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Be Curious, Not Critical, of Tour Player Swings

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After a foul ball by a tour player, the talking heads on TV are often quick to analyze the “problem” with that swing. Fair enough, I suppose. Even the best players are human and our game has more failure than success. But I’d like to offer a different take on swings of the best players in the world.

First, let’s remember how good these guys and gals really are. If you met up with the lowest ranked player on any professional tour at a public course one day, I’ll bet that golfer would be the best golfer most of you have ever played with. You’d be telling your buddies in the 19th hole about him or her for a very long time. These players have reached a level of ball striking most people only dream about. That’s why I’m more curious than critical when it comes to a tour player’s swing. I’m not thinking about what he/she needs to do better; I’m thinking, “How do they do it so well?” In other words, I want to know how they put their successful move together. What part goes with the other parts? How did their pattern evolve? What are the compatible components of their swing?

Let’s use Jim Furyk as an example. Furyk has what we might call an “unconventional” move. It’s also a swing that has won nearly $70 million and shot 58 one day. But I’ll offer him as an example because his swing illustrates the point I’m making. From a double-overlapping grip, Furyk picks the golf club up to what might be the most vertical position one would ever see from a professional. Then in transition, he flattens the club and drops it well behind him. Now the club is so flat and inside, he has to open his body as quickly as he can to keep the club from getting “stuck.” Let’s call it an “up-and-under loop.”

Let’s take Matt Kuchar as a counter example. Kuchar’s signature hands-in, flat and very deep takeaway is pretty much the total opposite of Furyk. But he comes over that takeaway and gets the club back into a great position into impact. We’ll call that an “in-and-over” loop.

Both are two of the best and most consistent golfers in the world. Is one right and the other wrong? Of course not. They do have one thing in common, however, and it’s that they both balanced their golf swing equation.

What would happen if Kuchar did what Furyk does coming down? Well, he wouldn’t be on TV on the weekend. If he did, he’d be hitting drop kicks several inches behind. That doesn’t win The Players Championship. The point is that the Furyk downswing is incompatible with the Kuchar backswing, and vice versa, but I’m guessing they both know that.

How can this help you? My own personal belief and the basis of my teaching is this: your backswing is an option, but your downswing is a requirement. I had one student today dropping the arms and club well inside and another coming over the top, and they both felt better impact at the end of the lesson. I showed them how to balance their equation.

My job is solving swing puzzles, a new one very hour, and I’m glad it is. It would be mind-numbing boredom if I asked every golfer to do the same thing. It’s the teaching professional’s job to solve your puzzle, and I assure you that with the right guidance you can make your golf swing parts match. Are there universal truths, things that every golfer MUST do?  Yes, they are the following:

  1. Square the club face
  2. Come into the ball at a good angle
  3. Swing in the intended direction
  4. Hit the ball in the center of the face (method be damned!)

But here’s the funny part: Let Kuchar or Furyk get off base and watch every swing critic in the world blame some part of the quirkiness of their move that has led to their greatness. When players at their level get off their game, it’s generally due to poor timing or that they lost the sync/rhythm that connected their individual parts. The same holds true for all of us. We have to find the matching parts and the timing to connect them. You might not need new parts.

After all, weren’t those same parts doing the job when you shot your career low round?

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. DoubleMochaMan

    Nov 19, 2017 at 1:56 pm

    When you begin your downswing you need to be in a totally comfortable position where you feel you can rip at the ball, or control the ball, and that you will make solid contact. I have been searching for this position for years, finding it one day and losing it for the next two months. It is elusive.

    • Dennis Clark

      Nov 19, 2017 at 9:35 pm

      Elusive=golf I’m afraid! But if it was easy, would it be as much fun? 🙂

      • DoubleMochaMan

        Nov 20, 2017 at 12:55 pm

        True. If it were easy… after I won 19 majors… I’d probably take up another sport.

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 20, 2017 at 7:07 pm

          Ya know, I could write an article just about that…we are NEVER quite satisfied I remember the first time I broke 80, I was elated. Few years down the road I was pissed if I didn’t shoot par! The audacity 🙂

          • DoubleMochaMan

            Nov 20, 2017 at 9:08 pm

            Every time I tee it up I expect to break par. I rarely do. Which is why you can find me on the range when the snow is falling and the grass is frozen. And there’s nobody out there to witness my good shots… they’re all at home, cozy by their fireplaces.

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Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: How to properly predict the outcome of your golf shots

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If you are standing over your golf ball and you feel uncomfortable, this podcast is for you. And if you stand over your golf ball and don’t know where the golf ball is going, this is for you.

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Opinion & Analysis

Ways to Win: Power and patience

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We had to wait a little longer than normal to see the 2020 U.S. Open, but it was worth the anticipation. A stacked field on a classic course where, for the first time in a while, the USGA got the set-up totally right. The course played difficult, but fair. Long, penal rough and undulated greens kept the world’s best off-balance while still rewarding solid golf shots.

The West Course at Winged Foot Golf Club proved a true test of golf and when the dust settled, only a single player remained under par. Bryson DeChambeau was the lone player to conquer the beast, displaying a unique balance of power and patience that the golf world hasn’t previously seen.

By now, the golf world knows how DeChambeau changed his body dramatically, particularly to chase these kinds of championships, and while sometimes he seems too smart for his own good, this time his calculations were right on. One certainly cannot fault his work ethic. Ridiculed for being a slow player, he has worked to improve. Take away his protractor and he finds another way to read greens. Though putting and short game were a weak point, he has improved. His body transformation was just another calculated risk from the golfing scientist after working hard with Chris Como to get his game just right.

However, winning a U.S. Open at Winged Foot takes more than just power. It took patience. DeChambeau outlasted the field by minimizing mistakes and capitalizing on scoring chances. But it would be misleading to say that this wasn’t a case of bomb and gouge. That is exactly what DeChambeau did, hitting just over 41 percent of his fairways for the week.

What happened?

U.S. Open rough is supposed to be the great equalizer. It is supposed to put a premium on ball striking and fairways and traditional golf values, but it failed.

How?

DeChambeau made an interesting comment in one of his many interviews this week when he said something along the lines of “If I’m going to miss the fairway anyway, I might as well hit it out there.” This statement ended up being fairly prophetic. DeChambeau finished T26th in fairways. Not surprising. However, what he realized early on was that everyone was going to miss the narrow, hard, and fast fairways at Winged Foot. Only 11 players in the entire field hit more than 50 percent of their fairways. Only two of those 11 finished in the top 10 (Rory McIlroy and Harris English). DeChambeau was able to overpower a course that many did not think could be overpowered. Using V1 Game’s advanced analysis, we can see that he averaged over 300 yards per drive every round of the U.S. Open.

There are really three areas that impact driving performance. In order of importance they are:

  • Minimizing mistakes: Do not drive into penalty or recovery situations
  • Distance: Getting closer to the hole for the next shot
  • Accuracy: Getting a better lie

While the driving performance plot from the new V1 Game Virtual Coach shows that DeChambeau was certainly long and accurate enough, the Mistakes view gives an idea of where he gave strokes away. His number of mistakes would be high for a typical week on the PGA Tour, but they are exceptional for a U.S. Open. DeChambeau did not take a single penalty, only four times did he drive into a recovery situation, and in each of those he was still able to advance the ball more than 75 yards. Therefore, DeChambeau did very well in V1 Game’s three keys to driving. He did have three three-putts on the week, but so did much of the field.

Overall, DeChambeau putted well, finishing 18th in the field for Strokes Gained Putting. He gained strokes putting in every round except for the third. Using the V1 Game Post Round Summary for the third round, we can see that he lost strokes because of two three-putts and two short misses inside six ft. His three putts were from 30-50 feet, which is not unexpected on the difficult greens at Winged Foot, but the easy-to-digest output guides DeChambeau on where he needs to focus his putting practice.

Adding it all up, where DeChambeau really won the tournament was on the ninth hole. In the final round, he sank a 38-foot putt for an eagle at a critical time when Matthew Wolff had roughly 10 feet for the same. While Wolff also sank his eagle putt, DeChambeau’s putt had to be deflating as he maintained his one-stroke advantage and momentum going into the back nine, where Wolff finally faded. DeChambeau eagled the hole twice on the week, accounting for two of his 15 under-par holes. Only 16 other players had an eagle in the tournament and no other player had two or more. When under par holes are at such a premium, eagles go that much further. DeChambeau succeeded with long drives and accurate irons.

DeChambeau was already a good young player before he bulked up, but he may be a great player now. In addition to his prodigious distance, his short game and putting are improving. His ability to scramble throughout the U.S. Open was critical to maintain momentum and keep blemishes off his card. U.S. Opens are often just as much about avoiding bogey as they are making par and DeChambeau did just that by minimizing damage and making nothing worse than bogey. A truly impressive performance by one of the game’s hardest-working tour pros.

DeChambeau did not just stumble into better golf. He accomplished it by setting goals, measuring progress, and looking at data. If you are ready to put in work on your game, V1 Game has all the tools to help you do the same. Actionable data and measurable results. Let V1 Game’s all-new Virtual Coach and Virtual Caddie help you bomb it like Bryson.

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On Spec

On Spec: Bryson Wins U.S. Open & playing with hickory shafted clubs

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How could we not talk about Bryson winning the US Open and being the only player to finish under par at Winged Foot?

In contrast to Bryson’s take on the modern game, our host Ryan Barath recently had the opportunity to play golf with hickory clubs for the first time and tells the story.

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