Using The Ground – Right Idea, Wrong Execution

J.S. sent me a clip of European Tour winner Van Phillips explaining his take on the “using the ground” meme so prevalent and so misapprehended in the golf world.

First of all, he does get it right in the beginning when he talks about shifting weight, because that’s exactly how one applies force to the ground.

That’s where things kind of come off the rails, unfortunately.

You don’t have to do what he then instructs people to do in his video clip around the 2:37 mark:

In that segment, he says the following:

… seeing lots of people trying to go down into the ground, and what they don’t realize is, that they actually need to be able to get back up again…

… I’d like you to think that as you’re changing direction in your swing, yes, it’s a good idea to feel that not only are you moving slightly towards the target with the pelvis but that you’re feeling a little bit of pressure in the lead foot as well, but I’d like you to also pay attention to how quickly you can get up and out of that downward position…

I’ve underlined the problematic parts as well as bolding the words that have to do with “feel,” and this is the big issue with trying to teach people how to swing.

First of all, you can always try to use “feel” to describe what you’re feeling, but the “feel” is not a mechanical action or position.  Without the proper position from which to make the proper mechanical action, feel will do very little for you, if anything at all.

A few points:

  • You don’t have to jump off the ground to create upward force, and it’s ironic because Newton’s Laws are referred to above – if you shift your weight to the leading foot, you will naturally apply pressure in the form of your own body mass into the ground beneath your foot, and the law of equal and opposite reactions will apply! You will generate upward force equal to the downward force you are applying with the shift to that leading foot,
  • People can shift their pelvis to the target without applying adequate force to the ground if they fail to shift the weight to that leading foot and keep a good deal of it on the trailing foot,
  • You should instead be focused on shifting the weight and pressure to that leading foot, which will naturally and properly shift the pelvis toward the target.  The object is not the movement of the hips, but the application of pressure to the ground beneath the leading foot, which will make the hips have to move in order to do so.

Here below, you can see Justin Thomas’ hips moving to the target but his weight and pressure remaining too far over the trailing foot, while the leading foot flies up:

You’ll all remember the posting I put up a while back on Tommy, the amazing kid who swings a club with only one arm (the left arm), and how he showed the fraud of the whole “using the ground” meme:

I showed him at the exact moment of impact (above) and how his leading foot was completely flat on the ground, while his pressure platform showed the tremendous downward force he created with that foot flat on the ground:

All it took for Tommy to exert that pressure was for him to shift naturally to his leading foot to leverage his arm and the club down and through the impact zone.

If you watch the swing, bear in mind that Tommy’s head is only above the line for his setup to swing:

Once he gets to the down swing transition, his head is touching the bottom of that line and he does neither a dive to begin the weight shift, nor does he “come back up” out of his position through impact.

So, the pressure against the sensor plate was created by his weight shift to the trailing foot on the transition, it spikes into impact (because that’s where most of his weight is, as the leading heel comes up), and his head never drops nor jumps at any time in this sequence.

Never does his leading foot leave the ground either.

Of course, I’ve demonstrated “using the ground” and “vertical lift” forces in the MCS Video series, using a Kettle Bell:

You will have the leading leg extending in the down swing (as you can see me doing above), as that is part of the applying of weight force to the ground with the weight shift (if you’re shifting the weight to the leading foot and extending the leg, you’re increasing the downward force thereby increasing the leverage), but there is nothing that has anything to do with “coming back up” from the level you have, or leaping into the air to generate vertical lift forces.

So, there it is.

Van Phillips had the right concept with Newton’s Law – if you apply pressure to the ground, you will generate equal and opposite pressure, without having to jump or leap or “come up” at any point.

In fact, the only reason you see swingers on TV jumping up out of it into/through impact is either because they’ve harpooned themselves into the ball on the down swing, or because they’ve failed to release the weight from their trailing foot and have to snap the leading foot up and around to avoid snapping their ankle and knee ligaments with the force of the follow-through.

Simple science, but not so simple, apparently.

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2 thoughts on “Using The Ground – Right Idea, Wrong Execution

  1. Mike Divot

    It’s cargo cult science. Yes, there are ground forces, but to say “player X generates these ground forces at impact, so if you create the same ground forces, you will hit it like player X” is wrong. It’s backwards.

    It’s like saying “Rory ate a granola bar on the tee of that hole where he got an eagle. If I eat a granola bar on the tee, I’ll make eagle too.” (Then if you make eagle, you say “it works!!!”. If you don’t, you back to studying exactly how Rory unwrapped that bar, how he chewed on it, did he hold it in his left hand, etc.)

    1. D Watts Post author

      Not a bad analogy, MD!

      I actually have found that most of the analysis you’ll find online or on TV consists of this very thing. The latest hot golfer is the model to follow, always, down to the little quirks and idiosyncratic moves.

      Just jump into the air like Justin, or bow the wrist like Dustin… very little of proper mechanics being taught or shown.


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