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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Quick Look at Na Yeon Choi's Swing

Na Yeon Choi is 5'5" tall and averages just over 252 yards off the tee. That's 56th on the LPGA, which is considerably better than average.

She also hits over 73% of her fairways, which puts her 75th. That would be incredible on the PGA Tour but it's just average on the LPGA.

Since she won in Arkansas on Sunday, I thought I'd do a quick post about her swing -- in particular, something that I think is a real strength of hers. This is a short video, only 35 seconds long, but it shows her swing several times and gradually slows it down. It's just a face-on view but it's recent and it shows what I want you to see.

NYC's swing, like that of most of the Korean players, is very simple and mechanically sound. But I want you to notice how balanced, how rhythmic, how smooth it is. Although she's hitting it pretty hard -- and developing quite a bit of swing speed in order to hit the ball as far as she does -- she doesn't appear to be going at it that hard at all.

The reason is that she avoids exaggeration. By that I mean that she doesn't make big dramatic moves when she doesn't need them. She's not moving off the ball on her backswing, she's not lurching forward at impact, and she doesn't squat down dramatically and then jump up off the ground in an effort to create more swing speed.

What she's doing is using her club as a tool. She swings it and lets it do the work of launching the ball. It's entirely proper to say that she NAILS the shot because she uses her club like a hammer. She can do this because, although she's swinging as fast as she can, she's trying to keep her muscles relaxed throughout the swing. Relaxed muscles can move faster than tight muscles, and she doesn't have to lurch back and forth because almost all of the energy is going into the club.

If you've ever swung a tennis racket or thrown a Frisbee™, you know this feeling. There's a sense of... let me call it "gathering yourself" as the top of your backswing. It's not really a pause because you don't stop moving. It's just a moment in your swing when you change direction.

If you exaggerate your lower body movement when you start down, you'll destroy this feeling. I often recommend that you try to feel as if you were falling from the top of your backswing, literally just relaxing your legs so both feet are planted solidly on the ground and your hips automatically move forward a bit. If you don't interfere with the start of your downswing, your lower body WILL start your move into the ball; it's physically impossible to change direction any other way.

Watch Na Yeon Choi's swing a few times, try to imagine what it feels like, and then try to duplicate it. Imitation is one of the easiest ways to learn tempo and speed.


  1. I saw a Clay Ballard post an analysis on Ms Choi's swing ( where he criticized her post on to her lead leg. He seems to have missed your article on "Norwegian Wood" extolling the virtues of a center post swing -- or have I missed something? Since I'm at the Consciously Incompetent level and a center post swinger, I have a certain interest and I'm afraid your are my designated filter.

    1. First of all, I'm honored to be your filter! I'll try to live up to your expectations.

      Now, about that post-up move...

      Clay's swing theory is heavily based in biomechanics -- not a bad thing by any means, but it does mean he approaches things differently with a different goal. Clay is very concerned with developing power, while NYC's swing is primarily concerned with developing speed.

      Yes, there IS a difference. Tiger's swing -- bear in mind that this video is from back in 2012 -- is very much Hogan-based, the video being from early in the Foley era. They are focused on using his legs to load the shaft. The swing is flatter and thus more rotary. (Notice the name of Clay's website?) This is a stiff-shaft swing.

      By comparison, NYC is using an older style of swing that's more upright and is probably using a much softer shaft. Loading the shaft isn't as important as quick movement, which means she's using her arms a lot more in the swing. That's bad in Clay's system but it's not bad when the swing is designed for it.

      NYC's swing is much more upright, which automatically means her leg movement appears less energetic although she's using her lower body quite a bit. Instead of a rotary swing (Hogan-style) her swing is more up-and-down (like Sam Snead or Byron Nelson).

      This is important: Note that NYC's head stays pretty still from setup until impact. This is Jack Nicklaus's style -- a very powerful style -- it almost forces you to post up. If NYC is "spinning out" as Clay suggests, then so did Jack. I think it's safe to say he didn't!

      So don't let Clay's critique bother you. This is just a typical difference between swing styles -- NYC swings using one "method of instruction" while Clay is analyzing it using another one. Clay is correct as far as his method goes... but if NYC tried to do what he says, she'd never hit the greens.

      And as she demonstrated in Arkansas, she's VERY GOOD at hitting greens. ;-)