Monday, May 3, 2010

A Look At Different Swing Instruction - Part V

In this part of the series I discuss Advanced Ballstriking teaching theory.

Advanced Ballstriking is an online instructional program created by John Erickson. Erickson is a Californian who used to be a Canadian and Australian Tour player and a former All-American at Fresno State.

Erickson started studying The Golfing Machine at the age of 14 as Ben Doyle was his instructor. Eventually he started working with Greg McHatton when he became a touring pro. Erickson describes his swing back then as a 'Bobby Clampett clone' with very high hands at the top of the swing, lots of pulling with the left arm and a lot of trigger delay. When he was on, he felt he could strike as well as anybody. But when he was off or when he was in a clutch situation, he felt his ballstriking went south.

Eventually frustrated with that and trying to make a living as a touring professional, he decided to revamp his swing and use his TGM knowledge to do so. One of the very unique things he did was videotape a lot of the golfers who had unusual swings but were good ballstrikers and see what they had in common. Eventually he did change his swing around and won two tournaments, but a back ailment and wanting to pursue other avenues in life had him quit the game.

I usually get a lot of questions about why he never played on the PGA Tour and what many people don't realize is back then they didn't have a Nationwide Tour. So most of the golfers were stuck playing on the Canadian Tour and back then you really needed to have very strong financial backing to make the PGA Tour or be a very rare talent.

My hometown in NY had a golfer who played at U. of South Carolina and turned pro about the same time as Erickson and wound up only affording to play on the Canadian Tour. Eventually he got his amateur status back and his first year as an amateur he made the quarterfinals of the US Am, beating then phenom Manny Zerman before losing to eventual champion Justin Leonard. And he did it while working 3 different jobs and playing about once a week. That's how much talent was on the Canadian and mini-tours back then. Now that talent goes on the Nationwide Tour and makes a comfortable living if they are pretty good and usually winds up with a year or two on the PGA Tour at the very least.

Anyway, Erickson quit the game for 15 years and eventually got persuaded by Paul Smith into discussing his version of 'The Golfing Machine' on the Australian golf site The thread blew up to epic proportions and after many readers sought out his instruction, he created the ABS modules.

There are 10 ABS Modules:

1. Releasing the club into impact (hand and body protocols)

2. Lower body integration, footwork and ground pressures

3. Post impact pivot thrust and acceleration, 5th accumulator and finish (PV5)

4. Creating dynamic "true" swing plane through opposing forces (hand and body protocols)

5. Developing proper hand attitudes and ratchet removal

6. Backswing, transition. Understanding and working with centrifugal and centripetal forces

7. Developing connection and cohesive body tension

8. How to aim and draw and fade the ball using pressure and forces, the easy way

9. Understanding how to play off "true lowpoint", advanced ball positioning protocols

10. Embracing the five step process of hitting proper golf shots.

11. How to Master the art of playing golf

Each module has drills/exercises to help train the golfer's muscles for components in their swing as well as provide the proper visuals for the swings as well.

Contrary to popular belief, there's really not many mandatory parts to the ABS swing. In ABS, the main part of the swing is to have a very flat DOWNSWING. Thus the golfer will come down on the elbow plane or even flatter and then 'swing left' (aka CP release). Most golfers wind up with a strong grip because it's difficult to do Module 1 with a neutral or weak grip, but there are students who wind up using a neutral or weak grip because that's what works best for them. The students can have flat backswings or even upright backswings, just as long as the downswing is flat. The footwork is usually pretty similar, with Greg Norman (pre-Butch Harmon) having the model footwork.

Other than that, the only other thing most of the students have in common is the use of pitch elbow.

In more of TGM/MORAD terms, ABS is usually a double shift plane variation, with pitch elbow, a CP release and 'plenty of right arm' past impact.

ABS also breaks down 'hitters' and 'swingers' differently than it's done in TGM. Where as TGM defines a hitter as a golfer who uses drive loading and a swinger as a golfer who uses drag loading, ABS defines a hitter as somebody who 'swings left' and a swinger as somebody who 'swings out to the right.' ABS teaches a 'hitters' swing by its own definition.

What's probably as fascinating as anything to me about ABS is that thru Erickson's extensive research and trial and error, he discovered a lot of the same things as Mac O'Grady, Brian Manzella and SliceFixer discovered in their own research and trial and error. How they apply it is a different story.

PROS OF ABS: I think the module exercises are sound if anything because they allow the golfer to easily feel their way thru certain components as well as get the proper visual from their perspective as well.

I believe what we know about D-Plane that it's easy to see why the modules, if executed correctly, produce straight shots and it's a pivot driven swing which I think controls the clubface and low point better. I think Module 2 of ABS teaches footwork as good as any instruction out there and more importantly, teaches it early on so the golfer will focus on it properly. It's really opened my eyes on how much better a golfer can strike the ball by incorporating good footwork in their swing.

Before getting into ABS I had read Michael Lavery's book 'Whole Brain Power' which discussed the importance of people always testing their fine motor skills and the equipment suggestions (vintage blade irons, practicing with persimmon woods) fit right in line with students testing those motor skills and you start to see why swings often get worse when students go to more forgiving cavity back irons.

I also whole heartedly agree with the irons being heavy to allow the golfer to get into sequence on the downswing which allows for better and more consistent ballstriking.

Lastly, I do like the idea behind flat irons and the flat downswing. Not only does this force the golfer to use the ground to power their pivot and incorporate good foot and knee action, but it takes the over the top move out of equation and the golfer develops a 1-way miss instead of a 2-way miss. Not only does that allow for better scoring, but it's a gigantic confidence booster when I know I can aim right at a flag positioned well left of the green and feel confident that chances are I will not miss the flag left and if I miss, the ball will be out to the right, but still on the green.

CONS OF ABS: It really requires golfers using forged irons so they can bend them flat. The problem with a standard lie angle is that you'll hook the ball if you swing flat and hit the ball towards the heel. Plus, since many of us are learning the flat downswing, there's a learning curve and using standard lie angles will allow the golfer to fall back into their old, more upright downswing plane.

Another con of ABS is that hitting hybrids and modern 3-woods can be difficult since you are usually swing too flat for those lie angles. You can still use a modern driver since you are not really coming into contact with the ground.

Some people are also leery of not getting live instruction and there are certainly golfers who swing better with a more upright downswing plane.

Lastly, ABS doesn't get too into D-Plane which I found to be extremely helpful in my progess in the swing and it just carried over to helping me out with learning ABS. But, D-Plane has not been warmly greeted over at the ABS forum and that could be dearly missed by some students.

PROS USING ABS: 2-time Australian Masters winner and 4-time PGA Tour winner Bradley Hughes.



Anonymous said...

you forgot to mention that john proves TGM to be completely wrong. lol

Anonymous said...

I've followed a lot of that new ball flight discussion. I don't think that group (ABS) is gonna give anything idea a free pass....their gonna require it to be vetted by some rigorous questioning. At least their nice about it. But looks like there are just as many believers as skeptics. And still some agnostics.