Comparing and Contrasting the Ground Mechanics of Five PGA TOUR Stars

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e’ve been fortunate to work with countless TOUR pros and dozens of the game’s top advisors over this last year. Through our association with them we’ve been able to offer a number of reviews of the ground mechanics of some of the top golfers in the world. We thought as a 2016 review it would be helpful to compare and contrast how a few of these elite players interact with the ground. Here are highlights from our posts about Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner.

JORDAN SPIETH

Jordan has one of TOUR’s more distinctive moves with his left ankle at impact. He rolls onto his left ankle – a move which has it’s detractors – but, ultimately, Jordan has the requisite mobility to make it work.

In a recent piece for Golf Digest, Spieth offered tips for better ball striking, discussing the importance of footwork and pressure shift.

1. KEEP YOUR FOOTING
Take a look at my right foot in this photo. It’s firmly planted. I haven’t spun out of the shot. As you swing down into the ball, remember to keep your back foot grounded until after the ball is on its way.

2. SHIFT FORWARD
Now check out my left foot. It’s rolled toward the target, which means my body has shifted in the same direction. I know you might have been told to “stay behind the ball,” but you have to shift your weight forward in the downswing. If you don’t, you’ll hit behind the ball or thin it on the upswing.

In another project for Golf Digest that was published in February of 2016, Spieth noted the importance of transferring his weight to his lead leg at impact, specifically his left heel.

Shifting toward the target on the downswing is critical, but not to be overlooked is what my feet reveal here. The toes of my left foot have rolled off the ground, proving that my weight has moved into my left heel. That allows me to straighten my lead leg so I can pivot my body and swing around that leg like a post. On the other side, the heel of my right foot is off the ground. That shows I’m pushing through for extra leverage into the ball.

Spieth and his instructor Cameron McCormick favor substance over style, so they’re completely comfortable with an effective move that might not be considered “textbook.”  Here’s our full analysis of Jordan’s footwork from last Fall. http://boditraksports.com/kc/jordan-spieths-footwork/

JUSTIN THOMAS

BodiTrak advisors Dr. Sasho Mackenzie and Mark Blackburn break down Justin Thomas’ ground interaction in the FootJoy Performance Fit swing analysis above. We refer to Thomas’ center of pressure trace as a Power Z Trace, something that’s extremely common among golf’s longest hitters.

Check out freeze frames of Thomas at impact (right). Data from BodiTrak indicates that Thomas has just 7% of his pressure in his lead foot at impact, evidenced by him being on the tip-toe of his lead foot like a ballerina.

As Sasho notes in the video, Thomas is still pushing off of his trail foot at impact, but the 93/7 pressure distribution between his trail and lead foot is mostly due to the fact that his lead foot is lightly touching the ground.

In a 2015 project for the PGA TOUR, BodiTrak advisor Dr. Robert Neal noted how Thomas uses the ground to orient his body for ideal launch conditions. Additionally, the way Thomas pushes off the ground is a big-time contributor to his speed.

That is one of the power moves that we see,” says Dr. Neal, “If someone isn’t able to raise [the pelvis] or push off the ground, they won’t be able to generate the same speed [as someone who does].

Check out the full breakdown of Justin Thomas’ CoP and footwork here: http://boditraksports.com/kc/analyzing-justin-thomas-center-pressure-trace-boditrak/

JIMMY WALKER

The 2016 PGA Champion is one of golf’s sneaky long hitters.  Ranked in the top 30 on TOUR in ball speed, Walker has some unique lower body mechanics.

Pay attention to the center of pressure trace on Walker’s downswing (in the video above).  His center of pressure starts moving towards his lead foot just before the club starts on the downswing.  This is evidence of Walker putting pressure into the ground to “bump” his hips laterally towards the target before he begins to rotate (a move noted by Hank Haney in this swing analysis of Walker for Golf Digest).  Also, you’ll notice that there isn’t “back-up” in the trace on the downswing.  Back-up is whenwalkerfaceonimpact pressure quickly transfers from lead leg to trail leg before impact (Walker has some pressure transfer back to his trail leg, but it’s just at or after impact).  It’s a common element of a dynamic driver trace and something we see in many of golf’s big hitters (and something we noted in Justin Thomas’ trace in the previous section), especially those with exaggerated vertical thrust (“jumping”) in the downswing.  One reason for the lack of back-up may be that Walker absorbs pressure in his bent left leg bent at impact.

“Most modern players have the front knee straight at impact, but Jimmy’s still has some bend,” Harmon says.

Another interesting thing to note is that because of Walker’s “hyper-mobility” he has a tendency to get loose at the top of his backswing.  This would be an interesting thing to consistently monitor on BodiTrak because any movement of the club at the top would be reflected in his interaction with the ground.

Here’s our full analysis of Jimmy Walker’s ground mechanics which we posted last August: http://boditraksports.com/kc/bts-tour-data-jimmy-walker/

PATRICK REED

USA’s Ryder Cup hero has incredibly unique ground mechanics which indicate how he leverages the ground for power. Look at the GIF to the right. Notice the “clearing” action of Reed’s lead foot. There’s almost no pressure on that foot at impact.

Again, while this is a fairly unique move, unweighting the lead foot at impact is common among power hitters.  Even though his center of mass is moving toward the target, his center of pressure is moving back to his trail leg. The concept of center of mass and center of pressure moving in opposite directions was outlined by Sasho Mackenzie and Mark Blackburn in this month’s Golf Magazine. Take a look at this quote:

As big hitters near impact, the force under their front foot swells until the left side of the body has no choice but to “jump” up in response. (The left foot of some bombers actually leaves the ground.) This drops the pressure under their front side to near zero, shifting the CoP to the back foot. The sudden increase in pressure under the back foot allows the player to push his CoM toward the target, just like we’ve all been taught.

For more on Patrick Reed’s footwork, take a look at the full article on our site: http://boditraksports.com/analyzing-patrick-reeds-footwork/

KEVIN KISNER

Kiz is the student of BodiTrak advisor and early-adopter, John Tillery. Tillery has had tremendous success on TOUR, particularly with Kevin. In a lengthy feature for the PGA TOUR this last May, Sean Martin chronicled how Tillery was able to change Kisner’s swing from the ground up.

Here are a few quotes from Tillery about his work with Kisner which underscore the importance of refining pressure transfer to improve the swing.

Kisner used to turn his hips too quickly at the start of the backswing. His weight stayed on his left foot instead of shifting to his right side. At the top of his backswing, Kisner’s upper body tilted too far away from the target.

His sequence of how his body moved was out of whack,” Tillery said. “As soon as the club started swinging back, he’d start turning his hips and moving the bottom of his spine forward. He’d tilt his torso too far to the right to have some sense of getting behind the ball since his weight wasn’t shifting to the right. It got him in a spot where he couldn’t have any lateral motion (back to his left side) in the downswing.

Because Kisner didn’t shift his weight properly in the backswing, he was unable to shift his weight to his left side at the start of the downswing. “He would spin out and lock his left leg prematurely,” Tillery said about Kisner’s downswing.

This led to a downswing that was too narrow and an impact that was too steep. The club shaft was too vertical on the downswing and the clubface was open in relation to the path. That’s why his predominant miss was well to the right.

Now that Kisner is putting more pressure into his right foot early in the backswing and his torso is less tilted to the right, he can shift his weight to the left at the start of the downswing. He does this while maintaining the width of his downswing, which allows the club to swing down on a shallower plane and keeps him from turning his body too fast at the start of the downswing.

We wanted him to be able to feel some pressure down and into his left foot in transition versus just spinning his hips,” Tillery said.

Here’s the full Kevin Kisner article which we posted last Summer: http://bit.ly/2hAOgpe

Thanks so much to the BodiTrak community for leading the way in thought leadership and instruction. Looking forward to many more insightful reviews in 2017.