Tiger Woods used to always complain about getting "stuck" in the downswing; a position that had the club approaching the ball too far from the inside and led to a block or a flip hook.
Over the years, he's made several changes to combat this, and I'm going to talk about the primary move that helps all golfers avoid this dreaded feeling. I'm using tour professional Skip Kendall as the example of what "not" to do.
Skip unwinds his shoulders immediately from the top of his backswing. This rotary motion creates centripetal force that, in turn, creates centrifugal force.
This is the part that is important. The centrifugal force effectively "throws" the club out away from him; or in simpler golf terms, he loses lag early in the downswing, as so many amateurs do.
The key is to use the correct muscles in the downswing to pull the club back in front of the body rather than creating this "throw out" motion as Kendall does. Observe:
At the top, both have made full shoulder turns. The camera angle skews both a little, with Tiger's being more in front and Skip's being more behind. Either way, they have made "ample" shoulder turn to make a good downswing.
As their left arms pass 9 o'clock, we can see a radical difference in lag and shoulder rotation. Skip has "pushed" from the right (watch the push vs. pull video here), and this early unwinding of his shoulders creates the throw out force that is impossible for him to overcome.
Hence, his lag is gone simply because of the laws of physics at work while Tiger is pulling with his right pectoral muscle and left lat and rear delt amongst other back muscles to actively pull his arms back in front of his body. This simple motion is a key difference between getting stuck and struggling on the Nationwide Tour vs. winning millions on the PGA Tour.
"Thank you! I finally got it after watching this and the Transition Drill videos. Oddly enough, the feeling that worked for me was trying to hit the ball with my back still turned toward the target...Obviously, this was impossible in reality, but with this feeling in mind, suddenly I started hitting my 7 irons 175 yards with a nice low flight, and the 4 iron was going over 200 again. All because I stopped turning my hips and shoulders at the top of the downswing. Hurrah! Plus I still have 3 months to ingrain it before the season starts......thanks again!"
-Steve D. | Dec 16, 2012 | United Kingdom
In this last picture, you can see that Skip's right arm is still folded and stuck well behind his torso while Tiger has worked get his arm back in front of his body, which is allowing it to straighten. Skip's left arm is still buried into his chest, and he's in a dreadful position here.
Video Transcription: How Tiger Avoids Getting Stuck
In this video, we're going to start to talk about the downswing movements. More specifically, this is going to be the introduction to when we start to talk about the muscles that we use during the downswing and the sequencing.
I've got two golfers up here to illustrate how to do it right, and how to not do it so right. I've got Tiger Woods on the left and Skip Kendall on the right. Both are great golfers, great ball strikers, have had relatively good careers.
Obviously, nobody's "great" compared to Tiger, but Skip's made a living on the Tour for a long time. I know Skip, he's a great guy. I've watched him hit balls a million times out at Keene's Pointe.
Tiger Woods & Skip Kendall
The thing that's interesting about these two is you can see where things go really wrong, really quick, just due to not moving in the right sequence and not moving from the right places. Especially with the Rotary Swing Tour, when we talk about all these details in the downswing, this is going to really help you illustrate and understand why we want to move a certain way, and why we want to move in a certain sequence.
The thing that we're going to talk about today is this infamous term of "getting stuck." There are several ways you can get stuck on the downswing, where the club gets trapped behind the body and you end up having to come a little bit too far from the inside to try and flip the face to square it.
We've talked a lot about the pushing versus pulling, and you're going to see that in this, where Skip tends to open his shoulders a little bit early. As we start the downswing you're going to see that his shoulders start to unwind pretty quick, and you're going to see that right shoulder pop out from the right side of his head pretty early.
Tiger - granted, Tiger's made a little bit more of a turn here, which is going to help - but the big thing you're going to see is that when their arms are about in the same spot - we'll get just a little bit closer - Tiger's right shoulder, you can almost still see it on the left side of his head.
This is because he's not pushing from the right side of his body to open his shoulders early. When I get into demonstrating this in the next video, you'll see this a lot more clearly.
When you start to unwind your shoulder early, you start to drive your right shoulder into the ball or toward the target line, and your shoulders are unwinding early instead of you working from the proper musculature to pull your arms back in front of your chest, which is what Tiger's doing.
Tiger has a lot of lag - Skip has lost his
You've heard Tiger talk about it a million times. He feels like his arms are just falling at this point, to get back in front of his body. That may be what he feels, but that's not what's happening because there's no way, as fast as he unwinds his hips, that the arms would just naturally fall back in front of the body. You have to actively pull them there.
Gravity's going to assist a little bit, but when you're moving that quickly you have to actively use the left side musculature and the right side.
In the next video we're going to talk about the right pec, how it works, and the left lat, and the left rear delt, that are all going to help pull the arms back in front of the body so that we end up with the arms back in front of the chest and we don't get stuck, as we're going to see Skip here in the next coming frames.
I'm going to just keep moving them through here slowly, and you're going to see that when their arms are both parallel Tiger has a lot more lag here, where Skip has lost it. You can really see his right shoulder here; it's really opened up a lot. His shoulders are opened a lot, and if we had a down the line view you would see his shoulders are very, very open. We'll look at that in another video.
Skip's club is trapped behind his body
You can see that his arm is really pinned against his chest here, whereas Tiger's is starting to work back out in front of his body. You don't see it strapped across his chest here like you do with Skip. Skip has basically just turned into his left arm, and now the club is trapped behind his body.
He's going to have to continue to push that right shoulder into and around so that the club will start to get back out in front of his body but unfortunately, as he continues to push, the harder he unwinds, the more the club throws out, away from him.
This is why it's so important to not just unwind your shoulders from the top, because you create a throw-out motion that's very, very difficult to overcome unless you're very strong, because the harder you unwind this part early in the swing, the earlier the club wants to get thrown out from the top.
It's just a matter of physics. You're creating centripetal force when you start pulling from this left side and turning your torso really fast and pushing from the right, this center part is spinning really fast. The faster you spin this, the faster the centrifugal force is going to take over, and the faster this club is going to be thrown out, away from your body.
Whereas in this one, Tiger's kept his shoulders very, very quiet. His shoulders are still relatively probably 30 degrees more shut than Skip's are.
Skip's shoulders are much more open than Tiger's
I'll try and draw a line here. It's really hard to see this stuff when you're looking at it from this angle, but I'll draw a line through both of his shoulders here, and then try to draw a line through Skip's. It's pretty easy to see, even from this angle. If we had an overhead view it would be really easy to see that Skip's shoulders are very open at this point, relative to Tiger's.
This is why he's lost all this lag. It's solely because of this reason, because you're creating a lot of throw-out force. I see this every day. People want to get to the top and just spin their shoulders as fast as they can, and the club gets thrown out from here and they wonder why they're casting and flipping.
Well, you can't fight the laws of physics, here. There's nothing you can do about it. You're not strong enough to hold that lag, nor would you want to. That's not how we want to produce lag.
Skip's right arm is very bent - Tiger's elbow is closer to his torso
As we continue to get farther into impact here, now you're going to see that Skip's right arm is very bent here. It's not straightening out, and it's trapped behind his body. As we move Tiger to the same point in the swing, notice how Tiger's right arm is much more in front and connected to his chest. His elbow is much closer to his torso, whereas Skip's is lagging behind.
Again, Skip's club is trapped back, behind his chest. His chest is pointing either directly at the ball, or maybe even a little bit in front of it, whereas Tiger's is still pointing back in this direction. If you imagine a perpendicular line from their chest, Tiger's shoulders are still closed. Skip's are open, and Skip's arm is still buried against his chest.
Skip is stuck
This is the epitome of being in a stuck position. One more frame; as we get closer, you can really see Skip's arm bent and stuck back behind his body here. We'll move Tiger's club to about the same spot. Notice that there's another huge difference, and this is the big key why Tiger can hit the ball so much lower than a lot of other golfers.
This pulling motion of using the right musculature to get your arms back in front of your body allows your hands to come down more on top of the ball and allows the club to work back out in front of your body, which allows you to get a really steep angle of attack - even with a club like a 3 wood - to launch the ball like that famous shot we saw at Bay Hill in 2008, where he launched the ball like a missile on 18, very, very low without playing the ball off his back foot, as most others would have to do.
This is a good byproduct of it. You can see, again, Tiger's arms are straightening out here. His arms are right in front of his chest. Skip's chest is pointing out this way, so he's stuck.
Then, even at impact, his chest is very, very open now. His arms are still buried against his chest. He never released the arms off the chest, whereas Tiger, as we get into impact, you're going to see that his arms are naturally straightening out in front of his body, allowing him to maximize every last bit of speed in a much better impact position.
Again, it all comes to how we move from the top of the swing. Instead of pushing from the right, as Skip is doing here and unwinding the shoulders very fast - you can see he's also pushing off this right leg - we're going to use the right musculature to get the arms back in front of the body, and in the next video that's exactly what we're going to talk about.