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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Key from Bernhard Langer's Swing

When Bernhard Langer pulled off back-to-back double majors this past week, it was a feat that may never be duplicated. Winning two majors on two continents in consecutive weeks separated by eight time zones -- WOW! There just aren't words to describe how impressive that accomplishment is.

What can you learn from this example of fine German engineering? What aspects of his machine-like swing can you incorporate into your... er... less-than-machine-like swing? I've got two clips to help you see just how simple his swing is. This first clip is from three years ago:

Notice how little lateral movement there is in his swing. This is pretty amazing, since Bernhard uses such a strong grip. See how strong his left hand is on the grip?

Close-up of Langer's strong gripHere is an enlargement of Bernhard's grip at setup. He can see at least three, maybe all four of the knuckles on that hand at setup. You can tell because of the position of the black Velcro fastener on the back of his glove. With a grip this strong, Bernhard absolutely has to keep his lower body moving throughout his swing; if it slows down, his strong grip will cause him to flip the clubface closed and hit a big duck hook.

However, when most players try to drive their legs this hard, they end up sliding too much toward the target... a flaw Bernhard doesn't have. How does he manage that? This second clip is from only three months ago:

This is the clearest view of what I think makes Bernhard's swing work so consistently, and the clip's slow enough that you can stop it at precise points to see what I'm talking about.

The change of direction happens at :08 on the clip, but :07 to :09 gets all the major movement around that point. What is Bernhard's key here? It's simple: He starts the upper body and lower body at the same time.

Now, I've mentioned this before, but Bernhard is a clear example of how it works. You have been told that you have to start the lower body before you start the upper body, and many of you are doing this to a fault. You end up with your lower body getting too far ahead of your upper body, which causes you to lean backwards and "get stuck," making it impossible to square your clubface up at impact.

What you have to understand is that it is physically impossible for your upper body to start ahead of your lower body. Some people make lunging moves from the top that throw the shoulder over-the-top. These people are starting their shoulder moving forward before they ever finish their backswing because of a faulty looping motion. It's not that they start their upper body first; it's that the faulty up-and-over loop keeps their shoulder from ever stopping to begin with!

You don't see this in Bernhard's swing. Bernhard swings back on plane and, because of this, he can start his upper and lower body down together, staying in synch throughout his swing and not getting stuck. If it didn't work this way, he would hit duck hooks all the time!

Run the clip through that :07 to :09 segment a few times. You'll see that Bernhard is starting everything down together. Since his shoulders are turned more than his hips, the hips still lead the shoulders down as he unwinds... all without lunging.

If you're struggling with a faulty loop that throws your shoulder over-the-top, you've probably got problems with your takeaway. But as long as your body stays in synch during the swing, there's a good chance you can make your swing work. Take a lesson from the German machine and keep it all together; simple machines don't break down very often.

Even when traveling across eight time zones.

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