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Jumping for Distance (Part 1): The Two-Foot Jump

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If you follow the sport of long drive (whether as a former competitor like me or as a non-competitor) and are interested in distance, you may have come across this modern idea of squatting down during your swing and jumping up with both legs to get more power as you come through impact, even to the point of coming off the ground. In this two-part article, I’d like to share my current thoughts about this.

In Part 1, I’ll go over how I think this two-foot jump concept came about and why I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to implement in your swing. Part 2 will discuss the 1-foot “jump” alternative and why I believe it is better.

With the two-foot jump, I think this came about from a few things.

First, in this age of using more advanced photography to analyze golf swings, it’s possible to look at a freeze frame moment of a golf swing with great visual clarity and think that that a specific position is some key or secret to the golf swing. But it’s important to keep in mind that a single positional snap shot could simply be a split-second moment of a larger fluid motion.

Think of the Sam Snead squat. Snead was a long hitter and great player. If you take look at his down swing, he does get in to a position that looks like a squat. Because Snead was so good, I think the instruction world looked at this as some sort of key to Snead’s distance and play. Years go by and then the instruction morphs in to the squat being thought of as a key component to playing good golf.

Sam Snead in the squat position

However, looking at the larger motion, in the backswing Snead straightened his trail leg and got his weight over on his trail foot. By the time he finished his swing, this was reversed with his lead leg being straight and weight shifted over to that lead leg. It’s a relatively simple motion and in the middle of that transition, both legs happen to be slightly bent and look like a partial squat.

The foot and leg work of Sam Snead

Second, similarly with the slow-motion footage, analysis, and interest in long hitters and professional long drivers these days, I think perhaps it started out by noticing that a player happens to have a squat look in their swing with a subsequent two-foot jump type move that gets them airborne. This again gets thought of as some type of secret to power and it starts getting taught. Before you know it in our small world of golf, multiple players have caught wind of the concept and are trying to do it. The instruction world then notices and says “Look, now multiple players are doing it! It must be the key!”, even though they are the ones who propagated it. It’s sort of like quantum theory in which the observer can affect the outcome.

Third, there could be a level of correlation vs causation taking place in which to beware. From 1999 to 2009, it was noticed that the number of people who drowned in swimming pools each year had a strong correlation with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in. Should Cage then not make a movie to prevent people from drowning in pools? Simply because multiple long hitting golfers are observed to squat, jump, and get airborne, it’s important to consider that this may not be what is causing the power.

Lastly, again with the advent of modern technology like force plates, one can see that longer hitters generally do generate more vertical ground forces than short hitters. It is also true that there is a strength correlation as you move from amateurs to tour players to long drivers. As I’ve mentioned in numerous other articles, long drivers tend to be incredibly strong compared to other golfer groups. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to again then make the conclusion that squatting down and jumping off the ground with two feet will generate more power and distance.

All that being said, I’d like to make the case that these long hitters are actually airborne not because of this secret “squat and two-foot jump and get airborne” move, but rather in part from a flawed setup.

I believe one of the problems in golf instruction is that we’re commonly taught to take a wider stance when we want to hit the driver or hit for more power. In some cases, this has been taken to an extreme and now some stances have become too wide. When you get too wide, ironically it becomes more difficult to maintain balance when swinging hard.

If you look at players that hit the ball long like Count Yogi, Mike Austin, Sam Snead, or John Daly, they are wide but not so wide that they can’t still have good footwork and stay in balance. When you get wider than that, which happens commonly with professional long drivers, it becomes more difficult to finish in balance on your lead foot.

John Daly has a stance width that is wide but not too wide

This is also complicated by limited hip mobility. You can read more about this in this article, but most golfers of all skill levels have better external hip mobility vs internal hip mobility. Because of this, when you set up with your feet perpendicular to the path you want to swing on, you will likely have the lead foot external mobility to make a full enough back swing, but you probably don’t have the internal hip mobility to keep your foot in the same place and get your hips rotated all the way around to facing your target. As a built-in protection mechanism, you probably either get your weight on your lead heel and spin the foot open…or you must come off that foot completely (get airborne) to allow your leg to rotate to a position where you won’t hurt yourself.

But I’ve been asked…what about Bubba Watson? He hits relatively powerfully and has a narrower stance with an open lead foot at address.

Yes, this is true. However, notice that in his downswing, he replants that lead foot back to a position where it is more perpendicular to his swing path. Of course, then because of the limit of his internal hip mobility and the replant, he must either get airborne or spin out on that foot as a way of protecting himself from injury. If he opened his lead foot a little bit more at address and replanted back in this spot on the way down, he wouldn’t need to get off that foot to protect himself from injury.

The footwork of Bubba Watson

So, to me, this two-foot squat and jump off the ground instruction is flawed.

If one were to set up with a more appropriate stance width, open the lead foot sufficiently to accommodate your own personal level of hip mobility, and not replant the foot too closed relative to the limit of your personal level of internal hip mobility on the downswing, it’s possible to maintain better balance, not get airborne, and head off potential injury while still generating huge amounts of vertical ground force.

This can be done through a one-foot jump motion…and without jumping off the ground.

In Part 2, we’ll look at how to do it.

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the co-creator of "Sterling Irons" single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also holds the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has more than 8,000 members and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s website members and amateur and tour player clients will pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – More than 2.8 million video views

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Largechris

    Dec 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Excellent article as usual Jaacob

  2. DoubleMochaMan

    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:13 am

    One foot jump? Two foot jump? I’d recommend never getting more than 6 inches off the ground.

  3. SK

    Dec 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Well, Jaac, you really don’t understand Newtonian Physics and the difference between a ‘closed’ and ‘open’ kinetic chain…. which renders your explanations superficial.

  4. Joel

    Dec 5, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Does anyone really teach squatting and/or jumping?

    I’ve never seen someone teach it on WRX or anywhere else. As you said in the middle of the article, it appears to be an effect of a massive hip rotation and not taught in order to cause it.

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Instruction

WATCH: Two drills to help you stop hitting it fat

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Here’s a response to a question on my Instagram page from Neil Riley. He asked if he should steepen the angle of attack in the downswing in order to stop hitting fat shots. In this video, I share two of the reasons why golfers might be hitting fat shots, as well as two drills to practice that will help them stop hitting it fat.

 

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Changing your golf swing? Consider this before you do

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Golfers I have taught over the years have an almost uncanny ability to put the golf club on the ball (to varying degrees, of course). I have seen well-hit shots from an incredibly wide variety of positions. I’ve seen closed faces, open faces, steep swings, flat swings, outside-in paths, inside-out paths, slow and fast swings, strong grips and weak grips ALL hit the golf ball solidly at times. How? Well, thinking about this may very well help your swing, especially before you decide to change something in it. Let’s take a look at a few examples to explain.

Strong Grips/Closed Clubfaces

We’ll start with the example of a strong grip that tends to get the clubface quite closed to the arc in the swing and at the top of the swing. If that is left alone in the downswing, the shots are very predictable: low and left (for a right-hander), sometimes barely getting off the ground. But many golfers hit the ball in the air and straight with a strong grip; in fact, many hit high blocks to the right. How? Well, they open the face on the way down and usually “hold on” through impact. They adapt to the closed clubface to make it work, and that’s the point here.

Now, if they reach good impact consistently like a Dustin Johnson, Graham McDowell and several others do with a closed clubface, we have no problem. But often club golfers do not; in fact, many slice and top the ball from a shut face at the top.  They do so because opening a closed face is a very shallowing move and prevents one from releasing the club properly (it’s a power outage as well).  Functionally, however, opening a shut is far better than releasing it from there, for obvious reasons. If the trail hand pronates, the face goes from closed to really closed. So golfers simply learn to open it.

So along comes some well-meaning friend who says your clubface is really closed at the top. You look at many great players, and sure enough, your face is clearly shut. So you correct it. What happens next is also very predictable: high and very right, and very thin with many topped shots. Why? Because you only corrected part of the problem. You fixed the shut face, but now you’ve taken a square clubface and massively opened it as a force of habit. You have ingrained that move into your swing because you had to open your old, shut clubface in the downswing. Correcting only ONE thing made your swing worse. Your swing is now dysfunctional.

That’s why if you commit to one change for the sake of improvement or consistency, you have to commit to both changes. If you don’t, you’ll get worse… not better.

Steep Swings

Here’s another: many amateur players start the downswing with the golf club far too steep. Maybe it’s over the top, maybe not (you can be just as steep from inside the ball). But when the golf club is too vertical in transition, it can result in any one of a number of impact mistakes: namely fat, slices and toe hits. So the idea of “flattening the transition” (good idea) becomes your priority, but there’s always a catch. Most experienced golfers correct steep through one of a few different ways listed below:

  • Raising the hands (standing the club up) to avoid fat shots
  • Tilting the torso back or away from the target to avoid opening the face
  • Sending the hands away from the body to avoid toes hits
  • Raising the swing center

You get the picture here. You learn to get the club on a better plane (flatter with the butt of the grip pointed more at the golf ball), but you’ll likely still have one of the “fit-in” moves left into impact. So a flatter club, which is by far a better way to square the face, might result in a shank if you’re used to sending your hands away from your body to avoid a toe hit. Raising the hands might top. Tilting the torso back away might hit shallow fats or tops. So you fixed the steep transition, but your impact is worse! Again, you’re dysfunctional.

Remember, if you commit to one change, you MUST commit to both.

Weak Grips/Over-The-Top

One more: Golfers who start out with a weak grip (as most do) slice. So as a reaction, they come over the top and swing outside-in. So they fix the grip, and of course, the result is predictable. They pull the ball, generally low and left (for right-handers). You get the pattern here. They need to learn a new swing direction, and on and on.

The lesson is clear; a single correction of a swing issue can be sufficient, but in my experience, two corrections must be tackled for long-term improvement. What to correct first? Well, you’d have to consult with your teacher or coach. As a rule, I try to get better impact first if I can get someone there from where their swing is now. Some other teachers may prefer a different sequence, but I think they’d all agree that a two-part correction is ultimately in the works.

I’ve always believed that teachers can disagree widely on the prescription, but they should be pretty much in unison regarding the diagnosis. Learn the swing flaw AND your reaction to it before you decide to make a swing change.

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How to use your handicap to lower your scores

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The fastest way to improve the game of an amateur, or a handicap golfer, is to use the established handicap as a guide to direct and then to measure that improvement. The measurement component is simple; as the game improves, the handicap goes down. Using the handicap as a guide is a bit more complex because the player must be dedicated, determined and disciplined enough to stay within the improvement process. And before I share with you the process, I want to share the foundation, or the rationale, that makes it work.

“Placing the ball in the right position for the next shot is 80 percent of winning golf.”

— Ben Hogan

Not all that long ago, I was present when a friend of a client of mine was complaining that no matter what he did with practice or lessons he just wasn’t getting better. He said that if he could just break 90 once he could “die a happy man.” It sounded like an opportunity to be of service to me, so I agreed to a playing lesson. The short version of that lesson was I told him what to hit and where to hit it — and he shot 87.

Was he happy? Not on your life! Angry, not quite… but really upset. Why? The poor guy said he didn’t have any fun!

The day of the playing lesson, I met the player on the range while he was warming up. I observed that he should never hit a driver, so I didn’t let him. I observed he couldn’t hit a long iron, so I didn’t let him. I had him tee off with a six iron on the par 4’s and 5’s, which he hated. And if he could have controlled his putting distance a bit better he wouldn’t have three-putted three times. No penalty shots, no water balls and no OB’s. All we did for 18 holes was try to put the ball in play and to keep it in play. He hated it. So much for dying a happy man.

During this playing lesson, I used the player’s handicap as a guide to maximize his playing ability, and I used his ability to help him make the best score he could at that time. So how did I use his handicap? I could see this player was no better than an 18, so I added one stroke to the posted par for each hole. Par 3’s became Par 4’s. Par 4’s became Par 5’s, and Par 5’s became Par 6’s. Once his par was established, he played each hole to get on the green according to that par adjustment. For example, the 210-yard par-3 became a 210-yard par-4. So instead of trying to get on the green from the tee, we used a strategy to get on the green in two and then two-putt for a 4, or “his par.”

I advocate every player use this handicap game-improvement system. A 15-handicap adjusts 15 holes so his par changes from 72 to 87; an 8-handicap adjusts eight holes so that his par changes from 72 to 80. I use this process for plus handicaps and professionals as well. A plus-4 adjusts four holes so his/her par changes from 72 to 68. Using this mindset, my playing lesson shot 3-under his par of 90.

I’ve had clients cut their handicaps in half in just a few months by adherence to this process. It works in lowering scores because it eliminates most “unforced errors,” and about half of all dropped shots at all levels are a direct result of unforced errors. Unforced errors occur when something is attempted that the player can’t do or shouldn’t do. The fewer unforced errors per round, the lower the score. It’s as simple as that.

I strongly urge golfers to chart each round of golf in order to identify every unforced error. Just email me at edmyersgolf@gmail.com and I will send the game-improvement scorecard that I have my clients use to evaluate their performance.

Posting lower scores is how handicaps go down, and all handicaps plateau when the player is faced with the realities of what he/she can and can’t do. For example, an improving handicap golfer may require the need to use clubs or hit shots not previously necessary. The playing experience reveals what needs practice, and practice is where the player should learn what can and can’t be done. Rule of Thumb: if you can do it 7/10 times in practice, you can consider doing it in play.

In the opening paragraph, I stated that dedication, determination, and discipline are required to stay within this improvement process should the player decide to implement it. But I should have said it takes a whole lot of all three. Experience tells me that players say what they feel, but do what they want. Neither is a plan for progress.

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