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As Tiger Woods says, “explosive power starts from the ground up”

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“You can’t start a car from a dead start and put it immediately up to 70 miles per hour. No matter how powerful your engine, you must have a gradual acceleration of speed. So it is in the golf swing.” — Mickey Wright

“Explosive power starts from the ground up..flat-out, lower body initiated power…my legs and hips drive forward and my upper body simply unwinds.” –Tiger Woods

We all have a love of power and yearn to achieve more of it in the golf swing. Muscular power is the rate of energy expended and it depends on the amount of energy available and the time taken to expend it. This is really about the amount of weight moved and the time involved to move it. Why is this relevant to the golf swing? Simply put, you have permission to move when making a full swing motion!

The modern swing seems to be all about rotation (torque, twist, turn, X-factor, etc.) are swing buzz words that are understood as the answer to a powerful swing and thus, increased distance. I believe these things can create substantial power, but done alone, could they be creating the possibility for injury. It seems to me that the more that I understand about anatomy, the more I believe that the body is not designed for the said rotational activity by itself in the golf swing. However, if there is some lateral movement allowed, this alone could put less stress on the back and joints, freeing up the shoulders to turn. Thus, shifting and turning (movement) is both accepted and possibly necessary for both power and accuracy. Movement, to me, is natural, athletic, and rhythmical…all words we strive for in sport.

I can appreciate the concern about lateral movement in the swing. We all are afraid of “swaying” or “sliding”. Simply, if your head movement is minimal the motion will instead look efficient and powerful. Additionally, if your swing is a result of a good kinetic chain (the muscle groups in the body working in a series or order of movement) and you utilize a good pivot, I think you will believe in movement.

A good pivot is a shift-turn-shift-turn sequence. Many times, it can seem like a player is only turning because this pivot sequence is happening in such a small amount of space. Upon closer examination, you will see that the most efficient swings incorporate a two-legged balanced start with a one-legged balance top swing position to a one-legged balance finish position.

Basically, you are creating a right side axis that will free the left side to turn outward behind the golf ball. This not only gives more time for the club to get to the top of the backswing, but also permits a good shoulder turn. As it is in the backswing, the forward swing is simply a change of axis and weight shift from the right foot to the left foot with a turn through to a balanced finish position.

The assertive leg drive/thrust/step is desirable to create a “running start” at and through the golf ball, creating optimal clubhead speed. In almost all sports that involve throwing or striking, the athlete makes a “running start” of sorts. Not only does this legwork/hip-work provide additional club speed in the golf swing, but it also gives you the secondary benefit of maintaining balance as your arms swing forward.

There are several ways to “get” this weight transfer ideal. Some like to think of shifting their center of gravity to the right and left and others imagine a lower spine shifting from right to left in a “wrecking ball” image. With both of these images, the top of the spine (head relatively still) remains in a fixed position, acting as a fulcrum for the swing in a pendulum-type motion. The head may move some but will not move in such a way that the movement becomes metronome-like.

Students who learn to swing a golf club with me are given “permission to move”. For so many, it is such a relief and their swings (in terms of power and accuracy) improve and overall enjoyment intensifies. These things, coupled with less strain and pain in the body, have convinced them that this is the way to go. Go back to being an athlete…step and throw the club around the circle like you are throwing a ball and you will be convinced that this is the way to go too!

 

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LPGA Master Professional/PGA Honorary Director Deb Vangellow holds both a BA and a Master Of Science Degree in Health/Physical Education/Coaching and Educational Leadership/Psychology from the University of Northern Iowa and Miami (Ohio) respectively. She currently is the Director Of Instruction at Riverbend Country Club in Houston, Texas. Deb is the 2012 LPGA National Teacher Of The Year, an LPGA, Golf Digest Woman, and Golf For Women “Top 50” Teacher, a Golf Digest and GOLF Magazine “Top Regional/Best in State” Teacher”, a US KIDS GOLF “Top 50 Master Kids Teacher” a Golf Tips Magazine “Top 25 Teacher”, and a GRAA “Elite Top Growth Of The Game Professional”. She served as the National President of the LPGA Teaching And Club Professionals and is a longtime lead instructor in the LPGA Global Education Program in the U.S. and Asia. An educator/coach who offers wellness based developmental programming integrated into her “student centered” philosophy; Deb can be reached at online at www.debvangellowgolf.com.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Jesse V

    Jul 6, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Due to back issues I have had to learn a different way to swing a club.

    I found Jimmy Ballard who’s teachings allow for the shifting of weight in the back swing and of course the shifting of weight forward in the down swing. Has made a tremendous difference in how my back feels after a range session or after a round.

  2. L

    Jul 5, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    Eldrick is a liar.
    If he was able to use the ground better he wouldn’t have a broken back. Eldrick swings all upper body. He has no idea how a golf swing really works. Sam Snead did. Lee Trevino did. They actually used their lower body. Eldrick used to get his lower body out of the way with an upper body twist.

    • Travis

      Jul 6, 2019 at 9:11 pm

      The above post might be the worst take on golf that simultaneously lacks any basis in reality. You completely lack an understanding of swing mechanics. Have fun breaking 100.

    • Patricknorm

      Jul 8, 2019 at 4:58 am

      Tiger didn’t hurt his back from golf. Tiger hurt his back training with and for the Navy Seals. Ironically, Tiger lower back became worse when his Achilles and knee issues became pretty well useless. I’ve had exactly the same issues as Tiger regarding my knees, hips and then lower back. The more I’m able to use my legs, bend my knees the less stress on my lower back. Maybe have a look at Matthew Wollf’s swing to see how he uses the ground to increase his swing speed.
      Plus, I think a comprehensive physics course would help you better understand what Tiger was referencing.

      • Jim

        Jul 8, 2019 at 2:46 pm

        That’s bull. He got the celebrity visit.

        He did however pack (buy) 30lbs of muscle into that skinny frame in one winter – years before his specwar days.

        Earl was a Green Beret & they would’ve given him a warm welcome and then run him ragged.

        He did nothing BUDS

      • geohogan

        Jul 8, 2019 at 5:10 pm

        Maybe have a look at Matthew Wollf’s swing to see how he uses the ground to increase his swing speed.

        Yes have a look. Wollf jumps all over the place at impact.
        his left foot slides backwards, which prevents damage to his left knee and spine. If he posted on a straight left leg as Tiger once did
        and /or kept his left foot flat, his lower back would be toast.

        FYI, the only solid connection between the lower body and upper body is in the pelvic basin.
        How many HP are you going to transmit through that connection before damage is done. In some, its permanent.

        The only physics we need to understgand, is Newtons Third Law:
        For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction force.

        When the force created in upper body isnt supported properly by lower body, damage will be done to the weakest point(where lower and upper body are joined.. the spine).

    • James Awad

      Jul 8, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      That ridiculous squat move the big brains & biggest mouths on wrx don’t understand – IS WHAT ATE HIS BACK!

      historically many great players have described ‘what they did’ as they thought they were – but video shows otherwise.

      Jack once said he ‘started his downswing by stomping his left heel down’….I tried it & almost broke my back…same month he ‘corrected himself’ and said he ACTUALLY shifted (drove off) from the right foot FIRST and that inertia started the upper body and arms (torso) to return to center THUS STOMPING THE LEFT HEEL DOWN – AT WHICH POINT THE UNWINDING OF THE LEFT HIP (not the right sided squat & unwind like Tiger) “was what he meant was being the official ‘start’ of the downswing.

      I was discussing the derotational shear forces he was putting on his back with Butch & stood right next to him at his Vegas HQ when he told him ‘Son, that’s going to kill your back’

      Tiger NEVER drove from the ‘ground up’

      He squeezed his hips out from under his head like toothpaste out of a tube by crunching down – then unwinding huge – but the stress on the discs was NOT spread over a ‘greater range of motion’ ala Jimmy Balard

      The best part of his swing – was the set up and huge ‘LEVEL’ LEFT SIDED TURN – ALLOWING His head to move to the right and maintain the same spine tilt orientation he had at address.

      Norman & Els had same move – but shifted their ‘entire being’ back to ‘center’ from the right foot & leg – then unwound from the front hip.

      Unwinding from the front after shifting the weight back CREATES centrifugal force, and if done from a good top of backswing position, allows the arms to just drop – not have to be pulled – into the downswing and produces a natural inside out swing WITHOUT having to ‘pull down’…

  3. Yomomma

    Jul 5, 2019 at 8:56 pm

    To start the downswing simply roll your feet and roll your arms.

  4. geohogan

    Jul 5, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    ” Its old time golf wisdom and its wrong.”

    Tiger fired his lower body to detriment of his knee and spine.

    Upper body firing is also old time golf misconception.

    It is momentum beginning with the feet and ground, that begins the kinematic chain and it is properly sequenced deceleration of proximal to distal that results in acceleration of the clubhead.

    Only when shoulder joints, elbow joints and wrist joints act as free swinging hinges does the multiplication of force result; NOt power hinges.
    A critical distinction.

  5. PSG

    Jul 5, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    A common myth that hurts a lot of players. 76% of the power in the golf swing comes from shoulder turn, the right elbow unbending, and the wrists firing at the proper time.

    If your article was true nobody could hit it 300 yards on their knees. But they can. Because the vast majority of power comes from the upper, not lower, body.

    The issue is that everyone *feels* like it comes from the lower body because it doesn’t come from your upper body’s muscles, it comes from your upper bodies joints. This is a critical distinction. You are not hitting with your biceps and lats, you are hitting with your shoulder ball-and-socket joints and elbow joint.

    Nonetheless, the hips add about 8 mph and a forward weight drive can get up to around 14 mph. The rest comes from above the waist. You can put your lower body in concrete and hit 110 on trackman. Try doing that without your upper body firing. You’d be lucky to break 50.

    Stop. telling. people. this. nonsense. Its old time golf wisdom and its wrong.

    • JCGolf

      Jul 5, 2019 at 7:16 pm

      You are right and also not right at the same time. A swing from the knees also results in the hips rotating a decent amount, it just removes the lateral component of the swing and removes the requirement for a strong legs because the plane is extremely flat so there is hardly any upward/downward force and the force is transmitted through your rigid femurs rather than knees/quads/hamstrings.

      The best players in the world have 70% of their ground pressure on the front foot before the downswing even begins. From there it is an upper body unwind, much like a baseball swing and the legs react to the force generated above, rather than the legs driving the movement. All the lower body does is stabilize the movement. On your knees the legs cant do much, but the force goes through the femurs.

    • Sean M

      Jul 8, 2019 at 2:48 pm

      This lower body myth has to end. Distance comes from speed. And speed is generated from the upper body. Tiger Woods and my grandmother have the same lower body speed.

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The Wedge Guy: The importance of a pre-shot routine

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I believe one of the big differences between better recreational golfers and those not so good—and also between the tour professionals and those that can’t quite “get there”—is the consistency of their pre-shot routines. It is really easy to dismiss something that happens before the ball is even struck as irrelevant, but I strongly urge you to reconsider if you think this way.

To have a set routine to follow religiously before every shot gives you the best chance to execute the shot the way you intend. To do otherwise just leaves too much to chance. Indulge me here and I’ll offer you some proof.

It’s been a while back now, but I still remember an interesting account on this subject that used the final round of the 1996 Masters—when Nick Faldo passed a collapsing Norman—as his statistical proof. This particular analyst reviewed the entire telecast of that final round and timed the routine of both players for every shot. What he discovered was that Norman got quicker and less consistent in his pre-shot routine throughout his round, while Faldo maintained his same, methodical approach to every shot, not varying by more than a second or so. I think that is pretty insightful stuff.

A lot of time has passed since then, but all competitive tour professionals pay very close attention to their pre-shot routines these days. I urge you to watch them as they go through the motions before each shot. And notice that most of them “start over” if they get distracted during that process.

While I do not think it is practical for recreational golfers to go into such laborious detail for every shot, let me offer some suggestions as to how a repeatable pre-shot routine should work.

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To begin, I think the best starting point is from behind the ball, setting up in your “mind’s eye” the film-clip of the shot you are about to hit. See the flight and path it will take. As you do this, you might waggle the club back and forth to get a feel of the club in your hands and “feel” the swing that will produce that shot path for you. Your exact routine can start when you see that shot clearly, and begin your approach the ball to execute the shot. From that “trigger point”, you should do the exact same things, at the exact same pace, each and every time.

For me (if I’m “on”), I’ll step from that behind-the-shot position, and set the club behind the ball to get my alignment. Then I step into my stance and ball position, not looking at the target, but being precise not to change the alignment of the clubhead–I’m setting my body up to that established reference. Once set, I take a look at the target to ensure that I feel aligned properly, and take my grip on the club. Then I do a mental check of grip pressure, hover the club off the ground a bit to ensure it stays light, and then start my backswing, with my only swing thought being to feel the end of the backswing.

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