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How PGA Tour players use the ground: Trends from BodiTrak

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Any time new technology makes its way onto the PGA Tour, it’s always interesting to take a step back and observe some of the general trends to see what we can learn from the new data it provides. One new piece of technology that is growing in popularity on professional tours is BodiTrak, which I co-developed. BodiTrak a pressure-sensing mat that helps athletes understand how they interact with the ground, which, of course, is great for the golf swing. As we continue to learn, the movement of a golfer’s center of pressure, or COP, is crucial to performance, and that’s exactly what BodiTrak measures.

The importance of pressure or weight shift isn’t a new concept at all, though. Hall of Fame instructor Jim McLean wrote an article for Golf Digest 25 years ago that discussed the importance of being able to load into your trail leg and explode onto your lead leg. McLean’s postulate from 1980 was resisted by some, but is now being confirmed — almost universally across the instruction community — with data from BodiTrak mats.

“Now with BodiTrak Pressure Mapping, even those most pessimistic doubters and anti-weight movement teachers have to concede that great ball strikers and all PGA Tour players load pressure into the trail foot in the backswing for a driver,” McLean says. “They then unload quickly back to the lead foot, and explode out of the ground through the impact interval.”

We’re only scratching the surface in terms of data collection on Tour, but I wanted to share a few of the most notable trends, as they might be relevant lessons for the average club golfer.

Tour players load and explode

The vast majority of Tour players load at least 80 percent of the pressure into their trail leg in their backswing and at least 80 percent into their lead leg at impact with their driver swing. Some golfers that BodiTrak has measured, like Jason Day, put as much as 95 percent of their pressure on their trail leg near the top of their backswing.

This move requires tremendous physical ability, but it’s foundational to Tour-level distance and consistency. Titleist Performance Institute co-founder Dave Phillips analyzed how Day’s elite hip mobility and stability make this move possible. Many amateurs (and some professionals) don’t have the requisite physical capabilities to do this, while others have inefficient technique. McLean refers to the transition to the lead leg as the key move in the golf. Golfers who fail to do so invite a number of potentially harmful swing tendencies. As PGA Tour instructor John Tillery says, “I’m convinced that the overwhelming difference between amateurs and Tour players is how and when they shift their pressure.”

Most Tour players have a linear trace with short irons

As a general rule, we’ve found the golf club wants to follow a golfer’s pressure trace during the swing. Many instructors advocate a linear trace because it encourages a neutral club path from which golfers can either fade or draw the ball. There are exceptions, but if you review BodiTrak’s library of PGA Tour data, you’ll see that linear traces are extremely common in precision swings. Linear iron traces are often drastically different from dynamic traces seen in many powerful driver swings. The explosive speed of a Bubba Watson or J.B. Holmes results from tremendous ground reaction forces, evidenced by a center of pressure trace we often refer to as a “Z Trace.”

You may know PGA Tour instructor Scott Hamilton from the instruction videos he makes for GolfWRX. He does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between club path and ground mechanics in the video below.

Sometimes poor technique is to blame for a center of pressure that traces excessively to the ball of the lead foot, but it’s also often an indication of limited physical capacity, specifically in the posterior chain. PGA Tour instructor Mark Blackburn notes that this is especially common among junior golfers who lack stability in their lower body.

Ground interaction is important in the short game

One of the most fascinating studies of ground mechanics has come from how PGA Tour players shift their pressure around the green. PGA Tour instructor Jake Thurm uses BodiTrak to assess how two-time champion Kevin Steelman distributes his pressure to ensure that the loft of the club is maximized. It’s a really interesting look into how data from BodiTrak can reflect corrections in posture throughout a swing. As Thurm says, “If your pressure is incorrect at setup, it will be corrected for throughout your motion.”

Popular online instructor Mark Crossfield, who also contributes to GolfWRX, compared pressure shift trends on different pitch shots, demonstrating how his center of pressure went into the toe of his trail foot and heel of his lead foot on a lob shot versus a lower, spinning chip that was hit with a more linear trace and more pressure into the lead foot at impact.

European Tour member Oliver Wilson also noted the importance in the timing and magnitude of his pressure shift in the bunker.

Following on from yesterday I used @boditrak in the bunker to show how my COP (Center of pressure) was working. It shows the COP moving to the right too soon & then into my heel. Ideally I need to stay more centered with the pressure in the initial takeaway. This will allow me to coil better & enable the right arm to bend easier. These in turn help me to keep the loft on the club face. For me, that will take care of any shaft lean at impact therefore using the bounce! Very similar to my golf swing! Love @boditrak as a measuring device for when things are good but it’s great to sometimes show why we aren’t able to obtain certain positions on video. #bunker #instagolf #golf #Callaway #oriongroup #hugoboss #practice #bounce A video posted by Oliver Wilson (@oliver_wilson) on

Pressure shift isn’t a new concept in golf. Instructors have been teaching pressure shift for years, but now, thanks to technologies like BodiTrak, we’re able to validate the concept with data and provide valuable biofeedback on the range for golfers.

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Terry is the founder of Jazz Golf in Canada, co-developer of the BodiTrak Golf Pressure Map, and inventor of the world's first inertial measuring unit for golf and other major golf products. full information available at : https://www.linkedin.com/pub/terry-hashimoto/25/541/46a Terry is currently involved in developing golf pressure mats to develop bio feedback and immediate response information systems for the future of online sport metrics. He is a University of Miami golf team graduate and former PGA professional from Winnipeg, Manitoba now living in Atlantic Canada / Charlottetown PEI. He's looking forward to sharing as much information as possible with all golfers interested in center of pressure studies and research. www.boditraksports.com

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Kill

    May 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this website.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s very hard to get that “perfect balance” between user friendliness and visual appearance.

    I must say you’ve done a excellent job with this.
    In addition, the blog loads extremely quick for me on Opera.
    Excellent Blog!

  2. JC

    May 13, 2016 at 10:04 am

    this “article” is nothing but an ad.

  3. Desmond

    May 13, 2016 at 9:19 am

    Appreciate the video, expecially Hamilton’s. We are given the preferred outcome – linear tracing – but like most instruction, there is no explanation of the body movement needed to produce that consistent outcome — that’s where lessons help. But does traditional instruction give you those movements, or is it more, if the feedback says you’re doing it right, without an explanation of the movement you must make through the swing. It’s more than feel 50-50 at the back — it’s what do you do to get 50-50 between toe and heel in the back with most of your pressure in the back foot? What is the feedback says you’re getting pressure, but you have a lousy swing, because that movement throws off other body movements? That’s my issue with instruction — it’s about the outcome with little as to the detail in getting there.

  4. RG

    May 12, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Top golfers transfer weight from hind foot to lead foot. Good weight transfer leads to more power and consistency in the golf swing. Got it. Glad we figured that out.

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Instruction

More stroke-saving advice for seniors: Love thy hybrid

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Continuing our series for seniors, this is a topic I’ve written about before but it is so important to our senior games, it is worth revisiting.

Some of you may be aware of the “24/38 rule.” It deals with the idea that most golfers lose consistency with an iron that is less than 24 degrees of loft and over 38 inches long. That USED TO BE a 3-iron. And I always thought even that was marginal—a 3-iron for a middle handicap players has always been a bit “iffy.”

Then came the “juicing era” when manufacturers started making golf clubs with much less loft and some added length. Now, that “24/38” rule applies to 5-irons! The cavity back era gave way to some great innovations, particularly forgiveness, but it also introduced stronger lofts and added some length. For example, today’s 6-iron, on average is 31 degrees and 37.5-38.o inches. The point is this: Many golfers do not have sufficient speed to hit 5-irons, maybe even 6-irons, from the fairway!

This goes for golf in general, but in senior golf, it is even more important to remember!

What to do? Voila! The invention of HYBRIDS! We have to understand one simple golf impact principle:  Getting the golf ball airborne from the turf requires speed. If we lack that speed, we need clubs with a different construction. The HYBRIDS are built to help launch the golf ball. Basically, it works like this: when the center of gravity is further from the hitting area (face), it is easier to launch the golf ball. On an iron that CG is directly behind the ball. In a hybrid, it is moved back, so the ball can be launched higher. There are other factors, but basically, that’s it.

My personal recommendation is as follows

  • If your driver clubhead speed in under 85 MPH, your iron set might go 7-PW
  • Driver speed 85-90 MPH, your iron set might be 6-PW
  • Driver speed 90-100, your iron set might be 5-PW
  • Driver speed over 100, you can choose the set make-up with which you are comfortable

As this piece is largely for seniors, I’m assuming most of you are in one of the first two categories. If so, your game may be suffering from your set make-up. The most common swing issue I see in seniors is “hang back” or the inability to get weight through at impact. This is often the result of a club shaft too stiff, OR clubs too difficult to launch—example, a 3-iron. Please DO NOT beat yourself up! Use equipment that is easier to hit and particularly easier to launch.

The question invariably arises, what about fairway woods of similar loft?  They are fine if you do not mind the added length. The great thing about hybrids is they are only slightly longer than similarly lofted irons. My advice is to seniors is to get with a pro, get on a launch monitor, find your speed and launch conditions and go from there.

Note: I am NOT a fitter, and I DO NOT sell clubs of any kind. But I do know, as a teacher, that hybrids should be in most seniors’ bags.

 

Want more help with your swing? I have an on-line swing analysis service. If you are interested in a “look” here it is.

 

 

 

 

 

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Clement: Long and short bunker shots

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It happens to all of us where: We get short-sided and need to put a shot together to save the furniture. The short bunker shot can really be a challenge if you do not have the right task to perform it and can result in you wasting a shot in the bunker or letting the shot get away from you because you don’t want to leave that delicate shot in the bunker.

And of course, so many of you are afraid to put a full swing on a longer bunker shot because of the dreaded skull over the green!

We have the easy solutions to all of the above right here and the other videos I have, which are great complements to this one including an oldie but goodieand this one with Chantal, my yoga teacher.

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The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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