A Push for Power

The more I use the SwingCatalyst pressure plate system the better I have begun to understand how a player generates power effectively. There seems to be a clear difference between "power" swings and "control" swings. Quite similar to the difference between a player hitting a controlled short iron and a player smashing a driver. The difference is all in how the player uses the ground. What does that mean or look like?

Jamie Sadlowski (Golf Digest)

Jamie Sadlowski (Golf Digest)

In the above swing sequence notice how much lower long drive champion, Jamie Sadlowski's belt is in frame 4 than it is in frame 3. This is due to the fact that he is lowering  his body - essentially lightening himself - in order to jump/explode off the ground coming into impact. Think about if you were to jump - the first thing you do is to go down towards the ground in order to push upward. With faster clubhead speeds I often see a more pronounced jump. Sometimes to the point of the player leaving the ground through impact.

Below you will see the pressure trace from two proven Tour power hitters at impact while smashing the driver. This SwingCatalyst technology tracks where the golfer's center of pressure is located throughout the swing.

These are classic power traces! You will notice that both of these power hitters have more pressure (not necessarily weight) on their back foot at impact. I would expect to see this due to the player pushing so aggressively off the front foot that they have not only pushed their bodies up and just about off the ground, but slightly backwards as well. The interesting thing is that when each of these golfers hits a controlled 8 iron shot their pressure traces don't work onto the back foot at impact - a clear difference.

Bubba Watson

Bubba Watson

The golf swing is made up of three primary elements: movement, the forces that lead to the movement and the timing of those forces. Clubhead speed can be greatly enhanced by increasing the magnitude of the force and improving the timing of the force. Note: This article is not so much to encourage you to get off the ground through impact with a driver as it is to put your mind at ease should you be doing so. It's okay! I always encourage junior golfers to smash it first and then work towards finding it later. As they learn to smash it I see them:

  • lowering down into the front foot early in the downswing 
  • exploding/jumping/pushing off the ground as they approach, but prior to, impact
  • release the wrists freely through the hit

There is a direct correlation between how far or high a person can jump and how far they can hit a golf ball. No wonder Dustin Johnson can dunk a basketball....

A bigger push means bigger power!

Shot Patterns with Irons

ironshotpattern Here is an interesting little nugget I have been noticing quite a bit lately. The above screen shot indicates a typical shot pattern for a right hander when hitting a short to mid iron. I'm sure many of you have noticed how those pulls that feel so good tend to go further. As you might imagine this is not unique to your game and the image above clearly shows how shots to the left tend to travel further than shots to the right. What can we learn from this? Right handed golfers can afford to be slightly more aggressive when pins that are located in either the front right or back left of greens and should shy away from front left and back right pins.

How about the challenge that the short 12th at Augusta (below) presents to right handed competitors? The greens is a mere 9 yards deep between the bunkers. The hard part is that due to the angle at which the green sits, a slight pull is long and a slight push is short and wet. With a 150 yard shot and the pin in the center of the green the above golfer has hit the green only twice in ten tries - two pars, four bogeys and four doubles!

The 12th at Augusta National

This might have a little something to do with why the Masters has seen an influx of left handed champions in recent years - Weir, Mickelson and Bubba. I would also much rather fade my driver than try to hit draws on all those hook tee shots - so much easier to control...

Coming soon - the follow up article to this one explaining typical shot patterns with the driver. A hint, it's not what you might think...

No Major for The Players

The article below is an one I wrote two years ago expressing my concerns about the golf course at TPC Sawgrass and how worthy it is of hosting a "major championship".  My sentiments have not changed....

When was the last time the top 10 players in a major were a combined 55 under par after one round?  When in a major have 57 players shot under par on any day?  The PGA Tour is trying to buy their way into a major championship by touting The Players as the "5th Major".

Not many people are aware that the PGA Tour does not operate or run a single major championship. The Masters is run by Augusta National, The US Open by the USGA, the British Open by the Royal and Ancient and the PGA by the PGA of America.  With the Players Championship the PGA Tour is making a vain (in my opinion of course) attempt to get into the mix.  From the monstrous clubhouse, to the monstrous purse, to the monstrous public relations spin they put on the event - they are eagerly attempting to join a closed club.

My primary reason for voting out the Players is the golf course!  Sure the holes we see all look frightening, with tremendous risk and reward, but what about the rest of the course.  Ever notice how much the Tour focuses on the closing holes?  Please don't get me wrong - you must be a ball striker to do well here, but this is simply Harbourtown where rough has replaced trees.  Distance does not make a great course , but give the best in the world ten opportunities from inside 140 yards and look out.  There are 10 short, legit birdie opportunities on the course (holes 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17).  Holes where every player in the field, from the longest to the shortest, should be thinking birdie or par at worst.

I have taken the rounds of two players, the longest and the shortest, namely Bubba and Fred Funk and broken them down for your perusal.  Let's start with Fred Funk who played earlier this morning.  When it comes to driving distance Fred Funk is currently 62nd on the Champions Tour with an average drive of 265.9yds.  That would leave him at 183 out of 185 on the PGA Tour ahead of only Faxon and Pavin.  His driving distance was 260 today and he scored a +1 /73.  The following numbers indicate the yardage he had into each of the 10 selected holes in regulation:(They include all four par fives and a par three)

1-156yds, 2-82yds, 4-115yds, 6-115yds, 9-87yds, 10-146yds, 11-101yds, 12-81yds, 16-4yds, 17-137yds for an average of 102.4 yards.

The shortest player in the field averaged just over 100 yds into 10 holes on a major championship course?

Now let's check in with Bubba Watson who played nicely and shot -5 /67.  He is currently the longest hitter on the PGA Tour at 313.8 yards per poke.  Today he averaged 318 yards off the tee.  His yardages into each of the ten selected holes were:

1-90yds, 2-53yds, 4-91 yds, 6-104 yds, 9-76 yds, 10-139 yds, 11-29 yds, 12-92 yds, 16-3 yds, 17-137 yds for an average distance in of 81.4 yards.  I wonder how many drivers Bubba used on these holes?

The facts indicate that every player in the field is faced with 10 holes on a supposed "major championship" course where the longest shot they are required to hit is approximately 140 yards.  And this is with a rainy night before the tournament got under way.  What major course has a four hole stretch (9-12) where no approach shot of over 125 yards is required?

In 2008 the greens had just been reshaped and surfaced and as a result were rock hard.  The wind blew between 15 and 25mph each day starting at 10 am.  In other words conditions were as tough and challenging as they could get and yet, the playoff number was -5.  Can you imagine conditions being brutal at Winged Foot or Carnoustie and -5 playing off...?

Grow all the rough you want, make the greens rock hard and roll at 13 on the stimp, but my belief is this - if they have soft conditions and windless days the winning score will be lower than -15.  You heard it here first - this is no major, just an over-sized, over-hyped attempt by Tim Finchem to create a PGA Tour major.  Sorry Tim, I vote NO!

That being said it should be a fun-filled event with a fantastic field - enjoy!

The 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits

Here are a few of my thoughts after witnessing the PGA Championship:

  • Martin Kaymer played like a champion and he thoroughly deserved the title. Don't forget the up and down on the 72nd hole he had, not to mention the stunning two he made at 17 in the playoff. I love to see talented, hard working youngsters breaking through. Well done Martin, Louis and Graeme!
  • You would think the PGA of America could have one of their 28,000 members to follow the final group so as to avoid what happened on the 72nd hole. I do not blame anybody for the incident and it is certainly Dustin Johnson's responsibility to know where he is playing from, but let's have a little foresight here....

  • Whistling Straits has more bunkers than all the courses in Africa (not a true statement, but it just might!) and it needs to get pushed off the edge of Wisconsin and into the lake! In fact while they're at it they can push another future PGA site, The Ocean Course at Kiawah into the ocean too. The last time I checked golf was meant to be fun and you couldn't pay me enough to play those two courses in particular. They are both horrible!

  • How about this picture posted at PGA.com of some kids building sand castles in a bunker! How many majors will this ever happen at? I guess that's what happens when you have 1000 too many bunkers.

  • Poor Nick Watney - what started as such a promising day turned into a demoralizing experience. I hope he can come back from this.
  • Dustin Johnson is a tough kid and I believe his 72nd hole nightmare will only steel his attitude towards greater heights. I firmly believe he will come back better than ever from this.
  • I like the way Bubba played the playoff, but he simply must opt to miss long on the final hole versus a shot that has the potential to be short - especially since Kaymer had a poor lie in the rough.
  • For all the focus on Tiger I don't believe he seems to be swinging any better YET. Every time I saw him on day 4 he finished with his right shoulder high from the clubhead being trapped behind him and seemed as wild as ever. I do think his change to Sean Foley is an excellent choice and he will get better under his guidance. And no Sean Foley is not a Stack and Tilter, just an instructor who understands that all swings are unique unto the individual and everything in the swing should be directed around impact.

  • A little insider info is that Tiger called up Foley right after he and Hank parted ways and asked Foley to drop all his other students (notably Mahan and O'Hair) and start teaching only him. Foley said, "Thanks, but no thanks!"
  • I'm sure it's just me, but the PGA Championship is really starting to feel like the fifth major - and there are only four! It just does not appeal to me in the unique manner each of the other three majors do. Anybody up for starting a petition for only three majors?