Biomechanics (the study of the mechanics of a living body) is the latest buzzword to make its way into golf analysis. Looking at this subject gives us insight into what is really taking place during a good downswing.
Lag has already been discussed but let’s face it, learning to lag the club is difficult for average golfers. This is because they often make one common mistake. That is, they try to get more clubhead speed by forcing the club from the top of the backswing rather than letting the club lag for enough time before releasing it.
Kinematic (motion) studies of professional golfers versus average golfers show a very different and somewhat startling difference when their downswings are compared side by side on a graph.
Study the graphs for a moment and then we will take an in-depth look what they are telling us.
First, notice the difference between the initial move (i.e. the move into the slot) of the professional golfer and that of the average golfer. The professional starts and moves everything together and the club never outpaces the lead arm or pelvis (hips) until just before impact with the ball. On the other hand, the average golfer swings the club much faster from the top clearly out pacing the pelvis and lead arm. Swinging with the arms and letting the wrists release too early are the probable cause. On further observance you can see that the pelvis, lead arm and club are initially accelerating at different rates. It is impossible to lag the club properly when this occurs and leads to casting the club. This dissipates power considerably early before impact with the ball.
Secondly and arguably the most fascinating aspect of the two graphs is the way that the professional golfers pelvis and lead arm sequentially start to slow down before impact. This is much different for average golfers as their pelvis and lead arm actually continue to accelerate. One way to visualize the proper sequence is to think about cracking a whip. The arm initially accelerates and then slows down as the wrist releases and snaps the whip. The difference with the golf swing is that the body is providing, you might say, the “brace” or resistance for the wrists to release against.
Third, notice that the professional golfer keeps the club accelerating all the way through impact. The average golfer actually starts slowing the club down somewhat before impact. This happens because the wrists are not allowed to continue releasing.
Next are two more graphs similar to the ones we just looked at. Study them for a minute.
The first graph is exactly the same as the first one in the last set of graphs. The second graph is similar, but shows a much slower swing speed at impact. Both graphs are indicative of a good golf swing.
Notice how much longer it takes to get into the slot or trigger position for the slower swing speed. This indicates that the faster you can get into the slot position, the faster the club is going to be traveling at impact. As obvious as it may seem the key to making this happen is illusive for most average golfers. If you have not figured it out already, the key to faster swing speeds is hip speed. Provided everything else is properly done, faster hip speed leads to faster swing speed.
So, what can we learn from all this? Learn the proper way to swing a golf club. Then and only then should you work on making your hips go faster to obtain more clubhead speed and distance.