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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Pettersson's "Sway"

After going to see the final round at the CIMB Classic, Ramzi had asked about Dufner's waggle -- which I wrote about yesterday -- and also about Carl Pettersson's apparent sway. Ramzi commented:
Also saw Carl Petterson teeing off, he was confidently hitting/tapping on top of the ball to get the right tee height. He also has this quasi-sway to the right when he starts his backswing. Why does he do that?
Here's what I wrote back in the comments:
As for Carl, that isn't a sway. He's moving behind the ball -- a move that Carl Rabito, the PGA teaching pro who taught me, also teaches. I generally don't teach it because I think you either do it naturally when you try to stay steady over the ball or you end up with a full-blown sway. I found a YouTube video by PGA teaching pro Brian Manzella that demonstrates it. It's in the first couple of minutes.
And here's that video I mentioned:

Just to make things clear, here are a couple of videos of Carl swinging an iron from slightly different angles. The reason for the second one will become clear shortly:

The easiest way I could think of to show Carl's move is with a "time-lapse" photo. First I took stills of his address, top of backswing position, and just after impact. Then I layered them, made sure his feet were in the same place in all three, and faded them together. Here's the result:

If you look closely, you can see that most of the side-to-side movement is with his hips. His head is tallest at address, then moves slightly downward as his hips swing backward, then turns toward the target as he makes his downswing. His head really doesn't move much, and that's why I included the second video -- from the angle it was shot, you can see just how much his head turns during his swing. It's that head turn that makes it look like he moves so much.

In Carl's case, this hip movement also contributes to that little out-to-in move in his downswing. (No, it's not really an over-the-top move because his hands don't move outward toward the ball until AFTER he starts down. In an over-the-top swing, the hands move outward while the hands are still going up.)

I think Carl makes this move because he isn't as flexible as some other players. If you watch the videos, you can see his left heel come off the ground before he ever reaches the top of his backswing. (You Stack'n'Tilters out there can leave a comment if I'm wrong, but his move actually reminds me a little of the S'n'T hip move. His head stays fairly centered -- in his case, just behind the ball -- while his lower body moves quite a bit back and through.)

The key to his success here is that his head stays in pretty much the same vertical position throughout his swing, despite the way it looks. It's a slightly unorthodox move but it's repeatable for Carl. I think it's his adaptation to his inflexibility... and it works very well indeed.


  1. Thanks again Mike for the great article.

    Is that weight shift back similar to Monty's sway looking swing?

    What are the major risks trying to emulate Carl? Is it an easy & repeatable technique?

  2. I think it is. Monty drops his head more on his downswing and he drops his club inside at the top so he has an in-to-out swing, but otherwise the motion is about the same.

    An important thing to note: Colin's left foot comes off the ground even sooner than Carl's. I think that helps him drop the club inside on his downswing. Lifting your lead foot earlier encourages the extra hip movement back and through.

    The major risk if you try to copy Carl is that you might start swaying your upper body. Like my "layered" picture shows, his head really doesn't move around very much. Most golfers move a lot more than they feel that they're moving. If you start consciously trying to copy Carl's move, you may start overdoing it and moving your head too far away from the target during your backswing.

    If you do that, you have to move your head forward the same amount on the downswing in order to hit the ball solidly. The more movement you add to your swing, the more opportunities you have to mess up. So I wouldn't call it "an easy & repeatable technique." As I said, I think Carl is trying to stay steady over the ball but limited flexibility forces him to move that way. That's different from trying to make the move on purpose.

    Assuming you want to try it: Rather than trying to copy the move, I'd recommend trying to stay steady over the ball and just let your lead heel come off the ground sooner. You're more likely to get a good result by doing that. Remember: All movement in the golf swing starts from the ground.

    1. Thanks Mike. Always great stuff from you.

      One think that also helps Carl in my opinion even though he is inflexible, he definitely has height. I was below the elevated teebox but I sensed he was slightly taller than 6 feet.

    2. You're close. lists him at 5'11" tall which, according to this height chart I found, is average for Swedish men.