Tiger tips: to improve your swing, take timing out of the equation
One of the biggest misconceptions about the golf swing is that a solid one requires great timing. The reason top players work so hard on grooving the swing is that we want a repeatable pass more dependent on proper mechanics than on timing. Golf nirvana occurs only when we’re able to synchronize the upper and lower body. Some people refer to it as “staying connected.” It’s a fluid motion that appears almost effortless.
That was the most significant change during my swing overhaul of 1998. I worked hard on eliminating timing as a factor. I was blessed with fast hips. Sometimes they’re too fast, and my lower body outraces my upper body. That’s when you see those flares to the right or quackers that take a quick dive to the left. Fortunately, I was also blessed with very fast hands, which sometimes allow me to save shots when my swing is out of sync.
I don’t have to rely on my hands nearly as much as I used to, and that has made me a much more consistent ball-striker. I’ve had stretches–like my run during 2000–when my swing was nearly on autopilot. That’s a great feeling. Synchronize your upper and lower body, and you’ll know that feeling, too.
Think of your swing as a marriage between the upper and lower body. If one dominates, the entire relationship suffers. Most amateurs never get both parts working together. Either the lower body (far right, top photo) rotates toward the target too quickly or the upper body (far right, bottom photo) transitions to the left before any weight transfer occurs. In either case the player must attempt to square the club-face with the hands–a dicey proposition. For me, synchronizing the swing is a matter of sequencing. I try to swing the club back with everything–hips, shoulders, arms and hands–working together. On the way down, I try to swing my arms first and hold my hips to reduce their activity. Then I max out my arms and lower body in unison coming through the ball.
Here I’m exaggerating a swing in which the lower body outraces the hands and arms. The only way I can square the clubface from this position is by flipping my hands. If you’ve got this problem, work on speeding up your arms on the way down while keeping a stable base.
Here, my arms and upper torso are far ahead of my hip turn. If this is your problem, work on shifting your weight to the left side as you swing down.
Tiger Woods writes instruction articles only for Golf Digest.
How the knee affects my swing
The swings I was making in 2000 and 2001 are starting to come back again, because mentally I’ve gotten over that hurdle. The Western Open, which I won by five shots, was a good example. If I swing 90 to 95 percent it’s not going to take me three holes to get over the pain. I can go ahead and play golf again. So I’m really excited about the rest of the year. In 2002 I played with a lot of sliding in my legs, and my head dropped back at impact. I wasn’t going to rotate on my right knee. It was killing me. Because I played the entire year that way, I’ve had to get over the mental hurdle and physical ingraining of those compensations. I’m not able to practice as much, either. So I’m having more quality practices than quantity. Before, I’d figure something out, then spend two hours ingraining it. That hasn’t been the case the last two years. As a kid I never had to worry about this. My doctors are taking the absolute conservative approach.
On testing drivers
I believe there are drivers being played on tour that exceed the C.O.R. limit. I’ve talked to a lot of guys about this. At least the tour will start voluntary testing. There are times when you hear, “I’m a club longer than him with my irons. I’m 20 yards past him with my 3-wood. Then all of sudden he blows it by me 10 or 20 yards with the driver.” You can’t increase your natural clubhead speed by 5 or 6 mph. It just doesn’t happen. I’m aware that some say my advocacy of driver testing is the result of my not being able to take advantage of modern technology. Believe me, it’s not sour grapes. Could I pick up more yardage if I broke the rules like some of the other guys? Yes. But I choose not to.
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