Monday Swing Analysis: Learn from Sean O'Hair's downswing loop
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. He has seen thousands of swings and has helped golfers of all abilities, from rank beginners to tour players. This week, he examines the beautifully timed full swing of RBC Canadian Open winner Sean O'Hair, who won his fourth PGA Tour event after a lengthy struggle.
__Kevin Hinton:__In addition to being one of the most well-liked players on the PGA Tour, Sean O'Hair has one of my favorite swings and it is great to see him playing well again. Sean has returned to his long time swing coach Steve Dahlby, and it may be the catalyst he needs to regain his elite status. Take a look at the video clips below to see what you can learn.
The first video of Sean's driver swing is a textbook example of how to create power. He is one of the longer players on tour and was third last week in driving distance, averaging more than 296 yards off the tee, despite severe penalties for missing fairways--extremely penal rough. Sean makes a huge shoulder turn while maintaining an extremely braced lower body. Notice how well he has maintained the separation between his knees. Most amateurs are far too active with their lower bodies in their backswing. While tour players are typically more flexible and can turn their hips less, average players can gain power if they can quiet down their lower half while still maintaining their shoulder turn. This will help increase your "X Factor" (differential between hip and shoulder turn in the backswing) and potential for distance. I think feeling a little bit of tension from the belt buckle down is a good thing, and it can be an indicator that you are winding up properly. It is in our arms and hands where tension kills...
The second video shows Sean from the target line hitting a fairway wood and a hybrid. In an era where many players and teachers are trying to flatten out backswings, I love how Sean swings his arms and club back freely on a vertical plane, then shallows them in the downswing. This is obviously his natural motion and would be a mistake to try to change. A vertical arm swing worked pretty well for Jack Nicklaus, Davis Love III, Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Ray Floyd and Tom Watson...just to name a few. One valuable lesson that you might take from Sean's swing is that if you are struggling getting the shaft to "shallow out" in the downswing, or you tend to slice, you might find success in taking the club back more vertically. Typically the shaft wants to reverse the path that it took in the backswing. Most of the slicers I see tend to take the club too far to the inside in their takeaways. Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore are two more examples of players who have vertical shaft positions in the backswing, then shallow the club significantly in the downswing. This image of the club "looping" can be very helpful to many golfers who struggle to hit the ball from the inside. Lee Trevino was another great player who masterd the inside loop--he called it a "figure 8" swing. Give it a try. It just might fix your slice.