The club is passively released due to centrifugal forces in a swinger's action and a golfer does not need to deliberately/actively uncock the left wrist using any left forearm muscular (muscular contraction of flexor carpii ulnaris and extensor carpii ulnaris) action.

Many beginner golfers release the club prematurely at the very start of the downswing, and that is called casting (clubhead throwaway). Casting is due to a number of factors that can act synergistically to produce clubhead throwaway - i) a deliberate unhinging (palmar flexion) action of the right wrist at the start of the downswing and/or any right elbow straightening action; ii) an over-acceleration of the hands at the start of the downswing by starting the downswing with an active arm/hand movement (out-of-order kinetic sequence); iii) swinging the hands in a circular arc away from the body (as frequently seen in golfers who reverse pivot during the backswing and then have to sway their body away from the target at the start of the downswing). 

To avoid casting, a golfer needs to have a "correct" kinetic sequence which causes the hands to be passively pulled down to waist level at a steadily increasing speed and along a relatively straight line (and not circular) path in the early downswing. A golfer should not try to prevent casting by holding onto the golf club tightly with stiff wrists in an attempt to "hold the 90 degree lag angle" until the hands get to an appropriate mid-late downswing position. That's totally artificial and actually impossible to accomplish in an efficient manner! The left wrist must be very relaxed so that there is no impedance to the left wrist passively uncocking when the hands get down to waist level.

One can best understand how to avoid casting by understanding the biomechanical/mechanical phenomena that occur in the early downswing in a skilled professional golfer, like Ben Hogan.


Ben Hogan downswing - capture images fom his swing video lesson


Image 1 shows Hogan's hand arc movement in the early downswing. The hand arc is "straightish" and only miminally curved and the hand arc is directed mainly downwards in the direction of the ground (and only slightly outwards and backwards). That means that the club is being pulled in a straight line direction by a pull force is that is directed roughly along the longitudinal axis of the clubshaft. That pull force doesn't induce club release, because club release is only induced when the hand arc path (and direction of the grip-pulling force) constantly changes direction by the hands moving in a circular manner. The smaller the radius of the circular hand arc motion, the greater the centrifugal release force. Also, the faster the hands are traveling while they are constantly changing direction (by traveling along a circular path), the greater the centrifugal release force.

In the early downswing, Hogan's hands are being passively pulled down to waist level as result of the downswing pivot action - yellow arrow in image 3. The hip shift-rotation movement that initiates the downswing pivot action causes the entire power package assembly to be pulled down to waist level as an intact structural unit. The hands are only moving as fast the entire power package assembly, which is only moving as fast as the rotating torso. When the torso decelerates and catapults the left arm off the chest wall towards impact via the release of power accumulator #4 (yellow arrow number 2 in image 4), then the i) hand path changes direction at ii) a progressively faster hand speed. The tight-circular hand arc motion that is occurring at a faster hand speed induces the club to release. The club release phenomenon happens automatically/passively according to the laws of physics (law of the flail). A golfer doesn't need to consciously think about the club release process becuse it will happen automatically if he has relaxed wrists that doesn't offer any impedance to the club release phenomenon. To avoid casting in the early downswing, a golfer must avoid any action that predisposes to premature club release by avoiding i) over-acceleration of the hands in the early downswing by actively/abruptly pulling the hands away for the right shoulder at the very start of the downswing, and/or ii) by swinging the hands away from the body in a circular arc at the very start of the downswing and iii) by avoiding any right elbow straightening or right wrist straightening action.  

See my review paper on "How to Maximize Wrist Lag and Avoid Casting" for much more detailed information regarding this casting issue.


Question number 11

In your review paper on "How to Move the Arms, Wrists and Hands in the Golf Swing" you state that the left wrist should remain flat throughout the entire downswing. How is it possible to have a flat left wrist in the mid-downswing when the clubshaft in on-plane, but the left upper arm (left humerus) is off-plane (higher than the plane that the clubshaft and left hand is traveling on at the same time point in the mid-downswing)?

Answer

Consider the following photo series of capture images of Tiger Woods' driver downswing - from the Nike commercial swing video [9].


Tiger Woods downswing - capture images from a swing video [9]


Image 1 shows Tiger Woods at the end-backswing position. Note that his left wrist is anatomically flat. That anatomically flat left wrist position is only possible if the left wrist is slightly palmar flexed - note that the clubshaft is not perfectly straight in-line with the left lower forearm. If the clubshaft was perfectly straight in-line with the left lower forearm and a golfer has a neutral left hand grip, then the left wrist would be slightly cupped (due to the fact that the left hand automatically/naturally becomes slightly cupped when holding a rounded object in a fist-grip).

Image 2 and 3 shows Tiger Woods in the mid-downswing. He has progressively shallowed his clubshaft during the early-mid downswing, and his clubshaft is now on the elbow plane as it approaches the delivery position (image 3). Note that Tiger Woods has maintained an anatomically flat left wrist during the early-mid downswing - despite the fact that the left upper arm is off-plane and on a higher plane than the clubshaft plane - by palmar flexing his left wrist. Some golfers do not palmar flex their left wrist during the early-mid downswing, and their left wrist will be slightly cupped. In that situation, although the left wrist is not anatomically flat, it is still geometrically flat - and the clubshaft is still aligned neutrally with respect to the straight left arm (representing an intact LAFW). 

Image 4 shows Tiger Woods' flat left wrist in the late downswing - during the time period when the left wrist is uncocking within the plane of left wrist uncocking (plane of the LAFW) due to the release of power accumulator #2. Note that the left wrist is significantly uncocked, but it has not rolled over significantly at this time point in the late downswing. Image 5 shows that Tiger Woods' flat left wrist is vertical to the ground, and facing the target at impact - and it obviously required a counterclockwise rotation of the flat left wrist (due to the release of power accumulator #3) to get from image 4 to image 5. 

 

Question number 12:

In his recent book [12], Jim McLean stated that the clubshaft should fall-back at the start of the downswing. He used the following diagram to demonstrate the club "fall-back" phenomenon.


Club "fall-back" phenomenon - from reference number [12]


Jim McLean stated with respect to the above diagram-: "It should feel as if the clubshaft and the clubhead are falling behind the body". On page 15 of his book, he states-: "Your hands don't retrack on the way back down to the ball. They remain on the same plane they rest on at the top (or get slightly steeper). It's the clubshaft that falls to the lower plane".

Do you agree that the hands should remain on the same (or a steeper) plane when the clubshaft falls back to a shallower plane in the early downswing?

Answer:

No. 

The left hand (back of the left wrist/hand) should always remain on the same plane as the clubshaft when it shallows-out during the early downswing - during the club "slotting" process.

Consider the following composite photograph of Ben Hogan "slotting" the club in the early downswing - from the swing video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJdChWnxDvU .



Ben Hogan dropping his clubshaft into the "slot" - capture images from his swing video

The left arm flying wedge is colored in yellow - and it consists of the wedge-like structure represented by the straight left arm and the clubshaft which is "straight-in-plane" with the left arm (note the geometrically flat left wrist/hand), but at a ~90 degree angle relative to the left arm.

The right forearm flying wedge consist of the right forearm and the bent right wrist and it is colored in red. Note that the right forearm is at an angle of roughly 90 degrees relative to the left arm flying wedge at the end-backswing position (image 1). At the end-backswing position, the right forearm flying wedge supports the left arm flying wedge - like an airplane's wing strut supporting the wing of a small Cessna airplane. That is the critical relationship, and the fact that the right forearm is near-vertical to the ground is not of real importance. The angle of the right forearm relative to the ground is greatly affected by the angle of the straight left arm relative to the ground. The steeper the angle of the straight left arm relative to the ground - the less likely the right forearm will be vertical to the ground, and the flatter the angle of the left arm relative to the ground - the more likely the right forearm will be vertical to the ground. 

The green colored area is the right upper arm and the right shoulder, and it connects the right forearm flying wedge to the torso. The power package consists of the green colored area, the red colored area and the yellow colored area. Note that the right elbow is bent at roughly a 90 degree angle. 

During the early downswing (between the P4 position and the P5 position), when the club is "slotted", the alignment relationships within the power package must remain intact (unaltered). Note that the back of the left wrist (which is slightly cupped - because Hogan maintained a geometrically flat left wrist, and not an anatomically flat left wrist) remains on the same plane as the clubshaft when he shallows-out the club during the club "slotting" process. The clubshaft should never "fall-back" to a shallower plane than the back of the flat left wrist/hand (either anatomically flat or geometrically flat) during the club "slotting" process - the clubshaft and back of the flat left wrist/hand should both shallow-out to the same degree. 

I have discussed this issue in great detail in my "Book Review: The Slot Swing - Jim McLean" review paper. 

 

Question number 13:

In his recent book [12], Jim McLean stated that the club shallows-out in the early downswing as a result of the hip slide movement that initiates the downswing. How does a left-lateral pelvic motion cause the clubshaft to shallow-out in the early downswing (during the club "slotting" process)?

Answer:

As I previously explained, the power package should remain structurally intact during the club "slotting" process. The power package is attached to the torso at the level of the left and right shoulder sockets, and the 3-D movement of the power package in the early downswing is primarily affected by two biomechanical phenomena - i) the 3-D movement of the two shoulder sockets in space, and ii) the independent movements of the left and right humeral heads within their respective shoulder sockets.

During the early downswing, the pelvis shift-rotates first, and it causes the upper torso (shoulders) to move secondarily. The shoulder sockets move in a relatively horizontal manner in the early downswing, because both the pelvis and upper torso rotate in a horizontal manner in the early downswing. The horizontal 3-D motion of the two shoulder sockets is therefore not responsible for dropping the clubshaft to a shallower plane in the early downswing. The clubshaft drops to a shallower plane in the early downswing because the entire power package drops down to a shallower plane - due to an independent motion of the two humeral heads within their respective shoulder sockets (while the shoulder sockets are rotating more-or-less horizontally). 


Hogan shallowing-out the clubshaft in the early downswing - capture images from his swing video


Note how Ben Hogan's pelvis and shoulder sockets rotate horizontally in the early downswing. However, his hands (and power package) are dropping in a more groundwards direction in the early downswing. What causes the vertical dropping motion of the intact power package and hands in the early downswing? The major biomechanical factor responsible for the vertical dropping motion of the intact power package/hands in the early downswing is an active adduction movement of the right upper arm towards the right side of the torso (so that the right elbow is directed towards its pitch position alongside the right hip area)

Different golfers have a different (variable) pattern of dropping their intact power package in the early downswing. Most professional golfers pull their right elbow gradually downwards (groundwards) in the early downswing - while the shoulders are rotating. By contrast, Sergio Gracia immediately drops his right elbow straight down to a shallower plane in the early downswing - before he significantly rotates his shoulders.


Sergio Gracia dropping his power package/hands groundwards in the early downswing - capture images from a swing video [13]  


Note how Sergio Garcia actively adducts his right upper arm towards the right side of his mid-upper torso at the start of the downswing - before he starts to significantly rotate his shoulder sockets. That active idiosyncratic biomechanical maneuver causes his right elbow and hands to drop vertically down towards the ground - note how his hands are opposite his right lower biceps in image 5 (when his left arm is parallel to the ground). In other words, his hands are "deeper" (further away from the ball-target line) by the end of the early downswing (when his left arm is parallel to the ground) because he adducts his right upper arm faster (per unit time) than he rotates his shoulders (per unit time).  


Question number 14:

Why is this amateur golfer shanking the ball? A shanked ball shoots off at about a 45 degree angle to the right of the target because it is struck at the hosel angle of the clubface - in the angle where the hosel meets the heel of the clubface.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ34aLqJJNU

Answer:

Consider a series of capture images from that amateur golfer's swing video.


Downswing action - capture images from his swing video

Image 1 shows the golfer at a good end-backswing position. His left arm is across his shoulder turn angle and his power package is correctly assembled.

From that end-backswing position, his downswing must occur in such a manner that two major swing components evolve optimally - i) a pivoting/rotation movement of the torso (pelvis and upper torso) and ii) a simultaneous slotting of the power package due to an independent motion of the humeral heads within their respective shoulder sockets. For the power package to slot "correctly" these two major swing components have to be optimally coordinated/synchronised.

Image 2 shows a Sergio Garcia-style power package slotting phenomenon (see image 5 of the Sergia Garcia photo-series above). Note that he has adducted his right upper arm straight down towards the right side of his torso and that drops his right elbow vertically downwards - due to an independent motion of the right humeral head within the right shoulder socket. During this same time period, he has not rotated his upper torso very much. That causes his right elbow to be directed to a position that is too far behind the rotating torso - rather than being directed towards a pitch location in front of the right hip area.

Image 3 shows his hands and club continuing to drop downwards. Note that his pelvis has squared, but his shoulders are still closed.

Now note what happens in the mid-late downswing! 

See image 4 and 5. His pelvis rotation stalls and his pelvis remains parallel to the ball-target line throughout the remainder of the downswing, and that causes his shoulders to also remain too closed. Note that he has zero downplane motion of the right shoulder in the mid-late downswing - and that is due to the fact that he doesn't allow his pelvis to become progressively more open during the mid-late downswing. If the pelvis becomes more open, it allows the lumbar vertebra to become oriented to the right-of- the-target, and that allows the right shoulder to more easily move downplane - because it becomes progressively easier to rotate the shoulders perpendicularly around a "correctly" tilted mid-upper spine. If the right shoulder can move downplane, it allows the right elbow to move more easily to its "correct" pitch location in front of the rotating right pelvis (which is actually moving out of the way). His right elbow is too far back, and it is trapped behind the right hip (which is not moving out of the way). If the right elbow is trapped behind the right hip, then it cannot allow the right forearm to paddlewheel into impact along the "correct" path (usually along, or close to, the plane of the clubshaft) between the P6 postion and the P7 position. Note that his right elbow/forearm is forced to move too much outwards (away from the body) and he cannot get his right forearm to move along the "correct" inside track towards impact. That prevents the release swivel phenomen from happening in a natural/automatic manner. For the release swivel action to happen in a natural/automatic manner, the right elbow must get to its pitch location, so that the right forearm can paddlewheel "correctly" into impact as the right arm straightens. He cannot paddlewheel his right forearm correctly in the late downswing, and that prevents the left forearm from supinating "correctly" in the late downswing. If the left forearm doesn't supinate in the late downswing, then he is essentially not activating PA#3, which produces the release swivel action that allows a golfer to square the clubface into impact. He is dragging the clubhead towards impact - via the release of PA#2 - without a sufficient PA#3 release action. That causes him to drag the hosel towards impact, and shank the ball. He cannot rotate the clubhead sweetspot into impact because he doesn't perform the "correct" biomechanical actions needed to "correctly" execute/complete a release swivel action (execute a complete release of PA#3).

By contrast, Sergio Garcia, who initially also moves the power package vertically downwards, doesn't get his right elbow trapped behind his right hip in the mid-downswing - because he continues to rotate his pelvis and upper torso correctly in the mid-late downswing.


Sergio Garcia downswing action - capture images from his swing video [13]


In his early downswing, Sergio Garcia also drops his power package vertically downwards, so that his right elbow moves to the right side of his mid-torso. He hasn't rotated his upper torso much, so the right elbow appears to be trapped behind his right hip - images 1 and 2. 

However, note how Sergio Garcia continues to rotate his pelvis and upper torso actively during the mid-late downswing (images 4 and 5), and that allows his right elbow to move to a desirable pitch position in front of the right hip - image 4. That correct pitch elbow motion of the right elbow then allows his right forearm to paddlewheel towards impact in the late downswing in the "correct" biomechanical manner, so that the ventral aspect (front) of his right forearm and his right palm faces the target at impact. That "correct" right forearm paddlewheeling motion synergistically helps in ensuring that PA#3 is fully released by impact, and it helps to ensure that the clubface becomes square by impact. 

Note how his pelvis is open at impact, and note how his right shoulder has moved far enough downplane so that his shoulders are also slightly open at impact - image 5. Continuing to rotate the pelvis and upper torso to an appropriately open alignment by impact is essential to the "optimum" functioning of the right forearm paddlewheeling action that synergistically helps a golfer to efficiently release PA#3 and square the clubface by impact.


Question number 15:

Do you think that a golfer should consciously/deliberately try to achieve the Sam Snead "sit-down" look by the end of the early downswing?

Answer:

No - it should happen naturally, and without any deliberate exaggeration.

Consider what is meant by the Sam Snead "sit-down" look.


Photo-diagram showing the Sam Snead "sit-down" look - adapted from reference number [2]

Note that Sam Snead's pelvis is square to the ball-target line; that both of his thighs are rotated externally; and that both knees are facing forward and slightly outwards. That appearance gives him the impression of squatting - as if he is attempting to squat ("sit-down") on a chair. I routinely refer to this "sit-down" position as the hip-squaring phase of the downswing and it usually occurs by the end of the early downswing. At the start of the early downswing, the left knee moves away from the right knee as the golfer re-weights the left leg, and simultaneously pulls the left buttocks back towards the tush line. The left knee becomes slightly less flexed, and during the hip-squaring phase, both knees should have roughly the same amount of knee flex at this time-point in the downswing. A golfer should have the "feeling" that he is pressing into the ground at this time-point and that he is firmly grounded and stable. Some golfers - like Tiger Woods - have an exaggerated "sit-down" motion and they have an excessive amount of knee flex +/- increased hip bend flex, that causes their head to drop down by 3-6" inches by the end of the early downswing. This gives an observer the visual impression that the head bobs down-and-then-up during the downswing action - bobbing down in the early downswing as the knees (+/- hips) increasingly flex and then bobbing up as the left leg straightens in the late downswing. Some golf instructors think that this exaggerated "sit-down" motion is advantageous because they believe that it increases the dynamism of the pivot action by incorporating ground reaction forces into the swing action. I know of no "scientific evidence" to support this position, and I think that excessive bobbing down-and-then-up during the downswing increases the likelihood of the clubhead arc becoming disrupted - due to unnecessary vertical motion of the upper swing center. Consider an example - Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods swing video -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTTKmqmIWVw

Here are capture images from that swing video.


Tiger Woods ball flight - capture image from his swing video


The blue line traces his straight pull ball flight - where the ball was pulled left of the ball-target line. What is the likely cause of that faulty ball flight pattern?


Tiger Woods swing action - capture images from his swing video

Image 3 shows his impact position. I drew a red line through his shaft and that red line passes through his right elbow - which shows that he is on the elbow plane at impact.

Image 2 shows him at the delivery position. Note that his clubshaft (straight blue line) is parallel to the ball-target line (straight yellow line) which means that he is not underplane (defining underplane as being a clubshaft that is coming too much from in-to-out).

However, note that his hands are lower-to-the-ground in image 1 and 2 - relative to his hands at impact. That is due to the fact that he has a lot of knee flex and hip bend flex in his early-mid downswing. Image 1 shows his exaggerated "sit-down" look where he has a lot of knee flex and hip flex. In the late downswing, he abruptly straightens his left leg and "jumps up" and that action lifts his hands to the elbow plane by impact. Note that he is "standing-up" at impact due to the lesser amount of knee/hip flex at impact, and that his head is much higher in image 3 (relative to image 1).

Image 4 shows his clubshaft/clubhead in the late downswing - note that the clubhead is outside the ball-target line (straight yellow line). 

In image 5, I have traced the clubhead arc (curved yellow line) in the pre-impact time period which shows that his clubhead moves out-to-in just before impact (curved red arrowed line represents its curved directional motion) and it produces a straight pull shot because the clubhead path/clubface orientation at impact is directed leftward. I think that it is causally due to his "jumping up" action which pulls his hands abruptly upwards just before impact, and that motion affects the 3-D clubhead arc's path in space. The clubhead arc was moving more groundwards during his early-mid downswing due to his exaggerated knee/hip flex action, and that caused the clubhead to temporarily move outside the ball-target line in the first half of his late downswing. Then, the clubhead is pulled more upwards as he "jumps-up" at impact (compare the height of his pelvis in image 3 to the height of his pelvis in image 1) and as he pulls his hands to a level that is further from the ground. 

I think that a golfer should try to achieve the Sam Snead "sit-down" look during the hip squaring phase of the downswing in a biomechanically natural manner, but he should avoid dropping the head/upper swing center excessively downwards by having an excessive amount of knee/hip flex during the Sam Snead "sit-down" motion.

Here is an example of a golfer who keeps the head/upper swing center at the same level during the downswing action - Annika Sorenstam.

Annika Sorenstam's swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ODdv5pmib4




Annika Sorenstam's downswing/followthrough action - capture images from her swing video


When viewing the swing video, note how she keeps her head/upper swing center and pelvis at roughly the same level throughout her swing action. Note her "quiet" leg action, and note that she has minimal increased knee flexion during her early downswing action - she therefore doesn't have any problematic "down-and-then-up head bobbing" motion during her downswing action.


Question number 16:

In the previous question, you demonstrated that Tiger Woods' "jumping-up" action through impact is disadvantageous in terms of clubhead path control and ultimate ball flight accuracy. However, many golf instructors believe that "jumping up" through impact is advantageous in terms of swing power - even if it is disadvantageous in terms of ultimate clubhead path control. They often refer to long drive competitors who "jump up" after impact as proof of their "belief". Do you believe that their claim has legitimacy?

Answer:

Yes/no - a "jumping up" action through impact can produce parametric acceleration of the clubhead, but it cannot necessarily produce it in a smoothly consistent manner that doesn't unnecessarily disrupt the clubhead arc through impact.

Here is an example of a long-drive competitor, Joe Miller, who won the 2010 ReMax World Long-drive competition with a drive of >400 yards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1sGj8WCjYA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8D5pA4U_bQ

When watching the two videos, note how he "jumps up" after impact and becomes airborne. 


Joe Miller "jumping up" after impact - capture images from his swing video

Note that his pelvis is square to the target at impact (image 1) and note that he has roughly the same amount of knee flex in both knees at impact. Note how he becomes airborne after impact with his left foot completely off the ground - image 2. Note that his pelvis is much higher in image 2 compared to image 1 - as a result of the "jumping up" action. Note that he has not rotated his pelvis much through impact, and I believe that his pelvic stall action (from a rotary perspective) predisposes him to a more assertive "jumping up" action after impact. Note how high his left shoulder moves after impact - a vertical motion of the left shoulder through impact can produce parametric acceleration of the hands through impact because the left hand must move higher as the left shoulder socket moves higher after impact.



The above diagram, from Miura's research article [14], shows how the hub radius shortens through impact as the hands move higher (red dots) and that action pulls the clubhead higher through impact. This hub radius shortening action is due to elevation of the left shoulder socket through impact. Miura calculated that this action produced parametric acceleration of the clubhead and he estimated that it could add ~5% to clubhead speed. There are two ways to achieve this parametric acceleration - i) one could elevate the upper swing center, and therefore the left shoulder socket, by "jumping up" through impact or ii) one could keep the upper swing center stationary while elevating the left shoulder socket as result of extending the left side of the body. The disadvantage of the "jumping up" method is that is that it can create an inconsistent elevation of the hands, and therefore clubhead, through impact, from swing-to-swing. I think that keeping the upper swing center stationary, while elevating the left shoulder as one extends the left side of the body, can create a smoother and more consistent degree of parametric acceleration through impact.

The 16 year-old Domenic Mazza, who also hit a >400 yard drive and was the semi-finalist in the 2010 ReMax World Long-drive competition, does not "jump-up" after impact - but he can produce a smooth parametric acceleration of the clubhead by extending the left side of his body and thereby elevating the left shoulder through impact.

Here is Domenic Mazza's U-tube video showing his performance in the 2010 ReMax World Long-drive competition.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YXbH8eJQhQ

I think that Domenic Mazza has a classical/traditional swing action, and he can hit the ball >400 yards without "jumping up" after impact.



Domenic Mazza at impact, and after impact - images from the Golf Digest slideshow [15]


Note that he has the classical/traditional impact alignment (image 1) - open pelvis, straightened left leg, firmly grounded left foot. Note how his clubhead is moving upwards through impact due to elevation of the left shoulder socket, and therefore hands, through impact.

Note how well he rotates his pelvis after impact and note how stable his left foot remains after impact - image 2. He doesn't "jump-up" through impact and become airborne. Domenic Mazza demonstrates that the classical/traditional golf swing style is perfectly suitable for long drive-competitions and that one doesn't have to "jump-up" through impact in order to generate a greater amount of swing power via the mechanism of parametric acceleration. One can see how high/elevated his left shoulder socket becomes as he swings through impact - as a result of extending the left side of his body. The "feeling" of extending the left side of the body and elevating the left shoulder has been described by Brian Manzella (New Orleans golf instructor) as a "throwing a drunk off one's back" maneuver. Imagine being at a party and having a drunk partygoer draping himself over your left shoulder, and imagine the "feeling" of "throwing the drunk off one's back" by abruptly elevating the left shoulder in a sudden left shoulder shrug maneuver. If that left shoulder shrug maneuver is incorporated in a smooth manner into one's swing action, then it can produce smooth parametric acceleration of the hands/club without any need to "jump-up" after impact, and without any need to elevate the upper swing center.


Question number 17:

Does Tiger Woods' "jumping up" action through impact increase the risk of left knee damage?

Answer:

Yes.

I think that Tiger Woods always had a marked tendency to abruptly straighten his left knee through impact, and this tendency has become more marked since he adopted the Foley swing methodology. Tiger Woods has less rotary motion of his pelvis in his Foley-influenced swing action, and he now thrusts his pelvis leftwards-upwards more assertively through impact. That causes his left leg to abruptly straighten through impact. The same "abrupt left leg straightening" phenomenon occurs in S&T golfers who also employ an assertive pelvic thrust maneuver in their downswing action, and who also "jump-up" at impact. 

Here is the S&T golfer's, Troy Matteson's, "jumping up" action through impact.

Troy Matteson -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzhmPqXoljY


Troy Matteson's downswing action - capture images from his swing video

Images 3/4 shows how he has "tucked his butt under his lower spine" and elevated his left pelvis using the assertive pelvic thrust maneuver recommended by Bennett/Plummer for their S&T swing style. This represents the "jumping-up" maneuver described by Bennett/Plummer in their S&T book [16]. Note how much higher his pelvis is at impact - compared to image 1/2. Note how straight his left leg is at impact (image 3), and after impact (image 4).

I much prefer the biomechanical concept of rotating the pelvis more horizontally in the downswing with a lesser amount of uplifting of the left pelvis through impact. I think that it is better to think of the pelvic motion as being a more rotary action, with very little pelvic shift towards the target. A good mental image is the mental image of rotating in a barrel.


Golfer turning in a barrel - from reference number [17]


Note that the pelvis remains relatively centralised between the feet during most of the swing action (first bottom image shows the"sit-down" look at the end of the early downswing), and note that the left knee is still slightly bent at impact (middle bottom image). 

Jamie Sadlowski has a very rotary pelvic motion - see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep-qidwgCII


Jamie Sadlowski's pelvic motion in his swing action - capture images from his swing video


Note how centralised his pelvis remains throughout his backswing and downswing, and note that his left knee is still slightly bent at impact and that his left thigh is slanting leftwards (from top-to-bottom) because his left hip joint is inside his left foot at impact. You can see the same biomechanical phenomenon in Domini Mazza's and Ben Hogan's swings. 


Dominic Mazza through impact - images from the GD slideshow [15] 


Note that his left knee is slightly bent at impact, and that his left thigh is slanting leftwards (from top-to-bottom).


Ben Hogan in the late downswing (near impact) - from reference number [2]


Note that his left knee is slightly bent, and that his left thigh is slanting leftwards (from top-to-bottom).


Question number 18:

Could you more clearly define what is meant by a "right forearm paddlewheeling action", and is the right forearm's motion in the late downswing the same in a swinger (who uses a HH action in the followthrough) versus a hitter (who uses an AH action in the followthrough)?

Answer: 

The right forearm's motion is slightly different in the late downswing in a swinger (who uses a HH action in the followthrough) compared to its motion in a hitter (who uses an AH action in the followthrough).

The term "right forearm paddlewheeling action" comes from Homer Kelley (who wrote the TGM book) and it describes the motion of the right forearm in the late downswing.

Consider a river steamboat's paddlewheel.


River steamboat's paddle wheel


When considering the riverboat's paddlewheel, think of it consisting of spokes attached to a central axis. Each individual spoke attaches to the central hub axis, and each spoke rotates around that hub axis (with the rotation being represented by the curved red arrow). This paddlewheel image can be used as a mental analogy, that is conceptually useful when considering the right forearm's motion in the late downswing, where the right elbow is near-stationary at its pitch elbow location in front of the right hip. Think of the right elbow being the fulcrum point (hub axis) of the right forearm's motion as the right elbow straightens in the late downswing. Then, think of the right forearm rotating about that *fulcrum point (hub axis) as the right arm straightens during the late downswing and early followthrough.

(* the right elbow doesn't really remain stationary throughout the late downswing/early followthrough and it actually moves across the front of the right hip area in the direction of the target as the right elbow straightens, but it doesn't move very much so it can be conceived to be relatively stationary)

Another mental analogy that can be fruitfully applied to the term "paddlewheeling" is the mental image of a canoeist using his canoe paddle to propel the canoe backwards. Think of his upper hand as being the fulcrum point (hub axis) for the canoe paddle stroke, and think of the canoe paddle moving in space around that fulcrum point. The canoe paddle would represent the right forearm, and the canoeist's top hand would represent the right elbow joint.

Here is the right forearm motion in a golfer in the late downswing.


Aaron Baddeley's right forearm motion in the late downswing - modified from capture images derived from his swing video


I have taken two capture images of Aaron Baddeley's downswing - one image from his delivery position (when the clubshaft is parallel to the ground) and another image from near-impact - and I have superimposed those two images to create a composite image. I have highlighted the right forearm in green. One can clearly see how the right forearm paddlewheels into impact in the late downswing as the right elbow straightens.

Now consider the different ways the right forearm moves in the late downswing in a golfer who selectively uses a full-roll hand release action (HH action) versus a no-roll hand release action (AH action) versus a reverse- roll hand release action (VH action) in the *followthrough.

(* see my review paper on Hand Release Actions Through the Impact Zone for more detail on hand release actions through the impact zone)

I have discussed the right forearm motion in the late downswing in a 11 minute "live" broadcast video lesson.

See - http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/14813444

I will be presenting the same instructional material in this review paper using a detailed prose explanation, that is supplemented by photographic capture images from that swing video lesson.

Let's first consider a golfer who uses an angled hinging action (no-roll hand release action) in his followthrough.


Charlie Hoffmann hitting a push-draw shot - capture images from a swing video


Image 2 and 3 shows how he uses an AH action in his followthrough - note that the FLW and right palm is perpendicular to the inclined plane, and that his clubface is angled ~45 degrees to the ground (in image 3). 

Image 1 shows him at impact. Note that his right forearm is neutral in alignment and it is neither pronated or supinated. Consider what happens to his right forearm during his late downswing.


Author demonstrating the right forearm's pre-impact motion - capture image from his swing video lesson


In that photo, I am demonstrating how the right palm and FLW are both perpendicular to the inclined plane as the right elbow straightens in the late downswing. Note how the right forearm remains neutral (neither pronated or supinated) during the right forearm's paddlewheeling action in the late downswing.


Author demonstrating the axis of rotation for the right forearm's paddlewheeling action - capture image from his swing video lesson


Note that I have placed a straight piece of 1" wide plastic pipe in the region of my right elbow as it abuts the punch elbow position alongside the right hip. I have angled the plastic pipe so that it is perpendicular to the inclined plane, and it mentally represents the hub axis for the right forearm's paddlewheeling action. Imagine the right forearm rotating about this axis, so that the right palm remains perpendicular to the inclined plane during the duration of the right forearm's paddlewheeling action. This mental analogy can be applied to a swinger/swing-hitter using a pitch elbow motion or a hitter using a punch elbow motion - when they selectively use an AH action after impact.

Now consider the situation of a swinger who uses a  horizontal hinging action (full-roll hand release action) in his followthrough. During a HH action, the FLW remains perpendicular to the ground (and not perpendicular to the inclined plane) during the followthrough. To make the transition from the release swivel phase of the late downswing to the followthrough phase optimally efficient, the right palm must become more perpendicular to the ground (and not perpendicular to the inclined plane) during the right forearm's paddlewheeling action.


Author demonstrating the right forearm's pre-impact motion - capture image from his swing video lesson


Note that the right palm and FLW is perpendicular to the ground (and not perpendicular to the inclined plane) during the right forearm's paddlewheeling action. Note that the right forearm must be slightly more pronated to allow the right palm to remain perpendicular to the ground (and not perpendicular to the inclined plane) during the right forearm's paddlewheeling action.

 


Author demonstrating the axis of rotation for the right forearm's paddlewheeling action - capture image from his swing video lesson


Note that I have placed the straight piece of plastic pipe - representing the hub axis - perpendicular to the ground (and not perpendicular to the inclined plane). That explains why the right forearm is more pronated as it paddlewheels about the hub axis located at the pitch elbow location. That allows the right palm to be more vertical to the ground during the right arm's straightening action in the late downswing.

Here is an example of a golfer who use a full-roll hand release action through the impact zone, and whose right forearm pronates when the right arm straightens in the late downswing and through impact - Ernie Els.


Animated gif image of Ernie Els performing a full-roll hand release action through the impact zone


Finally, consider the right forearm's motion in the late downswing when a golfer selectively uses a vertical hinging action (reverse-roll hand release action) in his followthrough. When performing a VH action, the right palm and the back of the FLW must be oriented more skywards so that the clubface can be more open to the clubhead arc. For optimum efficiency, the right palm should become oriented more towards the sky during the pre-impact phase of the swing, so that the transition to the followthrough phase is optimised.


Author demonstrating the right forearm's pre-impact motion - capture image from his swing video lesson


Note that the right forearm must become more supinated to allow the right palm to face more skywards during the right forearm's paddlewheeling motion.


Author demonstrating the axis of rotation for the right forearm's paddlewheeling action - capture image from his swing video lesson


Note that I am holding the straight piece of plastic pipe horizontal to the ground (and perpendicular to an imaginary vertical wall) at the pitch elbow location. That allows the right forearm to become more supinated as it rotates around the hub axis, and that allows the right palm to become oriented more skywards during the right arm's straightening action in the late downswing.

Here is an example of a golfer who uses a reverse-roll hand release action through the impact zone. - Tommy Gainey.


Tommy Gainey performing a reverse-roll hand release action through the impact zone - capture images from his swing video


Note that the ventral aspect (front of) Tommy Gainey's right forearm is facing more skywards through the impact zone - due to supination of his right forearm while the right arm straightens during the late downswing and followthrough.

This mental image of a hub axis for the right forearm's paddlewheeling axis is only an imaginary concept, but it helps explain why the right forearm will either be neutral (when using a no-roll hand release action), or slightly pronated (when using a full-roll hand release action), or slightly supinated (when using a reverse-roll hand release action) during the right arm's straightening action in the late downswing and followthrough.


Question number 19:

Brian Manzella, a golf instructor based in New Orleans, believes that a golfer must use an "out-toss maneuver" at the start of the downswing. Do you believe that his "out-toss maneuver" has any logical biomechanical validity?

Answer:

No!

Brian Manzella described his "out-toss maneuver" in great detail in his "Ideas About the Release" video [19].

Here is Brian Manzella demonstrating the "out-toss maneuver" at the start of the downswing. 


Brian Manzella demonstrating the "out-toss maneuver" - capture images from his swing video [19]

In his swing video [19], Brian Manzella states that a golfer should get a full shoulder turn during his backswing pivot action so that he can get his back to face the target at the end-backswing position. He also recommends that a golfer should allow the left arm to be relaxed and slightly bent at the level of the left elbow. Then, he recommends that a golfer start the downswing with an "out-toss maneuver" - where one "feels" that one is straightening the right arm and right wrist (as if one is throwing a basketball with the right arm in an "away-from-the-target" direction). That "out-toss maneuver" will obviously straighten a lax/bent left arm and increase the width of the hand arc path. The "out-toss maneuver" will also produce a "pull-force" that is directed along the longitudinal axis of the clubshaft and also in a direction that is curvilinearly parallel to a hand arc path that is directed away from the target and slightly downwards-and-outwards. During the "out-toss maneuver", Brian Manzella wants the right shoulder to remain stationary, or near-stationary, and he doesn't want a golfer to prematurely rotate the upper torso counterclockwise during the early downswing - note how Brian Manzella maintains a stationary right shoulder position while moving his hands away from the target by straightening his right arm. 

Brian Manzella states that the "out-toss maneuver" will cause the hands to move backwards (away from the target) and he even believes that Lexi Thompson is using this "out-toss maneuver" in her early downswing action - Brian Manzella describes his personal interpretation of Lexi Thompson's early downswing action in a personal video presentation [20].


Lexi Thompson at the P4 and P5 position - capture images from a video [20]

Image 1 shows Lexi Thompson at her end-backswing position (P4 position) and image 2 shows her at the end of the early downswing (P5 position). The red arrows depict the path of her hands in the early downswing (phase 1 of the downswing) and one can clearly see that her hands are moving away from the target as her left arm moves from the 12 o-clock position to the 9 o'clock position. However, Lexi Thomposon is obviously not using the "out-toss maneuver" described by Brian Manzella - where one keeps the right shoulder back while straightening the right elbow +/- the right wrist (like a basketball player shooting hoops). Lexi Thompson's left arm is already very straight at the P4 position and she doesn't have to stretch-out her right arm (using an overt extensor-action maneuver) to straighten-out a bent left arm. Note that the distance between her hands and the right shoulder doesn't increase in the early downswing (between the P4 position and the P5 position) and note that she maintains the same bend in her right elbow - which means that she is maintaining a loaded PA#4 and she is not prematurely releasing/unloading PA#4. Note that her right shoulder is rotating counterclockwise around her rightwards-tilted spine in the early downswing due to the counterclockwise rotation of her upper torso, and it is the counterclockwise rotation of her upper torso that is causally responsible for the passive movement of her hands along the red-arrowed path. Note that she is keeping her power package intact during this time period and she is not prematurely straightening her right arm, which would produce casting (clubhead throwaway) and a sweep release action. Lexi Thompson is using an active pivot action to slot an intact power package in her early downswing action in an identical manner to Jamie Sadlowski's early downswing power package slotting action - note that I used Jamie Sadlowski as a role model in the main section of this downswing chapter to demonstrate that the optimum biomechanical approach is to maintain an intact power package (and loaded PA#4) in the early downswing, and if a golfer maintains an intact power package he will avoid casting and a sweep release action (that would be the likely deleterious end-result of using an *active "out-toss maneuver").

(* I have described Brian Manzella's release ideas in great detail in my Critical Review: Brian Manzella's Release Ideas review paper.

The best visual method of viewing what is responsible for the movement of the hands away from the target in the early downswing (between the P4 position and the P5 position) is to study a birds-eye swing video.

Consider a birds-eye swing video of a skilled golfer - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNRsnz92bG8&feature=related

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Overhead images of the early downswing - capture images from the birds-eye view swing video


Image 1 shows the golfer at the P4 position (end-backswing position) - note that I have drawn red lines along the length of the straight left arm and across the shoulder turn angle. The acute angle between the two red lines shows that he has a fully loaded PA#4 at the end-backswing position.

Image 2 and image 3 shows how the golfer maintains a loaded PA#4 during his early downswing, which means that there is no increase in the distance between the hands and the right shoulder and no straightening of the right arm. Note that his hands and clubhead are moving away from the target during the early downswing due to the rotation of the upper torso (and the two shoulder sockets) and not due to any out-toss maneuver.


Question number 20: 

Brian Manzella, a golf instructor based in New Orleans, believes that a golfer should actively release the club in the mid-downswing by using an active rotation-about-the-coupling point (RACP) swing action. Do you believe that a skilled golfer (who is a swinger) should adopt this club-releasing approach that involves an active push-force that is applied below the coupling point by the right hand in order to release the club?

Answer:

No! 

I believe that a golfer (who is a swinger) should release the club using a CF-release action, and that the timing and speed of club release is automatically/naturally determined by the shape of the hand arc path and the speed of hand movement along that hand arc path. I do not believe that a golfer should use an active push-force (applied by PP#3 of the right hand to the grip end of the club below the coupling point) in order to actively induce the release of the club.

What is the coupling point? The coupling point is a point on the grip end of the clubshaft that is midway between the hands.


Coupling point location - adapted from reference number  [21]


Note that I have located the coupling point opposite the left index finger knuckle, which roughly represents the midpoint between the two hands. 

Most golfers use a neutral right hand grip where the palm of the right hand faces the aft side of the grip, and therefore the target at impact. The right hand can therefore potentially apply a push-pressure against three points on the aft side of the grip.

Point number 1 is pressure point #1 (yellow color), and it is located over the aft side of the left thumb where the right midpalmar crease rides over the aft side of the left thumb. Pressure point #1 is located above the coupling point, and any push-pressure pressure applied here will not rotate the club-about-the-coupling point. A golfer may selectively decide to apply a right arm/hand force at PP#1 in order to assist in the fluid release of PA#4 and thereby help maintain the forward momentum of the left arm in the downswing, or a golfer may selectively choose to apply a right arm/hand force at PP#1 during phase 3 of the downswing in order to assist in the efficient/fluid release of PA#3.

Point number 2 is where the lower part of the right palm (near the base of the right 3rd and 4th fingers) abuts the aft side of the grip end of the club (green color), and point number 3 is pressure point #3 where the index finger's proximal interphalangeal joint area abuts against the aft side of the grip end of the club (blue color). These two points are below the coupling point and a swinger may selectively choose to apply a push-pressure via the right arm/hand at these two points in order to manually induce/supplement the release of PA#2 during phase 2 of the downswing. 

Brian Manzella believes that a golfer should manually induce the club release phenomenon during phase 2 of the downswing - using a push-force applied by the right arm/hand to the grip end of the shaft below the coupling point. He doesn't describe how much push-force should be applied and he doesn't describe for how long the push-force should be applied. He also doesn't explain how a golfer should avoid any premature *"lining-up of the club" (the time point when the clubshaft catches up to the left arm so that the clubshaft and left arm are in a straight-line relationship). 

(* Under optimal conditions, the clubshaft should only catch up to the straight left arm at low point, which is usually located under the left shoulder socket - and if the ball is placed just behind low point, then there will be a small amount of forward shaft lean at impact with the hands marginally ahead of the clubhead)

Consider a golfer who followed Brian Manzella's advice to use his rotation-about-the coupling point release action in order to manually release the club. 


Anonymous golfer's club release action - capture images from a swing video


Note that his right elbow is appropriately bent at the end-backswing position (image 1). Note that his right elbow is far less bent at the P6 position (image 2) - presumably because he has used an "out-toss" manever during phase 1 of his downswing action. Note how he straightens his right elbow and right wrist during phase 2 of his downswing action - thereby applying a push-force against the aft side of the grip below the coupling point. He has obviously applied too much push-force againt the aft side of the grip below the coupling point, and his clubshaft has therefore prematurely caught up to his straight left arm by the P6.5 position (image 3), which is well prior to impact. This is an extreme example of a too-fast club release action, but it demonstrates the potential downside of trying to apply a right-sided push-force against the aft side of grip below the coupling point. A less forceful rotation-about-the-coupling point release action may cause the clubhead to bypass the left arm at a later stage in the late downswing (somewhere between P6.5 and P7), but if the clubhead bypasses the left arm at any time-point prior to impact then the golfer will be flipping through impact (which is a major swing fault). Brian Manzella doesn't explain how a golfer can avoid the problem of flipping through impact when using his manual club release action (rotation-about-the-coupling point release action).

Brian Manzella actually claims that Lexi Thompson is using a rotation-about-the-coupling point release action in phase 2 of her downswing action. 

 

Lexi Thompsons' club release action during phase 2 of her downswing - capture images from Brian Manzella's video


Phase 2 of the downswing starts at the P5 position and ends at approximately the P6-to-6.3 position - represented by the hand arc path where the blue colored arrows are rotating counterclockwise around a blue dot (representing Brian Manzella's RACP action).

One can clearly see that Lexi Thompon's club is releasing during phase 2 of her downswing, but I believe that it is more likely releasing due to a CF-release action (passively releasing due to the physics underlying a CF-release action where the speed of club release is determined by the shape of the hand arc path and the speed of left hand motion along that hand arc path). Lexi Thompson has an ideal hand arc path shape during phase 2 of her downswing to efficiently induce the club to release via a passive CF-release action and I cannot understand why Brian Manzella believes that she is manually applying a push-force with her right hand below the coupling point in order to manually release the club. I suspect that Lexi Thompson may be applying a push-force with her right hand against PP#1 (which is above the coupling point) so that her two hands work synergistically together to move the grip end of the club downwards-and-forwards towards impact, but I do not believe that Lexi Thompson has to apply a greater degree of right arm/hand push force to the grip end of the club below the coupling point in order to manually induce a club-release phenomenon - because she has an ideal hand arc path for a golfer who chooses to use a CF-release action in order to produce a random release action.  

What represents an ideal hand arc path during phase 2 of the downswing if a golfer wants to use a random release action (and not a sweep release action or a late release action)?

I believe that the ideal hand arc path in phase 2 of the downswing is a hand arc path that provides the club with enough CF-releasing energy to successfully complete the release of the club (release of PA#2) by impact.

Consider a diagram showing two different hand arc paths.


Jamie Sadlowski's club release action as an example of a "tight turn" hand arc path


Note that Jamie Sadlowki's hand arc path (red-splined path) is very straightish in phase 1 of the downswing - between points 1 and 2 of his hand arc path. Note that he has maintained his considerable degree of clubhead lag at position 2 (P5 position) - because a straightish hand arc path doesn't induce the club release phenomenon via a CF-release action. 

Note that his club starts to release during phase 2 of the downswing (between points 2 and 3 on his hand arc path) - when his *hand arc path takes a tight radial turn in the direction of the target. 

(*Conceptually, note that the straight section of the endless belt is oriented downwards-and-to-the-right and the small-diameter end pulley of the endless belt is located between points 2 and 3 of the hand arc path - see my Understanding the Club Release Phenomenon - The Endless Belt concept review paper for further details on the endless belt concept). A "tight turn" hand arc path pattern has a greater potential magnitude of club releasing power - because the amount of club-releasing power is proportional to the degree that the hand arc path constantly changes direction (in a circular manner) per unit distance of hand travel along the hand arc path - see this link if you want to study and understand the mathematics explaining the CF-club release phenomenon)

Note that a "gradual turn" hand arc path has the endless belt system oriented downwards-to-the-left, and note that the degree of curvacture of the hand arc path between points 2 and 3 (between the P5 position and the P6.3 position) is less tightly circular (conceptually equivalent to a larger-diameter end pulley in the endless belt system), and that type of hand arc path has less CF-club releasing power during phase 2 of the downswing. Who recommends that type of hand arc path?

A "gradual turn" hand arc path (between the P5 position and the P6.3 position) is actually recommended by TGM golf instructors who state that a golfer should direct their hands in a straight line direction towards the ball at the start of the downswing. They refer to this type of downswing action as a "straight line hand delivery action."  

Here is Lynn Blake demonstrating a drill that encourages a "straight line hand delivery action".


Lynn Blake's elastic band drill - from reference number  [22]


In image 1, Lynn Blake is placing his left foot (representing the ball position) over the end of an elastic band, which is stretched between his left foot and the right hand (which is located at his end-backswing position). In image 2, VJ Trolio is placing his foot over the end of the elastic band (located at the ball's position). This "teaching drill" is designed to give a golf student the "feel" of how the hands will be directed in a straight line direction towards the ball during the early-mid downswing action - as if one were aiming one's hands directly at an aiming point located at the ball's position

Some TGM-influenced golf instructors modify this "aiming point" concept and encourage a golfer to aim their hands at an aiming point located even further ahead of the ball (closer to the target than the ball). Bobby Clampett (originally taught by the famous TGM instructor Ben Doyle) teaches this approach [23].

Bobby Clampett states that a golfer should aim his hands at an aiming point located 4" ahead of the ball.


Bobby Clampett's aiming point concept - from reference number [23]


The white line represents a straight line drawn from his eyes to an imaginary aiming point located about 4" ahead of the ball, and he encourages golfers to direct their hands using a "straight line hand delivery action" towards that aiming point. This type of of golf instructional teaching encourages a golfer to get their hands well forward of the clubhead at impact in order to ensure a FLW and forward shaft lean at impact. Critics of this type of teaching refer to this type of hand delivery action as "handle-dragging". I used to recommend this type of "handle-dragging" downswing action, but I now believe that it is only suitable for short irons because short irons do not require much club-releasing power to fully release PA#2 by impact - due to the shorter length of the club and the consequent smaller clubhead arc radius. I now believe that most golfers should preferably use a "tight turn" hand arc path during phase 2 of the downswing for longer clubs - longer irons, fairway woods and the driver - if they want to use a random release action during phase 2 of their downswing. 

Consider another golfer who uses a "tight turn" hand arc path during phase 2 of the downswing (like Lexi Thompson and Jamie Sadlowski) in order to efficiently induce a CF-release of the club - Heath Slocum.   

Heath Slocum swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdVcINqxCkU

Consider Heath Slocum's hand arc path.


Heath Slocum's hand arc path - capture images from his swing video


The red-splined path represents his hand arc path - note that his hand arc path has a "tight turn" circular path in phase 2 of the downswing (between the P5 position and the P6.3 position) and the nadir of the hand arc path is near his right thigh.

Image 1 shows his hand position at the P5 position - note that his hands are at point 1 on his hand arc path.

Image 2 shows that his hands have reached point 2 on his hand arc path as his hands move from the P5 position towards the P5.5 position - note that his hands are mainly moving downwards and not very much forwards (towards the target). 

Image 3 shows what would likely happen if he used a straight line hand delivery action where he directs his hands in the direction of the ball - his hands would move from point 1 to point 2 along the blue-colored hand arc path, which has its nadir nearer the left thigh. In other words, his hands would move more forwards (in the direction of the ball), and less downwards (in the direction of the ground) during the early stage of phase 2 of the downswing, and he would more likely generate a "gradual turn" hand arc path, which has less PA#2-releasing power. I think that a golfer should optimally generate a "tight-turn" hand arc path during phase 2 of the downswing if he wants to efficiently induce a random release action that will be successfully completed by impact - and that requires that the hands move more downwards (groundwards) and less forwards between the P5 position and the P5.5 position.

What potential role does the right arm/hand have in the generation of this type of "tight turn" hand arc path pattern during phase 2 of the downswing?

Note that Heath Slocum is keeping his power package intact between image 1 and image 2, and note that there is no premature straightening of his right arm or premature left wrist uncocking (secondary to a rotation-about-the coupling point action) during this time period. Note how he is actively adducting his right arm towards the right side of his torso during this time period, which drives the right elbow downwards to a pitch location alongside his right hip area. The motion of the right palm is mainly downwards during this time period (even though the two rotating shoulder sockets are pulling the two humeral heads along a more horizontal path) because a golfer can independently decide to move the right arm/right palm in a desired downwards-direction while the two humeral heads are being dragged along by their respective shoulder sockets. Also, any push-pressure exerted by the right arm/hand during this time period will mainly be exerted against PP#1 (which is above the coupling point) by the right palm, which lies over the left thumb. In other words, it is perfectly acceptable for the right arm/hand to apply push-pressure against PP#1 (between the P5 position and the P6 position) in order to maintain the speed of motion of the hands along a "tight turn" hand arc path during phase 2 of the downswing - as long as any applied push-pressure (by the right arm/hand) doesn't disrupt the smooth pivot-induced release of PA#4. The two hands should optimally move at the same speed - as an unitary grip-pulling unit - along the "tight turn" of the hand arc path in order to efficiently induce the smooth CF-release of the club during phase 2 of the downswing. There is no need for the right arm/hand to apply any push-pressure below the coupling point in order to manually release the club. In fact, any push-pressure applied by the right arm/hand to the grip end of the club *below the coupling point during this random CF-release action may interfere with the smooth CF-release of the club and it may even produce a switting problem.

(* I have discussed this issue in much greater length in my Critical Review: Brian Manzella's Release Ideas review paper)

 

Question number 21: Should a golfer "pull-up on the grip end of the club with all his might" during phase 3 of the downswing - as recommended by Brian Manzella, a golf instructor based in New Orleans?

Answer:

No!

Brian Manzella states that a golfer should "pull-up on the grip end of his club with all his might" during phase 3 of the downswing (which occurs between P6/6.3 and impact).

Brian Manzella even believes that Lexi Thompson is "pulling-up on the grip end of her club with all her might" in phase 3 of her downswing action.



Lexi Thompson's downswing action - capture image from the Brian Manzella video


Lexi Thompson is at the start of phase 3 of her downswing action in image 2, and at the end of phase 3 in image 3. 

Brian Manzella has drawn green arrows of increasing length (representing a "pulling-up force" of progressively increasing magnitude) and he actually believes that Lexi Thompson is "pulling-up on the grip end of her club with all her might" during this phase of the downswing. Brian Manzella calls this "pulling-up" force a normal force, and he states that a golfer must "go normal" during phase 3 of the downswing. 

Brian Manzella is correct about one point - all skilled golfers should produce this normal force during phase 3 of the downswing, but I think that it happens automatically/naturally in response to the centrifugal loading produced by a fully released club and it occurs automatically/naturally secondary to optimal golf swing biomechanics. During the late downswing and at impact, the released club is pulling away from the hands with a centrifugal force that reaches approximately 100lbs by impact, and a golfer must obviously be producing a centripetal force of equal magnitude to keep the hands moving along a constant hand arc radius (constant hub path radius) during phase 3 of the downswing. However, that centripetal force is produced automatically/naturally/subconsciously if a golfer simply manifests the optimum biomechanical movements that generate that centripetal force, and he doesn't have to consciously "pull-up with his hands" in order to to shorten the hand arc path radius. The optimum biomechanical movements include a i) straightening of the left leg and ii) extension of the left side of the mid-upper torso and iii) an elevation of the left clavicle. Those three biomechanical actions will in concert cause the left shoulder socket to move upwards away from the ball and those biomechanical actions will allow a golfer to maintain a constant hand arc path radius (constant hub path radius) during phase 3 of the downswing - and thereby successfully counteract the centrifugal loading force of approximately 100lbs produced by the fully released club. 

Consider a golfer who has a constant hand arc radius in phase 3 of his downswing.

Robert Rock swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBobUYV-Sws

Here is a capture photo showing his hand arc path.


Robert Rock's hand arc path - capture image from his swing video


Note that Robert Rock has a constant hand arc radius during phase 3 of his downswing, and note that he has an elevated left shoulder socket at impact. The biomechanical actions producing the elevation of his left shoulder socket can easily produce a centripetal force of 100lbs at impact, and thereby allow him to easily maintain a constant hub path radius through impact. If Robert Rock wanted to produce parametric acceleration of the club during phase 3 of the downswing, then he must generate a greater degree of left shoulder socket elevation so that he can shorten the hub path radius (like Lexi Thompson). If you look at Lexi Thompson's phase 3 downswing action, you will note that her hand arc path radius is shortening in phase 3 of her downswing, and that allows her to parametrically accelerate the golf club. However, *parametric acceleration of the club is a totally different issue and golfers have the option of parametrically accelerating the club in the late downswing by utilising biomechanical maneuvers that will shorten the hub path radius.   

(* I have discussed the issue of "normal forces" and "parametric acceleration of the club" in much greater detail in my Critical Review: Brian Manzella's Release Ideas review paper)


Question number 22:

Should a golfer maintain a FLW, and intact LAFW, throughout the downswing action? 

Answer:

Yes.

Consider this swing video of Rick Nielsen swinging a rope - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcxONHQxM-U

Here are capture images from that video.


Rick Nielsen performing the rope drill - capture images from his swing video


TGM instructors often use the rope drill to demonstrate a quintessential TGM swinger's rope technique swing action where the clubshaft is pulled along by the two hands (as if one is simply pulling a rope). Most professional golfers are swingers and they release the club (as if it were a rope) by optimising their downswing's hand arc path and optimising the speed of their hand motion along their hand arc path - while they simply pull on the grip end of the club (as if they were pulling a rope). A swinger never pushes on the aft side of the grip end of the club as if it were an axe-handle (using a force-across-the shaft action applied below the coupling point - as recommended by Brian Manzella in his rotation-about-the-coupling point club release action). 

Note that Rick Nielsen has a neutral left arm and neutral left hand grip at address. Note that the rope follows his straight left arm during his entire downswing action - image 3-5 - and the rope is basically releasing in a plane that is straight-in-line with his lower left arm and GFLW. Note how he maintains a GFLW throughout his downswing action and he never allows his left wrist to bend - which means that he is maintaining an intact LAFW throughout his downswing action. Note that the back of his GFLW is parallel to the inclined plane (which is like the slope of a pitched roof) throughout his downswing action - images 3-5. Note that his GFLW is still parallel to the inclined plane in image 5, and he only rolls his left arm/GFLW counterclockwise as he nears impact (image 6) - when the rope has nearly caught up to his straight left arm. That rolling action of the FLW (representing the release of PA#3) is neeeded to square the clubface - and because he uses a neutral left arm and neutral left hand grip, he must rotate the back of his FLW to face the target by impact if he wants the clubface (which is always parallel to the back of FLW) to face the target at impact. A golfer (like Jamie Sadlowski) who uses a very strong left hand grip will not have to use a PA#3 release action - as previously demonstrated in these late downswing images - because his clubface is always square to the clubhead arc throughout his downswing action.

The great advantage of maintaing an intact LAFW throughout the downswing is that it allows the clubshaft to release smoothly along a smooth-arced path without any tipping-over motion where the clubshaft tumbles over-the-plane. 

Consider a golfer who maintains an intact LAFW and GFLW throughout his downswing action - Keegan Bradley.

Keegan Bradley swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veavFTeSCgQ

Here are capture images from his swing video.


Keegan Bradley's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Note how Keegan Bradley maintains a GFLW throughout his downswing action and note how the back of his GFLW is always parallel to the inclined plane (even when his GFLW and hands are dropping to a shallower plane between P4.5 and P6). Note how the clubshaft tracks along the same plane as the back of his GFLW in his early-mid downswing (images 1-3). In image 3 his clubshaft has dropped down to the elbow plane - and note how the clubshaft remains on that same inclined plane as his club releases in the mid-late downswing (images 3, 4 and 5). To emphasise these points, consider these composite images.


Keegan Bradley's downswing action - composite images constructed from the five capture images from his swing video


Note how his hands drop down to a shallower plane in his early downswing - image 1. Note that his clubshaft drops down to the same degree because his clubshaft is following the path of his GFLW - due to the fact that he maintains an intact LAFW while his hands drop down to a shallower plane.

Note that his hands continue to drop down to a shallower plane in his mid-downswing (image 2) and note that the back of GFLW remains parallel to the inclined plane. Note how the clubshaft follows the path of his GFLW (as if it were merely a rope being pulled by the GLFW) and that he maintains an intact LAFW. 

Note how his club releases within the plane of his LAFW between the P5.5 position (lower clubshaft image in image 2) and the P6.7 position (lower clubshaft image in image 3) and note that the clubshaft releases on a constant inclined plane between the P5.5 position and the P6.7 position (because the back of his GFLW remains parallel to that inclined plane while the left wrist uncocks). That's a great advantage of maintaining a GFLW and intact LAFW throughout one's downswing action! 

It is important to realise that a small amount of left wrist palmar flexion (eg. going from a GFLW to an AFLW) that only minimally disrupts the internal alignment of the LAFW, will not deleteriously affect the smooth arced motion of the clubsaft during the downswing, and/or the ability of a golfer to release the club along a constant inclined plane between the P5.5 position and impact. In fact, it is even possible to execute a smooth arced motion of the clubshaft using an arched/bowed left wrist - as long as the degree of left wrist arching doesn't vary much during the early-mid downswing action. 

Dustin Johnson is an example of a golfer who has a significantly arched left wrist (of constant degree) during his downswing action.

Dustin Johnson swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kTuu8OElPo

Here are capture images from that swing video.


Dustin Johnson's downswing action - capture images from his swing video 


Image 1 shows Dustin Johnson at his end-backswing position - note that he has an arched (bowed) left wrist which causes his clubshaft to droop groundwards. 

Note that he maintains the same degree of left wrist arching in his early downswing (images 2 and 3) and mid-downswing (image 4). The red dotted line shows where his clubshaft would be located if he had a GFLW and intact LAFW, so one can see that his clubshaft is slightly underplane (relative to his lower left forearm). However, that small difference doesn't really matter because his clubshaft still tracks behind his left arm in a smooth arced manner - as if he were pulling on a rope (with a "fixed" left wrist deformity). 

Now, although having an arched left wrist, and slightly underplane clubshaft (relative to the left arm), is acceptable - it is not acceptable to suddenly bend (dorsiflex) the left wrist in the early-mid downswing in such a manner that the clubshaft gets thrown over-the-plane in a tumbling manner. If the clubshaft tips over-the-plane, then the club will wobble until it eventually falls-back towards the inclined plane when it subsequently gets pulled downward-and-forward (as if it were a rope) by the left arm during later stages of the early-mid downswing. If the clubshaft remains over-the-plane during the early-mid downswing, then the tumbling clubshaft will be totally out-of-control in the late downswing. 

As a general rule, I think that maintaining an *intact LAFW and GFLW during the downswing action is the optimal approach; having an arched left wrist (of "fixed" degree) is an acceptable approach; but having a bent left wrist (that moves the clubshaft over-the-plane in a tumbling manner) is not an acceptable approach.  

(* I have discussed the virtues of playing golf with an intact LAFW in much greater detail in this 90 minute Gotham Golf Blog interview hosted by Ralph Perez - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96quJ-BkfgI )


Question number 23:

Many golf instructors (and golfers) who use a neutral left hand grip believe that they close the clubface during the late downswing via a body rotation movement and they deny that they use a PA#3 release action to square the clubface by impact. Can you prove them wrong?

Answer:  

Yes.

I am frequently surprised to discover that many golfers believe that they square the clubface in the late downswing solely via a body rotation movement, and they also concurrently believe that they do not use any PA#3 release action (which involves a small degree of external rotation of the left humerus in the left shoulder socket and a significant degree of supination of the left forearm). 

Consider Keegan Bradley's late downswing action.

Keegan Bradley swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veavFTeSCgQ

Here are capture images from his swing video.

Keegan Bradley's late downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows Keegan Bradley at the P6 position - note that the back of his FLW is parallel to the ball-target line.

Image 2 shows Keegan Bradley at impact, where the back of his FLW must be facing the target if he uses a neutral left hand grip.  

Note that the back of his left hand must have rotated 90 degrees between the P6 position and impact. 

Note that his shoulders are slighly closed to the ball-target line at the P6 position and slightly open at impact - and that the degree of upper torso rotation between those two positions must be far less than 90 degrees. 

To obtain more accurate measurements of upper torso rotation in the late downswing, I would recommend that golfer study birds-eye view golf swing videos.

Here is an example of a birds-eye view golf swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGIZg6IrOUw

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Torso rotation in the late downswing - capture images from the swing video


Image 1 is at the P6 position when the back of his FLW is parallel to the ball-target line. I have drawn a red line across his shoulder turn angle.

Image 2 is at impact when the back of his FLW must be facing the target. I have drawn another red line across his shoulder turn angle.

Image 3 is a composite image where I have superimposed image 1 on image 2 using Photoshop - one can clearly see that the degree of shoulder turn rotation (upper torso rotation) is far less than 90 degrees.

Here is another birds-eye view golf swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNRsnz92bG8&feature=related

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Torso rotation in the late downswing - capture images from the swing video


Image 1 is at the P5.5 position when the back of the FLW is still parallel to the inclined plane, and not yet parallel to the ball-target line. The red line is drawn across his shoulder turn angle.

Image 2 is just past impact when the back of his FLW faces the target. The red line is drawn across his shoulder turn angle.

Note that the back of his FLW must have rotated 90+ degrees between the P5.5 position and impact, but his upper torso has rotated less than 90 degrees. The difference between these two angular rotation measurements must be due to left arm/forearm rotation

Consider a slow motion swing video (taken at 8,200 frames/second) that clearly shows the release of PA#3, which happens just prior to impact.

Swing video of John Oda's hand motion through impact - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3IwPrUwyTI

Here are capture images from the swing video.


John Oda's hand release action in the late downswing and through impact - capture images from his swing video


John Oda is probably at the P6.7 position in image 1 - note that the back of his FLW is still angled away from the target and note that his left forearm is still pronated. 

Note how he rotates his left forearm counterclockwise in images 2 and 3 so that the back of his FLW faces the target through impact - and that biomechanical action represents the release of PA#3.

How much of the rotation of the FLW that occurs in the release of PA#3 (in John Oda's swing) is due to a left forearm supination movement versus a counterclockwise rotation of the left humerus?

Consider another view of John Oda's downswing that includes a view of his left antecubital fossa.


John Oda's PA#3 release action - capture images from his swing video

Image 1 is at the P6.5 position. Note that the back of the FLW is still nearly parallel to the ball-target line. Note that the left antecubital fossa faces away from the target and note that the left forearm is still significantly pronated. 

Image 3 is at the P7.1 position. Note that the back of his FLW faces the target, which means that the FLW has rotated about 60-80 degrees between image 1 and image 3 due to the release of PA#3. Note that the left antecutal fossa has rotated <45 degrees, which means that a significant amount of the rotation of the FLW is due to a left forearm supination movement. One can clearly see that the radial border of the left lower forearm has rotated around more than the left antecutial fossa in a counterclockwise direction - which has to be secondary to a left forearm supination movement.

Consider yet another example that clearly demonstrates the rotary motions of the left arm and left forearm that occur in the release of PA#3.

Alexander Noren swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dWnzIhLWDoM

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Alexander Noren's late downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 is at the P6.1 position. I have drawn a red line along the radial border of his left lower forearm and a blue line down the middle of his left antecubital fossa. Note that the red line is slightly rotated clockwise relative to the blue line - which means that his left forearm is slightly pronated. That explains why the back of his FLW is rotated more clockwise than his left antecubital fossa.

Image 2 is at the P6.9 position where the back of his FLW faces the target. Note that the back of his FLW must have rotated about 70-80 degrees between image 1 and image 2. Note that there has been very little counterclockwise rotation of the left antecubital fossa (which reflects the influence of left shoulder socket rotation combined with external rotation of the left humerus) between image 1 and image 2, which means that left forearm supination played a significant role in the counterclockwise rotation of his FLW. In fact, one can clearly see that the radial border of his left lower forearm (red line) has rotated more counterclockwise than his left antecubital fossa (blue line) in image 2. 


Question number 24:

Some golf instructors believe that Sergio Garcia has an underplane downswing action. Do you agree?

Answer:

Yes and no.

I think that Sergio Garcia is underplane in his early downswing (between the P4 position and the P5 position), but I think that he is appropriately on-plane between the P5.5 position and impact.

Consider this swing video of Sergio Garcia - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPdf3HpbSUs

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Sergio Garcia's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


I have drawn a red line along his clubshaft in image 8 (when he is at impact) that red line represents his impact zone plane. Note that I have also drawn short blue lines on the back of his FLW to show the angle of his FLW at different time points during the downswing.

Image 1 & 2 shows Sergio Garcia's early downswing action, which is very idiosyncratic because he starts his downswing with a very assertive vertical dropping of his hands due to an active right arm adduction movement. Note how his hands drop near-vertically downwards in image 2 - and note that his clubshaft is off-plane (being underplane on a very shallow plane). His clubshaft is deemed to be off-plane (underplane) because an imaginary line drawn from the butt end of his club will point well outside the ball-target line. Note that he has executed very little upper torso and left arm rotation in his early downswing (between the P4 position and the P5 position) while he is actively downslotting his intact power package, and that results in an underplane clubshaft by the P5 position.

However, note what happens in his mid-downswing - image 3 (P5.5 position). His hands have continued to drop down to a lower level, but he is now rotating his upper torso and also simultaneously rotating his left arm/forearm counterclockwise so that the back of his GFLW (and clubshaft) is now parallel to the red line, which means that he is now on-plane. 

Note that Sergio Garcia then remains on-plane from that P5.5 position (image 3) all the way to impact (image 8). 

Note how the back of his FLW (blue line), and therefore clubshaft, is steepening between image 2 and image 3/4 due to a counterclockwise rotation of the left arm/forearm (which involves some external rotation of the left humerus combined with some left forearm supination). Brian Manzella refers to this counterclockwise rotary motion of the left arm/forearm, and therefore clubshaft, as a "tumble action" - and it is as if one were tumbling the clubshaft over-the-plane (outwards in the direction of the ball-target line).

Here is a swing video of Brian Manzella describing the tumbling motion (between the 1 - 3 minutes time period) - http://vimeo.com/23762572

Here are capture images of Brian Manzella demonstrating a tumbling action.


Brian Manzella demonstrating a tumbling motion of the clubshaft - capture images from his swing video


Note that the clubshaft is underplane in image 1 - an imaginary line drawn from the butt end of the club points well outside the baseline of the inclined plane. 

Note how Brian Manzella is rotating his left forearm counterclockwise in images 2 and 3 and that left forearm supinatory action steepens the clubshaft (image 2) and if continued it will eventually throw the clubshaft over-the-plane (image 3). In image 2 his clubshaft is on-plane (because it is parallel to the inclined plane of his blue plane board and an imaginary line drawn from the butt end of the club will point at the base of the inclined board). In image 3, the back of his GFLW is vertical to the ground and the clubshaft (which is parallel to the back of his GFLW) has tumbled too far over-the-plane and it is well off-plane (imaginary line line drawn from the butt end of the club points well inside the ball-target line). This series of images shows that a tumbling action during the mid-downswing is designed to correct for an underplane clubshaft, but it is important to realise that one should not continue to tumble the clubshaft too much and throw it over the desired inclined plane. 

So, consider an enlarged capture image of Sergio Garcia at his P5.5 position (enlarged image of the smaller image 3 in the Sergio Garcia downswing sequence). 

Sergio Garcia at the P5.5 mid-downswing position - capture image from his swing video


Note that the back of his GFLW (short blue line) and clubshaft is on-plane. 

What would happen if he continued to rotate his left forearm counterclockwise and get his GFLW to become vertical to the ground (short yellow line)? The clubshaft would steepen and move over-the-plane (in the direction of the curved yellow arrow).

Now, look at image 5 in the Sergio Garcia downswing sequence - and note that his GFLW is vertical, but his clubshaft is still on-plane and not being thrown over-the-plane. How does one explain this fact?

Consider what is actually happening between the P5.5 position and the P6.2 position.


Sergio Garcia's downswing action between the P5.5 position and the P6.5 position - capture images from his swing video


In image 1, the back of his GFLW is parallel to the inclined plane. Note how the back of his GFLW becomes vertical to the ground and parallel to the ball-target (by image 4) without throwing the clubshaft over-the-plane. In fact, he is actually releasing his clubshaft on-plane in these four images. The reason why this can happen is that i) his hands are going through the "tight-turn" of the hand arc path where they are being moved towards the target by the rotation of the body/arms as a singular functional unit without any additional left forearm supinatory motion. The amount of unitary body/arm rotary motion that moves the clubshaft outwards (while the club is starting to release due to the release of PA#2) is just enough to keep the releasing clubshaft on-plane, and not move it over-the-plane. 

What happens between the P6.2 position and impact?

The club is continuing to releasing during this time period, and I have previously mentioned that the club should optimally release within the plane of the LAFW. So, consider this next image.


Sergio Garcia at the P6 position - capture image from his swing video


Note that the back of his GFLW is vertical and parallel to the ball-target line. Note that he has an intact LAFW and his clubshaft is inline with his left arm. If the clubshaft continuted to release within the plane of the LAFW, then one would expect it to follow the path of the curved yellow arrows (which would be an underplane clubshaft motion) if the GFLW always remained parallel to the ball-target line during the late downswing. However, that doesn't happen in Sergio Garcia's "real life" late downswing because the body and left arm are continuing to rotate counterclockwise between the P6 position and impact and the i) continued counterclockwise rotation of the GFLW causes the clubshaft to move outwards while ii) the club is releasing within the plane of the LAFW - and the clubshaft will remain on-plane if these two phenomena are perfectly blended. I think that Sergio Garcia perfectly blends these two phenomena in his late downswing action and I think that his clubshaft moves perfectly on-plane between the P6 position and impact - see images 6, 7 and 8 of his downswing sequence.

It is important to realise that a tumbling action in the early-mid downswing (as described by Brian Manzella) is only necessary to correct for an underplane clubshaft. Most professional golfers have an on-plane clubshaft in the early-mid downswing (between the P4 position and the P6 position) - review if necessary these images of Keegan Bradley's on-plane clubshaft motion if you need a visual reminder - and they therefore do not have to use the tumbling action (which is biomechanically due to a left forearm supinatory motion) demonstrated by Brian Manzella. The outward tumbling motion of the clubshaft that occurs between the P6 position and impact must naturally happen in all golf swings if a golfer wants to keep his clubshaft on-plane, and it is not due to the biomechanics underlying Brian Manzella's described-tumbling action. Also, the release of PA#3 (which is primarily due to a left forearm supinatory motion) must be delayed to later than the P6.5 position, so that the clubshaft is closer to becoming straight-in-line with the left arm, to avoid too much outward motion of the clubshaft (which would throw the clubshaft over-the-plane). 


Question number 25:

One of Homer Kelley's TGM concepts [5] is the idea that the right forearm should be on-plane (with the clubshaft) at impact. Do you believe that this is a biomechanical imperative?

Answer:

No.

Consider a golfer who has his right forearm on-plane with the clubshaft at impact - Stuart Appleby.


Stuart Appleby's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Note that Stuart Appleby's right forearm (colored in red) is straight-in-line with his clubshaft, which is on the elbow plane (white line) at impact - see DTL view of image 5 - and that represents an on-plane right forearm at impact. TGM-literalists believe that an on-plane right forearm allows the right forearm to maximally support the clubshaft at impact. However, this specific TGM concept is not a biomechanical imperative and one can only get to that particular impact position if one has one's right shoulder and right arm and right elbow in a certain position at impact and if the right elbow is straightened to a specific degree at impact. 

The "real life" reality is that skilled professional golfers vary considerably in their right shoulder/right arm/right elbow alignment/position at impact and their degree of right elbow straightening at impact. Consider a small sample. 


Position of the right forearm at impact in different golfers - adapted from reference number [25]


Alvaros Quiros (image 1) and JB Holmes (image 2) have their right forearm straight-in-line with the clubshaft at impact - like Stuart Appleby. They all have roughly the same postural features at impact - i) a small degree of rightwards spinal tilt without any exaggerated lateral bending of the thoracic spine that would drop the right shoulder down to a very low downplane position; ii) a right upper arm that is vertical/near-vertical; iii) a small degree of right elbow bend that angles the right forearm outwards at the right elbow joint to a small degree and iv) minimally open shoulders. 

Image 3 shows Phil Mickelson at impact. Note that an imaginary straight line drawn down the length of his rear forearm would go below his clubshaft and reach the ground inside the ball-target line. Note that he has slightly different postural features at impact - i) square shoulders; ii) a rear upper arm that is angled outwards away from the body; iii) a straightened rear elbow so that the rear upper arm and rear forearm are in a straight line relationship. 

Image 4 shows Hunter Mahan and image 5 shows Keegan Bradley at impact. Note that an imaginary straight line drawn down the length of their right forearm would go above their clubshaft and reach the ground outside the ball-target line. They both have similar postural features at impact - i) more open shoulders; ii) a considerable amount of lateral bending of their thoracic spine that causes their right shoulder, and therefore right elbow, to be lower to the ground; iii) vertical right upper arms; and iv) a large degree of bend at the right elbow that causes the right forearm to be angled outwards in a more horizontal manner. Note that they both have to ulnar-deviate their right wrist at impact - in contrast to golfers like Alvaros Quiros/Stuart Appleby/JB Holmes, who have a *level right wrist at impact.

(* A level right wrist is a wrist alignment that is neutral, and that is neither radially deviated or ulnarly deviated)

Human beings are not like a machine robot (that is designed to have a "fixed" biomechanical aligment at impact), and it is not surprising that they will have a significant variation in their particular biomechanical alignments at impact. As long as a golfer uses his right forearm constructively to help PP#3 trace the SPL of the ball-target line if wants to create a clubhead arc that is symmetrical to the ball-target line, and as long as the paddlewheeling right forearm synergistically assists in the smooth release of PA#4 and PA#3, then it doesn't matter if the right forearm is not on-plane with the clubshaft at impact (due to the presence of a significant variation in many biomechanical factors).


Question number 26:

In Q&A number 19, you demonstrated that a birds-eye swing video is useful to determine if a golfer maintains a loaded PA#4 during the early downswing, and in Q&A number 23 you demonstrated that a birds-eye swing video can usefully determine the exact amount of upper torso rotation that occurs during the late downswing. What other useful insights can be obtained from studying a birds-eye view swing video of a skilled golfer's downswing action?

Answer:

A birds-eye swing video is very useful in helping a golfer understand what is happening during the downswing action from a biomechanical/mechanical perspective. Consider a few examples of the usefulness of studying a birds-eye view swing video by considering this particular golfer's birds-eye view swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNRsnz92bG8&feature=related

Example number 1: Comparing the biomechanical/mechanical elements that cause the downswing's clubhead arc to be narrower than the backswing's clubhead arc.

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Comparing the backswing clubhead arc to the downswing clubhead arc - capture images from the swing video


Image 1 shows the golfer at the P3 position when his backswing's clubhead arc is at its widest. I placed a red line alongside the left side of his pelvis at address, and one can see that there is no swaying movement of the pelvis away from the target during his backswing - therefore, one can conclude that the width of his clubhead arc during his backswing action is not affected by any rotary motions of his pelvis. I placed a green dot over his left shoulder socket, and one can see the degree to which the left shoulder socket moves away from the target during his rightwards-centralised backswing action - when he rotates his upper torso around a rightwards-tilted spine. Note that this golfer uses an one-piece takeaway action and he also uses a delayed left wrist upcocking action - and that will contribute to a wider clubhead arc at the P3 position (compared to a golfer who uses a right forearm takeaway maneuver and an earlier left wrist upcocking action).  

Image 2 shows the golfer at the P5 position (end of the early downswing position). Note that his left pelvis abuts the red line and that there is no swaying of his pelvis left-laterally towards the target - so his pelvic motions do not contribute to the narrower clubhead arc that he generates during his early downswing action. I have placed a blue dot over his left shoulder socket and one can see that it has moved more targetwards (compared to its backswing position) and that will cause the clubhead arc to be narrower in the early-mid downswing. However, the major factor causing the clubhead arc to be narrower in the early-mid downswing is the fact that he has his left wrist fully cocked upwards to a 90+ degree angle. 

Example number 2: Considering how the movement of the left shoulder socket affects the shape of the clubhead arc, and the position of low point of the clubhead arc, during the mid-late downswing.

Here are capture images from his swing video.


Movement of the left shoulder socket during the mid-late downswing action - capture images from the swing video


Image 1 is at the P5.5 position. I have placed a green dot over his left shoulder socket to note its location. Note that he still has 90 degree of clubhead lag at this time point of his mid-downswing.

Image 2 is at the P6 position. I have placed a blue dot over his left shoulder socket's location. Note that his club has started to release because he uses a random release action.

Image 3 is just after impact (at low point). I have placed a yellow dot over his left shoulder socket's location. Note that low point (nadir of his clubhead arc) is located vertically under his left shoulder socket.

Note that he has generated a very circular downswing clubhead arc (between clubhead points 1, 2 and 3) and that the low point of his clubhead arc is located vertically below his left shoulder socket.

Low point is the nadir of the clubhead arc and it should be located under the left shoulder socket, and just inside the left foot, in a full golf swing. Low point is also the deepest part of the post-impact divot (which will vary in depth depending on whether the golfer takes a deep divot or merely scuffs the grass). Creating a perfectly circular clubhead arc and a consistent low point location in swing-after-swing is the hallmark of a skilled golfer. If you analyse the late downswing action's biomechnical requirements carefully, you will realise that the speed-and-degree of upward movement of the left shoulder socket during the late downswing has to be perfectly time-blended with the timing of club release. If the club releases faster than the golfer elevates his left shoulder socket during the late downswing, then the clubhead will likely strike the ground behind the ball (called a "fat shot"). If the golfer elevates his left shoulder socket too much during his late downswing (while the club is catching up to the straight left arm) then it may produce a thin shot (where the leading/lower edge of the clubface strikes the ball) or a skulled shot (where the bottom surface of the clubhead strikes the ball) or a whiffed shot (where the clubhead completely misses the ball and passes above the ball). Learning to perfect the i) timing of left shoulder socket elevation and ii) also the exact amount of upward movement of the left shoulder socket during the late downswing is an absolute requirement if a golfer wants to consistently strike the ball solidly with the sweetspot of the clubface. If a golfer wants to be a really skilled ball-striker, then he has to master all the biomechanical movements that produce elevation of the left shoulder socket during the late downswing - i) transferring his lower body weight "correctly" over a straightening left leg, ii) stretching of the left side of the left mid-upper torso, and iii) elevation of the left clavicle - and he also has to perform all these three biomechanical movements with perfect timing. Amateur golfers who consistently "hit the ball fat" (hit the ground before they hit the ball) have obviously not acquired this necessary golfing skill. By contrast, professional golfers, who play on the PGA tour, have extraordinary skill in this arena - consider an example.     

Consider how Phil Mickelson hits this "bad lie" shot from just off the green.


Phil Mickelson's swing approach to a "bad lie" just off the green - images adapted from reference number [26]


Image 1 shows a "bad lie" where the ball is nestled down in the grass. Image 2 shows that Phil Mickelson is about 10 yards off the green and he only has a few yards of green between the green edge and the hole. Phil Mickelson had decided to take a full swing with a lob wedge and he starts off by opening his clubface and placing the bounce undersurface of the wedge just behind the ball. Image 3 shows that he intends to take nearly a full golf swing - even though he is only about 15 yards from the hole. Image 4 shows that he has deliberately hit the ground just behind the ball with the bounce undersurface of his clubhead and that he is keeping the clubface open through impact. I think that any golfer's deliberate choice of a full golf swing action for this type of "bad lie" predicament mandates that he has exquisite control of low point location and also the depth of the ground strike to avoid having the clubhead richochet off the ground and into the back of the ball. I think that it takes an extraordinary level of golfing skill to be able to successfully execute this type of shot, and it is a testament to the superb skill of professional golfers that they can often successfully execute this type of shot off bad lies (eg, a ball nestled down in thick grass, a ball lying on hardpan, a ball partially embedded in the soft sand of a bunker or a ball lying in shallow water). 


Question number 27:

Lynn Blake, a renown TGM instructor, states that the secret to golf is maintaining a sense of constant lag pressure throughout the downswing. Do you agree with his opinion, which is based on his interpretation of Homer Kelley's lag pressure concept that is described in his TGM book [5]?

Answer:

No.

Here is the video presentation by Lynn Blake on the "secret to golf" - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzG7thLPnBU

Lynn Blake states that if a golfer maintains shaft stress throughout the downswing that it will allow a golfer to maintain a sense of constant lag pressure at PP#3, and that maintaining this sense of constant lag pressure will allow a golfer to avoid any possibility of flipping before impact. TGMers always refer to the TGM-refrain "sustain the lag" as being the secret to golf, and many TGMers think that "sustaining the lag" means that a golfer should maintain a sense of constant lag pressure throughout the entire downswing. In a swinger's action, PP#3 is located under the shaft at the end-backswing position, and it senses the weight of the clubhead in its static end-backswing position as the grip end of the club rests against PP#3. At the start of the downswing, the golfer will be pulling the grip end of the club downwards-and-forwards-and-outwards as the left hand start to move in the direction prescribed by the hand arc path. The clubhead has inherent inertia and it will tend to want to stay behind at its end-backswing position, and the shaft will bend backwards due to the shaft stress produced by the balance between the left hand pulling force and the clubhead's inherent inertia. As the shaft bends backwards secondary to the shaft stressing phenomenon, it will produce a "feel-sensation" of pressure against the right index finger at PP#3 (presuming that the right palm constantly applies the same degree of push-force at PP#1, thereby indicating that the right hand is traveling at the same speed as the left hand, which is pulling the grip end of the club). Lynn Blake states that a golfer (who is a swinger) should sustain a constant sense of lag pressure throughout the entire downswing, and that the sense of lag pressure sensed by PP#3 should not be allowed to diminish during the late downswing. 

Here are capture images from Lynn Blake's video.


Lynn Blake demonstrating the shaft stressing phenomenon - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows the clubshaft bending backwards at the start of the downswing secondary to the shaft stressing phenomenon, and that will produce a sense of lag pressure at PP#3.

Image 2 shows Lynn Blake maintaining that backward-bending shaft all the way to impact - by constantly pulling forward with the left hand throughout the entire downswing, and by never allowing the left hand to stall, or slow-down, during the late downswing. Theoretically, that type of "backward-bending shaft" shaft-stressing swing action will allow a golfer to "feel" a constant sense of lag pressure at PP#3 throughout the entire downswing. 

Image 3 shows Lynn Blake "dragging a wet mop" against the ground during the late downswing, and Lynn Blake states that this is the "handle-dragging feeling" that a golfer should ingrain in his downswing action if he wants to "sustain lag" all the way into impact. 

Lynn Blake believes that a golfer can sustain this sense of constant lag pressure all the way into impact even if the clubshaft manifests forward bending - see image 4. In his video, Lynn Blake states that a golfer should be sustaining the same sense of constant lag pressure at impact (between his hands and the clubhead's sweetspot - represented by that dotted blue-line and orange shaft) and Lynn Blake states that modern, high frame-rate video simply shows that the proximal clubshaft and mid-clubshaft cannot keep up with the hands/clubhead sweetspot, and that it causes the clubshaft to be bent-forward at impact. I think that Lynn Blake's explanation "that the shaft cannot keep up with the hands/sweetspot" makes no sense from a scientific perspective.

Consider David Tutelman's explanation of shaft bending as presented in his article on the "right hand hit" - http://www.tutelman.com/golf/swing/handhit.php

David Tutelman states that if the clubshaft has backward bend at any time point during the downswing, then it indicates that a positive wrist torque is being applied by the golfer.


Backward shaft bending - diagram from David Tutelman's article


The above diagram shows that if the clubshaft is bent backwards, then it indicates that a positive wrist torque is being exerted by the hands on the grip end of the club and that the clubhead is lagging behind the stressed shaft.

What does forward bending of the shaft imply?


Forward shaft bending - diagram from David Tutelman's article


The above diagram shows that if the clubshaft is bent forwards, then it indicates that a negative wrist torque is present - which means that the clubhead is traveling faster than the hands. Under those conditions, it is not possible for PP#3 to sense the same sensation of lag pressure as it senses during the shaft stressing phase of the downswing, and the sense of lag pressure sensed by PP#3 must be significantly less. When does the clubshaft bend forward during a swinger's downswing action when he swings a driver?

Consider capture images from two long-drive competitors' swing videos.

Jamie Sadlowski's swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep-qidwgCII



  Clubshaft bending in Jamie Sadlowski's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 shows Jamie Sadlowski approaching the P5.5 position. Note that he has still sustained his maximum amount of clubhead lag, and that the clubshaft is bent backwards secondary to his shaft stressing action.

Image 2 shows the start of the club releasing action (passive CF-release of PA#2) and the clubshaft is now straight. 

Image 3 is at the P6.5 position and image 4 is at the P6.8 position, and one can clearly see that the clubshaft has forward shaft bend due to the fact that the clubhead is traveling faster than the hands and that phenomenon is secondary to the natural club-releasing phenomenon (passive CF-release of PA#2) that occurs in a swinger's random release action. That means that any sense of lag pressure being sensed by PP#3 must be diminishing in the late downswing (between the P6 position and impact).

Dominic Mazza's swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kOsio_JeIo


Clubshaft bending in Dominic Mazza's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 is at the exact moment of start-down when he starts his left-hand pulling downswing action. Note that he is stressing the shaft and causing it to bend backwards.

Image 2 shows him approaching the P5.5 position - note that he has sustained his maximum degree of clubhead lag and the shaft is still bent backwards.

Image 2 is at the P6.2 position. Note that the club is releasing due to the fact that Dominic Mazza's uses a random release action, and one can see that the clubshaft has forward shaft bend at this early stage of the late downswing. 

Image 4 is at the P6.7 position, and he has forward shaft bend due to the fact that the clubhead is traveling faster than the hands. In other words, like Jamie Sadlowski, he must be experiencing a diminishing sense of lag presssure at PP#3 during his late downswing. This "fact" applies to all golfers (swingers) who use a random release action and who have forward shaft lean in their late downswing - the sense of lag pressure sensed by PP#3 must be diminishing, and it cannot be constant as Lynn Blake asserts in his "secret to golf" video. That's why I never instruct golfers to monitor lag pressure (via PP#3) during their downswing action. I think that a swinger must optimally maintain the forward motion of his left arm/hand during his late downswing if he wants to avoid pre-impact flipping, or flipping-through-impact, but I think that he must not delude himself by wrongly believing that he can best achieve that goal by attempting to maintain a sense of constant lag pressure at PP#3 throughout the entire downswing.


Question number 28:   

What is the main role of the right arm/RFFW in the early-mid downswing (between the P4 position and the P6 position) in a swinger?

Answer:

Most professional golfers are swingers, and they swing their intact LAFW down the inclined plane between the P4 position and the P6 position. The power to swing the left arm during the early-mid downswing is primarily derived from the active rotation of the upper torso, and therefore the left shoulder socket, which passively pulls the head of the left humerus along with it as the left shoulder socket's position moves in 3-D space - and this represents pivot-power. This pivot-powered action is combined with the active muscular activity of the left shoulder girdle muscles, which causes the left arm to move at a more downward angle as the left arm moves downwards-forwards-outwards (relative to the more horizontal motion of the left shoulder socket). The left arm is moving in three directions in the early-mid downswing - downwards, outwards and forwards - and its precise 3-D path-of-motion (particularly its degree of downward movement relative to its degree of outward movement) is optimally controlled by an active 3-D movement of the right arm/RFFW.

Consider Keegan Bradley's left arm, and therefore left hand, motion in the early-mid downswing.

Keegan Bradley swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veavFTeSCgQ

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Keegan Bradley's early-mid downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Image 1 is at the end-backswing position (P4 position). Image 2 represents the start of the early downswing. Image 3 is at the end of the early downswing (P5 position). Image 4 is at the P5.5 position. Image 5 is a composite image produced from the photoshop-combining of image 1 and image 4 - and it shows how much the left arm moves downwards during the power package slotting phase of the downswing, and how little it moves outwards (in an over-the-top direction); and the red curved curved arrow shows how the right elbow moves downwards-and-slightly outwards to its pitch location alongside the right hip joint area. 

Note that his left shoulder socket remains at roughly the same horizontal level during his early-mid downswing action, but his left arm/hand drops down considerably due to an independent motion of the two humeral heads within their respective shoulder sockets. The 3-D motion of the right arm/RFFW (which do not alter their bent right arm relationship) during the power package slotting phase plays a major role in directing the 3-D motion of the intact LAFW during this time period. Note how Keegan Bradley adducts his right arm towards the right side of his upper-mid torso, while his mid-upper torso is rotating counterclockwise in space, and it allows him to control the speed-and-direction of motion of the left arm/hand during the power package slotting phase of the downswing, and it also allows him to remain on-plane (butt end of the club always points at the ball-target line during the downward motion of the clubshaft). Also, note how Keegan Bradley's right elbow drops down below the level of his left elbow between P4 and P5.5, and while this is happening he is also externally rotating his right humerus in his right shoulder socket - and this combined biomechanical action involving the right arm represents a pitch elbow motion of the right arm. Note how the pitch elbow motion of his right arm allows him to shallow his clubshaft during the power package slotting phase, while simultaneously allowing the right palm to remain parallel to the undersurface of the shallowing-clubshaft's inclined plane. This significant degree of clubshaft shallowing action is not obligatory, and many professional golfers keep their two elbows at roughly the same level during the power package slotting phase of the downswing. 

Consider an example - Hunter Mahan.

Hunter Mahan swing video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaZwJ4FV6cc

Here are capture images from the swing video.


Hunter Mahan's downswing action - capture images from his swing video


Note how Hunter Mahan's two elbows remain at roughly the same level during his early-mid downswing action (images 2, 3 and 4) and note that he doesn't externally rotate his right humerus during the power package slotting phase. Hunter Mahan is still performing a pitch elbow motion with his right arm during his downswing action, but he is not shallowing the clubshaft between P4 and P6 as much as Keegan Bradley (who starts with his hands above the TSP at the P4 position) - Hunter Mahan can be conceived to be performing more of a side-arm throwing motion of his right arm/forearm, and less of an underhand throwing motion of his right arm/forearm, during his pitch elbow motion. Both types of pitch elbow motion are acceptable in a swinger's early-mid downswing action, and both of them should be conceived to be active right arm motions that help to control the directional motion of the intact LAFW during the early-mid downswing action, and that simultaneously allow the right palm to support the intact LAFW, which lies parallel to the inclined plane between the P4 position and the P6 position. 


Question number 29:

In Q&A number 28, you stated that the right arm/RFFW helps to control the directional motion of the intact LAFW during the early-mid downswing. Can the right arm/RFFW also increase swing power by assisting in the speed of release of PA#4 during the power package slotting phase of the downswing? 

Answer: 

Yes. 

The major source of swing power in a swinger (the generic term that I routinely use when I refer to a TGM swinger = Left arm swinger) is derived from the active release of PA#4 (release of the left arm, which is loaded across the chest during the backswing action). The speed of release of PA#4 in the early-mid downswing is primarily determined by the speed of active counterclockwise rotation of the upper torso (particularly the left shoulder socket) and this represents pivot power being applied to the left arm lever. The left shoulder girdle muscles also play an active role in the release of PA#4 because the left arm moves more downwards and along a steeper rotational axis than the rotating upper torso. While this is happening during the early-mid downswing, a swinger should be actively adducting his right arm (using a pitch elbow motion) and that will cause the right palm to produce push-pressure against PP#1 if the power package remains intact, and this push-pressure against PP#1 can potentially assist in optimising the speed of release of PA#4. 

David Tutelman discusses the physics/mechanics of "right arm power" in one of his golf articles [27], but I think that he gets many facts wrong.

David Tutelman uses this simple diagram to show how the speed of motion of the left hand down the hand arc path can be increased if the shoulder torque (pivot power torque) works through both arms.


Diagram showing how shoulder torque powers the golf swing - image derived from reference number [27]


In this diagram, David Tutelman shows how pivot power (which he calls "shoulder torque" power) causes the hands to move along the hand arc path (black dotted circular path) via the biomechnaical mechanism of the left arm lever pulling the grip end of the club while the right arm pushes the grip end of the club. I generally agree with this basic "pull-push" concept - as expressed in this diagram. I also agree that the applied shoulder torque (pivot power derived from the rotation of the two shoulder sockets in space) can potentially produce a greater amount of the shoulder torque being applied via the right arm (which is bent during the power package slotting phase between P4 and P5.5), because bending of the right arm shortens the radius of the right arm lever relative to the left arm lever. However, where I disagree with David Tutelman is that I believe that any push-pressure being applied by the right arm/RFFW should primarily be applied at PP#1 over the left thumb via the right palm, while using a standard/neutral right hand grip - while David Tutelman infers that a ten-finger grip is optimal because he believes that it allows the push-force from the right hand to be applied against the radial side of the left index finger. 

I also disagree with another DT-assertion (which contradicts the "pull-push" concept), where David Tutelman implies that the left arm should only control the radius of the hand arc path while the right arm should solely provide the swing power.  

Consider this photo from David Tutelman's article.


Lee Comeaux's downswing action - photo derived from reference number [27]


David Tutelman states the following in his article-: "This picture is my mental image of the Leecommotion swing, superimposed on a swing by Lee himself. The important thing is the separation of function between the right and left arms. Unlike the currently taught swing, which sees the left arm provide both power and path (and, implicitly, the right arm in a supporting role at most and "just keep the heck out of it" at least):

What David Tutelman is actually describing in that prose description of a Leecommotion-type swing action is a right arm swinger's action, where the right arm supplies all the swing power, and where the left arm only maintains the radius of the hand arc path, and thereby the clubhead arc. I have described right arm swinging in one of my review papers called "Left Arm Swinging, Right Arm Swinging and Hitting", but I believe that most professional golfers are left arm swingers, who only use right arm power to syngeristically assist in optimising the speed of release of PA#4 during the early-mid downswing (power package slotting phase of the downswing). It is important that website readers clearly understand the difference between "pure" right arm swinging and left arm swinging (TGM swinging) where a golfer may potentially use right arm-supplied push-pressure against PP#1 to synergistically assist in optimising the speed of release of PA#4 during the early-mid downswing between P4 and P5.5 (power package slotting phase of the downswing). There is probably considerable variation in the amount of push-pressure being applied by the right palm against PP#1 in different professional golfers, and I would imagine that some professional golfers mainly use push-pressure against PP#1 to control the directional motion of the intact LAFW during the early-mid downswing, while other professional golfers may be applying a greater degree of push-pressure against PP#1 that can significantly contribute to the speed of release of PA#4. There is no biomechanical rule that mandates how much push-pressure should be applied by the right palm against PP#1 during the early-mid downswing (power package slotting phase of the downswing) and developing golfers can personally experiment to determine what works best for them - and then individually decide whether they want their right arm/RFFW to apply push-pressure against PP#1 primarily to control the directional motion of the intact LAFW, or whether they also want to use this push-pressure against PP#1 to contribute to increasing the speed of release of PA#4 during the early-mid downswing.

 

Jeffrey Mann.

Original version: Written in December 2006, and first published in February 2007 when I initially started this golf website.

First major revision: February 2009.

Second major revision: November 2012.

 

References:

 

1. V1 Home Swing Analyser website. http://v2.v1home.com

 

2. The Fundamentals of Hogan. David Leadbetter.

 

 

3. Swing Like a Pro. Ralph Mann and Fred Griffin.


 

4. Ben Hogan's Five Lessons. Ben Hogan.

 

 

5.  The Golfing Machine. Homer Kelley.

 

 

6.  Anthony Kim Swing Video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8finF6n64Qg

 

7. How I Play Golf. Tiger Woods.

 

 

8. Practical Golf. John Jacobs.

 

 

9. Tiger Woods Nike commercial swing video.

Available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zgsrCCF-oEE

 

10. The Slot Swing. Jim McLean.




13. Sergio Garcia swing video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bDGTEvnPjU

 

14. Parametric Acceleration - The Effect of Inward Pull of the Club at Impact Stage. K Miura.

Sports Engineering. (2001) Volume 4 p75-88.


15. Domenic Mazza' swing action.

http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-instruction/swing-sequences/2011-02/photos-domenic-mazza#intro


16. The Stack and Tilt Swing. Michael Bennett and Andy Plummer.


 

17. The Golf Swing. David Leadbetter.


 

18. Slice video.  Oliver Heuler.

http://golfforum.de/?p=180

The text on that website page is in German, but the video is in English.


19. "Ideas about the Release" video. Brian Manzella.

Available at http://www.brianmanzella.com/shop


20. Brian Manzella's interpretation of Lexi Thompson's downswing action.

 http://vimeo.com/34442274

 

21. How to Build a Classic Swing. Ernie Els.

 

22. Alignment Golf DVD. Lynn Blake and VJ Trolio.


23. The Impact Zone. Bobby Clampett.


 

25. Kelvin Miyahira's survey of impact positions of PGA tour players.

Available at http://www.aroundhawaii.com/lifestyle/health_and_fitness/2012-05-survey-of-impact-positions-of-pga-tour-players-target-linefront-view-.html


26. Secrets of the Short Game. Phil Mickelson.



27. Leecommotion: The Right-Side Swing. David Tutelman. 

Available at  http://www.tutelman.com/golf/swing/leecommotion1.php