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Lateral Motion: The Difference Between PGA Tour Players and Amateurs

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In this video, we look at the key differences between PGA Tour players and low-handicap amateurs in the way they move the center of the torso and the center of the pelvis throughout the golf swing.  

What we have found in our 3D research is that the classic “Reverse-K” setup is not something the best players in the world employ. Also, we see professionals in the downswing keep the torso on top of the pelvis (or even let it get in front of the pelvis) until the hands reach around waist high. At this point, the tour professional is able to push hard into the ground with his lead leg, which causes the pelvis to finally shift out in front of the torso.

Over the years in golf instruction, it seems that the industry as a whole has taken the static position of impact and tried to employ it in the swing via the Reverse-K setup and keeping the torso behind the pelvis during the entire motion. It does appear to make things simpler, but the problem is that this teaching can cause a severe in-to-out swing direction. It can also cause a reduction in ground-force production, as the player is not able to push as hard with the lead side late in the downswing (it would cause him to topple over!). Over time, we believe the teaching has caused countless players — especially better players — to struggle with hooking and pushing the ball.

Now, it’s true that most golf instructors have worked with a chronic slicer who has benefitted from some “Reverse K” feeling in their swing, especially if the golfer has the upper body well to the left of the pelvis at the top of the swing. Remember that in this video series, however, we are highlighting the lower-handicapper amateur who is trying to take their game to the next level.

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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.

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Ray Bennett

    Jun 5, 2017 at 6:18 pm

    Finally some real truths about the swing on the site. Well done to the authors of this vid and article.

  2. Scott

    Jun 5, 2017 at 3:53 pm

    I understand what you are trying to get at, but it seems tome that in order to do this, you need to have a strong core in order to keep your entire swing supported. If you do not have a strong core, I can see A LOT of lateral movement and inconsistent ball striking.

    Other questions: Is it the address or impact position that makes a difference as opposed to the set up? What about people that have a difficult time keeping their center behind the ball at impact? I see a number of LPGA players that do not seem to stay centered.

  3. SH

    Jun 5, 2017 at 12:17 pm

    Gotta lift the leading leg though. Get a bigger turn that way, and hurts the back less

  4. Terry

    Jun 5, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    Maybe this swing is why there is so many back injuries among the 20 somethings on tour. Not a good way to go.

    • Jim Maron

      Jun 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

      I’m 54, never had back problems in my life until I tried not swaying off the ball after some lessons. Immediately started having lower back pain. Maybe it’s coincidence but bad back isn’t worth the risk.

    • AMG

      Jun 5, 2017 at 4:45 pm

      One of those players in the video has had to have major back surgery… it wasn’t the pro 😉

    • AMG

      Jun 5, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Interesting comment because the am in the video was the one who had to undergo major back surgery. He also credits not Reverse K’ing anymore as the reason he’s been able to improve and play without pain.

      • Terry

        Jun 5, 2017 at 10:47 pm

        Probably because he is performing the reverse k incorrectly. For one he should be letting his front heel raise a bit in the backswing, which will free up the hips and take all pressure off the lower spine

        • Terry

          Jun 5, 2017 at 10:52 pm

          Also doesn’t explain the rash of back injuries among young pga tour players nowadays

  5. CB

    Jun 5, 2017 at 10:37 am

    You guys are making this way more difficult than it needs to be. Just set up to the ball with your whole body stacked on top (hips over feet, shoulders over hips) – no tilting either way. Then just swing the damn club around that base. Its really easy to be honest. Amateurs think too much – stop! This video and article are absolute golden if you apply it.

  6. Tourgrinder

    Jun 5, 2017 at 10:19 am

    Isn’t this basically the “stack and tilt” method that has now been mostly disputed and left in the dust by most swing coaches and tour pros? I’m not sure old “connection” pro Jimmy Ballard would agree with this, or that pro swingers such as Curtis Strange would be looking anything like this. Would they?

  7. mike

    Jun 5, 2017 at 9:41 am

    Best I can tell, you guys are getting closer and closer to Moe Norman’s single plane swing.
    Although Moe’s swing caused him to dip down to compensate for his distance from the ball, his hip motion (and shoulders) was lateral. A modern interpretation of Moe’s swing doesn’t need the stretch to the ball. Moe didn’t use the ground as well as he could have. But witness Bryson Dechambeau’s swing — centered and using the ground — and still single plane. That’s what the average golfer needs. Your research is for the advanced golfer who is starting to figure out why he has been having back problems.

  8. Patricknorm

    Jun 5, 2017 at 9:07 am

    Further to this article, there’s a good articles in the June 04,2017 edition online from Forbes regarding this technology in the lifestyle section written by Scott Kramer. I’m a Canadian so this tech isn’t available as far as I know.
    Regardless the author of this article ( Forbes ) is very satisfied with this analysis and solution to his swing flaws. Personally, my swing isn’t great due to sports injuries ( hip and knee replacement plus, a bent lead arm). Still my fundamentals are decent ( I’m a 8.8 factor/ index ) but I know having read this WRX article the comparisons (pro vs.amater) are valid. I just wish I could execute the fundamentals better.

  9. Lairde11

    Jun 5, 2017 at 6:04 am

    I enjoyed this. Can i ask if Ian Woosnam would be a good example of the non- reverse K approach? I always liked his minimalist rotational action.

  10. Tom Abts

    Jun 5, 2017 at 5:58 am

    Maybe for scratch amateurs. But … amateurs need the reverse k concept. Most amateurs either try to flip the club under the ball while making a reverse weight shift … or they just lift up the club and beat down on the ball.
    I respect excellence … and helping the best in the world.
    However, this is bad information for most golfers.

  11. M Sizzle

    Jun 5, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Looks a lot like Justin Thomas to me

  12. Philip

    Jun 4, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Thanks, that helps a lot with my visualization of what I need to do.

  13. Neil

    Jun 4, 2017 at 4:45 pm

    I agree, more info needed. Also this is 1 amateur’s swing and 1 Pro’s swing. Should at least be another pro swing. Should also be some commentary on identifying the issue and drills to fix. PGA pros hit down on the ball on average as they have so much speed that they sacrifice a bit of distance to in favour of accuracy. The model pro may do this. If we need to hit up more like an LPGA player cause of lack of speed does this observation on stacked posture still apply …

    • AMG

      Jun 4, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      Correct, we only used 1 pro for this video, but I’m having a hard time thinking of one current PGA tour play in our database who doesn’t align their centers that way. The pro in the video is representative of ourthe swings we have captured.

      That particular pro also has a positive AoA. This does not confine a player to hitting down on it. (We also have plans to address the “average pro hits down” idea. That’s not what the data shows when the actual club face is tracked, but that’s for another video).

  14. Paul

    Jun 4, 2017 at 3:28 pm

    Cool video.
    Who is the tour player?
    I tried to figure out what guys like bubba and JB are doing. I gained a lot of distance and my pain went away. Have you put them on your system?

    • AMG

      Jun 4, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Awesome to hear you’re longer and pain free – that’s a strong combo!

      We’ve collected the data on several pros who move it north of 120pm, but we haven’t collected it on Bubba or JB yet.

  15. sam

    Jun 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm

    put Jack Nicklaus swing on that system and you will come back and tell us a completely different story…

  16. Mike

    Jun 4, 2017 at 1:09 pm

    Ok, but how do you fix that? I tilt a lot worse than that guy and cannot eliminate it even on the slowest of swings. I know I do it, don’t know how to fix it.

    • AMG

      Jun 4, 2017 at 4:02 pm

      You’re more than welcome to email me your swing, would be happy to take a look.

    • Joseph

      Jun 4, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      I’m with you. I tilt more than that guy and have done for my 66 years. Wish I could be that athletic.

  17. Dave

    Jun 4, 2017 at 11:54 am

    I think this is perfect a perfect example of the pure athleticism on the tour: Not many amateurs can turn like that, let alone swing a club while they do it.

    • AMG

      Jun 4, 2017 at 4:10 pm

      In our view, athleticism is a good thing. But let’s also keep in mind that the golf swing takes less than a second from address to impact, so the amount of athleticism it takes is not a lot or very taxing by comparison. The oldest player we have in our database is 73 years old. He describes himself a way overweight and the only exercise he gets is from playing golf… certainly not a pure tour level athlete by anyone’s definition. Last year, after learning to neutralize his upper and lower (like depicted in the video), he shot posted 66 and 68 in tournaments. He won his 4th tournament last weekend since the change. He’s said on numerous occasions how easy it is to swing now.

      Everyone should do what’s best for them, but this has not been physically difficult for our amateur clients to do… in fact, most say it is much easier and less painful.

  18. Desmond

    Jun 4, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Not enough detail in explanation – just enough where people will do bad things. Vid needs more length. I think there is a balance between stacking and too much stacking, from what my instructor says, who teaches PGA Touring Pros, and the vid needs to clear this up. He should also talk about the first move going down. Just not enough here to be helpful, and just enough to be harmful.

    • AMG

      Jun 4, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      We’d love to make these much longer and go into greater detail, but we’ve been asked to keep them as concise as possible. I agree completely that overdoing it in either direction can be done, which is why we like neutral as a great demonstration/starting point.

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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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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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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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