My theory is based on searching for the automatic golf swing motion in that all depends on a human body limitations rather than possibilities. Let me explain shortly why - in order to make a movement automatic there must not be any free capability left in a specific motion, otherwise timing issues come along. It also was not my ambition to write another "Yellow Book" because I am of the opinion that it is not necessary at all to move on such detailed levels of abstraction. Lastly, it was also not my ambition to try to find various secrets of the greatest golfers or to describe properly positions and imperatives since there are much better experts than myself that can do it much better.
However, I feel a tiny smell of pioneer job in my work since I am not aware of any specific book or publication that deals with The Big Picture of biokinetics and biomechanics. If I fail to do it correctly or flawlessly, what is very probable, I would not be disappointed since my work can be, at least, a starting point for future delelopment of the matter. I and only I am responsible for what is written here - I want to underline this strongly. Please visit also The BGST BLOG at: http://biokineticgolfswing.blogspot.com/
1. General Remarks and Introduction
The role of biokinetics is crucial in any aspect of the movement while human body or its parts are involved. I do not want to go into such details as the work of nerves, muscles, ligaments or flexors mainly because my medical knowledge is not sufficient as well as I am of the opinion that it is really not necessary when one needs to see The Big Picture. In fact, it would darken the picture.
Nevertheless, this essay would be completely useless if there is no medical knowledge involved. Pure physics describes simple machines precisely well, however, a human body is an extremely complex "machine". That is why, I spent a lot of time studying such aspects of anatomy as e.g. kinesiology, arthrology, ophtalmology, orthopaedics, etc. and exchanging many thoughts with specialists. The language I use in the articles is a simple one so that the "big picture" is not unnecessarily darkened again.
First, we have to be aware what in our bodies is responsible for movements - there are three main parts of it:
- human skeleton (which is a passive base);
- ligaments (which are the links between the passive base and active elements);
- muscles (which are active motoric elements).
The above parts create a very complicated system based on levers thanks to that we, humans, are able to change the location of the whole body, change the location of various body parts in relation to others, maintain the stability and react with counterbalancing.
In short, our bodies are equipped with main body (thorax+abdomen) and distal parts of the body (neck+head, arms, legs). The fact that there are distal parts in our body is crucial for our movability, yet it brings timing issues into consideration. If, theoretically, human body consists of only main body, there would be no possibility of independent movements of any parts of the body - imagine e.g. a turning regular polyhedron.
However, when such a regular polyhedron is equipped with distal parts, the whole situation changes diametrally. Moreover, we are equipped with distal parts that, additionally, are equipped with joints (that enable considerably bigger variety of movement directions). More possible directions of movement mean more problems in coordination of the whole body movement, especailly taking into account that all distal parts tend to act independently (due to the specifics of the nervous system and our brain activity). We must not also forget that the role of two of the distal parts of our bodies, i.e. legs, is mainly to support our body and allowing to be in a vertical position.
Golf swing motion is an example of a relatively simple motion since the movements of all distal parts of our bodies can be subdued to the main body movement since the directional orientation of all the motions are practicaly the same. The only one big change of orientation may happen during transition when the upper body motion is different to the lower body one, however, let us not deal with it now. The whole trick is to subdue them in such a way that allows us to generate power to a satisfactory and necessary degree what is sort of a vicious circle as it appears.
In next subarticles of this article category, I will try to describe the biokinetic rules of all three distal sections of our bodies in a golf swing, mainly taking into account the minimalization of the timing issues that influences the coordination of the whole movement as well as describing alongsidely similarities and differences between model ballstrikers.
Less timing issues = less small thoughts and concepts = more coordinated motion = more repeatability and consistency - this is the motto of all the category of my articles belonging to this publication.
2. The Head
The neck/head system and its impact on a motion is, IMHO, very underestimated and overlooked. First, two VERY IMPORTANT facts:
- the head is really heavy; the weight of it amounts to ca. 7.5 % of the whole human body weight; moreover, it is the most distant part from the human body CoG (which is in navel area - for an adult man; for an adult woman - a bit lower, BTW) that makes head's motion impact on ANY CoG shift even bigger;
- the spine "goes into the head" not centrally from a geometrical point of view, but from the back; this fact not only makes it impossible to turn the head more than the shoulder lie in both directions (although the head can move in all possible directions), but also implies how the head should be turned in order to be in synch with the turn of the spine - it reminds more of an eccentric wheel motion; if your shoulders turn back your head should also turn back while keeping the neck still.
Since the golf swing motion relies on turning of the whole upper body back and forth, the head should turn perpendicularily to the spine turn. However, there is no limitation in its independent movement, because, as I said before, the head can be turned more than it is needed in a golf swing; it does not - why ? If there is no limitations ? The answer is very simple - because its movement is dependent on a human's most important sense - the sight. We are constucted the way that our senses (through our brains) are the bosses. We cannot lose the golf ball out of our sight (unless someone is specially trained to do it or can play a "blind" golf). This is the most overlooked aspect of all aspects that concerns the golf swing motion...and I mean it.
Back to the topic - the limitation is then equal to the maximum turn we can make while still keeping the ball in the range of our sight. But it is not everything - eyes (as ears) are instruments that appear in a pair. Moreover, if a pair happens in our body - one of the "member" has to be a dominant over the other...no matter if we are talking about senses but also about arms or legs. There are no ambidextrous persons - one can be close to ambidextrous, but never fully ambidextrous, especially when talking about senses that are subject to our DNA (in short).
Now imagine - a right-handed golfer with a dominant right eye vs. a right-handed golfer with a dominant left eye (BTW, it seldom happens that a right-handed man is a left eye dominant person that may say why only 1% of golfers are being told as supertalented persons). It becomes obvious how much better head turn and much better upper body CoG distribution happens when the head is more in synch with the upper body turn. Look at Hogan (who was reported as left-eye dominant right-handed person) and his head position at the top. Does it disturb in their full excellent upper body turn ? No ! Look at Moe Norman - he was obviously a right-eye dominant person and he had to lift his head a bit up when coming into the top, but his instinct never told him to go further with his backswing and avoid further "collision" between left shoulder and his chin ad to worsen the relation between head position and spine angle.
Therefore, let us say that the limitation is your sight range; I do believe that many golf swings are wrecked because golf teachers are very stubborn as regards the head and its position, especially in the downswing and impact phase. Should the head be before the ball at impact or THE DOMINANT EYE BEFORE THE IMPACT ? Mind you, the head weights a lot and every possible position that is not natural may bring more harm than good. Forcing the head to be entirely behind the ball makes it being out of position in relation to the spine and may bring flaws in ballstriking easily.
In view of the above, it seems very comprehensible, that it is useless to force our bodies to be in position of Hogan while we are right-eye dominant persons; it would sound odd, but the biokinetics answers that e.g. a S&T golf swing pattern may be better suited for such a person; moreover, we cannot forget about the impact of the head movement (or lack of it) on the whole movement of CoG of our bodies in a golf swing motion. The less it is turned back, the less mass moves back. The less mass moves back, the less the CoG shift at the end of backswing happens.
The choice is - either to risk to move less mass of the whole upper body back or to risk to move the head not in synch with the spine turn (which is practically equal to unnecessary spine angle deviations).
If we choose the first option, we shall end with a poorer shoulder turn, shorter backswing, less powerful swing, less coiling, smaller X-factor, etc., BUT WE SHALL REMAIN IN SYNCH WITH OUR SPINE'S MOTION. Of course, we will not be a Re-MAX LD champ, but our accuracy increase tremendously, IMHO.
A word more about the position of the head in relation to the neck. Note that every great ballstriker's upper spine (watching from a DTL view) is not rigid, they look as a bit hunchbacked at address, and never rigid. Why ? Because they did not force their heads to be in an unnatural position starting from the beginning. They "accepted" the fact that the head weights a lot (especially if one is bent over 30-35 degrees while swinging) and wanted to subdue their head's motion to the spine motion UNTIL THE DOMINANT EYE PREVAILS. They did not want to cheat the sight with a high head position and looking throught the nose.
Moreover, increasing the spine angle (commonly watchable during transition) is always linked to the drop of the head....not coincidentally - the head respondes to the spine angle change, that's why it drops down a bit. What is funny is that hadly anyone see the coexistence of losing the spine angle with the head position and counterbalancing with our tush part. The head is so heavy that any horizontal level change of its position when swinging (while being bent !) may cause us stand up (i.e. lose our tush line). Some of the reason for this common fault may be linked to incorrect head motion during the swing.
I wish there are more researches about the impact of eyedness on various motions in sports, especially rotary-type sports, as golf is...it may be more important if we all think.
3. The Main Body
First of all, it should be defined what the term "the main body" means. Upper part leaves no illusions - the main body starts when the neck ends. Lower part is much harder to be defined correctly - some say that the pelvis area belongs to the main body, some says that this part belongs to legs, i.e. is an upper part of the legs that links it to thorax. Both concepts, from biokinetical point of view, are sound.
Nevertheless, I must look at the "big picture" when looking particularly at the golf swing motion, therefore, I treat the pelvis tare as one of three main segments of the main body THAT MAY BE and IS RULED BY LEGS (the border is coming through the hip joints). This specific point of view allows to consider all movements of the pelvis area as one of the main body movements - which is very crucial when describing the transition in the golf swing, i.e. the most crucial of all the moves in this motion (BTW, the only one when the orientation of the movement is asynchronic and opposite).
Besides, the shoulder area may also be ruled by arm motions, however, the fact that the arms, opposite to the legs, do not play any role as a base of the whole body, makes this statement of a second category in this context.
Secondly, it is very important to understand what are the three main sections of the body and why the lower part can move independently on the upper one, even in another direction without thinking about it.
So, the three sections are:
1) shoulders area (from the top of the shoulder joints to the sternum, where the rib cage begins);
2) rib cage area (from the sternum to the end of the last two ribs that are not connected to it);
3) pelvis area (from the end of last rib to the hip joints).
Some may ask why the rib cage is so important to be mentioned as one of the three main parts. The importance is linked to the very important biomechanical fact, namely, that the rib cage prevents the thorax from any lateral motions and, practically, reflects what the spine is doing. OTOH, both shoulders (althought in a very limited way) as well as hips (in much wider way) can be moved in all possible directions, independently on the spine's motion. Moreover, the specificity of the rib cage end allows to define a relatively narrow space (called colloquially "waist") that is responsible for already mentioned ability of the opposite direction independent movement of upper and lower parts of the main body. For the needs of biokinetical theory, the waist is reduced to a thin elastic horizontal stripe, despite the fact that in reality a lot of important muscles are involved there.
The most important role of the main body is to guide the swing motion the way the motion of the two upper distal parts (i.e. arms) can be subconsciousnessly subdued to it automatically. What does that mean - nothing more, nothing less that the main body movement has to be optimal enough to avoid the necessity of conscious arm movements in order to compensate errors when thinking about delivering the clubhead to the ball. Moreover, another important aspect of the main body movement is the ability of creating effortless power. That is why, I regard all swings that are pivot guided as superior to the arm guided ones that are full of timing issues to happen all the time.
Since my theory is based on limitations (because, as I said, this is the most sound way to get rid of timing issues), one can ask what kind of limitations exist in the main body action. Let us start with the upper part, i.e. the shoulder area. Shoulders are able to move independently of the spine, and what is equally important, independently on the arms. If you remember Jim McLean's concept of X-Factor - the very shoulders have their own small X-Factor as well as the possibility of maximizing it. Imagine moving both shoulder joints back Iincreasing of the shoulder X-Factor) or forward (decreasing of it) without any spine movement. If there is a X-Factor involved there must be a limitation.
Therefore, the limitation of the shoulder movement is achieving the biggest possible stretch between both shoulders. It is a very important thing (especially for rear eye dominant golfers whose upper body turn is limited due to the eyedness and, consequently, correct head movement during backswing) since it allows to gain a decent coiling and power without necessity of turning the hip area too much back. It's becoming obvious that the backswing should be monitored by the rear shoulder movement. Monitoring the backswing by the lead shoulder appears to be the same inefficient as monitoring the hip turn by the lead hip. When saying "monitioring" I do not want to say that the backswing should be initiated or led by the rear shoulder joint - what I wanted to say is that the most efficient way of swinging is when a golfer encounters the limitation in the shoulder area.
Since the rib cage section, as we said moves neutrally (so, there is a X-Factor between shoulders and rib cage) we can move down to the waist and the pelvis area. Since the one of most important goals for a golfer is to create a necessary amount of power (read: clubhead speed at impact), the whole movement cannot be uniform. The waist allows to coil the upper body against the lower body - it happens when the lower body changes direction of turn in relation to the upper body - the transition. Of course, there is another "small" X-Factor between the hips and the rib cage. It constitutes the concept of the "big" X-Factor that was the subject of McLean's life work.
Personally, I think that the real X-Factor is not the maximum angle between hip plane and shoulder plane that a golfer can reach, but specifically, the distance between THE LEAD HIP and THE REAR SHOULDER, i.e. the sum of both "small" X-Factors that is in perfect accordance with the theory of limitations. Hogan knew it and wanted us all to begin the downswing with the hip turn before the shoulders ended backswing and thanks to the very fast movements of the hips to maintain the X-Factor until impact. IMHO, this is the essence of creating lag in a pivot-guided downswing where the arms are subdued to the pivot..
In this point, it is vital to mention that the hips are not just turning. Jim Hardy explanation of the hips motion in a One Plane swing is the best I know. Shortly, the hips move as the eccentric wheel where the focal point is not between them but behind them (roughly said, the tail bone) - neither of the hips are moving forward (to the ball) - that would be impossible in case of imagining the turn of the hips in a circle. It is crucial to understand it when talking about maintaining the X-Factor until impact as well as about counterbalancing the spine bend with maintaining the tush line as well as when talking about the CoG shift in the hips area. The CoG shift, that is unavoidable because of the side spine angle and the momentum of the club, happens automatically when the hip turn is being done correctly the way it has been described above, of course with a great help of the proper legs movement.
Please also note that if the rear shoulder and lead hip are in most distant possible places STATICALLY at the end of the backswing there is no possibility of screwing the whole motion because there is no room left to do it. Since the transition is the most dynamic motion that the main body encounters in a golf swing (lower part goes rapidly in another direction that the upper part), from a DYNAMIC point of view the coiling even increases because human muscles and flexors always have some reserves.
Now, the optimum position at the top (that is defined by small X-Factors) requires a proper weight distribution that is another great thing when talking about introducing automatism in the whole motion. Keep the weight too much on the lead leg - you will find it hard to stop the lead hip; keep the weight too much on the rear leg - you will feel that the rear shoulder cannot find its limit. Both are wrong things.
The shoulders can be moving too fast or too slow in the downswing in reference to the hips since they did not find the biokinetical limit anywhere and our brain treat their movement as a DELIBERATE action of the shoulders and of the hips SEPARATELY, which won't happen when our brain can treat the motion as a whole and let it happen automatically. One needs only to understand and accept that the waist section solves this issue excellently by itself because there are no bones or joints - only the stable core (spine) and very strong muscles around it. Too many golf theories are dealing with details while our body can solve it much better by itself.
Just to add, the problems in separating lower part of the main body from the upper one, IMHO, are strongly linked to the fact that both small X-Factors have not seen their limits. That's why I consider McLean's X-factor theory (both hips angle level to both shoulders angle level) as not complete from the biomechanical point of view. However, the main concept of linking the "effortless" power of the swing to the ability of separation is great and true, especially in pivot-guided swings.
4. The Legs
Although a few sentences have already been written about arms, describing the legs action from the biokinetical point of view appears to be more logical as a consequence of the previous chapter about the main body. It is also much simpler to do since the legs are the base of the whole human body and the only link between us and the ground.
The evolution of species proves that the gravity is not such a huge obstacle to force to engage all distal parts with an aim to keep the main body safe, stable and balanced. A pair of "well-designed" legs is enough to enable us to make a huge variety of motions. If we look what is the main difference between us and animals (except Primates) we can see that our feet can be entirely used for a contact with the ground. This fact have pros and cons - the main advantage is that we do not usually need our arms to help us to move or maintain balance, the main minus is that we are not very flexible in a 3-D movement comparing to almost all mammals.
The impact of this fact is crucial when talking about a golf swing motion where the most important goal of the legs is to maintain balance (and not e.g. to jump or change the orientation of motion fastly). Our feet are a very solid base for the rest of the body, and, what is equally important, they are very sensitive for changes in the motion. They can be like this since the anatomy of a human foot enables to react immediately to the brain's signals with a very rich variety of actions (dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, abduction, eversion, inversion, supination, pronation, etc.) because the lower joint (malleolus=ankle) let the feet move practically in all possible directions. The good thing is that there sould be no special attention paid to the ankle joint and its limitation since the gravity and necessity of maintaining balance does it for us. It is more important to look at what feet are supposed to do (or, better said, how they should be placed) and what impact it may have on segments that are located further from the ground.
The other legs joint of huge importance is the knee joint which is, BTW, the biggest joint in the human body and is homologeus to the elbow joint in the arms, however, they both are acting differently as regards planes of motion. Simplyfying the topic, the knee joint can act in two independent planes - it can flex/extend as well as rotate. What is interesting, a two-axial joint always have the primary and secondary motion, i.e. one of the motions are much frequently used from biomechanical point of view.
In case of the knee joint, flexing and extending are the motion of the primary importance - but only in one direction - knees cannot be bent backwards. That is why the ankle joint is not located in the middle of the feet.
The lateral rotation is very limited (up to 30 degrees only) - and this fact is crucial for our golf swing motion since the knee rotation happens exactly in the same horizontal plane. Another fact worth mentioning is that flexing/extending action of the knee is strictly related to the foot motion, that means it can be subdued to a proper feetwork. I want to underline the word "feetwork", not "footwork" - the greatest ballstrikers never let put the work on only one foot practically until approaching impact (well, the truth is that if the stick is long enough and the stance very wide the rear foot is too far away from the CoG at impact and it is not entirely flat on the ground at impact).
Lastly, the hip joints, that are the true links between the main body and the legs. The fact that there are two of them plays a crucial role in all CoG shifts of the human body in action, as well as determines which of the two hip joints is the protagonist. When a main body equipped with two lower distal parts is turning and wants to do it effectively, it must act as if we have only one leg. Independent two joints are the obstacle in a turning motion and a bliss for a sway. This is why the primary thought of a golf beginner is to sway with the hips in order to gain power and not to put the vast majority of the weight of dynamically turning mass on one leg. Why ? because our brains see the ball flight as a linear motion (from the point where we are to the target). When the same beginner begins to believe in gaining power from rotation of the body, he instinctivelly places the CoG on one of the hip joints. Moreover, it is much easier to understand why it should be the lead hip joint, and not the rear one - the orientation of the linear movement is just this way. Combine the linear movement concept with conviction that rotation gives the true power and the effect will be a great CoG shift in a hip area. It is that easy, IMHO, and in a perfect accordance with the optimal hip area movement described in the previous section.
OK, now ad rem. The golf swing motion relies generally on turning the whole body back and forth. Thus, we need to find limitations in joints to ensure automatism in the whole motion. Since we already know that the main body should encounter the sum of small X-Factors it becomes obvious that it needs a stable base. Neither feet, nor knees should enable the rear hip slide back and lose the coil.
Therefore, the most important limitation that is to be found is to make impossible for the knee and ankle joint to move separately from the rest of the upper body. Unfortunately, the dominant motion of the knee joint happens in a perpendicular plane in relation to the orientation of the golf swing motion, and nothing can be done about it. That's why there are a lot of golfers (even the greatest ones) who squat down or up in certain moments of swing. It's inevitable in such a dynamic motion. Luckily, our brains are able to control it when focusing on the primary goal which is hitting the ball and not the ground. That is why casters (early release golfers) stand up before impact and that is why great golfers squat after transition in order to maximize the optimal velocity of the clubhead. Please also note that the small feet CoG shift reflects in the knee joint movement - the more is the weight set to the heel, the more the knee extends in a rotary motion, and viceversa.
Nevertheless, a lot can be done in another plane, i.e. in finding the limitation of the rotation in both knee as well as in ankle joints. Proper feet stance is crucial because there is a significant amount of friction between the sole and the ground. The more the feet is directed towards the target of the motion the more limit will be found in both joints. That's why Hogan moved his heel of the rear foot back, setting it at least perpendicularily to the target line - which move is well documented in a lot of films as well as in his books. It makes finding the limits of knee and ankle rotation very easy. When there is limit, there is no room left for screwing the motion. IMHO, it's enough, and although I follow the Sevam's thread carefully as a big Hogan fan, introducing another thought as e.g. screwing the foot into the ground is not necessary since it puts the focus on timing. The rear foot is "screwing" into the ground automatically when the knee rotation finds its limits because the foot cannot turn back due to the resistance. Therefore, in my opinion, presetting the torque does its job perfectly without necessity of thinking about it. Funny thing is that the knee joint rotates only when it is bent what would suggest that one should hit balls with straight legs...but such a swing would be deprived of power, thus, it is not a subject of the studies.
The left foot, as we know from "The 5 Lessons" should be flared and this concept is also biomechanically very sound. It allows to find the limit of rotation of the lead knee even faster than the rear one. The knee that cannot rotate further bends inwards what almost automatically makes the weight shift on a lead hip joint when the linear CoG shift happens. If the lead foot is put inward, instead flared, all tension in the knee and hip is lost. Moreover, the sum of small X-factors is being achieved properly when the lead hip "stays" early in the backswing allowing the rear shoulder find its limit without making the backswing too long and loose.
Lastly, it is to be pointed out that setting the weight in various patterns influences the limits. If a swing pattern requires setting more weight on a front foot, the rear foot needs to find its limit later in the motion because of the upper body position (mainly a necessary spine angle lateral bent when swinging back); thus, in such a situation, keeping the rear foot perpendicular or even slightly turned inwards is not a great thing. The same is true when, hypothetically, one needs to keep the majority of the weight on the rear part, but, as explained earlier, should not be discussed there because of the linear orientation of the swing motion.
5. The Arms
This is the most complicated area of the golf swing to describe and to find automatism from biokinetical point of view. There are, at least, four main reasons that are responsible for this:
- humans are equipped with two arms that are "programmed" to act independently while their task is to act freely in the space;
- arms are equipped with a lot of muscles and several joints (especially wrist and fingers ones) that enable them to move almost in all possible directions and execute a huge variety of tasks;
- the only one link between the arm and the main body is the shoulder joint; moreover, both shoulder joints are distant from each other a significant way;
- elbow joints are built the way that makes it impossible to tie the forearms to each other during an action.
First, I want to stress that I have concluded that there is no real possibility (and, what is very important, there is no real need, in fact) to find limitations of the fingers, hands and the wrists that could be useful for our purposes. The only one very important role of the fingers and the hands is to hold the club the proper way and the rest is pure physics. It is time now to present the concept of nunchakoo and the role of angular momentum conservation rule (please bare with me, since I am not a physician and want to present it in a most friendly way).
Imagine that your forearm is one stick of a nunchakoo, while the club WITH HANDS ON IT is the second one. The wrists play the role of a chain linking both sticks. Now, according to the physical rule of angular momentum conservation, during a rotational movement of the main body, the momentum is constant in a closed system. Shortly, it means that if the velocity of the rotation is constant nothing changes in a perfect model. In the golf swing, after transition, the rotational velocity initially increases, then decreases before impact letting the club catch the hands, because the main goal is not to maintain the delay (lag) but to hit the ball. The whole trick is to find the proper moment of levelling the clubhead with the grip, or, other words, to find a proper moment for a bottom of the arc to happen. It is not the role of the wrists or hands to find it (although e.g. TGM school insist on "educating hands concept") because the timing would be a protagonist here. This is the role of the proper work of the legs, main body rotation and upper arms to prepare the position that would automatically find the correct moment in a due time without even thinking about it.
Please, understand correctly what I try to say. I am not trying to say that the concept of training wrists/hands is wrong - au contre, it is a great concept how to hit the ball properly. The human brain sees the action of ballstriking the way that we need to bring the ball airborne - this is a real katharsis for all flippers and bad shots. And it is not easy to fight any subconscious rules, but not that difficult. When one of my friends, an avid physician, explained me the momentum conservation rule, I have started to hit shots with very deep divots well after the ball so my clubhead even stopped in the ground for a milisecond. Thus, one either have to convince their brains to trust in the loft of the clubhead or to educate their hands. The only one minus is that wrists and hands cannot be trained enough well - and this is true, unfortunately, because we are not robots. It is much easier to leave it to the physics of our 3-D reality.
But, back to the merits - the angular momentum conservation rule is responsible for creating and maintaining lag when only one of our arms parts can play the role of the nunchakoo chain. The wrists are biomechanically born for this goal. CoG shift that enables to turn on the lead leg (i.e. CoG shift forward) makes the arms be in a correct position at impact - in front of the ball, if needed - if only the arms are subdued to the body turn. The upper stick of the nunchakoo (i.e. the forearms) follows the body turn and CoG shift letting the lower stick to catch it late enough.
The biggest problem is that we have two forearms that cannot be tied to each other, yet it would be the best if both arms worked as an unit. Unfortunately, it is not possible because of the distance between shoulders joints and the elbow joints build. The latter consist of three independent joints closed in one big joint - they are responsible for all the motions the elbow joint is able to make. For the simplicity, we concentrate on two planes of the elbow joints motion - bending/unbending and rotation.
In The Legs chapter i have said that the elbow joint is homologeous to the knee joint, yet there are some crucial differences between them. The first one is that the elbow joint (opposite to the knee joint) can rotate only when the arm is straight . The second one is that the elbow joints (also opposite to the knee joints) may and usually do work in different planes.
Let's deal first with the rotational aspect - a bent arm in elbow can rotate roughly 180 degrees with a fixed point of the elbow due to the forearm rotation; a straight arm in elbow can rotate almost 300 degrees (thus, the elbow joint can add more than 90 degrees), which is a huge difference, especially, when we think that the clubhead can be rotated the same huge amount. It says us that there is practically no possibility of find a biokinetical limitation that would make the arm movement automatic. But there is a chance - we have two arms and two elbow joints that work in different planes. It's a bliss, since one of them can limit the other one relatively easily. The right arm is bent in elbow at impact, therefore, it cannot rotate as much (or better said, it finds its limits in the motion earlier) as the straight left arm at impact. Moreover, there is a limit of the forearm turn in relation to the elbow joint depending on the grip - look at post-secret Hogan's setup position - his inside part of the right elbow is very well visible from the FO, while his right hand is on top of the grip in weak position. IMHO, he found the rotational limit of the forearm-elbow system just at setup and maintained it until the very impact. It would excellently explain how his right elbow drops down at transition - because it cannot do anything else if the main goal of the downswing is to keep the elbow-forearm system position fixed - at impact his elbow inside part is visible. Moreover, Hogan had both arms slightly bent at address what seemed to help him not to start the backswing with an overrotation of the elbow-forearm system in both arms.
The bending aspect is more tricky. It is much easier to obey the rule of keeping the distal parts perpendicular to the spine when both arms are straight. It also gives a much better feeling of both arms working in unisono. Lastly, although straight arms in elbows enable bigger rotation, sort of "blocking" both elbow joints takes them practically out of play - like a human was equipped with arms without elbow joints. This is what can be observed in Moe Norman's action to a degree - arms perpendicular to the spine "urging" to be straight as soon as possible at the downswing.
IMO, the weak point of this scenario is that the only one link of both distal parts to the main body are the shoulders joints that are too weak taking into account the length and the weight of the arms (+ the club). This may be the most evident proof why Norman was not a long hitter, although his brain made his pivot and arms work great together in synch. Lastly, it is worth stressing that Moe had a very strong grip of the right hand and not so strong of the left one (opposite to Hogan) that promotes having both inside elbow parts to work more parallelly to each other.
So, now we come to the second golden rule of biokinetics (first was treating about perpendicularity of the arms to the spine during the rotational motion), i.e. to link the upper part of the arms to the main body during the motion. It's dynamically possible only when the main body is in a open position at impact - since this is the only one position that can ensure the left upper part be pinned to the open chest while the right upper arm is, say, at the shirt seam. A square or a closer main body at impact would inevitably lead to the necessity of having both upper part of arms in the front of the body, which is equal to increased possibility of timing issues to happen - arms less subdued to the pivot.
It can be done both ways - to want to subdue the left arm first or the right one first, or both. It is much easier to let the lead arm be pinned to the chest via the turning main body (this is what the majority of rotary swingers do, me included until now); however, it would leave the right hand in a very weak position with the inside part of the elbow more facing the target (especially with the strong right hand grip). The right arm action solo brings a danger of thrusting both elbow joints (and, consequently, both arms) in the front of the body which is bad thing from a biokinetical point of view.
The golden means is to try to subdue both arms simultaneously - right elbow must go down and close to the hip (which is easy thing to do taking into acount the CoG shift onto the lead leg during transition) while letting the lead upper arm be pinned to the chest at impact. Hogan's right arm action (I call it the right elbow is searching the left one in order to be as close as possible to it) makes his left upper arm be away from the body at first but before impact it is already pinned to his turning and opening to the target chest. It appears to be easy while maintaining the afore-mentioned limit between forearm and elbow rotation - even me, with my body flaws, can do it now decenty to a degree.
Lastly, when Hogan described the famous concept of tieing both arms with having both elbows close to each other during the motion, he forgot to uncover the elbow joints on the picture. It is obvious that both elbows cannot be turned to each other with their inside parts but rather be perpendicular to each other.
I think it is useless to analyze the optimal elbows position at setup without referring it to the wrists positions. In order to find a limit at the end of the backswing one of the crucial thing from biokinetical point of view is the amount of forearm rotation available, if I may say this way.
If you e.g. combine a weak LH grip with elbow pointing out you will find it may lead easily to overrotation (moreover, can lead also to a too inside takeaway); if you combine it with elbow pointing back (to the pocket), your left forearm has already established a certain amount of preset rotation. The same rule applies to a strong LH grip - one should not combine this kind of grip with elbow pointing back since it may appear that the rotation will end too soon before backswing is completed.
Therefore, the whole trick is to find an optimal combination of the whole elbow-wrist system at setup.
RH elbow joint should always point back since the rear arm job is mainly to fold and not to rotate. This fact creates a double security limitation. Moreover, IMHO, the best scenario is if the RH grip is weak (as in case of Hogan) while having elbow pointing in (already presetted a clockwise forearm rotation) since it also prevents from a too inside takeaway via the right wrist hinge, as well as it eliminates the possibility of overrotation of the right forearm during the downswing.
Having analyzed a lot of post-secret Hogan's footages I noticed that his right hand grip was always in a weak position, while his LH grip was "moving" between weak and neutral ones. Together with this slight grip changes his left elbow position at setup also varied - from pointing back (especially with short clubs) to pointing more out (especially with a driver). I am sure he found a method of establishing an optimal amount of his left forearm preset rotation that enabled him to finish his backswing in a due time without even thinking about it.
Since we all are different individuals, I think it is the best to experiment with various combinations of elbow-wrist system positions at setup, especially as regards the lead arm. The right arm's role is not to disturb at the backswing and deliver a pivot guided power at the downswing.
The primary importance motion of a wrist is hinging-unhinging (dorsi and palmar flexions), while cocking-uncocking (ulnar and radial deviations) is, say, of secondary importance. You can easily see how much easier is to hinge than to cock the wrist as well as how much far away you can hinge (up to ca. 90*) than to cock (up to ca. 45*). This fact determines that if both hands are tied in a golf grip, and the directions of the motions of both wrists are just close to each other (left wrist cocks while right one hinges; although usually there is no straight 90* relation between them, it is close to it in a proper grip), the direction of the total movement will be rather determined by hinging, not by cocking.
A strong RH grip will cause the right wrist to hinge too much to the inside during takeaway and backswing then. A weak RH grip will cause the wrist to hinge more up on the correct backswing plane automatically, leading the direction of the LH wrist cocking also on the correct plane without the necessity of toying with forearm rotation.
Too bad I did not know it before - I would spare a lot of hours in search of an optimal takeaway and backswing.
Now, if the plane is correct, nothing prevents both wrist from finding their anatomical limitation at the top and achieving a great angle between forearm and shaft. Just it is "a hell of a wrist cock". Please also note that in such a situation, the club reaches the straight angle towards the forearm rather soon - that's why Hogan's shaft was perpendicular to the ground just when his forearms were parallel to the ground. Thus, he might easily shorten his backswing because it feels like you are already set much before the time when the shaft is parallel at the top. Moreover, post-secret Hogan could swing the club with a short LH thumb, what emphasizes it even more (it's anatomically easier to achieve a big wrist cock with a long thumb). He had much better control and he did not lose anything from his lag. Simple, huh ?
Lastly, in a ideal model, the grip of the LH should be perpendicular to the RH one, i.e. one should combine a strongish LH with a weakish RH, but it's difficult to do because of the fact that the RH grip is somehow determined by the position of the LH thumb on the shaft.
Prepare your body and your mind to automatic motion and just let it happen. Find your own physical limitations and let them speak for you. Do not think about pronations, supinations, screwings, flat wrists, etc. as of independent parts of the swing. Let them happen to you, they already exist and are written in a human's body DNA. You need only to make them appear in your motion.
Appendix 1 - The Biokinetic Grip
I have paid attention to the relation of natural position of the wrists and the position and function of clavicles. Long story short - it is important for stability and ergonomy of the motion of the upper part of the main body (torso) to keep the clavicle bones in neutral position as long as possible, or, at least, to start the motion with it. What is important, clavicles not only transmit physical impacts caused by the arms motion but also ensures a maximum possible range of motions for arms - provided they are in a neutal position. It is a very important thing, IMHO, for bringing automatism in putting strokes - I'll get to it later on.
Going back for a natural position of the wrists, we shall find that neither "anatomical position" (palms are directed forward) nor "gorilla position" (palms are directed backwards) is natural for the wrists. When we stand freely and let our arms hang freely too, we can observe that the plane of the palms (both of them) are angled inward at ca. 45 degrees. And this is how the hands should be placed on the grip in order to maintain the neutral position of clavicle bones. As I said in my posts dedicated to the grip in this thread - both palms are angled to each other 90 degrees letting to align naturally the lead wrist cocking (radial deviation) with the rear wrist hinging (dorsi flexion).
For the moment, I find the "biokinetical grip" as extremely superior to the classic grip for the following very important reasons:
- creating optimal conditions for the automatic takeaway directly;
- creating optimal conditions for creating "lag" directly;
- creating optimal conditions for the trigger finger pressure point to act directly;
- creating optimal conditions for the short lead thumb to appear automatically directly;
- creating optimal conditions for minimizing any hands motion in a pivot-guided swing indirectly;
- creating optimal conditions for letting the early elbow plane in the downswing phase indirectly.
Last, but not least, I personally find it very interesting that the "biokinetical grip" may be used without NO SINGLE CHANGE for holding a putter, allowing the rotation of the neutral clavicle bones plane to lead the putting stroke. It is amazing how easier is to putt on a true arc taking the impact of the hands out and, simultaneously, how easy is to apply a correct force for the stroke. Besides, I cannot imagine anyting better than to have one and the same grip for all clubs, putter included.
Why the Biokinetic Grip is so helpful while:
a. the hands are not working paralelly to each other;
b. the lead hand is not parallel to the clubface.
My answer is very simple. Because the so-called "classic" golf swing theories never truly concentrated on biomechanics and because golfers blindly believe in "imperatives". I say there are no imperatives until they are verified through all possible methods and sciences. The answers are:
a. the so-called "parallel V's" theory is biomechanically not optimal for the reasons I've just described. To remind them:
- wrists cannot achieve its maximal potential in creating lag;
- wrists work paralelly to each other accentuating the primary motion (hinging-unhinging) that is hard, or even impossible, to control.
The importance of lag does not need to be underlined. But should not we ask yourselves why is that so many golfers flip when trying to hit the ball ? The answer is - because they want to hit the ball the farthest (it's the role of the subconscious mind) and because the CP/CF forces in a rotary movement + gravity help in releasing the clubface...and - because the wrist are set the way that unhinging is almost a must in such a scenario.
OTOH, the BG creates a scenario when one (lead) wrist cocks/uncocks while the other (rear) hinges unhinges; no matter if all other factors (CP/CF, gravity, rotary motion) exist, the possibility of losing the rear wrist hinge lag is much more limited, because the lead wrist motion is of secondary biomechanical importance and one won't be able to flip the RH wrist so much. Simply, the lead hand will be tending to deviate ulnarly (downcocking) and will create a natural limitation for a more powerful palmar flexion (unhinging) action of the rear wrist.
b. why the lead wrist should be parallel to the clubface ? to control its movement in so fast an action ? sorry, I don't buy it. Moreover, think what position should have the lead wrist in a correct rotary swing when both hips and upper body are open at impact in relation to the target line. Should the lead wrist be square to the target line or is it the clubface that needs to be square ? If the lead shoulder is open at impact - the LH palm should not be square to the body motion, what means it must be also open in relation to it (say, "delayed"). It is the clubface that should be square (OK, very slightly open at contact with the ball, ideally), therefore, the LH grip must not be parallel to it but in a stronger position on the grip.
Lastly, the question of offsetting the wrist/hands motion. We must remember that wrists are very mobile joints. They consists of many small bones that are practically impossible to control in a very rapid action. Therefore, it would be silly, IMO, to let them be influenced by so powerful forces as CP/CF or gravity - we should concentrate on finding obstacles that help in reducing such an influence. The Biokinetic Grip is one important obstacle to consider.
Appendix 2 - The Sagittal Plane Compression concept
This concept, that I call now Sagittal Plane Compression (in fact, the first working title was Sagittal Axis Twist but I disliked this because it was misleading a bit), refers to a lot of dynamic aspects that were not automated well in the whole Big Picture...such as CoG transfer at transition, proper pelvis area work, maintaining the CoG properly during downswing until impact and even influencing a proper knee bend angle. In short, it can be a true missing link in the theory.
I know that it sounds very complicated - in fact, it is a very deep subject requiring even digging deep into neurological issues - but I took the risk of shallowing it diametrally for the good of all of us, me included...LOL.
First, what is the sagittal plane - shortly, it is a virtual imaginary plane that divides the whole body into left and right portions. The wide neurologic aspect that we are omitting now concerns human brain halves and their interactions. What we want to concentrate is only the physical actions of lead and rear body parts in the swing. There are two main notions that are associated with the sagittal plane - abduction and adduction.
Abduction is a movement which drives a part of the body away from the sagittal plane of the body and, therefore, it is opposed to adduction that is a movement which brings a given part of the body closer to the sagittal plane.
Long story short, I have concluded that the backswing phase can be mainly described as the abduction of the rear side (of course, it is simultaneously the adducton of the lead side) while the downswing is mainly the abduction of the lead side (of course, it is simultaneously the adducton of the rear side). I have categorized it this way since this is a real importance of motion in a golf swing while having the target on the lead side. It also matches pretty well the theory of Small X-Factors as well as the pulling force of the rear side during backswing as the most natural and efficient one (presented in details in The Main Body section). So - abduction of the rear side leads backswing - it contains not only main body pulling action but also rear arm and elbow joint pulling/folding action. Let's forget for the moment about lead side work, such as lead forearm rotation that happens in a completely different plane.
The downswing, OTOH, is mainly the abduction of the lead side - the main body pulling action and the lead hip action. Let's forget here about the magic of the rear forearm as a support to the above.
The crucial part in the whole SPC concept is dynamic interaction between those two abductions. As we know, the most consistent ballstrikers always started the downswing before the backswing ended, if I may simplify the phenomenon. It means in reality that the sagital plane must be "compressed" or "twisted" during the transition, creating a sort of a trampolline for the lead side of the body abduction.
Going further, it implicates that the rear side of the body must start its adduction before the lead side starts to act. It is not difficult a task at all because we can create necessary limitations in certain areas, such as in rear leg, rear eye or grip, etc. (all of them are described in those five sections of the thread). The SPC start to happen when the lead side inertia is being stopped by the rear side due to those limitations, but what is more crucial is that this effect is somehow doubled while the rear side starts to adduct.
The whole problem is to find a chain in the whole action looking at both sides of the body INDEPENDENTLY, and to find areas where the SPC might work (we need to remember that the base of the body, i.e. bones are hardly compressible). It would be necessary to "cheat" the skeleton.
I'd like to throw a trial explanation of the spine rotation influences and helps in automating the transition. The evolution shaped human spine in curves. The major part of the spine (thoracic part) is flexed while the two distal smaller parts (cervical and lumbar-sacral) are extended. Ironically, the thoracic part, that is braced with ribs for the most part is the part that rotates much more than the other ones. Why ? During the backswing, the cervical part rotation is being limited by the head movement that is limited by the eye sight range; the lumbar-sacral part rotation is limited by the very pelvis as well as by rear leg preset action at the setup.
The bigger amount of rotation of the middle part causes both distal parts to react accordingly when the small X-factors are being achieved. They both extend more than in a stationary mode in relation to the mid part; in fact, we can also state that the thoracic part flexes a bit more as well while turning back in relation to the other two sections.
This causes both the cervical as well as lumbar part of the spine go up and back (precisely in this order since the rotation of the shoulder area, i.e. upper part of the thoracic section is the biggest); when the backswing is complated correctly, a slight but noticeable shift towards South-West of the top of the spine can be observed; same happens a fraction later with the lumbar part that golf instructors often call informally as tailbone. South-West direction is exactly the direction of the perfect transition move that leads to a correct hip movement at the downswing in the rotary swing.
As a side note - the lower is the plane the easier is to find the limitation of the main body during backswing - high two plane golfers seldom find the maximum amount of the small X-factor of the shoulder girdle just because of the arms working on a higher plane.
Let's now introduce the SPC concept with reference to the pelvis. I personally believe it is the most crucial area of a human body when comes both to creating power as well as maintaining balance of the motion.
The pelvis is a multibone solid structure that links the upper body with the lower body. It is so important because our lower body consists of two limbs, therefore, the pelvis contains two very large joints called hip joints. The problems created by the pelvis motion, especially in rotary types of motion, are countless. The same is with the golf swing motion. Improper "use" of the pelvis can be the most often appearing culprit for inconsistency and lack of repeatability.
First, very shortly, it is worth to remind how both hip joints should work in a rotary swing (described in detail in the Main Body section). Hips are not just rotating. Both joints work as an eccentric wheel which means that their motion is a combination of rotational and linear movements. It has to be like that if we want to obey the golden rules of biomechanics concerning the motion of the main body equipped with two arms. Simply, the hips must be substantially open at impact in relation to the target line; substantially enough to let the main body be also open at impact.
Generally, the lead hip downswing motion contains mainly the rotational element while the motion of the rear hip contains mainly the linear one. This simplified idea matches ideally the SPC concept since the pelvis cannot be "compressed" any other way. Imagine now that the rear hip tries to take the impact position of the lead hip that, at transition, is North-West of it. Since the vertical axis of rotation goes through the lead hip - we are bipedals and that is why the most efficient rotation happens if the vertical axis of rotation is being transferred to one of the two hip joints. Having said that, I would like anyhow to stress that the CoG transfer is a more complex thing than just transferring 100% of the weight/pressure to the lead hip. It should be done neither too early not too late. This is one of the most important timing issues in the motion that can be, I do hope, excellently eliminated via the SPC concept.
OK, as it has been already discussed when talking about the spine, the rear side adduction that happens as a natural consequence of a correctly performed backswing is also the crucial force in the pelvis area. Before the lead side leads the parade via its abduction the sagittal plane of the pelvis should be compressed. It won't be if we start the transition by lead hip pulling as it was drawn in '5 Lessons' (famous elastic tape image), we need to let the rear hip adduct. If I were Mr.Ravielli, I'd draw a second, much thinner elastic tape that comes throughout the body to the rear hip to make all golfers be conscious about the rear side of the body working.
It all can happen only when the rear hip motion is being restricted only via finding natural limitation (thanks e.g. to rear knee joint preset). As we already know the lumbar part of the spine (as well as cervical one) will tend to set the direction of the movement to South-West and the rear hip moves linearily to the West trying to "compress" the pelvis in search of creating theoretical one common joint of the two, through which the vertical axis of rotation will run. It feels like we still let the lead side be pulled right when the rear side has already finished its abduction and starts to reverse the motion, i.e. starts to adduct. Moreover, it is a trampolline effect that accelerates the lead hip rotation. Lastly, the SPC will take care of a fluent and proper CoG transfer to the lead hip joint - without it timing issues can kill the swing. With it - we will have a decent degree of automatism in the motion of this area and we can let a powerful transition and downswing happen by itself. Of course, it all cannot happen with a correct legs/feets work and correct presetted stance.
Coming to the SPC of the uder-pelvis section we have to be very aware how the concept works in the hips area described earlier, especially what is the motion and function of the rear hip joint. Its linear movement should determine our stance as well as the motion of the rear knee joint.
The crucial thing is to understand that the rear hip joint is turning at the backswing phase with the smallest possible displacement in the coronal plane, i.e. on the North-South axis. The coronal plane is this one that dissect the body for rear and front halves. It is the lead hip joint that is moving on the circle in this phase as well as later during the downswing. There should be no change between those two phases since it would only create an unnecessary disorder in the fluency of the motion that must run in 180* opposite directions.
It matches perfectly the scenario of the SPC of both upper as well as pelvis area of the human body. The rear knee joint should be more South than the lead one at the top, so that it could move sort of behind the lead knee joint at transition. Of course, it is an almost invisible motion that compresses the plane between legs that, similarily to other areas of the body, is caused because of finding a natural limitation in its motion. It looks like, during a very short period of time, the distance between both joints decreases in a saggital plane while it remains the same in the coronal plane. Just imagine scissors.
Feet now - personally, I can see no particular reason why the stance should not help to perform the above described action. Moreover, I can finally understand the diagonal stance Mr.Hogan performed while hitting longer clubs and I am surprised he did not use it with his short clubs as well. Or better said, he did not described it in the book but the concept of the diagonal stance was often visible when he even hit wedges. Some Hogan theorists even claimed that his feet stance was always closed to the target line - only his lead foot was in a flared position that gave the illusion of a slightly open stance. In fact, Hogan's hips were in an open position in relation to his feet at his stance.
But let's leave Mr.Hogan for now - I am of the opinion that the feet should be in the diagonal
stance position always when the pelvis area motion happens, no matter what is the length of the club. Practically, only putter stance would require an even stance, since we do not need any hip joint motion. In order to achieve it the rear foot ball should be in line with the lead foot heel, therefore, sort of diagonally to the target line. Of course, this position is offsetted via different feet position - the lead one is flared while the rear one is square to the target line.
This diagonal stance has one more very important merit, in my opinion. When the downswing progresses, the rotational aspect relocates gradually the CoG to the lead foot heel. At impact, the CoG line should optimally run from the knee joint to the ankle perpendicularily to the ground (letting the knee joint maintain some flex necessary to allow the joint to rotate and guarantees the best possible stability). It is not already at the heel but definitely is closer to the heel than to the toes. The opposite scenario happens with the rear foot where the heel loses its contact with the ground first, maintaining the contact in the area near ball/toe. Now, when we create an imaginary line between those contact points of both feet it can be parallel to the target line only when feet are placed in a diagonal stance position. This creates a necessary torque, since the hips are already open at impact, does not allowing to transfer the CoG too early to the lead heel (causing the lead knee to straighten too early). The same torque does not allow the weight to be left on the rear side too long as well.
Of course, the smaller hip area motion is required, the less diagonal stance is necessary.
Dariusz Jedrzejewski (C) Poland, 2008-2011