Friday, 2 September 2016

Sam Snead on the Top Hand

I've written before about how the golf swing can be controlled by the top hand.  That's the top hand on the grip--the left hand for right-handed players.  Golf is the game of opposites.  If you want the ball to go high, you hit down on it.  If you want the ball to curve right, you swing to the left.  If you want to hit the ball farther, you swing easier.  If you want to properly control your swing as a right-handed player, you must use your weaker left hand and arm.  That's just the way it is.

The greatest swinger of all time had to have been Sam Snead.  He hit it like a bullet.  Harvey Penick saw him hitting balls and decided that his future lay in teaching the game.  He figured he could never compete with a guy who hit it like Sam did.  And Sam's swing stood the test of time better than anyone.

True, Sam was a gifted athlete, with great physical attributes and strength.  But he believed that his swing could serve as a model for other golfers because of its simplicity.  How did he feel his swing was controlled?  After a forward press, Sam felt he pushed the club straight back from the ball for two feet, low and slow, using his left hand, arm and shoulder.  He felt that the first two feet of the swing was the most important determining factor in terms of hitting a good shot.  In his book, The Lessons I've Learned, he described the start of the swing as follows:

    "Once you're ready to go, I always teach a person to use what I call a forward press.  It's just a little movement that tells your body that the swing is underway.  In my case, I kick my right kneeslightly to the left, and at the same time I slide my hands ever so slightly to the left.  Then, without pausing, I push the clubhead away from the ball.  I feel that I'm pushing away with my left hand in control.  My right hand is just along for the ride.  My only effort is to keep the club moving straight away from the ball, low and slow, for the first two crucial feet.
     I want to again stress that it is important for every part of my body to work in unison, especially at the start of the swing.
     As the club moves back, my weight begins to shift to my right foot, so that by the time the clubhead has passed my right foot, most of my weight has already shifted.
     Since my left arm is moving the club straight back from the ball, both my hips and my shoulders are turning very naturally, I don't have to try to turn them.  Everything is moving in unison.
     People often talk about a quick wrist cock, but I don't like to see it, since it usually leads a person to  jerk the club back inside the target line too quickly, and the rhythm of the swing is destroyed before you even give it a chance."

It's worth noting that Arnold Palmer also believed that taking the club straight back from the ball for the first twelve inches with no wrist break, or cock, would virtually guarantee a good swing.  Jack Nicklaus also believed in taking it back with his left hand, arm and shoulder, low and slow.

Sam didn't just start the swing with his left hand in control.  He also believed that the downswing was started by pulling the club down with the last two fingers of his left hand.  This move prevented him from making an over-the-top, or casting, move that would ruin the swing.  To Sam the swing was a push and a pull with the left hand.  Push it back and pull it down.  He also wanted to feel that he was extending down the target line, essentially chasing the ball with the back of his left hand.

If you're a right-handed player, the key to the swing is your left hand.  Go figure.  Bobby Jones called the golf swing a back-handed strike with the left hand.  It may sound strange, but it's the truth.  Just watch the swings of any of the top pros and watch the back of their left hand.  Chances are it is going straight down the target line at impact.