Editor's Note: GolfDigest.com has asked Kevin Hinton, one of its Top-20 Teachers Under 40 and the Director of Instruction at Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y., to analyze players competing in this week's PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. His next installment looks at Ernie Els, who owns one of the game's most beautiful swings, and who has already started strong this week.
Who wouldn't want to swing like Ernie Els? Every amateur that I know -- and I am fairly certain the majority of the PGA Tour as well -- envies the action of the three-time major champion. To produce his power with such seemingly little effort is an amazing talent. Ernie is the Sam Snead of this generation, a rare talent that does not come around very often. In the below video clip we can see the main keys to Ernie's speed and rhythm.
Takeaway: Ernie's swing is an efficient building of power, with the end result being the clubhead accelerating through impact at high speed. In his backswing, Ernie's shoulders, arms, hips, and club start back in unison. He has a very "quiet" beginning to his swing. This is a great thing to copy. The majority of golfers need less going on at the start of their swing, not more. Practicing a smooth takeaway is one of the few swings tips that doesn't have an expiration date. It can not be overdone and it will never go bad.
Backswing and transition: At the top of his backswing, Ernie has made a full shoulder turn with his hips turning approximately half that amount. My mentor and good friend coined this differential as the "X Factor". As he begins his downswing, Ernie fires his lower body slightly before his club actually stops going back. This two-way action increases the differential between his hip and shoulder turn, only increasing his power potential. It would be quite difficult to exactly pinpoint where his backswing stopped and his downswing began.
Impact: Ernie's proper sequencing in his transition allows him to create an impact position that maximizes power. Since his lower body got a head start, his hips are well open (tour average is between 20-30 degrees) while his shoulders are close to square. This enables the clubhead to accelerate as it approaches the ball, moving its fastest at impact. High clubhead speed is great, but high speed in the right place is even better.
Tempo vs. speed: I often hear a student say, "I wish I could swing slow like Ernie Els." I sometimes have to break the news that he or she already does swing slow, it's Ernie that swings fast -- he just also has beautiful tempo. Many amateurs slow down their backswing in an effort to create good rhythm and tempo. Many times this isn't the proper fix. Frankly, I speed up more backswings than I slow down. If your backswing gets too slow, creating speed becomes more difficult. It would be similar to throw a ball by first placing your arm in a static position. It's not going to work very well. Rather, to better emulate the amazing combination of grace and power that Ernie creates, work on the actual mechanics and proper body sequencing that allows this to happen.
*-- Kevin Hinton