Tiger and Sadlowski: Emergence of a New, More Powerful Swing
December 1, 2008
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The last two articles dealt with the tremendously important and difficult to describe transition of the golf swing. The transition is so important because it puts great athletes in position to truly deliver a knockout blow. Now that we've got through that, we'll tackle the most dynamic and powerful move for Tiger or Jamie Sadlowski, the acceleration phase into the ball. If that's not enough to excite you, I'll document the emergence of a new pattern of a golf swing called the Multiple Firing Theory or MFT.Biomechanical Dubiety
Before I get to this, let me discuss some very power-limiting biomechanical theories that have been accepted as the gospel by the golfing community. While there were great champions following this biomechanical model, this is a power-challenged swing that is definitely going to be overtaken (or already has been) by the Tigers and Sadlowski's of the golfing world. But beyond that, for Average Joe's out there, these ideas/models are also potentially the cause of many common errors in the golf swing, most notably, the casting, flipping, and coming over the top can sometimes be traced back to these ideas. Thus for the amateurs, there's going to be a little trickle down benefit from the research of the Great One (or Two).Whip 'Um Theory (WUT)
It seems the biomechanical world has latched onto the questionable WUT concept (in my humble opinion) that of all places came from the world of javelin throwing. Interestingly enough, how does throwing a javelin compare to a golf swing? Similar? Throwing... swinging. Hmmm, maybe it's just me?Well, you can decide. So anyway, what came out of this study was a concept of "Segment Interaction Principle." This basically means that larger, more proximal segments develop initial speed and momentum and transfer their energy, speed and momentum to the smaller, distal segments (the main problem is that this principle applies to rotational movements only while we're looking at translational movements as well). It has been adopted as a reference and paradigm base to the theories of the kinetic chain and kinematic chain (You say tomayto, I say tomawto).
What does this all mean to the golf swing you ask? A lot. So here goes. You take a backswing, start the downswing with your hips, then transfer its energy to the shoulders, then it transfers to the arms, to the wrists, to the hands and eventually it goes out to the club. Sounds great doesn't it?But here's the problem.
When looking at ideal PGA tour graphs that have been posted on websites, the hips have a peak halfway down on the downswing. Then, what exactly do they do for the rest of the downswing? You could ask the same question of the shoulders. If they peak 2/3rds of the way down on the downswing, what do they do the rest of the way? Do they just coast and follow the hands as they hit the ball?
Hmmmmm.There are great players currently using this idea as well as many past champions that use this whip theory. The list would include Tom Lehman, Steve Elkington, Nick Faldo, Byron Nelson, Al Geiberger, Reteif Goosen, Tom Purtzer and more. Many of these players' swings would be described at beautiful, flowing but maybe a tad underpowered. All you need to do is take a look at the post-impact positions of the body and you can sort of tell that they're coasting, bracing, posting and decelerating their hips and shoulders. Remember in the WUT swing, the arms are the only segment at impact. In fact, if you want the clubhead to have maximum speed at impact the arms should decelerate just prior to impact... if you believe in WUT swing.Not that there's anything wrong with that.
But there's a new Sheriff in town and his name isn't Tiger. It's Jamie Sadlowski, King of the World Long Drive Championships. He's doing things that would make Tiger look like a handgun to Jamie's bazooka. So what's different? While Tiger is probably the most prominent to use this type of very athletic swing, he most certainly is not the first. Ben Hogan had a bit of this. Bobby Jones had some of this. Sam Snead did this. Young Jack Nicklaus did this. Current players using MFT are Anthony Kim, JB Holmes, Bubba Watson, Camilo Villegas, and more. The current wave of young players certainly saw Tiger as they were growing up and probably emulated some of what he does whether intentional or not. And the key is they haven't been trained OUT of doing this. Whip 'Um Theory Vs. Multiple Firing TheoryThe simplified whip 'um theory (WUT) sounds so great. I'm sure many of you have bought into it but don't realize how it's hurting you.
This theory is prevalent in baseball pitching but the bad consequences are much more severe. Follow the single whip theory and you'll injure your arm. For golfers, the consequences are less severe. But you will suffer from lack of power and speed. And should you have the genetics to develop speed, you will undoubtedly suffer from lack of control. If this sounds like you and you want to get off the roller coaster ride, the Multiple Firing Theory (MFT) might be the answer. You'll get more distance and greater accuracy. Yeah, but everyone promises that. Well read on.
MFT So here's the theory.
I believe the human body is capable of multiple firings within the .20 - .25 second time frame of the downswing. And we're talking everyone, not just Tiger or Jamie. The muscles of your body can fire like a machine gun if you ask it to. There's a Japanese girl on YouTube that jumps rope to the tune of 151 times in 30 seconds! If she can do that, surely we could burst twice in .25 seconds of the downswing. Human Hip Limitations
The reason we must fire twice on the downswing is because the human body is limited in range of motion in the hips. Since we are standing on the ground our feet and legs become anchors. Instead of spinning like a skater doing a triple toe loop, golfers remain planted to the ground (or are we?).Add in the fact that the axis of hip rotation changes from the right to the left (okay, well some S &Ters just stay left), there are some inherent roadblocks to doing a singular hip fire that will take your body the full range from backswing to follow through. The full range of hip rotation might cover about 135 degrees or more.
This means going from 45 degrees turned away from the target on the backswing to facing your navel at the target on the follow through. This is a huge range of motion, is it likely that you can go that far on one hip burst?Breaking it downIf you've been following my last two articles dealing with the transition, you will be about halfway down on the downswing at the end of transition. Tiger's left arm is about horizontal or at the 9 o'clock position at this point. Jamie, due to his longer backswing, is at about 11 o'clock and ready to fire. This is the appropriate time for one of those caveats used all the time on those stuntman shows. "This is a professional stunt driver. Don't try this at home."
If you've tried to do a closed hip slide and have transferred your hips to the left side, you SHOULD feel stuck at this point. What's happening is a load is being placed on your left leg. A stretch shorten cycle has been ignited but it will take a HUGE amount of energy expended on your part to complete the swing.Movements of Jamie or TigerLateral motion
The end of transition completes the lateral motion for the truly long hitters. Those that are still sliding or moving laterally from this point till impact are losing speed potential. A great analogy would be like having a door trying to slam shut while the hinge and doorjamb is moving away.
Kind of hard to do, yet many golfers do this. *Actually Jamie uses a little different type of left side loading. It is more similar to a hockey slapshot. But we'll leave that discussion for a later time.Vertical and Rotational motion
The other two moves are vertical jump and rotational twist. So I call it a jump/twist move. The analogy would be like an ice skater doing the preparation for a triple jump. They would lower their body, counter-rotate slightly, then jump and twist, except we won't leave the ground.
In order to get the most from your body, these two moves are essential.move your entire weight vertically up and rotate in order to complete the MFT swing. The second firing needs to be really explosive and it needs to drive you through the last 90 degrees of hip rotation till the end of the swing.
In a biomechanical graph, this means that Tiger has two velocity peaks for his hips and shoulders. His second hip velocity peak occurs just prior to impact and this "slingshots" his shoulders (2nd firing) into the ball with maximum force. Ben Hogan did this as well. But Jamie's swing is even more violent and powerful. His hips and shoulders reach their 2nd velocity peaks right at impact. All of this adds to his speed AND effective mass at impact. The added mass of his body firing at high speed right at impact will add to his smash factor and higher ball speeds at impact. This is sledgehammering at its finest.
Hand and Arms Role
The MFT swing is really quite complicated in its view of the arms. One problem with studying the arms is that there are inherent trunk movements that are influencing the arm movements therefore it cannot be separated out fully (we have done some study on this subject but the results are too complicated).
In other words, if one can rotate the trunk fast, it definitely adds to the speed of the arms, but that doesn't mean that the arms are doing the majority of the work. Your whole body (or maybe Jamie's and Tiger's) is putting all its energy into the shot and this adds to the stability of the arm and added effective mass to the shot. The end result is that the ball goes farther.
What, what, what, WUT?
Contrast that to the WUT swing. If you're transferring energy from your hips to your shoulders (via deceleration), then transferring from your shoulders to arms (via deceleration), then arms to wrists and hands (via deceleration), then what are you hitting with? Your hands at impact?
Correct! And the "experts" would have you believe that the faster you decelerate your larger segments, the speed and momentum will be transferred at a more optimum rate. So braking harder makes you go faster?
As Mr. Spock on Star Trek would say, "illogical." I say, what WUT?
Secret Root Cause of Casting and Flipping
If your hips and shoulders slow down too early in the downswing (because no one told it to fire again), then naturally conservation of angular momentum takes over and all speed and energy goes to the hands. Voila! We are casting! At the very least, without one's shoulders firing at high speeds at impact, we get a hand flip. It just can't be helped. We flip because we don't fire our hips and shoulders again. And we don't fire our hips and shoulders again because we're not supposed to. So you see it's a vicious cycle that you can't get out of... until you change your paradigm. Yes, you need to know how to use your hands but if you don't use your body properly, nothing outside of hitting hundreds of thousands of balls with major compensations will make you better. And no one has time for that unless you want to quit your day job.
Over the Top Move
Inadvertently, the WUT swing can cause people to get anxious and hit from the top. Logically, if your hips are going to fire just once, you better do it fast, hard, and right from the start of the downswing. Did I just describe how people come over the top?
Contrast that to the MFT swing that allows time for "positioning" of the body to really fire hard at impact. This positioning or getting into position can and should be done at a slower tempo than the 2nd half of the downswing. Since we're moving the entire body weight during transition, this cannot happen too fast or an incorrect spinning move will occur thereby ruining chances for a good 2nd firing.
How many times have we heard get it in the slot? Or the magic move? This will be much easier to do knowing that you have a 2nd fire on the way to really pound it when it counts. Brings to mind the concept of hit impulse. Perhaps the biggest reason we have a hit impulse is because we haven't figured out that we're supposed to fire twice like a cannon going off two times in succession. Boom, BOOM!
WUT Code Words to Avoid like the PlagueCertain words or phrases, when uttered by golf teachers, give you a clue as to which type of swing theory they believe in. Note, these rules are applicable when describing the downswing. So if you want to learn to double fire your hips on the downswing, avoid these moves or UNmoves.
Quiet lower body – this means they don't believe in firing your hips again.
Brace or posting – these words are passive, meaning that you don't really fire the hips or legs again. Just put them legs there and wonderful results will take place. Not!
Re-hinging the wrists – this can happen much sooner if your body is not moving. Beware; this describes a flip release and an arm swing.
Keep your spine angle – there are two ways to keep your spine angle. One is to leave your butt out and head down in a motionless state at impact. The other is to fire your hips and clear them out as both Tiger and Jamie do.
Stay down, don't lift your head, etc. – similarly to keeping your spine angle, staying down is strictly for amateurs.
Don't jump – well, Jim McLean wrote his findings in Golf Digest when he found that on average the tour pros had an average hip rise at impact of 4.53" whereas amateurs rose up only 0.50" on average. It's more "do as I say, not as I do" type of instruction.
Effortless – this one is like a hanging curveball.
If you want a faster car do you get a hybrid Prius, which is gas efficient but only 110 horsepower? Or do you get a gas guzzling Bugatti that has an 8 Liter, 16 cylinder, quad turbo, 1001 horsepower engine that can reach 250 miles per hour. Argggggggggh arggggh. (Tim the toolman Taylorspeak). You don't get something for nothing. If you want maximum speed, it takes horsepower and max effort. The WUT swing might be effortless, but will have far less power.
There's so much more to cover with this new MFT swing. There is more to come. But the writing is on the wall. Courses are getting longer. More Tiger's are on the way. And the game is changing for the better. Don't get stuck in a time warp with the WUT swing of the 70's. Be hip, be powerful and play this game like an athlete rather than a ballet dancer.