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Understanding “open-faced hooks”
At the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Dustin Johnson hit an ugly quacker (read snap hook) off the tee on Tuesday afternoon that was headed in the general direction of Haleakala. After the shot, NBC’s broadcast team, Johnny Miller and Gary Koch, decided to take a look at what happened.
They zoomed in to impact using the high-speed Konica Minolta Swing Vision Camera and saw that as Johnson’s club collided with the ball, his club face opened — massively! The booth went silent briefly, as Miller and Koch were flummoxed by the fact that Johnson’s club face was opened and he still managed to hook it off the planet. After realizing that they had dead air, they probably figured:
“Hey, we have to say something!”
So Miller went on to talk about how Johnson must have opened the face at impact to try and hook the ball less, or that maybe he was trying to fade the ball, but opened the club too late. Sound hard to believe? That’s because it’s total nonsense.
Here’s what actually happened — when the golf ball collided with the toe of Johnson’s club, the face opened and gave the ball hook spin. It’s a phenomenon called horizontal gear effect, which is what created the spin axis that caused Johnson’s ball to hook. To say or believe anything otherwise is to go against what science knows. DJ hit a toe hook; it couldn’t have been more obvious.
This harks back to an article I wrote some time ago about controlling the face after impact, in which I pointed out that a player CANNOT control the face upon and immediately after collision if the hit misses the center of the face. But apparently Miller and the old school team still seem to think you can. I was saddened to hear the announcers try to explain what happened using antiquated theories that have since been proven wrong by Dopplar radar systems such as TrackMan and FlightScope, as well as other new technologies.
I am not going out of my way to criticize Johnny Miller, Gary Koch or anyone else at the network, but I am saying this: The job of commentating on national television brings with it a great responsibility to the viewers. The vast majority of viewers will take the word of these experts as Gospel; no questions asked. So they have the responsibility to stay abreast of all the latest science and what is being learned about impact.
It would be easy for me, as a teacher, to bury my head in the sand, never read another book, never attend another seminar and just go on teaching what I taught before the enlightement era. But I can’t. I am a professional. I charge for my services, and therefore have the responsibility to my students to learn all we know TODAY. I would think the famous ex-players who comment on swings and things should have the same responsibility. In this case, explaining to the audience what caused DJ to hit a toe hook might have been of great help to many watching and listening.
Like it or not, we are living in the “teacher era.” Gone are the days when the top players teach golf. Why? Because staying on top of all the latest information is a full-time job. It is wonderful to hear Miller and others tell us about how they played certain shots, course management, reading greens and how to handle pressure — for that, I’m all ears. But as for impact principles and swing science, Miller and Koch are still living in the days they played, and I think we should hold them to a higher standard.