by Robert Bicknell
I was planning on writing about the current on-line controversy about how the “modern Tour swing” is causing more injuries amongst the players, and then Tiger Woods pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Bay Hill Invitational with a nagging neck injury and it seemed to illustrate the point.
First of all, Tiger has now had four back surgeries, the most notable was fusion of the L5-S1 disks and, as such, he has reduced mobility in that part of his spine. Once you fuse that area, another part of your spine will have to twist more to compensate during the golf swing, unless you’re gonna swing like Moe Norman.
In Tiger’s case, it appears that his neck is taking the punishment.
A recent article making its way around the web claims it’s resulting in more injuries because of the “X-factor” (the difference between hip turn and shoulder turn on the backswing).
The problems is typically players looking for more and more distance. John Daly made himself a household name by driving the ball 355 yards, which helped him to win two majors. Tiger Woods quickly followed and was known for being longer with every club than every guy on the Tour, except for Daly. He did, however, have something Daly lacked…control.
But that extra distance came at a very heavy cost to his physical health.
Pros swing between 113 and 126 MPH (Miles Per Hour) as compared to an amateur who swings at under 100. In terms of the human body, a mistake of form at that speed is gonna cause damage.
Heck, even throwing a baseball too hard can tear your rotator cuff. Trust me, I did it in High School (but I got the guy out at first base, so nyah nyah nyah)
I remember watching in horror as Tiger Woods started showing off Sean Foley’s new swing. The only think that popped into my mind was “Back surgery coming up” because there was no way he was going to compress his disks like that without causing damage.
The knee damage Tiger suffered was due his own blazing speed. Listen, there is no way to go from 120 MPH to 0 without significant risk to your knee and you don’t have to be an Orthopedic surgeon to understand that.
The reason Tiger swings so is because he wants the added distance. Heck, ALL the Tour players do. You cannot survive out there being a short hitter.
But, not all players follow this orthodoxy of the new swing. Phil Mickelson has nothing good to say about the “new” swing and I believe he’s right.
"You can play golf for a lifetime and injury-free if you swing the club like Bobby Jones did, like Ernest Jones used to teach -- where it’s a swinging motion rather than a violent movement," Mickelson said from Augusta. "A lot of the young guys get hurt as they create this violent, connected movement, and I don’t believe that’s the proper way to swing the golf club."
Some people like to call me “Old School” because, when I teach, for example, I focus mostly on letting people move naturally and only the impact zone is important – 12 inches on either side of the ball. Get that right and you’ll hit decent shots and, most importantly, you won’t end up in the Orthopedic surgeon’s office.
Amateurs make the mistake of trying to copy the modern Tour pros, but those guys are Olympics-level athletes who have a vertical, linear and rotary component to their swing, which is required due to their size.
They also get paid a lot of money to do it and can afford the doctors bills. They also have physical therapists following them around to every tournament.
In my view, teaching pros should follow the Hippocratic Oath – “primum non nocere” (First, do no harm”).
There’s an ideal swing for each individual, based on their body and ball flight. Players like Justin Thomas, for example, only swings at 116 MPH, yet hits it far because he’s able to minimize spin and maximize launch.
If you want more distance, monitor those two factors first, and have your equipment checked out to make sure you are getting the best fit for your game.
Henny Youngman had a great joke: “Doc, it hurts when I do this. So the Doc says then don’t do that.”
Good advice. VNS