TrackMan: A valuable teaching tool

Trackman

I had an opportunity to get on TrackMan today.  If you have not had the opportunity to try it I highly recommend it.  Sterling Farms, in Stamford CT will let you get on the TrackMan launch monitor for $110/hr.

What a great experience!  Trackman is much more advanced than I had thought based on what I’ve seen on the Golf Channel.  It is so much more than just getting your launch numbers.

I was really surprised at the amount of information that it generates, especially when you see the teaching modules for it.  Along with tracking the golf ball, it also tracks the clubhead through the impact zone.    The 3D club view is awesome and it was truly eye opening to see what the club was doing through impact in a way that video analysis just can’t do.

The teaching modules in TrackMan can show you things that you really can’t get in a regular teaching session because everything the instructor describes can be shown on the screen and in 3 dimensions.  In a short session I was able to make some huge improvements in my swing and ball compression.

Six Finger Swing

Gotham Golf Blog has an excellent drill posted on it.  It’s called the four finger swing.

I practiced with a variation of it today(the 6 finger swing) and I found it extremely helpful. You hold the club with the thumb, index, and middle finger of each hand in a golf grip.  That gives you just enough leverage that it’s easier to do a full swing, but it gives the club enough freedom to move around.

What I found doing this was that when I did the 6-finger swing, the club would set in the right place at the top of the swing on plane and in the right place.  Because you can’t manipulate it as much with your hands, the club follows a natural path.  It gets on plane quickly and stays that way.

On the downswing, again because you only have 6 fingers on the grip, you can’t manipulate the path.  The club takes the natural path down which, for me kept it beautifully on plane.

After doing a few 6-finger swings, I then took my regular grip trying to feel the swing like the the 6-finger swing felt.  It felt very natural and I was able to fully accelerate the club head.  When I looked at the results on video, I was suprised at how well, the 6-finger swing, transitioned to my regular swing.

This could be a great drill to do whenever you are on the course and the swing seems to go off a bit.  A few 6-finger swings could put you back on track.

Spotlight Swing: Hunter Mahan

Hunter Mahan has a wonderful swing that we can learn from.

Hunter’s swing is uncomplicated and allows him to be very consistent.  Watch how he gets on plane, and stays on the same plane coming down.  There is no wasted movement, no extra effort added.  It is a swing that conserves as much energy as possible to be transferred into the ball instead of into compensations.

Doesn’t it just look like a simple, repeatable motion?

One the downswing watch how everything comes down and through the ball together, very nicely synchronized.

Through the ball watch the hip rotation.  He does not overly rotate the hips, everything just remains together and through the ball.  The follow through happens naturally as a result of the swing.

This is an excellent example of a rotary swing.  A simple and effective swing that can serve as a great model for anyone who wants to learn a great rotary swing.

Spine Angle: Maintain or increase through impact

Maintaining or increasing your spine angle is a good fundamental that promotes solid ball striking for a number of reasons.

The role of the spine in the swing

Your spine is the axis around which the swing happens.  If you change your spine angle, say toward the target during the swing, you are changing the axis around which the swing happens and introducing compensations.  Your body will need to compensate in order to try to square the club head at impact.  Tilting your spine angle towards the target forces the club to come from an outside-to-inside path, also known as the slicer’s swing path.  Maintaining or increasing your spine tilt away from the target promotes an inside-to-outside swing path that leads to solid ball striking.

In the following two images you can see where my spine angle started, and how I’ve increased my spine angle away from the target at impact.

Start with a tilt away from the target

Spine1Increase it through impact

Spine2Increasing my spine angle helps to keep my head behind the golf ball and allows me to really compress it.

Bad things that happen when you don’t maintain spine angle away from the target:

  • You become prone to reverse pivot
  • Transitioning to on plane or underplane swing more difficult
  • Compensations take away from generating power and accuracy
  • Causes Out to in swing path leading to slices

Good things that happen when you can maintain it or even increase it:

  • Simple to coil
  • Simple to transition to downswing
  • Easier to maintain plane
  • Less compensation
  • Puts you in ideal position to start downswing
  • Puts you in ideal position at impact

When you find swing videos on youtube of your favorite pros, notice their spine angle.  Find a swing of someone who slices the bell and take a look at their spine throughout the swing.  I think you’ll find some pretty dramatic differences.

I read a statistic that the average tour professional increases their spine angle by 13 degrees.

This does not mean that you need to increase it by 13 degrees.  Start with learning to maintain it on the backswing and without worrying about the downswing.  Once you can do that routinely then you can begin working on maintaining it on the downswing, and finally increasing it if you want to.

One other thing to take away from this post.  Look at the address position.  Make sure that you start with your spine tilting away from the target.  Then just try to maintain it.  They say that 90% of swing errors are caused by a fault in the setup.  Get the setup correct and you are on your way to greatly improving your swing.

Review: SwingJacket

The Swing Jacket guides you through a perfect golf swing

Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend I got the opportunity to attend a golf show in the Albany area.

All of the local pros brought merchandise to sell at moderate to deep discounts and I made some good purchases.

At the last exhibitor, hidden in a corner of their display I spotted a gem.  It was a new, in box, SwingJacket.  Several years ago I had looked into them and really wanted one after seeing the infomercial and reading reviews.

But it was only available for about $120 and they were sold out of them.  So the idea got put on the backburner.

Fast forward to the golf show and I end up picking up the brand new SwingJacket for $20.  Wow!

The SwingJacket comes with a training DVD and a slim manual.  I quickly read through the manual and was too impatient to watch the video.  I slipped it on and went outside to hit some birdieballs (see my review).

Within the first few swings I knew I had made a wise purchase.  The SwingJacket, according to the manufacturer:

The Swing Jacket is the most effective golf training aid ever developed

because it is the only product that physically guides you through all the key swing positions of the perfect, one plane golf swing.  With the Swing Jacket you feel a perfect golf swing while you hit the ball long and straight with any club in your golf bag.  With every other method of game improvement you have to consciously change your swing mechanics.  The Swing Jacket does all the thinking for you as it effortlessly guides you through each swing – perfectly.  You’re now able to focus on the feel of your powerful, accurate new swing instead of a library of confusing and often contradictory swing thoughts.  When every shot you hit is consistently long and straight your body locks that swing into your muscle memory – instantly.

Immediately I felt it putting me in the right positions.  Within a few swings I was hitting the birdieballs longer and straighter.  I was really glad that I bought it.

I took out my video camera (the one that can record up to 240 frames per second) and recorded some swings without the swing jacket and with the swing jacket.

In slow motion I could really see what the jacket was doing.  For me, I believe the one-plane swing is the right one, and the swingjacket really kept me in a perfect swing plane.  It also prevents you from overswinging.  A typical swing fault of amateurs.  The result is a tighter, more efficient and accurate swing that results in hitting the ball, as long, or in my case, quite a bit longer than before.  Although I did not buy it at the retail price I can see how it is worth that much.  I plan on using it all winter to deeply ingrain into my muscle memory the perfect swing plane.

The website currently lists the swing at $119.95.

Use your left knee to generate a powerful on plane swing

hoganglassplane

Sounds weird doesn’t it?  How does the left knee (for a right handed golfer) play a role in a powerful on plane swing?

The answer lies in how it affects two key characteristics of an on plane swing.

1) Spine Tilt

2) Balance

Spine Tilt

Having the right amount of spine tilt and in the right direction is hugely important to coming down on plane.  Maintaining the tilt of your spine slightly away from the target through out the swing is very important for coming down on plane.  The reason is that you turn around your spine on the downsing.  If the angle that your spine is tilted changes, how you rotate around it changes as well, and since the golf swing is a rotational motion that change is dramatic.

Think of a spinning top.  When it’s spinning nicely it’s straight up and down, but as it slows down it starts to wobble.  That wobble is what happens to your swing plane when you lose your spine angle.

Once you start to wobble, it becomes very difficult to swing on plane.  The wobble forces compensations and your swing loses its plane.

2) Balance

A problem that I have had is leaning into the ball on my downswing.  It has been greatly minimized recently but it creeps in here and there.  The problem is that my weight begins to move toward the ball and when that happens, the only to hit the ball is to come outside-in.  However, when I focused on my left knee, keeping it still (but flexed), then the problems of moving my weight toward the ball were gone.  This allowed me to drop the club into the “slot” and make a powerful move into and through the ball.