I hope this title has you intrigued. There is an ambition in golf instruction to understanding the facts of what exactly and how the body is moving in the golf swing. Some instructors have the technology to examine their student’s body movements. They are using software systems that measure the body during the golf swing in 3D, and some have 6D. These systems read, for example, what degree a section of the body, such as a golfer’s hips, thorax, and/or arms are located, and what speed each section is moving. I do not work with these systems, but study those that use these systems, and their findings.
I have noticed that some are using the averages of great players to determine positions that they believe everyone should be using to succeed. Others have determined that even the great players are successful with different techniques and body motions. We all can see on the PGA Tour that each swing is different, even with our 2D TV screen. There are some commonalties with better golfers, such as, not many PGA Tour players move their hips away from the target on the backswing. Otherwise known as swaying off the ball.
There is one definite in the 3D and 6D reading of segment speeds. Each segment, hips, torso, arms and hands accelerate, then decelerates BEFORE impact. The club head is the only part of the equation that continues to accelerate through the downswing. There are terrible phrases that are passed around from golfer to golfer across the world, “finish your swing,” and “rotate through the ball.” These common phrases give golfers the incorrect message on how to move their body to maximize club head speed.
Each segment mentioned should have maximum rotational acceleration and deceleration in a certain order. In my estimation, most amateur golfers rotate the torso/shoulder area too early in the downswing, and to have too much movement between the start of acceleration and deceleration of the torso and shoulders. This means the average golfer works their “trunk” too hard to the start the downswing, and then has to abruptly stop the trunk before impact so other segments can catch up. The only reason the trunk stops is because the main goal for a golfer is making contact. The body will always have a reaction if contact is not possible with the initial movement in the start of the downswing.
If the proper sequence is achieved, each segment peak speeds increase. This means the energy is being transferred correctly in the kinematic chain, and then transferred maximum energy into the golf ball. A golfer could have all the correct position in the golf swing, but if the kinematic sequence is off, speed, contact, and accuracy are compromised. On the flip side, bad sequencing can make the club get out of position.
The question I am sure you are asking is, how can this information help my game? I always think it is best to go see your local PGA Professional who determines what part of your sequence that needs improvement. This is why I try not to give “swing tips” in my articles, instead more educational pieces. There is one absolute wrong answer, and that is trying to think about every segment when you swing.
We cannot command every body part to start and stop on the downswing. However, there may be one segment that is not working properly, and if one segment improves, it could put all the pieces together. This is the coach’s job to find the missing link. There are also other components to this that I have not mentioned. The most important link, not mentioned so far, is the body’s capability to stabilize the proper movements. Finding a TPI fitness instructor to help all the segments of the body work properly is a major factor in moving correctly in the golf swing.
The two figures shown are 3D graphs of high level golfers. One is a rotational kinematic sequence graph, and the other graph shows the linear kinematic sequence. I do not expect everyone to understand the graphs. It had to be explained to me the first time I saw a graph like this, four or five years ago. Nevertheless, I want you to understand that there is a proper sequence of acceleration and deceleration of each segment for maximizing club head speed. Club head speed is the main influence in distance, and we would all love to hit it farther.
Go see your local PGA Professional to increase your club head by improving when each segment accelerates, but also just as important, when they decelerate.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titlteist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro or for any question or comments email firstname.lastname@example.org.