Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Look At The 'Head Dip'

One of the things I've focused on is the head dip in the golf swing. It's often talked about in golf instruction circles, so I wanted to examine why it happens.

First, I believe the head should get lower at impact than it was at address because any good golfer would lower their center of gravity on the downswing. Golf instructor Wayne DeFrancesco beautifully debunks the myth of the 'no head dip' in this video:

When I think of today's golfer with the 'head dip', I think of LPGA golfers Paula Creamer and more noticeably Natalie Gulbis:

In the last year, I've seen both have a golf instructor hold a club up at where the top of their head is at address, then swing the club and try to force themselves to not dip that head at all. I think this is another example of popular golf instruction failing to understand the golf swing and only working for a select few players, usually those with great athleticism and hand-eye coordination.

For starters, I believe that trying to not dip the head just doesn't exist in the swings of ANY good ballstriker in golf history. I think it's incredibly unnatural and destructive an generally, a waste of good range time (and perhaps a US Open for Creamer, who was doing this before each shot in last year's Women's US Open).

As the DeFrancesco video shows, the head is going to dip. It's always dipped for Tiger, who around 2000 may have been striking the ball as well as anybody who had ever lived. It certainly dipped for Hogan, and it greatly dipped for Miller, one of the greatest ballstrikers of all time as well.

Why do these great ballstrikers ALL dip their heads in the downswing? Because their knees flex more in the downswing than they were flexed at address:

The picture collage above shows these golfers basically using the ground to their advantage, something all good ballstrikers do.

On the LPGA Tour, I'd consider Creamer a good ballstriker, but not Gulbis by judging by their stats. So what's their problem with dipping the head?

Well, I don't think their head really dips quite in the manner that the great ballstrikers dip their head. With the great ones, I see the head dipping because their center of gravity has lowered. With Creamer and more noticeably Gulbis, the head sort of lunges forward.

I think that this head movement is the function of two different things:

1) Shoulder turn
2) Flawed foot and knee action

First, the shoulder turn. I think a lot of this stems from my understanding of some of the main Stack and Tilt concepts.

First, the S&T wants to keep the head very close to still (as far horizontal direction) as possible throughout the swing. One of the main concepts of S&T is that on the backswing, the left shoulder should turn straight downward

My feeling is from understanding this concept and talking to other instructors like John Dochety (aka Lake 1926) is this:

1) A flat shoulder turn in the backswing will likely move the cranium away from the target.

2) A flat shoulder turn on the downswing will likely move the cranium toward the target.

What happens with a flat shoulder turn, is the shoulders help move the neck which helps move the cranium and unless you are very good at resisting that, the head will move horizontally. Thus:

3) An upright shoulder turn on the backswing will likely move the head down and slightly toward the target.

4) An upright shoulder turn on the downswing will likely move the head down and slightly away from the target.

The S&T teaches more of an upright backswing shoulder turn and a flatter downswing shoulder turn. Thus, the head can stay more relatively still.

The difference with Gulbis in particular, is her downswing shoulder turn is more upright. That lowers her right shoulder and that gives her room to dip/lunge her cranium.

As I mentioned earlier, the other part to the head dip is the footwork and knee action. For my money, George Knudson had probably the best foot and knee action the game has ever seen.

Now spot the differences in Gulbis' foot and knee action.

Gulbis' right knee has little flex to it and thus she really doesn't lower her center of gravity like Knudson did. She's got to get that clubhead to the ball somehow, so she winds up thrusting the right arm, which lowers the right shoulder and creates a very upright shoulder turn at impact and the head follows the right shoulder and goes downward as well.

My suggestion for Creamer and Gulbis is to mostly stick with what brought them to the broadway and if you want to make some changes, address the foot action first. That way they can better power their pivot and reduce the 'head lunge' which will help their pivot even more.



Siteseer2 said...

I believe it has to do with the proper blend of flexion and extension...

Most who dip on the backswing, have too little extension, and stay in flexion too long. On the downswing, you need extension of the lumbo-sacral spine in order to create the necessary secondary axis tilt or your head will follow the pivot, and you'll be a head-butta', ala Gulbis and Creamer..

Anonymous said...

This entire post is nonsense. A golfer's head dips because his arms are swinging away from the target as his lower body is moving toward the target.

Rich H. said...

What about post impact?

Like I posted, the head will dip/lower in every swing, but the Gulbis lunge is a bit of a different bird.


Shaun said...

Hi Richie,

I'm a bit of a slicer, and on occasions and I've thought that sometimes I'm aware of a pronounced 'dip' in my head/swing, and when I do this I notice that I do shot dead straight - but to the left. My theory (No. 6,970) is that maybe if I try and stick to a having a dip I will not have to consciously hit down the left hand fairway-side (as a compensation) to allow for my fade (...and the occasional slice). What do you think? Barking, or a sound theory??