There is no action in golf less understood than the use of the wrists ("golf wrist action"): Curiously enough we do not have to work our wrists, but we have to let them work themselves - like the hinges on a door.
This is important because the wrists will only be used correctly when we have the right idea of their correct mechanical action. If we get the wrong idea, the opening of the wrists in the region of the ball is bound to be mistimed.
You will never get perfect timing if you try to flick the club head through the ball by wrist and hand action-perfect timing will come only when the opening of the wrists is brought about automatically by the momentum of the whole swing.
To put it in another way, the movements of the feet, legs and hips belong to the active, intentioned part of the downswing; the opening of the wrists belongs to the passive, purely reactive part of it. So keep at the forefront of your mind that the hands and wrists do not and must not "nip the club head through the ball."
The trouble in learning to let your wrists open themselves (which is what they must do) is, that at the top of the swing, the club head seems so far from the ball that you feel that, if you do not help it down with wrist and hand action, it will never get there - or will get there so late as to make a horrible slice.
The result is that you do work your wrists, you come down too soon, and pull instead of slicing! Low ground shots to the left are most frequently due to this premature and faulty wrist action.
Now this feel of the club head being a long way from the ball and a long way from your left side is actually a most desirable one.
Register it in your feel cabinet, and if you can widen the gap between the club head and your left side, do so; you can never get it too wide.
The gap means that you are "coming down one after another."
Personally I detest the word "flick".
Apart from being an anaemic conception anyway, it suggests a local effort where there should be none.
That is why teachers now prefer the word "flail" to describe the function of the wrists.
You know the flail with which the peasant threshes his corn-two sticks connected by a free link-and you know he could not apply the same power anything like so effectively with a single solid stick.
Well, your wrists are the link of the flail, the club the threshing stick.
Another image that has helped some of my pupils to visualize the development of a correct swing is that (in this section of the swing) our arms and the club form a fan-the line of the left arm being one edge of the fan, the club being the other.
The two are pivoted together by the wrists and (like the two edges of an actual fan) may be shut close together or opened out at quite a wide angle.
We open the fan partially on the up swing, complete the opening at the beginning of the down swing-and snap together again some two feet or more past the ball.
The hands and wrists are passive agents, they are not free agents-they do not decide in which direction they shall go; they go in the arc set out for them by the turning of the pivot.
This is true of the up swing as well as the down. The pivot not only provides the power, it also controls direction-guiding the club head in its correct plane through the ball. That is why a good pivot is so important.
But we must not forget that we are going to learn golf by feel; so here is a little exercise that will teach you to detect and ever afterwards to recognize the difference between feet activity and hand activity at the beginning of the back swing.
Take up your normal stance before the ball.
Then without movement of feet, pivot, shoulders, or arms, take the club head back a full three feet entirely by wrist and hand movement. Note the feel.
Then re-address the ball (being careful this time to keep your left arm and the club shaft in a straight line from shoulder to club head). Now turn your body around from the knees only until your club head is a yard back again-making no use of any movement above the hips.
Note the entirely different feel.
In the first case, your hands lifted the club head back; in the second, your pivot carried it back, and you will have felt at once that the latter is much the smoother and much the more consistent way. It is this carry back beginning at the pivot which I want you to cultivate.
Please do not think that I am making an undue fuss about a trifle in going to such lengths to introduce you to the right feel at the beginning of the swing. I will go so far as to say that your progress will be very largely decided by whether or not you get this back swing right-once you get the correct feel of the carry back, you will find the rest of the swing flowing from it naturally.
So, do study this feel quite profoundly. Properly considered it is the whole golf feel, because this initial carry back is the whole swing in embryo.