The Science of Squaring the Clubface

If I asked students who take my golf lessons how critical good rhythm is to a good swing, most would agree that it’s important, but not the most important factor. Many weekend golfers would probably agree with this assessment. But a new device developed by a professor at Yale reveals that good rhythm is more important to chopping strokes off your golf handicap than many think.

Bob Grober, a professor of applied physics at Yale University-and a one-handicapper- recently invented a device for translating the rhythm of a swing into sound. Here’s how it works: A small wireless transmitter inserted into the butt end of a club detects the club’s movement. The signal produced is transmitted to an iPod-sized unit attached to the player’s waist. The auditory signal is relayed to a set of lightweight headphones and the sound manifests itself as a pleasing organ-like tone when the player swings.

If your clubhead is decelerating through impact, your transition from backswing to downswing is too abrupt, or your mechanics are way out of sync, Grober’s device tells you through sound. The faster the club travels, the louder the volume and the pitch. The idea is to make the loudest sound at impact, not before. Grober’s device also registers how fast the club is moving on the downswing, and gives you a start-to-finish speed profile. It’s a handy tool for serious golfers.

Swing Profiles. Using this device, Grober was able to isolate three distinct speed profiles among golfers.

Golfers with high golf handicaps (20+) are cursed with lousy rhythm. They’re like dancers who have two left feet, always tripping over themselves. Golfers with golf handicaps from 20 to 5-intermediate golfers- tend to complete their swings too quickly. The loudest sound comes just before impact.

Then there are golfers with golf handicaps below 5. Let’s call them tour players. They also tend to rush their swings but to a much lesser degree than intermediate golfers. Like the intermediate golfers, these players create the loudest sounds just before impact, but they do it much less often than with the intermediate golfers. More often than not, their loudest sound comes right at impact, which explains why they hit the ball so well.

The Left Wrist. Two places exist in your swing where you must have a flat left wrist, if you’re right-handed. (For left-handers, it’s a flat right wrist.) One place is at impact. The other is at the top of your backswing. You generally don’t have one without the other. Weekend players tend to cup their left wrists at the top of the backswing. Lifting your hands too steeply above the swing plane causes an open clubface and a cupped left wrist.

Instead, the left wrist should be in line with your left forearm t the top of the swing, putting the clubshaft in the right position to come into the ball at impact. One way I teach players to do that in my golf lessons is to imagine the logo on your glove, as well as the clubface, point toward the sky as you reach the top of your backswing. Another technique is to feel as if the clubface stays slightly “hooded” in the backswing. By hooded, I mean pointing toward the ground. Either trick assures a flat left wrist at the top of your backswing.

Rotate the Clubface. You need to rotate the clubface into the ball to square it at impact. Most players don’t rotate the clubface enough on the downswing or they rotate it much too late. The clubface needs to start rotating just before impact and finish just after impact. Take a few practice swings without a ball and stop just after the impact point to see if your hands are in the right position. Your glove hand should be below your non-glove hand just after impact. If it’s not, you need to rotate the clubface more.

Here’s a technique from Jack Nicklaus I’ve written about in my golf tips and used in my golf lessons. It helps you rotate your clubface properly and shape your shots. Jack used to turn the toe of the clubface past the heel at impact to draw the ball from left to right. He felt that having the toe beat the heel to the ball encourages the clubface to close through impact. It’s a great technique for correcting a slice.

Although the problems are different, slicing and hooking have a common cause. If your clubface is off at impact, one of the two swing flaws will result. If your serious about improving your game and lowering your golf handicap, you must eliminate these swing flaws as much as possible. Make sure you have the right grip, maintain a flat left wrist at the top of the backswing, and rotate the clubface sufficiently and you’ll hit the ball long and straight every time.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse