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Thread: Perfect Pivot (part 1: The backswing)

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    Default Perfect Pivot (part 1: The backswing)

    Perfect Pivot (part 1: The backswing)

    The thing that makes poor golfers look like poor golfers, is a poor pivot. Even the ‘untrained’ eye can see the larger and slower movements of the golfer’s body and whether or not a particular golfer’s action looks correct. Like watching a figure skater, the viewer rarely looks at the faster moving components like the skater’s feet and blades, but can see every unbalanced herk or jerk of a poorly executed move and identify the ‘obvious’ grace of a champion.

    In golf, most spectators would have a hard time discerning the difference between the delayed release of Jeff Sluman, or the much less delayed version employed by Tom Watson. It is much easier to spot the neat and tidy pivot of a Steve Elkington vs. the seemingly off-balance contortions of Fredrik Jacobson.

    Sitting in the stands at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky with my teacher, world-renown instructor Ben Doyle, I overheard several spectators’ attempts at swing analysis. Almost all made me shake my head like a wise old man listening to pre-teen age boys talk about women. Except one. This African-American man, who sounded in earlier overheard conversation to be fairly new to the game, was telling his first-time golf watching pal why he thought Tiger Woods was the best player on the range. I listened on the edge of my chair. He said, pointing to the PGA Tour emblem on the side of an equipment truck, “Tiger looks more like the logo.” He meant like the golfer’s silhouette on the famous PGA Tour logo who has held his finish with his torso tilted away from the target all these years. He was right. Tiger did look more like the logo.

    Torso tilt, or axis tilt, is one of the most important elements of a perfect pivot, but is only one of many. The motion of feet, knees, hips and shoulders all play important roles in the Pivot. Master these movements and great golf is much more likely to be within your grasp. Do a poor job with your pivot and you will fight your hands, arms and club the rest of your golfing life like a kid that doesn’t want to leave the toy department. And just like the kid will do to you, the poor pivot will make you look bad too.

    The first step is a good grip and set-up like we have learned in previous AutoSuccess articles (month #1 and month#2). Next is getting the concept of an effective pivot right in your head. Simply stated, you want to ‘pivot’ around your spine on the backswing and then tilt so that when you pivot around it on the downswing, the force from that pivot-through motion will guide and power the club on the correct track to, and through, the ball.

    The first mistake is trying to keep your head perfectly still. While it can be done to produce an effective motion, the fact that the spine is attached to the back of the head and torso, makes it impractical to do so. The golfer who tries to keep their head still more often than not tilts their torso incorrectly toward the target on the backswing (PIC 1).

    This motion makes getting the correct unwinding and tilting on downswing, along with the ideal arm and hand movements, next to impossible.

    The spot that should remain stationary is the base of the neck. This ‘spot’ can stay still until the club is two-thirds of the way to the finish of the swing. A spot in the mid-back should also stay near the same position as it occupied at address on the backswing. To learn to do this, have someone stand on the target side of you and ‘play the piano’ so-to-speak, on your spine while you make faux backswings without a club. They should lightly rest the fingers of their left hand along your upper back to the base of the neck and also have the right hand in the mid-back area. As you make the correct backswing pivot their fingers should stay in contact with nearly the same place on your vertebrae. (PIC 2)
    Most golfers will lean their torsos toward the target while they turn back and the ‘piano’ hands will race to the right side of their backs early in their practice backswing efforts (PIC 3).

    When the backswing is done correctly, the head will move slightly to the golfers right from its address position.

    Since the torso is seated on the hips, the hip’s movement during the swing is all-important. Pop golf instruction focuses on restricting the hip’s movement on the backswing to create torque between the upper body and lower body. This restriction’s first commandment is to keep the right knee completely immobile on the backswing. While making such a minimal hip turn and its corresponding anchoring of the right leg can contribute to a good backswing pivot, to do so requires superb flexibility and an arm and hand motion that works in concert with this variation.

    A far better solution is a free turn of the hips and a reduction in the flex of the right leg on the backswing. The golfer should feel like the first thing that moves on the backswing is the right hip, pulling the rest of the body and the arms-hands-club unit along with it. This sharp hip turn should be accompanied by the right thigh and right knee moving in the same direction-----away from the target line. This will reduce the flex in the right leg without changing the angle of the leg as viewed from the face-on view of the golfer. Interestingly, this loss of this angle by so many poor players a couple of generations ago, was the reason that the ‘keep the right knee stable’ school of thought got started in the first place.

    The golfer needs to make absolutely sure that the base of the spine does not move toward the target during this sharp hip turn process. To check whether your lower spine is ‘reversing’ toward the target, try this easy drill: Rest a club against the base of your spine, behind you. Using the shadow cast by either the sun or another light source, watch on the ground in straight ahead in front of you to see if you can execute your backswing hip turn without the resting shaft moving at all. You should think of this shaft as an extension of your spine that connects with the ground and allows you to pivot around it. Most golfer’s ‘shaft shadow’ will move at its apex, toward the target. It will feel like quite a shift to the right while the sharp turn is occurring for the proper alignments to occur. A flat right foot throughout this motion is very important, and will restrict too much movement from occurring.

    These hip and torso movements that create an ‘around the spine’ backswing pivot, will produce a certain look from the golfer’s face-on view. The upper body will look like it is leaning to the right, lining up the left shoulder and the right hip.

    This very desirable position can be practiced also by placing a club across your chest from your left shoulder to your right hip. You can hold it in place with your left hand and make your ‘air’ backswing with your right arm only. The crossing-guard-like ‘stripe’ of the diagonally placed club when view from straight on (mirror practice works best), should ‘line up’ by the time the backswing pivot is complete (PIC 4).


    From this position, the downswing is a much easier creation, and the ball-striking benefits are worth every second of practice time. Next month we will Pivot though impact, to the finish of a professional looking motion.



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    hue
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    A really great article Brian. I can't wait until you do the next one the downswing pivot. I have been working on the pivot aspect of the swing recently and am not 100% clear about the desired movements . I have been watching a lot of the Ben Doyle tape and Hogan In pursuit of perfection trying to figure out the precise hip motions. I have just checked to see if the base of the spine does move in a "reversing" way towards the end of the backstroke. In my case it does.. Hogan from what I can see does this also. This shift to me happens at the start of the downstroke which is timed just before the shoulders finish their backstroke turn .



    Is this correct or should you finish the backstroke in the way you described where the base of the spine remains constant and only shift it towards the target when the shoulder turn is complete?


    Thanks.

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    Great articles...but i'm confused on the pics...isnt the first set of pics with the club diagonal across the chest the same as the last set???

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    thanks cdog...

    the first pic was wrong....it is right now....
    "All you have is the HUB PATH and the force and torque you apply to the club—that's the whole swing."

    Brian Manzella is Golf Digest's 37th ranked teacher in the USA and is a three time Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor.

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    EdZ
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    Brian - I find that 'most' people 'get this' a lot faster if they 'start' by freely letting the left heel come up (even lifting it for step through drills). Once they 'get it' (moving 'around' the spine)- it is far, far easier to get back to a more 'stable' base.

    If you focus too much on the still tailbone before someone 'gets it', they tend to stay stuck in the head still/reverse pivot feel, or simply 'lean' and not 'turn'.

    I like to have people pretend and exagerate the motion around the spine like a pitcher - kick the left foot back past the right, and step into and through the shot in a free, flowing motion

    the image you used on your tape is an excellent one (with the range bucket).

    I agree very much about the restricted hip turn vs. free turn. It is a bit of a myth that this restricted coil is about power - it is more about 'timing', getting things in the right places for that 'automatic' downswing move. Physics (width) gives you much more power than muscle force.


    Do you use 'exagerated' motion very much to help people 'get it', and then back off to the correct move?

    Nice article BTW.....
    Copyright EdZ All Rights Reserved

    "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

    "we have no friends, we have no enemies, we only have teachers"

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    Senior Member bcoak's Avatar
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    The first set of pics of Hank Kuehne in Redgoats gallery, frame 3 shows him in his completed backswing. It looks like what you are describing in your article. correct?

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    Cool Stuff Brian !

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    hue
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    quote:Originally posted by brianman

    Perfect Pivot (part 1: The backswing)

    , “Tiger looks more like the logo.” He meant like the golfer’s silhouette on the famous PGA Tour logo who has held his finish with his torso tilted away from the target all these years. He was right. Tiger did look more like the logo.




    Tiger and PGA logo together

    http://www.golfswing.com/proswings/woods2.htm

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    Hue...you are the GREATEST!
    "All you have is the HUB PATH and the force and torque you apply to the club—that's the whole swing."

    Brian Manzella is Golf Digest's 37th ranked teacher in the USA and is a three time Golf Magazine Top 100 Instructor.

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    EdZ
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    Knudson would be proud!
    Copyright EdZ All Rights Reserved

    "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." -- George Orwell

    "we have no friends, we have no enemies, we only have teachers"

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