Every wonder why one golfer is so proficient with his driver, but cringes when has has a wedge in his hands? Another golfer may be an excellent short iron player, but he is scared stiff of his long irons. Is it all just skill level and practice?
For years, I’ve been obsessed with finding ways to build the tools I need so that I could validate the notion that “one optimal swing type for a complete range of golfers’ needs” just doesn’t make sense.
It seems to me that teaching just one swing type without showing a golfer how to adjust for each particular shot is very much like trying to select one car to suit all the family’s needs. Basically, it’s just a series of comprised decisions that invariably never meets the total needs.
Since 2010. I’ve been building digital tools that will finally inspire us to validate that “there is an optimal swing pattern for each and every type of golf shot and all golfers will need to acquire several of them to have a complete game.“
Working with a medical company called Patientech Vista in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, our team developed a golf pressure mat called BodiTrak that measures center of pressure.
By measuring the average position of a golfer’s vertical forces while in either in a “static” (set up in the address positions for various shots) and or “dynamic” position to capture complete swing data using sound as the trigger for determining impact and the web cam off your laptop for integrated video, we now can now bring center of pressure, or C.O.P. golf pressure mapping to the masses.
What you will see below are actual screen shots of the BodiTrak user interface.
A bit about BodiTrak: BodiTrak is a highly portable golf pressure mat that can be rolled up into a trim carrying case, weighs approximately 8 pounds and can be used both indoors and outdoors on any type of lie, putting, chipping, downhill and even side hill lies and sells for under $2,000.
Dr. Sasho MacKenzie, a well-known golf biomechanist from St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada and I did the initial validation of the BodiTrak Golf Pressure Mat as compared to an AMTI Force Plates that many of the top researchers in golf use. The results were positive and the trace patterns near match up in near identical fashions.
Much of the information we all can now capture has never been seen before, in particular the C.O.P. traces from the unusual lies, downhill lies, sidehill lies and so forth.
Pressure mapping itself is not a new topic. All successful golfers innately understand the significance of proper weight and balance issues. But until now, the lack of portability and high costs of force plates have restricted validating weight and balance issues. Most of the data collected to date has been restricted to but an elite group of researchers, biomechanists and advanced golf academies.
Recently, an article was written comparing the brake effect of a baseball player to golf, and this was just the encouragement that I needed to reach out and submit this article. It turns out that this brake effect is exactly what we refer to in our pressure mapping system as the power trace.
While conducting an early spring symposium at Holland Golf College in Prince Edward Island earlier this year, I ran through all 43 golf students on the golf pressure mapping device. The results were obvious and very interesting, and I’d like to share them here with you.
Hockey is Canada’s national sport, and it’s easy to understand that so many of the Holland College group I was testing were well versed in slapshots. I was very curious to see if many of these young golfers that had the power trace actually knew what they were doing to create the power. Amazingly, most did!
It turns out that in hockey (just it as in baseball), the most powerful slapshots are produced when the front foot is used as a brake, slowing down the forward momentum providing resistance to hit against. This is a well-established fact among hockey players and makes total sense. Otherwise, you would be sliding forward and very little power would be generated in a slap shot if this technique wasn’t used.
The power trace illustrated below indicates that the C.O.P. DOT (white dot) moves hard to the front foot even before the golfer completes his backswing. I refer to this as the “resting” position. Next, the vertical forces in the C.O.P. trace reverse toward the back foot just prior to impact, allowing the golfer to create the resistance that generates his impressive power.
When polling the students, I asked this distinguished group of power hitters to describe their short iron and wedge play. Most indicated that their irons was not their strong suit. This made perfect sense. For if you use this C.O.P. power trace for all your shots, you are effectively pulling up prior to impact, which may not be ideal for short iron play.
Below is a great example of the C.O.P. power trace collected at my Holland College symposium. By the way, if you slow down the new D.N.A. golf shoe add by FootJoy, you’ll see the same C.O.P. Trace they are showing on their pressure map.
A Holland College player selected by his peers as the best iron player. The same player as above C.O.P. iron trace.
C.O.P. Linear Trace: Irons
When these power trace hitters were questioned about their personal iron play, I also asked all of their power trace peers who was the best iron player in their group.
The same golfer, Ben, who used the power trace with his driver, demonstrated a completely different C.O.P. trace with his irons!
Through thousands of hours testing with the BodiTrak Golf Pressure Mapping device, I’ve come to call this C.O.P. trace “linear,” as it illustrates the a golfer’s transfer of a weight in very simplistic manner: straight back and straight through.
In actual field testing, I’ve found that this linear C.O.P. trace is used by very accurate golfers and a very reliable C.O.P. trace of a golfer with strong short iron performance, where power generation is not a crucial part of the optimal overall result.
Of all the various C.O.P. traces, the linear trace is not the most powerful, but it does seem to represent the most accurate C.O.P. trace for short iron play.
I’ve posted the power trace at on Youtube for your greater scrutiny.
[youtube id=”kdOYrn9ckgo” width=”620″ height=”360″]
While C.O.P. analysis is purely research at its infancy, it’s very clear that the ideal C.O.P. trace for optimal distance is not the one that is to be used for optimal control. Each set of clubs, be that driver, fairway woods, irons and the likes, all will have their own optimal C.O.P. trace patterns. That is not likely a revelation to most.
Finally, a solution to understanding that one swing for all shots is not an optimal solution. This science shows that predictable traces serve each particular shot required and help golfers quantify feel. Unfortunately, as I learn more and more about C.O.P. golf pressure mapping, my lifetime obsession to prove my notion has not subsided, rather it has grown.
Lesson of the Day: Understand cause and effect to make permanent swing changes
In our “Lesson of the Day” video series with V1 Sports, we match a different GolfWRX member with a different V1 Sports instructor. It’s extremely important to both V1 Sports and GolfWRX to help golfers improve their games and shoot lower scores, and there’s no better way to do that than getting lessons. While we not only want to provide free lessons to select GolfWRX members, we want to encourage and inspire golfers to seek professional instruction. For instructions on how to submit your own video for a chance at getting a free lesson from a V1 Sports instructor as part of our Lesson of the Day series, CLICK HERE.
This week, V1 Pro Dan Marvosh looks at WRX Member Matt Chappellie’s swing.
About the pro
Dan Marvosh is a PGA Professional as well as TPI Certified instructor based at Sterling Hills Golf Club in Camarillo, CA. In addition to providing a TPI physical screen to understand your body’s movement patterns he also uses the advancement of technology to accurately measure all of the key components that go into making you a better player. These tools include V1 Pro software for analyzing your golf swing, Flightscope launch monitors as well as a brand new wrist sensor called Hackmotion. In addition to in person coaching and programming, Dan offers his students the ability to learn from anywhere in the world via his golf academy.
My first impression of Matt was that he has an athletic setup and likely plays regularly, but like many of you, definitely will benefit from understanding the core cause and effect of why his inconsistencies in ball striking occur. Matt has a very weak grip, evidenced by the “v” of the trail hand pointing in front of his sternum. Players with weak grips generally get the club face fairly open in the back swing and thus have to react accordingly on the down swing to match up the open club face. While most high-handicap players usually react to an open face by swinging left or “over-the-top” to square that open face, Matt has a better players match up where he combines his weak grip with pressure towards his toes at address which cause him to stand up (to maintain balance) in the back swing.
As Matt makes his transition, you’ll notice he continues to early extend (note the loss of tush line) which for him does get his swing direction to the right, however in doing so he will have a significant loss of forward shaft lean and most importantly, face control. In short, standing up in the downswing reduces your ability to create ground force which encourages torso and hip rotation. If you watch Matt’s video, you will be able to understand the connection more clearly. Notice that when the shaft is parallel to the ground in the downswing (Golf Machine aficionados call this p6) the club face is still fairly open (hence why just working on rotation will not work), however just past impact the face has rolled significantly closed, further showing the effect on not utilizing the ground properly to stabilize the face.
In conclusion, like many swings it is often easy to notice the symptoms of Matt’s flawed pattern, however understanding the core cause and thus effect allows permanent change to be more possible and for a lot of my players that starts with the club face. Here are the key steps for Matt to take in order to allow permanent change to show up on the course — where it matters most!
Steps to improvement
- Create a stronger grip at setup- the checkpoint for Matt is to have the “v” of the trail hand to line up more with his trail forearm. Most of you will also benefit from being able to see two knuckles of the top hand from address given its effect on controlling the tendency of an open club face.
- Feel like pressure at address in the feet is more in the mid foot as opposed to towards the toes.
- Work an early extension drill (in the video) to create body awareness and new rotational feels with more ideal pressure shifts (Whenever doing a drill, start off slow and work your way up to speed and take advantage of your smart phone to measure your progress – feel and real are often two extremely different things. Finally, dedicate a portion of your practice to practice swings at 90% speed that incorporate portions of the change you are making and try to match those swings on a ball, this is ultimately the swing you want to take to the course because it has athleticism and incorporates your new pattern)
How-to Series: How to move your hips on the backswing
This is the first installment in our How To Series — follow this plan to master the movements of the hips on the backswing!
This new series is all about helping you improve your golf swing quickly. We’re going to break the swing down into its component parts and give you specific practice direction — master these key elements of the swing and you’ll see improvement fast!
How “long arms” at the top of the backswing can help you hit the ball farther
One of the hardest things to do as we get older is to make a big shoulder turn with extended arms at the top. It’s the swing of a younger golfer! However, every one of us can add width at the top so we can hit it farther, but few know how to actually do so. In this article, I will use MySwing 3D Motion Analysis to help you understand how beneficial long arms are at the top.
As you examine the swing of this particular player, you will notice that the lead arm is “soft” and the hands are close to this player’s head at the top. This is the classic narrow armswing to the top that most older players employ. And as we all know this position leaves yardage in the bag!
Now let’s look at the data so we can see what is actually happening…
At the top you can see that the shoulders have turned 100 degrees which is more than enough, but the arms look jammed and narrow at the top. Why?
The answer lies within the actions of the rear arm, the lead arm is only REACTING to the over-bending of the rear elbow. As you can see at the top the rear elbow is bent 60 degrees. In a perfect world, when the rear elbow is at 90 degrees (a right angle) or more, the lead arm will be mostly straight — depending on how you’re built.
Something to note…in this position the hands are just past the chest and the shoulders have turned almost 90 degrees. However, when this player finished his backswing, he added 30 more degrees of rear elbow bend and only 11 more degrees of shoulder turn! What this means is that for the last quarter of the backswing, all this player did is allow the hands to basically collapse to the top of the backswing. This move is less than efficient and will cause major issues in your downswing sequencing, as well as, your transitional action.
As stated when your trail elbow stays at 90 degrees or wider in route to the top, you will have a much straighter lead arm.
One last thing to note when comparing these two players is that this player two had a shorter backswing length but a BIGGER shoulder turn with WIDER arms at the top, giving this player a short compact motion that resembles Adam Scott — which seems to work for he and Butch!
Therefore, the thing to remember is that if your lead arm is soft at the top and your arms look crowded at the top, then you must fix the over-bending of the rear elbow on the backswing. And if you have wider arms you will have a more solid “package” to become a ballstriking machine!
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