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Understanding the Arc
Throughout the impact zone, the hands and arms must maintain a constant radius from the body in order to keep the club on its own constant radius, and to keep it on a straight line while travelling from the few inches before impact to a few inches after.
To visualise this, imagine the bottom arc of two wheels: an inner wheel for the hands, which is followed by the right forefinger, and an outer wheel traced by the bottom of the club head.
Through the entire impact area, the hands must remain on the inner wheel to keep the club head on the outer wheel, which allows the ball to be driven powerfully and consistently forwards.
During a round of golf or a practice session a player might hit a number of good shots followed by a number of bad shots. Followed by more good shots and yet more bad shots. The player might well be perplexed by this variation, as it seems to him that nothing in his swing has changed.
The explanation is quite simple. The good shots happen when the hands pull in or rise up after impact and the effect goes unnoticed as the ball has already left the club face. However in the bad shots the hands pull in or rise up just before impact with catastrophic results for the path of the ball. It is for this reason that the post-impact arc is so important. It must be understood, learnt and incorporated into the swing.
So we have two arcs: a hand arc and a club head arc. The hand arc essentially, though not exclusively, dictates what happens to the club head arc (the component parts of the body also play a huge part in keeping the hands and club head on the inner and outer wheel but ultimately it is the hands that matter most).
The body can be moving in perfect unison but if the hands cut in, pull up or roll over through the impact zone, all the good work in the rest of the swing is pointless. This is why you might see swings that can look ugly and unconventional but produce outstanding results, while some swings that seem elegant and flowing end in disappointing results.
The right forefinger stays on the inner wheel, ensuring that the club head stays on the outer wheel.
The hands have risen up through impact; the right forefinger is well away from the inner wheel, the club head has risen up and moved away from the outer wheel.
Here are those pictures again, side by side, so you can clearly see that the hands have stayed on the inner wheel, ensuring the club head stays on the outer wheel.
And here you can see that just a small lift in the first picture has had a greater effect on the later position; the hands have risen up from the inner wheel lifting the club head up and away from the outer wheel.
In this sequence, the hands follow a perfect path; they do not twist or roll. The swing radius – the distance from the centre of the chest to the club head – is constant. The club head stays square to the body and follows its ideal arc. The ball comes out of the middle of the club face.
In this second sequence, the hands and arms pull up during impact. You can see the start of a dreaded chicken wing: the left arm breaking at the elbow, disconnecting from the chest, the hands forced off their arc and holding the club face open. This shot will head way right.
Another angle, clearly demonstrating how the club is being pulled away from its intended arc.
This angle clearly shows how the hands have pulled in, pushing the left elbow up and pulling the club away from its arc through impact.
Throughout the book you'll continually see references to the blade being square in relation to the body. The simple exercise on these two pages shows you what we mean by this phrase.
Later in the book, we will look at a backswing arms-in-front drill (see here). Once that has been mastered, you can then check that the blade is square on the backswing in the same way that is shown here at the finish.
Front End Therapy
The idea of starting at the finish – or, at least, learning the golf swing back to front – may still seem illogical. Traditional instruction starts at address and the takeaway. There is, though, another way.
Front End Therapy
Now that you understand and appreciate how important the post-impact swing arc is, we can get to work on Leslie King's trademark Front End Therapy. The drill has its origins in golf's black-and-white days, before modern visual technology changed the way golfers could study their swings.
Until the introduction of the video camera, pupils often refused to accept how poor their swings were and remained reluctant to change what they felt were perfectly poised backswings and professional-looking downswings. Mr King understood this, appreciating how difficult backswing changes could be and how awkward they felt.
He therefore devised Front End Therapy. It was the first thing he built for his pupils, and they would practise it for a six-week period while retaining their old backswing. Perfecting the arc through impact compensated – to a certain extent at least – for their backswing and downswing deficiencies.
Once he was satisfied that the finish was ingrained and automatic, Mr King would reshape the rest of the swing, knowing that the finish had already brought a great improvement to a player's game.
He built thousands of swings in this way and achieved outstanding, consistent results. Juli Inkster, already a two-time US Amateur Champion when she first visited the school, embraced the drill. Michael Bonallack, Britain's greatest ever amateur, rebuilt his swing through the finish and went on to add three further consecutive Amateur Championships to the two he had already won. One young player reached the semi-final of the English Amateur Championship within eighteen months of first picking up a club, and twelve months after stepping onto a golf course for the first time. He practised exclusively in the golf school for six months before taking his game outside.
Today, the Front End Therapy drill is just as relevant and important as ever. The backswing and downswing are now generally well understood but the postimpact arc is still regarded as a mere afterthought, warranting little attention. But make no mistake – sculpting the post-impact arc can vastly improve a player's game, and perfecting Front End Therapy is essential in achieving that.
To begin with, the drill should be performed in super-slow motion, a technique that is integral to our teaching and will help you rapidly achieve total mastery and understanding of any stage of the swing. Once you feel comfortable with the new movement, your swing will begin to gain momentum and quickly evolve into a unified, free-flowing action.
Though this concept may be new to you, the process is commonplace in other high-precision sports and activities. Italian footballer Gianfranco Zola learnt to spin and shape his free kicks by practising them in slow motion, and racing driver Jackie Stewart told us that when he was at his finest he felt like he was driving in slow motion. Dancers also learn their steps and movements in this way. The legendary Michael Flatley, Strictly Come Dancing's Anton Du Beke and the Royal Ballet's Matthew Golding are all students at the school and agree that learning the swing with us is very similar to the way they learnt to dance: we choreograph a swing as you would a dance. We push and pull our pupils through a series of simple movements that are learnt individually before being linked together into one smooth, free-flowing movement.
If you've not been to the school before or read any of our previous books, you may find this approach rather unusual. We agree that you won't have read this in many other golf books or magazine instruction articles. But we can assure you it really does bring outstanding results in a very short time.
For the beginner and mid- to high-handicapper, we strongly suggest that while changing your swing you play the ball off a tee. If you are a good player or feel comfortable playing the ball off the ground, then that is fine, but when making swing changes, it is important to give yourself every possible advantage, and we have found that practising from a tee brings far more rapid improvement.
To release the club and maintain its arc, you must be able to feel the club head swing through the space occupied by the tee between the ball and the ground. This allows you to clip the ball away while making the cleanest of contacts. Try to hit the ball from the ground while learning the new movement and you will invariably crash the club into the ground, your hands and arms will cut in and jump up, and you will destroy your arc.
Once you become more familiar and confident with the technique, you should be able to drop the ball to the ground without problems. We suggest playing three or four shots off the tee, followed by one or two off the ground.
The beginner lady golfer, however, should play almost all their golf off a tee for a three- to six-month period while ingraining their fledgling swings. The male golfer can generally get away with a little more brute force to get the ball moving forwards but, for the lady, the technique needs to be a little purer. You may encounter numerous 'experts' keen to offer their advice who insist that playing off a tee is cheating. Rest assured, these people are mistaken. Once your swing is natural, flowing and strong, they will keep their opinions to themselves!
So, we are almost ready to go. Practise Front End Therapy, initially in slow motion. With constant repetition, the speed and fluidity of the swing will build and you'll be well on your way to rapid, sustained improvement.
The images over the next few pages will show you how to keep the club on a constant arc through the finish.
Take your address and draw the club head back to thigh height. Make sure your wrist angles have stayed constant and your hands have stayed on their arc and not rolled (more of which later).
In slow motion, swing the club back to the ball, making sure your right knee and foot and both hips are turning into the ball. Keep your head centred.
Continue turning the lower body towards the target.
A few inches after impact, the blade remains square. The hands retain their arc and the arms retain their radius as they swing beyond the ball – do not pull them upwards or across the ball. The club shaft is an extension of this movement.
At what we term the 'quarter finish', the blade is square in relation to the body.
The hands and arms retain their radius from the body.
The finish is now complete.
Here is the Front End Therapy sequence in its entirety. Remember to practise this in slow motion so that you can check your position at each stage.
Once you have done this a few times, and the motion starts to feel more familiar, gradually increase the pace until you are swinging at a regular speed.
As we have said, we hope this book gives you a jolt, changes your perspective and makes you rethink some of your golfing assumptions. The overhead shots are part of this idea. The chances are, you will never have seen shots played from this angle, but it clearly illustrates how even the smallest of incorrect motions can have a big impact on your overall swing. So let's give it a go – why not try to reconfigure the way you see things?
It is important to realise that, as shown in the Understanding the Arc chapter, the club face may well start off square but could still open or close a nanosecond before impact. That is why it is crucial to build a consistent arc through the finish.
The next few pages will show what happens when the club head remains square throughout the impact zone as compared to becoming open; look at the difference between the position of the hands in these sequences, as well as that of the elbows, and see what an effect it has on the position and angle of the club – and ultimately the direction in which the ball will travel.
The Impact Bag Drill
Every golfer knows what an impact bag is. Few, though, use it effectively. The problem is in the name – most players see the impact bag as something to smash as hard as they can.
What they do not realise is that their hands invariably jump up as they hit the bag. They come off the hand arc and lose their radius. They think the drill is all about power but it's all about placement. They think they are improving their golf swing but they are doing the exact opposite.
Impact bags were designed to allow golfers to practise placing the club head on the back of the bag so that the face is perfectly square at impact. If power is your sole focus, you are unlikely to see or feel anything at all. We recommend that you swing in slow motion when you start practising this drill, and then gradually increase the speed until you have a fluid motion. Look at your club face as it hits the bag, look at the angle of your club shaft. Look, see and feel.
Then take this lesson one stage further. Move the bag and place it outside your lead foot, nearer the target. We call this the quarter finish. Then repeat your slow-motion swing. Retain your hand arc. Make sure you have not held your hands open or rolled them over. Check if your club face is still square in relation to your body. This is crucial – the club face must not just be square to your body at impact but throughout the impact zone, before and after the ball.
The pictures on the following pages show an impact bag being struck with an open club face, a closed club face, and a correct strike with a square club face. Look at each carefully so that you can compare your own strikes.
These images give you a close-up view of the club head on impact: open, closed and square.
Impact: Club face is open
Quarter finish: Club face is open.
The result of this swing will be the ball heading deep into the rough/trees/ocean on the right-hand side of the fairway.
Impact: Club face closed.
Quarter finish: Club face closed.
The ball will swing to the left after this shot.
Impact: Club face square.
Quarter finish: Club remains square in relation to the body.
With this shot, the ball is driven powerfully and accurately down the middle of the fairway.
Here you can clearly compare these views of the club at impact, with the club head open (opposite, top), closed (opposite, bottom) and square (above). Make sure your impact resembles the position in the images above.
Now at the quarter finish, again these pages instantly show you the difference between the club face being open (opposite, top), closed (opposite, bottom), and square (above).
The Football Drill
Once you start to focus on the relationship of the club face and the impact bag – and the way the hands maintain their angles and the hand arc is retained – then repeat the drill with a ball. A big ball.
Again, the emphasis is on a slow-motion swing initially, to retain a sense of flow while also concentrating on how the body, hands and arms work together through the swing without worrying about power.
Our pupils often find it hard to relate to a small golf ball, but they can really see how things work with a football, to the point where they often do what is right instinctively. Everything is exaggerated with a large ball – if your hands leave their arc, for instance, you will hit further up the ball rather than hitting right at its base.
Similarly, if you cut across the ball or roll your hands, the ball will clearly tell you what has happened by the way it flies, in contrast to a motionless impact bag.
In the following sequences, you will see a ball being hit with an open, a square and a closed club face. The ball will tell the story, going right, straight or left. It is highly likely, however, that you will already be fully aware of where your club was facing at impact – you will already know, thanks to the size of the football, whether you have got it right or wrong.
Compare these pictures side by side to clearly see the difference of the club face and the way the hands are working just before impact.
Again, compare these pictures to see the difference in the position of the club post impact, and the effect that has had on the path of the ball.
The Backswing Problem
We have sculpted our finish and we know where our swing is heading. Now is the time to go back to the very start – the backswing – while always keeping in mind the fact that what we practise here must marry seamlessly with our new impact position and finish.
The Backswing Problem
The backswing may seem a simple action, yet every day at the school we see the same problem wrecking the start of our pupils' swings. It is caused by rolling hands. Nine out of ten golfers do it. And if you roll your hands, they will come off their arc.
Is this so critical? Yes. Is it possible to skip this segment? No. Hand roll affects the way your arms work and distorts your swing radius. Hand roll affects everything. Nine out of ten golfers have destroyed their backswing within the first few feet of the takeaway, as you can see in the pictures opposite.
We have been battling to eliminate hand roll for years, back when very few other golf instructors were addressing the problem at all. Despite all our efforts though, it remains a prominent part of our vocabulary.
Excerpted from "Finishing School"
Copyright © 2016 Steve Gould and D. J. Wilkinson.
Excerpted by permission of Elliott and Thompson Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Juli Inkster,
Chapter 1 Understanding the Arc,
Chapter 2 Front End Therapy,
Chapter 3 The Backswing Problem,
Chapter 4 Downswing and Release,
Chapter 5 Back to the Finish,
Chapter 6 Alternative Finishes, Alternative Swings,
65 Years of the Knightsbridge Golf School,