U.S. Open

Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2)

The Loop

What's the future of Stack & Tilt?

February 21, 2011

In the wake of Aaron Baddeley's long-in-coming victory yesterday at the Northern Trust Open--after forsaking the Stack & Tilt instruction method he was so closely linked with for more than two years--much is being written about the method's effectiveness. Dave Shedloski questioned its viability for tour players in a piece for this week's Golf World Monday. And the method's other well-known practitioner, Mike Weir, has also gone back to a more conventional swing, as have several other tour players.

But the method remains highly touted throughout the country, as a number of instructors still believe strongly in its basic principles. Tiger Woods, under the tutelage of Sean Foley, seems to be incorporating a number of the Stack & Tilt principles into his own swing, and last week he reached something of a breakthrough. (Tiger didn't declare it; John Cook declared it for him.) In particular, Tiger is trying hard to stay more centered over the ball on the backswing and looks to be taking the club back a little more on the inside with a less laid-off clubshaft position at the top.

Baddeley's swing, however, is noticeably freer since he went back to his earlier teacher, Dale Lynch, and he was quoted as saying just the opposite from Tiger: "I'd say the biggest change is giving myself spine angle at address and then actually having the weight move a little bit to the right side and then allowing and trusting that the club will just drop on the inside and I'll be able to rip a draw out there."

Here is a face-on and down-the-line video view of Baddeley's Stack & Tilt swing. #iframe:|||

Compare the down-the-line view with a down-the-line view of Baddeley's post Stack & Tilt swing, which shows his right knee with more bend (Stack & Tilt preaches to keep it straighter, ala Sam Snead). And his hands look to be taking the club straighter back and then are set higher at the top (Stack & Tilt contends they should go back more to the inside and should be on a flatter plane at the top).

So what does this all mean for Stack & Tilt? Has the method as taught by Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett, and which has become a best-selling book, dvd and even a golf school, become obsolete for most tour players? Will it work for average golfers? How does it affect those with back issues? I feel it probably depends on the player's specific tendencies and faults and what kind of ball-flight that player is trying to achieve. For example, if a golfer has a tendency to hit fat and thin shots with the club bottoming out before impact due to a poor weight transfer, the concept of staying centered over the ball and shifting the weight strongly to the front leg through impact probably will help. If a golfer has a tendency to come over the top, with the club approaching the ball on a severe out-to-in path, Stack & Tilt might help due to the more-inside backswing.

I do know from my own experience working with a local teacher in Connecticut, who is a big advocate of staying centered over the ball at address, in the backswing and through impact, that it helped me to hit my irons more solidly. I was not able to make it work for my driver, however. But Golf Digest Senior Editor Pete Finch, after working privately with Plummer and Bennett two years ago, reported fairly dramatic improvements in all of his ball-striking.

But does Stack & Tilt have saying power? As we analyze Baddeley's Stack & Tilt swing from four years ago and his swing today, you be the judge. We will revisit this topic over the next several days so you can determine if Stack & Tilt might be right for you. Golf Digest Senior Editor of Instruction Peter Morrice, who literally wrote the Stack & Tilt book with Plummer and Bennett, gave me input on the following analysis that goes along with the video linked above:

--Clubhead path: Under Stack & Tilt (2007), Baddeley's clubhead moved more to the inside on the backswing; today (2009) his clubhead goes back on a straighter path.

--Left knee: Under Stack & Tilt, Baddeley's left knee kicked toward the ball more, indicating that his hips were turning on a steeper angle; today his left knee kicks in significantly less.

--Hand position at the top: Under Stack & Tilt, Baddeley's hands were much lower at the top (below his head); today his hands go higher than the top of his head.

--Swing plane: Under Stack & Tilt, Baddeley's swing was much flatter, his left arm was parallel to the line of his shoulders at the top in more of a one-plane look; today his left arm is much more vertical than his shoulders, more of a two-plane look.

--Right-arm position: Under Stack & Tilt, Baddeley's right elbow stayed very close to his ribcage on the backswing; today his right elbow is out and away from his body at the top.

--Forward tilt toward the ball: Under Stack & Tilt, Baddeley was tilted more toward the ball at the top; today his spine is more upright (seen from down-the-line view).

If you have any questions or comments about Baddeley's recent success or the future of Stack & Tilt, please let me know and I will try to address them.

*Roger Schiffman

Managing Editor

Golf Digest

And remember to follow me on Twitter @RogerSchiffman.*