Golf: Wrist Cock, Part III

It’s hard to believe, but the last time I wrote about the wrists in the golf swing was December of 2015 The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer.  Since that time, I still feel the same, that the  wrists are  the most misunderstood aspect of the golf swing.  I have changed my mind on what the golfer should do, in regards to the position of the club face at the top of the swing.  Back in 2015, I said just let the wrists do what they are going to do, and don’t worry about.  But after doing some experimenting, on what the wrists do in my own golf swing,  I think I can come up with some recommendations on what to do, depending on your clubhead position at the top of the golf swing.  But first lets briefly review what the wrists can do and why this is so confusing to the golfer.

Rather than to get into such terms as supination and pronation, and other wristy terms, lets just take a look at the thumb, when you grip the club.  Just grip the club with one hand, either one is fine, and put your thumb straight down the shaft.  Now by just moving your wrists, you can make your thumb do six things.    You can move your thumb straight up and down.  You can turn your thumb to the left and to the right.  Finally you can roll your thumb to look at the right side of your thumb, and then the left side of your thumb.  These are very distinct moves.  The problem is, that the wrists can do any of these moves partially and some fully during the golf swing.  This results in the clubface being in various positions at top of swing.  None of these positions are wrong.  First let’s look at the two extreme positions.   The clubface is closed or you will hear the term shut faced at the top.  It’s easy to tell this position. At the top of the swing the club face is pointed to the sky.  The two best examples of this position are Dustin Johnson and Brooke Henderson.    Then there is the clubface that is open at the top of the swing.  This position will see the toe of the club pointed to the ground.  This position you can see in the swings of Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and in today’s game Webb Simpson.  In modern professional golf, most players will use the  shut faced or closed position. The open position is the least popular today.   You will see many positions in between, with some players  being square at the top of the swing. You would think this would be ideal, but certainly these players are not dominating the tour.  It really doesn’t matter what they are doing, as long as you know what you are doing at the top of the swing. You should also know the basic shot pattern that your position tends to create. Then you need to decide if you  should  make a conscious change.

The first modern great golfer with the closed clubface at the top was Arnold Palmer.  He did this because it helped him to keep from hooking, and most  of the shut faced players today, are faders of the golf ball.  Even though the club face is closed at the top of the swing, as the club starts down the wrists will rotate the club head in a clockwise fashion, delaying the release of the wrists, which prevents  the toe of the club head turning over resulting in a hook.  Despite being shut faced at the top, Palmer, because of his strength in the hands and wrists still hooked the ball. The shut faced position  helped him to keep from duck hooking.  Hogan had an extremely weak grip combined with being open at top, was his way of obtaining a full release of the wrists without worrying  about hooking the ball.   Sam Snead,  also had big strong hands and wrists, but a beautiful graceful swing, had no trouble drawing the ball from the open at the top club position.  So what is the recreational golfer to do?  The first thing to do, is to determine what is your natural wrist action in the golf swing.  Through video, or just stopping  and looking  at the top of your backswing, determine what is your club face position at the top.  Face pointing to the sky you are closed.  Toe of the clubhead pointing down to the ground, the face is opened.  Somewhere in between you are getting closer to square but try and determine if you are closer to open or shut faced.  It may be perfectly square.  If you are closed at the top, and hitting relatively straight shots, maybe with a little fade or draw, then you need to do nothing.   But if you are closed at the top and hitting a lot of shots to the right and slicing like crazy then maybe you better square up or go open at the top.  This is unnatural for you, so how do you do it.  At the start of your backswing, feel a distinct rolling of the wrists so that you feel that the right palm is facing the sky as your hands reach hip high.  This will easily get your club face in the open position at the top of the swing.  Now on the downswing the toe of the clubhead will begin to rotate in a counter clockwise direction which will help you draw the ball or hit it fairly straight, with a nice full release.  As you get use to this position at top of the swing, then you may not have to rotate the wrists so early in the backswing, but whatever works is fine.   If you are already an open at the top player and you are hitting everything pretty straight or with a slight draw or fade then you don’t want to change a thing.  But if you are open at top and hitting a bunch of duck hooks to the left, then you might want to try to get  closed at the top of the swing.  In order to do this you will need to rotate your wrists in the early part of the swing so you feel your right palm is pointing to the ground at the hip high junction of the swing.  Once you get the feel of your new position then you may not need to do such a distinct move at the start of the swing.   If you find you are somewhere in between but having a hooking or slicing problem then follow the above instructions accordingly. Get shut faced to help a hook and get open to help a slice.

What about doing this for the type of shot you want to play or the situation you are in.  This is what I am doing at the moment.  If trouble is on the left or I want something straight or with a little fade, then I will go shut faced which is more my natural swing. I will go shut faced if I want to take something off an iron shot.   If the trouble is on the right then I will go with an open face at the top. If I want to draw the ball and get a little more power then I will go to the open face position at the top. Since the moves of the wrists are infinite, the possibilities of what you can do with golf ball is infinite.  But in order to get all this benefit to your game you must use your wrists first, and then know what your natural position is at the top of the swing, and go from there.  Good luck, and here is to lower scores.

Golf

Golf, the game for the masses, that everyone can play and enjoy. You can play the game of golf until the day you die. People are playing golf in their nineties, and kids can start playing when they are five years old. It is the game for everyone, but is it. For what ever reason golf has always had some kind of unwritten caste system. There is really never an exclamation on why this wonderful game became this way. Even within the game, there was this elitist attitude with the general public, when it came to golf. The golf professional was looked upon as a lower class citizen, during the first third of the 20th century. During tournaments that were held at country clubs the golf professional was not allowed access to the clubhouse facilities. Speaking of the golf professional, their organization, the Professional Golfers Association of America, had in its  by laws until 1961, that in order to be a member you had to be Caucasian. Let that sink in for awhile.

Country clubs are the last bastion of I want to play with my own kind, philosophy. The unwritten rule that many clubs would not allow minorities and people of the Jewish religion is still going on, but there has been some change recently. In the last 10 years there are more  country clubs allowing in their first African American members. There are still many all male golf clubs. There are many rules at most country clubs. Women can only tee off at certain times on the weekend, usually after 11am. The clubs try to make up for this my giving women a day like on Tuesday from 8 to 11 when they have the priority. WOW. There’s the men’s grill, and other rules and regulations that do not exist in what I would call the real world. The justification for these attitudes are we paid a whole lot of money to belong to this club and we will make the rules and play with who we want to play and associate with. If this has been the policy  for years to exclude minorities in country clubs and treat women as second class citizens, why has there been this gradual change to begin to open up the doors to a more diverse group of people. We all know it has nothing to do with a change in social consciousness or attitudes. It has to with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Yeah, no kidding. The country club world is hurting, and now needs more members to enjoy all those restricted amenities. This is all well and good. If this leads to more minorities being able to play and enjoy some of the finer golf courses that this country has to offer, great. If this leads  to better treatment of the female golfer, wonderful.   I am sure we may see more  of these positive changes as the golf economic crunch continues.  

This has been going on in golf for years and years, and I am not going to make judgements, or go on about golf’s apparent lack of social conscience.  My question here is, how did this simple game of knocking a little ball around to put it into a hole, develop  this elitist attitude. I am not sure, but here is what I think.  As golf became more popular over the years there was one thing discovered about golf when compared with other sporting endeavors.  Golf could humiliate you like no other sport could.   It’s so simple and looks so easy.   But when you miss that first 15 inch putt, make your first whiff, or take 10 shots to try and get out of a sand trap, before just picking up your ball and walking sheepishly to the next tee, you know that there is something wrong with this game or maybe it’s you. Now it’s bad enough to do this in front of your friends, but to do this in front of strangers, or in front of people that you perceive is  below your so called social standing, is even worse, and adds to the humiliation.  The solution is to simple keep them away, and play with your own kind, to suffer the shame with your dear friends, who know what you are going through. Let’s face it, humility is not one of the traits of captains of business. Golf is simply that game that brings out the worst and the best, out of everyone.  It is too mystifying to be believed, and impossible to explain to someone who has not been through it.  It is this lack of understanding of golf, that has led this great game to develop this caste system. See you on links.  I will be the one walking with my head down while shaking it from side to side.    

100% Mental Golf Rounds 95 to 102

I played 8 rounds since September 1,with a Grand Canyon vacation in the middle from the 9th to the 16th. The rounds were the normal with a lot of ups and downs. The scores were in chronological order, 76,77, 81,75,8,74,80, and 80. The last two 80’s were really disappointing coming off a nice 74. The last round yesterday was in a tournament format, where I imploded on the last 6 holes. This will be a 100% Mental Golf wrap up, as this will be the last blog with this title. The rest of my exploits on the golf course will be under the heading of Golf.

Did I learn anything this year and do I still believe that for a low handicapper golf is 100% mental. You always learn something every time you play a round of golf, even if it you should take up bowling. The game continues to mystify me in so many ways, that I can not write about it in such a small format. I have discussed some of this in previous blogs but I am still lost at times on how to play this game most effectively. One of the things I did learn this year is that it is hard to define 100 % Mental. You would think it would be easy but the thought processes during the round can lead to confusion. You have to play physically. There are times when playing golf your body seems so dysfunctional. This happened to me yesterday. I said I imploded on the last 6 holes but in reality I imploded for almost the entire round. Amazingly I putted very well yesterday. Many times when you are playing tournament golf, that is what costs you the most is poor putting. It was a combination of good luck and some very good putting that got me to two over par after 12 holes. Then I played 6 over for the last 6 holes and many of these holes are not very difficult. I am not going through the gruesome details here but one thing I felt was good during this collapse was my thought process at the time. It was my ball striking for the day that let me down. Going in the day I did not shoot a good round on Friday but that did not bother me. This tournament was a synopsis of how my year has gone. I had 34 full swing shots. I rated them as such: Excellent shots 13, Good shots 6, Average shots 5, and Poor shots 10. On four holes where I made poor shots I was able to scramble for a par. I one putted one time for a bogey. I hit 24 shots that were average or above, it was those 10 poor shots that led to my demise. Now current thinking would have you believe that there may be a flaw in my technique which can only take me so fare. When the pressure builds then the flaw rears its ugly head and bad shots ensue. I do not buy that but I also can not give an answer either. I will see what the rest of the season brings and ” enlighten you in future blogs.

The most interesting thing to happen over this time frame is I think I have stumbled on a working solution to control the yips. I have written blogs in past on the yips. This solution is for the putting yips and the chipping yips. I may elaborate if this proves to be a successful endeavor. I can guarantee you that the yips will have another article in the coming months. But for the overall golf game it is back to the drawing board for now.

100% Mental Golf Rounds 86 to 94

This stretch of golf really had its ups and downs on all aspects of the game. The scores were as follows 73,82,74,79,81,84,77,76,and 76. My index stayed at 4.2, despite the wildness of play. The weather has been good, and the courses are in about as good shape as they have been all year. The last three rounds have shown some consistency, but I would like to be a little lower with that consistency. The high rounds were caused by the usual suspects, poor putting. the short game blues, and really horrible shots. I have stayed with the 100% mental concept pretty well, but did lapse into some physical changes during some of the bad rounds, and even rounds that were not so bad. The 77 round was one where I went through three swing changes, during the round. That is just being mental, not mental golf. The last two rounds have been much better on keeping with the principle, I think.

When I say I think, I feel I am doing 100% Mental Golf but in a different way. Maybe when we are out on the golf course, we are thinking about the wrong things. Trying to picture the shot may not be the way to go. The standard technique is to stand behind the ball, and picture where and how you want the ball to go. It is what I have always believed in, and there is nothing in the books, about the mental process of the golf shot, that will contradict this. It is especially true, when you are putting or hitting a short shot, to visualize the ball going into the hole. On a chip or pitch, you are supposed to picture the trajectory the ball and how it is going land and roll as it makes its way toward the cup. On good visualization days you can picture that ball going into the hole. Many times, this seems to be the real key to playing great golf. It was, in my mind, the original 100 % Mental Golf concept. You read or hear about players, that are just picturing the shot, and hitting the shot right where they are aiming. But even for the pros this visualization process seems to come and go. Whether it is pressure or not, who knows, but we have all seen some of the best golfers in the world make some bad shots and putts at the worse times. Maybe the visualization process is not what it is cut out to be. I am going to go a little different way. I know this is about the 71st time I have gone a little different way over the last 9 years, but damn it I know there is something missing on figuring out the best way to play this game. I will only play about 3 rounds this week due to some appointments. Then the next week I am going on vacation for a week. Even though it might be only 3 rounds, I will blog about it next Sunday.

Golf

Golf, the sport that I have been playing for around 60 years, with the exceptions of 1964 and 1995. It is an activity that has given me enjoyment, heartbreak, and has kept me fascinated the entire time I have been playing. I was introduced to the game, as I was introduced to all sports, by my father. Our three main sports, were bowling, baseball and golf. I have many fond memories of golfing and bowling with my Dad, that will be with me forever. One of the things my Dad would always do, when we had to wait on the tee box, was to look for tees. During the round he and I would find anywhere from 20 to 30 tees per round. To this day, when there is a delay on the tee box, I do this, just as a remembrance to my Dad. The game has come a long way since those teenage days of the sixties. However, the game has taken a downturn in participation, since the turn of this century. The reasons given are, the economy, since the 2008 crash, not as much leisure time, it is not a game for the millennials, and it is just too hard to learn. It is a difficult game to learn, and then go out and play for the first time. There are people in front of and behind you, seemingly watching your every move. If you are learning and you play slow, which goes hand in hand, it can be stressful trying to keep up with the group in front of you. You have enough stress in life. You don’t need more, doing some leisure activity. Golf courses are not being built any more in the U.S, but there is still plenty of places to play. There is no doubt that it is a consumer market right now. Golf rates to play are more than reasonable.

If you have never played golf and are thinking about starting, now is as good as any, to give it a try. There are plenty of times when courses are not busy, and you can get out and get started. The best way to start is to take a lesson, but if you don’t want to get into that expense, then there are many great instructional books that can get you started in the game. If you have a group of friends that might want to start together, group lessons are usually very reasonable. To get started, hit balls at a driving range, for a few times. Then play par 3 courses and what’s called executive courses that are courses that have mostly par 3’s and some short par 4 holes. If you have a week day off, then play in the middle of day when these courses are not crowded. You should have freedom to take your time and learn the game. After playing these kinds of courses for about 5 or 6 times, then try a regulation course, that is around 6000 yards. Playing in the middle of the day on a week day, should work on these courses, as well. Sometimes very early in the morning will be good and weekends around 5pm, or after will find courses that are not crowded. Some of my favorite rounds were playing in the evening on Saturdays with my Dad. Most golf courses offer discounts for late in the day weekend play. Generally courses with only nine holes are not as busy. Equipment does not have to be expensive. Walking into a golf shop or sporting goods store and looking at new golf equipment can send you into sticker shock. You will fine one club costing over $500 and some sets of irons running around $1500 to $2000. You can find new equipment on E-Bay and other local pro shops that are older models for reasonable prices. A very good set of clubs can be had for under $500 very easily.

If you decide to take up golf, you will find it is a great way to spend time with family and friends. The environment is beautiful and the challenges are many. There is one caveat. Many people feel that golf is not a very physically demanding sport. This is one of many misconceptions about the game. When you learn to swing a golf club, you will be using muscles that you have never used in your life. That is how unique the golf swing is. It’s not to discourage you in starting to play golf, but more of a word to the wise. The greatest part of golf is that no two rounds are ever the same. Golfing in less than ideal weather can be fun and increase the challenge. This is also a good time to get out when the course is not that crowded. I feel you can play golf comfortable in temperatures around 38 degrees, as long as there is not a lot of wind. The most essential pieces of equipment in weather like this, is a good toboggan hat and golf winter gloves. Even playing in a light drizzle with temperatures in the 50’s is not bad, if there is very little wind. Golf will get you outdoors and just make you feel better for doing it. The game has frustrated me to no end, because I have always had some competitive goals when it comes to golf and in general have failed miserably to reach them. I will always be glad and thankful that I took up the game at an early age and have explored this game, more than anything else. It has been a very rewarding spiritual experience. The next blog on Golf will discuss the complex relationship golf has had with society.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 81 to 85

Back from vacation and back to the golf grind.   Five rounds of golf played with one of those a scramble,  and little progress to report.   The four individual rounds ranged from a low of 75 to a high of 82.  Again trying to make this game 100 % Mental is turning out to be way harder than expected.  When you are trying to improve, which we are all trying to do,  it is just about impossible to not try and tinker with some part of the swing.  I even brought back the old shoulder control swing for about  33 holes but abandoned that again.  The address position thing I was doing is gone.   Despite by being unhappy at times with my ball striking, my lack of scoring comes down to one big work this year.

PUTTING.   Despite my problems on the greens, which there are many, I am still able to keep my index in the low 4’s, with the latest on the 15th 4.2.  I am just not getting the ball into the hole.   The first thing I am going to change is what I do with the flagstick.  I have left it in for all putts this year.  Overall I think it helps you more than hurts but after doing it all year, I think there are two points that all the flagstick testers are missing.  All flagsticks are not created equal.  I play a variety of courses and I feel there is a difference on how some flagsticks receive a ball.  I do not think there is a standard diameter for flagsticks, but even if I am wrong,  I am not sure golf courses follow it totally anyway.  There is no question the hole looks bigger with the flagstick out.  100% Mental just kicked in.   It goes back to that old Ken Venturi saying that I have quoted before.  If the flagstick is out he trying to make the chip, and if he leaves the flagstick in the hole, then he is just trying to get it close.  So, on any putt under 30 feet, I am taking the flag out the rest of the season.   Longer putts I will decide on a case by case basis.   Sounds pretty serious doesn’t it.  The second thing I am going to do is try to make the most natural stroke for me that I can, and  not use any particular method.  The thing that got me out of my slump in 2017, and improved my putting immensely, was when I started to let my body move on putts. Since then, I have gone back and forth on this method over this 2 year period.  The problem is trying to make your body move on putts, is as bad as trying to keep it still on putts.  It distracts you from keeping your focus on making the putt.  We will see how this all goes in the coming weeks.

By now you see that the blog has a little different look and a slight change in the title of the site.   Since I am beginning to see that I am not going to find the answer after 9 years, I have decided to write about other subjects, that are near and dear to my heart.  They are Meditation, Food, Sports, and I will continue to write about Golf and the quest to find the answer.  Even though I feel I won’t find the answer I am not giving up either.   I will be playing about 4 times this week and we will see how it goes.

100% Mental Golf: Rounds 68 to 80

I am back to the 100% Mental Golf concept and my last 13 rounds have been pretty good. Ten of the thirteen rounds have been between 79 and 74.    One 74, four 75’s, two 76’s, one 77, and two 79’s.   A couple of blips in there with rounds in the 80’s, but over all some good if not spectacular scores.   I will be taking a small break from the game as we are heading for the beach for about five days.  The season is around half way through and I feel I am back on track with the original concept.

Again putting has been a problem, but with five rounds 75 and below it has had it’s good moments.   We played South Park today and this was one of  the 75 rounds and even though I hit a lot of good putts none of them found the hole.  I did not miss any short ones today and I had two birdie putts that were between six and 10 feet that I made. I have made some adjustments to my stance and posture and I think these may bode well for me in the future.   My short game continues to be plagued by some yipping but even that has not been too bad lately.  I am getting more comfortable with my new irons and getting use to the increased distance I am hitting the ball.  We have had a good stretch of weather during this time and that has  helped.

As I head into the second half of the season, one of the things I will be working on is trying to feel relaxed during the golf swing.   Can you be too relaxed while executing the golf swing, your short game, and putting. There are lots of instructors that think you can be.  I am not too sure this is correct.   Can you be as relaxed in your body, as when you are meditating, and still make a powerful golf swing.   Certainly any tension in your body can make executing the swing more difficult.  Not to get too deep here, but is there a spirituality in playing golf, which can be transmitted to the golf swing itself.  Can a relaxed body allow you to focus better and visualize the shot better.  I aim to find out in the coming weeks.  Won’t be playing the game for about a week, with the trip coming up, so will have to wait and see.  This has been some of the adjustments I have been making at address, with removing tension from my set up and grip.  There are others but again I have only been doing this over the last 3 rounds.  Small sample size, as they like to say on MLB Now.      See you in about 3 weeks