Tom Tucker teaches all aspects of the golf game at The Plum Creek Driving Range & Practice Facility in Batavia. Tom may be found online at http://www.TomTuckerGolf.com
This week I was going to address the flex in the right knee in the backswing,
pro’s and con’s. Coincidentally, a student of mine had an experience which motivated
more towards addressing this issue. This is also a good example of how
well intentioned advice, or a golf tip you see in a golf magazine, could actually
do harm to your swing.
This particular student has dropped six strokes off his handicap since last fall as
a result of lessons where we made a couple of changes to get him hitting the ball
more solidly, more consistently.
Recently he was playing at a course near his home, and their new pro mentioned to
him that he needed to keep some flex in his right knee in his backswing. My
student told him politely that he had dropped six strokes off his handicap through
lessons that taught that knee position differently, but thanks for sharing.
Apparently this new pro has not learned to not contribute unsolicited advice, a lesson
I learned years ago. It’s also a good idea to keep your lip off other players’ swings
unless you are asked for an opinion.
He should also have known that there are many swing variations that position the
right knee on the takeaway completely differently.
I know that some “standard” boilerplate instruction actually labels straightening
the right knee in the backswing a fault. I respectfully submit that those authors
need to educate themselves more.
I have had remarkable success with teaching a method that involves letting
the right knee straighten in the backswing.
Let me explain.
There are hitters and swingers in golf. It’s been my personal observation that hitters
usually have a larger percentage of fast twitch muscle fibers in their body, and that
swingers usually gravitate towards a predominance of slow twitch muscle fibers.
Fast twitch body types usually have a stocky, muscular physique, slow switch types
are usually more slender.
Most of the population falls somewhere in between the extremes.
Both hitter and swinger swing methods can be very successful, but swing methods
should be geared towards natural inclinations whenever possible. Hitters can gain a little
extra swing speed by getting more coil in their backswing, and utilizing a little more arm
thrust and hand motion at impact. Swingers can gain speed from more centrifugal force,
which can be generated by not limiting their backswing length.
This is where the right knee flex in the backswing comes very much into play.
For a pure hitter, I would have that player retain significant flex in the right knee in the
takeaway and backswing in order to retain maximum coil, with a shorter, tighter backswing.
Coil is acquired because the hips are limited from rotating back, which creates coil between
the shoulders and hips. This backswing limitation prevents a pure hitter’s naturally aggressive
tendency to make their backswing too long, with resultant power leaks and inaccuracy. Most
hitters also utilize a lateral weight shift towards the rear foot in the backswing, then a properly
sequenced lateral weight shift forward during the impact sequence. They also need to
have active hands in their release.
Timing needs to be practiced relentlessly. When done correctly it’s a fine swing.
For a pure swinger, I would have the player straighten the right knee significantly in their
takeaway and backswing, allowing the hips to rotate more to create more centrifugal force on the
down and through swing. Allowing the right knee to straighten this way also starts transferring
weight laterally to the left side early, which takes some of the timing out of the equation for
getting the correct amount of weight laterally forward during the impact sequence.
This type of swing is a bit less reliant on timing, because it’s a more fluid swing, and the weight
starts moving forward early. It also doesn’t require extremely active hands at release, because the
speed is generated more from the swing length, not muscular power. When done correctly it’s also
a fine swing.
My personal observation is that most people generally would benefit more from a swinger method
of swinging than a hitter method. It’d easier to repeat the swing, it generates good swing speed,
it’s easier to get the weight positioned correctly for impact, and it’s a swing that one
can use late into life with less fear of injury.
With the hitter method, retaining flex in the right knee places a lot of stress on your knee,
and more importantly your back. It’s fine for young strong players, but they need to take
care to stay very fit if they want to carry this swing method into their later years. Even if they
do stay fit, that swing won’t produce maximum results later in life simply because of the loss
of muscle elasticity that goes along with old age. As we get older, centrifugal force becomes
the power source of choice by necessity.
Last but not least, hitters can function very well with a swinger swing method, whereas
swingers will not function nearly as well with a hitter swing method.
Some players are able to attain the best of both worlds, but that would have to start
with a swinger’s knee position.
A player who combined the swinger’s right knee position on the takeaway, with a hitter’s
explosiveness at impact was Ben Hogan. Google “Ben Hogan Backswing Photo’s” and
you’ll see that his right leg is almost completely straight in his backswing. Arnold Palmer
also had a swingers right leg position at the top of his backswing, so did Sam Snead.
So .. make an educated choice when you decide how you want to swing a golf club,
and don’t believe every tip you read. It might not work with your swing.
Enjoy your golf,
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