The Biggest Debate in Golf

There is an ongoing and big debate in Golf whether “the body swings the hands and arms” or the “hands and arms swing the body”. This is a debate whose resolution is surprisingly easy if one has the correct insights. The Geometry of the motion is actually the same. The difference is in the Physics. If one employs Hands Controlled Pivot, then “the hands and arms swing the body” and this becomes application of Linear Force. If, on the other hand, one employs Pivot Controlled Hands, then “the body swings the hands and arms” and this becomes application of Torque, or Rotational Force.

If your swing feels rotary like a door opening and closing, then you are probably using Pivot Controlled Hands. In this mode, it is the rotation of the body that puts the club shaft on plane. This is what Ben Hogan meant when he said that the hands get a free ride when the forward swing is initiated by the turn of the hips. The Ben Hogan swing as explained in his book Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf  can therefore be classified as Pivot Controlled Hands. Michael Hebron also alludes to Pivot Controlled Hands when he asserts that “the Inside moves the Outside”.

If your swing feels like an up-and-down motion, then you are probably using Hands Controlled Pivot. In this mode, it is the hands that put the club shaft on plane. It is the movement of the hands that causes the body to turn to the extent required to complete the up-and-down motion of the hands. Since the hands grip the club at its handle, Moe Norman’s injunction to “swing the handle, not the club head” is a dead giveaway that his swinging mode was Hands Controlled Pivot.

From my personal experience, I tend to agree with Homer Kelley that Hands Controlled Pivot increases precision and is therefore superior to Pivot Controlled Hands.

 

 

 

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The Swinging Engineer

What happens when an Engineer takes up Golf? Lines and Angles. Force and Torque. And an Invention.

I took up golf in 2011 immediately after I took a sabbatical from my corporate career. I asked myself the question: If I had all the time and money that I needed, what would I choose to do? It was thus that I decided to follow my heart and took up two passions – writing and golf. I began to study the art and science of writing and, likewise, the art and science of golf. I made steady progress in writing, but the same progress eluded me in golf. The golf lessons I took left me completely confused. I would address the ball with a squared-shoulder, squared-hip and squared-feet stance and be completely clueless as to what to do next. The coaches politely declined to get into details about the science of the golf swing. Golf is a simple matter, they said, why make it complicated? Either they did not know, or didn’t want to share. Either way, I found myself at a dead end. My hacking on the golf course was unacceptable  – I had to do something about it. And it was thus that I went deep into the rabbit hole of golf swing mechanics and bio-mechanics.

For six years, I researched, explored and experimented every which way I could. It was Homer Kelley’s book The Golfing Machine that gave me the initial direction. I discovered the secrets of golf one at a time, but the breakthrough that enabled everything to fall in place was my discovery of the precise and quantifiable nature of body rotation enabled by lower body joints. This has never been published before in any golf or medical journal.

My course of study was like pursuing B.Tech., M.Tech and PhD all at the same time. B.Tech was finding my own swing. M.Tech was understanding in detail all the different types of swings. PhD was decoding the greatest swing of all time – the Secret of Ben Hogan’s Perfect and Automatic Swing. My thesis on the Hogan swing was published in the book ‘Crouching Tiger Hidden Hogan: The Sixth Lesson’ in October 2016. It is my dream that, someday in the future, a forward thinking University will recognize and accept my composite body of work as the basis for conferring a PhD (By Prior Publication) degree!

I dedicate the research findings published here to Homer Kelley: the ‘mad genius’ who spent forty years researching the golf swing. The content is technical and follows the scientific terminology of Kelley’s book The Golfing Machine (TGM). Anyone one who has a passing familiarity with TGM concepts and terminology can make sense out of it. I recommend that such a reader go through these posts in reverse chronological order – from oldest to latest.

I have resumed my corporate career since the completion of this research project, but I continue to be a passionate student of golf. It will be my future endeavor to share with you a step-by-step implementation of the technically Perfect and practically Easy Swing. The steps will include the setup (stance and ball position), address, backswing, transition and downswing. The treatment will include both mechanics and feel. The Perfect and Easy swing is a  swing geometry and method that I have arrived at after rigorous theoretical study and extensive practice. The blueprint of the Perfect and Easy Swing is available here.

Research: Major Findings

All the major findings of my six year research project (2011-17) are summarized here. Below is a navigation guide that links topic to date. This is in reverse chronological order. To view a topic, click on the corresponding date link on the right sidebar under ‘Archives’.

Oct 2016: Crouching Tiger Hidden Hogan: The Sixth Lesson

Nov 2016: The Problem with Modern Golf Instruction

Dec 2016: Body Rotation: The Breakthrough Discovery

Jan 2017: Ben Hogan and Homer Kelley

Feb 2017: Hand Path-Body Turn Diagram

Mar 2017: Swinging Left, Right and Down the Line

Apr 2017: Three Common Swing Geometries

May 2017: Two Connected Swing Geometries

Jun 2017: The Ben Hogan Swing

Jul 2017: The Body Swing Golfing Machine

Aug 2017: Comparing Moe Norman and Ben Hogan

Sep 2017: Blueprint of the Perfect and Easy Swing

 

Blueprint of the Perfect and Easy Swing

After seven years of intensive study and research and hitting hundreds of balls daily, I have independently arrived at the technically Perfect and practically Easy Swing. It also happens to be similar to Moe Norman’s swing; the fundamentals are the same. Aesthetic considerations have been disregarded; ‘purity of technique’ (Moe Norman quote) is the aspiration. This information applies directly to right handed golfers; left-handed golfers need to reverse the context. Here is the blueprint:

Moe Norman Swing

  • The Perfect and Easy Swing (for right handed golfers) is a right-sided ‘Swing Down The Line’ that uses a Connected Swing Geometry and whose extension (E)  is down the intended direction of the initial ball-flight. In almost all cases, this direction is also the target line except for specialty shots like the deliberate draw or fade. This is a right-sided swing and will therefore feel circular.
  • This swing uses Stable Release, Right Elbow connection to the Right Side and Second Order Stacking. In TGM terms, this is Angular Hinging and Punch Elbow.
  • This swing uses 45 degrees of  lower body (hips) rotation and 45 degrees of upper body rotation (shoulders) for a total body rotation of 90 degrees.
  • Single Plane and bi-directional swing – hand path and club-head paths are identical in both the backswing and forward swing. Moe Norman again. More specifically, the hand path and club-head path from address to top of backswing is identical to the hand path and club-face path from start of downswing to impact with just the direction reversed. A bi-directional swing is fully described by its Hand Path Body Turn diagram, which in this case is curvilinear like a hockey stick.

HPBT

  • Unconventional Address Position – built around impact fix position. Moe Norman once again. Hips pre-turned at address by stacking of ankle and knee joints (second order stacking) in the right leg, according to the pre-determined lower body rotation of 45 degrees. Once the hip pre-turn is made, it is fixed and kept locked throughout the backswing. This keeps the lower body still and quiet in the backswing and allows exclusive monitoring of the hands.
  • Constant ball position at center of stance for all clubs. Head, eyes and sternum are centered on the Aiming Point and remain there throughout the backswing and post impact in the forward swing when the right shoulder automatically carries the head into the finish position.
  • Hands Controlled Pivot in both the backswing and the downswing. I have learnt from Homer Kelley that Hands Controlled Pivot increases precision and accuracy and is therefore superior to Pivot Controlled Hands.
  • The backswing is initiated by with the Right Forearm Takeaway while keeping the Right Forearm in Punch orientation and the Right Elbow as close to the body as possible. This is a Right Forearm “fanning arc” as shown in in image (B).  This takes the hands deeper inside and shallows out the arm-lift. It also keeps the club-head longer on the circle of the Right Forearm and square to the path (Angular Hinging).
  • The Right Forearm fanning arc is traced such that it is passes through both the ball and the low point (located on the target line and opposite to the left shoulder socket). The target line is a tangent to this fanning arc and intersects it at the low point (image C).

Right Forearm Fanning Arc

  • A useful and highly recommended variation is to initiate the backswing by picking up the club with the four fingers of the Right Hand. This connects the Right Elbow to the right side as shown in image (A). It also cocks the wrists immediately as the Left Thumb is pulled up by the four fingers of the Right Hand (the club-shaft also moves in sync with the Left Thumb). The backswing is then completed with the Right Forearm while maintaining the right elbow connection as long as possibleThis creates an early wrist cock, gives an early sense of ‘handle down’ and completes the shoulder turn. It is vital that both hands are felt on the handle right from address to the top of the backswing position – the thumb and the last three fingers of the left hand, and the the last three fingers of the right hand. It is equally vital to be aware of the Left Arm as it passively withdraws from the address (impact fix) position to the top of the backswing position.

Right Forearm Pickup

  • Automatic Snap Release with the club handle accelerated in longitudinal thrust (F) by the Right Forearm against the resistance of the ground and in a straight line towards an Aiming Point on the Line of Compression (LOC), which is oriented at an angle of 22.5 degrees right of the target line. The longitudinal acceleration of the club handle (rope handle technique in TGM) is what Moe Norman described as  “swing the handle, not the club-head”. The location of the Aiming Point can be determined at address by cocking the wrists with the left thumb such that the handle points downwards. The Aiming Point is the spot on the LOC that the handle points to when this is done.
  • A useful downswing option is a Random Release coupled with Float Loading. This Float Loading option goes with image (B) while the Snap Release option goes with image (A).

Aiming Point

  • The Downswing is triggered once the Left Shoulder comes under the chin and the entire Left Arm is aligned along the Line of Compression.
  • Actively powered by Longitudinal Thrust (F) exerted by the Right Side in a Pulling motion towards the Aiming Point on the Line of Compression. In TGM terms, this is still Swinging and Drag Loading, even thought it uses Angular Hinging and is powered by the Right Side (“Everything else pulls, only the right forearm can either push or pull” – Homer Kelley).
  • This is a Right-Sided swing because the downswing is powered by the Right Forearm against the resistance of the ground.

Flying Wedges

  • Here’s the technical reason why I picked this swing as the Perfect and Easy Swing. It has the optimal balance of arm action and body rotation. It is neither “too-armsy” nor “too-turny”. The extension is straight down the line – because the left arm is not pulling the hands right (and away from the target line) and the right forearm is not pushing the hands left (and away from the target line). This is why the resultant ball flight is a dead straight trajectory. The purity of contact is unmistakable. This is Moe Norman’s Secret and the reason why he claimed with absolute confidence to be the world’s greatest ball striker.
  • Interestingly, Moe Norman described his swing as a pendulum swing. The up-and-down motion of the arms feels like a pendulum all right (and this is true for all swings) but when combined with the lower body rotation, it becomes a curvilinear swing. But the hands can still be thrust in a straight line (F) to an Aiming Point on the Line of Compression. The Hand Path is co-incident with the Line of Compression in the initial and linear part of the downswing before “it turns the corner”.  The hands automatically turn the corner once they run out of “straight line” and circle into impact and extend (E) down the line.

Comparing Moe Norman and Ben Hogan

“Swing the handle, not the head” – Moe Norman

“Yes, the Golfing Machine; he has it figured out” – Moe Norman on Homer Kelley

Moe Norman’s swing is presented here as a contrast to Ben Hogan’s swing. It is an interesting exercise to compare their Hand Path-Body Turn diagrams because the two are widely regarded as the greatest ball strikers in golf. The two swings do have one thing in common which may well be their common secret of ball-striking greatness: the radius of the circular portion of the Hand Path-Body Turn diagram is defined by the Connected Right Forearm. In TGM terms, this common connected right forearm action is Angular Hinging.

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Moe used a single plane approach while Hogan had a more orthodox setup. Moe used an extra wide stance to prevent his hips from spinning out because his swing required just two degrees of stacking and not three as in Hogan’s swing. Moe’s swing was designed to keep the lower body quiet. Hogan designed his to keep the upper body quiet.

In Hogan’s backswing, it is the stacking of the right hip-joint (Third Order of Stacking) that sustains the circular path and flattens the swing plane. In Moe’s backswing the hands are allowed to elevate by vertical left-arm action into a higher position at the top. In Moe, the arms are active and used for thrusting. In Hogan, the arms are passive. In Moe, longitudinal acceleration (along the handle) is actively applied at start-down in a Snap Release action by leveraging against the pivot. In Hogan, longitudinal acceleration is applied passively by the pivot using natural pronation and supination. Moe’s extension is down the line while Hogan’s is to the left. Moe uses Punch Elbow and Second Order Stacking while Hogan uses Pitch Elbow and Third Order Stacking.

Hogan’s swing is the finest example of Pivot Controlled Hands and the Circle of Compression. Moe’s swing is the finest example of Hands Controlled Pivot and the Line of Compression.

The Body Swing Golfing Machine

Perspective with Elevated Inclined Plane

Not a single player on the PGA tour today swings like Ben Hogan, although most of them want to. Now that Hogan’s Secret has been fully decoded, it is my humble assertion and prediction that soon you will begin to see the Hogan swing in action on the PGA Tour. It will happen not because I say so, but because it is the most powerful, accurate and repeatable swing in golf.

The Body Swing Golfing Machine is the only theoretical and physical model that corroborates everything that the Master wrote and said and did. It can be readily seen from the physical model that: (i) the arms and hands are  always in sync with the body rotation and (ii) it is the right forearm (and not the left arm) that is on plane.

The Body Swing Golfing Machine & Methods (patent pending) is a comprehensive tutorial system. It consists of (i) an operational model of the machine designed to demonstrate the concept and execution of the body-driven golf swing and (ii) a teacher manual designed to run a non-technical golfer through the steps of implementation, error diagnosis and correction.

The invention consists of a machine that simulates the body-driven golf swing and a set of methods which emanate from the principle, attributes and motion of the machine. The machine and methods together form a comprehensive golf simulation system to teach a golfer to perform the body-driven golf swing in order to strike a golf ball with power, precision and consistency. The machine consists of upper cylinder, lower cylinder and longer and shorter rods that causes a hinged chuck to rotate on an inclined-plane surface perpendicular to the axis of rotation. The motion of the machine is driven by a reactive power element that simulates a resistance based body-driven swing. The set of methods enable a golfer to emulate the motion of the machine and create alignments and torque by exploiting natural angles and structure of human anatomy.

For more details see the patent application here.

The Ben Hogan Swing

“Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing.” – Ben Hogan

Ben Hogan’s unique swing was made possible by his discovery of the relationship between shoulder rotation and the joints in the lower body: the ankle, knee and hip joints. His great achievement was the invention of a unique and circular swing geometry in which the the hands are always in complete sync with the rotation of the body.  This can be readily seen from the Hand Path Body Turn Diagram of his forward swing.

Hogan HPBT

The Hogan Swing is the finest example of Pivot Controlled Hands, where the body rotation is monitored instead of the hands. The Hogan Swing uses the circle of the Right Forearm with Third Order Stacking.