Hitchin' a Ride
Part 2: In the previous article (Mind and Body) I explained how to maximise the benefit of your time on the practice tee before a game. Now let me back at up with a simple swing thought which, once mastered, can help you to keep your swing in shape out on the course.
Think thumbs up for symmetry back & through
Ever since I restructured my swing back in the mid-1980s, the position you see me checking here has been perhaps the single most important checkpoint that I make in the process of maintaining a good shape to my overall motion. A simple cue, 'thumbs up' -just as if I were out hitching a ride - gets the wrists hinging properly and the club swinging up on plane.
We talk a lot about the importance of swinging the club on a good plane and over the years this has been something that I know I have over-complicated. The reality is that a good swing plane is actually quite easy to achieve if you follow a few very simple rules. First of all, you need to work on creating a good posture, which is vital to you repeating a good swing.
Second, you need the muscles in your hands to be relatively relaxed on the grip, leaving the forearms 'soft', so that when you do initiate things, you enjoy the sensation of creating a swinging motion. In order to swing it, you need to be able to feel the weight of the head on the end of the shaft.
You may have heard it said (and believe me, it's true) that a good swing is a mirror-image, the backswing and through-swing displaying a number of shared characteristics.
The key is to focus on setting up a chain reaction that basically enables you to go out and play this game on auto pilot, without actually thinking about what you are doing. And for me, the simple cue of 'thumbs up' takes care of what I consider to be the most important elements of a good backswing.
From the set-up, making as if to hitch a ride with my left hand and forearm sees the left arm swing across the chest and the two thumbs working up towards the sky - which in turn sets the club on a good plane.
I look for my wrists to be fully hinged by the time the hands pass hip-high, the shaft of the club bisecting a point somewhere between the tip of my right shoulder and the base of my neck.
The marrying together of a flowing arm swing with a robust body turn is what we are all trying to achieve. And the exercises you see here will certainly help you to do that. I have always been a big believer in the value of swinging a club with just the left or right hand on the grip, as immediately this makes you more aware of the weight of the club-head and the need to get it swinging in order to generate speed. (You cannot force the issue with just one hand on the grip.)
At the same time, rehearsing the pivot motion can only do you good, as you remind yourself of the need to rotate the upper half of your body against the stability of a solid lower half. Repeat these specific exercises often enough and over time you will find that you blend arm swing and body turn together in one natural motion.
For good rhythm you need perfect balance
So you think your swing is on plane and in balance? The exercise you see here (above) will soon put it to the test. With a mid- to short iron, see if you can make a full backswing and hold it steady at the top while standing on just your right leg. To do this successfully you will need (a) to swing very smoothly, building up momentum gradually and (b) to support the turning motion with a firmly flexed right knee and thigh, absorbing the full weight on the ball of the foot.
Using the 'thumbs up' swing thought ensures that my hands, arms and the club swing up in balance - hence I am able to hold this position for several seconds. If my swing was too flat (i.e. the club too far behind my body), I would find this very difficult. Similarly, if my swing was too upright, my balance would be under threat.
Through a combination of all of the exercises I have covered, I always feel that I am able to make a compact and balanced swing. And that's precisely what you have to do. A full shoulder turn with a compact arm swing (as you see here) is the ideal combination for consistently solid ball-striking. I hope that the 'thumbs up' idea simplifies your thinking on the swing and enables you to focus on improving all aspects of your rhythm and balance.