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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Swing Powered by Guinness

(BTW, congrats to Graeme on co-starring with Martin Kaymer as European Tour Players of the Year. I can guess how Graeme's celebrating!)

This past weekend I was amazed at the number of comments I heard comparing Graeme McDowell's swing to Jim Furyk's. Really? REALLY? (Maybe the commentators had downed more Guinness than McDowell?)

If I was going to compare it to someone, I might choose Rickie Fowler. Graeme has that same laid-off slinging motion -- appropriate for someone who's become a bit of a gunslinger lately. (Cue the theme from "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly"...) Perhaps it's not the kind of motion you'd take lessons to learn, but it's not nearly as unusual as you might have been led to believe.

Just a quick note: Graeme looks a bit short on TV, but he's listed at 5'11" and he averages just over 286 yards per drive and he hits over 75% of his greens. That puts him right in Steve Stricker's category... but Graeme swings the club much differently, as you'll see.

Let's start with a face-on view from a couple of months ago:

The only unusual thing visible from this angle is Graeme's hip movement, which is probably due in part to keeping his head back. That gives him what is sometimes called a "reverse-C" finish. Also note how short his backswing is. Here's another view from slightly ahead of him, taken at the 2010 U.S. Open:

More noticeable from this angle is how much his right shoulder appears to dip as he hits the ball. That's actually a bit misleading; when you watch the down-the-line videos you'll see he doesn't really dip it any more than most people. However, Graeme does move down quite a bit from the top, a la Tiger. It's all part of the way he lays off the club at the top.

All that downward motion creates a lot of wrist cock, which you might expect to send the ball a long way. Instead, he hits it about the same distance as Stricker with his deadhanded swing. Obviously this is a very natural motion for Graeme, and that's part of the reason he's so accurate with it.

This down-the-line view gives you a clear view of how he lays off the club at the top of his downswing. This is partially because he bows his wrist:

This next video adds a couple of plane lines and some commentary. I liked it because it helps you see exactly what his laid-off move looks like. Notice that his hands are actually below the shaft plane at setup, then he bows his wrist slightly at the top. That means there's a lot of wrist movement in his swing, more than most players.

Despite all that wrist movement, that shaft is on the shoulder plane at the top before he re-routes it onto the original shaft plane on the way down. I suspect Graeme had trouble hooking the ball at some point in the past, and he developed this move to help prevent a pull-hook.

If you go back up to the third video and start and stop it so you can slowly watch his clubhead hit the ball, you can use the mower lines on the tee box to see how that move works. His clubhead comes in from the inside and launches the ball dead straight down the fairway. If you can do that consistently (which he can) you're gonna be down the middle most of the time.

You might wonder what you can learn from a swing that's so clearly built around one player's unique natural movements. There are two things, actually:
  1. A shorter swing with more wrist action can drive the ball as far as a longer swing with less wrist action. For some of you -- especially if you've played some other sport or have restricted flexibility -- a shorter swing with more wrist action may be second nature to you. If that's the case, don't fight it; you'll probably be just as long as you would with another swing, and more accurate because it's more natural to you.
  2. Make sure you stay in balance. No matter how much Graeme moves during his swing, he never looks like he's gonna fall over. When you stay in balance, you're more likely to make solid contact with the ball; that generally improves both distance and accuracy.
And maybe Guinness is some kind of magic elixir that improves your skill with the big stick... but I can't prove that from the videos. If you want to test that theory, you're on your own.

But don't expect me to pay your traffic tickets for driving while under the influence. ;-)


  1. What's this ? Didn't you know that Roger Maltby had declared McDowell's swing to be inconsistent and unreliable ? (despite 3 wins plus a major and Ryder Cup clinching singles beating Tiger Woods head to head last weekend) :-D Way to go, Rog.

  2. Perhaps Roger's been hitting the Guinness a bit heavy too.

    Yes, given the title of this post, that's my explanation for almost everything related to it. ;-)