Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Play Your Best - by christo­pher smith

Con­sider this: Golfers with great long games tend to be weaker around the greens, and those with ter­rific short games of­ten strug­gle with ball-strik­ing. Why? Be­cause a full swing and a chip or pitch are fun­da­men­tally op­po­site mo­tions, yet many of us ap­proach them the same way.The fix be­gins with un­der­stand­ing “kine­matic se­quence.” Sim­ply put, the se­quence of mo­tion for a short-game shot should be the re­verse of a full swing. On big swings, the lower body leads the down­swing; in the short game, the club­head ini­ti­ates the first move to the ball. Here’s what you need to know to get good at both.

In most ath­letic mo­tions, en­ergy cour­ses through the body like a whip. Say you’re throw­ing a punch. You plant your lead foot and your body weight sinks into that thigh. Next, your hips start to ro­tate open. As your hip ro­ta­tion slows, your torso ro­tates faster. As your torso slows, the power trav­els to your arm, then your hand and, ul­ti­mately, your poor vic­tim’s nose. This ac­cel­er­a­tion and then de­cel­er­a­tion of each body part is called the kine­matic se­quence.

The golf swing is a clas­sic ex­am­ple. The lower body be­gins the down­swing (left). Your en­ergy then moves to the torso, then the arms, with the force mul­ti­ply­ing along the way un­til it’s un­leashed at the tip of the whip, the club­head.

Too much in­for­ma­tion, right? The beauty is, be­cause this whip­ping ac­tion hap­pens faster than we can con­sciously con­trol, all you need to do is nail the first move to set it in mo­tion. With any full swing, start the down­swing by imag­in­ing you’re squash­ing a spi­der with your lead foot. That im­age will get things go­ing.

If you’re a slicer, you prob­a­bly start down with your up­per body. A drill to cor­rect that is to take a mid­dle iron and hit full-speed shots stop­ping right af­ter im­pact. This cut-off fin­ish will train your body to re­lease its speed at the ball.

full swing

short game

Here’s a scene from the short-game area: A golfer toils away on short pitches, chunk­ing or blad­ing every other ball. His phone rings, and as he holds it and ca­su­ally swings the club with just his right hand – presto! – he starts hit­ting it pure.

A one-arm swing with the dom­i­nant hand in­duces proper short-game ac­tion. And the se­quence of mo­tion is nearly the op­po­site of a full swing: The club­head drops to ini­ti­ate the down­swing, and the en­ergy flows to the hands, the arms, the torso and fi­nally to the lower body. Swing­ing one-handed, it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to start down with any­thing but the club­head.

How close to the green should you be to re­verse your se­quence? It’s more about the con­tact you want to make. On pitches and chips, the trail­ing edge of the club­head strikes the turf first, slightly be­hind the ball. This lets the bounce (the wide bot­tom of a wedge) slide through and get a clean, soft strike. On full shots, with the lower body lever­ag­ing, it’s ball-first con­tact, with the lead­ing edge rip­ping a divot.

Hit­ting one-handed isn’t easy, so start with­out a ball. Rest your left fist on your chest to get it out of the way (right). At first, just try to scuff the grass. You’ll quickly feel how the se­quence dif­fers from the full swing. – with max adler christo­pher smith is the PGA lead in­struc­tor at Pump­kin Ridge Golf Club out­side Portland, Ore­gon.

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