The 2016 Byron Nelson – winners and losers

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How the 2016 Byron Nelson event was won

A wet golf course for the play of the ATT Byron Nelson allowed attacking golf and many low scores. For the final round the course was not as wet and the wind picked up slightly, and the chinks in the armor of the leading golfers of the world were completely exposed.

Jordan Spieth who had one of the leading scores over the past 3 days crumbled and dropped to tied 18th. Despite overwhelming crowd support and a magic putter his erratic swing resulted in 6 bogeys and only 2 birdies on the final day as compared to many more birdies per day and being able to contain bogeys to two or less over the first three days. In his own words, Spieth said he made solid swings, was aggressive through the ball and not tentative or hesitant, but he still ended up in tough locations. One of the commentators stated that he needs to do a lot of work on his driver, and another said Spieth could not keep his driver in the fairway nor make the greens but is sure to try to regroup and try for a better run at the Colonial Golf Course, also in his hometown Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex area, next week. Regroup? How? It would be a total crime if this ernest young man is convinced that his decisions were poor or that his putter failed or that his drive will improve with better timing. His swing is flawed mainly because of his physical build, and he urgently needs a swing which can get his trail shoulder into external rotation despite his trail shoulder girdle tightness.

Meanwhile, Brooks Koepka, comfortably in the lead, dropped several shots and in the post-round, post-sudden-death playoff complained that he had to struggle with his swing all week long, which he felt was no way to win an event of this caliber.

The winner, a very deserving Sergio Garcia overcame a four year drought to win his 9th PGA Tour event. He too struggled with his swing, and put two balls in the water. A strong finish and careful golf in the playoff helped him tie Seve Ballesteros’ record of 9 PGA Tour wins by a Spanish born player. When asked whether he felt this victory would help him do better in the big events still to come, including the US and British Opens as well as the Ryder Cup, he replied that he would have to get better in order to continue to win. Better? Has he not yet learned the magic formula after over 17 years of being a professional golfer with vast experience?

Every one of these top golfers then, are scrambling like any amateur, and, what is worse, have no idea of what is wrong when their games fail. The main problem is that none of the most prominent golf swing coaches who train the best players in the world have any idea of the true problem. They merely follow the trend of  ideas which have been passed on down through time, practically like a legacy.

The golf swing cannot be played in a similar “hit or miss” fashion that sports such as baseball batting, cricket bowling or tennis can. Those swings only connect a ball at about hip high, allowing the athlete to reroute as desired during the downswing. In golf, there is no time for a golfer to reroute the backswing, which means that at the top, the golfer MUST be in the positions he needs to use during the downswing, without any repositioning of the body or of individual joints either. So, if the golfer’s trail side is lower at address and at impact, he must maintain those angles throughout the backswing.  Also, he should not expect to always be able to shift weight an indefinite amount to the front foot nor rotate the hips effectively if the trail thigh is higher at the top. So long as golf coaches remain uneducated in every movement science subject, their students, who follow their dictates to the nth degree, will continue to have inconsistent results.

Your swing – and Tiger’s – should resemble a modern car

Where Tiger – and YOU – go wrong

Concepts about the golf swing have truly never evolved since the time shepherd boys insouciantly swung their crocks and knocked pebbles into holes. Not in any meaningful, scientific manner. So, although Tiger’s coaches have all been smart folks, none of them has ever dared think ‘outside-the-box’ enough to understand they were teaching a flat-earth philosophy! How so? Let’s compare the golf swing to a nice, solid modern car.

The least any driver of a modern car expects is a smooth ride. So too should your body during your golf swing. At least the car has powerful shock absorbers to dissipate the impulse of a jarring dip. How can your poor ligaments, cartilage, muscles and not to forget spinal discs continue to do this throughout a long golf career?

The lead shoulder is the hub around which your wheel should be moving at impact, with its radius being your lead arm and clubshaft. Imagine you’re driving your car and the axle itself moved side-to-side or up and down. What a horrific ride!

At the same time, the engine that drives your car comprises just a single block housing some moving parts – the entire car does not have to move to power the rotation of a wheel!

Look at Tiger’s hub and his engine, then look at how the Minimalist Golf Swing’s hub stays stable and only the engine creates the motion, not every part of the vehicle moving the golf club!

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Tiger’s hub moves, how can the wheel (ie. clubhead) connect the road (grass) the same way everytime?

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Tiger’s car moves along with the engine – everything that can move does!

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Minimalist Golf Swing – the hub never moves out of place, the engine is contained within a powerful ‘block’ – the pelvis.

Jordan Spieth – An Anatomical Analysis of his Swing

Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth – current number one golfer in the world. Great golfer, great human being!

This is an anatomical analysis of his swing, showing how even he can get still better with an anatomical solution.

You would find little of significance to  complain about with regard to his swing, using traditional means of assessment. With good timing, little things like the lead wrist position at the top can be easily undone during the downswing.

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The concept is totally different when looked at from an anatomical perspective, however. At the top, his trail shoulder is internally rotated and his hips are not level – the trail one is higher. Each golfer’s brain will have him undo these positions in any random sequence which is easiest for his body – during the process the world of traditional golf terms ‘transition’.

Jordan’s particular ‘undo’ style is to first drop down his trail trunk till his hips and knees are practically level. From this point, given the flexion of his spine, hips and knees, the hip joints get compressed and cannot rotate as easily as when the golfer stands tall.

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He then rotates his trail leg – thigh, mainly – a pattern often seen in junior golfers, who then typically retain that move for life.

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This push-off can be dangerous for three reasons: 1) whenever the trail thigh is pushed forward rapidly, it naturally takes the trail shoulder forward with it too, sometimes resulting in an over-the-top impact and a slice or a fade. 2) The hips do not have a horizontal-plane pure rotation, so they do not generate as much power-speed as one would expect for an athlete of his stature. 3) The push-forward of the trail thigh is also probably his body’s unique way of undoing the top-of-backswing internal rotation of his trail shoulder. 

The chicken wing in the late follow-through is also an indication of top-of-backswing shoulder internal rotation.

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The partial solutions for Jordan Spieth:

  1. Reduce the inhibition of the serratus anterior, trapezius (especially mid-) and rhomboids so the shoulder blades (scapulae) sit snugly against his thoracic-wall, to slightly help reduce internal trail-shoulder rotation

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  1. Do not push-off with the trail leg, keep the foot grounded until momentum pulls it off.

The complete solution for Jordan Spieth:

1. Use the Minimalist Golf Swing! All joints positioned perfectly at the top for an effective downswing, because with Minimalist the ‘top’ is the top of the downswing, not of the backswing, from which a ‘transition’ is required and is the most common time during which inconsistencies occur.

TIGER WOODS June ’15 – an ANATOMICAL & BIOMECHANICAL Analysis

TIGER WOODS June ’15 – an ANATOMICAL & BIOMECHANICAL Analysis SIMPLIFIED

[By a golf instructor with BS (physics, math); MS (sports science ie anatomy, orthopedic assessment, biomechanics, exercise physiology, exercise testing & prescription, sports nutrition etc.);                             PhD (biomechanics – student).]

Musculoskeletal Anatomy = the study  of the structure and capabilities of individual bones, muscles, joints (mostly at joint/segment level)

Biomechanics = the study of the structure and function (mostly at entire-limb or whole-body level) of living organisms



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Anatomy

Address: Trail shoulder and knee forward of lead side = CANNOT make a PURE rotation of hips/trunk. Also, ANY forward bend of the spine AT ALL prevents pure rotation – an upright posture is more efficient and safer.

[PURE ROTATION is the only body movement which can give BOTH distance and direction through a summation-of-speeds principal. See: http://epublications.bond.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1376&context=hsm_pubs]

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Backswing club parallel to ground: Trail shoulder already in internal rotation (will need a re-route to help club arrive from the inside). Trail pelvis raised (as seen from drop of lead knee), so the hips now cannot rotate into the downswing.

Backswing lead-arm parallel to ground: More shoulder internal rotation, more trail pelvis rise. Downswing squat position already beginning. Such a position only serves to ram the hip ‘socket’ (acetabulum) more firmly onto the ‘ball’ of the thigh bone (femur head).  Once again pure rotation cannot result, the trail hip has to push the body forward to start lower-body motion.

Backswing Top: With a lot of wrist-bend resulting in a horizontal shaft, the golfer must do work against gravity to get the club and hands back to a position of maximum gravitational potential energy. Such a position is a WASTE of EFFORT!

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Downswing lead-arm parallel to ground: From the top of Tiger’s backswing, a lot of wasted effort results in getting the club to this position, which is finally one where his hands and the club are in a position of Maximum Gravitational Potential Energy and can do useful, TARGETWARD WORK (application of force over a distance). 

With the terrific squat maintained at this stage by Tiger (OUCH say his back, hips and knees) hip/trunk rotation will be difficult and/or highly contrived, not natural.

Downswing club parallel to ground: The hips have spun open to a great extent, while the shoulders have stayed closed. Such a position requires exaggerated forward-flexion along with torquing of upper- and lower-spine in opposite directions (not to mention the neck in a third!) and causes a lot of low back issues.

Downswing pre-impact: Each golfer’s brain makes its own most-convenient compensations to allow a reroute-of the trail shoulder from internal rotation and a rotation of the pelvis from a lateral flexion (side-bend). Here, Tiger arches his spine to create space for the trail elbow to straighten in a manner closer to that elbow’s design.

The trail knee juts out, a sign that if the arms were to straighten right now the club would not be delivered sufficiently ‘from the inside’ (see previous post for more on this topic). When the trail knee and thigh are pushed forward so much, the trail shoulder arrives at the ball ‘internally rotated’, as indicated by very rounded shoulders at impact, and thus a ‘BS’ impact. [According to this blog, unless the club arrives well from the inside, a ‘bludgeon’ or ‘smother’ results, not PURE IMPACT see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UosXcURDg0Y]

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Biomechanics

Impact: The combined length of the lead shoulder and arm at impact is a sign of better utilization of ground-reaction-force and makes a longer lever – some term it ‘going normal’. Both are indications of better distance potential. HOWEVER, from the deep squat that Tiger gets into, there is not enough time to straighten out the torso maximally, so at impact he does not have as much height as he possibly can with a straighter starting posture and less squat-jump (the ‘jump-up’ part needs a very strong and young golfer to accomplish along with everything else a downswing must, within a 1/4 of a second!).

Also, the quantity of motion each body part has, eventually gets transferred to the ball. This ‘quantity’ is termed ‘angular momentum’. In a swing in which the trail shoulder or hip move nearer and further from the position of the golfer’s spine at address, the direction in which the ‘quantity of motion’ acts continually changes, much like spinning top gains wobble.

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In Conclusion

INCONSISTENCY and INJURY BOTH result from both excessive, useless motion AND from poor joint positions. It’s all very well to say ‘move the body thus’ or the ‘let the club do such-and-such’ However, the MIDDLE JOINTS such as the hips, knees, elbows and wrists get badly ‘jammed’ in the process. The 21st Century golf instructor needs a very sound understanding of not just the biomechanics of limb/whole-body structure but also of joint/segment level structure and function.

The MOST important thing about the golf swing

The MOST important thing about the golf swing

Regardless of anything else, the golf club MUST approach the ball FROM THE INSIDE.

NOT merely enough to strike the ball at it’s center, but on it’s inside right quadrant (for a right-handed golfer).

club arriving from the inside

To enable this, there are very many compensatory moves you can use, while starting down from the top of the backswing. You could slide your body towards target. You could drop your trail shoulder backwards. You could arch your spine…. And the list goes on. Your brain will figure out a pattern, to allow you (once you’re a fairly regular golfer) to arrive at the ball ‘from the inside’ – most of the time.

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        SLIDE

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     DROP TRAIL SHOULDER BACKWARDS

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                                                                                                       ARCH SPINE

However, when you are aroused, nervous, in unfamiliar surroundings, the timing, that is the ‘sequencing of body parts’ of your swing might change, and you will not make all of the compensatory movements you need to, to get from the top of your backswing to impact, in the limited time span of your downswing.

The ONLY way to arrive at the ball from the inside without any manipulating/compensatory/re-routing movements is to position your body at the ‘top of the downswing’, rather than the ‘top of the backswing’.

What on earth does that mean? That means, every joint must be placed so it is positioned for its role in the downswing.

So, the TWO MOST IMPORTANT body parts to position correctly are the trail shoulder and hip joints. The trail shoulder MUST be in external rotation and the trail hip level with the lead one, not higher.

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THAT’S ALL. You can, through trial and error, find positions that allow these two joints to be placed correctly, OR use the Minimalist Golf Swing, which positions ALL joints at the TOP of the DOWNSWING. Why do more?

John Jacobs’ Teachings – Relevant to the 21st Century?

Are the teachings of John Jacobs – and by extension all the famous golf instructors such as Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney, Jim McLean and Jim Hardy who credit Jacobs as a major influence in their teachings – relevant for the 21st Century Golfer?

Before reading on, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbAe2vgfzbA

John Jacobs was put on the map of golf instructors’ for bringing a vital perspective to teaching the golf swing. In his own words, “…..my breakthrough as a teacher. I look at what the ball’s doing, and then I ask, ‘why’?” He refers to his always having prioritized what the club was doing at impact.

So, naturally then, the video is a classic, a must-watch, full of useful information for what a golfer might do to bring the club back to the ball correctly, and, based on the Ball Flight Laws.

Jacobs mentions that many people thought him to be the teacher of a flatter swing, back in the day. He explains that Ben Hogan’s arms were very flat too, but when he set his wrists, that went away. ‘There is a relationship between the direction of the club shaft and the plane of the club’, so that Hogan’s flat and rounded arm movement with a cupped wrist at the top, changed him from being ‘closed’ and ‘flat’ at the top to ‘open’ and ‘upright’.

You could teach the body-arm marriage even to a beginner very simply, feels Jacobs, as long as the set up is right. Simply tell them take to the right (trail) shoulder back and point the clubhead to the target at the top. Then all that might be left to factor in would be giving the left (lead) arm some width, because the left (lead) arm must be wide enough on the right (trail) side of the ball, for the golfer to be able to swing through.

There is naturally nothing wrong with what John Jacobs, and those other famous teachers who succeeded him say, because otherwise how could they have produced so many great golfers? The patterns they teach are usually simple and common-sense. And, it’s easy enough for a golfer’s brain to ‘figure it out’ to some extent, and repeat the motion often, especially when the golfer is relaxed. (See Jacobs’ own swing below, and the many compensations it’d require for him to arrive from the inside)

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What never fails to shock me, however, is that all the very best teachers simply teach in opposites – if you’re laid off, swing more around, if you’re too shallow, steepen up your swing, if you arrive from over-the-top do something-or-the-other blah blah to arrive from the inside. If you top the ball, swing down, if you chunk the ball swing over it more and on and on.

HOW, HOW, HOW? What must the body DO to facilitate whatever you tell the golfer to do? What do the various arm and leg segments DO because, please understand, they are linked when we grip a club with both hands or have both feet planted on the ground (when the furthest part of the arms or legs is not free to move independently, we call it a ‘closed kinetic chain’, and this can make the linked joints move in peculiar, non-normal patterns).

The problem, now that Jacobs’ ‘why’ is well understood, is that no-one asks ‘how’.

How to make sure the body rotates in a horizontal plane as the arms are required to move in a more vertical one simultaneously?

How does moving the right shoulder back affect where the body’s weight moves, and, in fact, how should weight shift – move towards target, stay centered, move to the trail side?

How does setting the wrists at the top (wrists can set in varying combinations of two directions) affect the positions of the trail shoulder and elbow, and will the correct combination of shaft direction and plane (adjusted for the individual) ensure that the swing arrives at the ball from the inside and at speed?

CAN a golfer arrive at impact in a BETTER STILL manner, MORE CONSISTENTLY and with LESS SCOPE FOR INJURY? These are 21st Century questions! HOW?

The time for ‘why’ is long past, and the modern golf instructor must move beyond the club to what the body CAN/CANNOT do, so as to be able to teach the golf swing across all body sizes and shapes, because the human body only has very fixed motion capabilities.

Tiger Woods and his Swing Coaches

Tiger Woods and his Swing Coaches

 

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As any undergraduate course on the subject will explain, the purpose of studying sports biomechanics is three-fold:

  1. To understand the mechanism of injury of sports movements, and then rectify the cause (by either reducing any loads which are beyond the ability of various body-tissue to tolerate, or by improving the endurance of said tissue)
  1. To maximize efficiency by having greater economy of motion
  1. To maximize performance by more efficient positioning of body parts

How should a good biomechanical approach be applied to Tiger Woods’ swing, which currently needs to have greater efficiency AND less potential for causing injury?

A general description of what the above three aspects mean with respect to golf is followed by Tiger’s particular problems, below:

INJURY:

Firstly, improving the ‘endurance’ of body-tissue is not enough, especially because some tissues with less blood-supply are less amenable to, and do not benefit from, training. After all, most golf-fitness programs work at trying to reduce the scope for injury and simultaneously to improve performance. They are based on strengthening those body parts (muscles) which produce power-speed and stretching other body parts which need greater flexibility (once again mostly muscle). HOWEVER these programs are all flawed because they are based on the swing-mechanics of the best players in the world – which are themselves flawed.

Fitness programs should be based on an ‘ideal’ golf swing, which should be one devised from ‘first-principles’; working backwards from the laws of physics and biomechanics which govern ‘ideal’ impact (ie. arriving at the ball from an inside, shallow path at maximum speed).

Fitness programs should NOT be based on what is traditionally considered to be a ‘good’ swing, because all traditional ideas have evolved from the SUBJECTIVE, NOT SCIENTIFIC, thinking of leading players and teachers.

Injury mechanism should purely be assessed by looking (from a rear view) at a golfer’s top-of-backswing position and then at his impact, and just-past-impact body positions. When doing this one can count how many of the following joints change their direction of motion from the top of the backswing to the start of the downswing:

Cervical spine, rest-of-the-spine, trail shoulder, trail elbow, trail forearm, trail wrist, lead shoulder, lead hip, lead knee, lead ankle.

If a golfer’s change-of-direction (mainly because the golfer accelerates at maximum speed during the downswing) requires very many of these joints to be repositioned during the LIMITED TIME SPAN of the downswing, the golfer can only be successful as long as his rhythm remains smooth. It is known that in an aroused state (ie. one of anxiety) such as that seen during competition, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and the hormones secreted as a result make the muscles contract faster and more forcefully, so that with the best will in the world a golfer cannot help but slightly mis-time body-movement sequences, resulting in unreliable results. Similar mis-timing takes place under conditions of fatigue, when the brain cannot handle many complex movement patterns regardless of how often the patterns have been repeated in practice. (For example do you walk or talk as efficiently when exhausted?).

EFFICIENCY:

The very same extra-movements-in-a-short-time-span which cause injury also cause inefficiency, and not only under conditions of arousal or fatigue. If two people who can run equally fast were to be in a race, and one of them took a few steps backwards before running towards the finish-line, the other one, leaning forward and running in a straight line towards the finish would surely win. EXTRA movements which require to be undone before the joints are in position for their roles in the downswing, waste time and increase the potential for inefficiency.

For instance, when the right side/trunk (of a right-handed golfer) is lower than the left at both address and at impact (simply because the right hand is placed lower than the left!), what earthly sense does it make for the right shoulder to be higher at the top of the backswing? Contact is never as pure as when the right trunk/side stays lower than the left throughout the backswing. Besides that, the great concept of ‘ground reaction force’ (GRF) which is being made so much of these days, has to be ‘artificially’ increased! This can be seen in the work of some coaches, who encourage their students to squat down then jump up to increase GRF. GRF is optimized when the left arm is able to be fully extended as the radius of the swing. However, many golfers are unable to drop the right side of the body down AND straighten the lead arm, IN TIME FOR impact.

MAXIMIZING PERFORMANCE:

In the full-swing in golf, maximizing performance means hitting the ball as far as possible, in a straight direction, and with ideal trajectory for the club being used. There are only 3 biomechanically proven ways to increase distance – the stretch-shorten cycle (recently proven controversial), ground reaction force, and a sequential summation of forces. Of the three, the latter is also responsible for straight direction, and simply requires the lower body to rotate before the upper, allowing the arms and club to be the last things arriving at the club, so that each successive moving body-part adds to the forces generated by the previous one.

TIGER’s PROBLEMS:

 

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  • All his recent coaches have supposedly worked on reducing his distance to control his direction, yet made his swing more violent! They have reduced his distance yet not improved his directional control – how ironic!
  • The latest coach has erroneously reduced the length of his backswing and made it more compact. When the backswing is reduced too much, so that the club and hands are not even at around 10 o’clock (in THIS BLOG 10 o’clock means without any wrist-bend) – their position of maximum gravitational potential energy, the body has to exert force to start the downswing, rather than it beginning with the force of gravity alone. This force throws off the correct sequence of the downswing
  • The swing coaches have also made his swing increasingly more compact (as seen by an increasingly more flexed/bent trail elbow and excessively flexed lead hip, knee and ankle), which means all the OTHER joints which have made movements surplus-to-requirement now have to unbend and untwist within a very narrow space. A ‘wide’ trail elbow creates a longer lever for more power, and also has to straighten out less when arriving at the ball!
  • According to a former coach, Hank Haney, Tiger himself has always believed that the squat-jump gives him greater power-speed. Yet, common sense tells us that to jump up and down in an essentially back-and-through movement is absurd. Do baseball pitchers jump up and down on the mound in order to throw the ball forwards faster? In slightly more technical terms, if one intends to put ‘x’ amount of force into an object, then makes a glancing blow – instead of a full-on one – at the object, one only puts a portion of intended force into the object, and the rest into the ground or the air around the ball!

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  • He has been overloaded with ideas of across-the-line, laid-off, swing plane, palm-vs-finger grip etc. etc. ALL club movements are merely the result of body-joint movements – after all, the club does not move itself! THEREFORE the entire concept of swing-plane is redundant. The ONLY requirement is for the club to arrive at the ball from a slightly inside path (to connect the right-inside quadrant of the ball), and this becomes a non-issue if the lead upper-arm maintains a similar, slightly-inside path, during both back- and through-swings
  • Those of his former coaches who believed ‘rotation’ to be an important element of power-creation gave him a ‘lateral flexion’ instead! A TRUE body-rotation during the downswing can only come from a similar movement during the backswing, which in turn requires not only trunk, BUT ALSO HIP, rotation.
  • His fitness coaches have bulked up his upper-arms and chest (some sports chiropractors term this ‘mattressing’!). This prevents his arms from swinging freely during the backswing and prevents his having an ‘ectomorph’ body type, ideal for golfers as it provides long, slim, wiry-strong limbs, which have better leverage and less ‘inertia’.

The MINIMALIST GOLF SWING is able to:

  1. Reduce injury potential by placing all joints – at the top of the backswing – IN POSITION for their role in the downswing, so that no re-routing is required before target-ward motion can begin
  2. Maximize swing efficiency by minimizing the numbers of joints moved, and minimizing their directions (planes) of movement
  3. Maximize swing performance (maximum distance, straight direction and ideal trajectory) by ensuring a without-volition downswing summation-of-forces

IT ACHIEVES these ends by

  1. Being the only swing in the world which creates TRUE rotation of the spine AND hips for more power
  2. Separating the roles of the body and arms, as the former requires to move in a merry-go-round or horizontal plane and the latter in a more ferris-wheel or frontal plane, and when combined result in less efficiency
  3. Cutting out all extra movement so that contact with the ball is much purer and no effort is wasted in connecting with the ground or air around the ball
  4. Always positioning the club so that it arrives at the ball – WITHOUT VOLITION – from the inside, at a shallow angle and with maximum speed

In CONCLUSION, a 21st Century golf coach MUST have academic-based, in-depth knowledge of anatomy, rehabilitation and biomechanics (preferably also exercise physiology and exercise testing-and-prescription) in order to coach top athletes. The causation – or at least exacerbation – of several of Tiger Woods’ injuries can be linked to specific unscientific-in-anatomy movements he has been taught over the years.

See the ‘about’ section of this blog to understand the type of credentials required.

The Anatomy of the Baseball Pitch vs the Golf Swing

                                                The Anatomy of the Baseball Pitch vs the Golf Swing
This post is based on three months of being exposed to the theory of, plus a few days trying to mimic the positions of, the baseball pitch, during a 100+ day stint as a student researcher at the American Sports Medicine Institute, Birmingham, Alabama.

Every knowledgeable person in baseball talks of the kinetic chain and pelvic rotation helping to create force from the ground up, which is identical to the requirements of golf! In other words, both movements are supposed to be essentially rotary movements that deliver linearly directed motion to the ball.

As with golf, I wondered at the very many extraneous, idiosyncratic movements of the baseball pitch. Why lift the knee up and put weight through the back foot when the purpose is to make a forward stride? Why have the hands up high while in the glove, to drop them down then raise them once again to shoulder height in time for foot contact? Can the forearm ever catch up to the shoulder from the excessive forearm lag? How can hip rotation take place efficiently when the lead hip and knee are significantly flexed? (see both forearm lag and lead hip and knee flexion of traditional positions in the picture below)

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So, I proposed a theory to fellow student researchers at ASMI – no high-knee, set up in a narrow stride, then finally wind up the trunk and throw, with no further striding. With the radar gun out, and the ‘big-boys’ assuring no thrower or instructor bias, one student reduced speed from 60 to 55 and the other two from 70 to 60.

Of course we had no particular ‘method’ for just how to do this, so mostly the wind-up without an accompanying stride resulted in too much rotation, with the throwing arm’s latissimus dorsi taking it too far behind the thrower, with no ability for an eventual linearly directed throw in the appropriate direction. See below a pitcher with a lot of trail shoulder ‘horizontal adduction’ ie. arm too far behind body.

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Theories based on other people’s throwing mechanics are all very well, but some practical experience is essential. So, after a week of actually throwing balls, with the handicap of a 100% left brain, the only way the balls would start off at the ideal trajectory, with a straight direction and maximum power, and not be released too early or too late, was when the throwing shoulder had translated as far towards target as possible, LINEARLY, and the ball was released, without volition, somewhere along the way. The ‘before’  on the left and ‘after’ picture on the right. In both shots, the ‘top of backswing’ position has been superimposed on ‘end of forward movement’ position.

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Any attempt at a rotation-only move, often resulted in a too-early or too late throw.
My new theory, therefore, is that the baseball pitch/throw requires a linear motion of the throwing shoulder (the more distance travelled the better) for linear ball-flight, with rotation of the trunk over the lead leg serving only to decelerate the body (over the leg), towards the end of the motion.

The picture on the left (above) shows less shoulder forward translation and poor ball trajectory and distance, while the one on the right is much better.

Conversely, in golf, any lateral/linear motion (along the direction of the target), results in an imprecise divot, which is not always made at the same spot, as the golfer’s body slides past the lowest point of the club’s arc.

The picture on the left is the golfer’s original motion, and the one on the right shows how much more precise his impact can be with only rotation and no lateral motion (using merely the Phase I of Minimalist Golf Swing movements).

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 7.18.54 AM

The baseball pitch is much more like gait (a side-on type of gait!), but with involvement of the hip abductors and adductors as well, along with the usual hip flexor and internal oblique of the lead leg acting as stabilizers, while the external oblique brings the shoulder forward.

The golf swing requires powerful rotation from the lateral rotators of the trail HIP, FOLLOWED BY a stretch-shortening of the obliques and the pectoralis major of the golfer’s TRUNK – all rotational motion.

The solution? Cut out all rotation in the baseball pitch and all linear motion in the golf swing, as well as excessive lag in both. Both movements can easily be made much more ‘minimalist’ so as to reduce the scope for injury, while improving ball-flight.

The BOTTOM LINE is that the body cannot rotate AND translate linearly at the same time, in an efficient manner, because the same set of muscles cannot easily act in two different roles – say of prime movers and stabilizers – simultaneously.

Anatomical Analysis of swings – Jim McLean, Lexi Thompson, Lucy Li

Anatomical Analysis of the swings of Jim McLean, Lexi Thompson, Lucy Li

Jim McLean is one of the most famous golf teachers of all time. He has studied the best players of the world in great detail and can recall exactly what type of movements any great player makes. What he teaches is based on his experience of years, and he is one of a very few golf instructors to have access to the research of world authority Robert Neal, of GolfBioDynamics.

So, McLean studies top players, Neal studies the biomechanics (positions, velocities, acceleration-deceleration, forces and torques) of those same players and a ‘formula’ such as the 8 steps is created.

Two highly athletic current students of McLean are Lexi Thompson and Lucy Li, presumably being coached along the lines of the 8-step formula which gives broad guidelines in order for a golfer to be within the ‘corridors of success’ and the ‘safety zones’.
Lexi Thompson
Lucy Li

The only problem with this is that all golf study – sadly – is based on how the best players in the world do it, instead of being based on ‘first principles’. What are ‘first principles’? Once one has studied how direction and trajectory can be controlled based on club positions such as club path and angle of approach and how club speed can be increased based on the forces which produce it, one should go back to the ‘drawing board’ and find a way to place the body at set-up and at the top so that every joint is positioned ready for its role in the downswing – and nothing more. Such ‘minimalist’ positions ensure that the body makes the least number of moves in the limited time of the downswing, and that any moves made are comfortable and easy for the joints concerned.

See how the 8-steps works for Jim McLean and his 2 famous students:

Moe Norman – Anatomical Assessment of his Golf Swing

Moe Norman’s Golf Swing – an Anatomical Analysis

Many visitors to this blog have suggested an assessment of Moe Norman’s (MN) golf swing. It’s easy to assess the manner in which the joints are positioned at the top of the backswing, versus how they are at impact, to comment on injury potential. However, it is important to study ball-flight in order to study which compensatory moves a golfer is making, in order to arrive at the ball, from his/her top of backswing position. Not that it matters, because the Minimalist Golf Swing will improve ball-flight for any skill-level of golfer, regardless of how good or bad they are (that will be a subject for another day).

Look at MN’s rear-view picture at the top of his backswing. The two main positions to study are the lateral flexion of the torso and the rotation of the shoulder.

The spine has left lateral flexion, so that the right side is higher. This, compounded with a tight right scapula, position the right shoulder in internal rotation. Besides the internally rotated right shoulder, he also does not have much width at his right elbow, and although it cannot be seen here, his right wrist is extended (bent backwards). Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 6.00.42 PM

A down-the line series of pictures shows the compensatory moves he makes from his top-of-backswing position to get to the ball. The very first move during the downswing is a pushing forwards (towards the ball) movement of the right shoulder. As the scapular muscles are strongly contracted to keep the scapula in its excessive retraction, the entire shoulder girdle moves forward as one unit, rather than allowing the arms to drop down at the start of the downswing.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 5.06.07 PM

By the time the arms finally drop down, The right shoulder has come pretty far forward, so that his right shoulder is not ‘closed’ to his left, and he is therefore not arriving at the ball with an externally rotated shoulder, which would help the club arrive at the ball from the ‘inside’. What saves this swing from an over-the-top impact is the straightening of the right elbow combined with exaggerated shoulder flexion (right arm moving forward) towards the far-away ball!

Note: Moe Norman’s excessive distance from ball should typically produce a rather glancing blow at the ball for most golfers, but his given particular combination of movements and his very internally rotated right shoulder, at least his right elbow is able to straighten out, somehow. This might be a better option than Jim Furyk’s. Furyk also has a very internally rotated right shoulder, along with a backward bent (extended) right wrist, and both these joints are forced to straighten out at the last minute, and in a direction they are not designed to perform ideally from.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 5.11.13 PM

Moe Norman’s other idiosyncratic move, besides his excessive distance from the ball, is often termed his ‘single axis’ motion, which apparently refers not to any axis but to his swing plane, which has been shown to be virtually the same going back and through.

A similar swing plane made at the cost of joints positioned in a manner they are not designed to work best from, requires many downswing compensations.

The entire concept of swing plane should be redundant in golf for two reasons:
1. What we in golf term a ‘plane’ is not anything heard of in geometry. A Google result for ‘definition plane’ is “a flat surface on which a straight line joining any two points on it would wholly lie”. Now golf’s idea of a swing plane is that different body and/or club parts are supposed to lie on the same plane at different times!

2. Any club positions are a combination of several joint positions, so to discuss club positions such as swing plane at all seems redundant. So, for instance, an ‘across-the-line’ shaft is created by excessive body or arm rotation. Similarly a closed or open club face at the top is determined by left wrist position at the top, and so on. The Minimalist Golf Swing, if required to define any ‘plane’ during the swing, considers the plane to be that of the left (lead) upper-arm, which has a similar path in the back and through directions.

Special Note: Peter, the owner of the very popular forum ‘Single Axis Golf Forum’ on network54.com, explained what ‘single axis’ means in Moe Norman’s swing (some google hits show ‘axis’ being mixed up with ‘plane’ as regards MN’s swing!). See below for his comments and some additional questions/comments from an anatomical/biomechanical perspective:

Re Moe Norman from Single Axis Golf Forum:

‘Single axis’ is not a reference to swing plane. 

 When the grip is placed in the lifeline of the dominant hand, it creates a single axis, three lever system in the dominant arm. This allow for straight line hammer motions (an Ideal Mechanical Advantage stroke). – From US Patent 5,803,827 

 The only relevance of ‘plane’ is that the movement of the trail wrist into impact has no pronation or supination and therefore the ‘three lever system’ (forearm, hand & club) acts within a plane. 

Questions and comments from the minimalistgolfswingblog:

What would be the common ‘axis’ of rotation of the trail forearm, hand and club? Which is the common ‘plane’ that those joints all remain on into impact, and for how long are they on that plane?

Moe Norman’s ‘hammer’ is one way to straighten out the elbow, not the ideal way.

The elbow is one of the middle joints of the upper ‘closed kinetic chain’, which comprises both shoulders, elbows, forearms and wrists, when they hold onto a golf club. Middle joints (ie. not closest or furthest from the spine, to phrase it in lay terms) inevitably get ‘stuck’ in awkward positions when joints on either side are incorrectly moved.

So, when the trail (Moe’s right) shoulder is in internal rotation, the elbow is  unable to straighten on the sagittal plane, as it is meant to, based on its design. [Anyone performing a bicep curl does so in front of the body, not to the side, because that is how the elbow works best].

Some people jump up on their toes, some straighten or ‘early extend’ their spines, and in Moe’s case he pushes his trail arm forward (technically a shoulder flexion) in order to somehow straighten his right elbow. The ideal way for the elbow to straighten is when the trail shoulder has been kept in external rotation throughout the back- and downswings – not easy to do with most swing styles. Thus, most swings require some downswing compensatory move!

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