w/ Kevin Haime @kevinhaime, PGA of Canada 2017 Junior Leader of The Year
Job one if you want a powerful and consistent golf swing is to learn how and when to move your body properly.
Years ago, I picked up a terrific concept from famed golf instructor David Leadbetter that basically said to focus on body motion and big muscles instead of the hands and club when teaching and learning the game. In supporting his idea, Leadbetter used the analogy of a dog wagging its tail. The basic premise, of course, being that the dog is in charge of the wagging, not the other way around.
Today, so much talk in the golf world is focused on the golf club. You’ll hear about the importance of the club from manufacturers and advertisers because they really want to sell you a club. But it’s not just the sellers telling you to focus on your club. Today the teaching and coaching landscape seems to be focused there too. Launch monitors and club data dominate much of the attention on the lesson tee and much of the chatter on social media and all over YouTube. Launch angles, spin rates, and club face and path data is everywhere and it’s all good science but the club really shouldn’t be your main focus when you practice, in my opinion.
If you really want a better, stronger and more balanced swing learn to move your body properly. Better body motion will lead to better golf shots without ever worrying about all the club data.
In the last few years in our 3D Motion Capture studio we have learned an incredible amount about the way the body should move during the swing. We’ve amassed so much data by testing players of every level and we’ve identified some distinct trends between how pros and amateurs move their bodies differently. One major difference we’ve found occurs right at the start of the swing. Higher handicappers almost all pull the club away from the ball using their arms and hands. Better players start their backswings by turning their upper bodies. They move their bodies better so they hit the ball better.
To build a great backswing you need to wind up your body from the top like a giant spring. That winding starts immediately as the club moves away from the ball. If you look at most great players, their chest has turned substantially by the time the club reaches waist high. The lower body, on the other hand, is quite passive, even resisting against the turn of the shoulders during the takeaway. This early winding of the upper body over the lower body does three critical things: It starts the body off in the proper sequence, it builds torque and energy into the body turn and it keeps the arms in front of the chest which is where they should be. Our 3D Motion Capture testing shows that better golfers turn their upper body 35 to 55 degrees by the time the club reaches just waist high.
Higher handicappers, as mentioned above, don’t turn their chests near enough to start their swing. They tend to just use their hands and arms during the takeaway. As a result, they lose all the benefits and torque that a proper body wind delivers. They also find the club stuck too much behind them which makes compensations in the downswing necessary. Our 3D Motion Capture testing shows that higher handicappers turn their upper body just 10 to 20 degrees on average by the time the club reaches waist high.
The general failure of high handicappers to start their golf swing with a proper turn of the upper body really hurts their ability to coil and set the club in the best delivery position at the top of the backswing. Next time you’re practicing, make sure you’re starting your backswing with a nice shoulder turn. Move your body better and you’ll hit better shots.
You can clearly see in this photo I took of Tiger Woods at Augusta National a few years back how much he rotates his chest during his takeaway. Tiger’s hands are just reaching waist high but shoulders look at least 60 degrees rotated. Notice also how little his hips have turned and how quiet his leg action is. He’s already built a powerful coil with his body! Lastly, notice how his arms are still in front of his chest, right where they should be.
I’m quite happy with this position. I’m turning my chest nicely as I swing my arms up to start my golf swing. Everything is right where it should be early in my swing.
Giving It The GEARS
Our G.E.A.R.S. 3D Motion capture system gives us great body motion data. Here, as my hands reach waist high, my shoulders have already turned 53.4 degrees but my hips have only turned 19.2 degrees (a 34.2 degree difference). Also, see how my knees have only rotated 4.4 degrees. My upper body is winding me up into a powerful top of backswing position.