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Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Brit Left Behind

Ok, I know Colin Montgomery left two Brits behind... but I'm looking at Paul Casey's swing today.

Here's a slo-mo breakdown by Paul's teacher, Peter Kostis, during the Match Play that Paul lost to Ian Poulter earlier this year:

Kostis says this is an "old-school" swing, which simply means that Paul turns his hips more during the backswing. (The "modern" method, a la Hogan, limits hip turn as much as possible to create more torque... and perhaps more back pain!) You can also see that he has a one-piece takeaway; I'm pointing this out a lot lately because I want you to see how many of the top pros use it. It really simplifies a player's swing.

But what I'd really like you to notice is that, even though Paul is considered a power player, he never gets the club shaft parallel to the ground. I know you keep hearing how important that is, but you don't hit the ball with your backswing. Paul increases his wrist cock on the way down -- that's not clear from this angle, but you'll be able to see it clearly in the next video. Clubhead speed depends in part on how much of that wrist cock angle you "carry" down to the ball; if you learn how to do that (I've done several posts on it, and will do more), you can get plenty of distance even if you aren't flexible enough to get that club to the "full swing" position at the top.

And this video shows several of Paul's swings (both regular speed and slo-mo) at Wentworth back in May this year:

You can see how Paul stops far short of parallel, even with a driver (that's the second shot on this video), and you can see his wrist cock increase as he starts down. It's not a huge move but it's clearly visible, especially in the slo-mo of the first swing.

Also, notice how his hips move slightly to the right when he starts his backswing. Some teachers would call this a slide and say it's bad, but it's not a huge move. Why does he do it? I think it's a rhythm thing -- he uses it to start his backswing, the way some people like to do a forward press with their hands. That's not unusual in an "old-school" swing -- it's part of that extra hip turn -- and for some of you it might be very useful because, again, it makes up for some limited flexibility. The key here is to keep it small and repeatable. It can help you keep from "freezing" over the ball, and also keep you more relaxed during the swing.

So here are two tips you can gain from Paul Casey, and both are especially useful if you aren't as flexible as you'd like to be.:
  • Don't worry about getting the club shaft to parallel. Just get the best shoulder turn you can.
  • It's ok if your hips turn a little extra and move away from the target just a bit, to help you swing more smoothly and with more relaxation.
If Paul keeps playing the way he does now -- he's currently #9 in the world and #21 in the FedExCup race -- he won't get left behind again. (Monty may end up regretting it this time!)


  1. This is good, Mike. My personal swing flaw is that I frequently hang on my back foot rather than getting the weight shift toward the target. I watched with interest as Casey rotated his hips away from the target in his backswing, marked by lifting his left heel off the ground. When his left heel comes down he can't help but shift the weight forward. I'm going to do that tonight at the range.

  2. I hope it helps, Diane. This is one of those classic moves that has a long useful history, but it's not talked about much anymore. If you look at some of the old footage of Nicklaus, for example, you'll see the same move.

    The "old-school" swings that Kostis mentioned were much more concerned with flow and rhythm than the modern approach... and that's exactly what many weekend players need to focus on.

    Good luck! Let me know how it works.

  3. It was short game night so I only hit PW and 9i using the technique. The one thing I did notice is my natural draw was a little more pronounced. I'll be interested to see what happens with longer clubs. I'll continue using the extra hip turn with my left heel coming off the ground (gotta come up with a name for that move) for a bit and see what happens.

  4. The extra draw probably means that you're transferring your weight better. (It's harder to draw otherwise.)

    Since this move is all about rhythm, I think you should give it a name that sounds like a dance move, something to do with hips. (I thought about calling it the "Bootie Scooting Boogie," but that may be a bit too country. ;-)