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The swing change that led to Aaron Baddeley’s 1st win in 4 years

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When you look at the stats, the difference between the game’s top players can sometimes be difficult to sort out. The fractional differences in each skill between players can add up to a great performance or a missed cut. As an instructor, it can be difficult to decide what to work on when the statistics don’t point to a glaring weakness.

That wasn’t the case when I started working with Aaron Baddeley. It was clear from the start that we had to work on his full swing. The best he had ranked tee-to-green since his last PGA Tour win four seasons ago was 157th. Each year he managed to keep his card by being a legendary putter. In those same four years since his last victory, he never ranked worse than 8th in Strokes Gained Putting (he even ranked 1st in 2015). The stats made it very clear. Aaron needed to improve his performance on full shots. My task was simple, if I could help turn the Tour’s best putter into a better ball striker, success would follow.

Last week, Aaron won his first event since 2011 at The Barbosol Championship in Alabama. Ranking 8th in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and Putting, his performance with his full swing finally matched his putter. The combination added up to victory.  In an interview after his win, Aaron mentioned us finding the root of his problem and the hard work we’ve done to fix it.

I made a video about his swing change earlier this year, and thought I’d share it with everyone here at GolfWRX.

Aaron’s Swing Change

Applying It to Your Game

This video is part of Scott Hamilton’s “The Iron Swing” series from OnTOURGolf.com. You can watch the first nine chapters of the series by signing up here. 

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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.

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. Dominick Miernicki

    Aug 22, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    The premier online golf community. Industry news, equipment reviews, tour photos, discussion forums, and classifieds.

  2. Kb

    Jul 30, 2016 at 11:54 am

    You’d know, considering you’re a large woman yourself

  3. Ramrod Ray Reardon

    Jul 23, 2016 at 9:35 am

    Swing fixes for pros are largely useless for the average hacker who cannot move their upper and lower body independently. Pros can. Back pain awaits people trying to stay in the same spine angle throughout the swing. Not a great thing to copy IMO.

    • bobilla

      Jul 29, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      I don’t think you’re doing it right.

  4. tom

    Jul 22, 2016 at 8:23 pm

    Scott looks like Roger Clemens.

  5. don d.

    Jul 22, 2016 at 8:01 am

    a win is a win . no masters though. aaron is one of the good guys. great in pro ams.

  6. gunna22

    Jul 22, 2016 at 3:34 am

    Such an annoying accent

    • Tyler

      Jul 27, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      That’s all you got out of this article? Which state/country are you from that you don’t have an ugly accent to someone from another state/country? Keep your annoying comments to yourself bro.

  7. 300 Yard Pro

    Jul 21, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Weak field. That’s why he won.

  8. Christian

    Jul 21, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Did he need to flatten the lie of his irons after the swing change?

    • bobizzle

      Jul 29, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      His initial swing fault was coming out of his spine angle, straightening out, and getting the handle a lot higher at contact. If you maintain the correct spine angle and tilt down and through contact by focusing on keeping your butt back, the swing has to flatten in order to make a solid strike. Your arms will naturally want to fall almost vertically, placing your hands lower and closer to your body. That little bob down and back to straight with the lead leg at or just after contact helps whip the club head through the impact zone. Tiger did that to an exaggerated degree, I believe to his detriment. Didn’t help his left knee out much, or his current back issues, but the demands and forces he put on his body year after year have seemingly come home to roost in the form of a spectacular but shortened career. Know your own body. Swing accordingly.

  9. YackNWilt

    Jul 21, 2016 at 1:59 am

    Lets not forget why Badds went awry to begin with: he got suckered by Stack & Tilt !!!!
    That’s what got him all out of whack in the first place.
    Now he’s back to a more normal move into the ball. He used to swing great back when he won the Australian.
    Just needed to get his old swing back before he went to Stack

  10. SB

    Jul 21, 2016 at 1:28 am

    happy to see aaron back on winner track! good training also, i should give it a try.

  11. kev

    Jul 20, 2016 at 8:11 pm

    sure would like to understand why the butt comes in or goat humping. is it because of pushing off the right foot too hard?

    • Jack

      Jul 20, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      I used to do this, because it felt like I was getting more power off it. It was so ingrained that I felt like I was not going to hit it as far if I didn’t do it. I got rid of it mostly through watching instant replays of my swing every time, and just working on hip rotation. With the hip rotating instead of humping air (LOL) it just provided more power rather than less. It’s important to keep that spine angle intact as well. This really helped my issue with drawing the ball too much as bumping the hips towards the ball caused my wrist angle to become flat and the club was more upright promoting a more close clubface and causing the ball to fly/curve left.

    • Kevin B

      Jul 20, 2016 at 10:39 pm

      I did this move because my backswing was to fast and my lower body couldnt catch up and I would goat hump sometimes even OTT.

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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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