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Using The Thumb Press To Improve Your Golf Back Swing

Dec 7, 2007
The natural way to get the open face at the top was with a late wrist break.

The break never should be started before the hands were waist high. In fact, many taught that you should pay no attention whatever to breaking the wrists; they would break by themselves.

If you use this technique you should find your swing improve dramatically.

At this point the club will have come back slightly inside the projected line of flight but the club face will not have opened. The face will be at about a 45-degree angle with the ground and, as you stand there, you will not be able to see any of it.

To be certain you are making the break correctly there is a perfect check point at this stage. If you look at your hands you will see, if the break is right, one knuckle of your left hand and the first two knuckles of the right. The left hand will be broken in, at an angle with the wrist If the break is completed here, without letting the hands move away from their address position, the club will have been brought back and up until it is almost parallel with the ground.

How near it approaches the parallel depends on how supple your wrists happen to be. Following our description of how the break is made, try it ten times. If you don't soon get the feel of it, try it twenty or fifty times. But do it until you get the feel, checking yourself each time with the left-hand and right-hand knuckles and the angle of the face of the club.

This is a key move the foundation of the swing and you must do it right, get the feel of doing it right, and do it so much that it becomes automatic. It is easy to practice, requiring very little room, and can be worked on indoors or out, winter as well as summer.

Get it, and get it right.

We have not put this into the actual swing yet, remember. We are still working on the mechanics of the wrist break. It is just possible that at this fundamental stage you will refuse to believe that you can hit the ball with such a break. So make this test:

Go to the practice tee, or to a range or an indoor net. Address the ball. Make the backward break and do nothing else.

Don't shift your weight, move your hips, or turn your shoulders. Just make the backward break. Hold it a couple of seconds. Now simply turn your shoulders, letting the shoulders swing your arms and the club up to the top, and then go right on through with the swing and hit the ball.

You will be amazed at what happens after you try this a few times. You will find, if you keep the wrist position, that you not only hit the ball, but that you hit it solidly, hit it straight, and hit it a surprising distance.

You will also discover that the more you permit the turning shoulders to swing the club up, the better you will hit the ball and the farther you will hit it. Make no effort to swings the. Arms just let the: shoulders move them and the club. The more the arms are swung independently of the shoulders, the less likely you are to reach a good position at the top.

So picture the shoulders as the motivating force, the "motor." The closer you bring this motivating force to the axis of the swing (the spinal column) the better the swing will be.

This two-piece action is invaluable for practicing the immediate break, for getting the feel of the break, for checking whether you have done it correctly or not, and for proving to yourself its value and the value of the hand-and-wrist position. In fact, you can use it in actual play. We have pupils who do.

Into the Swing The next step is to incorporate the early wrist break into the swing itself, making it a single uninterrupted motion. For this we must start with what has come to be known as the forward press, for it is with this that the backswing begins.

The forward press is simply a device that gets us from the passive into the active stage smoothly, without a jerk. Standing in a stationary position, even for a few seconds, is tiring. Ask any service man who has stood at attention for any extended period. We don't pass easily from a stationary position into a big move. The trick in golf is to go from the stationary position of address to the big movement of the backswing without a jerky effort.

The forward press provides this transition. It is the little move that leads into the big one.

It can be done in several ways, with the right knee, with the hips, with the hands, with a turn of the hips. We want a lateral movement of the hips, no turn. It is a slight pushing of the hips to the left, laterally, about an inch or two. This press is in the opposite direction from the big move. But as the hips come back from their little pushing motion, they keep right on sliding and go into a lateral turning motion to the right the beginning of the backswing and we are off. This makes for the smoothest transition of all.

As the hips move to the left in the press, they pull the hands with them, just slightly, only a, fraction of an inch. When the hips come back, the hands come back-Now, as the hips and hands come back from the press, push the heel of the right hand down firmly but not sharply on the left thumb. The back of the left hand starts to turn under and the all important backward wrist break has begun.

This move should not be a sharp or a violent action. It should be firm and steady. And it feels much quicker than it looks or actually is.

The hands meanwhile are moving to the right as the wrists are cocking, and the hips are sliding into a lateral turn, taking the weight with them.

Before you realize it, your hands will be waist high. And at that joint the wrist break should be completed!

Right here is the first check point. Stop the swing and look at your hands. If the wrist break has been performed correctly you will see at this point just the reverse of what you saw at the address:

You should see only one knuckle of the left hand, but two knuckles of the, right hand, those at the bases of the index and middle fingers.

You should not be able to see any of the face of the club, either. The face should be turned away from you and somewhat down, not at the 45-degree angle it was in the stationary test, but still turned away and somewhat down.

You should see a definite inward bend of the left hand, a reflex angle formed by the forearm and the back of the hand. The shaft will be at about a 45-degree angle to the ground and the angle formed by the left arm and the shaft of the club will be somewhat more than a right angle, maybe 100 degrees.

You should feel that the wrists cannot be broken any more. They will be, a little, at the top by the weight of the club head, but they should feel now as though the break were absolutely complete.

What you must see when you turn and look at your hands after the backward break is completed down the knuckle of the left hand, two knuckles of the right, and none of the club face, If these check points are not all clearly visible (except the club-shaft position) exactly as we have given them, your break has been wrong.

The chances are that you have pushed the heel of the right hand sideways against the left thumb, instead of down. This brings the club too sharply on an inside line, tends to open the face somewhat, and doesn't get the back of the left hand started going down under as it must.

With such a break, when it is completed, you will see two knuckles of the left hand and only one of the right, just as you did at address. So correct it by starting over again and pushing down on the left thumb. That brings the back of the left hand down and under and gives you the position you must have.

What It Does

Heretical, you say? Of course it is. Awkward and uncomfortable? Oh, yes, indeed. But you want to break 80, don't you, or 90, or whatever goal you have set for yourself? Then stick with it. Hit some balls with it, being sure your execution is right, before you condemn it.

Meanwhile, look what it has done for your swing already. The club head has been started almost straight back from the ball, as it should be. The club face has been kept square, as it must be if you are going to play better golf. The hip slide has moved much of your weight over to the right leg, where it must go, and your hips are now turning somewhat.

Your right elbow has been automatically brought in against your side, starting you on a tight, controlled arc. The wrist break at the same time has started the swing in a plane that will prove to be ideal, neither too upright nor too flat. The shoulders have begun to turn and to tilt just a little, with the left going down slightly, and the right coming up. And, perhaps most important of all, your hands and wrists are set early in exactly the position they must be in.

All this adds up to the fact that although the backswing has progressed only about a third of its distance, you already are locked into actions which will bring you to the top in perfect position.

Your next questions, without a doubt, are going to be: Why is this first move so important, and why does it do what it does?

To answer these we will have to go back quite a few years in the theories of golf technique. Thirty years ago there was one accepted method of hitting a golf ball. That was with an open face and with a late wrist break. Those were the points the teaching pros taught then the face should be opened on the backswing, should be open at the top, and should be closed to a square position on the downswing as the ball was hit.

To make the backward wrist break we merely push the heel of the right hand down against the big knuckle of the left thumb. This is a downward pressure of the heel on the thumb. When it is done, without moving the hands otherwise, the right hand breaks backward at the wrist and the left hand breaks forward or inward, the hack of the left hand going under and facing, in a general way, toward the ground.
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