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Make an IMPACT on Your Game!
By Mark Blackburn

Golf’s moment of truth commonly known as impact is probably one of the most misunderstood alignments in the game. We use the term alignments verses impact position as the swing is in motion hence there is no static point which could be deemed a position. Instructors have debated on how to obtain these alignments since the games conception. Fortunately with 3D motion capture and high speed video we can actually see what the best ball strikers are doing and what constitutes consistently good impact.

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The golf ball responds to a player’s impact alignments in the form of shot shape, spin, trajectory and distance. Knowing exactly what the left and right arms / wrists should do to produce good alignments should be the goal in golf instruction. Often this is not the case and golfers never grasp the fundamental movements of the hands and arms. This is best illustrated by the fact that most golfers slice the ball having little or no idea how to square the face into impact.

Understanding what the correct impact alignments should be for a relatively straight shot is very important for anyone attempting to play the game. Trackman technology has made it possible to detail the exact alignments required to hit a perfectly straight golf shot but such specifics are too precise for the average player to reproduce with any regularity. Rather, knowing that the left wrist controls the clubface and the right wrist controls the clubhead for a right hander and vice versa for a left hander is key. Another must is that for full shots the clubshaft will always be in line with the left arm throughout the swing, known as Rhythm. By understanding these concepts and implementing them into your own game consistently good impact is feasible.

The left wrist is the key to clubface control for a right hander and the right wrist for a lefty. However, grip type affects the motion your wrist can make. With a neutral grip where the back of the wrist is perpendicular to the clubface the club can turn (pronate) and the wrists cock (radial deviate) in the back swing and uncock (ulna deviate) and roll (supination) in the downswing into impact squaring the face producing a straight or drawing shot depending on the clubface position at address (if its open at address will be straight and if it’s square at address will be draw). However, if the golfer has a strong grip the wrist merely needs to cock in the backswing and uncock in the downswing to produce good impact alignments and insuring the clubshaft remains in line with the left arm. If the wrist is rotated through impact it will produce excessive hook spin unless the player has an extremely fast pivot or hip action. Conversely, a weak grip requires excessive roll of the left wrist to square the face through impact which is why it becomes favored by better players trying to avoid a nasty hook the most famous example being Ben Hogan.

The right wrist or left wrist for a lefthander will remain slightly bent through the backswing and into impact while eventually straightening due to the forces present during the followthrough. The right wrist and more importantly the right forefinger control the clubhead and sweetspot during the swing. When golfers try to square the face with their right hand they destroy the triangle assembly of the left arm, shoulders and right arm losing control of the clubhead and sweetspot. This often looks like the action required to hit a topspin forehand in tennis which makes consistently good impact difficult. The golfer ends up swinging the hosel not the sweetspot and the dreaded shank prevails. While some of the greatest players in history have claimed they hit the ball only with their right hand in reality they were referring to the feel of the sweetspot against their forefinger while the left wrist was actually squaring the clubface through impact.

Practicing the proper impact alignments is best achieved without a club but instead using some racquets preferably badminton but tennis will do. Holding both racquets perpendicular to the ground in front your chest you will notice the face of the requests facing each other. Essentially this relationship should remain constant throughout the swing. While it is easy to see up in front on this horizontal plane golf’s inclined plane makes this hard to grasp. The left wrist can cock and uncock and turn and roll while the right wrist remains bent although will have the feeling of being rotated in the backswing as the right arm folds and fans back (fig 1).

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Once you have worked on each wrist motion individually then put the motion together. First with two racquets then with one. When you have a good feeling on the horizontal plane bend from the waist and try the motions in golf posture (fig 2).

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You will notice that there is not as much face rotation or roll needed to actually square the face which will produce straight shots (fig 3).

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Most golfers tend to over roll the wrist and then shift the plane out to the right to produce straighter shots. The beauty of the racquets is they show you what is necessary to produce good impact alignments.

Once you have mastered the racquets on an incline the next step is to hold the racquet in the left hand opposite the left shoulder and club in the right hand with the leading edge of the club being parallel to the racquet face on a horizontal (fig 4).

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Keeping the left arm still bring the right arm back keeping the leading edge perpendicular to the racquet will give the proper right arm and wrist action in the backswing (fig 5).

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As you keep this relationship back down into the downswing you can see how the impact alignments are produced (fig 6).

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Once you have a good feeling for this aging bend from the waist going into golf posture and repeat the drill. Finally we want to translate these drills into producing the proper alignments with the golf club. At first I encourage you to use a split grip (fig 7) as this will give you a good feeling of the left and right wrist / arm motions while on the club together.

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Once you have a good sensation take your normal grip and start making swings stopping just past impact where both arms are straight. At this point the left arm and clubshaft are still in line and the right wrist has some bend (fig 8) and therefore your impact alignments are fantastic and the ball will start flying consistently straighter!

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