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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This Rookie Is Good

As usual, I want to take a look at the swing of this week's winner -- in this case, Russell Henley. The problem, common with many of the newer players, is a lack of video -- especially slo-mo video. We're going to try and make do here, however.

This first video is a couple of years old. It only shows a down-the-line view, but it's worth seeing:

During Sunday's coverage there was talk that Russell had shortened his swing a bit, but this footage from December (courtesy of GolfWeek) looks pretty much the same length to me, although Russell is standing a bit taller and his swing is bit flatter. (It may simply be that this video shows a driver while the other shows an iron.) This video shows both down-the-line and face-on driver swings, both regular speed and slo-mo:

And this short clip was posted since Russell's win by Brent Mann. I have a couple of comments to add after you see it:

Note that Brent is demonstrating the one-piece takeaway that I "preach." Brent is showing a couple of differences from what I normally tell you, and I want to explain why they're there.

The reason for the club face position being tilted at the spine angle -- rather than pointing straight up, the way I teach -- is a matter of technique. First of all, Brent is restricting his hip turn more than I expect most of you to do. This is partially because Brent is making a shorter and flatter swing than I usually teach. (You can see that in his demonstration.)

As I have said at other times, there's nothing wrong with a flatter shorter swing; Jason Dufner is just one of the many players who swing that way. But a flatter shorter swing causes your lead arm to stay more "under" you when you make your takeaway, so the club face appears to be tilted on your spine angle, as he says. It also has to do with connection in your golf swing, about which I have several posts on this blog. Brent is much more "Hogan-esque" in his connection, by which I mean he keeps his upper arms a bit tighter to his side than I teach.

Many of you aren't flexible enough to do that and make a long swing. When I teach connection, I allow your lead elbow to move out a bit from your side... which also means your lead upper arm "rolls" a bit upward on your chest as you swing. That rolling action cause the face of the club to point more upward. (Brent will get that rolling action as well but his upper arm won't "roll" until his trailing elbow bends, at which point it happens fairly quickly at the top. Mine happens gradually throughout the backswing.)

The difference between what Brent is saying and what I'm saying basically comes down to how tight you keep your lead elbow against your side, which also helps determine whether your swing is flatter or more upright.

However, the rest of what he says mirrors what I tell you almost exactly! You don't want your forearms to start rolling on the backswing because that causes you to "lay off the club" and starts the looping motion that can cause an over-the-top move. Again, what I teach assumes a bit of rotation at your lead shoulder joint, which happens naturally if you don't keep your lead elbow as tight against your side as Hogan would have. And, since that "roll" happens naturally on the backswing, it also "unrolls" naturally on the downswing.

And you don't want to just lift the club straight up because that disconnects your swing and gets it up over the swing plane you were so careful to start with your one-piece takeaway. The club starts moving upward when your trailing elbow bends, and that elbow shouldn't bend until your hands are around waist high.

The quieter your hands and forearms are throughout your swing, the easier it is to make solid contact with the ball. That's the primary reason Russell Henley was so solid all week... and it's how you can be solid too.

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