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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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Instruction

Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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