Monday, May 25, 2009

Understanding the Basics of TGM -- Part III

Probably the biggest question I get in regards to TGM is about 'swingers' and 'hitters.' Before I go on explaining the difference between the two styles, I will note that according to physicist Dr. Aaron Zick, who was brought to the latest TGM Teaching Summit, there is no such thing as a 'pure hitter' or a 'pure swinger' on full golf swing shots. Instead, everybody does a little of both.

While I think it is important to understand the technicalities, I think the golfer and the instructor are better off going by what the golfer predominantly does in the golf swing or finding out what provides the best results.

In any part of life, if a human wants to move an object, they need to either push the object or pull the object. For instance, if I want to move a dresser in my bedroom, I can choose to either get behind it and push it or get in front of it and pull it. In the golf swing, the golfer is trying to move the golf club from the top of the swing thru impact. So they have a choice to push it with their right arm/right hand or pull it with their left arm/left hand.

One way I look at 'hitters' vs. 'swingers' is the right arm in the golf swing. Take a look at the pic below.

In the pic of JJ Henry, at the top of the swing his right arm is folded at about a 90 degree angle. Then on the downswing it slowly extends until it is fully extended after impact. The 'hitter' will simply get this extension of the right arm by simply throwing the arm out like a boxer throwing a punch, which is a pushing motion. A 'swinger' will use the left arm/left side/left hand and pull the club to impact which automatically will straighten out the right arm without consciously trying to straighten the right arm out.

There is no scientific evidence that I know of that can tell if somebody is better of with a 'hitter' swing pattern or a 'swinger' swing pattern. But, popular golf instruction seems to favor a 'swinger' method over a 'hitter' method. And a lot of the Authorized Instructors of TGM that I've come across seem to favor the 'swinger' pattern as well. That being said, from reading more and more about TGM and Homer Kelley's work I believe at this moment (I could change my mind) that if pressed Homer Kelley would say that he thought that most golfers were better off using a 'hitting' pattern. This could also explain why the average golfer's handicap has not improved over the years, popular instruction has preferred one particular pattern over the pattern that Homer Kelley may have thought the golfing public was better off using. And Homer knew a thing or two about the golf swing.

The two big reasons why I think hitting is a bit easier for people to grasp than swinging is that:

1. It plays to most golfer's 'dominant' arm and using that dominant arm. Most people have nowhere near the strength and coordination with their non-dominant arm which is what is primarily used in the 'swinger' pattern.

2. The 'swinger' pattern is very 'pivot based.' The hitter pattern still requires a quality pivot action, but the 'swinger' pattern almost uses the pivot to swing the club. This requires some pretty good flexibility which many golfers may not have.

Still, it's not to say one is 'better' or one is 'worse', but that there is a 'best' for each individual golfer. And in the end it will probably take the golfer some trial and error to figure out what is best for them.

I do think there are some noticeable differences between the two. Two prominent 'swingers' are Vijay Singh and Fred Couples, as noted at impact their right hand is often barely on the grip. That's because they are using a 'swinger' pattern and the right hand just 'goes along for the ride.' A hitter like Brian Gay has the right hand firmly on the grip because he is pushing with the right hand. Also, 'swingers' tend to have those long, fluid golf swings whereas hitters tend to have a little shorter and more compact golf swings.

As far as execution goes, one way I heard it described is that a good 'swinger' pattern is like a Ferrari and a good 'hitter' pattern is like a Rolls Royce. Both are top of the line, excellent cars, but they tend to accomplish different things. The Ferrari (swinger) is a high performance automobile which can hit blazing speeds, but will often require a lot of maintainance to keep the car running at that high performance. Fred Couples is a perfect example. He hits it great and is still one of the longest on Tour, but somedays he'll be hitting a lot of shots off the grid. Vijay is consistent, but nobody performs more maintainance on his machine than Vijay Singh.

The Rolls (hitter) won't reach the high performance of the Ferrari, but performs extremely well and doesn't have major breakdowns as much. So you probably won't see that 'exotic' shotmaking as you would with a 'swinger' pattern, but you should be much more consistent and if you take some time off, you're more likely to get back into the groove quicker with the hitter pattern than the swinger pattern. As a golfer who has done both 'swinging' and 'hitting' I find this to be very true.

But again, a 'hitter' pattern may not work for you. So if you want to be more consistent and try to become a 'hitter' and it simply doesn't work for you, then you're probably never going to be more consistent with the hitter pattern. And if you want more 'exotic ballstriking' and go to a 'swinger' pattern and it's not meant for you, then you probably won't hit as many great shots with the 'swinger' pattern.

That being said, I'm amazed at golfers I talk to about the hitter and swinger patterns and they automatically decide that they are 'swingers.' Almost to a man. Remember, I believe that Homer Kelley thought most people were better off being hitters and Homer had a lot of keen insight on the swing. So in my mind, even if you think you are a 'swinger', you may want to try 'hitting' first and give it a good shot and see how it goes. After say a month and you see zero improvement, then you may want to consider swinging. But as always, you're better off going to an Authorized Instructor of TGM first.

With that, here's a couple of drills I have to perhaps help you. The first is the 'combo drill.'

1. 'Connect' your left arm to your left side, so the upper part of the left arm is pressed up against the left nipple.

2. Now take your grip and take your right index finger and right thumb off the club.

3. Hit 'basic motion' (chip shot length) shots. Then move onto 'acquired motion' shots (right forearm parallel to the ground going back and right forearm parallel to the ground in the follow thru). Try and use your pivot to get the clubhead to hit the golf ball.

Next is the right forearm flying wedge drill (I'll get into the flying wedges later on in this TGM Basic Series).

1. Set up with 'impact hands' at address. This means the hands are forward pressed so the left wrist is perfectly flat. The right wrist AND right elbow should both be bent.

2. Try and maintain the flat left wrist by using the right hand/right arm to push the club. You may feel like the right forearm is moving in a motion similar to a piston in a car engine on the downswing.

If you're digging the combo drill, then you're more likely to be a 'swinger.' If you're digging the flying wedge drill, then you're more likely to be a 'hitter.'


1. Right arm folds at the top of the swing and then steadily extends on the downswing. Does not fully extend until AFTER impact. Swingers will pull with the left side and the right arm will fully extend unconsciously. Hitters will consciously push the right arm in extension, like a boxer throwing a punch.

2. Swingers are more 'pivot based.' They often 'hit it with their pivot.' Swingers usually have a much longer and fluid swing. They also can have some 'exotic ballstriking', hitting the ball extremely long while having a depth touch. But much like the Ferrari, they tend to need constant maintainance to keep their machine performing at a high level or they may burn out the clutch.

3. Hitters are more 'thrust based' with the right arm folding and thrusting, much like boxer throwing a punch. The tend to have shorter, more compact swings. They tend to lack that 'exotic ballstriking', but are very consistent and accurate. Much like the Rolls Royce, this is a fine machine when executed properly and requires a lot less maintainance.

4. Popular instruction and even a lot of TGM Authorized Instructors favor the 'swinger' pattern, but I believe that Homer Kelley thought most golfers were better off using the 'hitter pattern.' Golfers should probably try the 'hitter' pattern first for about a month or so under close guidance of an Authorized Instructor and see if it is for them.

5. Vijay Singh, Fred Couples, Phil Mickelson = Swingers. Brian Gay = Hitter.

6. Combo Drill = Swinger based. Use your pivot to hit the ball.

7. Flying Wedge drill = hitter based. Use your arm and hand and 'push' the club to hit the ball.



Anonymous said...

Do you see any similarity between the combo drill and Mickelson's Hinge and Hold short game method?

Rich H. said...

Don't know, haven't seen Mickelson's DVD yet. I do know that Mickelson uses a 'swinger' pattern and that combo drill is meant more for the swinger.

Anonymous said...

I think the flying wedge drill is more similar to Mickelson's hinge and hold.

The combo drill focuses on using the pivot to hit the ball.

The flying wedge drill focuses on the hands and keeping a flat left wrist through impact.

swinger = pivot = combo drill
hitter = hands/arms = flying wedge

Mickelson's short game technique focuses on keeping the "hinge"/wrist angles through and past impact.

Conversely, Stan Utley's short game teaching focus on using a pivot to square/swing the club.

Jim said...

I just found this site and I give you big props for taking the time to share your understanding of TGM.
I find your blogs to be accurate, as I understand TGM.
The only thing that you didn't address which may be helpful is a desription of the backswing for "hitters" and "swingers".
I understand that swingers should use a fanning motion with the right forearm. I am not so sure what to do with "hitting". I have been told there is no opening up of the clubface with hitting. (the clubface remains square as the right arm pulls straight back like starting a lawn mower)A comment would be appreciated.

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Anonymous said...

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