It’s the morning after Easter (Manila time). The first thing I saw on my Facebook feed was a video of Jason Day and Rory McIlroy side by side.
Day beat McIlroy in the semfinals and went on to win the Dell World Match Play Championship after defeating Louis Oosthuizen in the finals. Day is now #1 in the world rankings. McIlroy is #3.
Two great players. Two great swings. And as you can can see, almost identical.
I was happy until I turned on the audio. I’m not against amateurs trying to copy their idols. In fact, I often use swings of popular golfers to illustrate what can or cannot be done in a swing.
What bothered me was the idea that someone somewhere is going to interpret the commentator’s words as gospel truth, even though his analysis could have been biased, incomplete, or even inaccurate.
So my goal for this article is to identify those things that may have been overlooked unintentionally, as well as maybe challenge some deeply held assumptions that cause confusion for the average golfer.
1. Club at Setup
It appears that the camera wasn’t as squared up to Rory stance as it was with Jason. Nevertheless, they are very similar in terms of the club’s starting position. Most amateurs instinctively start with the clubshaft pointing at the bellly button. Both Jason and Rory have the shaft 90 degrees to the ground and aligned with the left shoulder.
2. Body Angles at Setup
Look how much tilt they have in their shoulders. Most amateurs assume that the shoulders have to be level. Combined with hands behind the ball (shaft pointing at belly button), it’s a sure recipe for a slice.
The reason why Jason and Rory hit so far is not merely because of their physical strength. The secret is SPIN LOFT, which is basically the angle between loft at impact and angle of attack. Their setups are designed to keep this angle as small as possible. More on this later.
Uh… sorry, Sir Nick Faldo. You’re one of my childhood heroes but I have to disagree with you regarding forearm rotation. Check out the position of the right forearm. It’s higher than the left. Most amateurs I see have the left arm above the right at this point. And guess what they’re thinking. Forearm rotation.
Check out how little the shoulders have turned. I say “little” because most amateurs have their backs completely to the target and standing up at this point.
Another area of confusion. You’ve heard it before: Weight should transfer to the right leg on the backswing. The problem is many amateurs stay there until the downswing. Why? Their notion of a smooth transition is that everything should come to a complete stop simultaneously.
Look at the belt buckles of Jason and Rory. Not only are they moving towards the left, they’re also moving downward while their clubs are still swinging back! All great ball-strikers have this “squatting” look.
5. Before Impact
As impressive as the split second “squat” during transition is the split second “spring” before impact. Look how much the belt buckle has moved to the left. And up! Most people focus only on the horizontal dimension of weight shift. The vertical dimension is just as important. Squat and spring. Load and explode.
I’ve heard it countless times before. Impact should resemble address. Absolutely not true.
Look at the hands. They’re on the way up at impact, indicating a shallow angle of attack. The shaft is still leaning forward, indicating reduced loft at impact. Lower loft + shallower angle of attack = lower spin loft. This is what maximizes compression and decreases backspin.
This is the point where the clubshaft finally lines up with the belly button. Incidentally, it’s also where both arms are finally straight. You don’t have to worry about release because it’s a byproduct of other movements. Besides, you don’t really think you can affect the ball when it’s already in the air, do you?
Right hip over left leg. Right shoulder forward and higher than left.
Check out the spine. It may appear to be tilted as it was as address. Think again. The body has gone from bent over to bent backward.
Should you try to imitate them? You can try. Just remember that you are looking at two extremely talented athletes who have unlimited resources. For the average golfer, it’s important to realize that this is not the only way to hit a golf ball.