With this blog, I wanted to tackle and old topic in a new, A-Swing way. It’s an aspect of the golf swing that many golfers continue to misunderstand, and one that many golf teachers continue to ignore today. I’m talking about the hands and their proper use during the swing. Hey, if their teachers have turned their backs on teaching good hand action, how can one expect golfers themselves to understand it? The A Swing actually takes a significant step in ending what I might call this undeserved “persecution” of the use of the hands in the golf swing.
First, let me offer a very brief history of the topic by discussing two of the game’s all-time greats, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus. In fact, one can’t “accuse” Hogan of ignoring the hands, as in his landmark book, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, he devotes nineteen full pages to the grip and its influence on the hands and club during the swing. We find in that book as well his often quoted statement that “As far as applying power goes, I wish I had three right hands!”
Now Jack Nicklaus says in his book Golf My Way to keep the hands “passive” throughout the swing. He identifies in the book the use of his strong legs and core as the source of his tremendous power for which he was known. Yet hey, even though it has become a kind of modern teaching staple, I still have to ask what does “passive hands” really mean? Certainly, Nicklaus didn’t have to use his hands “actively” as many high handicappers do in order to compensate for their bad body motion and club positions. If a poorly skilled golfer didn’t use their hands "actively," they would have almost no chance to square the clubface up at impact. That said, I’m sure Jack didn’t intend to confuse anybody.
So I’d say that by “passive hands,” Jack meant "controlled hands" that didn’t become overly active at the wrong time in the swing. Perhaps “uninhibited hand action” best captures Jack’s use of his hands, because with his great pivot action, he could release his hands with tremendous freedom and control through impact. Jack’s hands, similar to Ben Hogan’s, were anything but passive. I mean, you’ve got to have hand action…you do hold the club with your hands for goodness sake!
Now for the A-Swing’s use of the hands, starting with the Prayer Grip’s symmetrical cupping at the back of both hands. Let me say right out that you really have to consider the hands and the wrists together…it’s impossible to talk about how the hands and the wrists work in the swing independently, since they work together so inseparably.
It's the proper use of the hands and wrists that allow golfers to set the shaft steeply and early in their A-Swings. The A Swing achieves its signature steep shaft set via a decisive turning down of the golfer’s right palm toward the ground just after the initial inward core-driven swinging of the arms and club back away from the ball. This steep shaft setting shifts into the first side of the A-Swing’s V Plane and prepares the shaft to shallow dynamically into the second side of the V plane during the transition stage into the downswing.
Indeed, the video here presents a relatively new and very cool drill I’ve devised to show just how the hands move through the entire range of the A-Swing’s motion. Study it and practice it yourself, while paying attention to both how this hand motion feels and flows in rather small concise and very importantly rhythmic motions. You’ll find that as your hand action improves it will do wonders to help you synch up the pivoting motion of your body and the swinging motion of your arms, hands and club. Remember, getting it all well synched up is what the A Swing is all about.
The A Swing book, as well as the videos in The A Swing Training Course covers the swing’s hand action fully from start to finish, but let me offer a synopsis of it here so you can easily refer back to it for review in this blog.
Along with right palm’s downward turning motion to set the shaft steeply, we want to see both hands move rhythmically, in sync and in unison in a clockwise direction to complete the backswing’s motion.
Now here is where the A Swing’s hand action really becomes interesting and fun. As the body, arms and club move toward completing the backswing… ideally finishing the job at the same time… the lower body has already begun to lead and transition forward into the downswing. During this dynamic “two way action”, the hands continue to rotate clockwise together so that the right palm almost face up toward the sky. This transition establishes downswing part of the V Plane, aligned and on plane for the club’s release into the ball. Moving ahead right to this release stage, both hands, as well as the left forearm, now shift into a rhythmic counter-clockwise turning motion toward the ball.
At impact, we want to see the back of the right hand still displaying its Prayer Grip cup, while the leading left wrist has turned down into a flattened, or even a slightly bowed or arched position. We want to sustain this flat left wrist/bent right wrist condition until after the ball has left the clubface and both arms have almost fully straightened.
Now, immediately after impact, the A Swing’s release really distinguishes itself from what has been conventionally taught via a right hand flattening action that resembles the throwing of a ball. The right hand releases by flattening and moving forward, in a rounded and under-the-left hand alignment and action. As this happens the left wrist precisely at its Prayer Grip back-of-the-hand “crease”, bends distinctively back so that it more or less faces the sky. In fact, speaking of Hogan, it was a photo of Hogan right after impact, with a serious cup in his left hand clearly visible that started me thinking about a better way to release the club. Some have called The A Swing’s action through impact a “flip.” It isn’t. It is instead an elastic throwing or “flinging” action of the right hand itself. In fact, if you look at Vijay Singh’s and Fred Couple’s right hands (and Phil Mickelson’s left hand) just after impact you’ll see that these players’ hands almost come off the club completely…they’re barely holding on. So, hey, the “old way” of maintaining that cup in the back of the right hand well past impact seems to me, one, not what even the best golfers actually, do, and two, not the best way to release the club at all. As a student of one of our Certified Instructors told this teacher, the A-Swing’s release of the club in this way really adds “some extra juice” to the shot.
Let’s talk a bit as well about the link between the hands and the clubface. Now though many believe that it is the left hand that directly “controls” the clubface. I’ve always preferred to think of the right palm influencing the motion of the clubhead, clubface and the left hand through impact. This, as I’ve outlined above, is certainly how I’ve designed the hands to work in the A-Swing.
The right hand’s rounded under-the-left hand release action from impact and immediately past it also results in an extremely square and stable clubface that shows no independent rolling. Rather this release “technique,” keeps the clubface rotating on the same inclined inward, upward and forward angle of the shaft itself. The result is that wonderful feeling of solidly and squarely struck shots that fly straight on the golfer’s intended line of flight.
I refer to Calvin Peete’s backswing as a kind of model A-Swinger’s action. If you can find a slow motion video of Jim Furyk’s swing with a short iron observe his hand action and square clubface rotation just past impact, as I consider it a model of the correct A-Swing release as well.
Let me close with a brief explanation of why I recommend not just the interlocking grip for the A-Swing, but a modified interlocking grip where the hands’ forefinger and pinky don’t “jam” together too closely. We don’t want to exert too much muscle pressure directly in the center of the grip, where the right palm covers the left thumb on the club. The standard overlapping grip tends to position the hands too close to one another, and this can result in a tightening and stiffening application of pressure in this mid-region of the grip.
The interlocking grip explained above, however, facilitates a “soft” amount of pressure at the grip’s center, and this frees the last three fingers of the left hand (for righties) and the pressure point at the base of the right forefinger to coordinate their subtly blended pulling and pushing action in the downswing and through impact. The ultimate benefit of this grip then comes in an augmented degree of freedom, speed and control during the release of the club and through impact, while simultaneously facilitating a clubface that swings squarely to its arc just past impact in perfect A-Swing fashion.