Gimme Three Strokes: Sweep the Broom

It is now Week 3 in my golf instruction program and quest to reach a single-digit handicap. Last week we focused on the importance of proper posture and how it can help you compress the golf ball. This week, we turn our attention to rotating your upper body through the golf ball while maintaining the proper wrist angle.

Upper-body rotation serves a critical role in your golf swing. For players like me who don’t have a great deal of hip rotation throughout the swing sequence (Tiger Woods, believe it or not, is one such player), properly rotating the shoulders and upper body is the only way to square the clubface at impact. Well, the only proper way, at least. Bad habits can show up over time, including the swing flaw of “flipping” your wrists at the ball.

Otherwise known as an “early release,” flipping your wrists at the ball too soon in the downswing leads to all sorts of bad mojo. Fat shots, pull-hooks and a decrease in shot distance are just a few symptoms of releasing the club too early. I’ve struggled with this flaw in my swing for as long as I remember. I blame it on having incredible hand-eye coordination, which has been molded by hours of playing “Call of Duty” video games. Xbox is a horrible influence on your golf game.

To remedy this swing flaw, my instructor Greg Baresel had a three-step process to not only fix my early wrist release, but to increase by upper-body rotation through the shot.

First, Greg had me address the ball like I normally would with a 7-iron. He then had me take the club back to waist-level while concentrating on rotating my hips and flexing my knees properly. When I felt my weight shift to the inside portion of my right foot, he had me stop and notice how my wrists naturally cocked as my left shoulder moved under my chin. This was the wrist angle I was to maintain throughout the rest of this drill.

Before moving onto the next step, I should admit that I thought Greg was a certified crazy person at this point. How in the world was I going to keep my wrist hinged at what felt like a 90-degree angle and also make contact with the golf ball? I’ve seen professional players manage the move in slow motion videos of their swings, but it always seemed easier said than done. Oh, me of little faith.

The second step was to focus on shifting my weight back to the ball of my left foot. This movement took some time to get the hang of, but after a few practice swings (and some assistance from Greg placing his hand on the top of my head and literally pushing me forward) I engrained the feeling of my entire body weight “shifting” past the golf ball before beginning my downswing. From my perspective looking down at the ball, my focus moved from behind the ball to a spot three inches ahead of it.

Finally, Greg had me start my downswing by only rotating my shoulders. He instructed me to not worry about what my arms were doing; instead, I should only focus on rotating my right shoulder under my chin. Another helpful visual he provided was for me to imagine the golf club to be a broom and that I was “sweeping” the clubhead across the ground. Above all else, I was to maintain my wrist angle created during my backswing through impact.

Let me tell you: an early wrist release is a tough habit to break. Every ounce of your being wants to collapse your wrists down to hit the golf ball. I quickly learned that doing so only lead to hitting the ground before the ball and sending a shock up through my arms. Not a very pleasant sensation.

By the end of my hour-long session, I was able to make three-quarter swings with a proper weight shift while keeping my wrists cocked regularly. My homework this week will be to duplicate this motion into a full swing, which will likely take a couple more hours on the driving range to perfect.

My swing is slowly beginning to take a shape I’ve not seen or felt before and it’s downright scary. My work with Greg has been incredibly beneficial to not only reconstructing my swing, but doing so in a way that makes sense to me.