Michelle Wie’s Power-Swing Technique: An Analysis
Michelle Wie has reached the top of her wide, well-coiled, and majestic top of backswing position. What happens next to get her started in delivering all this power to that teed up ball? I will answer that question shortly. Right now, I think it is crucial to first present the three popular theories or arguments about what happens to complete the backswing and start the downswing.
There is no overlap movements in the two halves of the swing. As the player has just about but not quite finished turning his or her body, while the hands and the club have not quite reached their highest point in the backswing, the player actually starts the downswing by shifting the hips later – ally toward the target. This lateral move of the hips puts so much stress on the coil of the upper body, that it is automatically forced to begin uncoiling, like a taut rubber band whose tension is released, snapping the band back. (I disagree with this movement-in-two- directions-at-the-completion of- the-backswing concept. I don’t think it is physically impossible for any golfer to consciously and successfully make a lateral move with the hip toward the target while the hands and the club are still going up to the top of the backswing.)
The player winds the hips and shoulders so far around in a clockwise direction that the force of the windup catapults the arms, body, and club down, due to centrifugal force. In other words, the downswing is triggered automatically. (Although I agree that centrifugal force plays a key role in the downswing, by virtue of the arms and club swinging outward from the body’s center toward the ball, I don’t agree with the theory that the downswing just happens by some form of houdini-like magical spring-back action. On the contrary, it must be triggered by a specific move.)
The theory of synchronization calls for the player to first start the backswing by rotating the left knee inward, turning the left shoulder under the chin, coiling the left hip clockwise, and pushing the club away with the left hand on the backswing. Second, to trigger the downswing action by doing the opposite – simultaneously turning the left knee outward toward the target, rotating the left shoulder up and away from the chin, uncoiling the left hip in a counterclockwise direction, and pulling the club down with the left hand. (I disagree with this theory on the basis that it is un-natural for a right handed player to employ left hand triggers. In fact, you’ll soon be hearing more on this subject.)
I’ve just cited the three main theories when, in fact, the list goes on and on; it’s so exhaustive that you can appreciate why so many amateur golfers are befuddled. The reason: I believe many teachers are too hung up on left side golf than right side golf.
Before I go any further and discuss Wie’s extraordinary downswing action, I recommend that you say this to your students and enlighten them on proper technique before offering any specific tips for swinging down.
“After a golfer swings the club back from the static address position to the top (a segment of the swing that takes on average one and one-half seconds), the body and club do pause, albeit for a moment, before transitioning into the downswing action. Furthermore, in total, it takes only one fifth of a second for the average good golfer to swing the club down from the top into the ball. Consequently, the player does not have any time to mentally connect any dots in order to consciously direct the downward action of the golf club into the ball. All the same, a physical trigger is required by the golfer to spark a chain action involving the shoulders, arms, hands, body, and club to work in unison, essentially on automatic pilot. Yet that physical trigger must be well rehearsed through regular practice, because there is no time to think about it when swinging on the golf course. This trigger must be the right one technically for you or any other golfer to repeat it over and over and consistently hit good drives. Furthermore, this trigger must feel natural, and for that reason I think it should be right sided in nature rather than left sided.”
Not since 1986, when I worked with Severiano Balletros on the book Natural Golf, have I observed a golfer that is as right-sided on the downswing as Michelle Wie. At that time, Seve told me that right-handed golfers will find it more natural to trigger the downswing with the right side and, too, more fully and freely release the power stored in their body. I think Seve was right, knowing that in those days, before he started taking lessons from left-sided teachers, he hit the ball great.
In observing Michelle Wie in action, I believe her downswing is triggered by a simultaneous rightsided movement, involving downward pressure on the right foot, a downward push with the right hip, and an inward rotation of the right knee.
Considering I have looked at hundreds of sequence swings, due largely to my former senior instruction editor position at Golf Magazine, it should mean something when I say Wie’s three-prong downswing is the most coordinated and best in all of golf. Yes, better than Tiger’s!
Have your students try cloning Michelle Wie’s right-sided moves and I guarantee that each will say what
Michelle said in Golf Digest magazine: “I feel like everything gets to the top and starts down together.” I also guarantee
students will tell you that the release of the club and the correct body-sequencing will happen according to a domino-effect and feel effortless. And, I know, that’s what you want to hear as you watch a student drive the ball far down the fairway.