Opinion & Analysis
Swanson: How I fixed Steph Curry’s basketball shot with Trackman
Warning: Swanson, the author of this story, does not exist… except in his writing. His character is completely imagined, but that doesn’t mean his opinions aren’t real.
I know all of you probably think of me as just a golf-equipment savant, but that’s putting me in a box. I have other skills in life — like knowledge of the golf swing and the dynamics of golf-ball flight. And thanks to that knowledge, Steph Curry is the dominant basketball player he is today.
Here’s what happened.
Last summer, during the NBA off-season, Steph and I had just finished up 18 holes at my private course in Aruba. He’s actually a really good golfer despite the media calling him a 1-handicap. But anyway, we’re shooting jumpers in my indoor basketball gym after our round when I noticed something off in his release — the basketball was launching much too low and with too much spin. Although he was making every single shot, no matter where he shot it from, the ball kept gently grazing the front of the rim.
As you know, in golf, the optimal launch-spin ratio is 17 degrees and 1700 rpm. To my amazement, or should I say shock, launch and spin were something Steph didn’t even think about when shooting a basketball. Poppycock!
Since 17-1700 works so well in golf, I figured it’d work in basketball, too. So I walked over and grabbed a Trackman from my gym bag (that’s a lesson to my fellow golfers, never go anywhere without your Trackman). I set it up on a table behind him as he took some deep threes to grab some data.
Sure enough, Trackman showed he was launching it at 12 and 2900. From my knowledge of golf, I know that means the ball was ballooning and causing him to hit the front rim. We then made major adjustments to his form, stance, posture and mentality, and even threw some lead tape in his wrist band to balance out his center of gravity. Finally, we optimized his ball flight. He didn’t touch the rim for the rest of our practice session, and he even called me “coach” before he took my jet back to the states. I’ll never forget that.
And while I’m not a huge fan of unjustifiably taking credit for other people’s success, or of completely making up stories, I might just be the reason that Steph Curry broke the all-time NBA record for three-point shots made during a season this year with 402. And I’m the reason Steph Curry won his second MVP in a row, as well. Did you think it was a coincidence Steph was making half-court shots all year? No, it’s not a coincidence. It’s science. The 17-1700 ratio never fails.
The problem with Steph’s game up until this year was that he wasn’t thinking about technique enough. He was just seeing the target and shooting at it, accessing his hand-eye coordination and natural abilities. He wasn’t paying attention to minute details like weight pressure in his feet, pronation, supination, stacking or even tilting. And not only was he not concerned about it, but he didn’t even know the optimal launch angle and spin rate of a basketball.
Admittedly, I’m slightly disappointed that he credits his shooting coach, supportive parents, teammates, work ethic and talent for all of his success instead of me. Kind of selfish, don’t you think?
But seriously, I am hoping at some point Steph publicly acknowledges my role in his success, because I really want to name my new Trackman Data Analysis Performance Center for All Sports after him. The business venture is really taking off after I showed Tom Brady the 17 degrees and 1700 rpm formula and completely turned around his football throwing motion.
Steph, if you’re reading this, shoot me a text so we can talk particulars about the launch of “Swanson and Steph’s Performance Center for Enlightening Athletes on the Significance and Relationship of the Numbers 17 and 1700.”
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The Wedge Guy: What really needs fixing in your game?
I always find it interesting to watch how golfers interact with the practice range, if they do so at all. I certainly can figure out how to understand that some golfers just do not really want to get better — at least not enough to spend time on the practice range trying to improve.
What is most puzzling to me is how many golfers completely ignore the rationale for going to the range to at least warm up before they head to the first tee. Why anyone would set aside 4-6 hours of their day for a round of golf, and then not even give themselves a chance to do their best is beyond me. But today, I’m writing for those of you who really do want to improve your golf scores and your enjoyment of the game.
I’ve seen tons of research for my entire 40 years in this industry that consistently shows the number one goal of all golfers, of any skill level, from 100-shooter to tour professional, is simply to hit better golf shots more often. And while our definition of “better” is certainly different based on our respective skill level, the game is just more fun when your best shots happen more often and your worst shots are always getting better.
Today’s article is triggered by what we saw happen at the Valspar tour event this past Sunday. While Taylor Moore certainly had some big moments in a great final round, both Jordan Spieth and Adam Schenk threw away their chances to win with big misses down the stretch, both of them with driver. Spieth’s wayward drive into the water on the 16th and Schenk’s big miss left on the 18th spelled doom for both of them.
It amazes me how the best players on the planet routinely hit the most God-awful shots with such regularity, given the amazing talents they all have. But those guys are not what I’m talking about this week. In keeping with the path of the past few posts, I’m encouraging each and every one of you to think about your most recent rounds (if you are playing already this year), or recall the rounds you finished the season with last year. What you are looking for are you own “big misses” that kept you from scoring better.
Was it a few wayward drives that put you in trouble or even out of bounds? Or maybe loose approach shots that made birdie impossible and par super challenging? Might your issue have been some missed short putts or bad long putts that led to a three-putt? Most likely for any of you, you can recall a number of times where you just did not give yourself a good chance to save par or bogey from what was a not-too-difficult greenside recovery.
The point is, in order to get consistently better, you need to make an honest assessment of where you are losing strokes and then commit to improving that part of your game. If it isn’t your driving that causes problems, contain that part of practice or pre-round warm-ups to just a half dozen swings or so, for the fun of “the big stick”. If your challenges seem to be centered around greenside recoveries, spend a lot more time practicing both your technique and imagination – seeing the shot in your mind and then trying to execute the exact distance and trajectory of the shot required. Time on the putting green will almost always pay off on the course.
But, if you are genuinely interested in improving your overall ball-striking consistency, you would be well-served to examine your fundamentals, starting with the grip and posture/setup. It is near impossible to build a repeating golf swing if those two fundamentals are not just right. And if those two things are fundamentally sound, the creation of a repeating golf swing is much easier.
More from the Wedge Guy
- The Wedge Guy: It’s not all about distance
- The Wedge Guy: Are you really willing to get better at golf?
- The Wedge Guy: Anatomy of a wedge head
Golf's Perfect Imperfections
Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Great debut for Savannah at the WLD opener + Hideki’s driver grip
A great start for Savvy in her second season competing in the World Long Drive Organization! We talk about the whole experience and we also take a look at the Katalyst suit and how our training sessions are going. Plus we speculate why Hideki is experimenting with a putter grip on a driver, thanks to GolfWRX’s Ben and Brian help.
Opinion & Analysis
The best bets for the 2023 Corales Puntacana Championship
Golfing’s great take to Austin GC this week for the WGC Match Play, but the jamboree makes little appeal as a betting medium as far as pre-event odds are concerned.
Though the event doesn’t contain the likes of Cam Smith and pals from the LIV Tour, most of the world’s top lot take part in a tournament that is great fun to watch but, from my point of view, is only worth jumping in once the group stages are sorted. Good luck if you play.
Instead, we’ll hop off to the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Championship, where world number 90 Wyndham Clark heads the market.
After making seven straight cuts, and having a better chance of winning last week’s Valspar than the eventual fifth place suggests, he is probably the right favourite. However, quotes of single figures are incredibly short and I’d much rather be a layer of the win than a backer.
The last five Corales champions have averaged a world ranking of around 219th, with 2021 winner Joel Dahmen the highest ranked at 79. Given that and the unpredictability of the coastal winds, this is the chance to get with some bigger prices and progressive golfers whilst the elite play around in Texas.
According to 2018 victor Brice Garnett, this is a second-shot course, whilst previous contenders talk of the importance of mid-long range irons. The course won’t play its full 7600-plus yards, but with little punishment off the tee, those bombers that rank highly in long par-4s and par-5s will have an advantage.
Clearly, being coastal leads us to other clues, and all the last five champions have top finishes at the likes of Puerto Rico, Houston, Hawaii, Bay Hill, Pebble Beach and especially Mayakoba.
Sadly, the last-named Mexican track has gone over to LIV but at least for now it remains hugely relevant, with Dahmen, Graeme McDowell and Brice Garnett with top finishes at El Chameleon. Meanwhile, last year’s winner Chad Ramey, had previously recorded top-20 at Bermuda and fifth at Puerto Rico.
Best Bet – Akshay Bhatia
Full respect to the top lot, but given the recent ranking of the winners, the pair of improving youngsters make obvious appeal given their world ranking of around 280, almost certainly a number they will leave miles behind in time.
Runner-up behind the equally promising Michael Thorbjornsen at the 2018 US Amateur, the highly decorated junior star turned pro after contributing two points from three matches at the U.S victory in the 2019 Walker Cup.
Mixing various tours and invites, the 21-year-old finished a closing ninth at the 2020 Safeway Open before a short 2021 season that saw a 30th at Pebble Beach (top-10 at halfway) and a top-60 when debuting at the U.S Open.
2022 started well with a two-shot victory in the Bahamas on the KFT and whilst he racked up two further top-20s, they were not enough to gain his PGA Tour card.
After the conclusion of the ’22 season, Bhatia’s performances have been improving steadily, with a 17th in Bermuda followed by 45th at the RSM, and fourth when defending his Great Exuma Classic title, and seventh at the second Bahamas event a week later.
49th at the Honda disguises that he was 16th at the cut mark, and his fast-finishing second place at Puerto Rico just three weeks ago is further evidence of his ability in similar conditions.
Latterly, the Wake Forest graduate (see Webb Simpson, Cameron Young amongst many others) missed the cut at Copperhead, but again lost sight of his 21st position after the first round.
In the top-30 after his first round on debut in 2020, he said, “The more experience I can get, the better I can learn for myself,” and that certainly seems the case for a player that should play with a tad more confidence now he has secured Special Temporary membership on the PGA Tour.
Danger – Ryan Gerard
He may be two years older than Bhatia, but the 23-year-old is a novice at pro golf.
Having only played eight times on the Canadian Tour – containing one victory, a third, fourth and eighth place finishes, five times on the KFT – including a career-best third place in Columbia, and four events on the PGA Tour, there is no way of knowing how high the ceiling is for the Jupiter resident.
Take a chance we reach somewhere near that, this week.
It’s a small sample but having qualified for the Honda Classic via Monday Q-school, Gerard opened with a 69/63 to lie third at halfway, before finishing with a final round 67 and sole fourth place behind play-off candidates Chris Kirk and Eric Cole, and one place ahead of Shane Lowry.
That unexpected effort got him into the Puerto Rico Open, where he again defied expectation, always being in the top-20 before recording an 11th place finish.
Last week, he needed better than 54th place to earn his STM to Bhatia’s club, but whilst that proved a bit too much, showed plenty in recovering during his second round just to make the cut.
Ryan Gerard needs a two-way T54 this week to clinch Special Temporary Membership.
He was +1 through 13 holes, right on the cutline.
An inside look at how his last five holes played out @ValsparChamp. pic.twitter.com/s3vrrzEeXK
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 18, 2023
Gerard’s form is certainly a small sample size, but there is enough there to think he can step up again in this field.
He has that Spieth-type feel on the odd occasion we have seen his play, and he believes he should be here, telling the PGA Tour reporters that:
“But it’s definitely something that I’m not surprised that I’m in this position. I may be surprised that I’m here this early in my career, but I’ve always kind of felt like I wanted to be here, and I was going to do whatever I could to make that happen.”
Others to note – Kevin Chappell – Brandon Matthews
Far more experienced than the top two selections, Kevin Chappell appeals on best form.
Formally 23rd in the world, the 36-year-old has dropped to outside the top 600 but has dropped hints over the last two weeks that he may be approaching the play that won the Texas Open, run-up at Sawgrass, and finish top-10 in four majors.
Since his body broke down in 2018, golf has been a struggle, and he has not recorded a top 10 since the CIMB in October of that year. However, after missing nine of his last 10 cuts, the Californian resident has improved to 29th at Palm Beach Gardens (round positions 84/48/50/29) and 15th at Puerto Rico (47/54/33/15).
Strokes gained were positive throughout at the Honda, and he’ll hope to at least repeat last season’s 15th here, when again coming from way off the pace after the opening round. That effort was one of the highlights from the last 18 months or so, alongside repeat efforts at the Honda (13th) Texas (18th) and Barbasol (21st).
The work after major surgery may have taken taken longer than originally anticipated, but he says he handled the recovery badly. Perhaps that’s now a bad time gone, and Chappell can start making his way back up to where he belongs.
Brandon Matthews makes a little appeal at three figures, particularly on his win here on the Latino America Tour. This massive driver led those stats twice on the KFT and at the Sanderson Farms, and ranked second behind Rory McIlroy at the Honda Classic, when also being top 10 for greens-in-regulation.
He has a way to go on overall PGA Tour form, but Joel Dahmen won after missing six of seven cuts and whilst the selection’s three wins are at the KFT level, he made the cut on his only major attempt – at Brookline – and we all know one mammoth driver that took courses apart from time to time.
Top-10 Banker – Cameron Percy
I looked closely at Aaron Baddeley. The ultimate family man loves a test in the wind and comes here having shown a tad more consistency this year in better class. However, he loses out to his compatriot, Cameron Percy.
The 48-year-old Australian veteran may only have one KFT title to his name, but if we are going to make money out of him, it’s likely to be at one of these coastal ‘opposite’ events.
With top-10 finishes at likely locations such as Bay Hill, Deere Run, Puerto Rico and Panama, Percy’s game is testimonial to his heritage, ranking top-10 finishes aplenty in his homeland.
Best finish in 2021 was a seventh place at Puerto, and he repeated that same number a year later, just three weeks before finishing in the top five at this event.
2022 saw Percy mix with higher grades when eighth at Sedgefield and whilst he missed the cuts at both the RSM and his home Open, he was lying 29th and 25th after the first rounds respectively (6th after round two in Oz).
This season has seen just two cuts from five starts, but there is relevance in a 12th at Honda, and a closing 16th last week at Innisbrook, certainly enough to believe that he can carry on a solid Corales record of two top-eight finishes over the last two outings.
- Akshay Bhatia – 33/1 WIN/TOP-5
- Ryan Gerard – 50/1 WIN/TOP-5
- Kevin Chappell – 90/1 WIN/TOP-5
- Brandon Matthews – 150/1 WIN/TOP-10
- Cameron Percy – 9/1 TOP-10
Morning 9: PGA Tour’s designated event revamp | PIP changes | LIV and pros react | Bay Hill photos
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Aug 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm
Judge Smails has issued a bench warrant for Swanson to be sent to the electric chair. We hope
Jun 16, 2016 at 4:58 pm
How would he get trackman to read the ball data from a basket ball?
Jun 12, 2016 at 6:31 pm
Swanson, good stuff buddy. I laugh with glee at all the anger gonna come through the comment section. Impressive results, but without knowing the stiffness of his wristbands, you know most of us can’t verify your data “apples to apples.” Next time call an expert.
Jun 13, 2016 at 4:41 am
You are confusing anger with utter disappointment.
Jun 12, 2016 at 4:51 pm
With a wet lettuce.
Jun 12, 2016 at 3:09 pm
This website deserves better editors.
Jun 12, 2016 at 11:36 am
17-17 is the new 20-20.
Steph’s being selfish. Come on Curry, give your boy Swanson a little dap.
Swanson, the lord of all things longball.
Jun 12, 2016 at 11:30 am
This is funny. Not sure why some of the other commenters are so uptight about it. Nothing ruins a swing like a stick in the a**.
One of Your Best
Jun 12, 2016 at 4:49 pm
There is a difference between being uptight and not finding it funny. You probably find Everybody Loves Raymond funny as well which would explain a lot.
Jun 12, 2016 at 6:37 pm
Everybody Loves Raymond. The absolute test for whether humor is appropriately high brow funny vs just total garbage. You people know who you are, if Raymond makes you laugh, you might as well walk into traffic. There’s nothing uptight about disapproving of someone’s sense of humor though.
Jun 13, 2016 at 4:39 am
You got it Raymond.
Jun 12, 2016 at 8:31 am
Jun 12, 2016 at 3:53 am
this could actually have been funny … but the later part is about as lame as a courtside seat holder in an NBA game trying to high five every player in their vicinity
please Swanson … stick with your day job and stop dabbling into satire … it doesn’t seem to be for you
Jun 12, 2016 at 12:04 am
Please leave satire to the professionals at the onion.
Jun 11, 2016 at 10:33 pm
These articles couldn’t be a bigger waste of time. Please divert these resources to something useful
Jun 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm
This sounds so fake
Jun 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm
Do you think the 17-1700 rule could be used in my investment strategy somewhere? I mean it’s like a divine ratio that should be applicable to all aspects of my life right?
Swanson's Swan Song
Jun 12, 2016 at 10:27 am
Don’t encourage him.
Jun 11, 2016 at 12:47 pm
Swanson needs to be put out to pasture.