In my previous article, I showed how different impact positions produce different ball flights and distances at a given speed because of dynamic loft. The reader feedback split the board, achieving both a ton of likes and shanks.There’s nothing like a bit of controversy to make people think!
The message was not that lag and shaft lean are necessarily bad things; it was to create awareness that:
- Launch angle plays a massive role in carry distance, especially at slower speeds. If you have a ton of shaft lean at impact with a slower swing speed (and a lot of people are trying to do this), you will hit the ball too low and will limit your carry distance.
- Most golfers recognize that a very low trajectory is not optimal, so their subconscious mind will severely resist creating the “lag n’ lean” position they think they need. That’s why so many golfers struggle to add lag to their swing; their subconscious mind hates the associated flight!
- It is possible to lag the club a lot and then get rid of the lag to arrive at impact with less forward shaft lean at impact. If you are going to create a lot of lag, however, you better have the ability to create the work (forces and torques) necessary to un-lag it enough to create your desired impact position (Finney, 2015).
From the above, we basically have a couple of choices. Either we create more lag n’ lean and deal with the lower trajectory (an option for higher speed players), or we learn to swing with slightly less shaft lean (an option for slower speed players).
One of the predominant arguments I saw in the comments section of my previous article was that you need tons of forward lean to strike the ball correctly. That’s not true, because having forward lean alone does not create a perfect strike. Golfers can still dump the club head a foot behind the ball with a ton of shaft lean, and there are a whole host of other variables contributing to strike quality. Also, there are ways of making minimal forward shaft lean work.
The trajectory of our club head throughout the swing is circular, or elliptical in nature.
- Height: How deep or shallow it is into the ground.
- Position: How forward or back it is from the ball.
- Distance: How close or far it is from a golfer’s feet.
Let’s look at height and position.
Lag N’ Lean
With a lag and lean approach, the lowest point of the swing arc will typically be much farther forward of the ball position (more target side). This will also require the low point to be deeper into the ground in order to strike the ground in the right place (see the image below).
With this type of strike, the angle of attack will tend to be steeper, and the club face will tend to be more open to the path. That’s why severely closed-face players such as David Duval, Tommy Gainey and Dustin Johnson all have so much shaft lean at impact. It is their way of creating a more open face angle, as well as the desired trajectories for their swing speeds.
For these types of players, dynamic loft will also tend to be lower at impact, lowering their trajectory.
The other option is to have less forward shaft lean at impact, which results in more dynamic loft and a higher trajectory. For slower speed players, this can increase carry distance and stopping power dramatically. It can also help to close the face more at impact, which can help golfers who struggle with blocks and slices.
With less lean in the swing, the low point will be farther back and more level with the ball. As a result, the low point will need to be closer to the surface of the ground in order to make sure the ground is struck in a functional place, as seen below.
So we see that there is a relationship between the position of the low point of the swing and the depth, as well as where the strike with the ground is. We (almost) always desire to strike the ground where the ball is resting, but this can be done in varying ways (as seen). These different ways produce different impact conditions that will launch the ball differently.
“But all the pros lag n’ lean it. Shouldn’t I do that?”
You’re right; most tour players have a lot of lag and shaft lean in their swings. But they also swing their 6 irons at an average of 92 mph — a speed most golfers are no where near. Tour players need more lag n’ lean because they swing at this higher speed. It reduces their spin and launch, and creates a playable trajectory.
Emulating a pro without the ability to create the speed at which a pro swings often results in less-than-optimal trajectory – even if the strike is crisp.
This article is all about connecting the pieces for the individual player. Taking into consideration a player’s ability to do work (the process of de-lagging), their swing speed, their low-point position and their intended trajectory, we can figure out functional variables to achieve optimal performance. A top player will also have the ability to create more lag ‘n lean or to reduce it, depending on the shot and scenario they’re facing.
I am not recommending that any golfer get into a position where the club is leaning backwards at impact, as a low point that is behind the ball is non-functional in most cases (apart from shots that are teed up). But most golfers will probably do better if they stop their effort to create more lag, or at least stop thinking about it as the be-all, end-all of a good swing. Instead, focus on hitting the ball with a crisp strike and a playable trajectory!
Have more questions? Leave them below. And stay tuned! Next week, I will be discussing another topic relating to low point.
Editor’s Note: Adam discusses these principles and much more in his book, “The Practice Manual: The Ultimate Guide for Golfers,” which is available on Amazon.
What to look for in a golf instructor: The difference between transformative and transactional coaching
Golf instruction comes in all different styles, methods, and formats. With that said, you would think this would be a good thing due to there being so many different types of people in the world. However, it is my opinion that the lack of standardization within the industry makes it confusing for the athlete to determine what kind of golf instruction they should seek out.
Before we can discuss what may or may not be the best type of instruction for yourself, first we need to know what our options are. Whether we are taking a “broad-spectrum approach” to learning or a more personalized approach, it is important to understand that there are differences to each, and some approaches are going to take longer than others to reach goals.
Welcome to the world of digital golf instruction, where tips from the most famous coaches in the world are a click away. The great thing about the internet and social media for a golfer is there has never been more access to the top minds in the field—and tips and drills are plentiful. With that said, with there being so many choices and differing opinions, it can be very easy to become distracted with the latest tip and can lead to a feeling of being lost.
I would describe “internet coaching”—or YouTube and Instagram surfing—as transactional coaching. You agree to pay, either a monthly fee or provide likes or follows and the professional provides very generalized tips about the golf swing. For athletes that are new to golf or golf instruction, this tends to be the first part of their process.
There are people who prefer a more transactional approach, and there are a ton of people having success working together over the internet with their coach. With that said, for someone who is looking for more of a long-term individualized approach, this may not be the best approach. This broad-spectrum approach also tends to be the slowest in terms of development due to there being a lot of trial and error due to the generalized approach and people having different body types.
Individual Transactional Coaching
Most people who are new to golf instruction will normally seek out their local pro for help. Depending on where you live in the country, what your local pro provides will vary greatly. However, due to it being local and convenient, most golfers will accept this to be the standard golf lesson.
What makes this type of instruction transactional is that there tends to be less long-term planning and it is more of a sick patient-doctor relationship. Lessons are taken when needed and there isn’t any benchmarking or periodization being done. There also tends to be less of a relationship between the coach and player in this type of coaching and it is more of a take it or leave it style to the coaching.
For most recreational or club-level players, this type of coaching works well and is widely available. Assuming that the method or philosophies of the coach align with your body type and goals athletes can have great success with this approach. However, due to less of a relationship, this form of coaching can still take quite some time to reach its goals.
Individual Transformative Coaching
Some people are very lucky, and they live close to a transformative coach, and others, less lucky, have had to search and travel to find a coach that could help them reach their goals. Essentially, when you hire a transformative coach, you are being assigned a golf partner.
Transformative coaching begins with a solid rapport that develops into an all-encompassing relationship centered around helping you become your very best. Technology alone doesn’t make a coach transformative, but it can help when it comes to creating periodization of your development. Benchmarks and goals are agreed upon by both parties and both parties share the responsibility for putting in the work.
Due to transformative coaching tending to have larger goals, the development process tends to take some time, however, the process is more about attainment than achievement. While improved performance is the goal, the periods for both performance and development are defined.
Which One is Right for You?
It really depends on how much you are willing to invest in your development. If you are looking for a quick tip and are just out enjoying the weather with your friends, then maybe finding a drill or two on Instagram to add to your practice might be the ticket. If you are looking to really see some improvement and put together a plan for long-term development, then you are going to have to start looking into what is available in your area and beyond.
Some things to consider when selecting a coach
- Do they use technology?
- What are their qualifications when it comes to teaching?
- Do they make you a priority?
As a golf coach who has access to the most state-of-the-art technology in the industry, I am always going to be biased towards a data-driven approach. That doesn’t mean that you should only consider a golf coach with technology, however, I believe that by having data present, you are able to have a better conversation about the facts with less importance placed on personal preference. Technology also tends to be quite expensive in golf, so be prepared if you go looking for a more high-tech coaching experience, as it is going to cost more than the low-tech alternative.
The general assumption is that if the person you are seeking advice from is a better player than you are, then they know more about the golf swing than you do. This is not always the case, while the better player may understand their swing better than you do yours, that does not make them an expert at your golf swing. That is why it is so important that you consider the qualifications of your coach. Where did they train to coach? Do they have success with all of their players? Do their players develop over a period of time? Do their players get injured? All things to consider.
The most important trait to look for in a transformative coach is that they make you a priority. That is the biggest difference between transactional and transformative coaches, they are with you during the good and bad, and always have your best interest top of mind. Bringing in other experts isn’t that uncommon and continuing education is paramount for the transformative coach, as it is their duty to be able to meet and exceed the needs of every athlete.
The importance of arm structure
How the arms hang at address plays a vital role in the golf swing. Often overlooked, the structure in which we place the arms can dictate one’s swing pattern. As mentioned in the article How Posture influences your swing, if you start in an efficient position, impact is much easier to find making, the golf swing more repeatable and powerful.
To start, I opt to have a player’s trail arm bent and tucked in front of them with angle in the trail wrist. While doing so, the trail shoulder can drop below the lead with a slight bend from the pelvis. This mirrors an efficient impact position.
I always prefer plays to have soft and slightly bent arms. This promotes arm speed in the golf swing. No other sports are played with straight arms, neither should golf.
From this position, it’s easier to get the clubhead traveling first, sequencing the backswing into a dynamic direction of turn.
When a player addresses the ball with straight arms, they will often tilt with their upper body in the backswing. This requires more recovery in the downswing to find their impact position with the body.
A great drill to get the feeling of a soft-bent trail arm is to practice pushing a wall with your trail arm. Start in your golf set-up, placing your trail hand against the wall. You will instinctively start with a bent trail arm.
Practice applying slight pressure to the wall to get the feeling of a pushing motion through impact?. When trying the drill with a straight trail alarm, you will notice the difference between the two? arm structures.
What is ground force in the golf swing?
There is no doubt about it, the guys and gals on tour have found something in the ground—and that something is power and speed. I’m sure by now you have heard of “ground reaction forces”—and I’m not talking about how you “shift your weight” during the golf swing.
Ground force in the golf swing: Pressure and force are not equal
With respect to ground force in the golf swing, it’s important to understand the difference between pressure and force. Pressure is your perception of how your weight is being balanced by the structure, in this case, the human body. Your body has a center of mass which is located roughly one inch behind the belt buckle for men and about one inch lower in women. When we shift (translate and/or torque) the center of mass, we create a pressure shift as the body has to “rebalance” the mass or body. This pressure shift can help us understand some aspects of the golf swing, but when it comes to producing power, force and torque are where it’s at.
Pressure can only be expressed in relation to the mass or weight of the body. Therefore, if you weigh 150 pounds, you can only create 150 pounds of pressure at one time. However, when we direct that mass at a larger object than our mass, all of a sudden that larger mass directs an opposite and equal reactionary force. So now, when a human being “pushes” their legs against the ground and “feels” 150 pounds of pressure, they now get 150 pounds of force directed back towards them from the ground, creating a total of 300 pounds of force that allows them to jump off the ground in this scenario.
If ground reaction forces don’t have anything to do with the “weight shift,” then what do they affect? Everything!
Most people use the same basic ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. However, almost everyone has chocolate chip cookies that taste slightly different. Why is that? That is because people are variable and use the ingredients in different amounts and orders. When we create a golf swing, whether we are aware of it or not, we are using the same basic ingredients as everyone else: lateral force, vertical torque, and vertical force. We use these same three forces every time we move in space, and how much and when we use each force changes the outcome quite a bit.
Welcome to the world of 3D!
Understanding how to adjust the sequencing and magnitude of these forces is critical when it comes to truly owning and understand your golf swing. The good news is that most of our adjustments come before the swing and have to do with how we set up to the ball. For example, if an athlete is having a hard time controlling low point due to having too much lateral force in the golf swing (fats and thins), then we narrow up the stance width to reduce the amount of lateral force that can be produced in the swing. If an athlete is late with their vertical force, then we can square up the lead foot to promote the lead leg straightening sooner and causing the vertical force to happen sooner.
While we all will need to use the ground differently to play our best golf, two things need to happen to use the ground effectively. The forces have to exist in the correct kinetic sequence (lateral, vertical torque, vertical force), and the peaks of those forces need to be created within the correct windows (sequencing).
- Lateral force – Peak occurs between top-of-swing and lead arm at 45 degrees
- Vertical torque – Peak occurs between lead arm being 45 degrees and the lead arm being parallel to the ground.
- Vertical force – Peak occurs between lead arm being parallel to the ground the club shaft being parallel to the ground.
While it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember ground reaction forces are invisible and can only be measured using force plates. With that said, their tends to be apprehension about discussing how we use the ground as most people do not have access to 3D dual force plates. However, using the screening process designed by Mike Adams, Terry Rowles, and the BioSwing Dynamics team, we can determine what the primary forces used for power production are and can align the body in a way to where the athlete can access his/her full potential and deliver the club to the ball in the most effective and efficient way based off their predispositions and anatomy.
In addition to gaining speed, we can help athletes create a better motion for their anatomy. As golfers continue to swing faster, it is imperative that they do so in a manner that doesn’t break down their body and cause injury. If the body is moving how it is designed, and the forces acting on the joints of the body are in the correct sequence and magnitude, not only do we know they are getting the most out of their swing, but we know that it will hold up and not cause an unforeseen injury down the road.
I truly believe that force plates and ground reaction forces will be as common as launch monitors in the near future. Essentially, a launch monitor measures the effect and the force plates measure the cause, so I believe we need both for the full picture. The force plate technology is still very expensive, and there is an educational barrier for people seeking to start measuring ground reaction forces and understanding how to change forces, magnitudes, and sequences, but I’m expecting a paradigm shift soon.
Best driver 2021: By club fitters for you!
Rickie Fowler makes dramatic iron change
Claude Harmon III explains why he was fired by Brooks Koepka
Lee Westwood WITB 2021 (The Players)
Arnold Palmer Invitational Tour Truck Report: Rickie’s iron experiments continue, MMT train rolls on, Rose tests a ton
Best fairway woods of 2021: By club fitters for you!
Justin Thomas’ winning WITB: 2021 Players Championship
Sergio Garcia WITB 2021 (The Players)
‘Shut it!’ – Paul Casey puts disrespectful spectator in his place
Lee Westwood won’t have ‘secret weapon’ caddie on the bag for 2021 Masters
Lydia Ko WITB 2021 (April)
Lydia Ko what’s in the bag accurate as of the Lotte Championship. Driver: PXG 0811 X Proto (9 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi...
Corey Conners WITB 2021 (April)
Corey Conners WITB accurate as of the RBC Heritage. Driver: Ping G400 LST (8.5 degrees @8, standard) Shaft: UST Elements Gold...
Cam Smith WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: Titleist TSi3 (10 degrees) Shaft: Project X HZRDUS Smoke Yellow 60 6.5 TX 3-wood: Titleist TSi2 (15 degrees) Shaft: UST...
Stewart Cink WITB 2021 (April)
Driver: Ping G425 Max (10.5 degrees, CG shifter neutral) Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD XC 6 TX (45.25 inches) 3-wood:...
19th Hole3 weeks ago
‘Shut it!’ – Paul Casey puts disrespectful spectator in his place
Whats in the Bag3 weeks ago
Billy Horschel’s winning WITB: 2021 WGC-Dell Match Play
Whats in the Bag3 weeks ago
Joel Dahmen’s winning WITB: 2021 Corales Puntacana
Tour News2 weeks ago
Valero Texas Open Tour Truck Report: Stenson back in Diablo, Rickie’s limited-edition driver, latest AutoFlex-er
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Jordan Spieth’s winning WITB 2021 Valero Texas Open
19th Hole2 weeks ago
Dustin Johnson unveils Champions Dinner menu (and it’s not sandwiches)
Whats in the Bag3 weeks ago
Scottie Scheffler WITB 2021 (March)
Whats in the Bag2 weeks ago
Abraham Ancer WITB 2021 (April)