Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Dangers of Looking For Feels

Here’s a great video, from Christo Garcia of the My Swing Evolution YouTube channel, showing an incredible transformation of one of his subscriber’s golf swings:

A lot of what goes on in this video deals with things that I have been contemplating over the last year or so…swing thoughts/feels/visuals and how they affect golf performance.

In the beginning, Christo discusses how he is looking for that one swing thought/feel/visual that clicks and gets his swing to look more like Hogan’s swing. And I think that is the main problem, he is ‘chasing feels.’

I believe his subscriber with the swing transformation, Lee Namba, is using visuals (which is a cousin to a ‘feel’) and it is working wonderfully for him now, but I think I see where the disconnect is between what Christo is doing and what Lee has done.

First, let’s get to what Christo is essentially trying to work on and in effect, what Lee has been working on.

Christo is trying to get more pelvis rotation in the downswing into impact. It appears he understands that part of the issue is he ‘goat humps’ (aka early extension) and that prevents him from getting more pelvis rotation.

Christo has also been trying to get more lateral side bend of the torso in order to help with that pelvic rotation.


Here is what lateral side bend looks like in an animation:


The idea behind the lateral side bend is that when done correctly and the hips are level (or the rear hip is higher than the front hip)…this creates an action where the pelvis will automatically rotate more. Dr. Bob Olivieri and Andy Plummer discuss this in this video. Note that they are discussing this with the backswing, but the same applies with the downswing movements:

Dustin Johnson is a great example of a player utilizing a lot of lateral side bend and having a pelvis that rotates well open into impact.

Brian Gay is an example of a player with little to no lateral bend that does not have nearly as much pelvis rotation:

And in the end, we see this from Lee Namba whose transformation includes more lateral side bend, far less ‘goat humping’ and more pelvis rotation into impact. Lee states this has dramatically improved his ballstriking and I completely trust him.


Lee Namba gave the issues he used to have and how thru a series of visuals and some feels by studying Keegan Bradley how he was able to transform his swing. Lee said his big issue was essentially his inability to drive the right elbow forward in what The Golfing Machine calls ‘pitch elbow.’

Lee eventually corrected that issue by visualizing his arms ‘swinging underneath the torso.’ Eventually he added some more visualizations and feels to produce the transformed swing he has today.

In Homer Kelley’s The Golfing Machine, he states that it is better to learn mechanics thru feel instead of feel thru mechanics. What this means is that Kelley believes that if you incorporate the right mechanics in your swing, you can eventually develop how that feels to YOU and then use those feels to replicate those mechanics.

But as Kelley said, most golf instruction at that time (he published the book in 1969) revolved around learning mechanics from feels which means the golfer would be taught to feel something in particular and then hope to incorporate those mechanics through that feel. The main issue that Kelley astutely pointed out is that what one golfer may feel doesn’t mean that another golfer will feel the same thing.

Kelley’s solution was simple…use what Kelley called ‘basic, acquired and total motion’ in order to use the correct mechanics time and time again and then develop a feel for those mechanics.

Basic Motion = A small swing where the shaft of the club only goes from about thigh high in the backswing to thigh high in the follow thru.

Acquired Motion = A larger swing, but it only goes to about where the lead arm is parallel to the ground in the backswing to the trail arm is parallel to the ground in the follow thru.

This is often referred to as (9 o’clock to 3 o’clock swing) popularized by golf instructor Geoff Jones (aka SliceFixer).

Total Motion = A full golf swing.

Kelley advised that the golfer should start with ‘basic motion’ and work on that until they incorporate all of the mechanics properly on a consistent basis. Then Kelley advised to move onto ‘acquired motion’ and finally to ‘total motion.’

The difference we are seeing today between Kelley’s recommendation and what neurologist and skill acquisition experts is that they modern day neurologists and skill acquisition experts prefer that the golfer utilize swings at very slow speed and make sure they are utilizing the correct mechanics as the golfer swings the club slowly. When the golfer does use the right mechanics, then they make the swing a little faster and keep ramping up the speed as they get the mechanics correctly. In fact, this is something that Lee Namba says he did in his practice. Oh, and some guy name Hogan used to practice using self-imposed slow motion swings as well:

I tend to believe that both methods (Kelley’s acquired to total motion swings and the speed changes methods) are a good way to go. Three of the very best ballstrikers of all time in Hogan, Moe Norman and Mac O’Grady utilized these methods in their training to become the great ballstrikers they were.


While I praise Lee Namba’s transformation and he has used the ‘speed method’ of acquiring his mechanics, I do feel that he has chased the visuals and feels and I think there was a bit of luck on his side to make it work. And I feel that for other golfers, this may not work in such a permanent fashion like it did for Lee.

I do not feel that Lee fully understands the mechanics, but he did spot something that allowed him to back his way into getting the mechanics needed to get the swing he wanted.

As Lee said, he could never quite get enough room to drive his right elbow forward enough in the downswing. Eventually, he changed his visual to ‘swinging the arms under the torso.’ I personally feel that what Lee did was he not only swung the arms under the torso, but his brain figured out that he needed to make room for himself in order to all those arms to swing under the torso. And he made that room by creating what is called ‘anterior pelvic tilt.’

We can see in the image above both anterior and posterior pelvic tilt. The ‘posterior pelvic tilt’ is also know as ‘early extension’ or ‘goat humping.’ When we get into anterior pelvic tilt, it creates more room. For instance, look at Lee’s before and after video and look at the right thigh and its distance to the ball. With the anterior pelvic tilt (after) his thigh and pelvis is further from the ball and he has more ‘room’ to swing the arms.

But, by the same token, he is now able to rotate that pelvis because of the anterior pelvic tilt. With the ‘goat humping’ move, the pelvis cannot rotate as much and will now slide.

I also believe that Lee had been working hard on trying to externally rotate the right shoulder in order to drive the elbow forward, much like Keegan Bradley does and Ben Hogan used to do.

But with the ‘goat hump’ move, that helped stall the pelvis rotation and therefore the right shoulder would go from external to internal rotation. Now with the anterior pelvic tilt which he used to ‘make room for his arms to swing under his torso’ he can now rotate the pelvis instead of sliding it and he can now sustain that right shoulder external rotation and drive the right elbow more forward into impact. I also believe that the right shoulder external rotation aids in the lateral side bend which is why we see much more lateral side bend in the after photo of Lee’s swing.

The issue with getting somebody like Christo (or anybody else) to translate this is that their brain may not make sense of ‘make room for your arms to swing under his torso’ that Lee used. And he could very well end up trying to make the arms swing under the torso and not get the anterior pelvic tilt in order to do so. Nor may another golfer have the right shoulder external rotation to go along with it. So, in the end another golfer may just be chasing those feels/visuals and because they don’t quite understand all of the mechanics they never quite get to where they want to be.

I tend to believe this is more where modern day golf instruction is moving to…understanding the science of motor skill and skill acquisition learning and applying that to golf. Unfortunately, the golf magazines and TV shows will still give away ‘swing tips’ which usually consist of feels and visuals which only enable golfers to continue to chase feels/visuals even more without any permanent improvement and still having to go to the range all of the time.



Captain Sunset said...

OK. Here you go...

Unknown said...

This is the best explantion of these concepts I've read. i have a really hard time understanding these concepts from Kelvin's body of work.

Jtm said...

Seriously brilliant. I figured this out when my doctor friend got into golf and was reading kelvin articles and he interpreted what you just said. It was a game changer for me. At the top of back swing I focused on apt at start of transition and it helped fixed my over the top swing and kept me on plane. I suspect because this movement helped get my shoulder externally rotated. Also helped maintain my spin angle and tush line through impact.

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