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Jumping for Distance (Part 1): The Two-Foot Jump

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If you follow the sport of long drive (whether as a former competitor like me or as a non-competitor) and are interested in distance, you may have come across this modern idea of squatting down during your swing and jumping up with both legs to get more power as you come through impact, even to the point of coming off the ground. In this two-part article, I’d like to share my current thoughts about this.

In Part 1, I’ll go over how I think this two-foot jump concept came about and why I don’t think it’s necessarily a good idea to implement in your swing. Part 2 will discuss the 1-foot “jump” alternative and why I believe it is better.

With the two-foot jump, I think this came about from a few things.

First, in this age of using more advanced photography to analyze golf swings, it’s possible to look at a freeze frame moment of a golf swing with great visual clarity and think that that a specific position is some key or secret to the golf swing. But it’s important to keep in mind that a single positional snap shot could simply be a split-second moment of a larger fluid motion.

Think of the Sam Snead squat. Snead was a long hitter and great player. If you take look at his down swing, he does get in to a position that looks like a squat. Because Snead was so good, I think the instruction world looked at this as some sort of key to Snead’s distance and play. Years go by and then the instruction morphs in to the squat being thought of as a key component to playing good golf.

Sam Snead in the squat position

However, looking at the larger motion, in the backswing Snead straightened his trail leg and got his weight over on his trail foot. By the time he finished his swing, this was reversed with his lead leg being straight and weight shifted over to that lead leg. It’s a relatively simple motion and in the middle of that transition, both legs happen to be slightly bent and look like a partial squat.

The foot and leg work of Sam Snead

Second, similarly with the slow-motion footage, analysis, and interest in long hitters and professional long drivers these days, I think perhaps it started out by noticing that a player happens to have a squat look in their swing with a subsequent two-foot jump type move that gets them airborne. This again gets thought of as some type of secret to power and it starts getting taught. Before you know it in our small world of golf, multiple players have caught wind of the concept and are trying to do it. The instruction world then notices and says “Look, now multiple players are doing it! It must be the key!”, even though they are the ones who propagated it. It’s sort of like quantum theory in which the observer can affect the outcome.

Third, there could be a level of correlation vs causation taking place in which to beware. From 1999 to 2009, it was noticed that the number of people who drowned in swimming pools each year had a strong correlation with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in. Should Cage then not make a movie to prevent people from drowning in pools? Simply because multiple long hitting golfers are observed to squat, jump, and get airborne, it’s important to consider that this may not be what is causing the power.

Lastly, again with the advent of modern technology like force plates, one can see that longer hitters generally do generate more vertical ground forces than short hitters. It is also true that there is a strength correlation as you move from amateurs to tour players to long drivers. As I’ve mentioned in numerous other articles, long drivers tend to be incredibly strong compared to other golfer groups. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to again then make the conclusion that squatting down and jumping off the ground with two feet will generate more power and distance.

All that being said, I’d like to make the case that these long hitters are actually airborne not because of this secret “squat and two-foot jump and get airborne” move, but rather in part from a flawed setup.

I believe one of the problems in golf instruction is that we’re commonly taught to take a wider stance when we want to hit the driver or hit for more power. In some cases, this has been taken to an extreme and now some stances have become too wide. When you get too wide, ironically it becomes more difficult to maintain balance when swinging hard.

If you look at players that hit the ball long like Count Yogi, Mike Austin, Sam Snead, or John Daly, they are wide but not so wide that they can’t still have good footwork and stay in balance. When you get wider than that, which happens commonly with professional long drivers, it becomes more difficult to finish in balance on your lead foot.

John Daly has a stance width that is wide but not too wide

This is also complicated by limited hip mobility. You can read more about this in this article, but most golfers of all skill levels have better external hip mobility vs internal hip mobility. Because of this, when you set up with your feet perpendicular to the path you want to swing on, you will likely have the lead foot external mobility to make a full enough back swing, but you probably don’t have the internal hip mobility to keep your foot in the same place and get your hips rotated all the way around to facing your target. As a built-in protection mechanism, you probably either get your weight on your lead heel and spin the foot open…or you must come off that foot completely (get airborne) to allow your leg to rotate to a position where you won’t hurt yourself.

But I’ve been asked…what about Bubba Watson? He hits relatively powerfully and has a narrower stance with an open lead foot at address.

Yes, this is true. However, notice that in his downswing, he replants that lead foot back to a position where it is more perpendicular to his swing path. Of course, then because of the limit of his internal hip mobility and the replant, he must either get airborne or spin out on that foot as a way of protecting himself from injury. If he opened his lead foot a little bit more at address and replanted back in this spot on the way down, he wouldn’t need to get off that foot to protect himself from injury.

The footwork of Bubba Watson

So, to me, this two-foot squat and jump off the ground instruction is flawed.

If one were to set up with a more appropriate stance width, open the lead foot sufficiently to accommodate your own personal level of hip mobility, and not replant the foot too closed relative to the limit of your personal level of internal hip mobility on the downswing, it’s possible to maintain better balance, not get airborne, and head off potential injury while still generating huge amounts of vertical ground force.

This can be done through a one-foot jump motion…and without jumping off the ground.

In Part 2, we’ll look at how to do it.

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Jaacob Bowden is a Professional Golfer, PGA of America Class A Member, Top 100 Most Popular Teacher, Swing Speed Trainer, the original founder of Swing Man Golf, the creator of Sterling Irons® single length irons, and has caddied on the PGA TOUR and PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS. Two of his articles for GolfWRX are the two most viewed of all time. Formerly an average-length hitting 14-handicap computer engineer, Jaacob quit his job, took his savings and moved from Kansas to California to pursue a golf career at age 27. He has since won the Pinnacle Distance Challenge with a televised 381-yard drive, won multiple qualifiers for the World Long Drive Championships including a 421-yard grid record drive, made cuts in numerous tournaments around the world with rounds in the 60s and 70s, and finished fifth at the Speed Golf World Championships at Bandon Dunes. Jaacob also shot the championship record for golf score with a 72 in 55 minutes and 42 seconds using only 6 clubs. The Swing Man Golf website has helped millions of golfers and focuses primarily on swing speed training. Typically, Jaacob’s amateur golfers and tour players pick up 12-16 mph of driver swing speed in the first 30 days of basic speed training. You can learn more about Jaacob, Swing Man Golf, and Sterling Irons® here: Websites – JaacobBowden.com & SwingManGolf.com & SterlingIrons.com; Twitter - @JaacobBowden & @SwingManGolf & @SterlingIrons; Facebook – Facebook.com/JaacobBowdenGolf & Facebook.com/SwingManGolf & <Facebook.com/SterlingIronsGolf; Instagram - Instagram.com/JaacobBowden YouTube – YouTube.com/SwingManGolf – Millions of views!!!

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Jan 23, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Hej Jaacob

    Mike Austin didn’t do this why tell people to?

  2. Largechris

    Dec 6, 2017 at 2:50 pm

    Excellent article as usual Jaacob

  3. DoubleMochaMan

    Dec 6, 2017 at 10:13 am

    One foot jump? Two foot jump? I’d recommend never getting more than 6 inches off the ground.

  4. SK

    Dec 5, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    Well, Jaac, you really don’t understand Newtonian Physics and the difference between a ‘closed’ and ‘open’ kinetic chain…. which renders your explanations superficial.

  5. Joel

    Dec 5, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    Does anyone really teach squatting and/or jumping?

    I’ve never seen someone teach it on WRX or anywhere else. As you said in the middle of the article, it appears to be an effect of a massive hip rotation and not taught in order to cause it.

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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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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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How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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