No, I’m not taking about YOUR front 9 last week.
Perhaps you’ve seen the video going around of Cristobal Del Solar’s swing, after he just shot a 57.
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Well, actually, this isn’t the swing that scored the record-low round. His more recent swings, according to his instagram, look closer to this.
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I think this deserves a discussion, for many reasons.
Before We Start
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We look at how to fix
- toe shots
Swing Your Swing
The internet is going a bit wild at the moment with discussions of “swing your swing”.
While I rarely use this phrase, I often get lumped into the category of coaches who promote the concept. The reality is, I have a very balanced view of this phrase, and can see where it can help and hurt.
In fact, in our podcast (The Sweet Spot), we talked for over 3 hours on the topic. If you have a long car ride, you can check out the podcast on Apple here;
However, in Cristobal Del Solar’s case, he didn’t “swing his swing”. He changed it, and then shot a 57.
With That Said
The changes he made were significant. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest swing changes I’ve seen in the pro game. Quite impressive for him to be able to maintain/improve his level with such a great movement overhaul.
This certainly seems to go in favor of the “change your swing” camp. However, here are a few points to contemplate.
- I’m not sure how much he had to practice to make that change, but it seems as if it took a couple of years at pro-level practice amounts (which can be well over 40 hours a week). Manage your expectations when making your own swing changes.
- Do we have enough data? A round of 57 is incredible – but it’s also one round. What were his strokes gained before the swing change vs after, based on SEASON-LONG data?
- I’d also love to see launch monitor data and have a look at the standard deviations to see what (if anything) changed/improved to his impact/consistency of impact.
- Even improvements in things like strokes-gained data can be misleading. Approach shots can be better because you’re hitting it better, but also because you’re getting better at club selection, judging the course conditions better, course management and target selection etc.
Cristobal Del Solar did improve his world rankings during the swing change. He got to 912 in the world with the funky swing. Then had a little bit of a backward step 2020/21 where he dropped to 1744 by year end (maybe during the initial swing-change phase, which is a lesson in itself).
By the end of 2023, he was ranked 279 (as of time of writing – 259).
Now, the swing changes might be the reason (and I’d like to think they are a big contributor – I’m a golf coach so it’s in my best interests that they are). But it’s important to realize there may be many factors involved;
- simply playing on tour for longer – racking up more experience and points, doing the right things at the right time etc can improve ranking
- moving up through the ranks in the tours, going from mini tours to Korn Ferry etc – much easier to improve your ranking as you’re playing in more events with higher points available
- improvements in strategy, psychology (getting comfortable on tour, in bigger events/general tour life), short game, fitness etc.
Bottom line is, improvement in World Rankings is multifactorial. It’s easy (but myopic) to just say “his swing looks better, and that’s why he played better”.
He Was Already Good
An important pro swing-your-swing point is that, he was already pretty darn good with the old swing.
Deeply consider this.
Yes – that swing (that even the 25 handicappers are shaking their head at) won a couple of events and got him to be one of the best golfers in the world (top 0.00125%).
So, while you might be struggling to break 100/90/80 with that swing that looks nowhere near as horrendous, it’s important to ask “how on earth was HE able to reach such a good level with it”?
The answer is,
He is very skilled at delivering the club through the impact interval with great consistency and function.
Now, whether his “swing method” was holding him back, I’d want more data to make a firmer conclusion. It certainly seems that way, given just how funky his swing was, and his subsequent improvement in world rankings. However, as the confounding variables in the former part of this article allude to, things are not always as they seem.
Either way, I always encourage my players to work on both their skills of delivering the club through impact, as well as the “method” they use to achieve that. You need to understand how they both tie in together.
The bottom line is this – if you take a swing, even with some of the ugliest mechanics, and improve the SKILL level, you can achieve incredible results. This is why all of my programs include some level of skill-development.
If he was already good, why change?
Well, we all have this innate desire to get better. Motion changes are just one of several ways we can improve our scores.
I like my players to work towards the middle of the bell curve with their motions, but we only change something if we believe it will change
- an impact variable (such as face strike, or path)
- consistency of delivery
- reduction of injury/potential injury
From what I can gather, Cristobal Del Solar made his swing changes to help him produce his desired draw shot more often (1) – to which his swing changes make sense.
When making changes with players, I do it algorithmically. For example
IF you need more of X at impact, then add more of X movement
IF you need more of Y at impact, then add more of Y movement
Doing it this way means you’re changing the right things for the right reasons at the right time.
The Dark Side of Change
Most golf teachers are not going to talk about this, because it’s not in their best interests. But changing your swing can have some downsides.
I fully commend Cristobal Del Solar for his swing changes – it’s not an easy task and a very risky one at his level.
Changing a motion, particularly such a funky one can be tricky because you’re tinkering with something that already works well. Logic would say that “obviously” his new motion is going to perform better – but things don’t always work logically when dealing with motor systems and human beings.
The most repeatable motions are not always the prettiest ones, but the ones that have been repeated so many times (through practice) that they are classed as “ingrained” and “automatic” and can be done with very little conscious thought. Jim Furyk is a great example of this (backswing red, downswing yellow).
Even moving towards a clearly better motion can sometimes create “motor disruption”, and increase thought levels which can interfere with the body’s ability to coordinate the vast amount of moving parts to a precise degree. This could be one of the reasons for Cristobal’s min-slump in World Rankings during the swing change (I don’t know enough information on this to be sure).
We also have to remember that, for every ugly looking swing that cleans up the “look” and goes on and becomes a much better player, there are probably 10 or more who cleaned up the look and “lost it”. You just don’t hear those stories, because they’re now selling cars for a living, and not shooting 57s on Tour.
I’ve heard enough of those stories though.
There are also the other ends of the spectrum. The Nancy Lopez’s, Ray Floyds, Jim Furyks, Eamonn D’Arcys (I could go on) of the world who didn’t make dramatic changes to their motions (in spite of how unorthodox they were) and still went on to become world-beaters.
Could they have been better with a cleaner looking motion? Who knows. They could just as easily have never become household names.
It’s also important to remember that, as funky as his swing looks in the backswing/at the top, Cristobal Del Solar looks pretty good coming down and through impact – especially in the last few frames pre impact.
And if you look at his general body motion, there’s nothing crazy about it – it lines up with a lot of the “Mechanical Musts” I discuss in my Swing Plan video series.
Far too often, amateurs make swing changes with no understanding as to how it affects their impact variables. For example, they might try to change their bent left arm at impact.
Not only might this be completely unnecessary (almost all pros have some degree of lead arm bend at impact – often significant), but it may be completely unrelated to their issue or even ADD new issues. For example, all else being equal, a straighter lead arm at impact is going to encourage more heel and fat contacts – this may be good or bad for YOU depending on your current patterns.
This is why it’s important to educate yourself on what different swing positions/motions achieve, which is something my Swing Plan program helps you with (again CLICK HERE to learn more)
Fewer Moving Parts
One of the reasons that a better looking swing is purported to produce better results is the “fewer moving parts” hypothesis.
This belief is that if there’s less extraneous movement, we will be able to present the club with more consistency.
While, on the surface, this theory makes a lot of logical sense, there are some issues with it.
- Motor learning research shows that consistency of delivery is not down to a reduction in moving parts (degrees of freedom), but a better synergy of movement, and better “good variability”. Think about walking a tightrope on a windy day – having the ability to produce MORE and BETTER balancing movements (which bring you back in balance) would be better than having fewer, incorrect balancing movements.
- There are instances where MORE moving parts can improve the geometry of the swing. An example of this might be that more body rotation/lead shoulder movement through impact can help create a hand path that improves the consistency of the arc through impact. This is a concept I go through in The Strike Plan.
- Research by Dr Sasho MacKenzie has shown that players are just as consistent with clubface delivery with a putter from 30ft as they are with a full-swing driver. I have also seen this in my data. If the “fewer moving parts” hypothesis were correct, the putting motion should be far more consistent.
There are many reasons for this disconnect between logic and reality. Things like the uncontrolled manifold hypothesis and biological consistency vs mechanical consistency are all topics for another time, but you can read more about them in my international best-selling book, The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers.
Remember – this was just one round. One absolute killer round, but also an incredible outlier of an event. If he goes on and reaches top 10 in the world, this will be a much bigger call to say the swing changes created the player. but, as of this moment, I would want to have
- More concrete evidence/data that the swing changes have created a notable improvement in shot performance
- A deeper dive into other variables, such as strategy improvements etc. to see which areas have contributed into a better world ranking
- A longer look at the player’s career
I’d also want to have a much deeper answer as to how the swing changes (if at all) created a better ball-striker. As we have discussed, the “fewer moving parts” hypothesis is a weak one. Aesthetics is also a poor answer, and most people who are pro-aesthetics tend to come up short when asked for a good, logical explanation as to why a prettier move is more consistent than another.
I do believe there are satisfactory answers (I discuss the concept of mechanical consistency in my book), but they go much deeper than currently purported reasons. My guess is that hand path movement changes through impact have helped create a larger margin for error – albeit minuscule, but enough at that level to make a meaningful difference.
If you want to learn more about hand path and its effects on impact consistency, click below to learn more about The Strike Plan
Here are some important finishing points
- Even the ugliest of swings can play great golf, if your impact interval is functional.
- You likely have a nicer looking swing than 2019 Cristobal Del Solar, yet he could probably give you a bunch of shots per side and still beat you. Think about what the true difference is – perhaps it’s worth working on that too (skill development)
- Repeatability is more than just how symmetrical your motion looks. This may have an influence, but the “fewer moving parts” hypothesis falls short in explaining it.
- Make motion changes for a reason – and that reason should be to achieve a better/more consistent impact interval (club motion through contact with the ball) or to reduce injury. NOT because it looks prettier to do X/Y/Z
- Motion changes take time – be patient.
- You can take a player, improve their mechanics and get better results (captain obvious). You can also take a player with guy mechanics, improve their SKILL and get incredible results. Do both.
If you want to learn how to improve your game, whether that be through swing improvements, skill development, strategy/psychology/training etc. I have programs for you.
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