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Saturday, September 11, 2010

What "Getting Stuck" Looks Like

I stumbled across this old footage of Morgan Pressel from 2008, with Judy Rankin doing a swing breakdown. Morgan has made some changes since then, picking up about 15 yards, so this footage isn't really an accurate assessment of her current swing.

What caught my attention actually comes at the end of the video, where Rankin does a side-by-side comparison of Pressel and Julieta Granada. We talk a lot about players "getting stuck" and, while the descriptions may make sense and most of us think we understand the concept, it can be hard to picture exactly what a "stuck swing" looks like. I think this video makes it very clear.



Morgan is just dead perfect to the top of her swing; the problems start after that. The key positions I want you to look at are at :32 and :47 seconds in the tape.

In the first, Morgan is leaning backwards -- something I have advised you to avoid. Despite Rankin's remark that this is a characteristic of "old-style" swings, this is also a part of Hogan's swing and his is considered very modern. Leaning backwards is a problem that many players face, regardless of what approach they take to the game. As Judy points out, Morgan's lower body is moving so fast that her arms and shoulders can't keep up. The result? Her shoulders have tilted severely away from the target, so much so that she can't even straighten her right arm. (I'll come back to that in a minute.)

If you look at the :47 mark, you'll see just how much her head has had to move to get to her finish position from that :32 frame. If you position your mouse pointer right over her head and run the video, you'll see just how much she moves. That movement steals a lot of clubhead speed from her swing.

Now look at the view down-the-line, especially at the 1:05 mark; this will show you a different view of the :32 position. Look at that massive gap between her arms! Not only is she leaning backwards, but her shoulders are aimed out to the right. This not only steals clubhead speed, but means she has to compensate to get the ball started on target. In the next few seconds of video you'll see her fling her right arm up and over her left to get the club squared up; bear in mind that her head is moving forward a lot during this move, as you saw in the segment from :32 to :47. If she doesn't pull it off, the ball gets pushed to the right; if she pulls it off but her timing isn't perfect, she'll hit a big hook.

Sound familiar, Tiger fans?

Then Rankin shows Granada, someone she says "doesn't hit the ball a whole lot farther but has more of the modern look." Personally, I think she loses distance because she moves off the ball on her backswing, then even more on her downswing. (Try the mouse pointer trick over her head as well. My back hurts just watching it!) This also causes her shoulders to tilt, just like Morgan's. You would expect the same problem.

But Julieta manages to unwind her shoulders along with her hips, and that makes a huge difference. Look at where each player's hands are! It may not look like much until you compare their elbows -- Morgan's left elbow is in the middle of her chest; Julieta's is over her hip. Morgan's right elbow is still bent and her forearm points away from the ball; Julieta's elbow is straight and her forearm is pointed almost toward the ball. What this means is that Julieta's shoulders are "square" (aimed at the target) while Morgan's are "closed" (aimed right). Julieta won't have to make all the compensations Morgan will.

The side-by-side comparison should make the difference between "getting stuck" and "keeping the club in front of you" much clearer... and there's an easy way to help you feel the proper position:

Remember the one-piece takeaway drill I gave Dexter? Take that position and then, using only your lower body, "swing" your arms back to their setup position. Your belly button will point toward the target, but the triangle formed by your hands, arms, and shoulders will point toward the ball. This is roughly the position you want to be in when you hit the ball. It will also help you identify if you're sliding your hips too much toward the target on your downswing.

Another way of thinking of this is that your elbows point down at your feet when you hit the ball. (You may have to make slow swings; if you have this problem, it's going to feel really different.) Don't get anal about it, though -- it's ok if you're not perfect. It's the feeling of having your arms and shoulders return to their address position as you hit the ball that you're after; if you're anywhere close, it should help you improve your ball-striking considerably.

This little drill can also help if you have trouble with "chicken-winging" on your finish. If your elbow points down to the ground, it can't very well point toward the target at the same time. This drill encourages your elbow to fold and stay close to your side during your finish.

Hopefully this will help you understand why "getting stuck" is such a big deal. Although I haven't found any footage of Morgan's recent swing changes, I heard her say in an interview that she was specifically trying to get her upper and lower body in sync. And her driving stats at LPGA.com show she's picked up about 15 yards in the process.

Which just goes to show that nobody has to stick with a swing that "gets stuck."

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