A poster over at Brian Manzella’s forum (www.brianmanzella.com) asked the question about how much is too much inside-to-out path and too much outside-to-in path?
According to Trackman newsletters, the most inside-to-out path on the PGA Tour is Kenny Perry with a path of +6*. The most outside-to-in path on the PGA Tour is Colin Montgomerie with a path of -6*.
Note that this is the PATH of the club and not the Horizontal Swing Plane aka ‘swinging left’ or ‘swinging right.’ It also doesn’t account for attack angle. We know that attack angles will almost always change from club to club as the longer the club the more shallow the attack angle will likely be. And that plays a big part in how Perry and Monty use these ‘extreme’ paths to play their golf.
First up is Kenny Perry.
If you have ever seen him play, you notice that he hits the ball quite high. You will also hear about how big of a draw he plays, but if you watch him play live, his driver doesn’t have nearly as much draw as it’s hyped to have on TV. You’ll find that a lot in PGA Tour players the first time you ever go to an event, they typically don’t have a ton of bend on their ball flight off the tee.
But when you watch him hit his irons they start to bend the ball flight more the shorter the club gets.
What happens with Perry is interesting as I feel it’s based solely on his attack angles and his ability to get his attack angles to ‘fit’ his Horizontal Swing Plane so he can hit the best shots possible with his swing.
What we know about Perry is he’s one of the longer drivers on the PGA Tour. However, his swing speed is only at 110 mph
That’s a clear indication to me that Perry has an upward attack angle with his driver because his clubhead speed with the driver is a low slower than many golfers on Tour, but he’s still one of the longest hitters on Tour.
What we know about ‘swinging out to the right’ is that it works well with upward attack angles. Why? Because if you have an upward attack angle, your clubhead has already passed the low point.
This means on the downswing your clubhead went downward and rightward, then it hit he low point and started working upward and leftward. So to get that path closer to 0.0* to the target, you need to ‘swing out to the right.’
Remember, a good rule of thumb from Trackman is to get the Horizontal Swing Plane to ‘match’ the attack angle. Meaning that if your attack angle is +3*, then in order to square up the path you need the HSP to be at +3*. That’s why Perry hits the driver relatively straight, his attack angle ‘fits’ his HSP.
But what happens with the irons, particularly those mid-to-short irons, is that he *has to* hit down on the ball with those clubs and that forces the path out more toward +6* and a club like a 9-iron he will have a very noticeable bend to it. Thus his game is a power and accuracy game off the tee and then big bending shots with his irons, but since he can control those shorter clubs easier, he gets around the course with good rounds.
I’ll explain in a bit as to why I think he’s become a better golfer as he’s gotten older.
THE MONTY STORY
Monty is pretty much the exact opposite as Perry. Monty was always known for his low cut. In fact, during the ’92 US Open at Pebble, Monty remarked to NBC that people are amazed just how low and how much he cuts the ball.
My guess with Monty is that he has a pretty steep attack angle with the driver. He’s probably in the -3 to -5* range. That makes it so he doesn’t slice the driver off the planet. And in order to hit it accurately, he’ll close the face a bit at impact which also helps de-loft the club. Thus the combination of steep attack angle, closed face at impact and a big move to ‘swing left’ results in those low cuts.
However, Monty was always known for his excellent iron play. Why? Because he has to hit down with his irons and that attack angle makes it so he can better square up the path and hit those irons very straight and accurately.
THE FINAL STORY
As both Perry and Monty started to get into their 40’s, Perry became a better and better golfer while Monty’s success started to fade away. Obviously, it’s pretty normal for golfers to follow Monty’s route as they get older. But that still doesn’t explain the success for Kenny Perry.
My belief is that the modern day equipment worked really well for Perry and didn’t work well for Monty and Monty more or less failed to adjust.
What I mean by that is that I believe that Monty has a very steep attack angle with the driver, probably about -4*. One can hit any driver accurately by doing that, but power wise it’s far from optimal.
But back in the days of the smaller metal woods, it was hard for any golfer to consistently hit drivers well if they had a very positive attack angle with the driver. For one, the fear of skying the ball is prevalent with the smaller metal heads. But it’s also very hard to make consistent contact and in the day of the metal woods, mis-hits would often lead to severe results.
So golfers back then couldn’t live with a bomb-n-gouge type game and even the longer hitters that were legit good Tour players were probably hitting their metal woods with an almost ‘flat hit’ (0.0* attack angle).
So while the field could out-drive Monty, the discrepancy wasn’t big enough to counter his superior iron play and short game.
It’s like the Slate.com article points out about the importance of ballstriking in the 175 yard to 250 yard range. With titanium the fear of skying the ball was almost nil and mis-hits were much more forgiving. So they could outdrive Monty by 30-40 yards on average and have a lot less club into the greens.
OTOH, Perry adjusted extremely well to the titanium driver and could now use that positive attack angle to his advantage as he would hit it past guys with more clubhead speed and would now hit it straighter and more consistently. He still had a sizeable bend with his irons, but since he was able to hit shorter irons into greens he could control that sizeable bend and shoot great scores.
I’d suggest that a golfer probably not go to the extremes that Perry and Monty went to, but if they do or come near it, they need to understand what their attack angle needs to do and what clubs they are likely to hit well and not hit as well.