Day in, day out, I hear golfers discussing why “X” pro is so good.
It’s because he gets his left arm so high
It’s because he turns his shoulders 110 degrees
It’s because he has so much lag
In most cases, golfers are just picking a single trait (usually one which is unique to that pro) and assigning all their success on that swing factor. Not only is this myopic, but it can also be dangerous.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t trying to insult you. And I have been there – we are all searching for that one secret that will make us hit it like Dustin Johnson.
Dustin has a very unique wrist position at the top – that must be why he’s so good. Right?
Your cause as a golfer isn’t helped when TV commentators and magazines push this idea of a player’s swing style being the creator of their success (even though there may have been thousands of pros with a completely different swing style who are even more successful).
And I’m not attacking TV commentators – I understand they have a tough job to create some “on the spot” analysis and fill some all-too-common gaps in the golf footage. However, don’t assign technical knowledge to a commentator just because they are on TV. Many are not and have never taught golf for a living – so they often don’t know what works and what ruins players (especially average golfers).
Not to mention the fact that often their analysis is suspect – some of the camera angles are not even in the same ballpark which can really distort the analysis.
It can be all too alluring to listen to the commentary on the swing of the leader of the tournament and then go and try that on the range next day. Again, this is a difficult game and golfers will go “secret-searching” way too often.
Let’s Get Physical
You have to remember, golf pros at the high end are often physically gifted. They can move their bodies in a way that most average players can’t. Those guys don’t sit at a desk all day, and have likely been swinging a club since they were 2 years old.
Not to mention them being the genetic elite.
Kinetics vs Kinematics
While sounding complicated, this boils down to
- Kinematics are the movements
- Kinetics are the forces being applied
While a lot of you must be thinking “well surely they must be similar”, there are several cases where still images and slow motion video can tell a completely opposing story to what the golf pro is actually doing to the club.
As a non-golf example – in a game of tug-of-war, one team may be moving in one direction because they are getting pulled there (kinematics). However, the team may be applying a tremendous amount of force (kinetics) in the opposing direction.
For a golf example, we know (via kinetic research from top golf biomechanists such as Dr Sasho Mackenzie, Dr Kwon and Dr Duffey) that a golfer at impact is pulling the club in the direction shown by the pink arrow below.
There are many reasons why a golfer pulls the club in this direction at impact
However, looking at the extension of the arms and the shaft lean, many golfers may assume that the club is being forced in this direction.
Trying to force a club in this direction can really hurt a player
This is the tip of the iceberg. There are several examples where kinematics and kinetics don’t match up.
Cause and Effect
While a tour-pro may have a certain swing trait, copying it may actually make you worse.
This is because for a swing trait of “X” way also require Y/Z/A/B and C to be in place in order for it to function.
Even a very basic professional swing trait such as weight-shift may send chaos into your own game if you are you don’t have other factors in play.
Having Hogan’s weight shift can be great – if you have other factors in play to make it work.
I am NOT saying that shifting your weight is not a good thing to do – if you have interpreted it that way then that is your own miscomprehension (damn, I can be abrasive sometimes).
But let’s put it this way. If you shift your weight more than you are, you will very likely
- Change the path
- Change the clubface to path relationship
- Change low point
- Change how high the club swings into impact
- Change the strike location on the face
Changes don’t operate in isolation, and understanding how a swing change will affect the other parameters important to a shot is vital.
In fact, if someone with an overly left swing direction (for example, a slicer) just shifts their weight like Hogan, they would likely top the ball completely, as a left swing direction doesn’t go well with a huge weight shift.
Enter The Pro
This is where a good teaching pro can come in.
They can understand how things relate and what causes what. Not only can they change the root cause – but they can often do it in a way which has multiple positive knock-on effects.
For example, I will often give someone one simple thought process/task which can change 5+ parameters in concert.
An amateur is often simply looking at the symptoms of prior events in the swing motion. For example;
- Early extension
- Loss of lag
- Poor weight shift/excessive slide
- Poor swing paths
- Poor sequencing
- Poor end position
Etc can usually be traced to prior events. Trying to fix the above direction can often be an exercise in futility as they are just the symptoms – often in place to compensate for other actions.
Early extension (above) can simply be a compensation for prior actions.
Getting rid of them can sometimes open up a right can of worms.
When to Copy A Pro
This article was titled “Why you shouldn’t copy a pro”. It is very different to saying “you shouldn’t copy a pro”.
I still use pro models occasionally – usually to show a certain position that a player could benefit from which would have positive knock-on effects. However
- I’m using logical cause and effect chains
- I’m taking into account what that player’s body can do (or can’t)
- I’m linking it to impact parameters, with an in-depth understanding of how a change in X will affect all other aspects of impact (and thus shot quality)
- I’m not trying to fit a player into a mold or get them to look exactly like a pro. I’m just adding elements which will complement their existing movement patterns
- I always have function in mind – not just pretty positioning
Also, there are certain things that a pro does that you simply cannot get too good at or pro-like. Striking the ground effectively and contacting the sweet spot are two things which every pro does, regardless of swing motion differences.
Because of this, I created The Strike Plan, a video series detailing exactly what you need to do to improve your strike quality. Improving this area of your game is by far the quickest way to lower your scores and get more enjoyment out of the game.
I get hundreds of messages from happy customers who are getting better. Just yesterday I had a message from another golfer who has used the exercises in The Strike Plan to get his handicap down.
If you want to find out more about the video series, check out the program by clicking the image below.
Also, if you want to learn more about what, why, when and how to train for increased golf performance, check out The Practice Manual – The Ultimate Guide for Golfers. It has been a best seller in the USA, UK, Canada, Italy, France, Spain and Germany. It was also featured on The Golf Channel as a “must-have” book. Click the image below to learn more about it.