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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dexter's Back!

As most of you probably remember, I've been trying to help Dexter over at Golf Tips & Quips improve his swing. After our initial round where we used a one-piece takeaway to eliminate his over-the-top move, I needed to see how he's doing so we could figure out the next step.

Here's the post where Dex posted the videos of his new swing. It has nine videos. He posted the original video of his old swing, followed by four videos of his new swing -- two different angles of both his driver and an 8-iron -- and four videos of his friend "the Doctor" (no relation to the BBC character) with the same clubs.

You really should go and look at the first two videos. I have to tell you, I'm incredibly proud of what Dex has done. For all the credit he gives me, all I did was help him identify the main cause of his problem and give him a drill; he's done all the work on his own. Some players struggle for years with an over-the-top swing; Dex has all but eliminated his in just a few months.

But Dex is still having some problems with consistency. And his friend (who I'll just call Doc) asked me if I had any advice for him. So today I want to take a look at some stills from the videos to identify what Dex needs to work on next. In each of these stills, Dex is on the left and Doc is on the right.

Ironically, he and Doc are having the same problem but for different reasons. That's why it can sometimes be difficult to find the true cause of a problem. Since this is a common one, I'm going to explain both.

In this first still I've drawn a line from the ball through their hands at about halfway back. This isn't intended to be a "desired plane"; rather, I just want to emphasize the problem: Both players are twisting their forearms on the way back. Their arms have started the club back along the line I've drawn but they've twisted their arms so the shaft points somewhere below that line. That means the club wants to go in one direction and they're trying to swing it in a different one. Because of this, they're fighting the club during their backswings, and this causes a lot of inconsistency in their swings.

Dex and Doc takeaway

The way they do this is different for each. Dex keeps his left elbow closer to his side (way to do that takeaway, Dex!) and is rotating his forearms. He feels like this puts the club on plane, but he actually turns it too far under the plane. We've talked about this before and he's worked on it some; if you compare this pic with that first video of his, you'll see he's turning less... but he's still turning too much.

Technically, Doc doesn't twist his forearms. Instead, he rotates his entire arm! See how his left elbow is pointed away from his side? If you look closely, you can even see the background sky between his arm and chest. This not only twists the club off-plane, but it puts him in a bad position to come down, as we can see in the following two stills -- the top one with the driver, the 2nd with the 8-iron:

Dex and Doc at contact

Dex and Doc arm fold

As you can see clearly in the 2nd still, Doc has a "chicken wing" followthrough. That's because his lifted elbow at the top of his backswing causes him to make what feels like a powerful move to him -- he pulls the club through impact with his left tricep and lat. By comparison, Dex's left elbow is still near his side and he's standing more erect. (That's what some teachers call "staying connected." And that's a good move, Dex -- a really good move!)

That pulling action is also causing Doc to pull his swing across the ball. See the arrows pointing to the ball in the top still? Dex thought he had a poor launch angle with his driver, but it's actually pretty good. You can't get an exact launch angle measurement from these pics, but Dex's measures about 10° and Doc's about 30°. The ideal launch angle is around 12°, so Dex is very close. Doc's pull is a glancing blow that shoots the ball upward.

That's even more clear in this last still. See how Dex's clubhead is nearly in a straight line with his hands halfway to his finish? That's because he's kept his hands in front of him. (Really good job, Dex!) Doc's hands are in nearly the same position, but look at how far ahead of the clubhead they are. That's a sure sign that he's pulling across the ball. Note that the ball has started off pretty straight -- that's because he squared the clubface pretty well, and the clubface position has the most effect on initial ball flight. (If you've forgotten how that works, the first of 5 posts on the new ball flight laws is here. They're dated from Dec 15-18, and there are two on the 16th.)

Dex and Doc post contact

So what both Dex and Doc need to do is correct that over-rotation of their arms during the backswing. In the next post I'll give them a drill to teach them both the proper movement of their arms though the entire swing -- or rather, teach them what they should feel in order to get the proper movement. That's what is really tripping them up.


  1. Can't wait for your post tomorrow. I don't want to fight my club anymore. I'm a peaceful guy. I would rather just go with the flow:-D

    This is all good stuff Mike and thanks for the compliments. I have been working hard and it is paying off now that I have the right information.

    Just curious. When I have the 8-iron in my hands, am I still below the line that you drew in the first still. I know my takeaway is too flat with my driver but I feel like my takeaway with my irons is more along your line. But I'm guessing that it is not or else I would probably be more consistent.

    BTW. Did you watch The Golf Fix on Monday? There was a question from a facebook user who talked about getting too flat on his takeaway. It looked exactly like my old swing when the shaft was parallel with the ground. So glad those days are gone.

  2. Mike,

    Thanks so much for the info. I feel I can really "get" what your trying to say with the aid of the stills. I've been trying to get back to basics and finally had an "aha" moment when thinking about my tempo. I will definately work on NOT rotating that arm AND getting rid of the chicken wing.

    I know I have quite a bit of work to do and watching Dex improve is my inspiration. It's amazing what hard work and a little attention to detail can get ya!!

    I look forward to your next post.

  3. Glad it helps, guys.

    Dex -- Yes, you're twisting your forearms even with the 8-iron. Your takeaway is good -- really good, Dex, I mean that! -- but the momentum of the club is going flatter than the motion of your hands, so it pulls your hands onto a flatter plane. Once we stop those twisting forearms, everything will start to sync up on its own and you should pick up both consistency and clubhead speed.

    Doc -- I'm going to tell you the same thing I told Dex originally. You aren't as far off as you think you are. Simple changes can have huge effects on your swing; that's why Tiger and Phil often say they're "close" even when they're spraying shots all over the place.

    Don't think about not doing things. I'll give you simple things in the drill to focus on so the "nots" will stop on their own. We're going to make these changes as simple and painless as possible. This is a game, not brain surgery!

    BTW, in many ways your problem is simpler to fix than Dexter's. Because you're used to turning your forearm and upper arm as a single unit, the correction may actually take less work on your part. There's so much good in your swing that I don't want you to get hung up on a couple of relatively minor problems.

    And thinking about tempo improves everything. ;-)