The Rationale for “Hands”

Once you can apply the fundamentals of proper set-up, grip, steady head, footwork and full extension, the only essential remaining between you and a skilled overall golf swing is the effective movement of the arms, hands and wrists. Of course, herein lays one of golf’s greatest debates: Should the golf club be motivated by hand action or body action?

With regard to Jack Nicklaus: At an early age, he was taught to have “quiet hands” or passive hands and, to swing the club by using all of his physical self. Even as an adult, his hands and wrists have been relatively weak. However, he was blessed with massive thighs and calves. So, throughout his illustrious career he has used the incredible strength in his lower body to great effect in his golf swing. Conversely, had Nicklaus been born with more natural arm strength and a stronger pair of hands and wrists, a solid argument could be made for him having an altogether different swing than it was.

My own teaching experience lets me know that many golfers, who seem to have acquired some golf knowledge by reading instructional books/magazines and/or studying swing-sequence photos of PGA Tour players, tend to buy into body action at the expense of arm, hand and wrist action. I blame this de-emphasis of the use of the hands in golf on two factors. First, today’s playing professionals who discuss and write about their games nearly all emphasize “big muscle” body action because their arms, hands and wrists are trained to work automatically. Second, the stop-action cameras depiction of the pro player being able to maintain his wrist cock/hinge on the forward swing makes it look like the hands and wrists are being deliberately held back during the downswing.

It’s my belief these two factors cause a lot of everyday golfers to try to take their hands and wrists out of the swing entirely. Instead of allowing them to consider a “late release” position as a determinant, I teach and encourage them to regard it as a result/effect of proper swing technique. To affect a cure, I’ll accentuate the fundamental of proper footwork – a lateral shifting of weight from the inside of the right foot to the inside of the left foot. Plus, I’ll put an accent on a free swing of the arms and hands through the ball. Or, in many cases, I’ll emphasize a feeling by the pupil that he’s throwing or slinging the club head into the ball from the top.

In my view, as taught to me by my father, it is impossible to “release” the club head too early with the hands, wrists and arms on the downswing so long as the lower body i.e., feet, ankles, legs and hips have worked ahead of them and, the entire left side (target side) of the body is steadily moving into a balanced and finished position.

In any case, whether you consider the hands as active “hitters” or instead as passive “reactors,” it’s essential that they be strong to play your best golf. Increasing the strength in all the little muscles in the hands, thumbs and forearms allows you to hold the golf club with less exertion which leads to more club head speed and better control of the golf club.

• Distance: A proper grip is the most important fundamental in golf. Having a stronger (as opposed to a weaker) grip is the key to achieving greater club speed and distance.

• Control: Your grip is your primary control of the club face. It should be constant and fitted to the shaft of the club.

• Strength: Strong hands, wrists, and forearms are crucial for stability and accuracy. Strong hands are the key to maintaining a soft, relaxed grip and smooth swing. A tight grip on the club will only lock the wrists and prevent natural movement in your swing.

Golf is a game of fingers and hands working in coordination with other parts of the body. Proper usage of the hands plus good balance and a swing of the clubhead in a wide free arc will take care of all the so-called positional basics.

The best swing in the world is only as effective as the strength of the fingers to hang onto the club at impact. If your hands are weak, the shock of impact will move them on the club. Exercise your hands, over-train them – they can’t be too strong.

The hands must hit past the body, not with the body. To achieve that, I teach hitting with the right hand past the left, making the clubhead do the work. Through impact the left forearm and hand gradually turn down and over as the right hand hits past it. The action is a rolling or turning of the hands and arms, not an inward collapsing of the left wrist or a forward bending of the right wrist.

A grip in which the back of the left hand faces the target at address allows that hand to turn more freely through the ball at impact while allowing the right hand to supply the power.

Think of the palm of the right hand as being an extension of the clubface. It will naturally come from any backswing position to hit the ball squarely if it is properly trained and you will allow it to do so.

Most golfers’ hands instinctively return to the same alignment at impact that they were in at address. If the back of the left hand and the palm of the right hand parallel the clubface at address, then they’ll do so at impact if they are properly trained and if you swing freely without manipulating the club.

I like to feel that I hit the ball hard, but that the hit is concealed as much as possible. To me that spells efficiency; which comes from proper technique including having trained hands. Trained hands allow me to achieve maximum clubhead speed just before impact by whipping the clubhead through the ball at the last split second. This is certainly a “late hit” – however, it is a very definite hit with the hands and the clubhead.

Consciously “hitting late” is the worst mistake in golf for the average golfer. Most of the slices you see come from not using the right hand to fire/whip/sling the clubhead through the ball, which forces the golfer to hit with his shoulders. You can’t hit too early with a trained right hand if your right arm stays bent until impact.


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