Pros can bomb the crap out of a golf ball. But what is the main difference between a pro’s swing and an amateur’s that creates the huge distance advantage? Careful not to get caught up in the comparison of a pro’s game or career, just the swing. The answer is the muscle groups that the pro uses and the sequence they are used in.
A pro is typically younger, has a full time swing coach, has a mental coach, has as much free customized equipment as he/she needs, has access to fitness and workout facilities, eats a very healthy diet, and dedicates their life to improving golf performance. As amateurs, we can partially emulate but cannot compete. We buy the same brands, we have access to some of the same top quality instruction via golf schools or on-line learning materials, and sometimes we can even play the same courses. However, we all have the same muscles in our bodies – can we get closer? What is the pro doing different?
To illustrate, consider a sliding swing scale. On the left at 0% is our average 35-handicap who’s self taught, been playing for years, and sprays the countryside. On the right at 100% is Dustin Johnson, the best ball striker on the planet. The rest of us fall in between somewhere. Typically, the more correct instruction you’ve had at an early age, the higher on the scale you will be. The main difference is that Johnson is starting his downswing from the ground up by turning and clearing his hips, which pull his upper body and hands through the hitting zone. His hands are passive. His grip, and club face react to the power generated by his big muscles. Watch when he prepares to hit a drive. See how softly he grips the club. Amateurs, on the other hand, grip it way too tight, and typically feature their hands and arms (small muscles) to start the downswing. This fails to leverage power available to them from their torso and causes a lot of pulling and slicing. You and I will never hit it like Dustin Johnson, but learning to start the downswing with your big muscles will help you get the club on a proper swing path and add power and accuracy to your ball striking. See the photo of DJ above. Can you get your hips into that open position at impact? That’s the key!
I was instructed at an early age to try and time my strike of the ball with my wrists and hands. Consequently, my big miss is a pull hook and I am working with my instructor to correct this habit after 40 years. I’m estimating it will take a full season to make the change but I can see it starting to work!
Where are you on the sliding scale? Any chance you can move in Dustin’s direction?
5 thoughts on “Pro vs. Amateur: A Swing Apart?”
Great post. You scale analogy is perfect. The great bal strikers definitely clear their hips and are able to control the rest of their body movements with grace. We can all emulate the same movements, but it takes time and effort. I am working on this change in my swing after 40+ years and it is definitely difficult. Thanks for the reminder that I must focus more on clearing my hips. There is always something to work on. Enjoy your golfing trip!
Jim, my instructor has me get into the impact position (in the DJ photo) and start my backswing from there. Great drill if you ever want to try it.
Thanks, reverse engineering a swing. I like it, thanks.
Well said! It takes a lot of trust to let your big muscles do the work on the downswing and so many amateurs don’t have that trust which leads to stiff, steery swings. However I think most people can definitely move in the right direction with the proper instruction — and a lot of practice!
Josh, it works when I trust them. I need to remember to maintain that trust at all times which is not easy.