Johnny Miller: How to analyze a swing sequence

The trick is knowing what to look for.
Here is a frame-by-frame guide

September 2007

To the average golfer, a great golf swing is like a magician's trick. The everyday hacker isn't exactly sure how the expert does it, but he suspects that if he sees the act repeated enough times, he'll discern how the pro hits the ball so far and straight, how he pulls the rabbit out of the hat.

Of course, most magicians wouldn't appreciate being photographed with high-speed cameras from three different angles. That would blow their cover. On the other hand, the golfers presented here don't mind being photographed at all, because they know there are no secrets to hitting a golf ball. There is only the art and science of coordinating their physical movements so they control the ball's flight.

As you progress through these sequences, it helps to know what is good and bad in a golf swing, the difference between cause and effect, and when it's safe to adapt certain movements into your own swing.

Many parts of the swing are superfluous, while a spare few are critically important. As you observe the different methods, pay special attention to the face-on view. When you picture your swing, that's probably the position you see in your mind's eye. The face-on view is best for showing how far the player has turned on the backswing, and the relationship between the left arm and the shaft on the downswing. It also reveals the critical six inches or so through impact and whether the club-shaft has returned to the 90-degree position it was in at address.

The down-the-line view, with the target visible in the distance (though often out of focus), is best for showing the position of the right elbow during the swing, how the hips are working, whether the club is laid off or across the target line at the top of the backswing and whether the butt end of the club is pointed at the ball midway through the downswing.

The up-the-line view, taken from along the target line looking back toward the golfer, is the weak sister of the three. It's good for seeing what went on after impact, but not a whole lot else. And it's definitely hazardous to the health of the photographer.

Golf swings are an eternal puzzle, and as a detective you are free to search for your own clues. Your biggest advantage is knowing that every picture tells a story, and that the camera doesn't lie.

At address

1. If the head is positioned well to the player's right, weight stays to the right on forward swing, promoting a high trajectory.
2. The inside of the feet line up with the outside of the shoulders. If wider, player slides through impact. If narrower, he's a turner.
3. Standard ball position is under the left shoulder. If it's back of that, player hits a draw, if forward a fade.

First move back

4. A wide arc early in backswing makes for a difficult transition move at the top of backswing.
5. If the clubhead is outside the hands, player turns body instead of swinging arms.
6. If the legs appear "quiet," player creates lots of torque early. The left knee moving out means a longish backswing.

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