The top of the swing a vital position, and when it is reached the next fatal flaw makes its appearance.
It might be well to first take a general look at the top of the backswing. Actually there is no absolute top, in the sense that everything which has been moving in one upward and backward direction reaches its limit at the same time and starts forward and down together. All the parts of the swinging system the club, hands, arms, body, and legs-do not reach their backward limits at the same time.
They reach them in a steady progression, from the ground up. The knees get there first, followed by the hips, then the shoulders, the arms, the hands, and finally the club head.
There is quite a time gap, too, between the extension limits of the first three parts and the last three. There is a similar lag in the time they start down, too. Swings of the top professionals vary somewhat, of course, but sequence pictures never fail to show that the knees, hips, and shoulders reach the end of their backward movements well before the arms, hands, and club head.
The same pictures invariably show the knees and hips moving into the downswing before the upper part of the body. In fact, the knees and hips are actually moving into the downswing before the club head has gone all the way back.
This, however, is something you do not have to worry about or even think of. Since it is a reflex action, it will take place without your knowledge.
When we speak of the top of the backswing here, we mean the top of the swing for the hands.
The Fatal Flaw:
The swing can be thrown off and a bad position reached at the top by an early body-twist with a late upward wrist break. A swing that starts out pretty well can also be ruined as it nears the top.
It happens repeatedly in the common, orthodox swing and it can happen with the swing we are giving you. Nobody is immune to it. It is a position we call the easy-chair slouch.
It happens this way. As the swing goes up toward the top, the whole swinging system gets tighter and a definite tension develops. This is felt mostly in the upper part of the body, the shoulders, the left arm, and the left hand. It is not a comfortable feeling. To ease it the player subconsciously checks the shoulder turn, lets the left hand bend backward as the wrist collapses, and loosens the left-hand grip.
He’s heard a thousand times that he should be loose and relaxed and comfortable, so he’s going to be. Often, he even bends his left arm.
Instantly every good, sound element of the swing disappears. The restriction of the shoulder turn and the collapse of the left wrist permit the player to bring the club up instead of back and around.
The bending back of the left hand puts the left wrist under the shaft at the top and opens the face of the club. The relaxed left-hand grip lets the club drop down into an overswing. The arc of the swing is narrowed and the plane is elevated.
The right elbow comes up, and generally more weight settles on the left leg, as the player pivots instead of moving his weight, and settles himself into a more comfortable position the easy chair slouch.
Just about every available handicap has now been produced to prevent a good downswing. The awful result is a succession of horrible shots which almost defy description. The ball can fly anywhere. Most often it will slice. But it can also be pulled, smothered, hooked, scuffed, topped, skied, or shanked.
The slice will come from two actions: the open face and the outside-in swing that this fellow cannot help but deliver. If he manages to get the face square to the path the club is following, the shot will be a pull.
If he gets the face a little closed, he will hook. If he gets it hooded, he will smother the ball. Some players will even turn the face completely over so that they make contact with the ball partly on the top of the club head, where white ball marks will show.
They will pop the ball up, or sky it. Since their weight transference is almost sure to be bad, with most of it behind the ball at impact, they can either hit behind the ball or, just missing the ground at the bottom of the swing arc, top the ball as the swing begins to rise. And if their outside-in swing gets far enough outside, they will shank.
The only bad shot this fellow will not make, is a push a straight ball to the right of the target. That shot can only come with an inside-out swing, and our horrible example will never have that, with the position he was in at the top.
With bad shots coming almost inevitably and a good shot a complete accident, our player here is going to pile up strokes at a rapid rate. He will not only get fives and sixes on many holes, he will get a few eights and nines. Yet, when he finally comes in with his 102, he will blame everything but the fatal flaw which was responsible. He will never realize (unless his pro tells him) what he was doing.
The move that avoids the easy-chair slouch and gets you to the. top correctly is simply a purposeful shoulder turn with a firm retention of the wrist position gained by the backward break.
When the backward break was completed, you remember, the hands were only waist high; the break must be completed that early. Arms and club, at that point, have worked up a little momentum. Let the shoulder turn then pick up the momentum and let it swing the hands to the top. Remember that the shoulders are the motivating force
A point which must be stressed here is that the shoulders must turn on the backswing, not rock. As the hands are brought up and around, the shoulders will tilt somewhat, with the right eventually becoming higher than the left. But one of the worst things that can happen is for the left shoulder to duck.
When this occurs the club goes off the plane it should follow. It comes up. And when it comes up the hand position gained by the wrist break is lost. The left wrist goes under the shaft and the face of the club opens.
Many players, we find in teaching, will duck the left shoulder and think they are turning it. They substitute the duck for the turn. When they do, they get themselves in a perfect position at the top to come down across the ball from the outside even to shank it.
The best move here is not an action. It is a position the right position at the top. That position is measured in several ways: by the weight on the right leg, by the shoulder turn, by the unmoved head, but most of all by the tightness of the coil, the hand-and-wrist position, the face of the club, and the plane of the swing.
Most important is the firm retention of the hand-and-wrist position gained by the backward wrist break. If it is held, it almost forces you into the right position at the top. This is one of its greatest values.
Holding that wrist position requires effort, though, because as the windup proceeds, the tension and the stretching increase and your strong instinct is to relieve it. You must not relieve it.
A good backward wrist break feels stiff and awkward. That is the feeling you must continue to have as the swing goes to the top. If you don’t do anything to ease it, to fall into the easy-chair slouch, such as collapsing the left wrist, ducking the left shoulder, or opening the left hand, the swing will continue in the plane we want it, which is a little on the flat side. In this plane, if the club is to get back to a position horizontal with the ground, the shoulders must turn fully.
There is no other way to get it there. If this is done properly just a stubborn retention of the wrist break and a full turn of the shoulders you will reach the top in a stretched, spring-steel tight position poised and ready to deliver a powerful swing at the ball.
The left heel will be off the ground slightly, at least 60 per cent of the weight will be on the right leg, the hips will be turned about 45 degrees, the shoulders at least 90 degree the left arm will be straight, the grip tight, the right wrist will he under the shaft, and the clubface will be at about a 45-degree angle with the ground, maybe a little more.
With the right wrist under the shaft the right hand will be weakened by being bent back, but the left hand will be strengthened because hand, wrist, and forearm will be in a straight line. This so called straight left wrist position is important because it gives strength where strength is needed.