This is more to encourage others who saw what he was doing, but If I were to have a conversation with Padraig Harrington, who is a vigorous 2 years younger than yours truly, I would tell him that not only can he “keep up with those young guys,” as he stated in a post-round interview during the Irish Open last weekend (right at the end of the clip), but he can motor right past them.
First of all, he’s an accomplished major winner (3 times), which means it’s not like just hitting the ball a long way is going to suddenly turn a journeyman into a major champion, though it may.
Padraig however is no journeyman, he’s just reaching that age where technique becomes much more important, as you can’t buy youth and vigor – let the young guns flail away at the ball, risking body and back.
However, if even a middle-aged golfer gets the mechanically-correct leverage that comes naturally in a free-hip swing – the young guys will be scratching their heads and asking, “What’s the deal with the old fella out-driving me?”
Harrington is 6’1″ or 1.86m tall, which is the same height as me, and I daresay that, being a full-time player still, he’s in better shape than I am – and he’s listed as having just below 113 mph average club impact speed in the PGA Tour stats.
If you correlate that to ball speed, giving him a perfect Smash Factor of 1.5, he’d have a maximum average ball speed of less than 170 mph.
I went out yesterday to hit some balls with David D., needing a little break from the editing of the “E = MCS” video and not having hit balls for a week – and I was in the high 170’s to low 180’s in balls speed with the driver.
And that wasn’t with the latest driver and brand new professional balls – that was with my old Ben Hogan CS-3 driver, and with less than pristine range balls, which even if brand new, are 10% shorter than regular balls in distance and therefore, I’d imagine, a little slower off the tee than regular.
And that was using this step-around finish swing, along the lines of Mike Dunaway:
You can compare the swing form I’m displaying through the ball, above with a swing yesterday, to Dunaway:
The whole reason for the step-around is why neither Dunaway nor I, even when driving the ball well over 300 yards whenever we please, don’t have the snapping left knee now the “flying foot” syndrome so prevalent on the pro circuits today.
When you make a full hip turn through the ball, you see, and end up on the left foot and side – how exactly do you do that without the right foot releasing – if it’s not made of rubber and doesn’t stretch, that is?
The modern players don’t want to release that foot, for some reason, and it actually goes back to the classic era, where the “Reverse-C” finish was largely due to not releasing that right foot on the finish while ending up on the left foot.
You’ll either end up in a “Reverse-C” position, which isn’t a true finish on the left side because the upper body is still back over the right, or you’ll end up doing something like this through impact and the follow-through:
So, to any young or older golfers looking at what Padraig is doing with his swing:
He’s on the right track, but that left foot spin-out post-impact shows a timing issue with the step-around, and that is certainly fixable, so that he can get the action you see in my and Dunaway’s swings above.
In my early swing research years, I didn’t have a “short-stop slide” or step-around, but I noticed that my consistency and power increased when I adopted the move.
That’s because you’ll do one of three things if you fail to release the trailing foot:
1 – You’ll either develop a natural and unconscious “speed brake,” where you don’t swing as fast and hard as you could, because you don’t want to injure the leading hip or knee, or back, or
2 – You’ll swing that way and develop stability issues with the leading foot and leg, and tend to not shift to the left foot on the crucial down swing phase, to compensate for the failure to release that foot or
3 – You’ll just swing through and either “Reverse-C” finish or not, and eventually hurt something, somewhere, because of the pulling forces and strain you’re exerting with that momentum to the left side post-impact.
Now, look at three problems with the swing, caused by simply failing to release the trailing foot – can you imagine a pitcher coming down to release the pitch and his trailing foot suddenly becomes nailed to the ground behind him?
So, if you wonder how I can swing a Momentus Power Driver and achieve 160+ mph ball speed with range balls doing so (when the PGA Tour average is around 166 mph with regular clubs and balls), or get into the 180’s when I only swing once a week…
And if you’re wondering how a fat, 47 year old guy who doesn’t train or work out can even think of doing the above things without blowing out a knee or his back… it goes to technique.
My back, because of my scoliosis, is pretty tender most days – I’ve had chronic pain in the left sacroiliac joint forever (my spinal defect bends my spine to the left, along with the spiral twist that turns my shoulders open to the left when I start naturally), to the point I struggle to tie my shoes or tee a ball up – but when I’m swinging – I feel no pain or discomfort whatsoever.
And that, my friends, is because I swing with my hips and legs, and I release my trailing foot the way you would when walking or throwing.
And that is the reason I’ll be able to swing a golf club as hard as I wish to, and the only issue I’ll have is when I bend over to pick up and tee up another ball.
Because the pain in my back is the result of a birth defect, and not because of the way I swing!
So, I would say to anyone looking at Padraig and wondering if what he’s doing has any merit – for sure, it does, and he’s just begun the process of looking into it, it seems.
As I said in my earlier posting regarding this, he doesn’t have to completely lift the leading foot on the back swing, just the heel, and that weight transfer and step-around need a little tweak, timing-wise, to eliminate the leading foot twist post-impact.
It’s doable, and I’d love to see a Dunaway model swing on the PGA and European PGA Tours!
Let’s hope he gets the rest of the way.