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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Another Golf Digest Golf Tip

Guess what? Another tip related to Hunter Mahan! This one is from Sean Foley in late 2009, although it's presented by Golf Digest Senior Editor Peter Morrice. Depending on how you look at it, it's about weight shift... or stacking... or facing the target... uh, let's just call it smacking the ball:

Martin Hall mentioned on his show that trying too hard to maintain your spine angle will mess up your swing, and this tip seems to be saying much the same thing. I particularly like that Foley said you don't need to think about turning your hips because your hips are already turning. This is a case of trying to do something that happens naturally, and it's that interference that often messes up an otherwise good swing.

Please note that this full turn is accomplished basically by straightening the left knee -- what classic teaching called "hitting against a firm left side." Equally important, note that the right knee doesn't straighten. That's why Hunter doesn't "stand up" and raise his head at impact the way so many of us do. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is about pushing up to create power; rather, Hunter straightens his left knee so his left hip is free to move the way it's already trying to. He's not trying to add a move to his swing, but just letting something happen that's already underway. Just let the knee straighten as you turn -- you'll find that's what it's already trying to do.

Much of what seems to be "hot and new" on the teaching scene are things that have been around for a long time but fell out of favor. What was it King Solomon said? "There's nothing new under the sun." This is a classic example.

And for those of you who are interested, I found this online link to that story at the Golf Digest Singapore site, and it includes a slide show of Hunter's swing sequence from face-on and down-the-line. The main thing I think you can learn from it is how quiet Hunter's body looks, even though he's developing a lot of clubhead speed. If you stop the face-on sequence at impact, you can see how much the shaft has flexed!


  1. Interesting comment about straightening the left knee. I read in Paul Wilson's "Swing Machine Golf" book that one of your first downswing initiation thoughts should be to straighten the left knee (he did mention a couple of other alternatives one being drive the right knee towards the left, but straightening the left knee feels more natural to me).

    Also poor Hunter Mahan - is he forever going to be associated with hitting tops now? Although judging from his description in the Singapore piece maybe he should - does weight on the right-hand side not = top?

    [Apologies to left-handers - I'm a lefty myself but only when it comes to a pen (or scissors)]

  2. No, I doubt Hunter will be branded a "topper" from now on. I saw Nicklaus do it on TV one time, in the same situation (out of the rough), but I bet most people don't even remember it. Things like that happen to everybody.

    Keeping your weight on your right side (for righties) is no guarantee you won't top the ball. It can cause you to hang back and hit the ball fat... which often results in a top.

    One of the biggest problems a teacher has when describing problems like this is how to avoid replacing one flaw with another. Wilson's "initiation thought" is a good example of this problem. Like I said in the post, the left knee straightens as a result of your movement -- it's not the cause. For some people, Wilson's thought will help -- at least for a while -- but others will just start "standing up" at impact. (Isn't it interesting that Foley told Mahan to "push down" with his left foot, rather than straighten his knee? Different teacher, different image... same movement.)

    When teachers try to teach students to move correctly, sometimes they tell them to try and do things that should happen automatically. For some people it works, and others just get more frustrated.

    Personally, I had a lot of trouble with leg movement. My teacher Carl didn't tell me to move them more -- he put me in a position where I moved them less, which forced me to turn my upper body more and the legs just followed on their own. Eventually I learned to hit the ball hard by ignoring any direct attempts to get my legs in the correct position. It's amazing how well your body moves on its own if you don't consciously try to control all the movements. There are a lot of things that most people do naturally.

    BTW, the left knee doesn't have to straighten entirely. As long as it moves enough to let your chest and belly button face the target, you should get the same results. If you take your regular stance and hold both hands up about ear height (think about the old gangster movies -- "This is a stick-up!") then try to turn so your chest and belly button face to your left (for you left-handers, face to your right), you should learn the correct move pretty quickly.

  3. Sorry Mike I misquoted. Paul's book advised visualising "pulling your left knee back" - slightly different to straightening it which I agree with you sounds more like standing up. When I pull my left knee back it feels like my hips are beginning to open and make way for my arms to drop in.

  4. That's a good observation, JB. And that's what all the different teachers are aiming for -- finding a "key" that helps players perform the correct move when they need it. The best teachers seem to either pick a more generic key -- one that more players relate to -- or they come up with several keys and help students find the one that works best for them.

    Thanks for passing that tip from Paul Wilson along. It'll probably help somebody reading this!