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The Golf Downswing And The Insidious Hand Lag

golf downswing and hand lag

Next in Dante's discussion of the golf downswing is what he calls the "insidious hand lag".

This section explains what he means by this term, and will give you an exercise to improve your golf downsing by eliminating the hand lag.

In the last section, Dante discussed how many golf players have a tendency to worry about the club head.

Here is a second reason why most player have this same tendency: They have an instinctive urge to get the golf club moving fast.

The average golf player, knowing he must get club head speed to hit the ball as far as he wants to hit it, thinks in terms of the head.

It's normal that he should, but that is just another of golf's contradictions. The moment a player tries to move the club head, he makes three ruinous actions:

  • He/she turns his shoulders a little bit, which throws the club outside;
  • he/she starts to open up the angle between the shaft and the left arm, breaking the eternal triangle; and
  • he/she stops moving his/her hips.

Still a fourth bad move average players often do — and this is the mostinsidious of all: They allow the golf club head to break the eternal triangle by failing to move his hands fast enough.

It is easy to see that once the golf downswing begins, the hands and the club must move at the same relative speeds or one will get ahead of the other.

The simplest way to alter one of these speeds is to let the hands lag slightly as they come down.

When they do that the club head, which is steadily gaining momentum, keeps right on moving, the angle between the shaft and the left arm begins to open, and the imaginary line of the eternal triangle begins to lengthen.

You have, in effect, hit from the top and have done it without ever trying to flip the club head or indeed make it do anything.

You have just, unconsciously, slowed your hand action a little bit. The triangle has been broken early and the power is gone from the swing.

The reason a great many players make this mistake — and it pursues them all through their golfing lives — is because they subconsciously fear that the club head will never catch up to their hands in time to hit the ball straight.

"The average golf player, knowing he must get club head speed to hit the ball as far as he wants to hit it, thinks in terms of the head.... The moment a player tries to move the club head, he [ruins the swing]."

They fear knocking it far out to the right with an open face. So, without ever being conscious of what they are doing, they make sure it will catch up by slowing down their hands, and they succeed, invariably.

This, without a doubt, is the chief reason a practice swing often looks so good and the swing when the ball is there is so bad!

In the practice golf swing there is no fear that the club head won't catch up, so the boys clip the cigar butts and dandelion tops like the pros. ;-)

They should remember that if the face of the club is square, it makes little difference how far the hands lead the club head at impact.

The attempt to move the club head faster also brings on "the hand lag": When a player's efforts are bent on making the club head move, the very effort tends to slow down the hands.

Once the hands get behind, they will never catch up; the eternal triangle, once broken open, can never be closed again.

Another peculiar effect of the hand lag is that it tends to prevent the movement of the hips, and the weight, from the right leg to the left.

If you will take a few practice swings, deliberately slowing your hands through the first half of the downward arc, you will notice immediately that your weight doesn't flow over to your left side. And as long as you retard your hands, you can't move your weight over.

A golf student came to us one day, and told us that he had been trying for years to move his hips to the left on the downswing but couldn't when the ball was in front of him.

His friends had watched him and told him, correctly, that he had no trouble moving his hips on his practice swings. But, once he got a ball in front of him, he could not get those hips over no matter how hard he tried. He was, of course, flat-footed on every ball he hit.

His trouble was obvious after he had hit a few shots: He had the fear of so many that the club wouldn't catch up to his hands at impact, a fear that he would meet the ball with a wide-open face and that the ball would fly out at a wild and dangerous tangent to the right. So, to make certain this catastrophe would not occur, he was slowing down his hands!

Once we got his hands moving at the proper speed, his weight moved too. When he found that the club head would catch up after all, his worst troubles were over. Very soon he began to hit the ball more solidly, longer, and with less expenditure of useless effort.

When the lesson was over he said he felt ten years younger— and he acted it!

You are touching now on one of the great mysteries of golf. The answer is in the next part of the golf downswing section (click on that link if you can't wait!). For now, it is enough to say here that it does and always will catch up, due to an immutable law of physics.

Curious? Click on this link... C'mon... you know you want to. ;-)

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