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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A Guide (Secret) to Better Putting
Putting is a part of the game where we can all do small things to get better. You don’t have to practice 40 hours a week or have a stroke that gets a perfect score on a SAM PuttLab. The universal answer is to simplify the approach as much as possible.
While being a world class putter is an art form, being competent at putting is probably the least physically daunting task in golf — aside from maybe driving the cart. Putting generally provides the most stress and frustration, however, as our results are almost never aligned with our exceptions, which drives us to create unnecessary roadblocks to success.
That being the case, let’s narrow this down to as few variables as possible and get ourselves holing more putts. First off, you need to have proper expectations. If you look at the PGA Tour averages for made putts, you will find that the rates of success overall are far lower than what we see on on TV on Sunday afternoon. That’s because we are seeing the best players in the world, who in a moment in time, are holing putts at a clip the average plus-handicap club champion couldn’t dream of during a near death experience on his way to walking into the light.
If you have ever seen golf balls rolled on a stimpmeter ramp (the device used to measure green speed), you have probably seen something shocking. Golf balls rolling perfectly — the perfect speed, on a perfect green, on a perfectly straight putt — sometimes miss on both sides of the hole on consecutive efforts.
This is a very important point. The farther you get from the hole, the less control you have over making the putt. That’s why actually making putts outside a few feet should not be your priority. Hitting the best putt possible is your only priority. Then be resigned that the putt will either go in or it won’t. This might seem defeatist, but it’s not; its just a perception change. If you judge yourself on whether the ball goes in or not, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you judge yourself on whether or not you hit a good putt, you will be more successful… and you’re going to make more putts.
This sounds like something you’d hear at a Tony Robbins positive thinking seminar, but it has proven successful for every one of my clients who has embraced it. So what’s the secret to hitting the best putt possible each time?
Simplify the process.
- Read the green to the best of your ability.
- Pick a line and do your best to set up to it.
- Do your best to hit the putt solid and at the right speed.
Reading the green is something that gets better with experience and practice. Some will be better than others, so this is an intangible thing that countless books are written about. My advice is simple; DON’T OVER THINK IT. Look at the terrain and get a general sense of where low point is in relation to the hole.
The reason why perfect green reading and perfect alignment are overrated is because there is no one line to the hole. The hole is over 4-inches wide and putts break differently with changes in speed and solidness of contact. I saw a video at the Scotty Cameron Putting Studio many years ago of dozens of PGA Tour players. There was a worm’s-eye camera on a 4-5 foot putt that was basically straight on the artificial grass. Few were aimed at the middle of the hole and many weren’t even aimed at the hole at all… but I didn’t see one miss.
So have a look at the terrain and be decent at lining up in the general direction that will give a chance for a well struck putt to go in or finish close enough for a tap in. Simple. After rambling on for several paragraphs, we get to the heart of how you can improve your putting. Narrow it down to doing your best to hit a solid putt at the right speed.
The “Right Speed”
I ask people after they addressed a putt how much attention they pay to line and speed. Any answer but 100 percent speed is wrong. You’ve already read the putt and lined up. Why is line any longer a variable? Plus, have you ever missed the line on a 20-foot putt by 5 feet? Maybe once in your life on a crazy green, but you sure as heck have left it 5-feet short and long on several occasions.
Imagine I handed you a basketball and said shoot it in the basket. Or what if I told you to toss a crumpled piece of paper into the trash? Having the requisite coordination is an acquired skill, but you wouldn’t grind over innocuous details when it came to the feel of making the object go the right distance. You’d react to the object in your hand and the target for the right speed/distance.
Putting is no different, save one variable. There’s the sense and feel of how the the green interacts with the ball, and that’s a direct result of how solidly you hit the putt. If you use X amount of force and it goes 18 feet one effort and 23 feet the next, how are you ever going to acquire speed control? That is the mark of almost every poor lag putter. They don’t hit putts consistently solid, so they never acquire the skill of distance control.
Since speed is a learned reaction to the terrain/target and consistency is a direct result of how consistently solid you strike the ball, that is what we’re left with.
Learn to Hit Putts More Solid
The road to better putting is as simple as hitting your putts more solid. Put most/all of your effort into what it takes to hit more putts solid. Now for each individual, it’s less about doing what’s right. Instead, it’s about avoiding movements and alignments that make it difficult to hit the ball solid. It would take an encyclopedia to cover all of the issues that fall into this category, so I will list the most common that will cover more than 90 percent of golfers.
The most common one I see — and it is nearly universal in people who are plagued by poor lag putting — is excess hip rotation. Sometimes there’s even an actual weight shift. Think of it this way; take a backstroke and stop. Rotate your hips 20 degrees without moving anything else. The putter and the arc is now pointed left of your intended line. You have to shove it with your arms and hands not to pull it. Good luck hitting it solid while doing all of that.
I had a golf school in Baltimore and told this story. Ten of the 15 people there assured me they didn’t do that. After 8 people had putted, we were 8-for-8. No. 9 said, “There is no ******* way I am going to move my hips after watching this.”
The entire group laughed after his putt told him he was wrong. The last 6 did everything they could to avoid the fault. We went 15 for 15. Many people are unaware that this issue is so dire. If you add the people that are unaware they have this issue, we are near 100 percent of golfers. I have gotten emails from 8-10 of them telling me how much their putting improved after all they did was focus on minimizing hip rotation and just hitting the ball solid.
This issue is not just the bane of average golfers; I’ve had several mini-tour players with putting issues improve with this. We are all aware Fred Couples would have won many more majors if not for a career-long battle with his putter. Watch the next time he misses a 6-foot putt to the left. As you will see, it’s not just a problem for a high-handicappers.
The best way to judge and practice avoiding this, it putting with an alignment stick in you belt loops. If your hips rotate too much, the stick will definitely let you know.
Other issues include the well know chest/sternum coming up too soon in an effort to see the ball go in the hole, as well as:
- Not aligning the putter shaft properly with the lead arm
- Grip pressure issues (too much and too little)
- Too much tension in neck and shoulders
- Poor rhythm
- Long back stroke
I could go on and on and on. The main point; find out why you aren’t hitting putts solid and do whatever it takes to do so, even if it’s something crazy like a super wide-open stance (with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek). See the Jack Nicklaus picture at the top of the story.
WATCH: How to Improve Your Golf Club Release
Many golfers release the club way too early. The low point of the swing moves back and they hit the ground behind the ball or pick the ball clean off the top of the surface. They then dream of “lag” and the “late hit” trying to achieve this by thinking of holding on the the wrist angle too long.
In this video, I share a drill that it will improve the way you release the club.
Alistair Davies: My 3 Best Swing Tips
In this video, I share with you my three best swing tips. Watch the video to get on the path to lower scores straight away.
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