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You CAN Handle the Truth: The Importance of Measurable Data in the Golf Swing

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There are a lot of things we can argue about: pitcher or designated hitter, Superman or Batman, Ginger or Mary Ann, Coke or Pepsi. There are equally heated debates in the golf instruction world, and those arguments often go in circles without reaching a conclusion.

In golf, technology can help settle arguments by providing us with what I like to call “measurable truth.” If I can measure something in the swing, I can show you the truth and show you what needs to change. I’m not talking about video, though. Video doesn’t give us “measurable truth.” It gives us visual evidence of something that might be happening. To achieve a measurable truth, you need to capture a golfer’s movement in three dimensions. That’s where MySwing Professional comes in.

MySwing Professional is a full-body 3D system that uses wireless sensors to measure how and how much a golfer moves during a swing (or in the case of this article, how much a golfer doesn’t move). And that’s what we coaches deal with: movement, incorrect movement or lack of movement.

Recently, I had a player come to me searching for lost distance and swing speed. He has a fantastic swing, but in our pre-lesson interview he told me he’s now a club-and-a-half shorter through the bag, hitting hybrids into most par 4’s. It was clear I had to show the “measurables” for him to know the truth.

He hit some shots with a 6 iron; we captured his swing on video and in 3D using MySwing Pro. What we saw on video looked pretty good, but the 3D data from MySwing Pro showed us something completely different. He didn’t have enough hip turn and body turn. It was measured data that gave us the real story about what was happening. It showed he was only making a three-quarter swing at best with limited hip turn and shoulder turn.

The Old, Short Swing

Short Swing

The Fix: I had to get him moving better so we could add more “punch” to his swing. The simple advice I gave him was when the hips want to stop, keep them going until the left foot rolls and the heel lifts off the ground.

We worked on that without a golf ball at first, just taking some swings casually with this improved turn and freed-up footwork. After a few reps with the new motion, I had him flip the club around so he was gripping the club head and swinging the grip. I wanted him to turn it loose and hear the loud “whoosh” of the club. Once he had these two moves down we returned to the hitting station and put the club on the ball. With the bigger turn and better move to the right he quickly regained his lost distance.

The New, Longer Swing

Improved

What I’ve found is the player learns faster when a “measurable truth” is revealed. And sometimes, that’s all the player needs: to buy in and improve at a much faster rate. For this player, improved backswing size equals no more hybrids into par 4’s, which gave him more birdie putts and allowed him to have more fun on the course. And that’s what it’s all about.

P.S. The correct answers to the start of the article are: Pitcher, Superman, Ginger and Coke.

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Mike

    Mar 22, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    What is a normal shoulder turn and hip turn number for a driver. For the pros? and what can or should an amateur strive for?

  2. knoofah

    Mar 18, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    Completely disagree. The correct answers are:
    DH
    Superman
    MARYANN, all day every day
    Coke

  3. Jarno

    Mar 18, 2017 at 10:13 am

    What is the measurable stats on shot dispersion before and after?

  4. TexasSnowman

    Mar 17, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    Mary Ann

  5. Dennis E Jones

    Mar 17, 2017 at 9:30 am

    “P.S. The correct answers to the start of the article are: Pitcher, Superman, Ginger and Coke.” You measured Ginger?

    • Rob Strano

      Mar 17, 2017 at 7:48 pm

      Ginger 35-22-36
      Gotta have all the data Dennis!

  6. Golf Scientist

    Mar 17, 2017 at 8:56 am

    While its true that using technology to measure what’s happening, and comparing amateur golfers to pro golfers (ideally a composite model, not a single golfer who has compensations and flaws) can be beneficial. However all of that is worthless if the person interpreting the data, and giving instruction provides bad information. Swing Like a Pro (ModelGolf), Drive Like the Pros (TMATT), and Titliest Performance Institute (TPI) all have excellent pro models, but I’ve seen all of them make interpretations about the data, and give advice that has bio-mechanical, logic, and/or physics flaws.

    Robs suggestion to his student gave the student 10* more separation between the shoulders and hips at the top of the swing, but did really account for the reclaiming of distance, and did the suggestions that lead to the additional separation decrease accuracy and consistency? For people that buy into the “X-factor” distance theories its been said that its the stretch during transition not the separation at the top that account for increasing distance. (Its debatable if the body truly springs back like some people suggest. If you wind up your shoulders and thorax to its max, and then relax the tension and let the shoulders and thorax return to there natural position – not using any muscular force to turn them back – how fast and far did they move. You’ll probably note not very fast and not very far.

    Now that Rob’s student is lifting his left foot stability and consistency (for the swing from that point on) are now compromised. Lifting the foot alters posture, brings in potentially lateral slide, and now the student needs to deal with replanting the foot on the way down. Both in consistent replacement of the foot in relation to where on the ground, as well as when and how to do it. The student now has more compensation to make, and will likely be less consistent.

    Maybe the separation issue could have been solved by looking at how the student rotated (both conceptually and physically in the backswing (ex : muscles pushing vs pulling, right side vs left side, diagonally vs horizontally).

    The 10* additional rotation on the backswing may not have had anything to do with the added distance. Maybe the whooshing drill (and possibly better order or synchronization of body parts on the downswing accounted for the increased distance.

    Scientific and mathematical data about the golf swing is wonderful, but it needs to be interpreted correctly.

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Instruction

Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve

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Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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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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Instruction

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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