A new blog reader e-mailed me yesterday and asked me a very general question. 'How did those guys do it despite having vastly different golf swings?'
I thought about it for a second and wanted to break it down and then analyze it from there.
For starters, we know that impact is objective. For example, if the clubface is open 2* and the path is inside-to-out by 2* and you hit it square with 90 mph clubhead speed and a certain dynamic loft at impact, the ball will go the same way regardless if Tiger Woods is swinging the club or Richie3Jack is swinging the club.
But while impact is objective, that doesn't mean great players had the same exact impact as can be seen by their ball flight.
However, IMO the key is their consistency and control of 'the big 3':
- Clubface Control
- Clubpath Control
- Low Point Control
Looking at Trackman reports, you will see that better golfers are very consistent with the 'Big 3.' Their clubface control will not only be close to square to the target, but it won't deviate much. For instance, if a sub-scratch golfer has his clubface on average 1* open at impact, chances are that almost every shot they will hit will have a very slightly open clubface at impact. Same with path, if it's slightly outside-to-in on average, they will almost never have a swing where the path is inside-to-out. And if their average attack angle is at -4* with a 7-iron, it probably will not deviate more than +1 or -1* degrees.
So IMO, the great golfers were supremely consistent with the 'Big 3' and had great pivots to make them impact conditions very dynamic. But, they also may have had very different impact conditions (but still good impact conditions) and went about getting those impact conditions in different ways.
Let's take a look at some of them.
What do we know about Trevino?
- he took gigantic divots
- he tend to hit the ball low
- he favored a fade (although he could hit any shot he wanted)
- He lived by the mantra 'aim left, swing right, walk straight'
I believe that while Trevino claimed he swung the club out to the right, he actually aimed so far left at address that his club still wound up swinging to the left.
Trevino used to have problems with a snap hook before he became a touring professional and my guess is the aiming left came about from him trying to prevent the hook. Trevino also talked about 'hanging on for dear life' with his left hand after seeing Ben Hogan do a clinic and that got rid of his hook. I believe like Hogan, Trevino had problems with the snap hook because his clubface would get occasionally too closed.
But because of that, my guess is that Trevino's clubface in his prime was probably slightly closed.
I also believe he had very steep attack angles, so his plane line was quite a bit out to the left than Trevino ever imagined. I also bet that his greatest consistency came with the attack angle because he never seemed to catch anything fat or thin. And once he learned how to stop getting that clubface too shut, he became one of the greatest ballstrikers of all time.
What do we know about Moe?
- He hit the ball probably straighter on command than anybody in history.
- He took very shallow divots if any at all.
My guess with Moe is that his attack angle was probably shallower than -2* even with the steepest of irons. Because of that, his horizontal swing plane was probably very close to square to the target and even more amazingly, his path was square.
Moe's greatest attribute had to be his square clubface. If there's one thing I would preach to learn from Moe's swing is to look at how square his clubface is, particularly at the top of the swing. From there, it's easy to keep it dead square throughout the downswing.
What do we know about Hogan?
- Released the club very much to the left.
- Fought a hook early on in his career.
- Leaned towards hitting a fade after 'The Secret.'
- Moderate sized divots.
I think Hogan's Attack Angle was *slightly* shallower than the PGA Tour averages of today. I don't think it was anywhere near as shallow as Moe Norman's. He probably had a path that wound up being outside-to-in by 0.5 to 1.5*, but probably very close to 1.0*. I think his clubface was very square, almost uncanny square. And depending on the path, that would create the size of the fade or the straight shot.
We also know Hogan's stance diagram from '5 Lessons.'
While Hogan was known for a power fade, he probably hit a lot of straight shots and I believe the stance diagram is a secret as to why. I believe Hogan figured out that a square stance with a driver would lead to a large fade which he didn't want. And a square stance with a 9-iron would lead to a ball flight he didn't want.
Many of today's golfers would use a 'CF Release' with the woods and a 'CP Release' with the irons so they wouldn't have to fool around with their stance. But I believe Hogan would never consider fooling around with the release actions (had he known about the different ones) because of his fear of hooking the ball.
I used Perry because he's a known for his hook spin on the golf ball and the others were all straight/faders of the golf ball. Nonetheless, he's an excellent ball striker.
What do we know about Perry?
- He hits a big draw, rarely tries to hit a fade on command
- He hits the ball high
- He hits it very long
This indicates that Perry's path is inside-to-out and probably quite a bit.
His plane line is probably a bit inside to out as well.
Attack angles and paths are not mutually exclusive, but golfers who do swing out to the right usually see a shallower attack angle as well. I wouldn't be surprised, given Perry's length off the tee and his ball flight, if he had an upward attack angle with the driver.
Now, the dynamics of those swings, like clubhead speed, will be different. But all of these players controlled and were consistent with the 'Big 3', had great pivots to power those swings and knew how to play the shots that they hit.