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Examining Tiger Woods' Swing Problems of 2004

Instructor Faults Hip Turn for Tiger's Woes

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One of the hot topics in the world of golf these days is the inconsistent nature of Tiger Woods' golf swing. Everyone has been trying to figure out the mechanical flaws in Tiger's swing, including Tiger. Many golf analysts, commentators and journalists have had their say, but I believe Tiger's problem exists in how his hips turn through impact.

As a golf instructor and longtime student of the game, I've spent many hours at driving ranges studying hundreds of golf swings. I've come to the conclusion that the most important aspect of the swing is the hip turn.

Many players misunderstand the proper action of the hips in the golf swing. There are many theories, but I've developed a hip turn concept I've learned over the years through athletics. If you watch baseball, football, tennis, hockey players and professional bowlers, there is a proper action that allows the hips to turn on a consistent basis. This also holds true for the golf swing.

Having carefully observed Tiger's swing since the early 1990s, I can see the difference in his hip turn action through impact when he is hitting the ball well and when he's continuously missing fairways and greens. Before Tiger had his second knee surgery, his left foot would jump off the ground when his clubhead came through impact. This allowed his right hip to move inward, helping him to keep the club on plane and stay inside the golf ball.

This past season, however, I've noticed that Tiger's left leg is staying grounded a little longer and does not have as much of a snapping action. The more his left foot stays grounded, the more likely his right hip will move outward - taking him into a "stuck position" on the downswing, as he has often said, and resulting in his having to make in-swing compensations.

Here's how I would describe the action to Tiger if I were his instructor:

• To visualize the correct hip position, picture your right hip turning inward as if you were holding it back through impact. The motion is akin to the action in the Nike commercial in which you bounce the ball off the club head and swing to hit it. You will feel the inside of your right foot roll inward, and through impact, your right foot will remain on the ground longer. This allows the club to stay on a consistent plane and inside the golf ball.

(See Charles' "Hitman Drill" article for illustration.)

• When the hips are out of position, your right foot will come off the ground instantaneously, causing your hips to move outward. As a result, your right hip becomes a hindrance to your swing plane.

Common Results of Improper Hip Action
When hip action is done correctly, you're able to swing the club at any speed without compensations. Here's what may happen if hip action is off.

1. If you swing hard, you'll block or cut the ball to the right. This often feels like you're hitting close to the neck of the club, sometimes leading to lateral shots.

2. Swinging slower leads to pulls to the left. It often feels like you're hitting close to the toe of the club or even toward the neck with a closed club face.

3. If your timing is perfect, you can hit a decent shot, but it may draw or fade just a little. Sometimes the ball draws when you want it to fade and vice-versa, but you're happy because it's still in the fairway. The reason the shot is somewhat uncontrollable is because you have to manipulate the squaring of the club face with the hands, and it's hard to consistently time your hands through impact.

I offer this perspective because I've experienced this with my own golf swing. For years, I suffered from lateral shots, coming over the top of the golf ball or casting the club, and "getting stuck." I got a better understanding of my swing by watching such greats as Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan and Moe Norman.

Tiger's tremendous talent allows him to get away with a less-than-perfect golf swing. Despite his swing flaw, he's playing good golf. He didn't miss a cut this year, and he almost always finished in the top 10. This certainly is a testament to his ability to play the game.

See Also: The Hitman Drill

About the Author
Charles Calhoun is a golf instructor and professional golfer living in Orlando, Fla. He was a participant on The Golf Channel's reality show "The Big Break" in 2003. To read more of Charles' tips and learn more about his teaching methods, visit his Web site at www.calhoungolf.com.

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