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Teaching Corner

We are starting the Teaching Corner with our first article by Fred Elliot.  Fred Elliott is a PGA Teaching Professional at Hidden Valley CC,
Reno, NV. He can be reached by email at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  or by phone for booking lessons.  (775) 544-9812 (call or text)

Release the Biggest Myth

     Of all the myths that have perpetuated themselves over the years the one that is the most persistent and the most deceptive is that of the "release".  The definition should give a hint to the truth-"to set free".  Nowhere does the definition mention turn, twist, rotate, or square.

     "Releasing" the club is simply the act of letting the wrists unhinge from approximately hip-high on the downswing through impact.  The scientists tell us that swinging the double-pendulum of our left arm and wrist freely creates the most acceleration in the swing.  If the wrists have hinged inline with the left arm (flat left wrist at top), when they unhinge the clubface is in roughly the same position at impact as is was at address.  The clubface doesn't need squaring, it's been "square" all along.  The right hand and wrist does roll over the left, but it doesn't happen until the ball is well on it's way; and the more efficient the release is, the more the wrists simply rehinge.  In kinesiological terms, the more efficient the swing the less pronation and supination, and the release is simply radial and ulnar deviation. The added bonus is that the better the path of the swing the more easily and swiftly the wrists unhinge.

     Sound too technical-in simple terms a neutral grip with the left wrist hinging in line with left arm allows the clubhead to remain square to the path of the club through the swing.  There is no opening or closing of the club face-

no need to manipulate the clubhead as so many descriptions of the release imply.

     Yes, there is a complication.  A strong grip creates a closed clubface when the wrists hinge; players such as Trevino and Duval played like this, but compensated and got the clubface square at impact by maneuvering the hands well ahead of the ball at impact.  Conversely a weak grip would literally require a deceleration so the hands are well behind the ball at impact.  The first requires talent and years of hard work to achieve; the second usually doesn't work well at all.

     Yes, true release is simply letting the clubhead go or be "set free".  Thusly, letting go of the concept that the clubhead must be manipulated through impact can free up some more solid hits and release some lower scores.

Another Candidate for Hogan's "Secret"

Even since Ben Hogan announced his "secret" in an article in LIFE magazine in 1955 avid golfers the world over have speculated over the exact nature of this phenomenon.
Through the years we have heard the secret could be the cupping of the left wrist at the top, the "fanning" of the left wrist on the backswing, the supination of the left wrist at impact, Hogan's incredible concentration, his right leg stability, his transition from backswing to downswing etc. etc. ad infinitum. Probably only the location of the Holy Grail has received more attention.
In our present golf world the term "turn" is heard over and over. Yet, when Hogan talks about the backswing he uses the word somewhat differently. He talks about the "correct order of movement" He emphasized the sequencing of hands, arms, shoulders, and hips. Although he discusses how much the shoulders should outturn the hips, he seems to say the accumulated momentum from the club, hands, and arms are pulling the shoulders and hips around. If we consciously turn shoulders, and/or hips we destroy Hogan's "correct order of movement". Good sequencing is heavily damaged. Is keeping the shoulders and hips passive and being allowed to be pulled around Hogan's secret?
Let's look at a few facts. Obviously, Hogan is known for his incredible accuracy, but he also won several driving contests that were held prior to tour events. Although we  greatly admire Snead's huge shoulder turn, Hogan's was almost as big. Yet, when you look at Hogan at the top his lower body screams "stability". He clearly is poised to create a great deal of force with his legs and core to initiate the downswing Is he trying to tell us maximum leverage is created by relaxing shoulders and hips on the backswing, not by consciously twisting and turning them?

Although this seems to be another reasonable candidate for the "secret", maybe we are missing what was really Ben's advantage. He seemed, in his own way, to understand the scientific method. He tested concepts with a large number of trials and then put them into the crucible of competition. He did not come to a conclusion first and then do the trials. Recently, we have seen some "reinvent the wheel" swing methods that are thrown out there backed up only by evidence such as selective camera angles and unique assumptions. 

Give Ben's well-tested thoughts on the backswing a trial, and maybe the "secret Santa" will knock some strokes off the old handicap.

Baseball and Golf
     Many golfers new to the game, when encountering swing problems, are advised that their problems stem from taking a "baseball swing".  It is true that spinning the hips open to contact a ball located well out in front of the body and 2 to 4 feet off the ground does not work well to hit a ball on the ground directly in front of you; there are characteristics of striking or throwing a baseball that correlate directly to striking a golf ball.  
     The first is related to the move that more than one famed instructor has described as the most important part of a strong, fundamental swing.  That is the mostly lateral move of the hips (core) back towards the target to start the downswing.  This is very similar to the "stepping into the pitch" move in the baseball swing.This is sometimes the first thing taught to little leaguers. Particularly if one has played baseball, the feel of this move promotes a proper transition from backswing to downswing in the golf swing.  It has even evolved to a golf drill commonly called "the step" drill.  Early weight shift (or pressure) to the left side and increased lag are two positive by-products of "stepping into the pitch".
     The second correlation between the golf swing and baseball is the way in which the right arm and wrist behave in either swinging the club or throwing a baseball.  The two "L's" that are formed-the first one with the back of the wrist and the second with the elbow are nearly identical in delivering a club or a baseball.  They are formed during the backswing in golf and the wind-up in baseball. Both then retain their prospective angles well into the downswing or delivery and then straighten as both club and ball are being released.  For those that didn't play baseball just throwing a ball is helpful for the golf swing.  For those that have experienced "throwing" sports hitting wedge shots with just the right hand on the club has a very positive effect on one's golf swing.  The fact that many of the best golfers in those "celebrity" tournaments are pitchers is not a coincidence.
     The next time you're told you have a "baseball" swing, take it as a compliment and step into that pitch and deliver a long and straight tee shot.