Let me start this article by making one thing very clear – I am the biggest Tiger Woods fan EVER! If it wasn’t for Tiger, I don’t know if I’d be doing what I’m doing now. He not only made me a fan of his, but an even bigger fan of the game. With that said, I do feel a need to be objective and measurable in everything that I do in regards to analyzing golf swings and I’d like to explain why Tiger’s head drops very visibly during his swing and how it’s challenging his driver.
Being at GolfTEC, I’m afforded huge opportunities to measure golf swings on a daily basis using our 3d motion measurement technology and the data we’ve collected on hundreds of tour players to correct patterns of movement and help golfers of all levels improve. Let’s start with what’s measured.
The motion that we’ll be talking about is forward/backward bend, as previously mentioned in another article by Mike Ray, which can be found here: What Is Bending in the Golf Swing? Here are some numbers to take note of: The tour average shoulder bend with the driver is 29 degrees forward at setup and the hip bend is 12 degrees forward (note: my setup numbers are 23 degrees forward with the shoulders and 9 degrees forward with the hips as seen in Picture 1 below). As mentioned in Mike’s article, golfers will lose their forward bend in the backswing and move towards a backward bend. What is interesting to note is that tour averages show these tour players return to the setup numbers (or close to them) again in the downswing as seen in picture 2.
Why do tour players return closer to the numbers at address? Well, it helps generate massive clubhead speed by adding a vertical force through the golf swing, as well as rotational and lateral force. Think of it like a power squat with the highest weight you would be able to lift in the gym. It’s a good move when executed correctly, but when overdone, you can have large problems hitting the ground before the ball. Picture 3 below illustrates this motion in action. However, you’ll see that my head dips when making this move. A side-by-side comparison (Pictures 3 & 4) to the swing where I dip with the swing where I don’t dip shows where my head started and where it is here before impact. But check out the numbers, significantly more forward bend!
So why does Tiger (and other tour players) do this? Well, all the reasons I stated above. Massive clubhead speed gains can come from this and Tiger’s always had an infatuation with long ball hitters. However, as Charles Barkley has said, “Father time is undefeated.” Tiger’s battle with father time continues as he strives to keep up with the Bubba Watsons and Rory McIlroys of the world. Injury and inconsistency have made his last few years a significant challenge on the course.
Now take a look at Picture 5 to the right. This swing illustrates what can happen if you don’t increase forward bend enough during the downswing. Do you have a problem topping the golf ball? If so, it’s very likely your swing looks similar to this one during your downswing. I don’t have nearly enough forward bend at this position, and my head is pulling AWAY from the ground.
So what’s ideal for long term performance and consistency during your downswing? Keeping your head in the same spot. This can be done even with the infamous “Tiger drop” as described above but you will return your head to the position it started.
The best way to measure your hip and shoulder bends and see where your head is throughout your golf swing is to visit your local GolfTEC and get your swing on video. Talk to a local GolfTEC Coach today!