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Friday, 18 December 2015

Top Hand Golf

When I decided to start a golf blog it wasn't that difficult to settle on a name.  People sometimes ask me about Top Hand Golf.  My answer is usually a rhetorical question.  If there was one thing upon which Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, and Moe Norman--among many others--agreed to be an essential part of the golf swing, would it not be worth our while to pay attention?  Every one of those great players, some of the greatest ball strikers of all time, taught that the top hand--the left hand for a right-handed golfer--controlled the golf swing.

Every one of those great players took, or rather pushed, the club straight back with the left hand, arm, and shoulder--they're all connected after all--and pulled the club through with the left arm.  On my site there are videos from all of them talking about the importance of the top hand.  It's interesting that I recently read where Arnold Palmer believed that the only essentials for a good golf swing, provided your grip was sound, was to have a still head and take the club straight back for the first twelve inches the clubhead travels in one piece, without breaking the wrists.  This is best accomplished using the left hand and arm.  It is the right hand that inevitably causes the wrists to break too early, or pulls the club inside or outside the line.

With a good grip, the back of the left hand essentially mirrors the clubface.  If the back of the top hand faces the target through impact, a straight shot will result.  Controlling the swing with the left hand and arm makes it virtually impossible to come over the top, the biggest swing fault among high handicappers.  It also prevents taking the club back too far inside, or outside, the target line, and prevents an early release of the club from the top, which results in a loss of power and adding unwanted loft to the club.  

Byron Nelson, who, in arguably the greatest season of golf ever witnessed, won 11 tournaments in a row, and 18 in total, struggled with a hook early in his golfing life--like many Texans.  Byron arrived at that one swing thought that, once discovered, he never left.  That swing thought was controlling the swing with his left hand and arm, and making sure the back of his left hand was driving towards his target through impact.  

Moe Norman, regarded by many as the greatest ball striker ever, eventually had a couple of golfing systems developed that were said to be based on his unique swing.  However, Moe actually never suggested anyone try to copy his unorthodox set up, or swing.  He did, however, make it abundantly clear that he controlled his swing with his left hand and arm.  In fact, in at least one video, he can be seen hitting shots and letting his right hand come off the club after impact to demonstrate how his left arm pulled the club to the finish.  

Bobby Jones considered the golf swing a back-handed strike with the left hand.  And it's interesting to me that in the only formal golf lesson I ever had, which was in England in 1970, the young pro had me hit balls with just my left hand.  At the time I thought it was a waste of time.  I only wish now that I had understood the lesson.  I still manage to get distracted, and start tinkering with other ideas from time to time.  But some day I hope I will be a full time top-hand player.  I know there is no "secret" to playing golf.  But if there is one thing you can hang your hat on, as far as the swing is concerned, it is the importance of the top hand.

Golf is a two-handed game.  But the top hand is in control.  If the left hand stops, or gives up control, and the right hand takes over, Bobby Jones said trouble was sure to follow.  Ben Hogan is famous for saying he wished he had three right hands to pour on the power, but he also said that this was only so long as his left hand was driving through impact in the lead, so those three right hands couldn't ruin the shot.

Top hand golf is obviously not my idea.  My advice or ideas on the golf swing and a dollar wouldn't get you a coffee.  But, if Bobby Jones, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Lee Trevino, and Moe Norman were all top hand golfers; that's certainly good enough for me.  And, if you're looking for a swing thought that might help you hit the ball straighter, try making sure that left hand and arm is pulling the club down the target line through impact.  

It may not be "the secret" to the golf swing.  It may not be the only way to swing the club, because there is definitely more than one way to skin a cat.  But, if it was a key for Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Bobby Jones, and Moe Norman--to name just a few of the greats--it might be a good idea to try it if you haven't already done so.  What have you got to lose?  It's not like I'm recommending that you hit balls with a basketball between your knees.