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Learn from the Legends: Introduction

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There is a better way to swing the golf club. I’d prefer to write that there is a correct way to swing the club, but I know that really freaks people out. People love to talk about how everyone’s swing is different. “There are lots of ways to get it done,” they say. “Look at Jim Furyk’s swing – it’s not what you’d teach, but it works for him.”

To some extent, they’re right. Elite swings do have different looks. Some take it back inside (Ray Floyd). Some cross the line (Tom Watson). Some swings are long (Bubba Watson). Some are short (young Tiger). But these differences are superficial and largely irrelevant. When it comes to the engine – the core of the swing – the greatest players throughout the history of the game are all very similar.

Don’t believe me? Well, let me prove it to you. In this series of articles, I will do my best to show you – with pictures and videos and data – that the legends all move a specific way. Focusing on these elements (while ignoring others) and practicing a certain way is the surest path to improving your golf swing and lowering your scores.

So, let’s get into it. There are a number of important elements that all the legends have, but the biggest and most important of these elements is rotation. Every great player throughout the history of the game has had elite rotation. It’s the most important thing they do, and it’s easy to see. When you’re looking down the line at all the great players at impact, you’ll see hips and torso open.

This is what the legends look like at impact:

1Hips open
2Torso open
3Both butt cheeks visible
4Left leg extended and visible

And here’s what some very good players with less good rotation look like at impact:

These are very successful players (one of them is a major champion!), but they don’t move like the legends of the game.
1Hips and shoulders not open
2Left leg not totally visible
3Can’t see both butt cheeks

Now, there are plenty of nuances to how great players rotate. They do it while keeping spine flexion, for example, and they do it with very little (or no) lateral movement toward the target (lateral movement impedes rotation). I will discuss these things in detail. My hope is that at the end of this series you will have a much better understanding of what separates the legends from the very good… and from the rest of us.

You will understand their “engine,” and hopefully this understanding will help you begin to create your own legendary swing!

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Lucas Wald is a former touring professional turned instructor. Lucas has been recognized by Golf Digest as one of the Best Young Teachers in America (2016-2017) and the Best Teacher in Arkansas (2017). His notable students include Brad Faxon, Brandel Chamblee, Jeff Flagg (2014 World Long Drive Champion), and Victoria Lovelady (Ladies European Tour). Lucas has been sought out by some of the biggest names in the game for his groundbreaking research on the golf swing, and he’s known for his student case studies – with juniors, adult amateurs, and tour pros – that show that significant improvement in power and ball striking is possible in golfers of all levels. Check out his website - lucaswaldgolf.com - and be sure to follow Lucas on social media.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Andrew Cooper

    Jun 26, 2018 at 6:47 am

    Lucas, in picking out Hogan, Snead, DJ, Woods – you’re looking at phenomenal athletes. They get to where they are at and through impact because they can, physically. The average golfer – middle aged, sedentary lifestyle, non-athletic, stiff lower back, tight hamstrings – has no chance of emulating this impact position. It is relevant to maybe 0.1% of the golfing public.

  2. RBImGuy

    Jun 26, 2018 at 2:14 am

    Tiger compared to Hogan, what a joke.
    You do understand they did things, differently?
    and besides Tiger never had the secret down

  3. Rev G

    Jun 19, 2018 at 9:54 am

    I think this is a good start Lucas. And I agree with Fred above that the hips are the key. Under rotation of the Hips ( on the backswing and the through swing) is the most prevalent mistake that all golfers make. The Hips not only supply the power of the through swing, but they allow the clubface to square up at impact and in large part control where the ball goes.

  4. gif

    Jun 19, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Herbert Warren Wind, a journalist, wrote 5 Lessons. Hogan was auneducated and couldn’t write a cogent sentence. HWW took Hogan’s blurts and wrote a book out of it. Hogan was near illiterate.

  5. david

    Jun 18, 2018 at 8:06 pm

    You’ve done it again…another author trying to figure out the mechanics of the swing with good intentions, but whose unintended end point will be to confuse golfers so much so that any who actually try and copy or imitate these positions will get worse, get frustrated, and implode. I think I heard somewhere the secret is in the dirt, with feel leading the way.

  6. Fred

    Jun 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    The club is not controlled by the shoulders. Its not controlled by the hips. Its not controlled by the knees. There is no body part or parts that determine where the club is at impact. The club determines ball flight. Learn from their club movement not their body.

  7. stevet

    Jun 17, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    Before sweeping conclusions can be made you must differentiate between body types. Different bodies, different swing mechanics. It’s all in “The L.A.W.s of the Golf Swing” by Adams et al. Read it!

  8. Geohogan

    Jun 17, 2018 at 6:27 am

    Totally agree that the Legends:
    1 Hips open
    2 Torso open
    3 Both butt cheeks visible
    4 Left leg extended and visible

    Draw a vertical line at the back of the ball, its undeniable that the Legends moved laterally at impact compared o address. Please get these articles right.

    • gif

      Jun 19, 2018 at 12:00 am

      The Legends are FOSh cause they didn’t have launch monitors or 3D vids… they only guessed based on their own subjective feelings…. and they guessed wrong most of the time.

  9. dilly dilly

    Jun 17, 2018 at 12:15 am

    Focusing too much on positions, just worry about where the ball is going.

    • Geohogan

      Jun 17, 2018 at 6:58 am

      The ball is going more consistently where we intend
      when golf swing uses body rotation to square the clubface
      rather than hands(forearm muscles).

      Lucas has listed body positions that prove that body rotation at impact was used to square the clubface. Cannot achieve these body positions at impact if hands (forearm rotation) was used to square the clubface. They are mutually exclusive.

      • Man

        Jun 17, 2018 at 10:16 am

        Nope. Wrong.
        Depends on the intended ball flight.
        These static photos prove nothing.

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Instruction

Stop Practicing, Start Training. Part 1: The long game

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This article is co-written with Zach Parker. Zach is the former director of golf at the Gary Gilchrist and Bishop’s Gate golf academies. Zach is a golf coach, an expert in skill acquisition, and he has years of experience setting up effective training scenarios for golfers of varying abilities. 

Zach Parker

The act of working on your golf game is often referred to as practice. This is a problem, however, because the word “practice” infers repetition or rehearsal. But golf is a sport that has a constantly changing playing surface, varying conditions and mixed skill requirements. So, if we use the traditional practice model of hitting the same shot over and over again, then we have a complete mismatch between our training and the requirements of the sport. This can lead to the following frustrations

  • Grinding on the range but not improving
  • Being unable to transfer performance on range to course
  • Finding practice boring
  • Plateaus in performance

These annoyances can lead to overall disappointment at underperforming and falling short of expectations developed in practice sessions. The most likely root cause of this issue is having no structure and the wrong context to your training, mistakenly focusing on repeating the same shot over and over again. 

So let’s try shifting our approach and aim to train and not simply practice. By introducing these three key principles to your training, we can not only get better at golf, but do so a way that is more efficient and more fun too! For more detailed insight to this topic, check out the podcast that Zach recently recorded with Game Like Training Golf

Spacing

Dr. Robert Bjorks suggests that the theory of spacing dates back centuries and simply means taking some time between training or learning tasks. By spacing things out the learner is forced to try and recall what was learned in the previous session, which makes that original learning stronger. The act of remembering strengthens the retrieval process, meaning it is more accessible in the future and easier to bring about.

Variability

Performing the same task over and over can allow you to appear to have “learned” the skill however we know that this is simply a false sense of competency (good on the range, but not on the course). Therefore if you’re truly looking to “learn” the new skill or desired movement pattern you need to introduce variability to the learning environment.

Challenge Point

Challenge point theory is a relatively new concept championed by Dr. Mark Guadagnoli and Dr. Tim Lee. The central idea of this theory is to create training sessions that are appropriate for the learner. A large emphasis is placed on matching up the difficulty of the practice task to the skill level of the golfer.

Guadagnoli and Lee present the idea that a beginner golfer with a low level of skill is better off spending time on practice tasks that are easier, and in a blocked style. Whilst golfers with a higher level of skill are better off spending time in practice tasks that are slightly harder, and in an interleaved style.

Challenge point needs to reflect the ability of the individual

Practical Example

In this example we have a college golfer aiming to incorporate a particular technical move into his golf swing. He is using a GravityFit TPro to help with feedback and learning. But instead of simply bashing balls using the TPro, he has been set up with a series of stations. The stations are divided into learning and completion tasks and incorporate the principles of Spacing, Variability and Challenge Point.

The aim is to work through three stations. If at any point the completion task is failed, then the participant must return back to the start at station one.

Station 1

Learning task: Three balls with a specific focus (in this case technical), performing two or three rehearsals to increase understanding of the desired pattern.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 35-45 feet, right-to-left break

Station 2

Learning task: Perform posture drills with the TPro, followed by one learning trial (hitting a shot) where the focus in on re-creating the feelings from the TPro exercise.

Completion task: Must two-putt from 30 feet, uphill

Station 3

Learning task: Transfer previous technical feels to a target focus, aiming for two out of three balls landing inside the proximity target.

Completion task: Must make an 8-10 footer.

You can either have a go at this circuit or create your own. There are no set rules, just make sure to include a mixture of tasks (Variability) that are appropriate to your level of ability (Challenge Point) with plenty of time between repetitions (Spacing).

For more information on the featured GravityFit equipment, check out the website here

 

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WATCH: Gain 20 yards with this hip action

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The lower body is the engine of the golf swing! In this video I show you a key move for (a lot) more distance.

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WATCH: How to master the downhill lie

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Top-100 instructor Tom Stickney explains the adjustments your need to make to consistently send the golf ball toward your target from a downhill lie. Enjoy the video below.

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