Check out this video of Padraig Harrington. If you can stop the video at :35, you will see that at impact, his left shoulder, left arm and hands all line up with his shaft to create a perfect release of a lever. This release gives him maximum speed. How can you achieve that same line in your swing?
First, you need to understand how your hands and wrists perform as you swing. A good grip is crucial to delivering the club to the ball and a poor grip can prevent release. One key that I was taught as a youngster was to point my left thumb at the ball at address and to return it there at impact. Your left thumb will point at the ball no matter how strong or weak your grip, but if you have too much forward press or if your hands are set too far behind the ball, it will be tough to return your hands to the correct position for a good release. Many people that I see on the lesson tee get to impact with their left thumb pointed behind them, leaving the club face open. The tension in their left arm and in their grip is too high and they lose speed because the club is dragged instead of released through impact.
|This is the swing many of us copied by reading Hogan's Five Lessons book. As much as all of us think the swing has changed over the years, the key positions are close to the same.|
Others flip the club and the left thumb gets ahead of the left wrist instead of forming a line like Padraig. This doesn't necessarily cause you to lose speed, but you will lose your shaft lean, which will make it tough to control direction and trajectory. At impact, the shaft lean for a driver should be about 5 degrees, which to the naked eye will appear pretty straight, while a wedge will be between 15 and 20 degrees. Back in the day, I was taught that you had to hit down on the ball to be a great ball striker. Once again, today's technology has disproven this theory somewhat. Instead it seems that a shallower attack with good shaft lean is optimal for hitting good shots. In hindsight, the old guys probably knew this too, because I can clearly remember watching Tom Weiskopf hit balls and marveling over how shallow and perfect his divots were.
Where your hands are at impact is the most talked about factor for shaft lean, but there are many ways to effect your shaft lean, including shoulder lean at impact and also your turn through the ball. Check out how some of the women on tour get a consistent shaft lean, even though their hand and wrist strength are not as strong as the men on tour. Here is Anna Grzebian. If you stop this video at :34, you will see that her hands are maintaining that straight line that we want to see. Now look at the blue stripe on her shirt and you will also see that her shoulder tilt will help her maintain this shaft lean. The more your shoulders tilt at impact, the easier it will be for you to maintain your shaft lean through impact. Compare her lean with Ernie Els at :12 and you will see that Ernie is big enough and strong enough to maintain shaft angle with a much more level shoulder tilt at impact.
|McIlroy's left shoulder is open to the target line by the time he gets to impact. This is one way to create the proper shaft lean.|
Another way that many players control their shaft lean is through their turn through the ball. Here is Ryo Ishikawa hitting an iron on the range. His shoulders stay pretty square at impact and he controls his shaft angle with his hands and shoulder tilt. Now check out Rory McIlroy's swing. His left shoulder rotates to the left through impact and that allows him to control his shaft lean by creating tension with his left shoulder moving away from center. You can see this at :21 on the video. If you grab an iron and go to your impact position, you can feel all of these forces at work by imitating these different impact positions. You can also make the opposite movements and feel the handle of the club move the opposite direction.
|Nicklaus used not only his shoulder tilt, but also hip tilt to tip his axis to maintain shaft lean.|
As always, there is more than one way to skin a cat when you swing the club. Almost every move in golf can be made in multiple ways. Make sure you are attacking your goals with your strengths and weaknesses in mind. I hope today's blog helped you understand what you are trying to achieve at impact and some ways to work on it.