Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The wrists and the dual plane

I've spent a lot of time reading about the golf swing and the various part of the action, and one of thie things that has frustrated me the most is that generally things get explained in terms that could have many possible interpretations.

An excellent example is the role of the wrists. We read terms like 'release', 'roll', and 'unhinge' without really knowing what this actually means.

Today at the driving range I think I finally realised that my interpretation has been completlely wrong for some time now.

I've always treated the wrist action roughly how it is treated in the baseball bat swing. That is, the wrists roll over to extend the bat (club) in a straight line as much as is possible. It never made sense to me to do it any other way, since otherwise you're fighting against centrifugal force. My wrists have always been something of an inactive participant in the swing, just flinging forth when the force of the swing makes them do so.

Unfortunately, I think the wrists need to take a much more active role for a more powerful, accurate and consistent swing.

The reason is that the way I've been swinging doesn't make sense in another way. When you set up, there is an angle between the arms and the club shaft. So if on the downswing the wrists move to straighten this angle, suddenly the club shaft is going to go straight into the ground, unless you raise the angle of the arms. That means there's more reach, and the clubface is toe-down (which would no doubt encourage a slice if hit solidly), or a topping/shank due to the club head being further away from the body. Nasty...

And these are also common outcomes of a lot of my strokes...

The key problem is that if you use the wrists this way you have to come over the top, otherwise you will hit the floor a good foot or so behind the ball (depending on the length of the club). I've always had a fear of coming from the inside as it generally causes me to floor it. Now I know why...

The truth, I believe is that there is no one 'plane' in the swing: there are two.

The first plane is the plane that the arms move in. This is a fairly steep plane, which gets shallower the longer the club. The important thing to note here is that this plane does not meet with the ball o the target line that the ball is on. Instead, it points between your toes and the target line. Basically, where your arms are pointing at address. In the takeaway and downswing, this is the plan that your arms must follow.

The second plane only exists at the bottom of the downswing, and is caused by the wrists. This plane is very shallow, and follows a line between the ball and probably just below your hips. From the top of the downswing, your arms drop down along the first plane we just talked about, with the butt of the club leading the way. As the impact zone is approached, the second plane is created by the action of the wrists, which causes the club to flick out along this new plane while the arms are still swinging along the original plane. What we get is the club speed being the product of the movement in the two planes, which is what generates so much power with miniman effort.

I suppose I'd better try and explain what the wrists actually do when the create this second plane...

The left wrist acts as the pivot point. The largest movement it makes is to rorate around the axis that is the forearm. There is also a little lateral movement too which translates into moving the clubhead down somewhat.

The right wrist (actually right arm) facilitates this rotation around the left wrist axis. It is the right arm that propels the clubhead along this new plane, while the left arm control it. This fits in with my Tiger Woods book in which he states something like "My left hand is my control hand, the right is my speed hand". It's hard to describe in words, so I'll see if I can't knock up some simple diagrams to illustrate what I'm saying here.

Anyway, I should stress that this is all stuff that I figured out myself today, so I may be utterly utterly wrong, and if you actually know a thing or two about golf you may be laughing in your seat at my conclusions.

However, before you laugh so hard you fall out of your seat, consider this. While I didn't get the hang of consistently swinging the club in the way I describe (not enough time or balls) I did occasionally get it right, and when I did I hit the ball high and long with little effort.

I think I'm on to something here...


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