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Friday, July 3, 2020

Mike Bender on the Downswing (Video)

I picked this admittedly controversal video because the controversy comes from mixing the various methods for swinging a club. Take a look:

Mike Bender is no stranger to controversy, having helped develop the Stack and Tilt swing method. [CORRECTION: It was Mike Bennett who helped create SnT, a classic example of "misremembering" on my part. But Bender does say that this video can be controversial so at least my mistake didn't invalidate my point. Thanks for the catch, Stephen!] SnT was built on some solid principles but instructors love to fight over the "right" way to swing, so SnT attracted some serious debate back when it was popular.

But here's the rub: SnT is just as valid as any other swing method if you keep the basics of the method clear in your mind. And the basics are usually built around the simple truth that different people move in different ways. A "textbook" swing will work for you if you have a "textbook" body -- that is, if you have a body that can perform those swing mechanics in a natural way. If your body can't perform some of the mechanics the way that method requires, then a textbook swing is not for you.

It's the same story with any swing method. And if you blend conflicting swing mechanics from various methods and don't realize you've done so, you can end up with something that doesn't fit anybody's body!

Bender is talking about the great divide in swing mechanics: Should you focus on arm swing or leg drive?

The answer is... it depends. Let me give you a quick and dirty lesson on how the two work together.

From the strictly mechanical perspective of physics, your legs ALWAYS start your downswing. To change direction at the top of your swing, you need the friction created between your feet and the ground to make that change.

But that doesn't mean you feel it that way, or even that it works the same way for everybody.

At its simplest, the basic shape of your swing -- that is, whether you have an upright swing or a flat swing -- determines how much of your swing is legs and how much is arms.
  • If you have a flat swing (that is, your hands are at shoulder level or lower at the top of your backswing), your body has to turn a lot to get your hands back to that direction change. In that case, you have to use a lot more rotary body action and that means you have to drive your legs a lot more.
  • By comparison, if you have an upright swing (that is, your hands are above shoulder level at the top of your backswing), your body doesn't have to do as much. Instead, you have to move your arms up a lot higher to get to the direction change. That means you don't need as much rotary body action but your arms have to do a lot more work.
In each case your body works a bit differently. Flat swings tend to be shorter (check out Jon Rahm's move) while upright swings tend to be long (Bubba Watson is a good example). Players who are thinner and more flexible (like Justin Thomas) are more likely to be upright than a stouter and less flexible player, although that's not necessarily a given. A less flexible player may find an upright swing with a smaller body turn is easier to manage (Colt Knost comes to mind), and "stout" may simply mean the player has a bulkier, more muscular body. (Bryson DeChambeau, anyone?) And a fairly thin player may choose to swing really flat (like Matt Kuchar).

The point here is that leg drive VS arm swing is more about how your swing fits your body than about a "correct" golf swing. I tend to focus more on arm swing on this blog simply because that swing has been somewhat neglected until recently and I think more people should be trying it.

But EVERY swing uses BOTH sources of power. It's just a matter of which is the more dominant power source in your swing, and which lets you play the best.

And that, my friends, is determined by your body, not a swing method.


  1. Mike,If I am not mistaken, Mike Bender did not create stack and tilt. Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer did. I believe Bender is part of the TGM family. Unless Mike and Andy took lessons from him I dont know of him having much to do with stack and tilt.

    1. You are 100% correct, Stephen. I “misremembered” the name. That has happened to me in the past as well. Fortunately I have attentive readers like you to correct my errors. ;-)