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Video: Hudson Swafford’s drill to hit more fairways

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This story was selected as one of the 15 best GolfWRX stories of 2015!

The way I teach a golf lesson has changed a lot in the past few years. For 10 or more years, I had the same cameras and computers in my academy. Then, I got my first TrackMan in 2012 and ever since I’ve added more and more technology to help me find whatever small thing will help my clients play a little better.

I’ve got a SwingCatalyst and BodiTrak to check how players use the ground, a K-Vest to see how they transfer energy from one segment to another, SAM PuttLab and a Quintic system to see how the putter moves and the ball rolls. I’m lucky enough to help some really good PGA Tour players with their games. It’s nice to have all these fancy tools to find that “needle in a haystack” that can be the difference between a player missing a cut and contending on Sunday.

That being said, I still use old-school video more than anything. It’s easier for a player to understand their swing by looking at an image of themselves instead of looking at a number from one of my tools. I even like for my players to use video on their own. The cameras on today’s phones are so good that I can give my players check points to use during off weeks so they can check their swings themselves. Of course, it’s easy for them to send me a video for a second opinion, too.

The guy in this video, Hudson Swafford, came to me in the middle of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season. He had a hot start to his year with finishes of 8th, 18th and 12th in his first three events. After that, he began to drive the ball a little erratically and missed the cut in eight of his next 13 events. We started working together at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans. We were able to right the ship and Hudson made 10 of his last 14 cuts to finish 81st on the money list.

To straighten out his tee shots, we started with a simple check point of getting the club shaft pointed parallel to the target line at the top of the swing. With the club laid off and pointing to the left of the target at the top, Hudson had to make some complex moves with his arms and body to get the club head traveling in the right direction to hit the “bomb fade” he likes so much.

If I’m not there to check it for him, all he has to do is put his phone in the right place (as described at the end of the video), hit record and look for his club head to appear “in the window” between his forearms at the top of his swing. If he sees that he knows he’s on the right track.

The author, Scott Hamilton has created a four-lesson video course with his keys to achieving consistent, solid contact. The Solid Contact Series is available for free on his website OnTourGolf.com.  

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Currently teaching 14 PGA Tour players, Scott Hamilton is a staple on the PGA Tour range each week. In 2015, a poll of PGA Tour players conducted by Golf Digest ranked him as the No. 2 instructor on the PGA Tour. His players like him for his ability to conduct a complete analysis of their games and return a simple solution to help them play better. “You get the result you want without all the big words.” as Scott often says.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Dr Troy

    Oct 30, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    Scott has an awesome stable of pros. Amazing how that many studs come to little ol Cartersville here north of ATL for instruction. Keep up the great work Scott!

  2. Spencer

    Oct 30, 2015 at 12:48 am

    Can this apply to irons as well?

    • Scott Hamilton

      Nov 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      Yeah Man. This applies to all clubs if it gets to parallel. If it’s a shorter swing the club head can point a little left. Bowdo does this.

  3. Jeff

    Oct 29, 2015 at 3:05 pm

    Great article. Where should the club head be with an iron?

  4. Chipshot

    Oct 29, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Being 5’9″, this technique would feel super steep at the top of my backswing. The flatter plain feels more comfortable for me. I favored the Woosnam’s and Hogan’s with the lower center of gravity.

  5. Connor

    Oct 28, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    if the club is laid off at the top shouldn’t it be pointing to the left of the target?

  6. Birdeez

    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    what type of phone holder or tripod is being used? where can i find this online.

    those offered that attach to alignment rods sway or shake in the slightest breeze.

  7. Mike

    Oct 28, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks this was great.

  8. jesse

    Oct 28, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Great video, even better website. After watching the video I loved in and watched the videos on your site. Golfwrx can we please get more content like this.

    • Scott Hamilton

      Nov 2, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      Thanks for the comment. I’m working with a good friend of mine on this OnTourGolf.com site. It’s gonna have a lot of the other coaches on tour on there soon and I think more of these videos are supposed to be posted here too. I’ll check.

  9. Fred

    Oct 28, 2015 at 11:28 am

    Cool video. Thanks for posting.

    • B-man

      Oct 28, 2015 at 11:39 am

      One of the best articles I’ve ever seen here.

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Instruction

Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump

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In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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Move Your Legs Like the Legends: The Key to the Snead Squat

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It’s important not to overdo the “Sam Snead squat.” Understanding the subtle leg movements of the game’s greats is key to making your practice purposeful and making real improvement.

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A Guide (Secret) to Better Putting

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Putting is a part of the game where we can all do small things to get better. You don’t have to practice 40 hours a week or have a stroke that gets a perfect score on a SAM PuttLab. The universal answer is to simplify the approach as much as possible.

While being a world class putter is an art form, being competent at putting is probably the least physically daunting task in golf — aside from maybe driving the cart. Putting generally provides the most stress and frustration, however, as our results are almost never aligned with our exceptions, which drives us to create unnecessary roadblocks to success.

That being the case, let’s narrow this down to as few variables as possible and get ourselves holing more putts. First off, you need to have proper expectations. If you look at the PGA Tour averages for made putts, you will find that the rates of success overall are far lower than what we see on on TV on Sunday afternoon. That’s because we are seeing the best players in the world, who in a moment in time, are holing putts at a clip the average plus-handicap club champion couldn’t dream of during a near death experience on his way to walking into the light.

If you have ever seen golf balls rolled on a stimpmeter ramp (the device used to measure green speed), you have probably seen something shocking. Golf balls rolling perfectly — the perfect speed, on a perfect green, on a perfectly straight putt — sometimes miss on both sides of the hole on consecutive efforts.

This is a very important point. The farther you get from the hole, the less control you have over making the putt. That’s why actually making putts outside a few feet should not be your priority. Hitting the best putt possible is your only priority. Then be resigned that the putt will either go in or it won’t. This might seem defeatist, but it’s not; its just a perception change. If you judge yourself on whether the ball goes in or not, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you judge yourself on whether or not you hit a good putt, you will be more successful… and you’re going to make more putts.

This sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins positive thinking seminar, but it has proven successful for every one of my clients who has embraced it. So what’s the secret to hitting the best putt possible each time?

Simplify the process.

  1.  Read the green to the best of your ability.
  2.  Pick a line and do your best to set up to it.
  3.  Do your best to hit the putt solid and at the right speed.

Reading the green is something that gets better with experience and practice. Some will be better than others, so this is an intangible thing that countless books are written about. My advice is simple; DON’T OVER THINK IT. Look at the terrain and get a general sense of where low point is in relation to the hole.

The reason why perfect green reading and perfect alignment are overrated is because there is no one line to the hole. The hole is over 4-inches wide and putts break differently with changes in speed and solidness of contact. I saw a video at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio many years ago of dozens of PGA Tour players. There was a worm’s-eye camera on a 4-5 foot putt that was basically straight on the artificial grass. Few were aimed at the middle of the hole and many weren’t even aimed at the hole at all… but I didn’t see one miss.

So have a look at the terrain and be decent at lining up in the general direction that will give a chance for a well struck putt to go in or finish close enough for a tap in. Simple. After rambling on for several paragraphs, we get to the heart of how you can improve your putting. Narrow it down to doing your best to hit a solid putt at the right speed.

The “Right Speed”

I ask people after they addressed a putt how much attention they pay to line and speed. Any answer but 100 percent speed is wrong. You’ve already read the putt and lined up. Why is line any longer a variable? Plus, have you ever missed the line on a 20-foot putt by 5 feet? Maybe once in your life on a crazy green, but you sure as heck have left it 5-feet short and long on several occasions.

Imagine I handed you a basketball and said shoot it in the basket. Or what if I told you to toss a crumpled piece of paper into the trash? Having the requisite coordination is an acquired skill, but you wouldn’t grind over innocuous details when it came to the feel of making the object go the right distance. You’d react to the object in your hand and the target for the right speed/distance.

Putting is no different, save one variable. There’s the sense and feel of how the the green interacts with the ball, and that’s a direct result of how solidly you hit the putt. If you use X amount of force and it goes 18 feet one effort and 23 feet the next, how are you ever going to acquire speed control? That is the mark of almost every poor lag putter. They don’t hit putts consistently solid, so they never acquire the skill of distance control.

Since speed is a learned reaction to the terrain/target and consistency is a direct result of how consistently solid you strike the ball, that is what we’re left with.

Learn to Hit Putts More Solid

The road to better putting is as simple as hitting your putts more solid. Put most/all of your effort into what it takes to hit more putts solid. Now for each individual, it’s less about doing what’s right. Instead, it’s about avoiding movements and alignments that make it difficult to hit the ball solid. It would take an encyclopedia to cover all of the issues that fall into this category, so I will list the most common that will cover more than 90 percent of golfers.

The most common one I see — and it is nearly universal in people who are plagued by poor lag putting — is excess hip rotation. Sometimes there’s even an actual weight shift. Think of it this way; take a backstroke and stop. Rotate your hips 20 degrees without moving anything else. The putter and the arc is now pointed left of your intended line. You have to shove it with your arms and hands not to pull it. Good luck hitting it solid while doing all of that.

I had a golf school in Baltimore and told this story. Ten of the 15 people there assured me they didn’t do that. After 8 people had putted, we were 8-for-8. No. 9 said, “There is no ******* way I am going to move my hips after watching this.”

The entire group laughed after his putt told him he was wrong. The last 6 did everything they could to avoid the fault. We went 15 for 15. Many people are unaware that this issue is so dire. If you add the people that are unaware they have this issue, we are near 100 percent of golfers. I have gotten emails from 8-10 of them telling me how much their putting improved after all they did was focus on minimizing hip rotation and just hitting the ball solid.

This issue is not just the bane of average golfers; I’ve had several mini-tour players with putting issues improve with this. We are all aware Fred Couples would have won many more majors if not for a career-long battle with his putter. Watch the next time he misses a 6-foot putt to the left. As you will see, it’s not just a problem for a high-handicappers.

The best way to judge and practice avoiding this, it putting with an alignment stick in you belt loops.  If your hips rotate too much, the stick will definitely let you know.

Other issues include the well know chest/sternum coming up too soon in an effort to see the ball go in the hole, as well as:

  • Not aligning the putter shaft properly with the lead arm
  • Grip pressure issues (too much and too little)
  • Too much tension in neck and shoulders
  • Poor rhythm
  • Long back stroke

I could go on and on and on. The main point; find out why you aren’t hitting putts solid and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s something crazy like a super wide-open stance (with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). See the Jack Nicklaus picture at the top of the story.

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