I was in the middle of a lesson the other day and there was a golfer practicing next to the lesson using a new training aid system that got my curiosity up. I had a brief chat with the golfer to find out what he was using to “help” him with his swing and he enthusiastically told me it was a Zepp Golf Training Aid like the one pictured below. It measures the most important aspects of your swing: club speed, club plane, tempo, back swing length and more. As he was hitting shots he had his smart phone positioned between his legs and after every shot he would look down and see his results
Now from my position what I was watching was a swing with no visible weight shift , a loss of posture and mostly a violent swipe at the ball with the ball going everywhere. Now don’t get me wrong here …I’m not criticizing the golfer or his efforts to get better but you could learn to get better at your swing with much simple training aids – most made at home that would immediately show you and help you feel weight shift , better posture , and hitting the ball on target long before this Zepp swing system ever will. That’s true for the bulk of the other swing app and training systems you wear. From my point of view if a training aid doesn’t “show and tell you” what to feel in a golf swing and help you repeat that both in practice and under the pressure of a game or competition its pretty useless.
As golf addicts we all have to be careful to not get sucked into the idea that some new fangled gadget has all the solutions for our swing and also not buy into the idea that getting an expensive training system in and of itself will solve all of our swing issues.
My two cents! ??
So I just got back from Ireland the other day having enjoyed my visit and after having driven on the “Grand” island for seven days straight. Now that may not seem unusual to you until you realize as I did pretty much abruptly that all of that driving is on the LEFT HAND side of the road!
Now I've been driving for a little over 40 years so I have lots of experience driving cars of all types ( I was a valet a million years ago ) as well as fairly big trucks and had my “D” license driving big trucks double clutching through the city for almost a year but nothing prepared me for this driving challenge!
I had no expectation of driving on this trip because my son and his girlfriend had said they were going to be the drivers so it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I would be driving – let alone on the wrong side of the road ;). Well when we go to get the rental car its “decided” that it would be best if the most experienced driver in the bunch … as in “me” should also be on the car as the alternate driver and not my sons girlfriend . After a bit of humming and hawing I decided to myself – just how hard could it be?
When we went to pick up the car they didn’t have the class car we had rented – some basic model and instead upgraded us to a Mercedes C type sedan – brand new to boot. Now normally I’d be ecstatic that we’ve been upgraded and all but put yourself in my shoes … never driven left handed … in a brand new Mercedes that you can easily ding up …with 3 other passengers you’re responsible for if you “%$#@” up!
Not an easy pill to swallow.
As luck would have it my son volunteered to drive the car out of the car lot saving me the immediate pressure of being behind the wheel BUT I did know that my turn was coming soon.
And it did come when we were in a sleepy little town just after we had stopped for lunch. Its very hard to mentally switch your driving universe from right to left beginning with sitting on the right hand side of the car where the steering wheel is ;). My very first right hand turn I started to turn into the wrong lane out of habit until my son gently corrected me and said No “Dad” the other lane. Numerous times I looked at a sticker that was on my dash in front of me reminding me that I had to stay in the left lane and believe it or not that silly sticker helped me a lot.
Gradually over the course of the week that we were there I overcame my fear of getting behind the wheel and on the last day I drove the entire width of Ireland From Galway to Dublin by myself ( about 4-5 hours) and was so comfortable in the Mercedes that on the highway I was doing 160 km/hr without even thinking about it – and being passed by other cars to boot!
So why tell you this little story? Well I think learning golf is a lot like the challenge I faced down.
At first your scared of hitting a driver or playing a golf course you don’t know or not sure what swing you have for that particular day but anyway you look at it you have to face the fear of doing it and do it anyway. Even if you do screw up you’ll be stronger for it and if you don’t screw up you”ll be ten times stronger.
Your brain and body can do a lot of amazing things if you let them but you just have to try. Whatever you’re most afraid of in your golf game is exactly what you need to work at and if you do you’ll be a much stronger player for it. And since I just came back from Ireland what I would say to you is that would be “Grand”!
What Is a Golf Swing ???
Its the first question I ask every new student and it’s the first question Id like to ask you?
What do you think? … Is it a carefully controlled takeaway followed by a downswing on an inside attacking plane? Is it a dynamic turn followed by a carefully timed hit? When I ask this question the answers I get are often very creative and detailed just like these ones.
After this has gone on for a minute with my new student I have to end the confusion with a simple answer.
The Golf Swing is nothing more than a THROW. You’ve been throwing things all your life haven’t you?
This concept is so important for your game and will be extremely mind clearing / confusion busting and especially important for beginning golfers to hear and learn before they’re exposed to all the conflicting instruction / apps/ golf channel / YouTube videos etc.
I was on the range yesterday with a little time between lessons and spotted a couple that were struggling to make the ball go anywhere and I stopped by to teach them this concept.
Now as luck would have it one was right handed and the other a left handed golfer . The concept applies no matter how you play
Once I had asked them this same question and said that the golf swing is nothing more than a throw I calmly went to the tee and hit a ball one handed well with little or no effort. I asked them as I would ask you can I make the golf swing look any more simple than that?
They both answered no with a confused look on their face…
Now as you get to know me I’m a real world results kind of guy and I want YOU to experience this feeling NOW… so follow along with what I taught this couple and tell me in the comments how its worked for you ?
The first thing I had them do was just to hold on to the club with their right hand if they’re a right handed golfer and with their left hand if they’re a left handed golfer. This is the arm you’ve chosen to throw with for your golf swing . (If you’re a right handed golfer who throws with your left arm for your best success you’re going to have to learn to throw right handed and the same applies if your a left handed golfer who throws with your right)* that’s not to say you couldn’t deliver a powerful blow with your front arm but you’ll more naturally and much more quickly learn an easy throwing golf swing with what I’ve recommended here
Choke down on the club so that you’re almost at the shaft so that the clubs effectively lighter for you to move
What I want you to do here is make some one handed throwing motions taking the club back and throwing it through to a full finish. As you’re doing this I want you to pretend you and I are up at the cottage and were having a competition to see who can throw their club farther out into the lake. There is no result other than imagining the club flying out of your hand and landing far out in the lake. Notice as your making this throwing motion how you use your whole body to throw the club out into the lake. Notice how light your arm feels using this throwing motion compared to what you may be doing now.You’ll know if you’ve made a good full throwing motion if you can finish in balance on your forward leg with all of your weight there and you can balance a drink on your back foot and keep it there until the ball stops
3. Think of all the times you’ve thrown something whether that’s a football, baseball, Frisbee…it really doesn’t matter …your lower body starts the motion forward BEFORE you hit the ball. I often have students that are finding this concept a little difficult to feel to put their body in a position as if they were going to hit or punch me but do the punch in slow motion … try this yourself … I’m willing to bet the first thing you moved was your lower body stepping first towards me before you hit me. You intuitively know that you would have minimal power with just hitting me with your arms
4. When you feel comfortable with this one armed throwing motion I want you to try and move to a two handed/ armed throw …notice I haven’t said hit a ball yet How does it feel … are you shifting your weight first before you hit the ball ? …and are you still winding up in a good finish position with your drink balanced on your back foot?
5. When you feel comfortable with this two armed throwing feeling lets start hitting some balls with it
6. Concentrate on feeling a throwing motion and do your best to detach from the “thinking” part of your brain ….its very hard to give up control but the paradox in golf is that the more your give up control the more effortlessly you’ll swing and hit good shots
7. When you first try this new throwing motion there are two big problems that may show up … the first is topping the ball and the second is hitting behind the ball. When you top the ball you can either be keeping your weight on your back foot at impact or coming up through impact.
8. If your weight is still on your back foot you need to feel like your shift forward with your throw happens sooner and if your still topping it then we need to focus on your posture.
9. The very best quick fix for posture is not to keep your head down but to focus on your butt and knees and for the purpose of this simple exercise I want you to focus on hearing grass every time you swing a club. To help you remember that I’ve created a slogan that Ive used for many years that all my students know and it goes like this … “No Ass – No Grass! ” what do I mean by that ? …well most students postures don’t have enough flex in their butts at set up and through the swing and in fact lose this posture during their swing …but instead of getting complicated I just want you to hear grass on every practice swing and real swing you make from now on – that should really start to help your posture and when you don’t hear grass your number one thought should be your *%$ is misbehaving and straightening out losing its flex. It could also be your knee action but lets worry about that later.
10. If you’re still hitting behind the ball and you know or feel your weight shift is better the only other possibility is that you are casting the club with your arms / wrists losing all of your power hitting the turf first but for the focus of this lesson you’ll greatly improve on your whole swing by focusing on a good weight shift first and we can fine tune your power angles later.
11. So your new throwing motion or “golf swing” consists of a throw to your target , having a full drink balanced on your back foot at the finish of your throw (a drink you enjoy until your ball stops) , and hearing grass on every swing your take from now on.
With just theses simple thoughts I have seen countless golfers seasoned as well as new find a natural golf swing / throw for themselves and I sincerely hope after trying this exercise you’ll be on your way to finding your best golf throw too
Oh and that couple that I stopped to help? … Well the gentleman started to hit much better shots even though it was a big change for him from his hitting action with no lower body motion at all and the ladies throwing motion was really fantastic to watch …instead of hitting at it frustratingly she was starting to throw the club and hit some amazing shots that she couldn’t believe Now was everything perfect with their golf “throws” ? … no ….but at least its a good and correct starting point on the way to real improvement.
If the golf swing can be as simple as a throw why are you complicating it ? That’s not to say that you can’t work on simplifying your throw and learn the key positions of your throw to make it more repeatable and reliable under some friendly pressure – but why complicate it beyond that ?
Stop thinking about the million parts to the golf swing and “Just Throw It!
What are you to do? ... You've been told countless times by various instructors or magazines or the Golf Channel to keep your head down or still ... or NOT &%$# . Its all too confusing really.
I think my journey in learning about head and really spine motion can really help you . It started way back in 1991 when I really had a chance to play every day and was fed up with lifting my head during my swing. I was looking through the classified ads in Golf Digest I think and came across a little ad for something called a "head stabilizer". It was a unique contraption that promised to keep my head down etc and I think it was only $15 bucks or something.
I sent away for it and what showed up was a little plastic rectangle that you could clip onto your visor and if you looked through it you could keep your head down and see how you were moving. It came with absolutely no instruction. When I tried it I could see it was in fact allowing me to keep my head down but at the end of the day i just couldn't see my self being able to play in public wearing it at all. So i thought to myself how could I create something simple that would achieve the same thing as this rectangle ?
I got to thinking and through a little trial and error cut out a little paper circle that I taped to the inside of my sunglasses. I started to wear this pair of sunglasses / circle all the time when i was practicing and playing. And like i said i played every day ...
Over the course of that summer playing everyday my game got remarkably better ... in fact I probably dropped 20 strokes from my score. I thought at the time i had invented the solution to the golf swing!
As we all know only too well though I really hadn't. And the other reality is that i really didn't know a damn thing about the golf swing except that from personal experience I had gotten a lot better using this idea. What was this circle doing ?
The $64,000 question which I've probably spent the last 27 years trying to answer during my own play and teaching for 23 years! And I think I finally have the answer...
Its not really about keeping your head still ... Its about helping you control your posture when you're swinging. I'll explain what I mean in a bit but first you have to be aware that visual trainers for the golf swing are NOT new. Nor is the concept of using something visual to help you with your golf swing.
Without getting into legal trouble showing you pictures of alternatives here are links to five companies selling visual training systems that you can buy today that will help you with your golf swing.
And there are other companies as well with even more elaborate electronic systems that will give you visual feedback on head and posture for your swing. So what I discovered all those years ago was not a new idea ... but perhaps a novel and really convenient way to practice posture control.
Now my idea of putting a circle on your glasses pre-dated a lot of these companies attempts at teaching the same concept and more importantly way more simply. You can literally grab a reinforcing ring from your desk drawer or your nearest staples and experience the concept of visually starting to control your head motion.
I thought it was such an important idea that I wrote the eBook you see below called "How to Keep Your Head Down" and published it in 2013. It outlines how you can use a reinforcing ring or something similar and start to get a lot better at your golf swing. Its done really well and to date has sold over 10,000 copies.
You know that line "You don't know what you don't know? Truer words were never spoken when it comes to the golf swing.
With my first hand experience teaching and using the Circle concept over the years and later my Igides GPS system I thought I had it all figured out. Boy was I wrong. And I think everyone else has been wrong too - but right from their perspective. What? ... what do you mean Jack? Let me tell you about my "Matrix" moment.
In preparation for releasing my new Igides GPS training system I decided that it would be a really good idea since I am a golf pro if I could be more accurate at telling you about correct head and spine motion besides the general idea that " you should keep your head still" or whatever vague sayings you might hear. I researched online for everything I could find on other golf professionals opinions about head motion etc and came across a study done by a fake internet pro analyzing 25 golf swings for head motion etc. At the end of the analysis he boldly says that some pros keep their head still and others don't ... so its ok to move maybe. REALLY? ... its 2018 and that's the best we can do?
So I started out with the idea of doing my own Head / Spine motion study with 50 PGA tour swings. As you get to know me I can be a little OCD about doing something well and the study expanded to 100 golf swings with 75 PGA men and 25 LPGA women. Might as well look at the very best of both sexes 😉
I got to the end of analyzing all of the swings and after jotting all of the swings details and motions etc I couldn't be any more specific than the same 25 swing study I mentioned earlier, and I said this isn't good enough.... there had to be a predictor of head and spine motion in the golf swing. In other words why do certain players move their head and spine in certain ways?
Now I've been teaching golf for a long time now and over the course of time have come to realize that there are some pretty major differences between golf swings that I see both in person and online.
The major motion differences I've seen and taught can be broken into four (4) separate categories. You're either a Hitter or a Swinger and you're either a Simple Turner ( or rotation) or a Dynamic Turner ( or rotation). So basically you're only one of four possible swing or as I call them throwing types or styles. To learn more about the four throwing styles and which one you are please visit here
The four throwing styles or types are Simple Hitter (SH) , Simple Swinger (SS) , Dynamic Hitter (DH) , and Dynamic Swinger (DS).
When I started to look at the 100 swings I'd studied previously and break these swing / throws into these major throwing styles I started to realize that I could predict exactly a players head and spine / body motion. Even better I could easily look at swings outside the study and categorize them quite easily as well. It was a Eureka moment !
And each one of these four styles or throwing types has their own distinct head and spine motion for that type - please read that again. In other words your head and spine motion is based entirely on the swing/ throwing style you have or are learning.
This explains why some people believe that the head should stay absolutely still why others say it should move ... again they are both right based on the swing / throwing style they know or observe
* note that you'll see the swings grouped together in 70/30 and 50/50 categories - what does that mean? The degree to which you move your head /spine off of the original set up position is based on two factors – one the swing style you have and two how you load your weight in the backswing … are you a 50/50 loader or are you a 70/30 loader. If you’re a 70/30 loader you will naturally shift farther off of the ball ( loading 70% of your weight on your back foot) …if you are a 50/50 loader it is much easier to stay centered and appear to keep your head from moving laterally backwards.
Simple Hitters (SH) and Dynamic Hitters (DH);The most level throws / Swings are Simple and Dynamic Hitters.
If you turn your body back and through without using your lower body for power there really isn’t much of a height change in your swing (depending on how you shift your weight forward that is) and its fairly easy to stay level throughout your swing. Perfect examples of this type of swing would be Annika Sorenstam or Karrie Webb for the ladies and Greg Norman and Bryson DeChambeau for the guys.
Simple (SS) and Dynamic Swingers (DS);The Most common pattern if you are a Swinger is to Lower your Head/Spine in the backswing (from 1 to 3 inches) and then lower it even further as a direct result of your lower bodies leg drive to create power.
In both groups Head and Spine motion is also affected by how they choose to load weight into their back swing. Are you a 50/50 loader or are you a 70/30 loader. If you’re a 70/30 loader you will naturally shift farther off of the ball …if you are a 50/50 loader it is much easier to stay centered and appear to keep your head from moving laterally backwards.
SH LP 50/50 25 * 70/30 29 (Simple Hitters Loading Pattern ; 25 Golfers are 50/50 and 29 Golfers are 70/30 )
DH LP 50/50 12 * 70/30 1 ( Dynamic Hitters Loading pattern ; 12 Golfers are 50/50 and 1 Golfer is 70/30 )
SS LP 50/50 13 * 70/30 13 ( Simple Swingers Loading pattern 13 Golfers are 50/50 and 13 Golfers are 70/30 ) – SS that have a 70/30 loading pattern would be seen as having the greatest amount of Head /spine motion of all throwing types
DS LP 50/50 3 * 70/30 4 ( Dynamic Swingers Loading pattern 3 Golfers are 50/50 and 4 Golfers are 70/30)
53 50/50’s and 47 70/30’s ( 53 Golfers loaded their weight in the back swing 50/50 and 47 Golfers loaded their weight in the back swing 70/30 )
While it would appear based on the result that 50% of golfers load 50/50 and 50% load 70/30 that you could choose whatever loading pattern you'd like based on comfort BUT it really depends on your chosen Throwing Style.
For example if you've decided you want to be a Dynamic Hitter fully 92% of Dynamic Hitters load their weight 50/50 and I'd recommend you did that too.
Each style definitely has its own pattern and if you are learning that pattern you had best learn that patterns head and spine motion to have the greatest success within that throwing form.
Its more important to find your natural / correct throwing motion / style and then based on that choice learn the matching head and spine motion pattern that throwing motion or style has. More importantly you’ll want to use a smaller Igides Swing Window if you’re a 50/50 loader as you won’t have nearly as much lateral head and spine motion as a 70/30 weight shift throwing style.
So what can we say about all of the patterns ?
The amount you move back is going to be based on your weight shift and the amount of dropping and dipping will be related to how you shift your weight to the target ( swinger versus hitter)
Simple Hit Pattern - This is the simplest movement pattern and the most level. A 50/50 loading means very little lateral head motion back.
Dynamic Hit Pattern - This is the next simplest pattern but involves more rotation. As mentioned earlier fully 92% of golfers studied are 50/50 weight loading and would also have very little lateral head motion back.
Simple Swing Pattern - This pattern has the most motion studied with dipping happening loading as well as further dipping into the downswing. 50/50 weight shift Golfers still have less lateral motion with their head but much more vertical motion which can't be overdone. This exact same pattern happens for Dynamic Swingers as well but with more rotation with their bodies as well.
Now these are the general Patterns for all four swing / throw types but now you have to find out what type of throw style or type YOU are... to start that process go here
After finishing the Head and Spine study for Igides GPS and discovering the four different swing or throw types It was for me as a long time golf teacher an epiphany. I had finally found an easy way to help golfers including you I hope to understand that there are are four separate and distinct swing or throw types and you'd best pick only one 😉
Completing the Head /Spine Study and then finding how I could put any swing into one of four separate types/ throws really was like finding the Rosetta stone for golf ... I finally understood what the golf hieroglyphics meant 😉
Just like Martial arts where you could learn Karate , Kung Fu, Judo, or TaeKwondo there is probably only one throwing type that to you will feel natural doing and not spend 10 frustrating years to learn.
How do you know which type of throw YOU should learn?
By clearly understanding the four possible choices you have and then deciding which one are you more likely to be able to do given your age, flexibility, athleticism, and most importantly time to practice and swear 😉
To help you figure out which throwing type you are best suited to learn and become good at we can break the four possible options into two main categories. They are 1) Are You a Hitter or a Swinger? and 2) Do you turn Simply or Dynamically
Lets dive into the First Question - Are You a Hitter or A Swinger?
What do I mean by that? If you're a Hitter you create your power and motion as if you were hitting a nail with a hammer using primarily your upper body , your lower body moves as well but it plays a supporting role only. I would say in my teaching career and watching just a few golf throws that 90% of all golfers are Hitters. Before doing my Igides study I might have said that was a bad thing. Having done the study though I found even in the professional golf population that 67% of them are hitters including tour leader Jordan Spieth. Annika Sorenstam is a Hitter. If you check the links I've provided you'll find countless example of hitters ... many with Hall of Fame credentials.
So what do I mean by being a Swinger? If you're a swinger you literally turn off your upper body and arms and create a whipping action starting from the ground up driving off of your back foots instep first. I rarely see swingers on the lesson tee.
Its a BIG decision to become a Hitter or a Swinger and for me as a teacher it relates to back health. A hitter doesn't put nearly the stress on their back hitting a golf ball that a swinger does. Its really why Tiger Woods has switched from being a pure swinger to hitter in the last several years. Way less stress on the back. It also explains why golfers like Phil Michelson have had such a lasting career just winning again last week at the age of 47 because he is a hitter.
So once you've decided whether or not your a swinger or a hitter you have to decide which way do you naturally turn?
How do you turn? Simply or Dynamically? What do I mean?
Younger kids that I teach and some adults but only about 20% of all golfers turn Dynamically.
I often teach people that are mixed up between throwing types driving their knees in too soon while their shoulders don't match the throwing type ... shoulders are simple turn .. knees and leg action is dynamic turn - conflict
Same for misunderstanding motion for swinging driving off of back leg but not swinging motion just out of position.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX FOUR TYPES BREAKDOWN XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
In my study of these swings I really learned a lot and I want to share these insights with you.
Of all the professional swings 67% are hitters and do not use their lower bodies to produce power ( the lower body supports the upper bodies creation of power but that's it) (these would be the golfers I've grouped as SH's and DH's) Only 33% of the golfers studied use their lower bodies for power ( these are the golfers I've grouped as SS's and DS's) So if you're a natural hitter showing up to a lesson to learn how to drive your lower body first you're in the wrong place!
Most golfers I meet are hitters and will only learn to be a swinger with lots of work. I've found the path to do just that and its quite enjoyable but its a lot of work and you'd better have a very healthy back 😉 Based on my study I was shocked to find 67% of the professional golfers as hitters considering I had always believed ( incorrectly - more of that " You don't know what you don't know stuff) so there's absolutely no reason for you to believe you won't be a great golfer just hitting instead of swinging.
Also because there are four separate styles of throwing lots of things you and I have heard over the years now make sense.
If you're a swinger whether that's a SS or a DS your grip pressure is closer to 2 out of 10 as your body is creating a whip with your arms and hands just lightly holding the club. If your a hitter SH or DH your grip pressure is naturally higher and more like a 6 out of 10. So again my telling you to lighten your grip pressure when you're a hitter and not a swinger would be wrong.
Simple Hitters and Simple Swingers naturally will have the ball position farther back than Dynamic Hitters and Swingers at set up. ( Less rotation and earlier impact point)
Largely because of the amount of rotation Simple Hitters and Swingers will have similar positions at impact even though it will feel vastly different getting there as one is firing their lower body (SS) and the Hitter is not ... and the same comparison can be made for Dynamic Hitters and Swingers ... their impact position is entirely different because of the additional rotation so their impact position is NOT the same as Simple Hitters and Swingers..
From my own experience and study I have also found that Dynamic Hitters and Dynamic Swingers are the most accurate golfers and if you look at the grouping in my study you'll see plenty of examples. BUT its not easy to change your flexibility ( perhaps over time) and you're probably already either a natural Simple Turner or Dynamic Turner.