What preparatory movements to the golf swing should you be aware of? That is the topic of the next few entries of On Learning Golf. This is the first part in a series of 4 articles.
The experienced eye can make a very accurate guess at the handicap of a player after seeing him make a few practice swings, and as soon as his address is completed we can be sure of his quality.
Now at first glance it might seem that it would be simple enough for anyone to learn to stand correctly before the ball to cultivate an impressive address.
Yet there is this difference which enables the cognizant to recognize even the subtle variation between the good and the very good golfer before the ball has been struck.
It is an interesting point and one of some practical importance, because it is directly related to the true aim and purpose of the preparatory movements.
We can recognize a golfer's quality in these movements because they express both what he intends to do and how he intends to do it.
The difference between the good and the ordinary golfer is that the good one feels his shot through his address.
Whether or not he has learned deliberately to play by feel, the good player feels, through his carriage and balance as he addresses the ball, the coming move* ment that will bring his club face squarely against the ball.
Briefly to analyze the feeling of carriage and balance he feels he is set inwards and behind the back of the ball and his legs, hips and shoulders are all braced, inside and behind the ball.
Now this is a point where I must ask you to stop and consider and analyze carefully exactly the meaning I want to convey by the word braced because this is most important to a realization of the correct feel of the body.
My dictionary defines a brace as "anything that draws together and holds tightly," and I think that is clear and that it expresses the feeling we have when we are braced. But you may try it and promptly come back with the question, "But how can I feel braced and yet not become stiff?"
A very pertinent question, and I will try and give you the answer.
When we take lessons in deportment we are told to walk with our hips pulled in, in other words to brace our hips. Yet we know that this does not make our carriage stiff; it makes it not stiff but firm and decisive.
So also, when I tell you as you address the ball to keep your elbows close together, you will immediately feel a sensation of drawing in your elbows the one towards the other.
As a consequence your arms will not feel like two separate and independent arms but like a linked united pair of arms; yet they will not feel stiff.
The "holding together of your shoulder blades holds the top of your structure together and links up with the power from your hips.
You will find your biceps being pulled into your thorax, your shoulders and arms be* ing drawn together, and, if then the stomach is drawn inward, one definite (inward) direction of brace is set up.
The second direction in which we brace our bodies at the approach is upwards, yes upwards, towards the sky!
The natural tendency as we stand to our ball is to droop from our hips and curve our backs. But if we are good golfers we resist this tendency by an upward brace slightly bent over but pulled up to our full height and neither drooped nor curved.
Set like this we will feel our left side as straight as a poker, though not as stiff as one, and our left foot pushing down into the ground. Of course as the weight is equally divided between the feet, this pushing down is a feeling in the right foot also.
The result is a highly desirable one; as a reaction to our upward brace, we feel ourselves standing firm as we address the ball a thing we are frequently told to do but rarely told how to do!
So with our hips, shoulders, and arms braced and the body stretched upwards and braced, we no longer feel a loose, flabby, drooping figure but an upright and yet compact one.
But we have one more direction of brace to add this comes from the hips and I can best de¬scribe it as a twist forward which completes the bracing up of the whole body at the address.
As we stand to the ball our feet must not be too wide apart; the right foot should be at right angles to the line of flight, the left one pointed slightly out; a line across the toes of both feet should (like the line between the shoulders) be parallel to the line of flight.
From this position, we twist our hips round (horizontally ) to the left, not as far as they will go but as far as they can go in comfort, i.e., without pulling our hips out of shape. How far this is depends on how supple we are.
Probably the degree of movement will be only slight, but the effect of this forward leftward twist is to tauten up the whole body without stiffening it.
Because we are anchored, first by our feet to the ground and secondly by our square-set shoulders held up against the forward pull of the hips, the right knee does not resist so we find our left side straight and our right side bowed inwards.
And these, left side straight and right side bowed in, are very definite feels which come from (and can be used to check) correct bracing.