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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can "Stack and Tilt" Teach Us Anything?

Ask most of the folks "in the know" and they'll tell you the "Stack and Tilt" swing is a fad that's run its course and now lingers only as the butt of jokes, as illustrated by Shane Bacon's post on Devil Ball.

This is the stack in Stack and TiltBut there's still some interest in the "fad." One of the articles I did recently for Golfsmith was about Stack and Tilt, plus the fact remains that several Stack and Tilters have won tournaments... and several of those players still use the swing with some degree of success. Some of you reading this post may even be curious about the swing yourselves, and wonder if it could help you.

So consider this my attempt to clear up some questions. Today I'll give you a basic breakdown of the swing, which will hopefully let all of you curious sorts decide if the Stack and Tilt is something you want to check out, and also provide some groundwork for a discussion of what the rest of us might learn from Stack and Tilt.

Now what would make me think some of you might want to check out Stack and Tilt when this blog focuses on low-maintenance swings that don't require a lot of practice? Well, for some of you, Stack and Tilt may really be a low-maintenance swing because it fits your natural tendencies. It's sorta like Jim Furyk's swing -- it may seem terribly complicated to some folks, but it's completely natural to Jim.

So remember this is just a quick overview of the swing. You should get the DVDs or the book if you really want to pursue this; but if you're just curious, Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, the swing creators, have written a considerable amount about the swing in Golf Digest, and many of those articles are online. You can find one of the major ones here, and it has links to four other articles (in the "Related Links" box). You can also go the search box on that page, type in "stack and tilt" (you don't need the quotes), and you'll get nine pages of articles if you want even more. Personally, I think this one called 6 Steps to Stack and Tilt is one of the best summary articles, but today's pics come from another article that featured Aaron Baddeley (who, incidentally, no longer uses the swing). If your experiments with what you learn from these articles seem promising to you, then by all means get the book and/or DVDs to make sure you do it right.

This is the tilt in Stack and TiltThe most basic aspects of the swing are shown in these three pictures. The top pic shows the "stack," the second pic shows the "tilt," and the last shows the finish.

Imagine the stack this way: A point midway between your shoulders (your spine at the base of your neck) and a point midway between your hips (call it your belly button) are "stacked" vertically over the ball. There may be some variation in ball position (Aaron has the ball slightly ahead of center in this picture, for example), but this centered position seems to be pretty consistent. Also, flaring both feet outward is part of the setup.

As for the tilt... You can see from the second picture just how much you tilt in order to stay stacked over the ball. Aaron's right leg is straight at the top of his backswing, not flexed as most teachers recommend. This also means the shoulder really dips during the backswing, though Aaron isn't dipping as much as most players in the photos I've seen. The arms do exactly the opposite of what I recommended Dexter do to get rid of his over-the-top swing -- the elbow tucks into the golfer's side and the hands move toward his back, resulting in a hand position that is below the back shoulder -- but the backswing is really steep because the front shoulder dips so much. In essence, you get a swing that is upright and flat at the same time!

As weird as this sounds, there is some logic at work here. What Plummer and Bennett have done is create a swing that uses extremes to create the swing plane. Imagine you're standing in a large open area and you swing one of your arms. You can move it in any direction, can't you? Now if you stand next to a wall with your shoulder touching it, you've severely limited its range of motion... but you can swing your arm in a perfectly vertical arc by dragging your arm against the wall. You've traded mobility in order to enforce a specific motion. That's basically what Stack and Tilt does; it creates an exaggerated position that almost forces you to swing on a certain path.

This is the finish in Stack and TiltAnd then you reach the finish. Without going into a detailed description, you end up swinging your hips forward to power your way to the finish position.

Now, this is a very rotary swing that can create a lot of power... and, some say, a lot of back problems as well. That's probably had more to do with the faddish nature of this swing than anything else. My own personal experimentation has been that this isn't a particularly difficult swing to learn, but it really does feel weird. And I can see how players -- especially power players -- could develop back problems if they practice a lot.

But the fact remains that this is a fairly successful swing. Several pros adopted it and won with it fairly quickly. A swing like that must be doing something right, so tomorrow I'll take a look at what I think the rest of us might learn from Stack and Tilt.


  1. That Baddeley picture is not what Andy and Mike prescribe in the swing. That was a swing showing an exaggeration of what is actually happening.

    Go to this link to see what you should look like at the top:!/photo.php?pid=4354171&fbid=408688197704&op=1&o=all&view=all&subj=33100537967&aid=-1&oid=33100537967&id=508867704

  2. No offense meant, Bob, but Aaron's picture does accurately show what they teach... they say as much in the article I took the pictures from. While not all players reach the exact same position at the top, Bennett and Plummer say this is correct. The pictures came from this article

    The New Tour Swing

    They specifically chose Baddeley to illustrate the article, and then began the article with this quote:

    "We love it when a tour player comes up to us and says, 'Hey, you're working with so-and-so. I saw him on the range doing this,' and he mimics a backswing with the spine tilting way left. We love it because that's exactly what a good backswing should feel like" (emphasis mine).

    Furthermore, with this picture they wrote:

    "Here Aaron is tilted a few degrees to his left, which is the feeling a player should get."

    That position is exactly what Plummer and Bennett prescribe, and in their writings they include at least as many pictures showing a position like Aaron's as they do of the position you referenced in your comment. Certainly not all players will reach it, since it requires quite a bit of flexibility, but it is what they teach. Don't you think it would be counterproductive to choose an incorrect model to "sell" an already controversial concept to skeptical readers?

    Just as a side note: If everyone ended up in the position shown in your Facebook reference, I doubt back problems would ever become an issue. I agree with you that it shows a much more desirable position than the Baddeley photo, and anybody trying the "Stack and Tilt" swing should use it as a reference -- but again, the Baddeley picture is an accurate representation of what they teach and that's what I was after in this post.

  3. Yes I agree that what people should "feel" but they will look more like Charlie Wi.

    I have taken numerous schools with Mike and Andy this year and they have used Charlie Wi on a number of occasions on the backswing.

    That article is more than 3 years old now and here was an update from the previous article that was featured in Golf Digest:

  4. A friend of mine saw a picture of me at the top of my golf swing and he said, "Oh, you use the stack and tilt method." I replied. "Nope, just poor balance."

    I think the hardest thing for me would be trying to stay over the front leg. I'm sure I would try to help the ball up into the air and end up in a "reverse c" position. I don't know much about it. Just seems like a lot to think about during the swing. I'll have to read more about it.

  5. Stick with your guns, Dex. You can't keep changing your swing concept and hope to make progress.

    When TGC was talking about Tiger starting to work with Sean Foley, they noted that Tiger had achieved the exact same number for the lowest scoring average in both 2000 and 2007 -- using two entirely different swing concepts -- and Brandel Chamblee remarked that it wasn't because one style was better than the other, but because he committed to each style and put in the necessary time to master each.

    Stack and Tilt is a very different style from what you're doing. There are many other styles out there as well... and none is better than any other. But you can't do them all! If you start changing back and forth, you'll just sabotage yourself. This is part of the mental game you've been writing about, and you'll have to master it if you intend to win.

    Choose one path, and don't look right or left. Just move straight ahead.