A Case Study - What TRULY are this golfer’s faults?
- What are the issues with this golfer’s existing swing?
- Why should he change his golf swing?
- What are the benefits to him?
Most golfers who have played golf for several decades have a traditional method of analyzing their own swings and have also been told what their swing “problems” are by golf instructors with equally traditional styles of swing analysis. Mostly, the golf swing is analyzed based on some combination of club and body positions. All of these analyses are subjective and have been passed down through the years until they are now considered to be the “fundamentals” of either the set-up or the swing. Typically, professional golf players or well-known instructors have declared what they have felt or observed respectively as being important. Often, golfers are told to get into specific positions because skilled golfers do so and thus it should be good for everyone.
This is the 21st century, a century in which mankind’s knowledge, all of it science- and research-based, has increased exponentially. What sense does it make to take someone's word for some club or body position being effective? Unless there is experimental research to validate a concept, or at least a completely scientific rationale, all golf swing ideas lack substance. Golf research to date is not holistic, but rather has been piecemeal, covering only those aspects of club or body movement that a particular researcher had the knowledge and ability to study, as well as has an interest in knowing more about.
In the absence of adequate and complete research, the next best option is to reverse-engineer the golf swing from the requirements of club-ball impact. We know that for the golf ball to travel far, straight, and with the ideal trajectory for the club being used, the club must arrive at the ball from an inside path, at maximum possible speed. These two “ball flight laws” take care of the other three (angle of attack, squareness of club face and centeredness of contact). Shallowness of approach angle is inherent to an inside swing path. As well, for club speed to be maximal, the sequencing of body parts should be pelvis before shoulders (this also aids the inside path), which reduces muscular involvement during the downswing, thus maintaining momentum (conservation of angular momentum) and ensuring that the club face squares up through impact and finally that the center of the club connects with the ball.
The case study: this experienced, 67 year old golfer, who has had the benefit of instruction from leading instructors, talks far more of his swing faults than of his ball-striking! He has both observed and been told that his “flaws” (his word) are:
- Moving his head up during the backswing and down during the downswing
- An “early extension” of his spine with the “butt coming off the tush line” during the downswing (over 70% of all golfers do this, according to Titleist Performance Institute!)
- His arms rising dramatically up and jutting towards the ball at impact
- His club face going from square at the top of the backswing, to open halfway down to square-to-path at impact. He also had a severely shallow club path
- This golfer has not had much body-rotation in either his baseball batting or his golf swing, although he has been a discus champion and fast pitch softball pitcher.
Whew. What a lot of problems. Which sane golf instructor would want to take all that on? Anyone with a science background who realizes that:
a) There is no need to look at club shaft or club face positions ever, because certain body-parts govern both of those
b) It is incorrect to expect a downswing movement change unless backswing body-positions (especially the spine, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips and knees) actually permit the desired downswing movements, based on their design-capabilities.
c) Only two vital aspects (trail shoulder and trail hip positions) of the backswing require to be managed (90% of it being done with a suitable set-up and the rest of it with a more effective backswing) so that the body cannot help but be in position to deliver the club to the ball from an inside path at maximum possible speed, with no compensatory downswing movements.
Keeping in mind that the golf downswing lasts only 1/3rd of a second (even less - 1/4th second - for more skilled golfers), how much unbending and untwisting can the body make, in sequential order, in that limited time? When, at the top of the backswing, all joints are placed for their role in the downswing, without any extra re-positioning required to get the arms and club into ideal impact positions, the downswing becomes an effortless movement. In other words, when there is no “transition” (which is truly a phase of “undoing the unnecessary”), and every body part is primed, at the top, for its role in the forward swing, the golfer does not need to interfere with smooth, sequential downswing motion.
A “traditional” top of backswing is considered to be any one in which the trail shoulder is not maximally externally rotated and the hips are not level with one another at the top of the backswing. If a golfer has an internally rotated trail shoulder at the top, it is often difficult to reposition it into external rotation (for the inside path) in time to start the downswing. The human brain, which controls all muscle contraction and thus all movement, simply finds the “path of least resistance” in which to start the downswing. This is why a less skilled golfer will simply drop the tight trail shoulder forward and down in an over-the-top movement. An experienced golfer’s brain will, over time, find the movement which helps that golfer drop the internally rotated trail shoulder behind and below (as is the case with this golfer). This golfer’s brain has determined that “raising the butt off the tush line” is the easiest manner in which to do the needful.
Next comes the question of pelvic rotation. This golfer manages to get his trail shoulder behind and below the lead one, but then runs out of time for pelvic rotation. Pelvis rotation gives a golfer both speed and a more inside path when is precedes shoulder rotation. As the trail shoulder (and thus elbow) was not dropped back adequately through early pelvis rotation, when the trail elbow straightens up, it is high, one of the “faults” this golfer stated that he has. Moreover, despite a rotated trunk and pelvis during the backswing, he has a “mainly arms” downswing and thus loses both speed and desired club face impact positions.
Now the “traditional” analysts will think to themselves: “Oh no, he has poor pelvic rotation, he should work with a fitness person and perhaps a physiotherapist too to aid mobility in his pelvic region, and work with a chiropractor in case he gets future back issues if he tries too hard to rotate the pelvis!” Rubbish, it just needs someone with enough knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy to understand under which conditions the human pelvis can and cannot be rotated easily (incidentally, the pelvis is NOT able to rotate independently, perhaps the reason why those players who helped define the dangerous X-factor did not have much pelvic rotation!).
The reason this golfer (and all others who have the same “fault”) is unable to make a fast pelvic rotation is that at the top of his backswing his trail hip is higher than the lead one, so that he now needs to find the time for two moments - level, as well as rotate, the pelvis. His brain, always looking for the simplest possible situation to control, simply does nothing much at the pelvis level! [Another pelvis-level issue, best seen from a rear-view is that this golfer has so much weight going directly through his trail hip and knee joints at the top, that he is not able to easily push off from that side. The rear view is also ideal for assessing potential injury situations, but that’s a topic for another blog post!]
The Minimalist Golf Swing positions the body to easily and effortlessly get into suitable positions for ideal impact, and also reduces the likelihood for injury because less loads are placed on the major joints. Does the pre-swing “closed” body rotation position the arms and thus clubshaft at an even more shallow angle than this golfer worries about? No because, for a change, his hips WILL be able to rotate before the shoulders, thus bringing the shaft in front of the body for an ideal approach direction.
Please be aware that this information is based on over 28 years of golf teaching experience; research during every phase of the development of the Minimalist Golf Swing method since 1993; and over 6 years of 24 x 7 non-stop graduate level education. So:
- please do not use ANY information from this website for any purpose other than personal use
- please consider either purchasing the videos sold on this website (50% of proceeds go to a not-for-profit) which give the complete movement (many body positions are actually involved in order to improve the two main ones) or perhaps avail of some in-person golf lessons
- if you use partial facts from this website (even those will improve your movement and reduce the potential for injury) at least be kind enough to post the benefits to your swing from the use of the Minimalist Golf Swing on Facebook and Twitter