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Biomechanics and their affect on swing plane

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Every golfer is unique, and this individuality has to do with biomechanics. It’s a well known fact that many scientists and biomechanists have understood for many years, however, it is something that many golf professionals have still not accepted.

There are many methods and styles of teaching in our business and the variations are endless: Stack and Tilt v. Jimmy Ballard, Sean Foley v. Hank Haney and on and on. I’m NOT saying for one second that any of these great instructors are wrong, because they have all been immensely successful and the beautiful thing is that they are all correct in their method. The problem is that certain methods are not right for everyone. The differences in each person’s biomechanics is what this article is about, more specifically how biomechanics relates to swing plane.

Everything I will refer to in this article has been proven by science and by golf biomechanists, and is taken directly from BioSwing Dynamics, which was developed by Mike Adams and E.A. Tischler. I am lucky enough to have these two as mentors during my BioSwing Dynamics certification, and I would like to thank them immensely for their help in my growth as an instructor and for their help in editing this article.

There are three different top of the backswing planes and three different downswing planes. At the top of the backswing, the golfer can achieve a position that aligns the lead arm either above the shoulder line (high-plane), through the shoulder line (mid-plane) or below the shoulder line (low-plane). This is shown explicitly in the picture above of Matt Kuchar, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk when they are at the top of their backswing. During the downswing the golfer will deliver the club along the hip plane (also known as the shaft plane), the torso plane or the shoulder plane.

Tiger address edit

The backswing plane and downswing plane may vary based upon the two tests you will be introduced to in this article. I will also refer to PGA Tour players as an example, which were tested by Mike Adams during the research portion of BioSwing Dynamics. Just like there are many different methods of teaching, there are many different “looks” of a golfer: David Toms, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel, Hunter Mahan, Ernie Els, etc. By understanding these simple principles, you will better understand how your biomechanics will affect your individual swing. So, let’s get started.

Needless to say, the backswing is an important part of the golf swing because it will help prepare the swing for proper use of leverage in the swing. It also positions you for a well-executed transition into the delivery slot during the downswing. In order to test what backswing plane fits your body, you need to perform the following test (you will need a partner):

  1. Stand up and hold your arms stretched out at shoulder height.
  2. Have someone measure your wingspan from finger tips on the right hand to finger tips on the left hand.
  3. Have your helper measure your height.
  4. If your wingspan and height are the same lengths, then you will have a top of the backswing position that aligns the lead arm through your trailing shoulder. This is much like what is taught in one-plane theories.
  5. As the wingspan becomes longer than the height, the lead arm will elevate more above the shoulder line into what has been described as a two-plane position at the top of the backswing.
  6. If the wingspan is shorter than the height, the lead arm will align below the shoulder line at the top of the backswing in what is commonly called a flat backswing.

Keep in mind that that there is a range in which the lead arm will be set at the top of the backswing. If the wingspan is, say, 4 inches shorter than the height, the lead arm will set very low across the chest and below the shoulder line. If the wingspan is, say, 4 inches longer than the height, then the lead arm will set well above the shoulder line into a high two-plane type of alignment.

Simply put, the alignment of the lead arm in relations to the shoulder line at the top of the backstroke needs to match the relationship between the length of the wingspan and the height of the golfer. Please refer to the pictures below as a reference to measuring wingspan and height.

Measuring-Height-448x600Measuring-Wingspan-edit1-448x600
Measuring-Forearm-editMeasuring-Upper-Arm-edit

Now, how the golfer swings to that top-set position will vary from golfer to golfer. For example, some golfers will swing inside and then elevate upward like Sam Snead, Bruce Lietzke and Matt Kuchar. Others will swing up along an outside path, like Fred Couples and Lee Trevino, and then loop the club into the top-set before transitioning into the slot. Then there will be golfers that seem to swing up the same path they will eventually slot along during the downswing. This is based upon how the arms fold in the backswing. There will be a follow up article explaining the different ways a person can fold the trail arm and how it relates to the backswing.

Examples of Hip-Planers in the takeaway are Matt Kuchar and Jason Dufner. Examples of Torso-Planers in the takeaway are Hunter Mahan or Rory McIlroy. Examples of Shoulder-Planers in the takeaway are Charl Schwartzel and Martin Kaymer. Each of these players are excellent ball strikers, but they each have their own individual ways of swinging the golf club that is based upon their body.

How do you test to see what downswing plane fits your body’s mechanics? To figure that out, measure your forearm from the middle knuckle to the elbow and then measure the upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder socket. Please refer to the pictures above that show how this is measured. Based upon their relationship, you will swing on one of the three swing planes we discussed earlier. Here are your three options:

  1. Hip-Plane Downswing: The distance from the middle knuckle to forearm is SHORTER than the distance from the elbow to the shoulder socket.
  2. Torso-Plane Downswing: The distance from the middle knuckle to forearm is EQUAL TO the distance from the elbow to the shoulder socket.
  3. Shoulder-Plane Downswing: The distance from the middle knuckle to forearm is LONGER than the distance from the elbow to the shoulder socket.

Els Edit

The easiest way to think about this is that if the forearm is longer than the upper arm, the hands will ride higher and farther out, so they should come down on a steeper plane than if they were shorter. If the upper arm is longer and the forearm is shorter, then the hands will ride lower and closer to the body. That will produce a more shallow delivery plane. Here are some more examples of PGA Tour players and how they swing.

  1. Hip-Plane Downswing: Heath Slocum
  2. Torso-Plane Downswing: Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan, Adam Scott
  3. Shoulder-Plane Downswing: Martin Kaymer, Camilo Villegas, John Senden

Martin Kaymer is a perfect example of how getting out of your proper swing plane can affect your performance. In 2010, Martin was playing the best golf of his career. He had won the PGA Championship, and shortly after his runner-up finish in the 2011 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship he became the No. 1-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings. He lost the No. 1 spot 8 weeks after to Lee Westwood.

Kaymer Edit

With his decline in the world rankings, we can see definite changes in his swing that have proven to be mismatched to his body mechanics. When he won, Kaymer was swinging the club down on the shoulder plane like he tests out to be. He and his instructor decided to work on getting the club lower and closer, delivering it down the hip-plane, which is how most instructors at the time thought the golf swing should be swung. He quickly fell in the rankings until late 2012, when he went back to working on retooling his swing. In studying his swing we have found that his swing plane is getting closer to where it was in the 2009 and 2010 seasons when he was playing his best golf. And guess what? We are starting to see the name Martin Kaymer on leaderboards again.

Matching the planes of both the backswing and downswing with the appropriate hip movement and wrist hinge will help golfers tremendously. Proper wrist hinge and the matching of a golfer’s hip movement to his or her setup will be discussed in future articles, as I want you to properly understand this first. Realizing that your individual body mechanics can and will influence the golf swing is the first step in a much bigger picture that will take your game to new levels.

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Michael Wheeler is a Golf Digest "Best Young Teacher in America." He's the PGA Teaching Professional at Whitford Country Club in Exton, Pennsylvania, a private club roughly 35 minutes west of Philadelphia in beautiful Chester County. Michael is PGA certified in teaching and coaching. He's mentored by Ted Sheftic, a GOLF Magazine Top-100 Teacher who is Pennsylvania's No. 1-ranked Teacher and a four-time winner of the Philadelphia PGA Section Teacher of the Year Award. Michael has also been mentored by Mike Adams, the 2016 National PGA Teacher of the Year, a Golf Magazine Top-100 Teacher, and a Golf Digest Top-50 Instructor (he's No. 2). Michael has been a speaker at several Philadelphia PGA education events for Section PGA Professionals, as well as a speaker at the 2016 and 2017 Philly Golf & Expo Show in Oaks, PA. His certifications to include: -- BioSwing Dynamics Level 1 Instructor -- Trackman Level 1 and 2 Certified Instructor -- Trackman Operator -- PGA Certified Professional: Teaching and Coaching -- K-Vest Level 1 and 2 Certified Instructor -- Certified Level 1 Golf Biomechanist: Dr. Young-Hoo Kwon Michael played NCAA Division I golf for Stetson University for three years, competing against the likes of current PGA Tour stars Russell Knox and Jonas Blixt. After his amateur career, Michael turned professional and became a member of the former NGA Hooters Tour in 2007 playing with other PGA Tour players such as Billy Hurley III, Scott Brown, and Matt Every to name a few. To learn more about Michael or contact him directly, please visit his website.

43 Comments

43 Comments

  1. Wilson

    Dec 5, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Hey Michael, just found this article. Very interesting stuff. What plane would you say Jason Dufner comes down on?
    Thanks!

    • Mj

      Nov 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      What about the hand plane. ? The most important plane imo.
      If this is bio mechanical the club should not even be in the picture. Agreed?
      Thank you for this article. Just found it

  2. Mbwa Kali Sana

    Aug 16, 2016 at 8:58 am

    In m’y opinion ,you fin d your own swing by yourself ,swinging in front OF a mirror ,and checking THE positions ,together with measuring THE speed OF THE clubface with a swing speed radar .
    By trial and error ,you discover what suits you best .

  3. Toby Zabel

    Jun 23, 2015 at 8:13 pm

    Michael,

    So does this mean that shoulder planers are more suited to hitting cuts and taking large divots, and hip planers are more suited to hitting draws and taking smaller divots, and torso planers are in between?

  4. kyle

    Nov 19, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    I feel dumb but if my wingspan is greater than height it means?

  5. Ewan S Fallon

    Nov 17, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Instead of getting measured etc. why not just try different swing planes, and adopt the one which feels and scores best? Amen!

    • Joe

      Sep 17, 2015 at 8:56 am

      I guess if its that easy for you to switch planes you can do that. For me any change is going to take a lot of work.

  6. Lou

    Oct 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    I am 5’6″ (66 inches) in height
    My wingspan is 62 inches

    My fore arm is 2 inches longer than my bicep….

    So, I am supposed to take a
    low track backswing
    high track downswing
    ….?

  7. woody

    Jul 27, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Hi, and thank you for a very interesting article but I am now really confused, my wingspan is 3 inches longer than mu height but my forearm is 1 inch shorter than my upper arm, do these findings contradict each other thereby leaving me with no option but to take up cricket yuk!!!!

  8. woody

    Jul 27, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Hi, very interesting article but I am now really confused, my wingspan is 3 inches longer than mu height but my forearm is 1 inch shorter than my upper arm, do these findings contradict each other thereby leaving me with no option but to take up cricket yuk!!!!

  9. Gary

    May 5, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Mike,
    I’ve read the article in Golf Magazine, and it contradicts what you’re saying. The article doesn’t mention anything about measuring your wingspan and forearm. It tells you to look in a mirror and check your elbow position when it starts to fold. According to the article I’m a torso swing plane and by my measurements I have a shoulder plane swing. My wingspan is the same as my height and my forearm is longer than my upper arm. Could you tell me which is correct.

    • Michael Wheeler

      May 16, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Gary, that is a different test. The BioSwing Dynamic certification has several tests and these three (right arm folding test, wingspan test, and forearm/upper arm test) are only a few of them. The wingspan test tells us if the golfer should be more rotary or lateral in their motion, and the forearm to upper arm measurement explains which plane you should use in the downswing. The test that Mike and EA are talking about in GOLF Magazine is for backswing and how you should release the golf club. If you test out to be a torso planer with that test moving the hands to the right (the GOLF Magazine article) and your forearm is longer (shoulder plane downswing) your body will want to swing the club back on the torso plane and then down on the shoulder plane. There are nine different combinations, but that would be your pattern if you test out to be a “side on” golfer and the forearm is longer than the left. I am that pattern as well for example.

      Don’t confuse the two tests. Mike and EA wrote an article last year about the wingspan and forearm tests, and the current article they wrote in May 2014 is about backswing and using the proper release to match your biomechanics.

      If you have any other questions about your measurements from Mike’s article and the wingspan and forearm tests please feel free to shoot me an email. My contact information is on my website (www.michaelwheelergolf.com).

  10. Paul

    Apr 30, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    Great article Michael.

    My wingspan is 6ft2, my height is 6ft4. So I should be a hip planer.

    However, my knuckle to elbow is LONGER than my elbow to shoulder just slightly (39.5mm to 37.5mm), which says I should be a shoulder planer.

    Where should I be?

    Thanks

    Paul

    • EA Tischler

      May 1, 2014 at 9:19 pm

      Paul, the wingspan being 2 inches shorter than your height will make the most efficient alignment of the lead arm in what we call low mid-track or high-low track. It depends on how much rounding forward you have in your address posture. Keep in mind that the tests narrow down the range in which the lead arm will be aligned at the top of the backswing. As a general description that means the lead arm will swing across your chest and through the lower part of your shoulder line. Your forearm being longer than you lead arm by 2mm would make you a torso-planer while slotting during the downswing. It would slot above the middle of the torso-plane zone. So, keep in mind that one test is for the track during the backswing and the other is for the track during delivery.

  11. GolferX

    Apr 24, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Having a baseball background, I can understand that each one of us has a swing that is going to be different; now that is proven by this article describing the use of biomechanics. However, what biomechanics can’t tell us is what if anything can be done if we are the outlier in the group. What if we are the one exception to the rule? That is where practice and getting to know your swing ala Hogan or Moe Norman. When I played baseball, we still used wooden bats and I found that by simply lowering my hands about two inches, I was able to get to those fastballs that were my weakness, it simply took the willingness to learn about myself and my swing.

  12. Kirk

    Apr 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Great article! I just want to be clear about the height measurement and if it should be taken in golf shoes, or barefoot? Again, great article.

  13. Tyler

    Apr 24, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Great Article Mike. I was trying to locate the Mike Adams article on the golf magazine website and had no luck. Do you know the name of the article?

    • Michael Wheeler

      Apr 24, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      It may not be online yet, as it is in stores in the current May issue of GOLF Magazine. Tiger is on the cover…

  14. AIPM

    Apr 23, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Fantastic article. Definitely looking forward to the second part.

    A few questions though. Would this make any difference in putting, or is everything too stationary and the movement too small to have any real effect? I’m sure short game and bunker play could be affected by this though, so will this be addressed in future articles? Finally, are all three downswing planes able to have club path adjusted in order to shape shots both ways as well as attack angle, or only the torso plane?

  15. Greg

    Apr 23, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Michael,
    Great article. How far off should the two measurements be to bump you into the outside categories? I’m 72 inches tall with a 71 inch wing span which doesn’t seem like much difference. My forearms however are a full 2 inches shorter so that seems like I clearly need to be on the hip plane.
    Also is there anyway to find a certified instructor locally (Richmond, VA)?

    • Michael Wheeler

      Apr 23, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      I would take a ride up to visit Mike Adams if I were you. He is in southern NY, and not crazy far from Richmond. You will get a lot of great information from the trip and would be well worth it. There are also several instructors in Baltimore. I’ll see if there are more close to you, but a trip to Mike would be well worth it if you can get in with him!

  16. Jordan V

    Apr 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

    Great article. Can’t wait for the follow-up articles. I have always struggled to find a comfortable backswing. My measurements were about 2″ longer with the wingspan and 2″ longer with the forearm. I have always tried to keep my backswing and downswing plane lower, and I see now that I have been fighting my biomechanics. One question is with 2″ longer on both measurements, would I be a low shoulder plane, or just above the torso plane?

    • Michael Wheeler

      Apr 23, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      There is no need for a follow up article… Mike Adams and EA Tischler recently wrote a great article in GOLF Magazine this month, which is the cover story with Tiger on the cover. Make sure to check out that article; a lot of great information!

      To answer your specific question Jordan, since your forearm is 2″ longer, than you will be a shoulder planer. You will be pretty close to the top line. I am the same as you, as my forearm is 2″ longer also. That would definitely be why you will struggle more in a lower plane. Glad I could help…

      • Tyler

        Apr 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

        Great Article Mike. What is the name of the article as I cannot find it on the Golf magazine websire.

  17. JD

    Apr 23, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Hi. Very good article and as a teaching pro I understand the importance and relevance of these measurements. Although all the examples are great with players matching their measurements what about the opposite?

    Are there successful players that have been tested that have swung the club on a plane that does not match their measurements. I think of a few tour players who’s golf swings have changed over the years but their physical measurements have not. Tiger being one example.

  18. Josh

    Apr 23, 2014 at 7:36 am

    As with all new golf instruction theories, I tend to first be skeptical. Michael, this is an interesting read, but all you did was give us some rules for choosing a swing plane without any bio mechanical proof as to why. Other than saying that someone else did the research, we are all certified, here are a few pro names that match our research as proof.
    Why are these rules as such, biomechanically speaking? How were the studies done to come to these conclusions? Is there any room for bending these rules when it comes to my backswing and downswing plane?
    Apologies if I sound confrontational, but too many times golf instructors have the ‘solution’ to everything, and I think as golfers we need to question a little more instead of following blindly and jumping from trend to trend.

    • Tony

      Apr 23, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I’m in the same boat as Josh. Would love to see a follow up here.

    • ParHunter

      Apr 23, 2014 at 4:16 pm

      I would like to see some explanation as well. I find it non-intuitive that long arms should lead to a more upright backswing. Isn’t it the case that a longer club (e.g. the driver) leads to a flatter swing than with a shorter club (e.g. A wedge). So I would expect the opposite, that long arms lead to a flatter swing and short one to a more upright.

      • Philip

        Apr 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm

        Except that in golf a lot of things tend to be opposite of what common sense dictates. Which I suspect is the result of the golf swing being the combination of multiple gear and lever actions via our body and limbs.

      • Dave

        Apr 30, 2014 at 8:19 am

        I had exactly the same thought. With longer arms, wouldn’t the arms start at address further from the body and then work around the spine on a flatter plane?

    • TheFightingEdFioris

      Apr 23, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      There is a great (but lengthy) video on YouTube of Mike Adams speaking, and explaining this theory, at the PGA Show. In my opinion it’s a must-watch.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZz06H-3SSA

    • EA Tischler

      May 1, 2014 at 11:51 pm

      Josh, many professional golfers have won using techniques that fail to fit their body mechanics. They are talented enough, and as long as they can manage ball flight, scramble well and have great strokes gained numbers then they can win. However we see hoards of injuries in golfers, including professionals that are extremely fit, when they develop swings that fail to match their biomechanical design. Let me also make it clear that there is a golfers biomechanical design that defines the parameters of the structural concerns, and there are zones of employment for those structural concerns, there are dynamic condition concerns that tell us what techniques work better for each golfer, and there are functional condition concerns that show of the golfers functional limitations.

    • EA Tischler

      May 2, 2014 at 12:02 am

      Josh, let me make one more comment. The approach that Mike and I use are not new, we have been using them for over 20 years. We found them independent of eachother, did cross referencing, worked with doctors, kinesiologist, biomechanists, etc that have helped confirm much of our findings. Their is a group out of Japan finding many of the same patterns within their biomechanical approach as well. There are a variety of researchers out there confirming our findings with their own independent research. And ultimately that is what it takes for people to truly believe. For over 20 years I have been coaching the values and applications of vertical ground force. Only in the last year has there been outside independent research confirming how it works. Dr David Wright is doing great research now and has outside groups gathering independent data to test what he has already confirmed in his research about the relationship between upper arm to lower arm length relationships, core area activation and downswing slotting zones. And it all confirms what Mike and I found a couple decades ago independent of each other. By the way there are other tests the cross reference the basic tests listed in the article. The ones in the article are simply the easiest ones to demonstrate. What have both stress tests and measurement tests.

  19. Jared L.

    Apr 22, 2014 at 11:45 pm

    Hey I just checked some video of my swing for a couple months back.. and I did the numbers that you said and my back swing is “If the wingspan is shorter than the height, the lead arm will align below the shoulder line at the top of the backswing in what is commonly called a flat backswing”
    and my downswing is shoulder plane.. now quick question.. it sounds to me that those two together would be a fade swing right? going from flat backswing then bringing the shoulders down and to the inside? I ask cause it feels more of a natural swing to fade the ball for me (lefty) than a draw. thanks! great read!

  20. Philip

    Apr 22, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    I am so waiting for the next article.

    This year (finishing my 3rd month) I decided to rebuild my swing myself using a virtual simulator facility (lots of snow and ice) instead of lessons because I wanted to understand why I should do things instead of repeating exercises, but even more importantly make sure what I was doing worked for my swing (which I called a bio-mechanical swing by chance). This week I finally accepted that my backswing and downswing were different and that I have my best effortless swing when I do not try to make my backswing match my downswing.

    My downswing is a torso plane swing and I noticed that if I try to have an one-plane backswing I had to loop it and place my club head above and beyond the ball. Not too consistent so I decided to just combine the two and widen my stance a bit which opened up my ability to pivot on my spine properly instead of swaying (I always fought a reverse C with longer clubs). I can now transfer my weight to my front foot with faster club head acceleration.

    My measurements
    * slightly (2″ with shoes on) longer arm span than height, which is normal for my family
    * arm – both measure the same

    Thanks for the article – perfect timing for me.

    • Philip

      Apr 25, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Follow-up

      Picked up GOLF Magazine after reviewing the article. Fills in the last pieces to me understanding my swing perfectly, as well as help me understand some issues I had from lessons to eliminate my slice and lack of club head speed when I hit a ball versus my practice swing.

      As a bonus, it helped me finally grasp the missing part of my setup requiring me to hold the club head above the ball. I got into the top of my backswing (using the article) and tried to move closer to the ground – figured that whatever I could move will likely be the proper adjustment – which was me sticking my butt out. I thought I was properly bending at the waist before, but I guess I was just slouching and dropping my arms.

      I have gone full circle with my swing – it is now fully determined by locking my setup, loading my backswing around my spine, and firing through to my target line. My journey to playing golf instead of hitting a ball can finally begin.

      Thanks again, this information has been so invaluable.

  21. Jared

    Apr 22, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Great article. My wing span is two and a half inches shorter than my height, but my forearm is one and a half inch longer than my upper arm. This sounds like it could make for a very odd looking flatter backswing with a more vertical downswing. Would you please be able to name a similar tour player I can use as a reference. Thank you for the great article.

  22. Phil C.

    Apr 22, 2014 at 6:44 pm

    Good article Michael, you are very clear at explaining the concept of biomechanics and how it would dictate a swing plane. Its funny the timing of this article because I had just changed my swing to groove more to the one-plane swing concept, and with the recent improvement of 12 strokes on my best score I am a newly enthused endorser of all things one-plane.

    So when I randomly came across a Mike Adams article while searching for Big Break hotties during lunch time, I spit and scoffed when i read his idea of “blowing the one plane swing theory out the dirt”. [http://mikeadamsgolf.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/Cover_Swing_Tracking1.pdf] However, despite my logical and first hand belief that a single plane can deliver more consistent hits, i’m a open to learning more if it makes fundamental sense from a physics point.

    The major point is the biomechanics are dictating where the swing plane sits in relation to torso and shoulders. But won’t a change in address hip angles and distance to the ball also adjust these angles in relation to the golfers body? One point in my switch to becoming more “one-plane” was more bend at the hip and wider stance. In each of your former examples if the golfer made the same adjustments they could all have low swing planes like Kuch.

    What’s the benefit? If someone like Kucher comes into your class, will you ever come across a moment where you’ll instruct the student, “Hey, I think you should swing more like Senden.” A big forward moment for me was when I realized I no longer needed to “lift” my arms away from my body. The reduction in this up/down movement increased my ball striking consistency greatly; yet in your article you document that Kaymer had the exact opposite experience. Can you explain why? Because honestly it could appear just to be a case of a player returning to a swing he/she grew up with. Your point of biomechanics being the engine for improvement could be debated effectively by stating that he was just returning to his previously grooved and successful swing. Had Kaymer learned a single plane (or any other method for that matter) swing as a youth his coaching direction could be vastly different.

    I’d love to hear some thoughts. Just purchased Jim Hardy’s book “Plane Truth” so i can reference if needed.

    • Michael Wheeler

      Apr 22, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks for the response. Simple answer is that if your forearm is 2 inches longer than your upper body why would try to force your plane lower to where that matches someone whose forearm is naturally shorter. When your forearm is longer than the upper arm it will set the club higher and further from the body than someone whose forearm is shorter.

      Senden’s swing is different than Kuchar because Senden’s biomechanics are much different than Kuch. They both swing the way they do and are successful because it matches their biomechanics. All of the Tour players have been tested by Mike Adams and EA Tischler during the research for the certification. Martin Kaymer struggled in the lower plane because it did not match his biomechanics as his forearm is much longer than his upper arm.

      Jim Hardy is an excellent teacher and is not wrong in his theory of one planers, but for golfers that have wingspans that are 4″ or more longer than their height they may react better to a lateral swing as we call it versus a rotary swing. How the arm sits at the top is dependent on that wingspan versus height number. Each of those tour players do what they do because it’s comfortable and natural to their biomechanics. There are other factors that have to be taken into account that are too many to name (rotation of the forearm for example) that would influence the swing as well. This is where going to an instructor, especially a BioSwing Dynamics certified instructor would benefit anyone.

      The entire certification helps us screen the golfer to give us a blueprint of how they should swing. It helps us find a swing that matches the individual and makes it more natural to them, which a response I get most of the time from my students since learning more about BioSwing Dynamics from Mike and EA, amongst many other certified instructors like Ted Sheftic.

  23. nick hanson

    Apr 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Great article Michael. E.A.’s been my teacher for the last 12 years and I can say with authority that he is the expert on these theories. It’s very cool to finally see it in print at a major publication.

    Thanks for the wonderful article.

    Nick Hanson

  24. Nick Randall

    Apr 22, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Hi Michael, congratulations on a really well written article. I really like the premise and it seems like a nice and tidy formula, I am going to start collecting some data from the students at our golf academy and the Queensland state training squad – will be interesting to see if the numbers match up to the theory for us too.

    I was under the impression that the biggest factor involved in downswing plane is your backswing plane, not necessarily your forearm to upper arm ratio. For instance if you take it back steep then it has to come down shallow and vice versa. Would it be possible to get your thoughts on that theory please?

    ps. Do you know where we can access the original piece of research?

    thanks

    Nick

    • Michael Wheeler

      Apr 22, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Nick, the original research is from the BioSwing Dynamics Certification, which belongs to Mike Adams and EA Tischler. However, your comment that if they swing back shallow then down steep and vice versa is not always true. The forearm length vs upper arm length is an absolute for downswing plane and not backswing plane. Backswing plane is checked by another test, but also takes into account other factor such as body size and width. There are 9 swing tracks… The golfer can come back on the hip plane (shaft plane) and then down on either the hip, torso, or shoulder plane; they could come back on the torso plane and then down on either the hip, torso, or shoulder plane; finally they could come back on the shoulder plane and then down on either the hip, torso or shoulder plane. If they come back high then come down low (shoulder backswing to torso downswing as an example) this would be considered a slot swing. If they go the other direction, low to high (hip plane backswing and shoulder plane downswing for example) that would be called a reverse slot swing. As you can see there is a lot more that a certified BioSwing Dynamics Instructor could use to fit the swing to the golfer, but these are a good base of information to see if you are working on the right things.

      Hope that answers some questions…

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Instruction

A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

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One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

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Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

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Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

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Instruction

Let’s Talk Gear: Frequency and Shaft CPM

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When it comes to fine tuning a golf shaft and matching clubs within a set, frequency and CPM play a critical role in build quality and making sure what you were fit for is what gets built for you.

This video explains the purpose of a frequency machine, as well as how the information it gives us relates to both building and fitting your clubs.

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