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Want to experience some short-game cheer? Then it’s time to forget the old-fashioned ‘ball back, hands forward, weight forward’ mantra that leads – inevitably – to a one-dimensional (i.e. low & skiddy) type of shot. In its place, let me show you how tour players approach one of golf’s critical scoring shots with a neutral technique that allows for a terrific variety of scoring shots

By Jonathan Yarwood

No need to exaggerate the adjustments at the set up; with your body nicely open to the target you simply let your arms hang, placing the hands in the middle of
the body, while your sternum is marginally ahead of the ball

No need to exaggerate the adjustments at the set up; with your body nicely open to the target you simply let your arms hang, placing the hands in the middle of the body, while your sternum is marginally ahead of the ball

Keep stomach and club moving, turning, together

This is a favourite drill that will quickly get you in tune with the way the club works in tandem with your body. You can do this at home in front of a mirror – just 5 minutes a day once or twice a week will improve your general motion.

(L) Feed the clubshaft up through your hands until the butt-end of the grip rests in your naval

(C) Keep the butt-end in place as you then work on turning your body centre, working arms and club together

(R) Keep that relationship intact as you rotate all the way through

Swinging with the left hand only is another good exercise (below), and to reinforce the sensation of rotation you are looking for, place your right hand on your naval and feel the turning motion as you move arm, club and body in tandem, Focus on accelerating the shaft of the club down and through impact; as you do so, the club is always with you, never getting away from you.

(L) Gripping well down the shaft with your left hand, place your right hand on your belly to raise your awareness as to exactly where you want to feel the rotation that controls and paces your stroke

(R) Club maintains its relationship with your belly all the way to the finish

Fingertip feel, forearm finesse

Most right-handed players get their feel from the right hand, so swinging with the right hand only is a great way of feeling the weight of the clubhead and using that ‘feel’ to accelerate the shaft on the way down and through. Steady your upper arm with the left hand and clip balls; hinge your wrist gently on the way back to get that sense of ‘lag’ as you change direction, and then try to get the clubhead to catch up with the right hand as you release it through the ball. Get a sense of that ‘fingertrip feel’. This is what all of the tour players do. It’s a priceless tip that will open up a whole new world of variety in the shots you are able to play around the green.

Softness and fluidity in the arm gives you a great sense of fingertip feel

To recap, the basic premise here is that from a more neutral set-up position you are looking to blend the motion of body, arms and hands to get some real swing in the clubhead. Make that your goal in 2012; get away from the old fashioned ‘ball back, hands forward, weight forward’ cliche, and develop a technique that allows for some artistry around the green. The core shot should feature a neutral set up, shoulders, feet, knees and hips a slightly open to the target line, hands in the middle of the body. Check that your sternum is marginally ahead of the ball. Standing quite close to the ball, you want to feel that your triceps and ribs are nicely ‘connected’. To set the wheels in motion, the ‘engine’ of your movement is a gentle rotation of the hips, stomach and abs, while the wrists hingeing and unhinge to add speed to the shaft. A good feeling on the way down is that you are trying to get the clubhead to catch up (so, if anything, it bottoms out just after the ball, not ahead of it.

The ‘engine’ of the stroke is provided by the gentle rotation of the hips, belly and shoulders– the arms move in unison. A nice sense of ‘play’ in the wrists gets some speed in the shaft through the ball

Neutral motion sees the butt-end of the club always point back in the general direction of your body. Your relationship with the club is maintained all the way to the finish – natural loft on the clubface is preserved

(L) Old school: with ball back and the hands pushed forward, there is too much shaft ‘lean, club is seriously de-lofted.

(CL) Too much emphasis on playing the shot with the hands; this severe angle in the right wrist typifies a ‘closed-down’ stroke

(CR) This driving forwards of the hands is typical of the golfer who ball driven forwards

(R) Detachment of arms and club is clear at the finish

Once you have this all working you can conjure up different shots by simply adjusting ball position and face angle. Try playing the ball back opposite your right toe with the face square-to-closed for a lower runner, or forward with the face wide open for a higher and softer shot that stops quickly.

Note that in both of these positions (right) the set up remains relatively neutral – the hands remain relatively centred and there is not excessive shaft lean. This is important as it allows for the feel and flow in the right hand as you work on repetition and control. You need to be able to hit the same landing spot over and over with a variety of different spins. This tour-pro technique will get you closer to the action, your arms and ribs ‘connected’ for a compact stroke while that subtle wrist action is all it takes to add that acceleration of the head through the ball as it catches up. Pure joy.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine

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