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Friday, April 26, 2019

George Knudson on the Flowing Golf Swing

Canadian golfer George Knudson died in 1989 but his book The Natural Golf Swing is still in print. Given that he is a Canadian legend -- he's one of the golfers whose PGA/LPGA record was tied by Brooke Henderson this past week -- that's no surprise.

George KnudsonI'm going to quote a short section from his book today because I think it has some very important ideas in it. This material comes from near the end of the book and, while he refers to all the things he has talked about in the book, the important thoughts don't require you to have read his book in order to understand them.

One thing he says is:
The natural swing motion is not a new tip or a quick fix. It is an overall view of the swing that is based on fundamental laws of motion and on fundamental considerations in any physical activity.
It's easy to overlook that little word "any." We tend to treat golf as if it's some bizarre form of sport that behaves differently from other sports. We talk about how athletes struggle to learn the motions, as if that proves how tough this game is... and yet most teachers will note that hockey players seem to take to the game quite easily. The fact is that we have a vested interest in making the game harder than it is, because that way we can justify our struggles to play a decent round.

A large part of our problem is that we don't approach golf as if it were any other sport -- sports which we learn pretty easily as kids -- so we don't have the same success with it. If we stopped making it so hard, we'd start to see some improvement in our games. That's one thing we learn from Knudson.

There's one other section I'd like to quote here. You may need to read it a few times to understand exactly what he's saying, because it's written with the assumption that you've read his whole book. But as I said before, you don't need to have read it in order to understand the important points:
The swing motion is a whole-body motion. You can now appreciate that every aspect of the motion is related to every other aspect. I could describe the motion from the point of view of the arc, for example, and show that by arranging for a maximum arc we also design the conditions for weight transfer. That is, we could not produce a maximum arc unless weight transfer were the means of moving the club. If we initiated the motion by picking up the club instead of transferring weight, we would compromise the integrity of the arc. It would shrivel, become smaller and choppier, not a genuine arc at all.

Similarly, I could describe the motion from the perspective of good posture. If we allow ourselves to get out of posture, we change the arc; and of course we also alter the plane. That natural swing motion, then, operates as a feedback loop. Every element can be the central point from which we discuss the motion. Balance is THE central fundamental.

For interest's sake, let's examine the motion from the point of view of clubhead control. It's fair to say that if we are confident that the clubhead is moving properly, then we will allow ourselves to make the motion. Golfers who try to control the clubhead by manipulating it destroy all other components of the motion. We want to set up a situation so that we need not worry about the clubhead because we know it is flowing properly.

The best swing is one that is uninhibited while under the control that ensues naturally from balance.
Yeah, that seems like a lot to digest, given that you haven't read the book. But you don't need to in order to understand why we get so twisted up with the golf swing.

Knudson says that the golf swing is a unit, not a bunch of separate movements that have to be mastered one at a time. If you mess up one part -- say, the arc or your posture -- you automatically mess up the other parts, like weight transfer and the plane of your swing.

Knowing that, you can start with any of these pieces of the swing and use it as the basis for how you view the entire swing. This is largely why we have so many different swing methods... and why each of them works for some players while others don't. It just depends on how you can best understand the swing motion. If you tend to use your legs a lot, there's a good chance you'll respond to a method that focuses on leg action and therefore on things like weight transfer.

This is also why methods that work for you initially may cease to be as effective later on. You can only do so much with your legs and once you get the basic leg action down... well, something else is probably out of whack. Now you need a teaching method that focuses on that problem.

Note that Knudson simplifies this whole thing quite a bit. He says that balance is the central fundamental, and then he spends the last few pages of the book looking at the swing in terms of clubface control. Let me break this down just a bit more, and you'll see how this works.

When you swing the club freely -- when you swing in balance, because balance allows you to relax and swing without undue tension -- the club makes an arc around you. As you swing the club around you, and if you don't twist your forearms to make it happen, the clubface will be open relative to your target line at the start of your downswing, square (pointed at the target) at impact, and closed at the end of your finish. That happens simply because your body is turning as you swing. And Knudson says that this should happen automatically if you simply swing in balance, because then you aren't leaning in five different directions during your swing. (That erratic movement comes from tension, caused by trying to regain your balance.)

Even if you aren't a particularly good tennis player or baseball pitcher, I bet you can swing a racket or throw a ball and get reasonably close to your target if you just stay in balance. The ball goes toward your target because (when throwing) you have your palm pointed at the target when you release the ball or (when playing tennis) you have the face of the racket pointed at your target -- and the racket points at the target because you're holding the racket so it's pointed at the target when your palm is pointed at the target.

Do you see a correlation here? If you hold the club so its face is pointed at your target when your palm is pointed at the target, you'll hit the ball toward the target. You just need to find out where the ball should be when your palm is pointed at the target. That's where you should position the ball when you set up for your shot.

Balance, grip, ball position. Just focus on getting those correct and a lot of the problems vanish. But it's a different way of thinking about the game, one that your brain may insist simply won't work. It's hard to believe that something we've struggled with for so long can be solved merely by consistent practice of a few simple basics.

But that's how it works. You need to focus on a few simple drills that let you practice hitting the ball at your target. As usual, I'd recommend the L-to-L drill as your basic motion. Then just pick targets - close ones at first, and practice hitting the ball to them. And as you get better, move the targets farther away until you have to make full swings. Before too long, you'll be hitting all of your shots closer.

As I said, this is a dramatically different way of thinking about your game. But if you try it and stick with it for a couple of months, I think you'll be surprised at the positive changes you see in your game. Knudson didn't become a legend without understanding how to play the game. Learn from his example.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Brad Skupaka on Finding Your Swing's Low Point (Video)

Brad Skupaka from GOLFTEC did this short video showing a drill that helps you identify the low point of your swing.



It's a very simple three-point drill using a towel to give you a good visual of where the club should hit the ground.
  1. First, identify where you should position the ball. Use the towel to help you see where you actually take a divot in your swing.
  2. Second, shallow out your divot. Now try to make the same swing, taking a divot in the same place but taking a smaller divot than before.
  3. Finally, actually hit a ball. Leave the towel in place and try to hit the ball with the shallow divot from the second step.
There's nothing complex about this drill. It's all about getting a clear visual of where the bottom of your swing is while taking a very shallow divot. How much more can you say about it? It's less of a technique drill than a knowledge drill.

After all, you can't make solid contact until you learn where to place the ball so you can make solid contact.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

LA Women

Forgive the Doors reference but I couldn't resist. The LPGA is back from Hawaii, back on the West Coast for the HUGEL AIR-PREMIA LA Open. You can find Tony Jesselli's preview of the event at this link.

Defending champion Moriya Jutanugarn

The LA Open is held at Wilshire Country Club, a par-71 course -- a rarity for the gals -- that can play up to 6500 yards. There's a bit of history here, as you would expect from a century-old course (it was founded in 1919). It has hosted PGA Tour and Champions Tour events in the past, and became the home of this LPGA event last year.

It gained a bit of notoriety when Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya's sister, got her first win at the inaugural event... and Ariya cried much more than Moriya. It also put the two sisters in the history books as they became only the second sister act where each had won a Tour event. (In case you forgot, Annika and Charlotta Sorenstam were the first sisters to do it.) Now that Jessica and Nelly Korda have joined them -- and become the only siblings with multiple wins each -- Moriya has another reason to defend.

She'll have some competition though, specifically from Jin Young Ko. The current World #1 finished runner-up last year and is on a roll this year. That should make for some interesting TV!

The biggest news thus far in the week, at least to my knowledge, is that Michelle Wie had to withdraw on Tuesday after doctors recommended more rest for her injured wrist. Injured wrists can be very stubborn and Michelle has struggled with them over the years. Get well soon, Wiesy!

At least we get more prime time golf since there's a three-hour time difference between the West and East Coasts of the US. GC's coverage begins Thursday night at 6:30pm ET.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Twofer Tuesday: Zurich Classic

It's my first attempt at picking a team competition for Twofer Tuesday! This week the Tour heads to New Orleans for the Zurich Classic.

Defending Zurich champs Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy

In case you need a reminder, this week we have two-man teams playing two days of fourball and two days of alternate shot. After two rounds, the 35 best teams make the cut. It's stroke play, not match play, and the team with the lowest score after 72 holes wins.

The event is played at TPC Louisiana, a par-72 Pete Dye layout that tops out at 7425 yards. The Bermuda rough will be just under two inches and the smallish Bermuda greens (overseeded for this time of year) have some serious contours. This, added to the wide-open fairways, makes this an excellent course for team competition.

The defending champs are Billy Horschel and Scott Piercy, but why would I go with the defending champs? This is Twofer Tuesday! But seriously, for some reason my picks seemed clear to me from the outset, so let's get down to it.
  • My Top10 pick is the team of Henrik Stenson and Graeme McDowell. The fact that these two are Ryder Cup teammates seems a natural pairing -- but so does the pairing of Sergio and Tommy Fleetwood. Why go with Henrik and Graeme? Simply because Graeme -- who is coming off a win just a month ago -- is playing for something. He wants an exemption into the Open Championship at Royal Portrush, and I believe Henrik is on board for that. Two great teammates playing for a common goal that's bigger than the event? I like that pairing.
  • And my pick to win is the team of Kevin Kisner and Scott Brown. These two have played together in both of the previous editions of this team play event -- they lost the first in a playoff and had the 54-hole lead last year before fading to T15. I can't help but feel that they're due. And with Kiz coming off the WGC-Match Play win, he's definitely on fire this year.
Again, both teams seem like no-brainers to me. That may be a bad sign, given my record over the last few weeks, but I still like my picks.

If you're interested in who is on whose team, here's the page with the teams. And if you're playing fantasy golf, here are the pgatour.com power rankings.

GC coverage starts Thursday at 2pm ET. I love team events!

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Limerick Summary: 2019 RBC Heritage

Winner: C.T. Pan

Around the wider world of golf: Brooke Henderson tied the most LPGA wins by a Canadian at the LOTTE Championship; Scott McCarron won at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic on the Champions Tour; Lanto Griffin won a four-hole playoff hole at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail Championship on the Web.com Tour; John Somers won the Abierto de Chile on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica; Brendan Jones won the Token Homemate Cup on the Japan Golf Tour; and Stanford University won the Western Intercollegiate.
C.T. Pan with RBC Heritage trophy and tartan jacket

Well, in my Tuesday Twofer picks I went chalk... and ended up with a handful of chalk dust. I picked Jim Furyk (MC) to win and Webb Simpson (T16) to Top10. Unlike the Tour events, my drought continues.
  • Winners: 2 for 16
  • Place well (Top10): 9 for 16 (5 Top5 finish, 4 more Top10s)
  • Overall Top10s: 17 of 32 (8 Top5s, 9 more Top10s)
At least I've picked a couple of winners this year.

C.T. Pan picked up his first PGA Tour win when he wasn't expected to win... by anybody. DJ was the favorite and there were a number of other experienced players in contention, but they all faded (okay, some of them pull-hooked) in the windy conditions they faced this weekend. DJ's unexpected 77 opened the door for a wild scramble but only Pan walked through. The best score on Sunday was 66, and Pan was one of four players to shoot 67. However, of them all, only Matt Kuchar was in position to win.

Unfortunately for Kuch, he started the day one stroke behind Pan.

C.T. Pan almost didn't play this week but his wife convinced him to go. (Good advice on her part!) And now, after a weekend of scrambling around the Harbour Town course, he'll be scrambling to figure out his schedule for the next few weeks. I think there are some majors waiting for him...

In the meantime he gets his first Limerick Summary, to go along with his first PGA Tour win. And since Tiger is his inspiration, I decided to let the Big Cat inspire the Limerick Summary also. Well done, C.T.!
The storms and the winds on the coast
Were almost too much for the boats!
But still the pros played
And Pan showed the way—
Down the stretch, HE was “better than most.”
The photo came from this page at golfchannel.com.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Henderson Defends... and More

Since I've been shouting out special achievements this week, let me shout out Brooke Henderson who made history with her defense at the LOTTE Championship on Saturday.

Brooke Henderson holds her second LOTTE trophy

In case you hadn't heard, eight is a magic number in Canadian golf. Up until Saturday, Sandra Post held the Canadian record for LPGA wins at eight. So Brooke has tied the legend.

But it gets even better, because Mike Weir and George Knudson (whose book, The Natural Golf Swing, I sometimes refer to in this blog) hold the Canadian record for PGA Tour wins. Can you guess what it is?

You got it the first time. Eight.

Which means Brooke is one of the four Canadian golfers with the most LPGA or PGA Tour wins in history -- and she did it in style, winning by four strokes under tough conditions.

You can read the LPGA's write-up about it at this link. But this is a major milestone for Canada, and it shouldn't pass unnoticed. I'll just content myself to say, "Congratulations, Brooke. Now go get that ninth win!"

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Rudy Duran on Tiger's Current Swing

If you don't recognize the name, Rudy Duran was Tiger's first swing coach. Golf Channel asked him to take a look at Tiger's new swing, and they've published a slide show with Duran's comments on the major positions from setup to finish.

For what it's worth, before I hit the right arrow button to move to the next frame, I had to hit the refresh button on my browser each time to make the slide show advance. Hopefully GC will get that little glitch corrected.

Tiger at waist high in his backswing

This photo is the third slide in the sequence, and I chose it because... well, you guys know how I harp on the importance of the one-piece takeaway. (Yes, that's the link to the post with the drill in it.) I think it's a necessity for most players because it can keep you from coming over-the-top.

As you can see in this photo, Tiger's one-piece takeaway is textbook. See how the clubhead is sitting in the V formed by his forearms? The club shaft is pointed straight toward the camera, which means it's "on plane" and "parallel to the aimline" and all those other terms you might use to describe a club that has been swung back without any manipulation. And that means you won't have to make compensations on the way down to get it back to the ball correctly!

Given that this swing is working so well for Tiger -- despite the limitations his fused back puts on him -- I thought you all might like to take a look. Duran really likes where Tiger's swing is at this point... and why shouldn't he? This is a major-winning swing!

There's a lot to see in this brief slide show. Take some time to study it and learn from it. You'll be glad you did.