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Early Extension: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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The next topic in our series is often not given enough weight (pun intended); a golfer’s Dynamic Balance during the golf swing.

The amateur golfer in this video is typical of what we see when a golfer struggles with early extension and raising the handle through impact. We really don’t need to look farther than the first few feet of club movement to see the foreshadowing of those two issues.

Swing Catalyst’s 3D Motion Plate lets us see how the golfer “pressures” the different parts of his feet throughout the swing. In this regard, the golf swing is like so many other athletic motions we’ve all made since childhood.  

Stand in a golf-like address position and just throw a ball down the target line. Your footwork and pressure movement will work exactly like the professional golfer in the video. You’ll be more dynamically balanced and supportive of what you are trying to do with your arm as you throw the ball. It’s very similar to what we’d like to see in the golf swing. Conversely, you could really derail your best intentions to send your ball down the target line if you start the motion by pressuring both heels and then rebounding to both toe boxes during the delivery.

In the golf swing, your golf ball isn’t moving away from you as you move closer to it.  A number of very fast alterations need to happen to strike the ball cleanly and send it at your target. That is very difficult to do swing after swing, day after day.

Starting your swing with the dynamic balance of an athlete will give you every opportunity to eliminate the hump and high handle!

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Athletic Motion Golf is a collaboration of four of golf's brightest and most talented instructors who came together with the sole purpose of supplying golfers the very best information and strategies to lower their scores. At AMG, we're bringing fact-based instruction that's backed by research and proven at the highest levels on the PGA Tour straight to golfers through our website. Our resources will help you "clear the fog" in your game and understand the essentials of playing great golf.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Robert

    Apr 19, 2017 at 7:28 am

    Well, we’re seeing other than small setup changes, the ‘pressure pattern’ doesn’t change from full shot to full shot or club to club very much at all.

  2. Grizz01

    Apr 17, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    Stop it already. Just hit the golf ball.

  3. Martin Chuck

    Apr 17, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Great job, Mike. Awesome to see you guys come together for some insightful sharing. I look forward to seeing more content.

    • AMG

      Apr 17, 2017 at 12:43 pm

      Thank brother! We’re looking forward to watching what you and Andrew put together for Cordie.

    • Shaun Webb

      Apr 18, 2017 at 11:03 am

      Thanks Martin! Appreciate the comment. We should all get together and create some content at some point 🙂

      • Robert

        Apr 19, 2017 at 7:31 am

        Martin,

        Thanks man! Greatly appreciated. And ???? what Shaun and Mike said!!!

        Robert

        • Robert

          Apr 19, 2017 at 7:38 am

          (Not sure what the “????” It was supposed to be s #thumbsUP emoji….. anyway, thanks again!!!!)

  4. AMG

    Apr 17, 2017 at 8:20 am

    The CoP does track in the right fore foot which can be seen by the two small whit balls under each foot connected by that straight line.

  5. Jalan

    Apr 16, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    I’ve heard the strightening of the knees can be attributed to weak oe tight hamstrings.

  6. moses

    Apr 15, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    Their are amateurs and then there are WRX Amateurs. 🙂

  7. Patrick norm

    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:41 pm

    It’s very clear the differences between the pro and amateur swings. Obviously if your an amateur who puts too much pressure on your front foot on the downswing, you need to reverse the pressure to the back foot.
    A good drill is to take one of those whippy orange sticks and time your follow through better. I had a hip replacement on my load side and it’s taken me years to trust myself on the load side. Meaning I was bailing out pushing off on my load side. A slower , deliberate takeaway is a good drill too. Hideki Matsuyama has this pregnant pause at the top of his swing which illustrates perfectly how he loading up on his back leg. I’m neither strong enough or flexible enough to pull this off but it’s a very good mental visual.

  8. Rex

    Apr 15, 2017 at 1:05 pm

    Ok you showed us the difference. Didn’t do much explaining on how to fix it

    • Jalan

      Apr 15, 2017 at 4:27 pm

      Well, once you know what the problem is, you can address it. I’m guessing you don’t have an instructor, and you are trying to improve on your own.

      The fix is simple, shift your weight on the backswing, return it to the front foot on your downswing. Now, you may need help with other areas first, such as strengthening the posterior chain of muscles to allow you to stay down through the swing. It isn’t likely to be a single action that ‘fixes’ your problem.

      • Ccshop

        Apr 16, 2017 at 6:38 pm

        The foot pattern in the video of the pro was very linear. But actually there are more pros with the X pattern that have weight on right side at impact. Do they have “weak” legs too?

        • Travis

          Apr 16, 2017 at 7:01 pm

          Weight and pressure are 2 very different things :). Go do some research then come back and let us know what you find out.

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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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