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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Tsenging Sword

I was thinking about that old bit from the cartoon "Knighty-Knight, Bugs" with the Singing Sword, or perhaps the parody of it from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"...

...and it occurs to me that Yani Tseng's swing is much more effective. Have you wondered how she does it?

Fortunately some enterprising souls have added recent footage of Yani's swing over at YouTube. I found something very interesting that you might want to see. Yani's been averaging around 270 yards off the tee and hitting a ridiculous number of fairways (nearly 80% down in Australia), and I think I can tell you why.

First, let's check out a very revealing face-on view. A quick note: there's no sound on this footage until the very end, so don't let it startle you.

If you stop the video around the :16 mark, you'll see that the clubhead has dropped below parallel on her backswing... and yet Yani's left foot is still planted firmly on the ground! And this is with a driver, no less.

Now let's look at another driver swing, this one a down-the-line view:

Again, stop the video around the :07 mark and check that left foot. You can't see her heel, but you can see that her foot is clearly flat on the ground at the top of her backswing.

Granted, there's no wasted motion in Yani's swing -- she doesn't make any noticeable corrections during her swing, and simple swings are usually effective ones. But it's Yani's flexibility that is her big weapon! When you can keep both feet flat on the ground throughout your swing the way she does, you're going to be much more consistent making contact with the ball.

You'll hear talk about how "freakish" Dustin Johnson's athleticism is, but Yani Tseng's abilities deserve just as much respect. You might wonder if there's anything you can learn from Yani that you could use, given how unusual her abilities are.

I believe there is.

While most of us aren't going to be as flexible as Yani, we could drastically improve our games by shortening our iron swings enough to keep both feet flat on the ground throughout our motion. Perhaps not on drives -- that might cause us to lose too much distance -- but it might be just the thing when we're having trouble hitting greens. Those shots are generally less than full swings anyway because of how much we're bent over, and a steady base can make all the difference in your accuracy.

Just ask Yani. Her GIR was better than 90% in Australia! (It probably seemed like "Witchcraft" to the rest of the field.)

So take a tip from Yani and add this move to your arsenal. With a weapon like this at your disposal, you just might cut a swath through your competition as well!


  1. Halfway through this, my mind jumped to an old Tennis Magazine article on Boris Becker, analyzing a shot that ticked the top of the net and jumped over his opponent's racket. Three pages of instructional nonsense because the picture said "it's better to be lucky than good". :-D

    What can we learn from Yani's swing ? You need more athleticism...which you're born with.

    Then you snapped me back to reality with the "shorten your swing to allow you to keep the left heel on the ground." WHEW ! I feel better.

    Here's where I separate from that theory - Harvey Penick taught "if the left heel wants to come off the ground, let it - it's a timing device for the down swing." Of course, you then have to make sure the knee is going back to the right knee and not straight out, but that's an easy fix.

    I've met people who lift the left heel, then went to a teacher who wanted them to keep it on the ground and it made them miserable. There are professional players who lift the left heel and win.

    I understand that a shorter swing is easier to control, but you wouldn't teach the left heel on the ground as an absolute, would you ? What works for Tseng might not work for everybody else except to encourage us all to work on our flexibility. Athleticism isn't something handed out in equal amounts at birth. (ask my 3" vertical jump) :-D

    Nice call on the headline !!

  2. There are very few absolutes in anything, Court, let alone golf. You're 100% right -- I wouldn't teach that flat left heel move as one of them. Most of us need to lift that heel just to get a good turn.

    But remember: When I do these swing "breakdowns," I'm just trying to see if I can find one or two things the players do that make them successful, then look for a way that a weekend player might be able to use that knowledge to post a better score. That flat left heel is an adveantage in her game -- it certainly helped her hit that ridiculous GIR this past week! -- and using that technique to help improve your GIR was a way most players could use it if they want to and if they find it helps.

    If you're making a swing that doesn't require a huge shoulder turn, shortening your swing so you can keep that left heel down -- and thus stabilize your body so you don't move around so much -- might help improve your GIR. It might even help on days that you can't keep your driver in the fairway and there's a lot of trouble down the sides. It's just an option that most players never consider, and I wanted to remind them of it. In my book, scoring ability trumps a textbook swing everytime.

    BTW, your vertical beats Phil by about 50%. Have you considered track and field as a second career? ;-)

  3. Oh, one other thing... Bear in mind that you don't have to use this technique on every seing, or even every swing of the same type. Consistency can be a virtue, but it can be a burden as well. It might be that making an unusual change -- like keeping your left heel down -- would solve a specific problem in your game. Using that technique to solve that one problem, but doing everything else normally, would be a smarter move than trying to force your entire game into a single mold.

    As one obvious example, keeping your heel down might help you make better shots when the ball is below your feet. Or perhaps when you need to hit a shot out of the woods, between trees, where accuracy is really important. The rest of the time, you would swing normally. That's the kind of selective use I have in mind.

    In a toolbox you have general purpose tools that you use all the time, and specialized tools that you use only for certain jobs. Think of this "left heel down" swing as a specialized tool.

  4. "Huge shoulder turn"...I remember being able to do's been a while...but I remember it. :-)

    Time to break out the Roger Fredricks stretching DVDs.