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The ultimate golf manual from world-renowned coaches—discover the impact zone and transform your swing
The different elements of a good golf swing—the impact zone, backswing, and finish—are analyzed in this practical, in-depth guide. The impact zone, an area measuring a couple of feet before the ball and a couple after it, is what good golf is all about. As such, it should be studied, practiced, and trained more than anything else, yet it isn't. Hundreds of instruction manuals and DVDs fail to deal with it in any real sense, but impact should not be left as a blur. Impact is the precise moment that decides where the ball will go, at what trajectory, and at what speed. Here, two experienced coaches reveal the secrets that every golf pro knows instinctively, but that modern teaching has nearly forgotten about. The most up-to-date golf manual focusing on impact in detail as the key part to perfecting a good swing, this book will revolutionize your game.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Golf's Golden Rule
What Every Pro Goes Instinctively ... and You Don't
By Steve Gould, D.J. Wilkinson
Elliott and Thompson LimitedCopyright © 2012 Steve Gould and D.J. Wilkinson
All rights reserved.
THE IMPACT ZONE ... AND GOLF'S GOLDEN RULE
GOLF'S GOLDEN RULE
"A pure ball strike is everything. That is what makes impact the moment of truth."
IN THE ZONE
If a textbook impact zone forms an integral part of your swing, then you're a good golfer. And if it does not, you probably aren't.
It's that simple.
A golf swing without a textbook impact zone is, in 99 out of 100 cases, a golf swing going nowhere – or, more accurately, one heading for the long grass.
Some good players, it's true, consistently salvage their swings at the last moment and hit straight shots despite not entering the impact zone correctly. They tend to have very fine hand control, with which they subsidise the rest of their swing. And they tend to play and practise a great deal. A very great deal.
The vast majority of golfers, though, will pull off such salvage operations only occasionally. Very occasionally. And don't be fooled when, one time out of 20, you succeed in hitting a 250-yard drive straight down the fairway or strike a 7-iron approach to 5 feet. We're sorry, but that shot does not prove that you can do it. It merely proves that you can do it ONE TIME OUT OF 20. The statistics do not lie. Your bad shots will continue to far outnumber your good.
Get into the correct position coming into impact, however, and the opposite is true. You will be perfectly placed to deliver the club face squarely into the back of the ball.
There's no way round golf's Golden Rule. A correct impact zone must form part of a good, reliable and repeatable swing.
But here's the good news. Be methodical, take one small step at a time, and it's easier to achieve than you may think.
THE IMPACT ZONE – STEP 1
THE PERFECT APPROACH TO IMPACT
Step 1 is all about learning where you must be to enter the impact zone correctly. Examine the position in the pictures to the left as the player approaches the impact zone, then try to copy it while standing in front of a full-length mirror. In fact, a full-length mirror is a prerequisite to reading and getting the most out of this book. Seeing exactly what you are doing right – and what you are doing wrong – is vital to your progress.
Here are some key checkpoints, looking at the golfer from face on. Note that, at this early stage, we are dealing with a set or 'frozen' position rather than a movement.
Your chest and shoulders are facing slightly behind the ball, while your core and hips are square, or even just beyond square, to the ball-to-target line.
Your body is balanced and centred, not sliding laterally across towards the target. Your arms are alive and active, rather than taut and tense, with plenty of space in which to swing. They form an inverted triangle with the top of the shoulders.
Your hands are just below hip height – say 8 o'clock on an imaginary clock face, as seen from face on – with your right palm facing directly away from your body. Check this crucial hand position closely with the pictures. The palm is not facing the ball.
It's almost as if you are shaking the hand of somebody standing directly to your right. This palm position will be mirrored by the club face – it too is not yet facing the ball. Your wrists are hinged upwards, forming a 90-degree angle between your forearms and club shaft. The club head is above your wrists.
Your upper arms are touching the sides of your chest. Note that your right elbow is pointing towards your right hip, while the inside of your right elbow joint, like the palm of the right hand, is facing directly in front of you, away from your body.
Now let us view things along the ball-to-target line, as shown in the righthand picture on the opposite page.
Your left bicep is touching the left side of your chest. The club head, as already noted, is above your wrists. Seen from this angle, the club shaft forms a 45-degree angle between the horizontal and vertical – or, put another way, the shaft seems to run down the right forearm.
You are now perfectly positioned – you are in 'the slot' – as you enter the impact zone. You cannot practise this position too much.
THE IMPACT ZONE – STEP 2
THE MAGIC OF RELEASE
Master step 1 of the impact zone and you will be ready for step 2 – an action which 9 out of 10 golfers never understand, let alone achieve.
The 'release' has earned an almost mythical status among high-handicappers. They regard it as a mysterious, magical move that good players have harnessed to produce extra power and precision.
Release, however, does not need to be mysterious – even though it will indeed have a magical effect on your ball striking.
When most people refer to it, they mean 'hand release' (there is also a 'body release', which we will explain later).
Hand release is an action which allows the shaft, and thus the club head, to accelerate dramatically through the impact zone. It also makes it possible to square the club, in the simplest way possible.
So you are swinging down into the impact zone. It is now time to fit in your new hand action.
THE KEY CHECKPOINTS
It's easier to identify hand release viewed from along the ball-to-target line. First let us repeat and re-emphasise the key checkpoints as you enter the impact zone. Don't rush. These checkpoints are your route to success.
Your arms are swinging down, with the hands reaching hip level. Seen from face on, there is a 90-degree angle between your forearms and club shaft.
Seen from along the ball-to-target line, the shaft seems to run down the right forearm, tracing a 45-degree angle between the horizontal and vertical.
Your upper arms, or biceps, are touching the sides of your chest. Your chest and shoulders are still turned back away from the ball.
"Get into the correct position coming into impact and you will be perfectly placed to deliver the club face squarely into the back of the ball."
In an instant, the club shaft and club head move from above the hands (see here) to below them (see here). The key element is an unhinging of the right wrist. In itself, it is a small action but it initiates the all-important hand release.
Good golfers keep their hands and wrists live and active, not taut or tense, during the swing. To them, this unhinging may seem involuntary and almost imperceptible – they may never have given it a thought. It may feel as if it happens automatically, as the arms swing down and centrifugal force takes over.
However, if you have never achieved this move before and always hold on tightly without allowing the club shaft to release down into the ball, then you may initially need to feel that you are actively unhinging your right wrist – and probably earlier in the swing than you expect.
Many poor golfers believe that holding onto the angle between the shaft and the forearms is a good thing. They actively try to keep the club head above the hands, thus trapping it and robbing it of momentum. They've heard of the term 'lag' and are aware that is what professionals do. Professionals certainly store up energy in this way – but they also always release it, into the back of the ball, as they come into impact.
To release your hands, and thus the club, we repeat – the club shaft and club head must move from above your hands to below them as you enter the impact zone. This is hand release.
Look at the pictures again. From the position see here the 90-degree angle between forearms and club shaft will increase as the shaft accelerates. At impact, the shaft and club head will have caught up with the hands, forming a straight line with the left arm.
The pictures on these pages show the golfer in the same positions as on here, although this time we are seeing him from side on, along the (imaginary) ball-to-target line.
Releasing your hands initiates an action similar to a hammer blow. Imagine hammering a nail into a piece of wood – your forearm moves downwards, followed by the same unhinging of the wrist to add real snap to the blow.
Once the club starts dropping below the hands – and only then – the right palm, which until now has been facing away from the golfer's body, starts to square up and face the ball (see here and here). You want to feel that the right palm and the club face are perfectly synchronised – the club face is, in effect, an extension of the right hand (as it is throughout the swing).
In the same way, the knuckles of the left hand begin to square up. Notice that the inside of the right elbow joint continues to face forward along the path of the swing. It does not turn around to face the ball.
But let us make something crystal clear. This squaring up of the club face is not an independent action. It does not happen in isolation. It is synchronised perfectly with your core (or belly button area) turning through impact. The hands and club face remain aligned with your spine.
This is the aforementioned 'body release' – a powerful, correctly timed turn of the core, adding mass to the strike. Hand release and body release, carried out simultaneously, are the signature of all good players.
Examine the pictures on here again. They include two smooth, seamless arcs, one tracking the progress of the club head and the other of the hands as they move through the impact zone.
We began with a position. Now we have a movement. The club head arc, in effect, equates to the rim of a wheel. Sense that your club head and hands are following these arcs. The arcs are vital. They are your guides, your roads across the desert. Never stray from them.
THE IMPACT ZONE – STEP 3
WHY POST-IMPACT REALLY MATTERS
It's easy to dismiss the period post-impact as irrelevant. The ball, after all, is already on its way and there is nothing the finish can do to influence its trajectory. If your finish does not look right, however, then you need to ask yourself the question: When exactly did my swing start to go wrong?
Almost always, off-balance finishes and peculiar hand or arm positions have their origins in earlier parts of the swing. They are evidence of errors that began before the ball was struck.
Ideally, your post-impact swing should provide symmetry with what has gone before. Freeze-frame your swing at any stage and each position after impact should mirror a pre-impact position.
Study these three pictures then look back at those leading into impact on here. The hips and core continue to turn into the finish, with the core leading and providing the driving force. The left leg straightens gradually. The left knee then moves out of the way, making space for the body to turn and for the right knee to move into the space the left knee has vacated.
Having been released and accelerated, the club head, which caught up to the hands at impact, has now slightly overtaken them.
By the final picture the wrists are starting to re-hinge upwards, with the left palm, rather than the right one, now facing forwards – again, as if you were shaking someone's hand – this time standing immediately to your left. The arms are still touching the sides of the chest.
Turn over to see the same sequence side-on.
WHERE 9 OUT OF 10 GOLFERS GO WRONG
'CLASSIC' ERRORS TO AVOID
And here's how not to do it!
This picture illustrates a classic error – the 'chicken wing' – that you will see every day, at every range and every course you visit.
Here our player has not come into the impact zone correctly. He has probably introduced hand roll (we'll examine this cardinal sin in the next chapter) at some stage of his swing – probably earlier rather than later. He is not releasing his hands, and therefore the club. Indeed, it's impossible for him to do so. And, if you don't release the club in the right way, it becomes very hard to square the face at impact and hit a straight shot.
As he approaches the ball, his left arm is bent – thus earning the 'chicken wing' tag – and his left elbow leads into impact, pointing almost down the fairway rather than into his body.
We see this position in 9 out of 10 golfers who visit us at Knightsbridge.
The club head is 'trapped' behind the hands, not overtaking them as it should. The hands can't release. The club face is open. This shot is heading way out to the right, unless our player somehow manages to flip the club face back square.
Golfers coming 'over the top' – another classic error that can look very similar to the chicken wing – start the downswing by spinning their shoulders back towards the ball immediately, forcing the left arm away from the chest and pulling the right arm out of position as well.
Can you hit straight golf shots, playing with these methods? Yes. Occasionally. Although you'll lose out on length. And remember, good golf is about repeating constantly. Occasionally simply won't do.
IMPACT ZONE DRILL
We started this chapter with a set of 'frozen' positions and a list of checkpoints. Now let's swing slowly through, from the start to the end of the impact zone.
As the arms swing down, make sure you include the hand release, allowing the club face to square up to the ball. Your body will turn through. The entire movement is connected.
Make sure that you refer to the checkpoints highlighted earlier. It's essential that you get yourself in the right position before swinging down into impact. Inaccurate practice is no practice at all.
Now repeat this mini-swing, repeat it and repeat it again.
In essence, this mini-drill mimics the pros and their miniature warm-up swings. It reminds you how important the impact zone is. In fact it's not really a drill at all. It's a good habit, and a statement of intent.
Leave a few clubs around the house. Soon you'll find yourself carrying out this impact zone drill while watching TV or making toast! Carry on, until you're doing it in your sleep.
"It's essential that you get yourself in the right position before swinging down into impact. Inaccurate practice is no practice at all."CHAPTER 2
POWER WITH PRECISION
Modern golf teaching tends to concentrate on the big muscles rather than the small. It is a trend driven by today's relentless quest for power. If you want more distance, then clearly you need to think big – the big muscles in your legs, back and shoulders.
We like power and distance as well – miles of the stuff. We like big muscles too. However, there is a 'but'. What we really like is power with precision. Power precisely applied equals powerful, accurate golf shots.
This is where the small muscles – and the hands – contribute. Used correctly, they provide good golfers with both key elements – precision and power.
Your hands and wrists are as complex are they are sensitive. They're also perfectly designed for fine motor skills. Each hand is made up of 27 bones as well as scores of muscles and tendons. Your wrists are so sophisticated that they can move in almost any direction.
It follows that they can radically influence the angle of the club face.
Put another way – you'd better know how to use them if you hope to play good golf.
So, before going any further, let's take a closer look at hand action.
Firstly, let's clarify our terminology. We prefer not to use such traditional golf terms as 'pronation', 'supination' and 'dorsiflexion'. Why? Simple. Most people have no idea what they mean! We also avoid the term 'wrist cock', since it can lead to confusion.
Let's stick to 'wrist hinge' – an action we love – and 'hand roll' – one that we hate!
"What we really like is power with precision. Power precisely applied equals powerful, accurate golf shots."
Excerpted from Golf's Golden Rule by Steve Gould, D.J. Wilkinson. Copyright © 2012 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
Chapter 1 The Impact Zone… and Golf's Golden Rule 14
Chapter 2 Hand Action 32
Chapter 3 The Takeaway 46
Chapter 4 The Backswing 60
Chapter 5 The Backswing: More Detail, Less Jargon 74
Chapter 6 The Bigger Picture 84
Chapter 7 The Transition 94
Chapter 8 The Downswing 104
Chapter 9 The Golden Rule 114
Chapter 10 A Final Focus on Hand Arc and Hand Release 128
Chapter 11 The Finish 158
Chapter 12 Power Golf 168
Chapter 13 The (Not So) Short Game 184
Key Principles 206
About the Knightsbridge Golf School 220