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Composture Exercise

by Taylor Spalding

COMPOSTURE is a little coinage I use quite often when describing the setting up and positioning of the body at address. As noted previously, the coinage is a blend of the word "posture" and "composure." We should try to gain our COMPOSTURE while performing the WALK and the WAGGLE. If you are not familiar with these two terms, go back to the public web and go through "The Ten Actions."

I wanted to blend the two words because in taking an address position, correct posture is not enough. Standing over the ball correctly may look good and we may have all the angles lined up correctly, but if we don't feel like we're occupying our own skin the setup descends into a state of dead structure. It is the attentiveness to the moment that lets us slip into our own skin and find composure in our address. We want to find a way to make the addressing of the ball our very own movement and routine. We don't want to just copy so-and-so's because so-and-so happens to be a better player or a professional golfer.

Finding COMPOSTURE in the lower body is the subject to the action of WALKING. Finding COMPOSTURE in the upper body is subject to the action of WAGGLING. If you haven't done so yet, please read "A Piece on Walking" and "The Secret of the Waggle." These should give you a good idea of what I'm talking about.

The exercise that follows is to aid the golfer in upper body composturing. It can be performed to its greatest exaggeration on the practice tee and polished to a subtlety as one is about to take a stance over the ball during an actual round. I was fooling around with this technique while trying to figure out a way to describe the Spalding Grip.

The Technique

There's a pretty hilarious film out there starring Jim Carey called "When Nature Calls." It's part of the Ace Ventura--Pet Detective series. If you've seen the movie, you may get more out of this exercise than someone who hasn't. If you haven't seen the movie, it's worth a rent. Jim Carey is probably one of the greatest physical comediens of our time. He's right on the edge of being a contortionist and the scene I'm about to describe bears that out.

We pick up the story as Ace Ventura is walking through an African jungle while investigating the mysterious disappearance of a sacred bat. Suddenly we see a poisonous blow dart hit Ace in the side of the neck. Ace starts running in hopes of making an escape. As soon as he begins to feel the mild paralyzing effect of the poison from the dart another dart hits him in the back. Then a third dart lands. The poison is really kicking in and Ace seems to be completely paralyzed from the waist up. Not knowing which way to go, he stops and swivels to the right. His arms, rubber-like from the elbows down, swing wildly. He spins left and the rubber arms swing numbly to the left. He then stumbles to the base of a tree whereupon four more darts land. Overcome by poison, he passes out.

I keep going over the scene wondering if Carey used some kind of rubber prosthesis to make his arms do what they did. Knowing his capabilities, I'm inclined to believe he did not.

The following exercise employs the technique that Carey used in that scene. So if you're having a hard time picturing what I'm trying to describe, watch that scene from the movie. It's way over the top but pure in its form.

The Exercise

Get into a relaxed stance with your arms at your side.

Take a golf club, set it upright in front of you, and rest the handle of the club against your waist.

Now jab each elbow into the rib cage. Try to get a good deal of pressure along the backside of the arms from the armpits to the elbows.

Now simply let all tension out of the arms from the elbow down. Maintain the high pressure from the elbows up and let the rest just dangle. I know this looks odd,  but amuse yourself for a minute.

OK, without releasing the pressure in the upper arms lean over and take hold of the golf club. No cheating! Normally you would release the pressure in the armpits to move the arms down to the club. If you do this exercise correctly, you will literally have to bend forward at the waist to get to the club. Notice that you can pick up the club with virtually no tension in the forearms.

At this point you want to move into a conventional golf grip (whichever you prefer: Vardon, Ten-finger, Interlock, Reverse Overlap) while maintaining this tension relationship that I have just described. The elbows should still be jabbed into the ribcage and the forearms should be rubber-like.

OK, pay attention. Here comes the important part.

Keep bending over at the waist until you ground the club head. At this point you can begin to slowly release the tension in the upper arms.

What I'm about to say here applies to the right-handed golfer swinging the club from right to left on the downswing. Since the right hand, which I like to call the Vital Metacenter, is closest to the club head, the releasing of the upper arm tension will allow the right armpit to "disengage" before the left armpit has a chance to. This is exactly what you want. Think of it this way. As you begin to release the upper arm tension, allow the tension of the right upper arm to move toward the right forefinger and the pad of the right forefinger. See image. You will want to feel as though you're making a ring around the club with the right thumb and forefinger with the pad below the right forefinger pressing squarely against the back of the shaft. Notice I didn't say "move all that tension into the right hand to make a death grip." As for the left arm, do not allow the tension to move down toward the left hand whatsoever. Release the tension generally but maintain a localized firmness where the backside of the upper left arm (left tricep extensors) meets the posterior (back) portion of the left armpit. The simple act of grasping the club is all the tension you need in the left hand.

There! The upper body should now be in the proper COMPOSTURE. This may feel a bit awkward, I know. But we must realize that we have been conditioned to believe that the left hand needs to be firm, firm, firm. This leads to left hand tension and ultimately left forearm tension. How many ripped, rubbed, and torn golf gloves have you thrown out in your time on the links? Even Henry Vardon himself wrote over one hundred years ago that the right hand should be a bit firmer than the left. He even made note that he could not understand why the rumor of tight left hand was being spread by teachers of the game. It's amazing to me that more than a hundred years have passed and, with the exception of the overlapping style of grip, Vardon is still being ignored. For those interested, check out "The Complete Golfer."

It is left forearm and left hand tension that really destroys the connection of the left arm to the torso. Remember: Tension destroys True Gravity. Think of your left arm as you would a sword. The thick handle is like the upper arm. As we move down, the blade gets thinner and sharper. The point of the blade is your pinky and ring finger. There is just enough tension in these two fingers to hold the club with dexterity. But it's a thin and sinewy tension. It is not a broad tension distributed evenly throughout the "dumb" non-dominant arm. There should be no tension in the index finger and middle finger of the left hand. Tension in these fingers ignites the pincsor activity. This action will increase tension in the anterior portion (front) of the left armpit and encourages one to lose connection with the torso.

The result of this exercise should be something I call the "Equalized Pinch." The delicate firmness of the right hand   should gain symmetry with the delicate firmness of the rear left armpit pinch. When these two points are then referenced to the True Center we have completed the three components of the Spalding Triangle. At the end of this exercise the upper body should be properly compostured and ready to commence with WAGGLING.

See also The Spalding Grip, coming soon!


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