GolfPunk Magazine (China) July 2015
The first thing to remember in the golf swing is that the motion of the body and club generate power and speed, but it is the clubface that hits the golf ball. If you are to create consistency and control with your irons it is important to understand how the body and club react together.
To highlight this point, balance the golf club on your fingertip. Look at the clubface and you will be able to keep the club in a vertical position. Your arm and body will move around, but the club will be kept balanced. (Photo 1).
Do the same thing again, but this time look at your fingertip, within a couple of seconds you will lose control and the club will fall over. (Photo 2).
If focusing on the body results in a loss of control, and focus on the clubface gives more control, then it is logical to focus on the clubface during the motion of a golf swing.
Sadly, you can not look at the clubface during the swing if you are to strike the ball. You need to look at the ball and “Feel” the clubface, and as the hands are the only direct contact between you and the club, the feel comes from your hands.
Placing your hands onto the grip, hold the club directly above your hands. (Photo 3). Soften your grip pressure almost until the shaft slips through your fingers. (Photo 4).
This is too light to feel the clubhead and the shaft feels “wobbly” in your hands. So slowly lower the clubhead until the shaft is horizontal. (Photo 5). This movement causes the pressure in the fingers and forearms to increase, and the nerves in the fingers are being compressed/squashed into the rubber of the grip, and therefore the hands have “feel’ for the grip.
Since this position gives “Grip Awareness”, the pressure is “Too Tight” for Clubhead Awareness.
So lifting the shaft to a 45 degree position will relax the pressure in the fingers and forearms and will allow you to draw a small circle in the air with the clubhead by rolling the wrists around. (Photo 6).
During this movement, the fingers remain secure and the forearms are soft and relaxed, yet it is possible to feel the weight of the clubhead and the changing direction as it moves around the small circle.
This is the Grip Pressure needed during the swing to have Clubface Control.
However, there is a problem that occurs during the swing. When the human body strikes a solid object, the brain will cause the muscles to tense up to reduce the possibility of injury. In the golf swing this means the arms and wrists will lock up and the hands will hold the grip too tight. The result is a slower arm swing, less wrist movement and loss of feel for the clubface.
As discovered during the balance drill, if you have no awareness for the clubface, the result is a loss of control.
How do you keep the pressure relaxed during the swing?
There are two aspects to brain function: “Conscious Thought”, and “Unconscious Thought”. You do not “think” about breathing, it is an action that is an “Unconscious Thought”. Learning to walk was a “Conscious Thought” as a baby/toddler, but now is also an “Unconscious Thought”.
The bodies natural “tensing mechanism” during a golf swing is also an Unconscious Thought, and since it must be ignored, it must be “Drowned Out” by Conscious Thought.
The best way to do that, is to actually speak during the swing. You want to keep the pressure in your hands and arms secure and soft during the backswing, and feel the arms are “softer” at impact and in the follow through.
Talking to yourself (out loud) will allow your conscious brain to override the unconscious mind and saying “Soft” (in the backswing) and “Softer” (at impact) will allow your brain to focus on keeping the pressure in the arms and hands light rather than tensing up.
Start off with some small “easy” swings aiming to clip a small tee peg to become comfortable with this new swing concept, then move up to bigger swings. All the time, saying “Soft/Softer” in the backswing and impact positions (using a tee peg will help with confidence and help to trick the brain into a free swinging motion). (Photos 7, 8 & 9)
Once you are happy doing that, start to swing your arms faster while still saying “Soft/Softer”, this will increase clubhead speed, but allow your hands to keep feeling the clubhead. (Photo 10, 11 & 12).
Eventually, place a ball on the tee peg and do the same thing. You will see the shots are more consistently in the sweet-spot of the clubface. (Photo 13)
Then move away from the tee peg, place the ball on the ground (and imagine your ball is still on a tee peg). The visual image in your brain of the tee peg under the ball will allow you to swing freely through the ball. Saying “Soft/Softer” will allow the resulting strike to be more consistent. (Photo 14, 15 & 16).
Now coming back to the “learning to walk” metaphor. It is important that with some practice, the “Soft/Softer” words are not spoken out loud but are “internalised’ so you can still trick your brain and body into the correct swing thoughts and process.
So really focus the brain on “Thinking” - Soft/Softer while not actually speaking out loud. The control of your irons will improve, the strike on the ball will be more consistent, and your golf scores will get lower.