I wrote an article on this analogy decades ago that deserves an update. It’s about how a golf ball flys off the face of the club just as the club shaft diverges on a plane far left of the ball in flight (right handed golfer). I was mesmerized by the amazing view the video camera showed down the target line just after impact.
I must have watched it a million times, especially with my friend Jim Simons as we watched his golf swing from down the target line the in the late 1970’s, and thereafter. I also took lots of video from the 45 degree angle out in front of other tour players that shows this idea perfectly.
A clear example of “the scissor effect” was my beginning research with 4 time PGA tour winner Jim Simons. Jim had been my first year roommate and best friend at the University of Houston. We played together all the time at Houston and continued to play tons of amateur events, US Am practice rounds, and US Open practice rounds. Jim and I would discuss everything about the golf swing. I had perfect down the line video of Simons that I watched over and over comparing it to all the other great professional golfers. I saw the club shaft swinging immediately up the plane on the forward swing while the golf ball ripped out on the target line. It took a very diverse takeoff from where the club shaft went and obviously to the orbit of the club head. I had the distinct feeling it was very much like “opening a pair of scissors”. The club opens like a scissors or swings to the left (for the right handed golfer) and the ball goes straight down the line. The scissors open on one end. It was my study of Jim Simons that really opened my eyes to something I had not understood.
THE RIGHT ARM CROSS:
The right arm cross is something I’ve also taught for decades because of the scissors observations. I’ve used a “red dot” placed strategically in my indoor SuperStation bay which I first started using at Sunningdale CC in New York (my first head pro job). Later I would do the same at following head pro positions at Quaker Ridge, Tamarisk, and Sleepy Hollow before my last move to Doral in Miami, Florida. This dot is placed so my students can specifically see the leftward plane of the shaft early after impact. Going through the ball I originally watched how Jim Simons crossed his chest with the right arm, which with combined with the club shaft formed the opening of the scissors. So a great teaching idea is that you want that right arm in tight and crossing the torso. It’s across the body and under the shoulder plane for sure. It’s definitely a different feeling for the golfer trying for either the high finish or trying to swing the club too far down the target line.
One poor idea for most golfers, but not all, is trying for the ” high finish” or secondly the concept of driving the right arm down the target line. Both are feels that can work in the short term for many high handicap golfers or other golfers who collapse, or chicken wing the lead arm at impact. Teachers call it “short arming the shot”. But in high level golf the right arm should work on a plane and point at my red dot. I’ve taught this idea to major champions on both tours, and many tour other winners.
THE LEFT SIDE DRILL:
This is a drill I’ve used to position the golfer into a powerful takeaway position that allows the full release of the right side at and past impact. This article is specific to the scissor effect at impact, but I’ve found it highly useful to set up synchronizing this action by teaching left side control, as well.
Left arm only drill (A drill to get into a powerful backswing position that will help you move powerfully into and through impact. It will give you the opportunity to effectively use the scissors motion).
1. Take the club back to the L position, but make sure you coil your torso. It’s definitely not taking the club back with just your forward arm! Quite to the contrary, it’s coiling the chest and torso early. The L position is defined by the forward arm swinging to 1/2 way back, or parallel to the ground. (Note that the left arm will be slightly inside the targetline at this step. The wrists set the club at a “90 degree angle to the arm”. It’s a full wrist set. You will quickly find that keeping the arm straight is extremely difficult if you don’t coil with the swing. Keep the arm and hands close to the torso (the body). Keep the arm straight, and set the wrists. When you set the wrists make sure to set them properly. You must not vertically cock the left wrist (the wrist on top of the grip….not vertically. That puts the clubface wide open. You must not do this! Shoot for a left wrist that is very close to flat. That means the right wrist (the lower wrist) must be set mostly horizontally. The effect of this somewhat awkward wrist set is a square clubface which is highly desirable. The club shaft will point skyward, neither straight up, nor straight flat to the ground. I’d much rather is be more vertical. The flat, horizontal backswing is a death move! Make no mistake, the wide open clubface at this position is also a golf death move! Halfway between vertical and horizontal is 45 degrees. That’s basically “the slot” you want in the downswing so this drill is tremendous for finding your slot. That said no tour players swing up and down 1 plane. That’s just a fallacy. It’s also why most tour players are slightly vertical on the backswing and then allow the club to fall into the slot on the downswing. A very natural action of the shaft in a great golf swing. Yet doing this drill correctly will do wonders for discovering coil, left arm extension, and club face control. Done well you can move to the second part of the left arm only drill (Part 2)
2. Now comes one of the key moves in golf. Since you’ve done the first part of the drill correctly now initiate the forward move with a lateral move of the hips. Do not turn the hips. This will immediately show you an important part of the swing. The arms respond. If they are not tense, they will fall. If they are tense the golfer will use the arms and hands independently and throw the club off plane, either over the plane or under the plane. Mostly over the plane.
3. Next unwind the lead hip and notice how the arms fall outward toward the ball. Be sure to keep that lead arm into the chest and not out off the body. This is a good players mistake. The lead arm pulls the club independently and the result is a club that falls behind this player. This is what we call “stuck from the inside”. This results in and under the plane attack and an inside out strike. We lose the scissor effect. The club head pushes out too far at the target. There is too much shaft lean toward the target and shots can be missed “two ways”. A nightmare for the professional golfer. If done correctly the turn of the left hip moves weight away from the arms and club traveling outward toward the ball and is a counter balancing effect. This effectively allows the golfer to stay in balance and not have everything fall forward toward the toes.
PULL THE CHAIN OUT OF WALL:
Note: this is exactly what I focused on with Tom Kite when I began working with him full time in 1992. We started in January at La Costa. I came up with all kinds of drills to stop this same problem Tom was having. One was to hit balls against a board faced down the target line. Another was to start the ball left of his target line. We did this all the time, including at my Florida home where Tom hit a ball through the net in my in-room video studio and buried it in my wall. The ball actually stuck in the wall behind the net. I left it there until the day I sold the house. Tom Kite won the US Open that year at Pebble Beach.
The action of the club and shaft through the impact zone has always been a focal point of my teaching and in my talks around the world. It lead me to write an editorial in PGA magazine in 1989 about the incorrect way the PGA had been teaching ball flight laws. It was not an easy sell because at that time path was considered the king of starting direction and also that there were 9 possible ball flights based on that assumption. I knew it was wrong back then, but it has really taken Trackman to convince teachers and golfers alike that club face is king.
I had one last story on the scissors and ball flight that involved the great Davis Love and an opposite view. It also happened in 1992. Davis would often practice down at my side of the range during the Doral PGA tour event. He would be down there usually with Faxon and Kite. One day I asked Davis which way the ball started and why? I asked this question because I knew Davis would likely answer it wrong. He said the ball started on swing path. I then hit some small shots with the club first closed and then open showing clearly that the ball started on the angle of the face when hit easily. He just smiled, shook his head, and said he didn’t know that.
The thing to note here is that great players have been told things that might not be true, yet they instinctively do the correct motion anyway. Lots of great players “think path”. So if you have that natural scissor effect it doesn’t matter what your thinking. No, instead it’s what your doing!! Davis Love is a great player and great players often think much less than many teachers know. They can just hit a golf ball. They are extremely gifted. They have a feel for the game.
If something doesn’t need to be fixed, don’t fix it.