When you compare an average golfer (in this case, we'll called him JOE) to a Tour player (let's call him PRO), you notice big differences in each golf swing. For example, the PRO can achieve certain swing positions because he's more flexible and has stronger golf muscles than JOE. In fact, physical limitations often prevent JOE from reaching the same positions as the PRO, making it critical for him to make certain adjustments to his technique in order to still strike the ball solidly without hurting himself.
What I'm saying is that if you're an average recreational player, trying to copy the exact moves of a Tour player is going to make you worse. But that doesn't mean, by any stretch, that you can't have a sound swing and be a good ballstriker and scorer._Ê
In the following pages, I'll describe specifically where the PRO's and JOE's respective techniques should diverge and what adjustments you should make to various parts of your swing in order to maximize your potential._Ê
PROs Tend To Be Neutral At Address; JOEs Can't Be JOE needs to start building an inside path to the ball at setup. His right shoulder should be lower than the left and pulled back to produce a slightly closed alignment in relationship to his feet. This tilts his upper body away from the target, making it easier to turn properly and avoid the dreaded reverse pivot. Flaring both feet slightly makes it easier to rotate.
The PRO wants to restrict early rotation of his body and an excessively inside attack. His feet are more perpendicular to the target line, with his body more stacked and neutral. The Difference In The Backswing Is All About The Pivot In order for JOE to achieve enough shoulder turn, his hips have to participate from the beginning. The adjustments to the address position help, but free-turning hips are the key to JOE getting to the top properly. The sharper turn of his hips negates any lateral movement away from the target with his lower body. When combined with the slight tilt at address, his upper body moves to the right as it rotates, making it much easier to attack the ball from the inside.
The PRO limits the rotation of his lower body at address and continues to do so by moving laterally during the takeaway. This slows down the turn of his hips, making it easier to swing the club up in front of his body.
The PRO's pivot keeps his shoulders steeper going back, preventing the club from swinging around his body excessively during the swing. It also promotes a more dynamic change of direction and greater power._Ê JOE His hips and shoulders work together to move the club away from the ball. The proper downswing path requires the full participation of the hips going back. His right leg begins to straighten, helping his hips and shoulders create enough turn. A lack of flexibility mandates this simple adjustment. His right hip has traveled much farther from the ball than the PRO's. This helps create the proper turn while eliminating any chance of a reverse pivot. PRO His hips shift slightly away from the target with the upper body. This slows down the rotation of his body and helps the club work up, on-plane. His hip rotation is much slower than JOE's. This makes his shoulder turn steeper, as evidenced by his right arm's position being higher than his left. A great deal of torque has been produced by limiting his hip rotation. Only the PRO's flexibility and strength make this a functional backswing.
Even players who have the proper mechanics can be hampered by a significant lack of flexibility. This is a revealing set of pictures. Here, JOE allows his hips to turn freely going back, facilitating the proper position at the top of his backswing. While the lower body looks different than that of Charles Howell the top is extremely similar.
The NO picture is a perfect example of what happens when you limit hip rotation without enough flexibility to make it work. While the right leg has maintained its flex like Howell's, the club is out of position at the top because his shoulder turn has been restricted too much.
The purpose of the backswing is to set up a powerful, on-plane approach into impact. This can happen with both the more restricted backswing of the PRO and the free-turning move of JOE. Either way, both golfers shouldn't try to make a backswing pivot that's beyond his flexibility and strength.
JOE Limited flexibility_Ê makes it a necessity to straighten his right leg going back. While this reduces torque, it allows his club to be in a perfect position._Ê
NO His hips have been restricted like the PRO's, but a lack of flexibility makes his club laid off at the top. His pivot doesn't match the player's physique._Ê
PRO_Ê This is interesting —though both Howell and Brady are mechanically sound in their techniques, Brady can't reach this position at the top of the swing due to his different body build and physical condition speed. _Ê_Ê
Howell's level of flexibility and strength allow him to torque his upper body against a restricted lower body. This is a huge key to his clubhead speed.
Howell's knees remain flexed and pointed at the target line. This reduces hip turn and serves to keep his lower body stacked and in-line._Ê_Ê
Charles Howell III is a perfect example of how Tour players, especially the younger ones, produce amazing power with slight frames—it's all about good tension, or torque. Professional golf is played by more athletic players than ever before. The PRO works extremely hard off the course on his fitness, specifically core strength and flexibility. As a result, he can wind up his upper body against his hips, while the JOE has to wind up his entire body against the ground. The benefit to the PRO is an increase in control with a reduced number of moving parts, leading to a buildup in power like that of a stretched rubber band. This good tension isn't from being overly stiff, but from being extremely athletic and dynamic.
JOE His downswing should start with a slight lateral shift. This helps keep his hips and shoulders back and the club on the proper path, without causing injury.
PRO His dynamic transition from backswing to downswing comes from the ground up. His club is dragged down by the body, storing energy that can be applied directly to the golf ball._Ê
Holding the angle has nothing to do with trying to keep the wrists cocked. Creating lag has more to do with the legs than with the arms._Ê_Ê_Ê_Ê
A Dynamic Change In Direction Isn't For Everyone
The biggest difference between the PRO and the JOE downswing is in the sequence of motion. The torque produced by the PRO on the backswing can now be utilized during the attack at the ball. The PRO moves dynamically, starting his lower body toward the target before his backswing has finished. This produces a great deal of lag and the potential for tremendous clubhead speed.
JOE starts his downswing with his lower body as well, but it isn't nearly as dynamic. The rubber band wasn't stretched as tight going back, and the decrease in tension produces less potential for speed. JOE can still be very powerful, but his limitation in flexibility and core strength requires a different approach. The power must be achieved while keeping the club on the proper path. A quick spin of his hips and shoulders will force the club on a steep, outside path. Starting the downswing with a smooth, lateral motion helps his club stay more to the inside coming down, which is a key to JOE's success.
A good way to understand the PRO's technique is to think about it in comparison to a Major League pitcher's motion or a professional tennis player's service motion. When elite-level players from these sports deliver energy to the ball, whether it's through their arm or racquet, they use a motion that's very similar to cracking a whip. Energy is stored on the way back and then significantly increased when the body and arm or racquet starts moving in two different directions at once (the body turns toward the target, but the arm is still going away from it). This is exactly what pro golfers do, except with a golf club
JOE His upper body is leaning back away from the target at impact. This facilitates the proper path, but adds loft to the club and increases hand actionnot great but playable._Ê
PRO His chest is directly over the core and covering the ball. This maximizes compression and control of the ball. A position like this can cause injury if you're not in proper shape.
PROs are more stacked at impact; JOEs tend to lean away from the target.
The differences between the PRO and JOE during address, backswing and downswing have now taken full effect at impact. JOE's commitment to the proper swing path keeps his right side tilted from the start. While this produces the proper path, it tilts his upper body back slightly at impact. As a result, contact with an iron can lack some compression, but the benefits to his shot from the proper path make up for it.
The PRO's more centered action during the entire motion, with less tilt and less rotation, allows a more stacked impact position. His shoulders are directly over his hips and his knees are in a powerful and level alignment. This creates a more direct contact at impact that can be heard very clearly. Notice the straight line up from the PRO's left foot to his left shoulder. This is the definition of stacked and is a clear contrast from JOE's impact position.
Another critical element to the PRO's swing that comes from his stacked-at-impact position is outstanding balance. The PRO has his weight firmly on his left foot at impact, which allows him to leverage himself against the ground. The PRO's arms extend down and through the ball while his legs and body are moving upward as his left leg straightens. This not only creates a lot of dynamic power at impact, but also leads to a comfortable, balanced finish. This is why you rarely see a PRO stumble into the finish.
In comparison, JOE has to lean away from the target at impact and so has more weight on his right side, which can cause poor balance._Ê
Tiger's upper body acts like a cresting wave breaking over his core. There's no leaning back or tilting to the right, which would cause a lack of control._Ê
The key to Tiger's amazing ability to strike the ball consistently is his near-perfect technique through impact.
TIGER WOODS There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat
Tiger's swing is certainly one of the best in the history of the game. Though his style in these pictures taken last fall reflects much of what's commonly accepted among teachers in the game today, the real secret to Tiger's swing occurs at the moment of impact. In fact, throughout his professional career, Tiger has won major championships with three very different styles of golf swing. The one thing that hasn't changed is his dynamics at impact, namely his four-inch-in-front swing bottom that allows him to compress the ball fully, providing extremely consistent results. If you're interested in hitting the ball solidly, this is the area of the swing on which you should concentrate the most.
Good posture and balance at address allow freedom of the arms and body pivot to begin the work of the backswing._Ê
The most important move in the backswing is the start, as it creates the sequence for the loading of the club by the cocking or hinging of the left wrist_Ê and the motion of the arms and body all working together._Ê _Ê
The main purpose of the backswing is to load the club._Ê Tiger has a gradual and consistent load throughout_Ê his whole backswing, which puts him in position to create dynamic impact. _Ê
The top of the backswing completes the full loading of the club._Ê Tiger's style is very conventional with a quiet lower body, strong back and shoulder turn and on-plane clubshaft._Ê
Tiger begins the lagging of the club at the start of his_Ê down -swing. This lag he develops is the secret of golf, and he will sustain it through impact.
Here he's storing a ton of energy by creating club head lag. This gives him a tremendous amount of energy to impart to the ball at impact.
The full release and motion of the hips powers Tiger's down- swing through impact. This allows him to fully transfer all the energy he's built up to be delivered into the ball at the moment of truth: at impact.
Tiger's release of the hands and arms is delayed._Ê His sensation is that they release naturally due to centrifugal force. His entire downswing is initiated and powered through the lower body, which adds to his consistency.
Bobby Clampett, PGA Tour player and CBS commentator, is also the author of The Impact Zone with Andy Brumer. For more about Bobby Clampett and the Impact Zone, visit www.bobbyclampett.com and www.impactzonegolf.net.
JOE His right-side tilt at impact throws his arms out during the release. His hands are more active than the PRO's. This helps produce a slight draw, but can easily lead to inconsistency._Ê_Ê