Analysis of Tiger Woods’ New Swing
In the past two issues I analyzed Tiger Woods’ new setup and backswing, learned under new coach Hank Haney, and provided you with technical insights you can share with your fellow USGTF instructors and, more importantly, students who show a strong desire to learn how to hit more controlled power-fade tee shots.
As you have learned, previously Tiger swung the club back on more of an exaggerated, tilted plane or angle, so that the club had to travel farther from inside the target line on its way to impact. Tiger’s club often became trapped or blocked by his body, so it was natural for him to sometimes react to feeling “stuck” by clearing his hips too briskly in order to free himself up, and also flip his right forearm and right hand over his left forearm and left hand in an attempt to square the clubface. The result: a severe hook shot.
Alternatively, on the downswing, Tiger sometimes exaggerated the push action of his right foot. This fault, involving lifting too much of the right shoe off the ground too quickly, hindered Tiger’s balance and caused him to hit the ball well right of target.
Tiger’s New Downswing
Tiger now swings his left shoulder, left arm, and club on a circular plane, and his right foot stays on the ground longer. This new downswing action, which is slightly less upright in nature to the backswing action, enhances Tiger’s balance, allows him to time the downswing better, deliver the club’s face solidly into the ball more easily and consistently, and hit a higher percentage of powerfully accurate drives. Now, let’s look more closely at what I believe Tiger does to trigger the downswing and hit accurate Turbo-Drive fade shots off the tee.
Tiger triggers the downswing by shifting his hips laterally, while practically simultaneously replanting his left foot that lifted slightly off the ground on the backswing. The chief reason this dual trigger is so vitally important is that it gives the hands, arms, and club time to catch up with the lower body.
If you follow the advice given by many of today’s teaching professionals, who say you should rotate your left hip counterclockwise the split second you reach the top, the body will get so far out in front of the club that the club’s face will come into impact open rather than square to the ball, and the shot will fly right of target. Alternatively, you will sense that your timing is off and feel so blocked by your body that you will likely exaggerate the actions of your right arm and right hand to try and save an inevitable bad shot. The trouble is, most often those who employ this type of bailout move end up closing the clubface and hitting a hook.
Before going to Haney for lessons, Tiger was experiencing these problems. Now that he is not, don’t think for a second that Haney simply gave Tiger a few simple instructions and Tiger stood up to the ball and hit it superbly. Golfers, like you, who understand the game, know full well that whenever you make even a small change to your setup, backswing, or downswing, it takes time to get back on track. That’s why the critics had no business “bugging” Tiger about the slow progress he was making before he started winning again in 2005 – and winning big! My point: it is your duty, as a certified USGTF golf instructor, to bring home the element of PATIENCE to your students when teaching them.
Now, once Tiger’s hips shift laterally, weight starts being transferred to his left foot and leg, and the club drops down parallel to the plane line (and inside it, as Haney believes is best, and ideally on a shallower arc), Tiger rotates his left hip so vigorously to the left that his clubhead speed starts increasing at a rapid rate. At this point in the swing, energy starts moving down Tiger’s arms into his hands, with power steadily being transferred down the club’s shaft. A moment later, this power is sent into the clubhead, with Tiger’s club speed reaching 130 miles per hour and the snap of the shaft bringing the club’s face solidly into the ball. Through impact, Tiger completes the job of making a full-body release by rotating his right hip and knee counterclockwise. By “firing” the right side, Tiger is able to put maximum oomph behind the ball and and hit a powerful fade shot, because he holds on longer with his left hand and hits up on the ball rather than through it in a streamlined fashion.
If your student follows Tiger’s example, the ball will shoot high into the air, level off into a forceful penetrating flight trajectory, then work its way form slightly left of target to a bulls eye of grass located in the center of the fairway.
Part 4 of 4: The Turbo-Drive Downswing
In parts 1, 2, and 3 of this four-part instructional series, I analyzed Tiger’s address, backswing, and downswing positions that I believe allow this great champion to hit powerfully controlled fade shots off the tee. Although Hank Haney has recently had the biggest influence on Tiger, the following three drills taught to him by his former professional teachers, Rudy Duran, John Anselmo, and Butch Harmon, helped Tiger learn and groove elements essential to his present swing. The beauty of this “threesome” of drills is that they are so simple they can be explained without photographs.
Duran’s Balance Drill: On the practice tee, or during a playing lesson on the course, Duran had Tiger hit shots and hold the finish position until the ball stopped rolling. According to Duran, who I interviewed by telephone, this drill teaches you to feel and repeat a balanced swing. What’s more, it’s best to start this drill with a short iron, work up to a medium iron, and finally a driver. It’s also best to try swinging at different speeds until you find what tempo allows you to stay balanced when swinging each club.
This drill had a very positive influence on the development of Tiger’s game, particularly relative to driving the ball. There’s no doubt it will also help your students, provided they are disciplined enough not to “swing out of their shoes” and, instead, swing rhythmically while generating speed, as Duran and other teachers believe is best.
Anselmo’s Thumb and Finger Drill: This no-club drill cured Tiger’s cupped wrist and flat swing problems, and paved the way for what Haney now teaches Tiger.
Like Tiger, your students will hit powerfully accurate shots if they employ an upright backswing and keep their left wrist flat at the top, so here’s what to tell them when giving them a lesson on the practice tee.
Stand at address with your left arm extended straight down and your palm facing your body. Grasp your left thumb with your right hand. Gently pull you left arm back as far as is comfortably possible and then freeze the backswing position for ten seconds. Immediately, you’ll feel how upright your swing is and that you’ve achieved the ideal, flat left wrist position.
Harmon’s Slow Motion Swing Drill: This drill, taught to Tiger, will help your student better coordinate the sequencing movements of the body and club. Here are the instructions to give a male or female player.
Concentrate on swinging the driver at 75 percent of your full speed. This drill will force you to use the big muscles in your back, arms, and shoulders, rather than the small muscles in your hands and wrists that prevent you from swinging smoothly. It will also force you to use fluid footwork to put rhythm into your swinging action.
Have the student repeat this drill until he or she tells you the swinging action feels effortless. That feedback will tell you that the elements of timing and rhythm governing your student’s body and club motions are in sync.
Finally, have the student hit balls and keep increasing the speed of their swing, until he or she finds the ideal tempo that allows them to stay in control and hit strong, on-target tee shots.