Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Swing Like Wiratchant?

This is the post where we answer the musical question, "Just how unorthodox can a swing be and still be fundamentally sound?"

Some of you may not have even heard of Taiwanese pro Thaworn Wiratchant before he played in the WGC-Cadillac Championship last week. He was in pretty good position after two rounds of 69 before shooting 77-77 on the weekend. But at just over 46 years old, he's had a pretty good career overseas and that's why we're finally starting to see him over here some.

Here's a video I found of his swing. There's a slo-mo at around the :24 mark and, although it's only a face-on view, it gives you a pretty good idea of what's going on:



Almost makes Jim Furyk look like Tiger, doesn't it? On Wiratchant's profile page at asiantour.com, you'll find this comment down in the "Personal" section:
Thaworn has an unorthodox swing with his hands moving directly above his head at the top of the backswing. He also has a long extended, much photographed, follow through. Said he did not see the need to change his golf swing as "it worked well for me during my amateur days and it works now." A short game wizard, thanks to countless of hours at the practice green.
Yes, his hands end up directly above his head -- as opposed to Bubba, who is also upright but has his hands back over his shoulders at the top of his backswing. Most instructors will tell you that this is a recipe for disaster, yet Thaworn is a dominant player on the OneAsia Tour. How can this be?

The trick lies in his fundamentals. Let me give you a quick tour of the good things he does:
  1. Thaworn has a strong one-piece takeaway that carries his hands well above waist high. With such an upright swing, he almost has to!
  2. Largely as a result of his takeaway, Thaworn gets a good shoulder turn, which in turn gives him a powerful coil. Many players who "lift their arms" this way don't get their backs to the target the way he does.
  3. Pay close attention to the start of his downswing. His arms drop almost straight down toward the ground! Again, many players who get this upright start their downswings by swinging forward then down -- but Thaworn swings down then forward. This keeps him from coming over the top.
  4. At impact Thaworn's lead elbow is bent. The bent elbow itself doesn't help his swing, but it's bent for a reason. When he drops his arms at the start of his downswing, he gets both upper arms connected to his torso a la Ben Hogan. His lead elbow bends because such a steep swing plane requires a lot of effort to keep both upper arms connected through impact. He's literally digging his elbows into his sides as he whips the club through the ball!
  5. See how he's up on the toes of his trailing foot at impact? He isn't hanging back. No, his weight has shifted to his lead foot so he can make solid contact with the ball.
  6. And finally, notice that although his upper body isn't hanging back, it isn't falling toward the target either. He's swinging into a balanced finish.
I keep saying that golf isn't as hard as we make it. Thaworn Wiratchant's swing is a great example of what I mean. As long as you include the important fundamentals, your swing doesn't have to look like a Tour pro in order to get the job done right.

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