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Monday Swing Analysis: Swing too slow? Learn from Ian Poulter, Mr. Consistency

December 19, 2011

*Editor's note: Every Monday, PGA professional Kevin Hinton examines the game of a recent tour winner and tells you what you can learn. A Golf Digest Best Young Teacher, Kevin is the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Golf Club, Locust Valley, N.Y., and is a Lead Master Instructor for the Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort & Spa. He also teaches at Drive 495 in New York. This week, Kevin examines Ian Poulter's incredibly consistent--and fast--full swing. Poulter won the Australian Masters this weekend, sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-4 first hole and going on to win by three strokes. *

*Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest

Twitter @RogerSchiffman*

Kevin Hinton: Ian Poulter has been one of the most consistent players in the world over the past few seasons. Comparing these videos from late 2008 and from 2011, it is difficult to see major differences in Poulter's technique.

Poulter's swing in 2011...

The consistency of his swing has led to consistent performance. Poulter will end 2011 as the 16th-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings. In 2010 he finished 11th, and in 2009 he finished 12th. Much of this is due to his reliable ball-striking. He perennially ranks high in the statistical category of Greens in Regulation on the European Tour. In 2011 Poulter ranked 11th, in 2010 first, and in 2009 sixth.

Ian does many things technically sound in his swing, but one thing that stands out to me is the upbeat tempo of his swing. There have been many great ball-strikers with a quickish, fast-paced look to their swings. Nick Price is the first player that comes to mind. Tom Watson is another. It also reminds me of Hogan.

As a teacher, I often hear my students say that their swings get too "fast," but in reality, as a teacher I speed up more backswings than I slow down. Tour players typically do not have slow backswings. The average swing on tour takes about one second from the beginning of the swing until the point of impact (typically around .75 seconds in the backswing and .25 seconds  in the downswing).  While their downswings are no doubt faster, taking the club back methodically would make it too difficult to create enough speed in the downswing. We need the momentum that is gained in the backswing. Otherwise, golfers would have a static top-of-the-backswing, check all of the necessary positions, then make a downswing once certain everything is in order. Imagine throwing a ball by first placing your arm into a stationary position. You would never be able to create nearly the force, and the change of direction would be too extreme.

Striving for a rhythmic, balanced golf swing is an excellent thing to work on. Just don't think slowing your backswing to snail's pace is the way to make it happen.