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Swing efficiency: How ugly golf swings win
Shaun Webb is a PGA Class A Member, a TPI Level 2 Golf Instructor and certified K-Vest Level 2 instructor.
A question I am often asked as an instructor is, “How can golfers with swings like Tommy Gainey and Jim Furyk hit the ball well enough to win at such a high level?”
Fortunately, with the aid of 3D motion capture systems, we now have been able to identify the true measurement of a good golf swing and have the answer to how unorthodox swings can produce such successful careers. The answer is very simple, SWING EFFICENCY. Before we dive in any further, let me ask you a couple of questions.
- Are you tired of taking lessons and not improving?
- Are you working tirelessly on positions of the swing but still not striking the ball the way you would like?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you may be in need of some education on the subject of swing style versus swing efficiency. Let start with the subject of swing style: this is how your swing looks on video and to the naked eye or with a video camera. For example, Ernie Els has a more classic swing style, while Jim Furyk has a unique swing style. Both are great ball-strikers and both swing in way that suits them.
So what is swing efficiency? Swing efficiency is how your swing measures and performs and does NOT take into account the way your swing “looks.” Swing efficiency cannot be measure with video and is only measured using 3D technology such as K-Vest 3D Motion Analysis. Swing efficiency looks at the way your body produces energy and power during the golf swing and is quantified using a measurement called the kinematic sequence.
The amazing thing about the kinematic sequence is that two very different swing “styles” can have nearly identical kinematic sequence graphs. Again, Els and Furyk are excellent examples of this fact. Although these two players have swings styles that are on opposite ends of the spectrum visually, they incredibly similar swing efficiency (kinematic sequence) graphs.
For you to better understand the kinematic sequence, it helps to imagine snapping a towel or cracking a whip. The first thing you would do is accelerate the handle of the whip to generate speed. You would then rapidly decelerate the handle to transfer speed to the next part of the whip. The same thing happens in great ball-strikers. Their lower body represents the handle of the whip and the club shaft represents the end of the whip.
The fact of the matter is that all great ball-strikers begin by generating speed from their lower body and transferring that speed through their torso into their arms and then into the club. What style they use to complete this signature is completely unique to each player.
So what does all this mean to you, the frustrated golfer?
It means that you should immediately stop focusing on how closely your swing resembles Tiger or Rory on video camera and ask yourself the following question:
“How can I make my golf swing get the job done?”
The problem is that the typical golf lesson focuses only on swing style and does not even take into account the efficiency of your action. The traditional lesson consists of the instructor pulling up a video of you swinging next to Tiger or Rory. The instructor then proceeds to draw a series of lines proving to you that your swing isn’t performing because you have not put the club in certain “positions” throughout the swing. The instructor then let’s you know that once your swing looks like Tigers or Rory’s you will magically hit the ball much better.
Although this seems like it should work, in reality this style of instruction does not address the most important aspect of solid ball striking — you guessed it, SWING EFFICIENCY. It often boggles my mind how many instructors actually believe that the swing has to “look” a certain way in order to be effective, or that the body and club need to be in any number of positions in order to be considered “good.” In actuality, there is one major determining factor that separates good ball strikers from great ones. I’ll give you a hint — it’s not that the club is “on plane” during the take away.
The amazing thing is that all great ball strikers have the same kinematic sequence or the same signature of generating speed and transferring speed throughout their body. So how can you take advantage of current technology and start training for swing efficiency as opposed to swing style? Your first step would be to locate an instructor in your area who has access to 3D motion analysis technology. The instructor will attach sensors to your body and have you hit balls as he collects the data and generates a graph of your kinematic sequence. Using this data he will answer the following questions:
- Is your swing efficient or not?
- Where is the efficiency breakdown (takeaway, transition, or downswing)?
- What is the cause of the breakdown (physical limitation, mechanics, equipment)
With this information the instructor can give you a concise plan of attack to improve your swing based on one or all of the three areas of efficiency breakdowns. Armed with this information you can then begin a solid training plan that will have you on your way to improved swing performance in the shortest time possible using your own unique swing! You will be training like a tour player and focusing on what matters most in your golf swing. Instead of making swing changes just for the sake of making it “look” different, you can now objectively look at your swing and only make the changes that produce more efficiency.
I hope that now you have a different understanding of what is a “good” golf swing and strive to learn more about how to make your swing more efficient. In closing, just remember not to ask yourself how you can make your swing look like your favorite tour player.Instead ask yourself, how can I make my swing get the job done?