Managing Editor Golf Digest
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, Kevin takes a look at the unique swing of Sergio Garcia, who finally won after a three-year drought, dominating by 11 strokes in Spain.
Kevin Hinton: Sergio Garcia has long been one of the game's elite ball strikers. The combination of length and accuracy off the tee, as well as solid iron play, are consistent assets in his game. There is no doubt Sergio is one of the most talented players in the world, but historically he has been let down by average to poor putting, and at times what would seem to be a shaky mental game at best. Off course distractions and suspect putting is a tough combination to overcome. However, Sergio's trouncing of the field in Spain is certainly an excellent sign that he has righted the ship. Garcia's final three rounds of 63-64-63 carried him to an 11-shot victory, and his reentry into the discussion of the best players in the world. Let's take a look at Sergio's driver swing below. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of it during Sunday final rounds in 2012.
Sergio has a few very notable characteristics to his swing. The first is that the club is in a relatively laid off position at the top of his swing. This is no problem at all, and has been this way throughout his career. Having the shaft point down the line is far from a fundamental to great ball striking, however, it is a perfectly fine thing to practice. The relationship that typically exists is that the more laid off the club is at the top, the more likely a player is to fade the ball. If the shaft points across the line(the opposite to Sergio), the more likely the club will swing down on an inside path producing a draw. This is why most tour players, who hate to see the ball hook, would rather err on the side of the club being laid off. However, the amateur player often struggles with the opposite miss. In my experience, the average player does better if the club points down the line, or is slightly across the line. It helps to avoid slicing.
The second is the amount of lag or "down cock" Sergio adds in his transition into the downswing. Ben Hogan had a very similar move. It is super powerful because it increases the angle between the left arm and the shaft. The maintaining of this angle is essential to solid contact and the retention of power. If this angle is lost prior to impact, the result will be poor contact and the club slowing as it approaches the ball. The trick for a tour player is that it can make timing more difficult. Some try to limit the amount that they do it. The interesting thing is that I'm quite certain no one taught Sergio to make this move. He just does it naturally, and it likely developed as he grew up and wanted to hit the ball a long way. Sergio is a small guy, but he absolutely kills it.
(Related: Garcia among golf's all-time biggest phenoms)
The third characteristic in Sergio's swing that stands out to me is how much the shaft flattens in the downswing. This is related to the lag he increases in the downsing. At about halfway down, the club is extremely behind him and it appears that he is going to hit the ball massively out to the right. However, as he gets closer to impact, Sergio continues to rotate his body extremely aggressively. This rotation puts the club into a neutral delivery position. A mili-second earlier it looked as if he was going to make a huge hook swing, but this is not the case. You don't hit as many fairways as Sergio does, especially with his club head speed, by curving the ball significantly right to left.
In recap, the lessons that we can take from Sergio's swing are 1) The top of the backswing position is overrated, 2) Lag equals power, and 3) the body through impact affects the path that club will swing along. Analyze your ball striking strengths and weaknesses. There is likely something in Sergio's swing that can help.