Ben Hogan once stated that the movement that closest resembled that of a golf swing is a dominant hand, side-arm throw. The right arm throw allows one to feel the use of the lower body winding against the upper body in the golf swing. If you have learned to athletically throw a ball you most likely understand how important using the ground to achieve motion and power can be. The great opposition between upper and lower body is what affords one the opportunity to create lag, store lag and hit the ball with a descending blow.
Throwing a ball is a great activity for those with a passive lower body movement who are looking to feel a more active pivot. However, this exercise is still far removed from making a golf swing with a golf club. Tossing a few actual clubs may be a better alternative. Throwing golf clubs has long been a practice among golf instructors to get their students to initiate the engines of their swings (the lower body). Back in the early 20th century instructors such as Jackie Burke Sr. and Bill Melhorn had their students throwing clubs out into fields to ease tension, feel a proper weight distribution, release and follow through.
Let’s examine three different club toss release points as they pertain to the golf swing. It is important to experience and feel differences, even incorrect ones, to define and recognize different swing intentions.
Let us first examine what happens when you throw a club at your ball. From a DTL position, notice how the shaft points steeply in the direction of where a ball would be at the half way down position. Then, during impact, the chest, and hips are directly facing where the ball would be. From a face on perspective, there is a good angle between the forearm and shaft at the half way down position. However, this angle is reduced to nothing coming into impact as the body fails to turn and shift laterally toward the target. During impact the right arm straightens, the club bottoms out early before the ball and the club head quickly passes the hands.
The next club throw we will examine is one where the golfer throws the club toward his target.
If you are attempting to get a proper weight shift and connect to your target, this is an effective drill. From a DTL perspective coming into impact, we see the shaft is much shallower and there is more knee flex then when the club is thrown at the ball. The shaft points above where the position of where a golf ball would be. This is ideal. During impact we also see a body that is both moving toward the target and opening to the target. Notice where this golfer’s chest and hips are “looking” during the mock impact as well as the position of the right foot which is beginning to roll inward and come off the ground.
What happens after impact is noteworthy. To throw the club at the target the rotation of the body slows for a fraction of a second in anticipation for a timed release of the club toward the target. The shoulders steepen slightly and the arms work off the chest so that we can still see the hands and arms aster the release of the club.
For the FO image of the golfer throwing the club toward the target you may notice the increased knee flex. As we saw from DTL during the half way down position, the club head is shallower and more behind the golfer, giving the illusion that there is a greater angle between the lead forearm and the shaft. Along with the increased knee flex, the golfer has also moved more laterally toward the target in anticipation for the throw of the club toward his target. During the mock impact position, the hands are now leading the club head, producing a forward shaft lean of the club. The lead hip has moved well forward and the rear foot is rolling in and off the ground.
Time for the final throw comparison where the golfer was instructed to throw the club straight up into the sky at a 60 degree angle behind him from where he started at address.
Looking first from a DTL view, you may notice that the golfer has lowered into the ground the most of all three throws during the initial half way down position. Similarly, the shaft is the shallowest in this position compared to the other three throws. During the mock impact position, the hips and chest have rotated open to the target more than any of the prior two club throws. The arms are closer to the body. Post impact we see the big differences. The body has continued to turn aggressively toward the target without and slowing of the pivot. The lead knee remains flexed to support the level turn of the shoulders all the way up to the release of the club to the sky.
From a FO view, there is a lot more knee flex and lateral leg drive toward the target during the half way down position. There is also more knee flexion during the mock impact position with a big forward lean of the shaft. We see the big differences again in this FO view post impact. The golfer continues to rotate through the mock impact. As a result, the shaft remains flexed just shy of the club’s release. The positions for this third throw resemble a world class swing.
What makes this drill so intriguing is that, other than telling the golfer where to throw the club, no other instructions were given. The player is simply reacting to the desired target without a thought in the world. So how was the swing able to change so much from the first to the third throw? The answer is that there was a change in “intention” for each swing. Here is the breakdown of intentions for each throw as they relate to striking a ball:
Intention #1) Hitting the ball
Intention #2) Hitting to your target
Intention #3) Continued accelerating to the sky
Pay attention to your intention the next time you find yourself hitting balls. Which intention do you fulfill? Are you trying to hit the ball, your target or stressing the club shaft for as long as possible post impact. Intentions one and two are far more intuitive that intention three. Changing your intention will change your impact dynamics, ball flight and score. For more information on different impact dynamics for different classes of ball striking, visit THE GOLF SWING.
GOLF AND PITCHING
Similar to a club's approach to the golf ball, pitching from different arm slots for professional baseball players can mean the difference in increased velocity or improved accuracy. Pitching from these different positions each have their merits, depending upon what you want to do with the ball.
To better understand the various arm slots for baseball pitchers, it is best to think about the pitcher standing within and throwing out of a large imaginary clock. It is very uncommon to throw from the 12:00 position, although a few professionals come close. For a right handed pitcher, a 1:00 pitch would be considered overhand, a 2:00 pitch would be considered three quarter overhand, a 3:00 pitch would be side arm and anything under 3:00 would be considered underhand.
A professional pitching coach would tell you that the pitchers with the highest ball speeds fall in the category of slotting their arm from a 12:30 to 2:30 range. Meanwhile the pitchers who are consistently most accurate fall into the arm slot area ranging from 2:30 to 3:30.
Let's explore these two different categories of releases as they relate to the golf swing. Using the help of gravity, the fast throwing pitcher is able to active greater velocity with their arm from a more vertical starting position. On the other hand, the more consistently straight throwing side arm pitcher does not have the luxury of gravity and must create velocity using the rotational speed of their body.
Looking at these two different release points can help you to understand how the body works in reaction to certain movements. Right from the start both pitchers begin their windup in different positions in anticipation for their different arm paths. The fastball pitchers arm moves from above their right shoulder and moves downward and toward the strike zone.
On the other hand, the consistently accurate but less powerful side arm pitcher must get his arm immediately on plane with the strike zone to prepare for the side arm toss. The side arm to underhand pitcher must use the full forces of their body to actively propel the ball towards the strike zone.
I think these two styles of pitching are good comparisons for two different types of impact dynamics. Velocity through gravity vs. velocity through rotation. Gravity will most often win the power game. Rotationally connected will typically win the accuracy game.
Notice how in the first comparison both the arm of the pitcher and the shaft of the golfer are traveling much more vertical coming into release/impact than the arm of the pitcher and the shaft of the golfer coming down in the second comparison. Also pay attention to the shoulder plane post release/impact with the ball and how this affects the arm/club path. One set of pictures demonstrates a steep shoulder plane producing an arm that moves out and away from the body while the other comparison shows a shallower shoulder plane where the arm travels level and around with the spinning torso.
Let's think about a paused half way down golf swing from a down the line perspective. We will use the idea of the positions of a clock once more, except this time the hands will act as the center of the clock and the shaft will act as one of the hands of the clock.
In terms of swings where the hands come into impact above the address shaft plane, most shafts will point somewhere above 10:30, or closer to the plane of the lead arm. These are swings that achieve greater velocity than the alternative address plane impact. Gravity helps to increased leverage for this golfer. However, This is not a position one will want if they wish to hit the ball consistently accurate.
In preparation for an address plane impact position, most golfers will have their shaft pointed under 10:30 at the half way down position, or closer to the plane of their trailing arm. Much like the pitcher attempting to get his arm path on plane with the strike zone, this golfer is attempting to get his club head traveling into the ball and ground on a shallower plane.
Because the club head is now further behind this golfer than the golfer whose shaft is above 10:30, the golfer must use the full forces of his body and ground to rotate the club head back around his body to make contact with the ball. Much like the side to underhand throwing professional baseball pitcher, this golf swing is actively rotating into and through the hitting area. There is not as much vertical drop and release of energy during the moment of impact. Instead, the golfer comes into impact with shoulders that are more level allowing him to continue to stay connected with the club and rotate actively through impact.