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October 1, 2019

Identifying Feel vs Real

Video tools like V1 Golf can be powerful and effective teaching aids

BY: TONY L. STARKS WITH SHAWN COX, PGA

Video can be a powerful instructional tool for golf coaches. One of the most beneficial aspects: Helping golfers determine feel vs. real.

Is what the golfer believes to be true actually happening?

As a single-digit handicap that’s been around the game in many forms, I’d developed a good feeling for my swing. I knew that I played the ball slightly back in my stance on iron shots so that I could ensure a solid strike with a descending blow.

But when I saw myself on video using the V1 Golf app during a range session with Shawn Cox, PGA Director of Golf at The Fairmont Grand Del Mar (California), I was shocked.

To me, it felt like the ball was in the middle of my stance at address. In reality, it was positioned closer to my trail toe!

Using the app’s slow motion abilities and analysis features, Shawn was able to diagnose my swing characteristics in minutes. What follows is the information he gleaned from V1 Golf and the application of that info into my golf swing. We’ve also included before and after videos shot using V1 – which makes instructional video clips easy, efficient and quickly sharable.

Here’s Shawn’s take:

Looking at Tony’s swing (see video lower left) from face on and, as you can see from the video, the ball is nearly off his right foot. What he’s learned to do from this position, and he actually does a very nice job of accomplishing something that most pros do, is get his hands forward at impact to ensure that the divot is in front of the ball. But if you slow the video down, you’ll notice where the hands are in relation to the body at impact: they’re inline with the right leg. When you look at the best ball strikers in the world, typically they have forward shaft lean on the club and the hands are more inline with the left leg at impact.

So basically, Tony has learned to put the divot in front of the ball and create good contact – but he’s cheating a little bit in order to do it. You might ask, “If he’s hitting the ball well, why would you want to change it?” Well, playing the ball so far back in his stance has created some other issues, which will be more visible on the down the line perspective.

Tony does a really nice job with swing plane – he’s bringing the club down through the forearm on the downswing and is actually swinging from inside out. But he has to compensate for the ball being so far back in his stance by aiming to the left – you can easily see that his stance is open to the target line. He’s likely learned that instinctively, because when the ball is back in the stance it has a tendency to start right of the target. It’s less prominent with the shorter clubs in the bag, but on the longer end it could be problematic.

Take for example what Ben Hogan used to do. He would position a PW in the back of his stance; progressively the 7-iron would be in the center of his stance and then the woods in the front. However, it was a different game back then. The balls spun a lot more, so they would play it back in their stance to keep the flight and spin down.

The modern ball doesn’t spin nearly as much; it doesn’t balloon up in the air. And thus the modern player positions the ball in the center of their stance with a PW – where a lot of the pros will even play it a little forward of center. With the 7-iron, the ball is positioned off the logo on the left side of their shirt.

Another issue with having the ball back in the stance is that it promotes a reverse-C finish, so the golfer can keep their head behind the ball at impact. That motion adds a lot of stress on the body – particularly the lower back. So just from using the video to identify the truth of what’s happening in Tony’s swing, we learned why the golf ball tends to start right of his target and perhaps helped him prevent future (or further) injury.

So what’s the solution? I asked him to position the ball more centered at address and take a wider stance. By widening the stance, we’re also helping him be less upper-body dominant and allowing him to engage his lower body (and bigger muscles) during the full swing. Through video analysis with V1, we were quickly and effectively able to make changes that will help Tony become a better golfer over time.