Clubshaft control is the job of the right arm. Extensor action to lifting the shaft and delivering it back to impact can all be seen as right arm functions.
The function of the left arm, in essence, is to maintain radius (via extensor action) and to be the steering wheel of the swing, controlling the clubface. We will refer to this as the left wrists 'hinging' role from here on. The finer details of hinging will be the topic of a future series of articles. For the purpose of this article I just wish to demonstrate the affect that the wrists have on the relationship of the clubface to the plane so that we can build on the drills already learned.
Swap your flashlights and dowels now for a couple of badminton rackets. These are preferable to squash or tennis rackets due to their lack of weight. I am going to make the leap of faith that you have mastered both the dowels and flashlights and have them pointing up and down the base line of the plane, happily in control. The reason we are now progressing from dowels to rackets is the latter has a vast clubface for us to see in motion and thus demonstrate the movement of the clubface.
Take your setup position with the racket in the lifeline cup of your right hand just like the dowel with the bent right wrist, and make a slow backswing. The clubface will swivel or turn open on the backswing and if done correctly the face will sit flat on the plane line. As your right hand gets up towards your ear level, look at the racket. All you should see is its thin edge, not any of the face.
Hogan's idea of the plane, a pane of glass, helps here mentally, as the face of the racket has turned during the backstroke to lay flat on the plane, along with the shaft. If you cannot see the thin edge alone then your right wrist has changed its angle. Wiggle it around to see what you need to do to get it in the right place. Visually you will see the clubface but physically you can again feel the changes in the wrist being made. Learn to feel when your wrist is quiet and when it has changed shape. Quiet is good.
Let us go back to the flashlights for a few moments. Take a flashlight in your left hand only and go though a backswing following the progress of the light on the plane line. In the drills so far the right arm has been guiding our left to make sure we were in the ball park. You should be able trace the same plane line with the left arm alone. If not, work on it. Remember to take note of where the light shines when you start to cock your left wrist. The light must remain pointed at the base of the plane.
Now place the racket in a finger grip in your left hand, make a slow backswing and see the clubface turning open as the left wrist turns. Keep that left arm as straight as you can for the purpose of this drill. Make your hip and shoulder turns and again observe how you have performed turning the clubface to lay on the plane line. The size of the racket head lets you monitor the turn easily. As you get the racket to parallel you should see the head at nearly 12 o'clock.
From the top of our swing let us now take the racket back down to the impact zone. The butt of the racket will be pointing at the base of the plane line all the way until it becomes parallel, where the face is now back at 11-12 o'clock. From here the face is rolling closed all the way to the ball where it will be right back to its starting position and from there closes and lays back on the plane on the other side.
Now we have done both left and right handed racket drills separately. Next, grab one racket in your left hand and the other in your right hand. The finger gripped left hand causes an angle to be present between the left arm and the racket, our first wedge. The right wrist bend on plane is our second wedge. Now put the two rackets together maintaining the wedge angles and you should find they go together with the shafts lined up. Now we have our Flying Wedges – flying because they will be in motion together throughout the swing.
Make your backswing with your hands staying pressed against each other with the heads and then the butts of the rackets following the plane. Monitor the racket face to see how it is aligning with the surface of the plane. If you can do this with the rackets then doing it with a golf club becomes a much simpler and eventually automatic task.
Many of you will find that with both hands together, the left wrist is not straight as you get towards the top of the backswing. If this is the case you have lost the flat left wrist you started with. These bends and arches must be dealt with now, or forever forget being able to control the club shaft and face on the way down. The left wrist cocks in line with the left forearm. It does not bend or arch during that move. If it does you are off plane and you have lost your carefully prepared clubface alignment.
If you get this drill correct and learn the feelings that your hands and body give you, then you can reproduce this action time after time. You have just learned how to tie your shoe laces in a basic knot.
On the way back down we mirror image the backswing, with the hands spinning the gyroscope and the right shoulder driving down the plane line, the clubface rolling closed and the left wrist cock unleashing its power, on plane, down and out through the ball. The bend in the right wrist stays in place until after the ball is hit and long gone. The weight of the clubhead and its speed actually pulls the right wrist bend flat. It is not an active flip of the right wrist to hit the ball.
The Ball Tells No Lies
If you slowly work on those motions with the rackets, dowels and flashlights a little bit each day then your relationship with a golf club will be a much happier one. The moment of truth is the millisecond that the club strikes the ball, which if you like, is being programmed by the collision, compressed and sent on its way with every little bit of information you have just imparted it with. The ball is our judge and jury and tells no lies. Wherever it goes is exactly where your shot told it to go.
So spend time on the drills. Learning to swing on plane is not about bashing buckets and buckets of balls. It is about educating your whole body to do its part roles to achieve control over the ball. Practice with purpose is better than bashing balls.
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