JB Holmes Swing Analysis at the 2008 FBR Open

JB Holmes proved his mettle this weekend by winning the FBR Open in a sudden death playoff against Phil Mikelson.

Holmes is a long distance hitter. He hit the longest drive of the tournament (385 yards), had the highest driving average (320), hit 47 of 56 drives over 300 and hit 16 drives over 340. When asked about the reason for his prodigious distance, Holmes responded that he has 'quick hands and hips', a sentiment that will draw nods of understanding from golfers who have and use our Power Hip Trainer.

Unfortunately, Holmes keeps only half of his drives in the fairway, which ranks him 165th on tour in accuracy.

Most golfers assume that if you hit the ball long, you will have problems with accuracy. But this is not true.

Accuracy is a function of alignment, not distance. Measurement of Holmes’ alignment during his swing shows that he has major alignment problems.

Here is his alignment at address.

The first thing we notice is that his Spine Angle (blue solid line) is outside of the tour norms (25-30°) for the Spine Angle at address. One of the reasons for this is that he drops his hands so far below his swing plane (yellow solid line) at address that he has to tilt forward more than other players just to line up his club with the ball. Bringing his hands up to his swing plane would allow him to stand taller over the ball, and would also reduce his extreme change in spine angle between address and impact.

When we say extreme, we do mean extreme. In changing his Spine Angle from 36° at address to 21° at impact, Holmes is making a change of 15°, which is a 42% change in Spine Angle. A 42% change in alignment during your downswing is extreme by any measure.

Because he wisely allows centrifugal force to pull the club away from him during his downswing, thereby pulling his arms and club shaft into a straight line, Holmes has to stand up prior to hitting the ball, otherwise his club head would be 6-7” under ground at impact.

(Players such as Snead, Hogan and Trevino, who did not allow their driver and arms to extend with centrifugal force, all ended their careers with the yips. We think this happened because the stress of trying to resist the 100 lbs. of force generated by their driver during the downswing tore individual muscle fibers in their forearms muscles. As these small muscle fibers tore,microfibers (scar tissue) formed in the connective tissue between the muscles as part of the healing process. These microfibers not only bind the muscles together, they also bind tension into place. When these golfers tried to use the same forearm muscles to lightly grip their putter, their muscles spasmed and they yipped their putts.)

Again, Holmes’ Spine Angle goes from 36° at address to 21° at impact, a change of 15°, or 42%. You can imagine that if you bought a car where the manufacturing tolerances varied by 42%, you would have a hard time keeping it on the road, which is exactly why Holmes has a hard time keeping his drives in the fairway.

A golfer manufactures a swing. We tend to lose sight of this because golfers are ‘human’. We think that they have a swing that suits their ‘temperament’ and ‘innate qualities’ and ‘evolves’.

Actually, the swing that golfers cobble together is mostly a result of local flexibility problems, doing what feels ‘natural’ and imitating other golfers’ swings, usually when they were young. Unfortunately, we have to add ‘instruction’ to this list as many instructors teach inefficient golf swings.

Just as reducing tolerances improves the quality and accuracy of the products we use, so reducing the variation in alignment improves the quality and accuracy of the golf swing.

Bringing the hands up to the swing plane is the easiest and quickest fix for reducing Spine Angle variation during the swing. You can see a good example and explanation on page 44 of our new book, The Efficient Golfer. The best golfers we have worked with have exactly the same spine angle at address, top of the back swing, impact and follow through.

Fred Funk is a professional golfer who takes pride in maintaining his Spine Angle during his swing, and, as a result, is nearly always at the top of the tour in driving accuracy.

As we help golfers reduce their Spine Angle variation, their accuracy improves without sacrificing any distance.

Here is Holmes’ Spine Angle at the top of his back swing.

Already, he is starting to reduce his Spine Angle in anticipation of what he will need to do prior to impact. He has also brought his hands up and off the swing plane, further complicating his attempt to make an accurate tee shot. Again, the best players we have worked with keep their hands and club on plane throughout their swing.

Here is Holmes at follow-through.

His Spine Angle is now 30°, which means that during the brief time of his golf swing his Spine Angle has gone through the following ranges: 36-28-21-30. You can imagine the extra work this creates for his brain in order to make good ball contact with his driver. It is a testament to his great hand-eye co-ordination that he can make ball contact. But his extreme variation in Spine Angle explains why he has trouble making accurate drives.

His hands and club are also off plane during his follow-through, mirroring the problems he had at the top of his back swing. By wandering off the swing plane, Holmes makes the game tougher on himself than it has to be.

When Holmes learns to measure and maintain the same Spine Angle throughout his swing, and keep his hands and club on plane, he will move up the tour in driving accuracy—and post more well-deserved wins.