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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How Inbee Does It

Inbee Park is proof that you don't need a spectacular, awe-inspiring swing to rip your opponents to shreds. A couple of days ago I discovered I hadn't done a post on her -- and was surprised that I hadn't, to be blunt -- so her second major is a good reason to correct that little oversight!

Looking at Inbee's stats, you might be surprised that she plays so well. She averages just over 245 off the tee, only 62nd on Tour and not that long for a 5'6" woman. She hits 70% of her fairways -- better than my Rule of 67, but only 71st among the ladies -- and 71% of her GIR, which puts her at a slightly better 39th on Tour. Doesn't sound so hot, does it?

But she's 6th on Tour in putts per round (28.45) and 2nd in scoring average (70). I'm sure all of you are thinking about those long putts she sank at the Kraft Nabisco, but there's more going on here than that. That 70 average means she averages 2-under each round she plays... but she putts well enough to be 5- to 8-under each round. She simply doesn't 3-putt very often and when she misses the green, she gets up and down more times than not. It's been enough to get her two wins this year, and one of those is a major.

This video from around a year ago shows her swing face-on. Notice how good her basics are -- a one-piece takeaway, which means she's connected to start her swing; she stays connected and doesn't sway on the way back; she stays centered between her feet as she starts down (that is, there's no huge hip slide toward the target), and she finishes nice and balanced. Her swing doesn't even look that powerful, does it? But it's consistent and repeatable.

What I'd really like to talk about is the "pause" at the top of her swing that many commentators point out. In this slo-mo it's pretty clear that she doesn't really stop, but it's not really obvious why it looks that way at full speed. Here's another video from about a month ago that shows exactly what's happening.

As the slo-mo gets slower and slower, you can see what's going on very clearly. At the top of her backswing, the head of her club actually travels backward and parallel to the ground! Instructors often refer to this as "laying off" the club, and a lot of power hitters like Sergio use the move to increase their wrist cock during their downswing. But those players generally have flatter swings, and that's not what Inbee is doing here.

You probably heard several times this past weekend how upright Inbee's swing is. (It's not as upright as Thaworn Wirantchant's, but it's not far off.) The key here is her trailing elbow. If you watch the progressively slower downswings -- especially the 3rd one -- you can see that she's actually twisting her elbow away from her body as she hits the ball! I suspect she had trouble with a push at some time in the past (meaning her swing comes from the inside much more than she'd like) so she started trying to square the club up better during her downswing. But since she probably wasn't strong enough to twist her forearms the way a lot of the men do, she ended up twisting her entire arm.

Normally that wouldn't be a particularly accurate move -- and I certainly wouldn't recommend it -- but Inbee does the motion with her upper arm rather than her forearms. As a result, she's controlling the move with the large muscles of her trailing shoulder rather than the smaller twitchy muscles of her wrists. That's part of the reason why she's able to be fairly consistent with such an unorthodox move.

But the biggest reason is that so much of her swing is fundamentally solid, that one unorthodox move doesn't wreck her swing. Swings don't have to be perfect to work well; they just have to be dependable... and that describes Inbee Park's swing to a T.


  1. They say "Driving is for show, and putting is for dough".
    Never was that more evident then looking at Inbee's stats for this year.