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Friday, November 27, 2015

Cristie and Inbee's Swings... The Mental Side

I noticed that, based on the number of hits it got, a lot of you were interested in the post I did on that unusual "quirk" in Cristie Kerr and Inbee Park's swings. (We could add Steve Stricker to that group, as well as a number of other players who use variations of their method.) And I think your interest is a good thing because, to paraphrase an old saying, "one swing does NOT fit all."

Inbee Park at top of swing

So, for the next couple of days I'm going to try and teach those of you who are interested what you need to know in order to make a swing like this your own. It's really not that hard but it does require you to know some things that instructors don't often talk about on TV or in books.

In my original post I wrote that learning this swing is "as much a mental adjustment as a physical one." Tomorrow we'll look at how the physical adjustments work but today I'll focus on those mental adjustments. And understanding these mental adjustments will probably help improve your existing swing as well, no matter what it looks like.

The more I study the differences between classic swings and modern swings, the more I realize that the differences are caused by THE SHAFTS. The classic swing developed around soft but inconsistent shafts, the modern swing around consistent but stiff shafts. The classic swing fell out of favor not because it was an inferior swing but because the equipment was inferior. Without going into a lot of detail -- I can do that later if you guys tell me you need it -- the fact is that now we have soft shafts that are as consistent as stiff shafts, so these days we have a choice.

However, these days we also have a new problem: Modern golf has become brainlocked because of an obsession with Hogan and Trackman. Don't misunderstand me -- I'm not saying Hogan or Trackman are evil! But Hogan's technique demands stiff shafts, so Trackman studies focus on stiff shaft performance, so no one takes soft shaft technique seriously anymore -- even though Hogan's technique hasn't created a huge number of major winners.

To see what I mean, look at this Wikipedia list of golf's major winners. You'll see that very few of the multiple major winners have followed Hogan's lead -- which, if Hogan's approach was really that much more superior, you'd see more multiple winners who use Hogan's approach. After all, Hogan's techniques are nearly 60 years old now, which is plenty of time for them to have demonstrated their dominance.

Instead, just going down through the 5-time winners, the only ones that would likely fall in that category are Tiger (for his later majors under Haney), Hogan (of course), and perhaps Gary Player and Nick Faldo. If one player has had more influence than any other on major winners, it would appear to be either Bobby Jones or Sam Snead... and both originally played soft shafts, which affected Snead's technique even after he changed to steel.

The reason I spent so much time on this is because soft shaft technique requires a different mental focus than stiff shaft technique. "Softies" tend to focus on hand and arm movement while "Stiffies" focus on lower body movement. And this focus difference has a huge effect on how we swing the club.

Why is this true? It's all about loading the shaft. Soft shafts loaded easily, so players focused on controlling how much they loaded with their hands and arms. But it takes a lot more force to load a stiff shaft, so players had to create more power during their swing... and hands and arms alone just aren't strong enough to do that.

So -- and this is the important mental point -- "Stiffies" (like Hogan) built their games on developing power to load the shaft, which then had to be converted to clubhead speed. But "Softies" didn't have to worry about loading the shaft, so they simply focused on speed. If you follow that line of development out, the "Softies" ultimately end up with a simpler swing since they only have to worry about one thing... but the difference in focus makes the swing feel different.

Which brings us to Cristie and Inbee's (and other similar players') swings. Although everybody is using their whole body to make their swing, and while the fundamentals they use are all basically the same, what they actually THINK ABOUT during their swings can be very different. So if you want to swing more like Cristie or Inbee, you'll probably have to focus differently than you do now.

Let me flash you back to some recent posts I've done, featuring thoughts from some very different players at different points in time.
  • From What Bobby Jones Said About Slow-Motion Video: "...But even slow-motion pictures need interpretation. The one great difficulty from the standpoint of the average golfer has been in separating the consciously controlled movements from those that are purely instinctive."
  • From Jeff Flagg on Hitting It Long: "IN TRUTH, MY HIPS LEAD THE DOWNSWING. But I don't think about that. They just do. Do you think pitchers, quarterbacks or javelin throwers think about clearing their hips before they throw? Their arms dictate all of that motion subconsciously." (Remember, Flagg was the 2014 REMAX Long Drive Champ.)
  • From Why Shoulder Turn Is Important: "If we just get our shoulders fully coiled at the top of our backswings, then starting the downswing with our lower bodies is the most natural thing in the world. A full shoulder coil stretches the muscles of your torso, and that tension causes you to shift your weight back and then drive your legs forward to start your downswing."
All of these posts -- and I could find a dozen more if I needed to -- tell us how mental focus during the swing creates the proper fundamentals.

If you want to try a swing more like Cristie or Inbee's, you'll still end up using your whole body -- which includes your hips and legs, of course -- but you'll have to start thinking more about your hands and arms.

To build on what Jones was saying about slo-mo video, you tend to EXAGGERATE what you focus on. When you focus on your hips and legs, you tend to exaggerate the movements -- and since those movements affect your balance and stability, focusing on those movements results in more inconsistent contact. When you try to consciously control movements that should happen subconsciously, you overdo them and get results you didn't plan on.

When you try to swing like Cristie and Inbee -- and Stricks and all those other players -- you'll need to focus more on your hands and arms, which (as Flagg said) is what you naturally do when you play other sports. Using your hands and arms this way is so natural to you that you focus less on movements and more on TARGETS, and that helps you keep it all in balance.

Tomorrow I'll give you some help learning the physical side of swinging like they do. It's really not hard once you understand what you're trying to do.


  1. I eagerly anticipate your blog first thing I read every morning. Can't wait to read how to physically perform Inbee Parks swing. It seems it would work for me 72 yrs and stiff ,2 years post back surgery . By the way I live in NE Noth Carolina . Do you give lessons ?

    1. Right now I don't give lessons but I do try to answer questions and give personal guidance when people contact me via email, even if it takes several emails. So far that's worked pretty well and it doesn't cost you anything.

      The Internet is a wonderful thing, isn't it?