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.



Anonymous said...

It does seem that there are some adjustments to clubs to fit the taller player, but not to the extent that they have the same posture as shorter players.

BTW,3Jack,how much longer than "average" are your irons?

Anonymous said...

Richie - I think that your posture has gone too far away from conventional, your head motion during your downswing is not seen in any great players patterns (it rears back, up and away from the ball) and surely the lie angles should be dictated by YOUR biomechanics (ie. based on your stature) rather than using Lag's or Hogan's angles. I have read Lag's posts on flat lie angles being old school and straighter etc....but at some point there needs to be a compromise between flattness and fitting to your stature.

Anonymous said...

I know Ernie is a lot taller than Hogan, but you have to wonder since he is bent over TWICE as much, should he consider altering his setup, maybe bend more from his knees and less from his waist.
Hogan's hands are outside his chin line, Ernie's are inside.
Ernie is a great golfer. But this is a big difference.

Rich H. said...

My irons are not longer than normal. I'd actually advice against it. My 5-iron is 37.5" or 37.75" long depending on the irons I'm using (I have 8 different sets).

Anonymous said...

Bad photos to compare - Els iron and Hogan driver

Unknown said...

At 6' 6" I play my irons 2" over standard. I went to Ted Fort and the first lesson we had he told me I need to get my shafts lenghtened before we could move forward. It's been a big help in getting my posture to a more normal possition and get away from bending and leaning to get to the ball. The problems with this is swing wieght.

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