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Winning Swings: See how Rory McIlroy drives it so far

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[youtube id=”pQIQAv8E9TE” width=”620″ height=”360″]

Rory McIlroy stands only 5-feet 9-inches tall and weighs a mere 160 pounds, yet he’s able to drive that ball longer than all but a handful of the golfers on the PGA Tour. What’s his secret?

In the video above, I take a look at the moves in McIlroy’s swing that help him hit the ball unbelievably long (and pretty straight, too). I think it’s one of the best swings in professional golf today; good enough that we could be entering the Rory McIlroy era of major championship dominance.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at [email protected]

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. TR

    Mar 14, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    No offense, just my opinion but the down the line camera is set up wrong in my opinion. It looks like he’s taking the club back outside because of where the camera is. So his downswing is not correct either because of this.

  2. Mike Gross

    Jul 23, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    The problem people had w Rory changing equipment, it seems to me, had little to do with the quality of Nike equipment, and everything to do with changing all 14 clubs all at once.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 23, 2014 at 11:39 pm

      I agree it was shocking. Throughout my playing days, there were certain clubs you couldn’t take from me with a weapon. And there did seem a period of adjustment- not to the brand, as much as the look and feel I suppose.

  3. Kirby

    Jul 23, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    As a gym owner and trainer. I will tell you he is no normal 160 lbs. For an average guy at the gym I would say he is over 200 lbs with the amount of muscle on him. All these golfers are fat, but have less muscle on them hence strength, if that makes any sense to these knuckleheads that are amazed that he hits it that far at that weight. Body fat % you idiots.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 23, 2014 at 4:14 pm

      so you attribute his conditioning to his ability to use the ground? When you train golfers do you work on lower body for that purpose?

      • Kirby

        Jul 25, 2014 at 9:41 pm

        I usually work on core, hamstring and glute strength. But most importantly, flexibility relating to the golf swing. I just get irritated with people that see a guy, any guy that size in great shape hit it long when they expect a guy who is 200+ lbs to hit it further when if that bigger guy measured his lbm it would be around the same or less than rory. I do find it refreshing that in recent years, golfers have finally began to realize that their physical condition can help their golf game significantly. Thank you Tiger and the new young guys and originally Gary Player.

    • nikkyd

      Jul 27, 2014 at 6:45 pm

      I was gonna say most golfers are the skinny type. Thats why they have to use their entire body to generate clubhead speed. Stronger guys that actually do real work for a living can generate more with less

  4. joselo

    Jul 22, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    great video, thanks for sharing!

  5. west

    Jul 22, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I still think he uses a non-conforming ball… 😉

  6. Jay

    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Love the analysis – thanks!!

  7. Dennis Clark

    Jul 22, 2014 at 8:55 am

    The thing to note about a video swing analysis is the CAUSE and EFFECT. The effect is fairly obvious, but there is usually, almost always, ONE primary cause. Over the top, under plane, whatever it is, the idea of looking at a swing is to find the CAUSE and correct it! There is no one position that is, in and of itself, right or wrong. It’s how it relates to the OTHER positions. DC

  8. microsoftlogin

    Jul 22, 2014 at 5:47 am

    He couldn’t hold Tiger’s jock at his age, the comparisons are LAUGHABLE, Rory is a STUD, but he will NEVER, never get to Tigers apex, he just won’t. People can hate Tiger ALL they want, the guy CHANGED the sport and was more dominant in “his” time then anyone ever, including Jack. Tiger is the man, and people choose to judge him as if they are his maker, rather than admiring and appreciating what he did for a dying sport when he came in.

    • Fred

      Jul 23, 2014 at 7:19 pm

      Totally agree, micro. Every time Rory or Martin, or Adam, etc., wins a tournament, they’re the next coming of Tiger. At the Open, Kaymer, who blew everyone away at the US Open, played worse than Tiger at Liverpool. Where was Bubba? Today, we have many great players on the tour – Rory, of course, being one of them. The difference between them and Tiger is consistency. None of them wins tournaments on a consistent basis; Usually they win one, then fade away for a while. We see it all too often. Last year, bad back and all, Tiger won more tournaments than many pros win in a lifetime. Each time one of these guys wins a major, he’s the next big thing. We hear that the Tiger era is over, and that Rory’s era is just beginning. People forgery that Rory has been at this game on the pro level for quite some time now. Yet, he’s come no where near what Tiger accomplished at the same age. I wouldn’t look forward to Rory wining the PGA. He might not even finish in the top 10. I’ll put my money on Sergio this time around, with Rickie right behind him.

      • Dennis Clark

        Jul 24, 2014 at 2:50 pm

        Fred, I totally agree. Tiger woods did things for 12-15 years that NOBODY has done or will do IMO. Missing 9 cuts in 18 years is stupid good! My review says nothing about Rory in comparison to Tiger, I said “the best SINCE Tiger” and clearly the best right now. When it’s all said and done TW’s legacy of greatness will his consistency over the prime of his career. As a golf history buff, I personally thing Tiger Woods is the best player ever. Just IMO…

  9. cb

    Jul 21, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    great video dennis, always a fan of your stuff. true its impossible to know what shot he was trying to hit and usually the camera angles arent perfect like they would be in a teachers bay, but you did a great job of identifying the key characteristics of his swing

  10. Bman

    Jul 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm

    I have several videos of Rory on my Data Analyzer software and they show his hands more in or straight back in the beginning with the clubhead on or just slightly outside of his hands. I think the camera angle on your video is way to the left and misleading as to what you are explaining.

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 21, 2014 at 5:36 pm

      Well..I stood right behind him for two days at Pinehurst and I saw up close and personal what he did without parallax camera issues. And as my eye has been looking at golf swing for some 40 years, I’m pretty aware of what I’m seeing. He sets up left on most shots and swing the golf club along his body line (outside the line of flight). That is also what it appeared he did at the Open. Swings that go out need a loop back in. As a contrast take Matt Kuchar. If he had Rory’s down swing he’d be I serious trouble and we’d never hear of him. Granted camera angles are suggestive at best, and as the one viewer noted we do not know what shots he’s intending to hit. It’s just a 2-D flaw. But the article talks his ground use for power on EVERY swing, and compatible variations. Which most amateurs do not have.

  11. Dennis Clark

    Jul 21, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    True, we cannot know what he was doing with the ball; and we cannot tell real path on 2-D video and we have to allow for parallax issues etc. Video gets a bad rap in the 3-D era but my students love it and learn a LOT from it. The interaction with the ground however does not change. That is a power source regardless of the intended ball flight. Let’s put it this way: WHATEVER shot he hit here, I”LL take it: 🙂

  12. Billy

    Jul 21, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Good video, Dennis.

    Question, how does he get a good downswing? Does he use the ground as he mentions, starting the hips and lag?

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 21, 2014 at 4:44 pm

      He initiates his down swing with a good squat. If you were going to jump, you’d squat first. Push into the ground and it starts the kinetic chain needed in very good swing. It starts form the ground and works its way into the golf club. A true chain reaction. Glad you enjoyed it. Thx

      • Billy

        Jul 22, 2014 at 5:14 am

        Dennis, can I send you my swing for you to check out? I don’t have a FaceBook, I can only email you the file, if that works for you?

        If not, it’s ok.

        Thanks.

  13. chris liu

    Jul 21, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    no offense, but what i really dislike about these types of videos is the fact that we don’t get information on the type of shot he is trying to hit. Pro golfers rarely hit a “straight” shot, on tour at least. they are almost always working the ball, either fading, drawing, keeping the ball low, getting heigh on the ball etc. So how do we know which type of swing this is. maybe some of the thing we see here are only done due to the type of shot or some of the things are exaggerated due to the shot.

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Instruction

Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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