Shaft lean is a sacred cow to tour pros, but is not well known or practiced by handicappers. And when done correctly, it is the main avenue to properly compressing the golf ball off the face of the club. But many handicappers are flippers, a term Lee Trevino uses to describe golfers who flip their wrists at impact producing a weak hit that can advance the ball just about anywhere except where the golfer had intended. The wrists do cock on the backswing and release at impact but they and their corresponding forearms don’t flip at impact. Instead, at the point of the coup d’ grace the wrists return to about the same position as at address with the left wrist pointing at the target and the right hand just behind the left delivering the power. It’s well after the hit that the wrists flip into the follow through.
But even before impact, the wrists form an angle of lag, the larger of which produces more horsepower at impact. And the greater the lag, the greater the shaft lean at impact. What I mean by shaft lean is just that–the lean first created at address by the hands slightly ahead of the clubhead. That lean decreases the loft of the club, lowers the trajectory, increases distances, creates backspin, and produces an accurate shot if well aligned and the club is returned squarely to the ball’s sweet spot. And that produces the seemingly effortless results of the men and women tour pros. The ball is, on average, positioned in the middle of the stance, but can be placed a bit forward for higher shots and back a bit for lower shots if wind or tree limbs are factors, for example.
Of course, shaft lean is more relevant to irons and hybrids than woods. Obviously with woods you’re wanting more overspin leading to more roll on fairways. So with the driver, the hands can be fairly even with the ball at impact as they were at address. With irons, the hands should be slightly ahead of the ball at impact. Same with hybrids since you’re mostly using them to approach greens. With fairway woods, the hands are even or slightly ahead of the ball, with the ball placed a bit back from the driver position.
Though not essential, I like to break my wrists fairly early in the backswing, ala Dustin Johnson. It helps keep the swing on plane right from the start. It also creates lag early in the swing. You just have to make sure you don’t release that lag too early in the downswing. Lag encourages power so you don’t want to leak any of that power before reaching the impact zone.
Lately, I’ve shortened my backswing considerably in order to keep my left arm straight to the top. It may sound counterintuitive but my distance is increasing as a result. With a straight left arm, I keep the measured one piece swing intact and consequently make better contact with the ball, producing more distance and accuracy with less effort. This accounts for many of the LPGA players whose swings seem so efficient and effortless, such as Lydia Ko, Inbee Park, and Jin Young Ko.
So like a creative chef whose kitchen is his or her experimental laboratory, head on out to the range or try to play a round alone, if possible, so you can try out some of these suggestions, while figuring out the pace and rhythm that fits your body and personality. Let me know how it works out and what you’ve cooked up!
He is one of the greatest golfers of all time (Bobby Jones being his only rival, I believe). He is proudly an African Asian American. He is lucky to be alive. And we are lucky to have seen his golf career first hand. He is now immortalized in the World Golf Hall of Fame, after experiencing the depths and the heights of being alive. He is, of course, Eldrick Tont “Tiger” Woods, or just Tiger, familiar to most of our almost 8 billion people on the planet.
Congratulations, Tiger. If you have another comeback up your sleeves, we are all eyes and ears!