"Field-stripping" is a term most often used in the military to describe the disassembly of a weapon for cleaning or inspection. That's what we're going to do to "Stack and Tilt" today! And in doing so, I've found a few potentially useful tips for solving some common swing problems.
First of all, I want to thank Rob Roth for letting me know that Charlie Wi is the "official" Stack and Tilt model now. You may have caught some of our exchanges on Twitter yesterday. It appears that Plummer and Bennett have made some changes to their swing since doing the Golf Digest posts -- perhaps to end some of the back problems the swing is accused of causing -- but none of the new teaching has shown up on the web. I was able to comfirm that their book focuses on Charlie as their model as well, so those of you interested in the full swing method may be best served by checking out the book. It's just called The Stack and Tilt Swing. In addition, I found this recent footage of Wi's swing from April this year, and it also uses the less-tilted posture. This newer Stack and Tilt swing doesn't look so oddball now, does it?
Before I pass these on the tips I discovered buried in this swing, let me tell you something that may or may not affect how well these tips will help you. I'm a right-handed golfer, and my right hip is a little less flexible than my left one. It always has been, and even two years of Tae Kwon Do (which focuses on hip mobility) failed to increase its range of motion. Because of that, I don't drive my legs quite as hard as some of you. But this inflexibility also causes me to have a bit more trouble with sliding my hips, which many of you out there in Readerland struggle with as well, so you may find these tips useful also.
Ok, on with the tips...
First of all, I like the concept of stacking. Having your spine vertical to the ground at setup is always a good start to a swing. In addition, almost all instructors recommend standing taller at address. We can use that without any alteration at all.
Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett say they wanted to help players learn to hit the ball first: "Keeping your weight on your front foot is the simplest way to control where the club hits the ground, which is the first fundamental of hitting the ball" (quoted from The New Tour Swing). Now before you start yelling "Heresy!", bear in mind that this is actually a common teaching. Aren't you taught to put more weight on your front foot when you want to make a short game shot, like a chip? Of course you are... because it helps you hit the ball first.
When you strip away all the strange-looking moves, the "Stack and Tilt" is little more than a full swing made from a short game setup. Is there a way to adapt this to a more conventional swing? I think so.
However, I'm not so sure that you need to put as much weight on the front foot as Plummer and Bennett suggest. Here's a guideline I like: Hold a club vertically, with one end on the ground and the other extending up in front of you. Now, using your pants zipper or belt buckle or even belly button as a guide, slide your weight toward your target while keeping your spine vertical; unless you are over 6', I doubt you'll need to move more than a couple of inches. I move between 1 1/2 and 2 inches. Don't straighten your back leg! Keep it flexed like normal. We don't want to purposely change our normal swing, just our balance point.
A little experimentation at making my normal swing from this new setup position caused my swing to behave a little differently:
- My hips stopped sliding to the right on the backswing. I guess this is just because I was braced a little better.
- I got a little bigger shoulder turn than normal. I suspect this is because there was less tension in my left side because it took less effort to stay steady. Less effort = less tension = more flexibility.
- I stopped sliding toward the target on the downswing. This is a no-brainer! Since my right leg was already angled more toward the target, it couldn't push me as far to the left. I could still rotate my hips, but the straight-line motion was limited.
- Since I stayed more centered in my setup position (what the "Stack and Tilt" is designed to do), I stayed down on the downswing better, which means better ball contact.
- And as a result of less pushing toward the target, I finished my hip rotation in a more vertical position.
One other possible tip (which I would NOT combine with the short game setup, because I think it could cause some of those rumored back problems) is that downward tilt of the shoulder on the backswing. Ironically, Michael Breed was talking about Matt Kuchar's swing on The Golf Fix Monday night and alluded to Kuchar actually using a steeper shoulder plane, even though his club plane looks flatter. (An interesting concept!)
Why would you want to dip your shoulder when you make your shoulder turn? It sounds like a sure way to screw up your swing, doesn't it? But "feel" is a strange thing. For many of you, "feeling" as if you dip your shoulder may merely keep you from lifting up on the backswing... and that's the reason many of you hit thin shots. And again, I found that "dipping" my shoulder on purpose also eliminated some of that swaying on my backswing. (I believe it's because it makes my swing feel more vertical, so I don't move off the ball.) And again, the dip isn't a huge move -- your head may drop an inch or so.
In my own experiments, I found that just dipping my shoulder seemed to get me into about the same position as Charlie is in the video above, but without either setting my weight forward or trying to stay "stacked." It may be that the shoulder dip is the key move in the Stack and Tilt swing and you can get decent results using it without the rest of the movements.
In short, although I didn't feel as if I was getting a bigger shoulder turn (note that Charlie's shoulder turn doesn't look that big either) I did feel that I got the other benefits I listed for the short game setup, as well as unwinding quicker on the downswing. If you have trouble feeling as if you are "going down after" the ball on your downswing, you might want to try the "dipping" swing thought.
So there you have it -- three useful swing tips from the "Stack and Tilt" swing that might fix some of the problems that plague us more traditional swingers:
- A stacked spine position to improve your address position
- A short game setup for the full swing to reduce sway
- A more upright shoulder turn to help you stay down on the shot