Thursday, August 12, 2010
Playing Golf Tall
I was asked the other day about my experiences playing competitive golf at 6'4" tall. This is an excellent question.
When I think of tall golfers, I usually think of Phil Blackmar (6'8" video above), George Archer (6'6"), Nick Faldo (6'4"), Ernie Els (6'4") and Phil Mickelson (6'4"). Knudson was probably over 6 feet tall and he seemed lanky, but I don't now his exact size. But, one thing you notice is that in general, golfers are short.
It reminds me a bit of the line Baseball Prospectus writer Bill James had once after declaring that his analysis showed that pitchers who have more strikeouts usually have longer careers 'is like noticing that NBA players tend to be tall.'
I'd say the majority of PGA Tour golfers today are under 6 feet tall and for professional sports in today's world....that's pretty rare.
One big thing you notice is that the taller the 'good' player, usually the more they flex their knees at address. It's like there's a certain type of height good players want to be at address and the shorter eight players want to stand up more to get to that height and the taller players want to flex their knees and hunch over more to get to that height.
Another thing about being a tall golfer is that you have bigger 'moving parts.' And when a big part moves out of position, it just seems like it can throw everything out of whack very easily. I know Faldo, Blackmar, Els and Mickelson have worked tirelessly over the years on their swing because when things go wrong, they really go wrong and then it's a lot of work to get things corrected.
Taller players tend to hit the ball further because the radius of the swing is longer, so the clubhead speed will increase. However, I find it difficult to move the low point forward and thus the attack angle shallows out and thus you're likely to hit the ball higher, which can cause problems playing in the wind.
Putting is nice because you can just take a 35" putter and address it with your arms hanging down naturally. You can do that if you're a short golfer as well, but now you're fooling with the weight of the putter and the flex of the shaft if you decide to cut the putter length down.
I think footwork becomes even more important when you're taller because it's harder to lower the Center of Gravity on the downswing.
Lastly, just because you're tall doesn't mean you need upright lie angles. Here's my latest swing.
And that's with lie angles about 6* flat. In fact, if you want to 'swing left', I think the worst thing you can do is play with clubs more than 1* upright.