Lesson 11 - What You Should Feel at the top of the Backswing
I said in Lesson 2 that the left heel must rise to permit a full body turn in the backswing, and that I built this left heel movement into the swings of my pupils whether they felt the need for it or not. I also said that there was no marked transfer of weight to the right leg in the backswing.
The vital purpose of this left heel raising... and the consequent transfer of weight forward on the big toe joint of the left foot is clearly sensed once we are at the top of the backswing.
We sense that the body is in perfect balance due to a system of control that originates in the big toe joint of the left foot, passing diagonally up the body, to the shoulders .... and finally to the hands.
The pressure felt on the inside of the left foot (under the big toe joint) is providing a base (a "resistance") for the downward left arm leverage that is about to occur. Indeed, the free downward swing of the left hand and arm cannot occur without it!
This upaward resistance is what creates potential power in the hands at the top of the swing.....power that will be released at the correct time in the downswing. Hence we can say that.... Downward drive plus upward resistance equals POWER. The raised left heel thus creates power in the hands at the top.
We not only sense the power in the hands, we also (thanks to the control imparted by correct use of the left foot) sense that we can conserve and release that power at will.
For the first time in the swing movement we are aware of the potential power in the hands....and we are conscious of the fact that we have the necessary control to "release" that power at the correct time.
Thus, the body poise at the top imparted by the correct use of the inside of the left foot makes us
1. Conscious of the potential power in the hands,
2. A sense of the need to conserve this power for the right place in the swing, and finally
3. We have a feeling of complete confidence that we can "release" this power at the right time and place in the downswing...and thus we subconsciously sense exactly where that "release" point is!
This inate knowledge is what we are describing when we talk about "timing". It is not a "gift", or sixth sense...it is a feeling of control and certainty that arises out of a correct, series of body movements in the backswing.
As the body movements are learned and acquired so too, this awareness of the potential power in the hands, and the need to "release" this power at the correct time is developed.
Once sensed, the matter of timing the "release" of power in the downswing is merely arrived at by usage.
Thousands of players, pro and amateur, go through their golfing lives with absolutely no sense of the potential power in their hands at the top of the swing. Consequently, they have never anticipated the next stage of the release of that power at the right time.
The progress of such players must inevitably be arrested at some stage, since they have no awareness of the very essence of the swing...the phenomenon of a timed release of power with the hands.
I stress again, this awareness, and the priceless technical bonuses that flow from it is acquired by a shaped, controlled body turn in the backswing, and in particular the control and sensitivity that originates in the big toe joint of the left foot when the hands are at the top of the swing.
Now that we have analysed in some detail exactly what we should feel at the top of the swing, we can move on to consider exactly how the downswing is carried out.
We now undertsand the truth of what I have been stressing right from Lesson 1. The backswing has nothing to do with generating power, hence it is smooth, unhurried and strain free.
We are merely positioning the hands, club and body correctly prior to the downswing.
Once correctly positioned (as a result of a correct series of movements) the hands automatically acquire...or become "charged" with....potential power at the top.
As we sense this power at the top, the swing slows down. Indeed, the transition from the backswing to downswing is the slowest part of the swing. This "slow down" at the top accentuates and amplifies the feeling of conserved power that we have talked about earlier. We begin to anticipate the "release" but at the same time we strongly sense the need to conserve that power for the final stages of the downswing.
Transition from backswing to downswing is the slowest phase of the swing!
Now we realise that this feeling of power at the top depends upon a passive, controlled backswing. If, by applying force, we have sensed this power in the hands during the backswing itself we would have "jumped the gun" and "charged" the hands too soon. Hence, we would likewise "release" power too soon in the downswing, and nothing on earth could prevent it. In short, we would "lose our timing", hit from the top, throw the shoulders into the shot and destroy the whole movement.
This impatience to "hit" is extremely common. It is a direct result of thinking about the backswing in terms of "generating power". The backswing is then performed by body action rather that with a free swing of the left hand and arm.
At the top we should have a clear sensation of the potential power in the hands and wrists.... and equally a clear awareness that the hands and wrists are in control of the club.
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
Once the shoulders turn.. even just a little.... at the beginning of the downswing two errors are bound to result.
1. Destroy the club-line down into the ball by looping the club on to an "outside" path and
2. You will destroy the ability to swing the left hand and arm!
Here is an exercise you can do to prove these two statements for yourself.
Exercise 1 - Club-Line
Take the club in your hands and assume the correct top of the swing position. Now MAINTAINING THE SHOULDERS IN THE FULLY TURNED POSITION swing the left hand and arm slowly down noting that a correct line is automatically acheived. Repeat this several times.
Now go back to the top, and this time allow your shoulders to turn slightly as the laft hand and arm swings down.
Note that the left hand and arm immediately moves to the "outside" downswing path which must result in an out-to-in impact!
Thus, good club-line through the ball depends upon the stillness of the shoulders at the beginning of the downswing.
Exercise 2 Separation
But there is a second result, which you may have sensed which is very subtle and equally important. By allowing the shoulders to turn as the left hand and arm started down you actually destroyed the capacity of the left hand and arm to swing! Did you feel that?
You took the "power" out of the arm.
Remember how, in the takeaway, the freedom of the left hand and arm to swing depended upon the stillness of the shoulders and an abscence of sway? If you had swayed to the right as your left hand and arm started back you would have diminished its swing capacity. We have exactly the same situation here.
The shoulders must remain still (in the fully turned position) to allow the swing of the left hand and arm to take place.
Move these shoulders, even a fraction, and you diminish the capacity of the left hand and arm to swing.
This ability of the left hand and arm to swing indendent of the shoulders I call "separation".
Here is an exercise to develop this.
Take and club and assume the correct top of the swing position. Now, keeping the shoulders fully turned, start the left hand and arm slowly downward into the ball. When the left hand and arm has moved downward for a distance of about a foot to eighteen inches...STOP.... and return it to the top again. Repeat this downward movement several times, keeping the shoulders in the fully turned position.
What do you feel? You sense, perhaps for the first time, that the left hand and arm is not propelled downward by the shoulders and body action. It swings freely down quite independently of the shoulders.
This is what must happen in the correct downswing. Once the downward swing of the left hand and arm is under way, the body reacts to this swing (we are about to describe this action) in what I describe as the "lateral shift". However, it is vital to realise that the body reacts to the downward swing. The body does not cause the downward movement of the left hand and arm.
Repeat this "separation" exercise often. It is the vital foundation of a correct downswing movement. Once perfected, the basis for a sound and powerful downswing is laid.
Again, we must guard against starting the downswing with the body action... and that is what is happening if the shoulders are allowed to turn. Body propulsion and a free left hand and arm swing cannot exist together.
It must be either one or the other.
Hence, if the shoulders turn at the commencement of the downswing the free left hand and arm swing is destroyed. And, if the left hand and arm is not making the downward swing into the ball a correctly timed release of power is impossible!
In the next lesson I will show you how to check your follow through