My mission to gaining knowledge on anything always starts with asking WHY. And, over the past 10 years I have asked a number of the PGA and LPGA golf professionals who have provide me instruction why I am not hitting my golf shots as far as the professionals or even my golf buddies. I am sure many of your have wondered why (or an even a more powerful questions, HOW) the guys and gals on tour can hit their 8 irons 140 to 160 yards and I am only able to stretch it to 120 on a good day with the wind behind me?
And over the years I have been told the answer to WHY, and provided the solution to the question on How, several times. Both answers generates the next Why question.
Why is the solution so dam difficult for me to accomplish and so seemingly natural for others.
The answer to my Why questions that I, and about 99% of all golfers with 13 handicaps and higher ask, is due to me CASTING the club somewhere in the downswing. And casting causes all kinds of problems which develop in loss of power, club head speed and direction of flight.
Terry Alsup, PGA Profession, PGA Professional of the year for North Texas in 1982 and Director of Instruction for John Jacobs Golf Schools in Las Vegas (he is called Tex by all who have received lessons from him), has been the only person who could show me and explain it in MY native tongue (Texan) what is exactly meant when someone tells you that you are “Casting Your Club”…Tex, if you are out there, I’m still ‘swatting flies’..
Now, Casting is where you release the wrist cock before you get into the impact zone, which is about one inch before the actual contact of the ball with the club. Releasing is when you take the club from the wrist cocked position during the full swing and straighten out both wrists before you make contact with the ball. Some people never cock their wrists during their take away amplifying the problem. Most, like me, cock their wrist by the time the clubhead reaches hip to shoulder level in the take away. For those who do make the wrist cock and do cast the club start the down swing with a wrist cock but release their wrists anywhere between shoulders to hip high. Some get below hip level with their wrists cocked but then violently cast the club thinking they are off line or in attempt to get the club back on line.
Now in Texan this is called ‘Swatting Flies’, ‘Chopping Wood’, ‘Beating the Dust out of the Rug’, ‘Taking it down the Third Base Line’ and (my favor) ‘Swinging a Chicken Stick’. Loosely translated into Oklahoman or other foreign languages, ‘You are casting your club’. And this is what I had been hearing for too many years and it wasn’t until I spent a number of years going to Vegas to sit in the heat of the desert of Vegas in July with Tex before I understood what the heck casting was.
Not to discount the fact that Tex videoed my swing during my first school and used it as a demo to the rest of the class on how ‘Hackers play golf in Texas’.
Tex has a great way getting his point across and explaining the importance of correcting the basics of the golf swing before advancing to the next step.
So, what causes the casting and what is the result of casting. There are a number of things that causes the casting. The two that show up in almost every 13 or more handicapper’s swing video is No wrist cock and a premature turnout of the left shoulder (for right-hand golfers) before the hands start their downward motion in the full swing. There are others that
Tex said were caused due to ‘Lack of Table manors’, but I didn’t have those in my swing so he didn’t go into what they would be.
To answer the questions on Why there was no wrist cock in my take away Tex (and the other PGA and LPGA professionals I have had instruction from all agreed) said it was due to me feeling that I need to have control of the club from the take away or translated into Texan, ‘the get go’. You can see this in every beginner golfer. And it is carried into high handicapper’s swings due to it being a way for them to get control of the shot after they have had a miss-hit on the first attempt.
My no wrist cock takeaway looked a lot like the hockey style a lot of people who play hockey want to use since it gives them the feel that they are actually going to be able to hit the ball better. Tex would say ‘if you are wanting to ‘Mule’ the ball then stay with the Hockey style hit, but don’t expect to be playing golf much more than four or five years, because that style will cause a sever case of tendonitis, hockey elbow and all kinds of back problems’. This is due to that about 99% of the time the Hockey swing caused the club to hit the ground before hitting the ball making the ball not go its true distance. So what do hockey players do to over come that? They hit it with the power of a mule but still hit the ground first. The power gets the ball to go a little further but that consent pounding the ground causes damage to muscle. Tex would say “So, if you want to ‘Happy Gilmore’ around the course get after it, but you will be coming back to me in a few years wanting to know how to play golf with tendonitis.”
I just love the way Tex can put it to you and make you understand what happens if you take the wrong road in the golf swing.…
Now my swing was not that bad and I did produce a wrist cock after I got way above hip high in my takeaway. My problem was and still does, my left shoulder want to be the first part of my body to move down the swing path. What I call ‘having a happy shoulder’. That is the first place I was loosing power and distance. Once I start that move it changed the swing path to be on the outside of the target line. In order to get it back inside, I would instinctively release my wrist since it made it feel that I was getting my club back in control. But what it was doing was throwing the club head even further outside so that by the time it got to the impact area the club was coming from far outside to inside, with reduced swing speed, producing a very powerful pull of more than fifty yards off line, or a very weak pull fade or slice. Or translated to Texan, ‘trying to take a low and outside pitch down the third base line’.
After three days of working with me in the heat of Vegas and probably after I hit over 1000 balls a day, Tex came up with the best description of my swing that sticks with me today.
He said, “Duke, you are swinging a ‘chicken stick’! Meaning that instinctively you don’t think you can get the distance in your shot unless you use your body’s strength. So, you start your downswing with the largest muscle in your upper body, your shoulder. Then once you body make that first mistake your brain tries to make corrections because it does not trust that you are even going to hit the ball. So your subconscious brain is chicken to trust that instructing your hands to drop down first will produce a golf shot. Thus, you are swinging a ‘chicken stick’ because your brain is afraid to trust the swing will work.”
He went on to tell me that the only thing that a swing with a severer casting has to offer is if you are want to ‘swat flies, chop wood, or beat a rug’.
Tex went on to explain, you can hit a golf ball with a casting swing, but its not going to go far. So, practice dropping the hands down first and keep the ‘Mule attitude’ in the barn.
I absorbed every word, but even after three years I am not consistently able to get dropping my hands as instinct and when I get tired I really have to stop and concentrate to keep my shoulder from getting happy.
So, this is to
Tex, it works and when I get my left shoulder tucked up under my wattle and drop the hammer before I turn my shoulder, I can tattoo a shot that would make it halfway to Vegas in a head wind. If I can get that ‘Chicken Stick’ out of my noggin, I know I could do it every time. But that dang Mule comes out of the barn every once in a while and once it gets out I am back to chopping wood and beating rugs until I stop and get off that third base line. It is about time I get back out to see you again and dehumidify my swing. So, fair warning let the Vegas chamber of commerce know that they will need to stock up on cold beer to have enough when they get more than two Texan in town..
I’ll be back to tell you stories of my other PGA and LPGA friends I have met during my adventure to find the best golf swing….