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THE SECRET TO SUCCESS IN GOLF IS: THERE IS NO SECRET

QUESTION: I read that you and a golf pro have written a new golf book. I am an avid golfer and would like to know the "secret" of golf. Would you address this question in your column?

ANSWER: I have written a new golf book called "Golf: Your Turn for Success" (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 1992) with co-author John Geertsen, a class A PGA professional.From my experience writing this book I can answer your question using the statement I heard at a golf clinic: "The secret of golf is that there is no secret." However, there are some basic principles that help make the swing more consistent. Today, I'll discuss the setup, the most important factor in a good swing.

- Grip. With a proper grip, the hands should face each other, and the V's formed by the thumb and forefinger should point between your neck and shoulder on the right side (for right-handed golfers). The club is held near the base of the fingers in the left hand and the fleshy pad above the little finger should be on top of the grip. The right hand grip is mostly a finger grip with the little finger overlapping the left index finger. The pad in the palm above the right thumb should cover and squeeze lightly down on the left thumb as the grip is formed. Looking down at address, you should see two or three knuckles of the left hand and the top of the right thumb and index finger and the first joint of the right index finger should be straight.

- Stance. To be properly aligned, the entire body (shoulders, hips, knees and feet) should be parallel to a line passing through the ball to the target. To get the proper posture, bend forward from the hip joint keeping the back straight. Then, simply bend your knees slightly. With good posture, the rear end sticks out behind to counterbalance the weight of the upper body, which is bent forward about 30 degrees. The arms should hang loosely, straight down from your shoulders and the weight should be slightly toward the heels.

- Addressing the ball. John Geertsen teaches students to position the ball at the center of the stance for shorter clubs and to move the ball forward with longer clubs. This allows the shorter irons to be hit with a slightly downward blow and the longer clubs to be traveling either level or slightly upward without a change in the swing. He also suggests using a constant hand position for every club - just inside the left thigh. This means that shorter clubs lean forward slightly (toward the target) because the ball is played near the center of the stance. With a driver, the club shaft is almost vertical, because the ball is played between the heel and toe of the left foot and the hands are still just inside the left thigh.

One of the questions beginners ask most often is how far the hands should be from the body at address. The general guideline is that the left arm should hang below the left shoulder, and the tilt of the back will determine how far the hand is from the leg. If you tilt too much, the hand will hang too far away; if you stand too upright, the hand will hang against the leg. Therefore, adjust your body tilt to allow the hand to hang freely, about one hand width from the leg for shorter clubs and about two hand widths away with longer clubs.

Next week I will discuss some ideas about the swing.