The hands at the top of the backswing
I have often
wondered which was of the greater value, a good golf lesson or a good tip.
Although I have taken hundreds of lessons, I have also received many tips of
inestimable value. When I was playing at Winged Foot Golf Club recently with my
friend Claude Harmon, who is the pro there, he gave me a really invaluable
Claude is one of
the most observant students of the game, as well as one of the finest teachers.
I had not been living up to my newspaper reputation as the great iron player,
and although I knew I was standing at the ball correctly, that my timing was
good, and the groove of the club was good, I was still not hitting the ball
properly. I could not seem to get the necessary punch into the shot. Hole after
hole, I was short of the green. Not only was my game hurt, but so was my
vanity. The alleged great iron player was not able to hit even a single good
Then at lunch one
day Claude said, "I know what you are doing, Tommy. Shall I tell you?"
I said, "Please, Claude, please give it to me." He said, "You are
separating your hands at the top of your backswing." Now that does not mean
I was loosening my fingers, but as you will see by the illustration, my hands
were not remaining in the same interrelated position where I started them. The
separation made me snatch at the ball with my right hand, and instead of coming
down with my hands ahead of the clubhead, they were actually behind it.
This is an
extremely common fault. If your iron shots are not going out with their usual
zip, I recommend that you check your hands at the top. It immediately cured my
troubles, and I know it will help you.
The speed of the upswing
One fault I
notice in a good many golfers is a misunderstanding of when to turn on the
power in their swing—or, to say it another way, when to concentrate on the
speed of the clubhead. These golfers expend unnecessary speed at the wrong
times, either on the backswing or at the beginning of the swing down from the
top of the backswing. By the time they are actually ready to hit the ball, they
have used up most of their energy and too little speed is left for the moment
when it really does the job—from the point of contact on through. This is an
extremely common error and it is observable in the swings of many fairly
experienced players as well as beginners.
A golfer should
take the club back slowly* and he should start the downswing slowly. When his
clubhead enters the hitting area, then he should turn it on. If he concentrates
on applying clubhead speed from the point of contact on through, he will find
that it will reduce the tension and increase the flexibility of his whole
The golfer who is
able to pace his swing properly will develop into an altogether better player,
a straighter hitter and a much longer one.
*He should take it back naturally. Everybody's rhythm is different. It's
natural; for some to take it back faster.
The friendly grip