Connect with us

Instruction

Swing in Pictures: The Top

Published

on

Over the next several weeks, Tom Stickney will be presenting a series called, “The Swing In Pictures” on GolfWRX.

Each Monday a different swing position will be coupled with thoughts you (as the player) should pay attention to based on your current handicap level. I would suggest printing each of these articles out and placing them in a binder, as the series will take you from address through the finish from the front and down the line views.

Click here to view Tom’s previous articles.

PLEASE NOTE:

This article is meant to be used as a general reference for the most common swing model used in today’s game. As with any golf swing, there are personal idiosyncrasies that will alter the look and/or actions of the club shaft and body motions back and through so there will always be exceptions. Please keep this in mind as you read each section. As Homer Kelley identifies in ‘The Golfing Machine,’ there are 446 quad-trillion stroke patterns, or ways to swing the club. You only need to find the one that works best for you.

The Top (Front View)

Stickney

The top of the backswing is where the backswing stops and the forward motion of the body and clubshaft begins.  This is the position that will allow the downswing to begin without any radical manipulation.

For the Beginning Player:

  • The shoulders have turned about twice as much as the hips.
  • There is a noticeable separation between the legs as if you were holding a beach ball between your knees.
  • The arms are extended away from the head with a left arm that is relatively straight but not rigid.
  • The rear knee is solid and has not swayed laterally; thus, the weight is centralized on the inside of the rear foot and the forward foot is on the ground or very close.
  • The head should remain relatively stable on the way to the top, it can move slightly laterally towards the rear foot.

For the Intermediate Player:

  • Focusing on lower body control is a must — the knees must remain separated and the forward foot must not be allowed to leave the ground haphazardly.
  • The head should be directly over the rear foot so you can be “behind the ball” or “loaded up” at the top — this is a necessity for power and control.
  • Maintain the “L” created by the rear arm at the top for added width — do not let it collapse beyond 90 degrees.
  • Rear knee control will create a more controlled hip turn to the top and a better foundation for the transition.

For the Advanced Player:

  • Halting the swing “from the feet” is advisable whereas your feet do not leave the ground and the weight stays on the inside of the rear foot at the top.
  • There is a noticeable “lean over the rear leg” at the top which was created by the lateral side bending at address; if your lower body is out of control or over-rotates then you will lose this angle.
  • It is here we desire a medium hip turn, a maximum shoulder turn, and a slight “lean over the rear leg.

For the Professional Player:

  • Notice the high X-Factor — the torque created between the differing upper and lower body turns.  The shoulders will be turned around 90 degrees and the hips around 45, this torque allows the hips to lead and power the downswing without thought and in the proper sequence.
  • The angle of the rear biceps and rear forearm must be as wide as possible to create a short arms swing coupled with a big shoulder turn.
Your Reaction?
  • 1
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK0

Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction at Combine Performance in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 60 people in the world.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. David

    Mar 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Excited to see the transition!

  2. tom stickney

    Mar 3, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Semantics can me misconstrued; thanks for the note…

    • David

      Mar 8, 2013 at 9:25 am

      Tom i’ve been reading all of these posts. They are awesome.

  3. Walt

    Mar 2, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    That wasn’t that great of an answer to the fact your instruction says explicitly to get the head directly over the right foot.

    I think what you mean to say here is just to position your head comfortably atop your shoulders.

    Pointing out head over right foot is too generic as some people might take that to mean oh I need to lean my head backwards, or I need to lean my upper body backwards more to get my head over my shoe.

    It might be better to say move your left shoulder somewhat in line with your right instep. Flexibility of the individual dictates how much they can accomplish this action.

    Head directly over shoulder is just inviting a bad backwards sway into the swing.

  4. tom stickney

    Feb 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    Simon–Remember that in the beginning levels there are many things that they need to worry about that the better players do not…secondly, the amount of lateral spinal bending at address controls the amount of lean over the right leg and subsequent head position at the top. If you read the first part of each of my articles in this series you would also see that these tips and photos are very general…there are great players in all types of positions at the top. Try to look beyond what you see as “exact” in the photos and you will find ideas that just might help you improve. There is no one way to swing…

  5. simon

    Feb 26, 2013 at 4:56 am

    “The head should be directly over the rear foot so you can be “behind the ball” or “loaded up” at the top — this is a necessity for power and control”…. not really… contradicts the point about how the head can move laterally a little bit in the beginners section as well….

    how many good players do you see move their head directly over the rear foot?

  6. William Wilson

    Feb 25, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    I love the b/w image at the top of the article – almost looks like Hogan. What is definitely noticeable is the weight on the inside of the ‘golf shoes’ – a classic ‘Hogan Fundamental’… Nice one!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instruction

WATCH: How to stop swaying during your golf swing

Published

on

In this video, I share with you how to stop swaying for good. I demonstrate how to use PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation) to create the correct movements in your backswing. This video is part of a series on PNF drills.

Your Reaction?
  • 9
  • LEGIT1
  • WOW1
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading

Instruction

A shockingly simple drill to hit the golf ball farther

Published

on

One of the biggest requests I get on the lesson tee is for more distance. Everyone wants to hit the golf ball farther. Obviously. That being said, there’s many things that go into producing distance, such as…

  • Swing Length — how long is the swing or how long does the club stay in the air before hitting the ball?
  • Swing Width — are you at full extension at during the swing or do you get soft arms?
  • Impact Point — the horizontal and vertical point of contact that influences gear effect, launch, and spin rate.
  • Spin Rate — how much backspin does the ball have?
  • Height — how high is the ball in the air?
  • Launch Angle — what is the angle of the ball off the face during impact?
  • Ball Speed — how fast does the ball leave the blade?

But one thing remains true: if you want more distance, then you must swing faster with all of the above being maximized for your current swing speed. So how do you create more speed? Simple — set up the drill as shown below.

Use between 6-to-10 balls and swing 100 percent all out with no regard for where the ball lands. Then repeat the drill and make your normal speed swing and you will find that your clubhead speed will slightly increase. Do this drill 5 to 10 times per practice session and you will train yourself to swing faster.

However, it’s up to you to figure out how fast you can swing yet maximize the qualities listed above so you can maintain consistent contact.

Remember, you don’t have to get complex to solve your distance problem. Try this first and see what happens!

Your Reaction?
  • 109
  • LEGIT11
  • WOW12
  • LOL27
  • IDHT6
  • FLOP16
  • OB11
  • SHANK115

Continue Reading

Instruction

Your Body Is Your Most Important Piece Of Equipment; It’s Time For An Upgrade

Published

on

Clubs, balls, shoes, mental training, lessons. Golfers are always searching for the next thing that is going to transform their game. If a product has promise, golfers are like addicts; they must have it… regardless of the price. What’s usually ignored, however, is the most important piece of equipment for all golfers: their body, and how their physical conditioning pertains to golf.

Everything becomes easier by getting in better “golf shape.” You will likely hit the ball farther, have better energy and focus, fewer aches and pains, improved ability to actually implement swing changes and the durability to practice more.

When trying to improve your physical conditioning for golf, it would shortsighted not to mention the following requirements:

  1. Discipline: There will be times you don’t want to train, but should.
  2. Patience: Small, incremental progress adds up to big improvement over time.
  3. A Path: Make sure you use your time and effort efficiently by having a training plan that matches your goals.

If you can adopt these principles, I am confident you will be very happy with the return — even more so than the latest driver, putter or practice aid.

I like to compare having a well functioning body to a painter’s blank canvas. By ensuring you have adequate coordination, motor control, mobility, stability, strength and speed, you have the basic tools necessary for a high-performance golf swing. Of course, you will still need to develop a functional technique and specific skill level that matches your goals. On the flip side, if you are deficient in these areas, you are like a dirty canvas; your options are limited and you will need to make compensations to achieve anything close to the desired outcome. In simpler terms, movements that are universally desirable in the golf swing may be very difficult or impossible for you based on your current physical state.

Earlier, I mentioned the term “appropriate training,” and now I am going to discuss one of the ways to identify what this means for you as a golfer trying to use physical training to support a better golf game. The TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Movement Screen is a great start for everyone. It is a combination of 16 exercises that are used to assess your current movement capabilities, identify limitations and provide you with your “Body-Swing” connection. The “Body-Swing” connection is a term coined by TPI that illustrates the link between physical deficiencies and potential swing tendencies based on its “Big 12” model. The Big 12 swing characteristics that TPI has identified are as follows:

  1. S-Posture
  2. C-Posture
  3. Loss of Posture
  4. Flat Shoulder Plane
  5. Early Extension
  6. Over The Top
  7. Sway
  8. Slide
  9. Hanging Back
  10. Reverse Spine Angle
  11. Casting
  12. Chicken Winging

It’s important to note these as tendencies rather than flaws, as great ball strikers have demonstrated some of them. When done excessively, they make high functioning swings more difficult and may make potential injury more likely. Rather than going through all 16 screening exercises (which would be a very long read), I have selected five that I feel provide a lot of useful information. They can often broadly differentiate the playing level of golfers.

1. Static Setup Posture

There is a lot of debate in golf instruction about what is the correct way to assume posture for the golf swing. Some prefer more rounded shoulders akin to what was common in years gone by: Jack and Arnie being good examples. Others prefer a more extended thoracic spine (less curved upper back): Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott are good examples. I’m not a golf instructor and clearly both types can hit great golf shots. I am more concerned with the lumbar spine (the lower back, which doesn’t seem to get as much attention when the setup is being discussed).

Note the difference between the spinal curvatures of Jack and Rory. I’m OK with either as long as the lower back is in a biomechanically sound position (explained in video).

An overly extended or arched lower back (which I demonstrate in the video) creates too large a space between the alignment rod and my lower back. This is a common issue I see, and it can lead to a lack of pelvis rotation, a lack of power due to the inability to effectively use the glutes and abdominal muscles and lower back discomfort. Cueing a slight posterior tilt (tucking the tailbone underneath you) often makes a noticeable difference in pelvis mobility, power, and comfort.

 2. Pelvic Rotation

Pelvic rotation is essential for X-factor stretch, the ability to increase the amount of separation between the pelvis and torso during transition (moving from the backswing into the downswing). This is often referred to as starting the downswing with the lower body/hips (while the torso is still rotating away from the target or is paused at the end of the backswing). It is critical for effective sequencing and power production. Increasing the separation between your pelvis and torso on the downswing increases what is known as the “stretch-shortening cycle” of your trunk and torso muscles, which is like adding more stretch to an elastic band and then releasing it. If you cannot separate pelvic rotation and torso rotation, it will be extremely difficult to be a good golfer.

In the video below, watch how Rickie Fowler’s pelvis rotates toward the target independently of his torso. This increases the elastic energy stored in his muscles and tendons, allowing for big power production.

 3. Lower Quarter Rotation

The Lower Quarter Rotation Test shares some similarities to the Pelvic Rotation Test, but one key difference is that it doesn’t require nearly as much motor control. Many people fail the pelvic rotation test not because of a mobility limitation, but because they can’t control the different segments of the their body and perform the action they want (motor control issue). The Lower Quarter Rotation Test, on the other hand, does not require anywhere near as much control and therefore looks more directly at the internal and external rotation mobility of the lower body. People who struggle with this test are more likely to sway, slide and have reverse spine angle.

DJ Top of backswing.jpg

I’m confident Dustin Johnson would do OK on the Lower Quarter Rotation test. Look at how well he can turn into his right hip.

 4. Seated Thoracic Rotation

This one usually resonates with golfers, as “getting a full shoulder turn” is something that golf media and players like to talk to about regularly. I think most people understand the concept of a sufficient shoulder turn being important for creating power. Restricted thoracic spine rotation can stem from a few different causes. A common one is excessive thoracic flexion (rounder upper back). To test this for yourself: 1) try the test in the video hunched over and 2) with your spine as long as possible. You should notice you can rotate farther when you sit extended.

5. 90/90 External Shoulder Rotation  

Many popular golf instruction pages on social media talk about the importance of shallowing the shaft in transition and trail arm external shoulder rotation. I understand the reasoning for this in terms of swing technique, but something that needs to be taken into consideration is whether golfers actually have the ability to externally rotate their shoulders. This is often not the case. Two interesting trends I have noticed with golfers and external shoulder rotation:

  1. A larger percentage of U.S. golfers compared to Irish golfers (the two countries I have worked in) tend to have much more trail arm external rotation available. This is mainly due to throwing baseballs and footballs in their youth, which doesn’t happen in Ireland.
  2. Shoulder external rotation, shoulder flexion, and thoracic extension really seem to reduce as golfers get older compared to other movements. Please take note of this and put some exercises into your routine that promote mobility and stability in the thoracic spine and scapula, as these are the foundation for sound shoulder mechanics. Thoracic extensions on a foam roller, relaxed hanging from a pull-up bar and wall slides with external rotation are some exercises I like to use.
MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Toronto Blue Jays

I think this pitcher would have enough external shoulder rotation in his golf swing.

I hope this article gave you some more understanding of how learning about your body and then working on its limitations might be beneficial for your golf game. If you have questions about the TPI Movement Screen or are interested in an online evaluation, please feel free to e-mail me.

Your Reaction?
  • 53
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW0
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP1
  • OB1
  • SHANK7

Continue Reading

19th Hole

Facebook

Trending