Saturday, April 11, 2009

Why Tiger Woods has a Perfect Golf Swing

This last weekend, we once again had the pleasure of watching Tiger Woods playing in a Major Golf Tournament, the 2009 Masters. He injured his knee prior to the 2008 US Open, and the last we saw of him was winning that tournament in a lot of pain.

He may not have won this year's Masters tournament, but his swing truly is exceptional and it is always worth taking a look at some video and snapshots of his swing to do some video analysis. So why does Tiger Woods have a perfect golf swing? The answer is TIMING.

Tiger shows an almost perfect example of a concept we discussed in our last post with Andy Murray's serve. Tiger creates club head speed by perfectly sequencing and timing the movement of his knees, hips, shoulders, wrists and club. In golf, this is known as the kinematic sequence. The kinematic sequence in a golf swing is a little different to that of a tennis serve, but in the end the idea for both is to create club head speed or racquet head speed by storing and then transferring energy from hips to shoulders to club or racquet, with perfect timing.

Let's have a look at Tiger Woods' swing in slow motion. We have seen this video before, but it is a really good one. In this video we have a side-on view of Tiger's swing (side-on to the direction he will hit) and we can see the club throughout the swing. This makes it a great video to analyze. The video was also filmed with a high speed camera with a high shutter speed, which is why we can see the club so clearly in each frame, even through ball impact.

OK lets analyse this swing by looking at the way Tiger stores and transfers energy to the ball through the golf club. If you stop the video at 0:33 seconds, you will see that Tiger is now at the top of his back swing. During his back swing he turned his hips and his shoulders away from the direction in which he will be hitting in order to store up energy for his swing.

Play the video from here and we will see how his hips start to move earlier and quicker than his upper body and that his shoulders are left behind. Tiger is starting his kinematic sequence by unwinding his back swing. The timing is important and he leads with his hips in order to create more separation between his hips and shoulders and therefore create more energy to be transferred.

His shoulders then follow and at ball strike we see that Tiger's hips are now facing the target while his shoulders are almost facing directly at the camera. This perfect timing has allowed him to transfer all the energy from his back swing, first to his hips and then from his hips to his shoulders.

Here are two images of Tiger at the top of his back swing and at ball strike, created with some free video analysis software and images of Tiger's swing.

Although these are 2 different swings, we can see how Tiger creates separation between his hips and shoulders in the image on the left and how his hips are turned toward the target at ball strike in the image on the right. The shoulders have rotated quickly as they follow in sequence from the hips, in fact they have caught up with the hips as energy was transferred from hips to shoulders and the hip rotation has slowed while the shoulder rotation has sped up. The angle between the hips and shoulders at ball strike is now much less than at the start of the down swing and we can see this in the images above.

Of course the golf swing does not end with the shoulders and there are still numerous places where the timing can be off and the golfer can lose club head speed. In the video above we can look at time 00:41 seconds and we can see that Tiger's wrists are still cocked. As we play forward from this point we will see the wrists release, transferring the energy from the shoulders and arms to the wrists and on to the club and club head at ball strike.

This last sequence happens very quickly and the golfer's timing has to be perfect. Tiger Woods is the master of this timing and we look forward to seeing more video of his swing now that he is back from injury.

Send us your comments and let us know what you think of our posts. We look forward to hearing from our readers.


Anonymous said...

Tiger doesn't have a perfect swing. Tiger has a hard time finding fairwas and Tiger falls on the ball before the impact like no other. Tiger has the best short game in the world and probably the best mental of all competitors but Tiger doesn't have the best swing in the world.
Mirror Phil's Swing, that is prob the best technically wise golf swing in the world... Seriously

Dudley Tabakin said...

Thanks for the comment. There are many players on the PGA circuit with technically excellent golf swings and you may be right that Phil has the best golf swing in the world. Tiger has excellent timing though and his kinematic sequence allows him to strike the ball with superior club head velocity and therefore hit very long drives.

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