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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ben Crane with a Club, Not a Snake Shaker

Since everybody already knows how Ben Crane works a snake shaker, let's take a look at the swing that's won twice this year.

If you saw any of the telecasts on Golf Channel, you may have seen a slo-mo of Ben's swing from behind where they showed just how well he swings on a single plane. Please note that not all teachers teach a single plane. The classic approach is a two-plane swing, where the backswing and downswing are on different planes. Remember that loop Hank Haney had Ray Romano make? That's a two-plane swing. And Ben Hogan -- whose swing was considered very modern -- also used two planes. In many ways a single-plane swing is simpler, but it isn't automatically better. So if you have a two-swing plane, don't feel like a second-class citizen. After all, Jack Nicklaus had a two-plane swing and he did just fine, thank you very much.

I'm not going to make a big deal out of Ben's one-plane swing. What I want to show you is how Steve Stricker, who has a very similar swing, is slightly different from Ben, who struggles a bit at times. Bear in mind that Steve is #2 in the All-Around stat and Ben is #3, so you'd expect their scoring to be the same; however, Steve's Scoring Average is over a half-shot better... even though Ben beats Steve in both eagles and birdies!

First, here's a down-the-line view of the Crane swing:

Compare this to Steve Stricker's swing and you might think the two are identical! But they aren't... the main difference you'll see is that Ben's right heel leaves the ground before impact while Steve's is still pretty much flat on the ground. But that small difference has other effects. Let's switch to a face-on view of Ben's swing:

Sorry, I couldn't find a slo-mo, but compare it to Steve's swing and you'll see the difference. Ben's heel comes off the ground because his whole body moves forward on his downswing, while Steve's body stays pretty much centered over the ball. This isn't a flaw by any means, but the extra movement means that Ben has one more thing that can go wrong with his swing.

In this case, when Ben's upper body moves forward during his downswing, he needs to move exactly the same each time to keep his single plane identical. Since Ben moves more than Steve, he doesn't control his distance quite as well. Steve hits it closer than Ben from virtually every distance.

Also, despite Ben's reputation as a putter, Steve out-putts him from inside 15 feet. But bear in mind that Steve gets more of those putts because he hits it closer.

Still, Ben's #33 in the world rankings. That's not a bad situation to be in, folks. You could do a lot worse than copying Ben Crane's swing...

But you might want to think twice about that snake shaker. I don't think anybody could be consistent with that upper body motion!


  1. You know - the more of these you post, the more variety you see from player to player. These guys aren't a bunch of robots with swings from Xerox. Not sure what made that pop to mind - but I've always hated hearing "experts" say that everybody swings the same way these days.

  2. I'm glad to be providing such a useful service to the golf community. ;-)

    Seriously, the differences may not be quite as noticeable these days as they used to be, simply because players today can watch video of their swings and avoid the more outrageous moves. But the best players always find a way to adapt a swing to their own physical strengths and weaknesses -- you just have to look closely to see how they do it.

    I think a lot of those "experts" just miss the "good ole days" of Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Casper, and Trevino. (I would include Watson, but he's still showing the young guys how to kick it!)

  3. Hi Mike, Just wanted to say thanks as I'm finding the site a big plus for my game. The idea of building the game up from simple basics so we are using basically the same motion is a really sound way forward. Steve Stricker is my new idol :-) all the best, Tim

  4. Thanks for the kind words, Tim, and I'm glad you're finding the blog helpful. I figure that we can play baseball, basketball, and tennis after some simple instruction, so why should golf be any different? After all, golf balls sit still till we hit them! ;-)