Greg Norman Swing Analysis 2008 Pebble Beach

We were fortunate to be able to see video of Greg and his son Gregory at Pebble this weekend, side-by-side, down the line, and measure and compare their alignment.

The measurements show that Gregory is going to have a difficult time playing at the level of his dad.

Here are both of them at address.

 

Unfortunately, we were not able to get video of Gregory, on the right, exactly at address. The photo shows him just starting to take his club back.

But we are close enough.

You can see several interesting differences between the two golfers. Greg has a bigger spine angle (31º) compared to Gregory (23º). Interestingly, their spine angles are both outside of the tour norms (25º to 30º).

Greg’s hands are much closer to his swing plane. We, of course, know that this makes for a much more accurate swing, as centrifugal force will tend to straighten out the arms and club at impact. The closer your hands are to the swing plane, the less you have to change your spine angle between address and impact. The less your spine angle wanders around during your swing, the easier it is to make good ball contact. A moving spine angle means that your brain has to compensate every time you swing a club. One degree too much or too little, and you will not be able to hit the sweet spot.

We have drawn an ellipse around each golfer’s hands so that you can see the change of their hand position under the influence of centrifugal force.

As a reminder, the driver pulls away from you with 100 lbs. of force during the downswing. As a surgeon friend of ours said, hitting the driver is like performing brain surgery with a 44” scalpel that weighs 100 lbs. and is travelling at 100 mph.

When you start with your hands near the swing plane, it is much easier to keep the driver on plane going back. When you start with your hands dropped, as Gregory does, you have to bring it back far under plane, as you see here:

And here:

 

When your hands and club are so far under plane during the backswing, it makes it difficult to find the plane at the top. You can’t see where your hands are at the top of the backswing—you have to do it entirely by feel. It is obviously easier to stay on plane than it is to get on plane. The more we are able to get our golfers to start on plane, the more they stay on plane, and the more accurate they become.

Despite coming back way under plane, Gregory was able to find his swing plane at the top, as was his dad:

Interestingly, both men reduced their spine angle exactly one degree from address. This is in preparation for what they have to do at impact.

Here they are on their downswing:

Both are a little under plane, but you can see that they both have their clubshaft parallel to their swing plane. It is a credit to Gregory’s athletic talent that he can find his swing plane after starting back so far under. The problem is that it is difficult to be consistently accurate when you do this.

Here are both golfers at impact:

Because they both allowed centrifugal force to straighten out their arms and club, Greg and his son have had to reduce their spine angle prior to impact. But because Greg started out with his hands much closer to his swing plane, he has not had to make the drastic change that Gregory has.

Since centrifugal force pulls your club head 6-7” away from your shoulders at impact when you start with your hands dropped at address, you have to ‘stand up’ (reduce your spine angle) or your club head will be 6-7” under ground at impact.

Greg reduced his spine angle from 31º to 24º, a change of 7º or 23%.

Gregory reduced his spine angle from 23º to just 10º, a change of 13º or 57%.

In other words, Gregory’s spine angle variation is twice that of his father Greg.

Varying your spine angle during your swing is like having sloppy tolerances in your car. Imagine driving a car where the variation in tolerances was 57%. It would be hard to steer such a car. It would tend to wander all over the place. You would have to max out your driving skills every time you got in the car.

This is what happens to golfers who change their spine angle during their swing. The more that they change it, the more they have to rely on hand-eye co-ordination to make good ball contact and hit their clubs accurately. Since they have to constantly max out their driving skills, it doesn’t leave much extra room for when they are under pressure.

By looking at the ellipses, you can see that Gregory’s hands have moved much more than Greg’s:

Again, thanks to his inherited athletic skill, Gregory manages to keep his club on plane after impact:

It is obvious that Greg and Gregory have quite a bit in common in their swings. But the crucial difference of where their hands are at address does not play to Gregory’s favor. It is going to be very difficult for him to match his dad’s prowess on the golf course as long as he continues to drop his hands at address.

He will, of course, be compared to his dad, both by observers and commentators. Since the latter never measure changes in spine angle during the swing, they are sure to ascribe any differences in performance to ‘mental’ characteristics.

But this is common to all golfers. Since they don’t measure their swing characteristics, they often blame their performance problems on ‘mental’ mistakes, not knowing that it is simply too much variation in their spine angle.

Cars, computers and airplanes perform better these days than in the past because we have learned to reduce variations during manufacture.

Golfers manufacture their swing. When they learn the importance of reducing variation, they will perform better. By simply moving your hands up to the swing plane, you can reduce the variance in your spine angle to zero. Golfers who have done this have become prodigious ballstrikers.