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Every year around this time all of us up here in the north start to get that nagging itch to tip it up and play some golf. We want to play but mother nature is just not quite ready to let us have a go out there. If you can't play, the next best thing you can do is prep to play. To me, prepping for the season is mainly about conditioning and for my kind of swing action 90% of the conditioning I focus on is for the hands wrists and forearms and the legs.
I sat down last night and started to realize that many of the best things that I did for my golf game were done not to improve my golf but rather to improve my slap shot as a kid playing hockey. I turns out that in both sports we rely on very similar muscles to play with both power and control. The second thing that helped me was manual labor which I did every summer during my four years of university. I swung shovels, axes, hammers, asphalt rakes and ran all kinds of heavy equipment like jack hammers and tillers. My hands, wrists and forearms became my most helpful friends on the driving range and on the golf course. We have touched on this a lot here in The Dirt. Overconditioning the hands was part of Henry Cotton's prescription for great golf and it is certainly also one of mine.
In my view of the swing the hands are not about adding power, but about containing it and directing it. What we take hold of we must have control of!! When I am in Houston Mr. Burke is often on me to "stay out of the swing" and "don't energize that club with the hands". What he is getting on about is like Hogan's view of the grip as a transformer in 5 Lessons. The hands transform the energy that is getting sent their way by the action of the body into something useful at the bottom of the swing but the hands are not the motivator.
If I were to contrast the predominant differences between the hickory era and the advent of steel it would be that the hickory era was about soft responsive hands and the ability to time a soft and torque prone shaft. The advent of steel allowed for a different approach. When I worked on my game a lot way back when, John White encouraged me to experiment with a little firmer grip pressure to keep better control of the the club at the top of the swing and in transition. Around the same time I was reading Power Golf by Ben Hogan.
On page 58 of my copy Hogan says of himself and his peers in the highest echelon of the game "We now grip our clubs more firmly than they have ever been gripped. By using a firmer grip we are able to hit with greater authority and at the same time maintain complete control of the clubhead."
George Knudson said "The sole purpose of the hands is to hold onto the golf club." He meant that the hands were passive. To be passive and useful they must be strong enough to withstand what the motion of the body sends their way.
I was once asked what the ultimate training aid would be. My answer was "A firm flexed, flat lie, forged 7 iron and a tandem load of golf balls." Empty that tandem load and you will not only likely have a fine golf swing but you will also likely have developed fists of steel in the process. Since most of us can't spend all of our time beating balls I thought I would resurrect some of the exercises that I used to do when I once had the kind of hand strength that I dream of acquiring once again.
Since it is my desire to make sure that one need not break the bank in order to do these conditioning exercises I will be showing you how to either use items you likely already have in your garage or can pick up at a garage sale or I will be showing you how to make the equipment I will be using out of things you likely already have on hand.
The photo at the top of this article includes some of the items that I will be using over the upcoming weeks.
I think that this is going to be fun.
Hit 'em straight,