Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beware of the Model Golfer and I Don't Mean Anna Rawson!

This is a golfer who is a model, Anna Rawson.  
This is a model of a golfer, 3D Man.

It was a fine morning to have a broken leg!  I got to watch some great golf in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.  Many of my favorite players were still in the mix.  Miguel-Angel Jiminez, Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, and Ryan Moore.  I like all of them for different reasons, but one thing that strikes me is how differently all of them swing the club.

Miguel is fascinating to watch in person.  I spent hours watching him hit balls at the Masters and the PGA at Medinah.  His nickname is "The Mechanic" but his motion reminds me of a dancer.  His swing is almost that of a pirouette, due to his hip turn back and through.  He has beautiful tempo and very active footwork.  Check out his swing here!  What happens to Miguel if he goes to a method teacher who demands that he quiets his footwork?  First, I would guess he has a lot of hip turn due to some tightness in his mid back.  If your teacher doesn't understand body differences, you can actually hurt yourself making a change to fit their model.  We are all built differently and great players learn to swing in a way that allows them maximum power no matter what holds them back.  Very few men have that much hip turn, but it was a lot more common in days gone by.  Second, I bet Miguel feels his rhythm and tempo in his feet.  His footwork is active, but very consistent.  I bet he is a great dancer!  Third, Miguel swings on a pretty flat plane, but he rotates so well that he releases the club with his turn.  If Miguel didn't rotate and clear his hips on his through swing, his flat plane would probably cause some big hooks.  In other words, all of Miguel's movements come together to create a swing that works.

Bubba is another guy with very active feet, legs and hips.  Here is a video of Bubba's swing.  Check out the film from :16 to :20 and you will see another dancer.  The only real similarity with Miguel's swing is the activity of the feet and legs.  Again, what happens if Bubba goes to a teacher who demands that all of his or her students have quiet feet?   What happens if his teacher wants his backswing to not go past parallel?  Bubba is a heck of an athlete.  I would imagine he could have been a great basketball player or tennis player as easily as he has become a great golfer.  His feel for leverage, his timing and his balance are all phenomenal.  If you are teaching an incredible athlete, do you allow him or her to have a lot of motion and tap into those talents, such as balance?  Bubba's athleticism reminds me of one of my former players at A&M, Jamie Hullett.  She swings with a lot of movement and great tempo.  Since she weighs only 98 lbs., she needs all of that movement to create as much momentum as possible.  Great athletes always figure out how to create power.

Now, lets change gears and watch Ryan Moore swing a club.  Here is Ryan's swing.  The first time I saw Ryan was at the PGA in Medinah.  He had an injury that prevented him from taking the club back normally, so he was using a drill swing where you set the club in front of you and then swing it back.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  I followed him for at least three holes because I was so intrigued.  As you can see by watching his swing on youtube, he sets the club very quickly and steeply, so the drill wasn't that far out for him.  What happens if Ryan goes to Hank Haney?  Hmmm, we don't know because it won't happen, but Ryan's shaft plane is as far from Hank's preferences as you could get.  Ryan's club sets early and very steeply.  He then drops it in beautifully.  He is still a bit steep at impact, but he clears so beautifully that it all works.  Check out his swing at :18 and you will see both butt cheeks clearly.  The average golfer I see on the lesson tee is equally as steep, but shows me no butt cheeks.  This causes a lot of problems, most of which end up with balls flying far to the right.

Many kids who start playing early often set the club the same way that Ryan does.  It is another way that kids create leverage.  There is a great teacher, Don Trahan, who teaches this method to all of his students.  Check out Don's son DJ's swing and you will see some similarities with Ryan Moore.  DJ Trahan is also playing on the PGA Tour.  If you compare him or Ryan to guys like Ricky Fowler, you will quickly see there are many ways to swing the golf club. 

The final guy, Martin Kaymer, probably has the most conventional swing of the four.  The things that stand out to me that make him unique are the width of his swing, the left leg straightening at impact like Laura Davies and the beautiful hand set at the top of his swing.  You can check him out here.  Watch that hand set at the top of his swing.  I just heard Johnny Miller say that Kaymer gets a bit long at the top.  To restrict that hand set at the top would be changing his rhythm.  Just as Jiminez has great feet, Kaymer has great hands.  There has to be a little loose in every swing if you expect to have great tempo.  You will never find a tight mechanical swing that produces a ton of power.  Power is reliant upon speed created by leverage and controlled with tempo.  Kaymer doesn't just have a beautiful swing, he also has a fantastic attitude.  I rarely see his focus waver and he seems to be a very positive player who doesn't beat himself up for mistakes. 

In keeping with our theme of the week to know yourself and your strengths, today we talked about the importance of finding a teacher who taps into those strengths and allows your mechanics to be based on your needs, not his or her model swing.

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