Golf Science – Inside the Ropes of a Professional’s Mindset

Golf Science – Inside the Ropes of a Professional’s Mindset

Most golfers these days are on one or more social media platforms and so get bombarded with swing tips all the time. “Get your lead elbow bowed like Dustin Johnsons’s.” “Get vertical close to impact like Justin Thomas.” “Keep your butt against the wall like Tiger Woods.” And on and on.

So, the recently completed Genesis Invitational at the famous Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles was the perfect opportunity to quiz players at this special event hosted by Tiger Woods’ charity, the TGR Foundation, on a very interesting topic. Many well-known PGA TOUR players were asked, “We amateurs are often told to swing like this pro or that pro. Who do you try to swing like?”

Scottie Scheffler is currently the leader on the Official World Golf Ranking, having played exceptional golf in 2023. His response was, “It depends on the day. In my wedges I always try to think of Steve Stricker.” And with your driver, for instance? “It really depends. I usually just try to time it at the top of my swing, just have good rhythm.”

Xander Schauffele has won seven times on the PGA TOUR Being a “SoCal Boy” who grew up in San Diego, and in the year of the Olympics, of which he is the defending gold medalist, the spotlight was on him all week long. His answer to the question was “Myself.” Does he look very different from everyone else on the range, then? “I think so. I think everyone’s got a certain cadence and rhythm to how they do everything … everyone’s going to look slightly different. I think there’s an optimal that everyone strives for, but if your body can’t allow you to do certain things, then you’ll never be able to hit that optimal.”

Gary Woodland played the Genesis Invitational as a sponsor’s exemption, because the host, Tiger Woods felt it was important to give Gary a chance after the scary medical experience he had of having a tumor removed from his brain. “I try to swing like myself,” was Woodland’s response, too. “I let my body dictate how I swing. It’s hard. Everybody’s body is different, so no two swings should be alike. I think go out there and allow yourself to swing the way your body allows it and play your best golf.”

Adam Hadwin of Canada is most recently famous for getting tackled by security when he tried to rush onto the 18th green to congratulate his friend who had just won the Canadian Open. With a single win on the PGA TOUR, this 36-year-old said exactly what all the other pros had, “Myself. My coach is very good at working with his students and teaching them based on what their body can do.” (In his case, he can turn very well but does not have the up and down that some guys have). 

Tom Kim is a six-foot-tall Korean golfer with three wins on the PGA TOUR He, too, responded, “Myself.” And “Just be you.” Where do you get you swing ideas from? “Hours and hours of practice. I just know how my body moves, I understand what to do and what makes me play good. I try to make sure I know what I’m doing, and I know what I do good, so it’s always trying to be in that same spot.”

Matt Fitzpatrick is English. He is most known for winning the 2013 U.S. Amateur and, years later, the 2022 U.S. Open. In 2023, he won the RBC Heritage. He, too, echoed what his fellow-professionals had all said, “Just myself. Just feel the distance I’m trying to hit the shot.”

Most of the pros interviewed seem to believe that their bodies are capable of different things. But “capable” toward what specific end? For which specific movements? For an on-plane swing? For a neutral clubface at the top with a flat lead wrist? Or for the more recently recommended, force-plate-era motions of weight shift, rotation and vertical lift? 

How complex, really, is body capability? After all, all a golfer needs for a great full swing is a square clubface delivered to the ball via an inside path and shallow trajectory while the club travels at maximum speed! Can it really be so hard? My research of over 30 years indicates no. Simply position the body for an inside takeaway, then don’t make any backswing torso movements, and it is very easy to return the club perfectly to the ball. Hardly any specific “body capabilities” required! There is a free eBook on my website which explains some of what I mean.

In the end, if every Tour pro believes he should swing like himself because his body is different from everyone else’s, why on earth are the rest of us, who are very, very different from the most athletic golfers in the world, being told to swing like them?