Guest Column #2 (The Biomechanics of the Golf Swing)

From S.

The main problem with golf is that people are pushing instead of pulling—pushing back (sway), and pushing down. On the other hand, one Internet guru told me to PULL on my backswing. And, another Internet guru gave me permission to PULL on the way down.

Does it really matter if we pull or push? Yes, it does. People say that we should use the “big” muscles in a golf swing. These big muscles work by pulling, so pulling is bio-mechanically correct.

They never tell us where these big muscles are, but they are primarily in your back.

Back??? That does it! A person’s back is way too fragile to even consider using in a golf swing! Or, is it? For one thing, if you’ve ever rowed a boat, you’re using your back muscles quite a bit. Those back muscles are what you use in a golf swing.

WARNING: if you have a bad back, or are afraid, then stop reading now. You will never be able to use the same mechanism that a pro uses.

If you want to turn, then your back is involved. Your external & internal oblique muscles are powerful turning muscles, and if you do some research, you’ll discover that their fan-like fibers extend all the way around the sides to the Lower Back.

But, a golf turn has something a lot more powerful going for it: namely the widest and most powerful muscle in your back, the latissimus dorsi, or Lats. And, the Lats just happen to be attached to your upper arms!

Lats help a person do just about everything, but of particular interest is the Posterior Oblique Sling …in other words, golfing!

You might want to check out this picture:

As a right-hander, I personally like the golf feeling that my right-side Lat muscle is pulling on the backswing, stretching the Lat on the other side, which then pulls the downswing. (And, of course my external and internal obliques are aiding the rotation—it’s unconscious, and it’s called the anterior oblique sling)

Bottom line: the conscious turning is accomplished from the sides and back, not from the front. And, it happens lower than shoulders, and higher than the hips (which are both just joints and bones, and are just along for the ride).

I like to PULL the turn and PULL the handle in sync. Lats are a primary mover in both actions. It’s the Posterior Oblique Sling. You can go here, scroll down, and read about it: LINK

If you want to see somebody do it, watch these guys:

Anyone got a better idea?

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25 Comments

  1. wuz

    Great post Mr. “S” This is the way I swing a golf club at the age of 68. I came about this discovery
    during a session of bitter frustration at the local golf range. I decided to try letting my arms and
    shoulders go limp, and just let them go along for the ride. I let my body do the work, from the ground up. What a revelation! The ball striking got crisp, with very pleasing results. This biggest problem I
    have is keeping my arms out of actively trying to swing the club.
    Your description of this technique is quite thorough and elegant. So thanks for making this post.

    WUZ

    Reply
  2. S.

    Thanks for the compliment.

    “From the ground up,” is probably one of those things you feel, but don’t have to think about. It’s like Monte feeling that he’s loading his right side.

    I think it’s like loading a spring. Nothing happens with a spring unless one end is anchored. Body rotation is like that.

    But, the anchor is something to rotate from, not to push laterally, at least for me.

    Reply
  3. Robert Douglas

    Yes, I would agree that the bio-mechanics are very well stated, Mr. “S”. But do we really need to think of it during the golf swing? I think what the common amateurs mistake may really be is trying to torque the body’s “spring” with a shoulder movement, when rather, properly done, the turn both ways is best accomplished from the center of the body, right behind the navel. The amateur should not let the shoulders, arms, hands, or club head lag on the turn-back, body turns as a unit at take away. “Inside turns the outside” is an apt thought here. When the navel has turned back to the max, momentum from club and arms finishes the winding of the body’s “spiring”, now at the top of the swing don’t jerk, let everything almost pause, then turn-through impact again from the navel.

    A good feel as the club is arcing low before, at, and all the way through and after impact is that of extension, let the club head draw low and through towards target after impact, else you’ll be bending left elbow BEFORE impact and doing the dread amateur slice.

    At no time should the amateur push or pull with hands, arms, shoulders: let them fly. Also, do not GUIDE the hands, wrists, or arms: let them fly. Maybe once you get this motion right, you can play with small, very small, push, pull, or wrist roll to make the ball draw or fade. A good test to see if you’re swinging loosely is if you hands continue flying around behind your left ear at the end of the swing. Tight arms and shoulders won’t let that happen.

    Let the body weight transfer from center, to right foot, to center, to left foot naturally. When done right, you feel a little more pressure on the left foot at impact.

    This idea coupled with keeping eye on the ball, good grip, posture, stable feet, balance, and finishing with a good turn-through will let that club head smack that ball far and straight.

    Dat’s da way I seez it.

    Reply
    • S.

      Robert, you bring up several good points. The best one is this:

      “But do we really need to think of it during the golf swing?”

      No, it is not necessary to think about anything during a golf swing (I believe Nicklaus). A feel-thought is best, and that’s why I like PULL-PULL. My body already knows how to pull without me telling it how. But, knowing something about the body and how it works might prevent somebody from trying to do something that’s counter-productive.

      You say, “the turn both ways is best accomplished from the center of the body, right behind the navel.”

      You aren’t the first one to say that, and you can bring up some very good players who have that same feeling. Nick Faldo mentions “navel,” and Jay Haas and his uncle Bob Goalby said “belt buckle.” If those feelings work for somebody, then they are golden. The fact that they have no basis in fact is irrelevant.

      We’ve all heard players say, “low and slow on the backswing.” Davis Love and John Daly have both won Majors. The problem is always the words. Trying to put a Feel into words leaves the possibility that the message of the speaker or writer isn’t precise enough to get the right idea to the listener or reader.

      If you’ve got a feel-thought that works, that’s all you need.

      Reply
      • S.

        P.S. There’s one other thing involved.

        “Navel” or “belt-buckle” are a result, not a process. That way of thinking is very good for sports.

        People who are coordinated implement it with great success. Those of us who have burdened with bad instruction, that we have to fight through, might need extra help.

        Here is a 14 year-old kid with a pretty good swing. Does he need to know a lot about the golf swing? Probably not. Instruction would probably mess him up.

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XonSTmaVq8&fs=1&hl=en_US]

        Reply
  4. Robert Douglas

    Mr. S, I really enjoyed reading your well thought-out analysis. Further, your response to my 1st post brings up so many great points. I like the rather casual reference to “bad instruction” and that most of it just due to misunderstood or misleading semantics, usually when trying to explain what is really a FEEL, or confusing a result with a cause.

    That said, I really do FEEL, like you said, that Source of my turn (what’s making me turn) is from a point 4″ behind my navel, or better stated for the masses (since people have variety of belly sizes) might be a point a few inches ahead of my backbone, on a direct line back from the navel. As I turn back slowly and think about it, it sure is the muscles that you indicate causing that to happen.

    If an amateur consciously tries to force the use of the muscles you indicate, I think it might throw him/her off. Once you get the timing, I think you CAN use those muscles to increase your turn amount, your torque, your speed at impact, and therefore your distance.

    So think of great way to convey to people how to get that turn initiated, and do all these people who are hurting their backs and shoulders a big favor.

    Reply
    • S.

      You say, “I really do FEEL like the source of my turn is from a point 4″ behind my navel… a few inches ahead of my backbone.”

      I suggest that what you feel is things moving around your body center. But, that doesn’t mean that the center is making them turn.

      Think of spinning a quarter on a table. Hold it between your thumb and middle finger, one pushes and one pulls. That’s how your torso muscles work, from the sides, not the center. Internal obliques pull (conscious), external obliques push (subconscious)if you pull the turn instead of push it.

      Think of leverage…there is no leverage at the center–just a gut full of beer that you couldn’t resist buying from the cute cart girl.

      Do you have to know any of this to play golf? No.

      Stay with your “navel” thought, if it’s working. Thinking of a result takes your mind off the process and frees your body to do it the right way.

      Thinking of a process is dangerous unless it is absolutely correct. If you think of a wrong process, you have no chance, which is why standard instruction doesn’t work.

      You also write, “If an amateur consciously tries to force the use of the muscles you indicate, I think it might throw him/her off. So think of great way to convey to people how to get that turn initiated…”

      Pushing is what strains because it is based on a false concept, and you try to do it too fast–too much back & forth, no rotary.

      Pulling is anatomically correct, and rather difficult to do wrong because you’re not trying to drive a nail with a screwdriver. If you don’t want to pull too violently, just pretend that you’re Ernie Els, and not Nick Price.

      Reply
  5. banchiline

    I was gonna say something but my head just exploded

    Reply
  6. Doug B

    This is a very thoughtful and interesting discussion. The point S. makes about how a “feel” may have no basis in fact is an important one. Byron Nelson used to feel as if his head was moving back away from the target as he swung down and through the ball (although video of his swing proves this did not actually happen). This “feel” is a good way of keeping the head from coming forward, maintaining the spine axis tilt, and keeping behind the ball on the downswing. The point is that what we feel does not necessarily correlate with what is actually happening.

    Reply
  7. s.

    Doug, you write, “Byron Nelson used to feel as if his head was moving back away from the target as he swung down and through the ball.”

    Probably, what was really happening was that his head was STAYING back as his turn and swing were rotating forward.

    If you look as some video of Monte in his competitive days, it appears that his head did move away from the target on the backswing, and that’s not uncommon among pros. But the resulting Feel may not be what’s happening, in Byron’s case.

    During the downswing, you get a look like this (Baddeley).

    http://perfectgolfswingreview.net/BaddsFollowthroughPhase.jpg

    Reply
      • s.

        You’re a brave guy, rojoass.

        “Pulling” the turn is what they mean by “turning in a barrel.” (If Mike Bennett had known about turning in a barrel, he wouldn’t have had to invent Stack & Tilt.) If you look at Nicklaus and the others in the original post, they didn’t move off the ball. That’s why Nicklaus had some good things to say about S&T, although he didn’t do it.

        If you want to see what pulling the turn and pulling the swing in sync looks like, real slow, check this out:

        [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbvc9Tc87dQ&fs=1&hl=en_US]
        Jamie Lovemark

        Reply
  8. Dion

    You’re not alone.

    Reply
  9. Texhacker

    Hate to be the party pooper but….all of you are over analyzing and that’s not in keeping with Monte’s methodology. If I wanted to read the stuff you guys are writing I’d go to another D board. It would have been much simpler to have said , “On the back swing pull your body around with the muscles in your back on your right side (for a righthander) and on the downswing pull your body around with the same muscles on the other side of your back. Oh, and do it in rhythm.”

    Reply
    • S.

      You write, “not in keeping with Monte’s methodology.”

      Actually, it is exactly in keeping with Monte’s methodology, which is keeping it SIMPLE.

      Monte is one of the guys who put me onto it, and he does it perfectly. I would look at Monte’s turn, and his right shoulder was moving out of the way. It probably just comes naturally to him. Monte’s dad was a pro baseball player.

      I’d ask myself why I couldn’t turn like Monte…while I was doing a Bobby Jones left-sided takeaway. Duh, the reason that I couldn’t turn like Monte is because my body was in the way!

      I remember looking at a Youtube video, and the guy was saying, “your right shoulder moves back toward the target.” Well, I got rid of that one fast because I couldn’t make my right shoulder go back toward the target with a left-sided takeaway.

      Having your swing in sync with your turn is an all-important Monte idea.

      Pulling the handle? Eddie Merrins was Monte’s first instructor, I believe. If you do that, instead of manipulate your shaft or your club face, then your grip stays absolutely constant, and evenly distributed, and both sides of your body are activated correctly.

      It’s a fundamental of golf. And if it’s not, then it should be.

      You say, “It would have been much simpler to have said , ‘On the back swing pull your body around with the muscles in your back on your right side (for a right-hander) and on the downswing pull your body around with the same muscles on the other side of your back. Oh, and do it in rhythm.'”

      Uh…I thought that’s what I said.

      Reply
      • Texhacker

        “Uh…I thought that’s what I said.”

        Yeah you did…in 433 words and one diagram of the body showing the musculature with proper names. Why?

        Reply
  10. banchiline

    Kinda what I was saying. Definitely what redass is saying!

    Reply
  11. Dion

    Golf is such a difficult game guys but the swing shouldn’t be this hard. Damn, I’m looking at Tommy Two-gloves’ swing being analysed (reverse-engineered) by Peter Swing Vision. Find what works for you, otherwise you´ll go crazy and pack it in. Get personal instruction. I can only afford two lessons a year but its the best money I can spend on the game.

    Reply
    • S.

      Dion, I’ll tell you what’s hard: hips, shoulders, spine angle, weight-shift, swing plane, and all that stuff that those instructors will teach you. They can help with grip, posture, and alignment, but once the movement starts, the wisdom stops. Instructors don’t even agree with each other.

      Monte has the right idea. Make it simple.

      Getting in harmony with your body makes it easy and simple. Trying to achieve a look makes it hard. Get it to BE right, and it will LOOK right.

      By the way, not everyone is a fan of Kostis. Check it out:

      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iJK-YIJhcw&fs=1&hl=en_US]

      Reply
      • Dion

        Maybe something got lost in translation. I agree with everything you said. My point is a check-up on the fundamentals from an outside agency (pro or someone who knows a bit about fundamentals) two or three times a year is best (for me). Analysing a golf swing in the manner of this thread is counterproductive for improving your game. If you like the physics of the golf swing that’s fine but ultimately is a bit like eating soup with a fork. With a fluid motion, less can be more. Go Two Gloves.

        Reply
  12. Dion

    I’d like to throw something out there that may be related to this topic.I’m looking at the Super Bowl and I’m wondering if North Americans over-analyse sports and emphasise the technical side too much?

    Maybe its a result of high tech equipment(Konica-Minolta High-SpeedZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz)and it’s the correct route. But maybe its particularly damaging for golf instruction.

    Reply
    • S.

      Dion, you say, “Analysing a golf swing in the manner of this thread is counterproductive for improving your game. If you like the physics of the golf swing that’s fine but ultimately is a bit like eating soup with a fork. With a fluid motion, less can be more. Go Two Gloves.”

      There’s no physics here. But, it’s nice to know what angular velocity will do for a golf swing.

      Some people want to know how or why something works. Different strokes for different folks. Looking back on it, I’d say that 90% of the golf instruction that I’ve been exposed to is faulty. Less can be more, and usually is. Over-analysis, as they say, can cause paralysis.

      You say, “I’m wondering if North Americans over-analyse sports and emphasise the technical side too much?”

      Absolutely. What’s really bad is that they now have golf type instruction for baseball. You can go to Youtube and see these awful videos. Soon, we’ll have baseball players turning their hips and shoulders at baseballs, and strikeouts will rise.

      Reply
      • rojoass

        S. said “You’re a brave guy, rojoass.”

        Wrong. THERE ARE NO HEROS IN GOLF. It’s a game.

        I’m just being practical. I’ve got 15 yrs on Phil. The last 20 or so years managed to keep my handic. at scratch or real close to it.

        WTH would I not just go play golf at this point? I’ll get more outta my game practicing wedges & just hitting shots. More cash too.

        Better think about it.

        Reply
  13. Bob34

    S,

    FWIW, I personally don’t agree that pull-pull is a universal truth & a biomechanical absolute. Some tennis players have a better backhand, most have a better forehand, it’s the same thing, one is a pull, the latter is a push. Finally, some people just can’t see the forrest for the trees when it comes to just hitting the ball vs thinking through the process of hitting the ball. It’s only been the last few months that I’ve realized that thinking through the process will never ever make me play the game better. What will, are thoughts about what to do not how to do it. For example, if I want to drive a nail in at an angle, I line the nail up at that angle and bring the hammer in at that angle, I don’t need to think about the sequence my body parts need to go through to hit the nail at that angle. If I do think about all that stuff, I’ll probably hit my thumb instead of the nail…

    Reply

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