What I Learned in 2011

Around this time of the year I like to look back at the year and contemplate what I have learned as a teacher and coach that will make me better in the future. After much thought here is my list:

  • Golfers too often lose sight of the fact that the game is all about scoring. It's not about style, or aesthetics, or form - it's about function. And scoring is function. If any golfer can go out and hit the ball the same as they always have and shoot five strokes lower they are very happy. No, this is not something new to me, but as I get older and hopefully wiser, I see way too many golfers who miss this point. They are searching for a swing, a technique, a "holy grail" that will upgrade their game. The answer lies in driving, wedging, putting and a hefty dose of hard work - period!
  • Anybody can get better in twenty minutes. With the help of Trackman I have seen this time and time again. The challenge is taking "ownership" of the changes as this can only be done through practice. Through practice you get comfortable, you then begin to trust the changes, which in turn channel into confidence - the magic elixir of all sport.

  • The driver works much better when it strikes the ball with an upward hit. If a golfer swings at 100mph and strikes the ball with a 5 degree downward hit, they will be 28 yards shorter than a golfer who hits the ball with the same swing, but a 5 degree upward hit! The launch angle goes up, the spin goes down and boom, you're not even swinging any harder.
  • With an on plane swing, when the clubhead moves towards the ground the club path travels in to out and when it moves away from the ground it travels out to in. I know you're more than likely scratching your head over this one - watch the video and read the article and it'll make a ton more sense. This has been a game changer for me and I so wish I had knowledge of this information thirty years ago.
  • Modern golf technology can do wonders for your game. From the latest drivers to launch monitors to pressure plates - there is new technology that can help you make real changes to almost any part of your game. Seek it out and take advantage...
  • It is possible for every golfer to get longer - yes, I said every golfer. Even you! Most of the gains can be made simply by learning how to deliver the driver to the ball more efficiently. If you could learn what it takes to hit the ball 15 yards further (which is about my average for male golfers after a TrackMan session!) you have now made the golf course you play 200 yards shorter. Where do I sign up for that....?
  • The weight transfer in the backswing is due to the swinging motion of the arms. There should be no conscious shift or lateral motion with the body. See the 84 degree secret...

Thanks for reading - I hope you have all learned at least something from my musings during 2011. If you remember one thing remember this: Nothing will ever take the place of hard work and heart - not talent, not finances, and certainly not coaching.

Oh, and if you haven't wrapped up your holiday shopping yet I have a smokin' deal for you. Buy one copy of It's All About Impact and I'll send you four - one for each member of your foursome.

I have big plans for upgrading the information and look of the site in 2012 so stick around and watch this space...

Weight Transfer and Positioning

Having the use of the Swing Catalyst system has almost been like being able to look behind the curtain to see what truly happens to a golfers' weight when they swing the club. Guesswork and perception are taken out of the equation and the information you read in the following post is based purely on fact. 

Weight shift is a poor term.  Similar to the term "takeaway" it does not convey the appropriate sensation.  My research has shown that the term "weight transfer" would be far better.  And here's why: When I think of shifting my weight I make a conscious move to get my body over to my back foot for example.  Not good!  The weight transfers in the swing purely due to the motion in the arms hands and club as they travel away from the target.  Think of it this way - if I swing my arms, which each weigh 15 lbs, and a club  in my backswing you can be sure that I am transferring weight onto my back foot. There is however no conscious shifting or body move that gets the weight over there. This is exactly why the 84 degree  rule (as illustrated below) holds true.

There should be no lateral body move in the backswing, yet many players often wrote or spoke about a sense of weight transfer. The body stays centered while the weight is transferred by the motion in the arms and the club. Video HERE

I found that very good golfers (college and touring professionals) had a maximum percentage of 80% of their weight on their back foot slightly beyond halfway back.  This was achieved with almost no lateral movement in the upper body.

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In the screen shot above notice how the center of gravity indicator between my feet (top right) is almost as far to the right as it goes. This should be the furthest point to the right the weight moves and from here it starts moving back to the front foot.

I did find that a reverse weight shift (reverse pivot) was almost impossible for me to achieve. With the arms and club swinging to the right it made it very difficult to get the weight to favor the front foot in the backswing.

In the screen shot below I have positioned my weight 70/30 on the front foot (with the 84 line as a reference) at the top of my swing as advocated by some teachers. While the numbers may be difficult to achieve I did find that for many people the idea of keeping their body left and sensing the weight being 70/30 in favor of the front foot proved to be very helpful. This helped me to seperate the difference between what a student felt and what was real.  Many times it was better for a student to work towards a feeling than the actual reality.

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At the start of the downswing, when the left arm (for right handers) gets parallel to the ground the majority of top tour professionals displayed a weight distribution of 50/50.  Sam Snead illustrated this beautifully!

I did notice that with single figure handicap golfers there seemed to be a tendency to get their weight too far forward (75/25) at this point. This led to a situation where, when they got to the delivery point (shaft parallel to the ground), they very often had more than 90% of their weight on their front foot and had to back up through impact.  This seemed to be a contributing factor to hooks and blocks - the better golfers most common malady!

All the best ball strikers studied displayed a tendency to transfer the weight to the front foot in a smooth and continuous flow with no backing up or slowing of the transfer. The more straight and direct the CoG trace moved the better. This meant that they arrived at impact with an 80/20 split favoring the front foot and the weight continued to move smoothly over to the front side beyond impact.

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Notice the continuous and smooth CoG trace into the front foot here by Billy Hurley.  His weight was more than likely 85% on the front foot at impact.

The tendency with higher handicap golfers (above 18) was for the weight to get too far back and then remain there all the way through impact. It was not unusual to see one of these golfers have a split of 70/30 favoring the back foot at impact.

In summary:

  • The weight should start at 50/50
  • Somewhere between halfway back and the top of the backswing the player should max out weight on the back foot at 80/20
  • At halfway down (arm parallel to the ground) the weight should once again be 50/50
  • The weight should make a continuous tranfer to the front foot in the downswing with an 80/20 split occuring at impact. 

A few more screen shots:

Geoff Ogilvy passing through impact (shaft bend is due to camera lens)

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Peter Uihlein at impact

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Please keep two things in mind as you process the above information: due to the relative newness of this technology there is not a huge sample group of golfers to study and that all percentages are a mean or "ballpark" number.

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