The Model Swing is Dead

The Model Swing is Dead

Don’t chicken wing

Make sure your grip is perfect

Keep that left foot planted and secure

Keep that left arm straight at the top

Make sure it’s straight at impact

Jordan Spieth Swing

 Jordan Spieth – career best 61 and 2 majors this year

Swing Dogma

We used to think the Sun revolved around the Earth.

Sure, why wouldn’t we – there was reasonable enough evidence for it; all the ‘experts’ at the time agreed, and no one questioned it. However, just because something sounds logical and there is ‘evidence’ (usually a correlation) doesn’t make it right. I wrote in depth about Correlation and Causation fallacies HERE.

What about golf swing technique; have you ever actually questioned any of it? There are enough dogmatic statements in golf about how you ‘must’ do (x) or ‘should’ do (Y) to write about 15,000 books on the topic (serious-collector.com).

Ever notice how those ‘musts’ are all different, depending on what book you read? Ever wonder why?

That’s why I set out to find out what the common denominators of all the 15,000 books are. The undeniable truths which all methods agree upon – whether they know it or not.

 

More than one way to skin a cat

Some things we used to deem mandatory for the swing are not as much fundamentals as they are variables which can be different for the individual.

Such as the top of the backswing position – look at all the variations on tour – and this is in spite of every tour player being exposed to what is deemed the ‘correct position’. Ask yourself, how could a tour pro that has access to the best instruction and spends hours each day on the range not get a ‘correct’ top of the swing?

 Just look at the wide swing style variations on tour

Maybe it is not as important as you thought – maybe function presides over what the textbooks have deemed textbook. Have you ever even asked where the idea of a textbook swing came from? Yeah, most people never question things and just get spoon-fed info – “Here, this is the right thing to do”.  “Okay, I’ll do that”.

 

Pretty deadly

Most textbook swing technique ideas stem from a Human’s love of symmetry – we are naturally attracted to it. But too much symmetry and ‘pretty lines’ can actually be destructive for the golf swing.

But what if clean lines and symmetry were actually harmful to the swing?

Symmetrical faces tend to be perceived as more attractive

 But, sometimes pretty can be deadly, like this poisonous flower

Take, for example, swing plane. Every golfer and their cat has heard about the idea of being ‘on plane’. Usually, this is accompanied by ideas that the hands and the clubhead should swing down together in one clean line.

 Ben Hogan didn’t actually swing his hands and club down on the same plane

This would make sense – as it looks pretty and unified (so we are naturally attracted to it). But re read the title of this paragraph.

The latest research in biomechanics shows us that, not only does this not happen in good golfers, but it can actually be detrimental to try and swing in this pretty and clean-lined way.

Nesbit (2005), demonstrated that hand plane (path the hands take) and clubhead plane (path the clubhead takes) are not only constantly changing throughout the swing, but they are different to each other by 9-12 degrees!

Kwon and Como (2012) looked at the motion planes (shoulders, arms, clubhead etc) and found the following;

The shoulder/arm points moved on vastly different Motion Planes and exhibited large deviations from the clubhead plane

 The golf swing actually has more planes than British Airways – (Picture from Dr Kwon – Kwon3D)

To top it off, Mackenzie (2012) found that having the clubhead and hands on the same plane coming down would cause considerable disadvantage when it came to clubhead squaring, speed creation, and even some pretty complex and cool mechanics through impact which relate to consistency.

Pretty lines are can actually be harmful!

 

But you still have to skin the cat

That is not to say the books you have read are ‘wrong’.

Just because I say that there is no model golf swing doesn’t mean you should throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t go burning your library of golf books and swing videos simply because they may be a little too dogmatic in suggestions.

There are still functional ranges of acceptable movement – but those ranges are likely to be much wider than what you think. And there is room for a large amount of individual variance within those ‘acceptable’ ranges.

Put simply, the model swing is DEAD, but you still have to swing it.

 

And practice?

What about practice too? What if everything you thought was right about practice was, in fact, wrong? What if the mantra that I hear a lot;

Perfect practice makes perfect

may actually be severely slowing down your success, or even making you worse? Have you ever questioned it? Are you really getting better at this game as quickly as you feel you should be? Have you even halted in your progression, or are starting to go backwards?

With books like “The Talent Code” and others supporting the message that all you have to do is 10,000 hours of practice and you will be at an elite level, it would be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of “perfect practice makes perfect”.

But I can tell you right here, 10,000 hours does not maketh the expert.

You could practice for 10,000 hours or more and never see the improvement you expect; because it’s not just about the amount of time/hard work/blood, sweat and tears you put in. And it’s not about how ‘perfect’ your practice is either – often the converse.

  • You have to practice effectively.
  • You have to use different modes of practice (differential, variability, calibration, performance, transference – as well as blocked, random, broken etc).
  • You have to train for function, not solely for form
  • You have to use the right parts of your brain when training
  • Mistakes are highly useful in training, and we can use them to supercharge our path to success

I discuss all of these ideas and more in my book “The Practice Manual”, which you can get from amazon by clicking the link at the bottom of this post.

The swing of the future

Golf swings of the future will not be based around ‘models’. There will still be certain ‘musts’ to play at the highest level, but those things will vary largely upon the individual and the whole host of components they bring to the table, such as

  • Genetic variations
  • Level of coordination
  • Current intentions (such as strike concepts)
  • Level of development
  • Physical literacy/restrictions

Swing instruction will also be more a case of adding certain elements to make a swing more functional, rather than completely re-building to make it look pretty.

Actually, the swing of the future is already here, and always has been. Just look on tour to see all the many variations and combinations of swing methods used to create success.

While there will always be pretty looking and mechanical swings on tour (such as Adam Scott), there will always be a bunch of guys winning on tour looking like they are making a Zorro sign in their backswing.

Tiger Woods Perfect swing

The swing that Tiger Woods made in this commercial was not the one he used to win his 14 majors

 

Bottom line

  • The idea of a model swing is dead

  • Some things which we thought were ‘musts’ were irrelevant

  • Some things which we thought were ‘musts’ were harmful

  • Some things we thought were ‘faults’ actually serve us a purpose – as spieth demonstrates

  • Dogmatic positions will be replaced with options to create function

  • The golf swing will become more individualized to the player

  • An ideal golf swing is more of a functional mess than it is clean lines and perfectly matching geometry.

  • Effective practice in the future will not be a case of beating millions of balls, relying on sheer quantity to improve. But using highly effective training modes, we will be more efficient with our time.

  • We will spend less time “practicing perfectly” and more time using methods which have been demonstrated to cause more lasting skill development.


 

Rather than copy a model swing, find out the common fundamentals that all golf professionals share which help them to strike the ball more consistent, straighter and longer. Click The Strike Plan picture below for more information.

Strike plan enter

References

SASHO J. MACKENZIE (2012). Club position relative to the golfer’s swing plane meaningfully affects swing dynamics. Sports Biomechanics 2012, iFirst article, 1–16

Kwon YH1, Como CS, Singhal K, Lee S, Han KH. (2012). Assessment of planarity of the golf swing based on the functional swing plane of the clubhead and motion planes of the body points. Sports Biomech.;11(2):127-48.

Steven M. Nesbit (2005).  A THREE DIMENSIONAL KINEMATIC AND KINETIC STUDY OF THE GOLF SWING. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 4, 499-51.

15 Comments

  • John Parks

    Totally agree. While teaching at Golf Academy of America I have measured many students alignment, paying close attention to hip and shoulder alignment.
    Many students placed their feet, COP, according to the model setup. When we measured the hips and shoulders we discovered poor alignment. COP of the feet needs to meet COM for the indivdual’s balance

  • Steve Ruis

    Actually the idea of a model swing is not bad. Beginners need some goal to strive for and something to compare their own swing with. Where we go wrong is when we become dogmatic about “right” and “wrong” ways to do things. Basically, there is a training cost when one deviates from a close to optimal swing (optimal for the individual, taking into consideration physical attributes) to one farther away. Adopting a suboptimal swing element doesn’t make it bad, just harder to learn.

    Of course, I define an optimal process is one that is effective and easier to learn, so there is some self-referential aspect to this statement. Since no one, absolutely no one, swings exactly the way books claim we should is a big clue. The model swing is a point of departure, a starting place from which one builds one’s own swing.

  • Jake McCullough

    Love the article, but I didn’t get the information out of the Talent Code that you did in regards to the 10,000 hour rule. I thought the book illustrated how “hot beds of talent” are more of a product in “how” they practice and other factors, not simply how much. Really enjoyed your book and thanks for all of your postings.

  • Dave R

    Adam,
    Excellent commentary and insights! I have both, The Practice Manual, & The Strike Plan. I have “freed-up” my swing and now swing my swing…not model, or picture perfect, but effective, efficient, and functional!

    Thanks
    Dave

  • Johann Holm

    Brilliant summary! I’ve been as student of the swing for over 30 years (being an engineer and golf fanatic, I’ve spent many many years studying and trying different swings). For me, it boils down to confidence in what the student feels when a pure strike is made. Sure, there are broken swings that can be adjusted, but one tends to gravitate towards the swing that makes you feel “at home”. There are also brilliant drill routines to adjust and vest the basics such as solid posture, rotation, weight transfer, acceleration through impact etc, but in the end, all swings should be different. Many good swings have suffered from incorrect coaching. What comes to mind are lessons that focus on trunk rotation, dominant leg bend in backswing, right hand vs left hand, head position (especially in downswing and impact), varying shoulder rotation, overemphasized delay in release, and so on. In then end, I’ve found good rhythm to be the most important. Nothing as beautiful as sweet tempo and rhythm, we just have to ask Jim Furyk (possibly the only man I am aware of that’s made a “broken” swing look very good). All in all, I am 100% behind you on this one – well presented.

    • admin

      Thank you Johann. There is something interesting about rhythm for sure. Currently working with a guy on how it can potentially affect stability and biological consistency.

  • Johann Holm

    I would very much like to know more about your findings. Good rhythm will most definitely support the correct muscle firing sequences and enhance consistency. The interesting part would be to understand the link between mind and rythm as I think it is the underlying key to good golf.

    • admin

      I’m currently working with a guy who is looking at how balance and rhythm help biological consistency. I definitely think there is something to rhythms in both the motion and in routines. They seem to help get our mind in a more “flow” state

  • Fred Closs

    Yes, we all do swing a bit differently; however a “model swing” gives us the template to mold our swing to the way our body operates. It provides us with information as to what positions in the swing give us maximum leverage on the club. We can then use that information put ouerselves in position such that we can use our athletic ability to apply the club to the ball sqauarely with maximum speed.

    Without a plan, we are doomed to fail and the “model swing” is just that, a model, a protoype, to start the process with.

  • JC

    Played competitively since I was 12; now 71. As teenager, played golf the way i played all sports — instinctively. When I began serious post college amateur ‘career’ became a golf swing theorist and the people I took lessons from reflected that, from Ben Doyle to 30 yrs later, MORAD. I spent a life focusing on how to correct deviations from the ideal; golf score was thought to be function of that correction — like learning how to do math problems correctly. Scores were obviously good, but always in danger. And golf — other than the social aspect — ceased being fun. I had encyclopedic knowledge (as an academic) of golf from a number of perspectives — from bio mechanics, to physics, to psychology (just more norms to apply to determine all the ways in which i could fall short). This continued unabated to varying degrees for 55+ years. Not good.
    It all changed this year and in a way that had nothing to do with ‘golf swing.’ While visiting my children in LA, I arranged to spend four hours with Dr. David Wright whose area of expertise is structural/core balance. Diagnosis consisted in learning a few things about my body: which area of the core I recruit primarily in all sports I play; what stance width puts me in structural balance; finding the right grip for my hand size; how to aim to target, and find my place at the side of the ball. Then I just swing the club with virtually no further thoughts. I’m skipping a couple of steps. Havent had a swing thought since. I am in balance and recruiting my dominant core region efficiently; and not only am I playing well, I am focusing on course management and having fun. In addition,; I learned exercises for creating structural balance in all areas of my core. Fact is, the most basic problem with model is that it must presuppose facts about the balance and structure of our body that are in fact not uniform. I spent the last ten years playing rotation heavy golf swing as if I were a lower core player like Dustin Johnson; and others no doubt try to emulate the jump stall upper body moves of a Lexi Thompson. The key to playing golf well, like playing or doing anything well depends first and foremost on knowing relevant facts about yourself; and not just the obvious kind, e.g. that you are not Tiger Woods. That would be as helpful to a golfer as it is to a physicist that she is no Einstein or to a philosopher that he is no Kant or Wittgenstein. The question is, well, who are you; where do your skills lay and how can you best develop them and realize them in your life.

  • Mike

    RE: One Plane Swing

    Wasn’t there a guy named Moe Norman, who used a single plane swing, and was a pretty good ball striker?

    • admin

      1. Yes – he was also notoriously a short hitter. Bryson DeChambeau is the most one-plane on tour currently. While he is a World class player, his stats are not significantly different to any other pro (65% greens in regulation etc).
      2. although his method was classified as one-plane, if you looked at it in 3D is would have been less one- plane than you would imagine
      3. One of the most consistently brilliant players of all time, Jim Furyk, was on the opposite end of that spectrum (he has more swing planes in his backswing than the rest of the tour combined). The point of the article (and this last point) is not that Furyk’s way is better – but just that we have traditionally looked at the wrong things in the golf swing in our search for performance increases. There are many ways to do “it” – we should focus more on improving “it”.

      Hope that makes sense.

  • Joel Sheffield

    I am70 and have followed some of the paths he has described but without being an academic. I recently retired and one of my main goals was to finally learn how I could best strike the ball and enjoy golf. I failed that goal in the first year of retirement and was on the verge of quitting until I discovered this protocol for practicing. I have not mastered the golf swing but I finally feel like my practice is productive and that there is light up ahead. I really appreciate your instruction.
    And wish I had been exposed to it many years ago.

    • admin

      Thanks, Joel. I’m glad you see the light. Learning golf can be frustrating when 99% of what is published in magazines and other books has little relevance to the result of the shot. That’s why I always focused on the main undeniable truths of the game (impact laws) combined with best approaches for learning to improve those quickly.

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