Monday, February 14, 2011

In Defense of Foley versus Riggs

Here was a recent article from Golf Magazine’s Top 100 teacher Brady Riggs titled ‘Copy Tiger Woods’ New Swing At Your Own Risk’,28136,2044122,00.html

Here are some excerpts and my responses/thoughts to them.
This swing change has occurred during what is easily the worst ball-striking stretch of Tiger's career.
While true, a bit misleading. It comes off as the swing change itself caused Tiger’s worst ballstriking stretch of his career. Perhaps Riggs didn’t intend to have it come off this way. My belief is his worst ballstriking of his career happened before Haney quit and Tiger decided to change. Particularly at the 2010 Players Championship where Tiger was hitting pop ups with his then Haney swing.
The most intriguing aspect of this latest guru change is Tiger's choice to go to another "method" teacher in Foley, instead of someone like Harmon
Butch is far, far more ‘method’ teacher than Foley is. Butch teaches the same grip, same ‘straight back posture’, same widen the stance, same ball position, same ‘wide backswing and wide downswing.’ Foley seems to want a centered pivot action, avoid having the ‘flying right elbow’, and wants the ‘shoulders to turn in a circle’ from what I have watched in his new DVD.

To me, there’s noticeable differences in 2 students of Foley’s…Justin Rose and Hunter Mahan

Seriously, does this sound like a guy that teaches everybody the same?

Sean O’Hair can swing the way he does because of his flexibility, whereas Stephen Ames has to swing at it a little differently to get the same shot shape because of what he brings to the table with his body type. The reason no golf swing will ever look truly the same is that people’s hand length and arm length and strength and flexibility and how their body does or doesn’t work are going to be different. - Sean Foley

Haney and Foley share some similarities as teachers. Their students' swings tend to look the same because they work off a specific swing model
I’m not really sure what model Haney uses. I see Haney as a ‘method’ instructor because he virtually teaches every student almost the same things. Foley’s model seems like S&T without the pelvic thrust. But I don’t see it modeled after one single golfer and Riggs doesn’t mention it either, giving an indication that there really isn’t a model.
Rather than copying the swing of fellow-Foley student O'Hair, I would have chosen the swing that already produced major championships
So you complain about an instructor who follows a certain model because it’s ‘method teaching’ and then tell the world you would have him copy a swing that already produced major championships? Ben Crenshaw’s swing has produced major championships….should Tiger follow that instead?

And is it impossible to believe that Foley may be following the components of a swing that have won Majors?
Tiger is now pivoting over his front foot.
This is just incorrect. His pivot is centered. If you don’t like a centered pivot, so be it. But he’s not turning over his front foot, not even close.
This is in sharp contrast to his swing of the early 00's, when his weight was balanced at the top on both feet. For most amateurs this will only make your steep angle of attack worse, especially with the driver.
His attack angle actually increased and got steeper with the driver in the Haney swing which moved much more off the ball in the backswing. His backswing pivot is more centered now and he’s actually found ways to shallow out his attack angle and gain distance with the driver because he’s not hitting so far down on it anymore.
and when your hips are as fast as Tiger's on the downswing, the lack of width at the top throws the swing out of sync

I feel this is irrational from a biomechanical perspective. Width of what at the top?
Tiger has lost his "go-to" shot. At the height of his powers, when Woods needed to hit a fairway and get his round back on track, he always had the stinger. While it remains to be seen if Tiger has brought the shot back into his arsenal, the rest of the Tour hopes it continues to gather dust. Amateurs should always work on a go-to shot they can count on when the pressure's on. Like Tiger, if you force the swing that isn't working, expect the worst.
While the stinger is a nice shot to have, don’t blame Foley for that as that stinger was long gone before Foley ever entered the picture. And I believe losing his driver accuracy (which he had under Harmon) is far bigger than losing his stinger and if I were competing against Tiger, I would rather see him lose his driver than his stinger.

Furthermore, Tiger has one of the worst carry efficiency’s with the driver in the game (total carry distance / clubhead speed = carry efficiency) which means he hits the ball extremely low.

In fact, Tiger in 2009 (last time he qualified statistically) finished 10th on the Tour in swing speed and was only 1 mph off from finishing in the top 5 in swing speed.

To me, Tiger is still a good overall iron player who is great with his wedges and hitting shots around the greens. His putting has dropped off (another one of his problems), but his driver is still a major issue. His problems up to the Foley swing change was that his driver would take him out of play for his approach shot to the green too often. Thus it would negate a strength of his (good iron play). Or what it would do…as shown in the 2009 PGA Championship…was he would be forced to hit shorter clubs off the tee to keep the ball in play, which he could, but then he would be hitting longer irons into his approaches.

Right now he seems more accurate with his driver, although I wouldn’t mistake him for Calvin Peete anytime soon. But, his driving distance is more or less ‘pretty good’ by PGA Tour standards instead of ‘scary long’ or ‘stupid long’ as he called Dustin Johnson, a guy who only generates about 1.5 mph more clubhead speed than he does (Dustin launches it completely better).

Truth is, Tiger probably should’ve never switched away from Butch Harmon in the first place. His ballstriking statistics were borderline insane during then. But that ship has sailed and he’s sought instruction from a very good instructor. I find Riggs’ arguments to be inaccurate and illogical.



Siteseer2 said...

Lots of guys think they can drive a Formula One racer....until they get behind the wheel...

Brad said...

Awesome stuff Rich. Funny how instructors that teach the same swing style to EVERY student avoid the "method tag" just because it doesn't have a name attached to it.

Ronnie Martin said...

John Wooden taught one style of free throw shooting, Henri Locomte and Brad Gilbert teach one way to serve. But by God run like hell from a method golf instructor!
Find one that makes it up as he goes along.

Rich H. said...

I have a great deal of respect for John Wooden, but there's more than 1 way to shoot a free throw. Rick Barry is the greatest FT shooter in NBA history, shot it underhand. Wooden didn't teach that because he didn't know how. Always a different way to do things, the key is finding what way works best for you.


Anonymous said...

I think Henri Locomte is Henri Leconte.

Anonymous said...

Great post Rich. 100% right. I give Foley a lot of issue when he came out saying he does not teach Stack and Tilt. That has been noted and Ill stay on the topic at hand. Foley does his best at the very least to try and do a method approach in dealing with his students. Now that is my speculation, and or the rumor. I feel as you do that the GOLF magazine article was way off base.

Further more I think it was written without much evaluation on the system (s) of Stack and Tilt.

eagolfpro said...

I believe Sean Foley definitely has a model, and strives to stick to that model in such a way that most would consider it a method approach to teaching. There are way too many similarities between his players to ignore it. Even if his model, or method, is a combinatio of many different influences he has experienced throughout his coaching career, it still is a methodical model. Where is is written that a method has to copy one player or another? I method is simply an approach that recommends that all players adhere to the same formula, within a more strict (as compared to broad) range of specifications.

eagolfpro said...

As far as Tiger's quest for a swing he can own, which I believe is why he has made his changes from coach to coach to coach, he is yet to work with someone that can truly identify his biomechanical make-up and show him how all the best attributes of the swing's he has used actually fit his unique body mechanics.

Harmon helped center up Tiger's pivot and that was probably the best thing he did for Tiger, because he owns center anchor body mechanics. However, Harmon changed his arm swing path to an "Under" alignment when Tiger owns "Side-On" swing path body mechanics. Harmom also moved Tiger into a more upright, "High-Track," backswing alignment when Tiger owns "Mid-Track" body mechanics.

Though Tiger was strong enough to manage the higher track and under alignments, he lost power in the process and therefore his driver performance suffered. During the Harmon era Tiger was quoted many times as saying he lost distance and I believe he felt he could enjoy greater power with accuracy if he built the swing around his body and owned it.

During the Harmon era Tiger used more long irons and 3 wood stingers off the tee because he lacked confidence in his driving ability.

In my estimation, Tiger's Stinger swing is the only swing he has used following the 1997 Masters that actually contained all the biomechanical feature/options that match his body mechanics.

eagolfpro said...

Under Hank Haney, Tiger was allowed to get back to using a "Side-On" swing path alignment. Something I am sure Tiger felt was more natural and powerful in his case. He also moved his swing track into a "Mid-Track" alignment, something that once again was more natural and powerful in his case.

However, the excessive forearm roll action that Haney had him add into his backstroke, coupled with deliverying the shaft of the club in the Hip-Plane Slot (which returns the clubshaft through impact on the plane it started at address) ended up making Tiger's angle of attack more steep, especially with the driver.

In Tiger's case he is built to deliver the clubshaft in the Torso-Plane Slot. This is why his hands ride higher through the ball than they did at address in his Stinger Swing, as well as any other swing that fits his biomechanical pattern.

eagolfpro said...

Another thing Tiger has struggled with an is still struggling with under Foley's instruction is his linkage. Tiger owns center linkage biomechanics. Under Harmon he had that under control. His hips began to wait for his arms to get infront of him and his hips fired fully after his arms where linked up in front. He struggled with his linkage with Haney and is still struggling with it with Foley. The players enjoying the best success with Foley are all more rear linkage players, like Sean O'Hair and Hunter Mahan. So under Foley, I believe Tiger will still need to figure out his inconsistency in his Linkage alignment during delivery.

eagolfpro said...

As far as Tiger's pivot is concerned I would agree it is more centered than before, however, it does appear to be slightly left of center.

Stack & Tilt employs what I call a Front Anchor, Dual Pendulum, Swing-Throwing action. They set-up left of center, use a pendulum pivot action to the top to stay on the front side, thrust the pelvis in the forward stroke (which creates the throwing action) and do so in combination with a forward pendulum pivot. That is the model anyway.

However, many Stack & Tilt instructors are teaching their variation of the model. Some with less pelvic thrust. Some with just enough to get the pelvis under the torso into the finish. And, actually, the players performing it that way are enjoying the greatest ball striking success among the Stack & Tilt players. Foley seems to have a more rotary version of the Stack & Tilt model. Similar to a Front Anchor Technique I have used with many of my Front Anchor Students over the years. Keep in mind that the origins of the Stack & Tilt model can be found in Mac O'Grady's Lean & Load model. So, as we can see the influences of Mac's system on the Stack & Tilt Model, we can certainly see the influences of the Stack & Tilt model in Foley's model, method, system, approach or whatever you want to call it.

I would like to point out, that though Tiger seems to own Center Anchor biomechanics, the manner in which he applies them is what is most critical to his performance. He could apply them in a Pendulum Technique, Counter Swivel Technique, A Pure-Center Balanced Pivot Technique, or any variety of other techniques. So just centering up is pivot is insufficient. He has to find a way that he can apply that pivot action athletically, dynamically, precisely and consistently. And he seems to be struggling with that repetition under Foley's coaching.

eagolfpro said...

As far as what Tiger should or shouldn't do that is all opinion. Tiger will make his choices based on his experiences and what his goals are. If he wants to own his swing than he need to switch away from Harmon, he needed to switch away from Haney, and he will need to switch from Foley in my opinion, if he wants to Own His Swing. The only way you can own your swing is if you are building one that fits your exact biomechanical make-up. And it is impossible to do so with any system that begins with a single model. You must identify your body's feature/options and incorporate them into you swing pattern. Then you need to apply them with a technique that is both athletically and dynamically suitable for you to reproduce the action consistently and precisely.

And although most players that have come to own their own swings have do so through trial and error (Ben Hogan, Mickey Wright, Lee Trevino, Moe Norman, etc), you can be coached to own your swing. You just need someone that understands how your specific body works best.

Anonymous said...

mac's lean and load? That was a bunch of crap. Mac does not lean and load

eagolfpro said...

You can call Mac's move whatever you want! He certainly uses a front anchor action that is different than the Stack & Tilt action and teachers that have worked with him have used it and coined it that name. Mac has changed many things over the years and has used a few differnt models. Saying it is a bunch of _ _ _ _ is an opinion, however he has taught the model that is being called Lean and Load.

Rich H. said...

I don't believe Mac teaches anything like 'Lean and Load' regardless of what some may call it. I would suggest to either go to a MORAD school or to get a lesson from George Hunt in order to more accurately understand MORAD.


eagolfpro said...

I actually have a disc filmed at one of Mac's Workshops from about 5 years back, and I have spent time with Keith Clearwater, who went to college with my best friend, and have discussed some of the aspects of what was being taught at that workshop, because Keith was there, and Mac was definitely teaching a system remarkably similar to what I saw in a "Lean and Load" article. Now, with that said, as I mentioned, Mac has changed many things over the years and he has changed his model since that point in time. In the mid to late 1990 he taught 3 models, before that one model that was more center, and over the past 10 years at least variations of what I call an action which is setup, loaded and delivered with the body's balance point shifted in front of the centerline of the body. Call it what you will, he is coaching a method that I would call Front Anchor technique (unless he has changed, once again, dramatically in the last year) and Stack & tilt is a Front Anchor technique.

Ronnie Martin said...

Really? Are we the spelling police now Mr Anonomouse?

Now, having said that. John Wooden taught one style of free throw shooting. As a scholarship player at UCLA that's what you would have been taught. As far as that's concerned Coach Wooden would have been called a method free throw shooting teacher. There was a line around LA to sign with this method teacher in the 60's and 70's. My point is golf is sport too, yet being a method teacher is taboo in the teaching community. Every teacher has a method of teaching. What they start with. How they conduct their lessons, etc. etc.

Method teachers believe they have something that will help all students. It's your choice to as a golfer to choose a method or not. I personally don't teach a method but do lean towards SnT.