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The Feel of the Club Head: Part 1

 

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I think that few experienced golfers will disagree with the dictum of that great teacher Ernest Jones that our strivings to attain a good swing will have been largely in vain unless at the end we have learned "to feel our club head."

Now this is a difficult thing to feel and an exceedingly difficult thing to teach a pupil to feel, though I have often succeeded in teaching it.

The real difficulty is that you cannot teach it by teaching skill in the physical movements of the swing - yet this physical skill is a basic necessity before the feel can be induced.

So we have to build up the good swing and then seek for "the feel of the club head" somewhere in its cycle.

We can pick this feel out most easily with the shorter clubs. Their heads are relatively heavy and the short shaft restricts the swing.

It was with the No. 5 mashie that I personally first detected this feel. Incidentally, I should hate to tell you how long I had played golf before I did really feel that the club had a head to it!

Very, very few of us feel the club head right from the time we walk up to address the ball until it fades away over our shoulder.

In some great players this feel is so pronounced that you can actually see them seeking it and using it.

Walter Hagen approaching and on a tee was a lovely example of this and so today is Henry Cotton - no other modern player gives so strong an impression of club head feel as does Cotton in his drive.

For though the feel is most easily detected in ourselves with the shorter clubs, its presence in others is most easily recognized in the full swing of the drive.

Now after years of study of this matter of club head feel, I came to a very curious conclusion about it, and it was this conclusion which enabled me to be quite exceptionally successful in imparting club head feel to my pupils. Here it is: we do not feel our club head with our hands; we feel it with our bodies.

What I mean is that, though the hands, being the "railhead" of our feel, do of course play an important part, yet the feel does not stay in them - the hands (and arms of course, though less consciously) transmit this feel to the body to the central organization of our golf mechanism.

And arising from this the most common mistake we make in trying to feel the club head is to look for the feeling of it in our hands instead of at the center.

This matter of feel at the center is so important that I have coined a name for its seat, for where it is felt. I call it the "force-center."

I cannot give you an exact anatomical definition of where the force-center is, because its position varies with different shots.

As the shot (and the swing) become longer, so the force-center rises; as they become shorter, the position of the force-center drops. Yet there is always the feeling that we swing from a center, wherever that center may be. And where it is, there also must be the feel of the club head.

Having reached this conclusion as to the location of club head feel, it was easy to see why this is the most difficult of golfing feels to develop and the easiest to lose touch with.

Between the club head and the force-center there are a number of connections in the swing (such as the wrists and the shoulders), and should any of these connections be broken, should our swing become disjointed, then the feeling of the club head cannot be transmitted back to the force-center.

This breakup of the swing most usually occurs towards the top of the swing, where we can lose connection by breaking the left arm at the elbow or by opening the hands - two very simple and common mechanical faults.

When I began to realize the relationship between a connected swing and club head feel I found a curious thing, that my driving swing was cut down automatically to three-quarters.

The more you study such relationship, the more you will see that the modern three-quarters swing is simply a connected swing and that the three-quarters is the limit of the swing because it is the limit to which most of us can go without breaking the connections.

When first I came to this conclusion, I went to as many Championships as I could and watched the boys and tried to pick out those who followed my idea of swinging from a connectec center and those who did not.

One thing that I noticed at once was that the connected swingers-so-called controlled swingers - were always firmer and slower, the quicker swingers were less controlled and their swings were more liable to come unstuck.

Also I noticed that as a general rule the controlled swingers did not hold their wrists down as they addressed the ball; they held them up in a line with the arm and club shaft.

Now that was an interesting point, and when I tried it out, I found that it had an important bearing on the whole matter. This position of the wrists gives us at once the feeling of the club head being down.

Please note this is a club head feeling. This particular feeling, club head down at the address, has always been recognized as part of the correct golf feel.

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