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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Book Review: The A Swing

I've been promising you a book review and here it is.

The A Swing coverThe A Swing is David Leadbetter's new book, a book that he says he hopes will shake up the golf teaching community. The "A" stands for "alternative," and the swing is certainly that. In some ways it's not all that radical, as it continues to emphasize principles that Leadbetter has taught for many years... but there are some, shall we say, "unique" principles at work as well.

A couple of weeks ago I did a post about this swing -- right around the time I got my copy of the book -- and I linked you to a page at Golf Digest's website with videos demonstrating the basics of it. The primary concept that makes the swing "alternative" is what Leadbetter has nicknamed the V Plane, which is best explained by the following photo from the website.

The V Plane illustratedAt the halfway point of the backswing, the shaft of the club leans forward toward the target line. Then the club is rerouted during the change of direction at the top so it's on a more typical downswing plane. And this motion is very compact, requiring a shorter backswing to create more clubhead speed.

Leadbetter says that you don't even have to get the V quite as pronounced as the photo demonstrates. Rather, any swing that creates this V -- even with the shaft almost vertical on the backswing -- tends to help players get better results from their own swings. And after my original post about the swing I got some feedback that backed up Leadbetter's claim. In fact, this review has taken me longer than expected simply because I've been experimenting with this swing to get an idea how it works.

And I'll be honest with you -- I can't get the darn thing to work. I understand the concepts and, while I think the forearm rotation it requires between the top of the swing and halfway down is excessive, I don't think it's a bad approach to the golf swing. Leadbetter has eliminated a lot of the exaggeration that I believe makes Hogan's swing so hard for weekend golfers, and I think that's a good thing. But I still can't get it to work. Although I can get to the top just fine, I end up with a horrible in-to-out swing no matter what I try.

However, I think I know the reason why. On page 114 of the book Leadbetter writes:
It's not a perfectly symmetrical V, but it is a great image to understand how the shaft should move. This change of plane is important for the many golfers who lack energy and flow in their swing and swing steeply from out-to-in. (emphasis mine)
I haven't had a problem with an out-to-in swing in 25 years! Since then when I've had plane problems it's always been an exaggerated in-to-out swing. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I consider the Hogan swing a fix for a duck hook, which is why it causes so many weekend players to slice badly -- most weekend players don't start with a duck hook. And the A Swing is a fix for an over-the-top swing, so it creates an exaggerated in-to-out swing if you aren't starting with an over-the-top swing. Makes perfect sense to me, and I appreciate that Leadbetter's book is detailed enough that I could figure that out.

The book begins with a foreward by Michelle Wie and an explanation of the biomechanics of the swing written by J.J. Rivet, a biomechanist who works with Leadbetter. Then the bulk of the book is a well-illustrated explanation of how the swing works, followed by a chapter on how to use the A Swing in the short game and such. Finally there's a chapter with the 7-Minute Practice Plan that everybody's been so curious about and some appendices with extra info.

Look, the A Swing isn't for everybody and, regardless of what anyone says, I'm not convinced this is something you can just dabble with. The basic positions in the swing -- and that rerouting move at the top of the swing -- are going to take a commitment if you really want to get good at them. But I think the overall concept is sound and it's definitely a better choice for most folks than the traditional Hogan swing. (I mean, which one better describes the swing flaw you're trying to fix -- a duck hook or an over-the-top swing?) Leadbetter should get his wish; this book is going to get people talking, that's for sure.

But if you don't have a problem with an over-the-top move, I'd advise you to look elsewhere. The exaggerated push shot it created for me, a player whose swing is already on a decent plane, would be unplayable on the course.



  2. I have nothing but praise for this book. I agree with the above article that it's a cure for an OTT swing. I also believe the advice in the book to rotate the forearm at the top is wrong. I've been using this swing for a year now. Improvement has been massive and rather quick. 85% of amateurs would be greatly helped by this book.