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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

Why flaring your left foot out at address could be a big mistake

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In his book “Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” published in 1957, Ben Hogan recommended that golfers position their right foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line, and then position their left-foot a quarter of a turn outward at a 15-degree angle (Note: He was writing for right-handed golfers). The purpose of the left-foot foot position was to assist in the “clearing of the left hip,” which Hogan believed started his downswing.

Through this Hogan instruction book and the others he wrote through the years, there four categories that defined his advice;

  1. He accurately described what was occurring in his swing.
  2. He described a phantom move that never occurred.
  3. He described something that occurred but to a lesser degree than indicated.
  4. He inaccurately described what was happening in his swing.

As evidenced by today’s modern video, Hogan did not open up his left hip immediately as he described. This piece of advice would fall into the fourth category listed above — he inaccurately described what was happening in his swing. In reality, the first move in his downswing was a 10-12 inch shift of his left hip forward toward the target before his left hip ever turned open.

SPINNING OUT

Those amateur golfers who strictly adopted his philosophy, opening the left hip immediately, ended up“spinning out” and never getting to their left foot. The spin-out was made even worse by the 15-degree angle of the left foot Hogan offered. That said, based on Hogan’s stature in the golf world, his advice regarding the positioning of the feet was treated as if it were gospel and adopted by both players and teachers. Since that time his hip action has been debated, but the positioning of the left foot has remained unquestioned — until today.

THE FLARED FOOT POSITION

The flared position of his left foot may or may not have been of assistance in helping Hogan achieve the desired outcome in his swing. That really is not the point, but rather that over a half-century there has never been a voice that argued against the flared foot position he advocated.

The rest of the golf world accepted his advice without question. In my opinion, the left foot position advocated by Hogan has harmed countless golfers who slowly saw their swings fall apart and wondered why. His well-meaning advice was a poisoned pill, and once swallowed by golfers it served to eventually erode what was left of their left side.

DEAD WRONG

The subject of this piece is not to debate Hogan’s hip action but the piece that accompanied it, the 15-degree flare of the left foot. I’m of the opinion that it is not only wrong. Because of its toxic nature, it is DEAD WRONG.  The reason has to do with the tailbone, which determines the motion of the hips in the swing. The more the left foot opens up at address, the more the tailbone angles backward. That encourages the hips to “spin out” in the downswing, which means they have turned before the player’s weight has been allowed to move forward to their left foot and left knee.

As a consequence of the hips spinning out, players move their weight backward (toward the right foot), encouraging a swing that works out-to-in across the body. You can see this swing played out on the first tee of any public golf course on a Saturday morning.

FOOT FLARE ISSUES

The problem with the 15-degree foot flare is that it promotes, if not guarantees, the following swing issues:

In the backswing, the flared left foot:

  1. Discourages a full left- hip turn;
  2. Encourages the improper motion of the left-knee outward rather than back
  3. Reduces the degree that the torso can turn because of the restrictions placed on the left hip.

In the downswing, the flared left foot: 

  1. Promotes a “spinning out” of the left hip.
  2. Does not allow for a solid post at impact.

STRAIGHT AHEAD

In working with my students, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most advantageous position for the left foot at address is straight ahead at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The reason is not only because it encourages a positive moment of the player’s weight forward in the downswing, but it also improves the player’s chances of making a sound backswing.

THE POWER OF THE LEFT HEEL

There is an inherent advantage to placing the left-foot at a 90-degree to the target-line. It is the strongest physical position against which to hit the ball, as it provides a powerful post at impact that serves to increase both power and consistency.

JACK NICKLAUS

A number of years ago, Jack Nicklaus appeared on the cover of Golf Digest. The byline suggested that in studying Jack’s footwork, they had discovered something that up to that point was unknown. The “secret” they were describing was that after lifting his left heel in the backswing, he replanted it in the downswing with his heel closer to the target line than his toe. The intimation was that this might be a secret source of power in his swing.  This was hardly a “secret,” and something that Nicklaus was probably unaware of until it was pointed out to him, but it’s a demonstration of the fact that his natural instinct was to turn his foot inward, rather than outward, on the downswing.

THE DISCUS THROWER

The discus thrower whirls around in a circle as he prepares to throw. On the final pass, he plants his left toe slightly inward, relative to his heel, because this is the most powerful position from which to cast the discus. This position allows the thrower to draw energy from the ground while at the same time providing a strong post position from which additional torque can be applied. The point is that as the discus thrower makes the final spin in preparation for the throw, he does not turn the lead foot outward. Why? Because if it were turned outward, the potential draw of energy from the ground would be compromised.

The same is true when it comes to swinging a golf club for power, and you can test the two positions for yourself. After turning the left foot into a position that is 90 degrees to the target line, you will immediately note the ease with which you can now turn away from the target in addition to the strength of your left side post at the point of impact. Conversely, when you turn your left foot out, you will feel how it restricts your backswing and does not allow for a strong post position on the downswing.

REPAIRING YOUR SWING

Do you have trouble cutting across the ball? You might look to the position of your left foot and the action of the left hip. The first step would be to place your left foot at a 90-degree angle to the target line. The second step would be to turn you left hip around in a half circle as if tracing the inside of a barrel. The third step would be to feel that you left your left hip remains in the same position as you scissor your weight towards your left toe, and then your right heel, allowing the club to travel on the same path. The combination of these changes will encourage the club to swing in-to-out, improving the path of your swing.

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Instruction

WATCH: Over-the-top vs. over-and-through: 1 destroys a swing, 1 can save it

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This video is about OVER-AND-THROUGH, which is very different than being over-the-top. Over-and-through is a great recovery from a backswing that is not quite in the right position. Over-the-top is flat-out a full default to the ball. See how you can bridge the gap with getting your swing to deliver better to the target!

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Instruction

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 1: The long game

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This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

Zach Parker

The act of working on your golf game is often referred to as practice. This is a problem, however, because the word “practice” infers repetition or rehearsal. But golf is a sport that has a constantly changing playing surface, varying conditions and mixed skill requirements. So, if we use the traditional practice model of hitting the same shot over and over again, then we have a complete mismatch between our training and the requirements of the sport. This can lead to the following frustrations

  • Grinding on the range but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance on range to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

These annoyances can lead to overall disappointment at underperforming and falling short of expectations developed in practice sessions. The most likely root cause of this issue is having no structure and the wrong context to your training, mistakenly focusing on repeating the same shot over and over again. 

So let’s try shifting our approach and aim to train and not simply practice. By introducing these three key principles to your training, we can not only get better at golf, but do so a way that is more efficient and more fun too! For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

Spacing

Dr. Robert Bjorks suggests that the theory of spacing dates back centuries and simply means taking some time between training or learning tasks. By spacing things out the learner is forced to try and recall what was learned in the previous session, which makes that original learning stronger. The act of remembering strengthens the retrieval process, meaning it is more accessible in the future and easier to bring about.

Variability

Performing the same task over and over can allow you to appear to have “learned” the skill however we know that this is simply a false sense of competency (good on the range, but not on the course). Therefore if you’re truly looking to “learn” the new skill or desired movement pattern you need to introduce variability to the learning environment.

Challenge Point

Challenge point theory is a relatively new concept championed by Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and Dr. Tim Lee. The central idea of this theory is to create training sessions that are appropriate for the learner. A large emphasis is placed on matching up the difficulty of the practice task to the skill level of the golfer.

Guadagnoli and Lee present the idea that a beginner golfer with a low level of skill is better off spending time on practice tasks that are easier, and in a blocked style. Whilst golfers with a higher level of skill are better off spending time in practice tasks that are slightly harder, and in an interleaved style.

Challenge point needs to reflect the ability of the individual

Practical Example

In this example we have a college golfer aiming to incorporate a particular technical move into his golf swing. He is using a GravityFit TPro to help with feedback and learning. But instead of simply bashing balls using the TPro, he has been set up with a series of stations. The stations are divided into learning and completion tasks and incorporate the principles of Spacing, Variability and Challenge Point.

The aim is to work through three stations. If at any point the completion task is failed, then the participant must return back to the start at station one.

Station 1

Learning task: Three balls with a specific focus (in this case technical), performing two or three rehearsals to increase understanding of the desired pattern.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 35-45 feet, right-to-left break

Station 2

Learning task: Perform posture drills with the TPro, followed by one learning trial (hitting a shot) where the focus in on re-creating the feelings from the TPro exercise.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30 feet, uphill

Station 3

Learning task: Transfer previous technical feels to a target focus, aiming for two out of three balls landing inside the proximity target.

Completion task: Must make an 8-10 footer.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (Variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (Challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (Spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, check out the website here

 

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