A Personal Guide To Shawn Clement's Swing Video Lessons

 

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Introduction:

 

In this review paper, I will be discussing/deciphering/analysing a fair number of Shawn Clement's U-tube swing video lessons.

Who is Shawn Clement? Shawn Clement is a golf instructor at the Richmond Hill Golf Learning Centre in Toronto, Canada. I don't know him personally, but based on comments that he has made in his swing video lessons, he is apparently a tour professional quality golfer, who has a scratch (or sub-scratch) handicap, whether playing left or right handed. He is not only a gifted golfer - he is also a gifted golf instructional teacher, who is both enthusiastic about golf teaching and also very insightful/knowledgeable about golf biomechanics. He started posting free swing video lessons on U-tube approximately 15 months ago, and he has posted 78 swing video lessons as of January 2008. His swing video lessons are a wonderful golf instructional resource for beginner golfers. One can access his swing video lessons on U-tube [1] or directly from his personal golf website [2]. I personally think that his free swing video lessons represent the best free golf video educational resource that is freely available online, and I highly recommend that beginner golfers view his swing video lessons.

In this review paper, I am going to analyse about 10-12 of his most important swing video lessons, and I am going to focus my attention on his major contributions to online golf instructional material. I am personally very sympathetic to many of his golf swing ideas, and I hope that my personal/editorial opinions will help clarify his primary golf swing ideas, so that beginner golfers can clearly understand his viewpoint. I don't agree with some his comments/opinions, and I will episodically express different/contrary opinions. This will give beginner golfers an opportunity to think more deeply about these issues and come to independent decisions. I have viewed an endless number of online swing video lessons by an endless number of golf instructors, and I think that Shawn Clement offers the best online golf instructional video material. His golf instructional approach is based on a very sound understanding of golf biomechanics, and I believe that his swing style is biomechanically natural, optimally smooth and perfectly balanced. I think that he is a near-perfect role model for beginner golfers.

I am going to attempt to present his swing video lessons in a certain sequence so that I can produce a coherently sequenced approach to the full golf swing. However, there is going to be a significant amount of duplication of golf instructional material in this personal analysis of his swing video lessons, because Shawn Clement repeats the same points over-and-over in his different swing video lessons. Hopefully, beginner golfers will realise that the frequent repetition of the same facts will help reinforce certain important points and make them even clearer and easier to understand.

 

A detailed analysis of Shawn Clement's swing video lessons:

 

When viewing Shawn Clement's swing, there are certain distinguishing features. The major features that characterise his swing are i) a sense of constantly being in balance at all time-points throughout his swing; ii) a sense of harmonious coordination between his pivoting-rotating torso and his arms swinging around his rotating torso, and iii) a sense of freedom in the swinging arms. One immediately notices that Shawn Clement never has the problem of the arms banging into the body or his arms being restricted by the body. His body always seems to clear itself out of the way so that the arms can swing freely across the front of the rotating torso - during both the backswing and downswing. He also never seems to overswing his arms during the backswing and his arms never seem to become disconnected/detached from his body during the backswing. By contrast, in the downswing, he freely slings/catapults his arms across the front of his rotating torso so that the arms can maximise their speed, and consequently clubhead speed, through the impact zone.

I recommend that you start off by viewing this Shawn Clement swing video lesson [3] on his takeaway drill. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AXReWUx4Cg

In this lesson, Shawn Clement starts of by demonstrating how to rotate the body in space with the two feet together. Note how he rotates his torso in space when he has both legs/feet close together. He swings his arms back-and-forth and yet remains perfectly balanced during both the backswing and downswing. Note that his torso doesn't sway during the backswing/downswing and that his torso simply rotates in space. To keep in perfect balance, note that he uses the weight of his butt to counteract the weight of the swinging arms. This is demonstrated in the following photo sequence.


Takeaway Drill - capture images from a Shawn Clements swing video [3]


Image 1 shows Shawn Clement at address. Note that he has minimal rightwards spinal tilt and that his head is marginally behind the ball (center of his stance). During the backswing, he rotates his pelvis so that it rotates towards the target and this helps counterbalance the weight of his arms which are moving to the right of center. That allows Shawn Clement to remain in perfect balance during the backswing although he has slight rightwards tilt of his upper torso and slight rightwards swivelling of the head. Note that he has a 90 degree angle between his left arm and clubshaft at the end-backswing position and that the clubshaft is laid off. There is no lateral swaying of his upper torso during the backswing, and the shoulders rotate perpendicularly around a rightwards-tilted spine. He remains in balance because the pelvis moves slightly leftwards while the upper torso moves slightly rightwards, and there is very little weight shift to the right during the backswing. This represents a rightwards-centralised backswing. During the downswing, he rotates his pelvis in the opposite direction, and that movement helps catapult his arms across the front of his torso to the finish position. It is important to realise that the pivoting-rotational movement of the pelvis in the backswing and downswing is an essential part of his swing style and that it allows him to rotate his torso with a minimum of weight shift and a minimum of lateral swaying of the upper torso, and it allows him to remain in balance during the entire swing. Beginner golfers need to appreciate the importance of keeping in balance during the entire swing, and there should be no side-lurching movements of the body at any point during the swing. The torso rotates in space, and the arms are swung freely across the front of the body during the torso rotational movements. Note how the rotation of the pelvis gets the body out of the way, so that the arms can freely swing across the front of the body without any restriction (2:37 minutes into the video lesson). 

At 4 minutes into the video lesson, Shawn Clement demonstrates that the torso rotational movements are essentially the same when a golfer stands with feet apart. However, with the feet apart, the golfer can pre-tilt his spine to the right at address and rotate his upper torso around a rightwards tilted spine. Note how Shawn Clement's spine remains tilted to the right during both the backswing and downswing, and how the head remains near-stationary in a position behind the center of his stance during the entire backswing and downswing. He states that the right heel should remain on the ground during the downswing and only lift up well after impact. However, his 'right heel-down phenomenon' is due to the fact that his pelvis is only minimally open at impact. Many tour professional golfers have a much more open pelvis at impact (eg. >40 degrees open - see this photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's downswing) and if the pelvis is very open at impact, then the right pelvis must have rotated more around to the left, and this will automatically cause the right heel to rise (especially in inflexible golfers). A beginner golfer must not be concerned if his right heel rises up during the late downswing as long as it occurs passively due to a natural opening up of the pelvis. A beginner golfer should never deliberately/actively lift up the right heel during the downswing. The natural rolling-in movements of the knees and ankles are automatic biomechanical movements that should occur naturally and there is no need for a golfer to become consciously aware of the movements of the knees and/or ankles. A beginner golfer should simply let the knees and ankles move naturally/reactively in response to movements of the pelvis during both the backswing and downswing.

At 8:30 minutes into the video lesson, Shawn Clement makes a very important point - that the pelvis should pivot-rotate at the very start of the backswing (during the early takeaway) and that the pelvic rotation should be *nearly complete by the end of the takeaway [* this is definitely not a fixed rule and it is very acceptable for a golfer to coordinate the hip turn and shoulder turn so that they both end their backswing rotational movements at roughly the same time]. This early pivot-rotation movement of the pelvis is a very important point that a beginner golfer needs to understand and this early lower body movement allows the golfer to remain very stable and in good balance during the takeaway. While the pelvis is pivoting-rotating at the start of the backswing, the arms are flung/slung upwards towards their end-backswing position in response to natural momentum gained by the swinging arms. The constantly changing positional movements of the pivoting-rotating torso form a stable structural framework that supports the swinging arms and helps direct the arms along an inwards track to their end-backswing position.


Takeaway - capture images from a Shawn Clement swing video [3]


Image 1 shows Shawn Clement during the takeaway. Note how his right leg/thigh is angled to the left while his upper torso is angled to the right. This is a very stable structural arrangement that allows the golfer to remain in balance during the takeaway and it also allows the backswing to be completed without any unnecessary weight shift to the right. Note that the head doesn't move much during the backswing and that it maintains a position that is behind the center of the stance. If a golfer pre-tilts his spine to the right at address and gets his head behind the center of his stance, then there is no need for the head to move much more right-laterally during the backswing pivot action. At the end-backswing position (image 2), Shawn Clement has adopted the classic reverse-K position, which is identical to the reverse-K position adopted by most professional golfers.

Here is an image of Ben Hogan in the reverse-K position at the end of his backswing.


Ben Hogan's reverse-K position - capture image from a 1953 film


Note that Shawn Clement and Ben Hogan have the same reverse-K appearance at the end-backswing position (except that Hogan has a bigger shoulder turn that allows him to get the clubshaft parallel to the ball-target line). Beginner golfers should mimic this reverse-K position at the end of the backswing - where the right thigh is angled to the left, pushing the right femoral head and therefore the right pelvis slightly left-laterally towards the target, while the upper torso becomes angled to the right. In this reverse-K postion, there has been minimal overall weight shift away from the center during the backswing, but the head is perfectly positioned behind the center of the stance (note that a vertical line drawn to the ground from the center of the head passes a few inches inside the right foot). Ben Hogan is in a perfect position to start the downswing - the left side of the lower body (lower half of the yellow line) can be easily braced to support the momentum of the shifting-rotating torso as the upper body unwinds during the downswing, and the upper body already has secondary axis tilt (spine tilt away from the target) that allows the upper swing center (midpoint between the shoulder sockets) to remain very centralised during the entire downswing, even though the lower body is shifting left-laterally towards the target.

Shawn Clement has another swing video lesson on the takeaway [4] that is very instructive.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgcAsIR2O_4

In this video, Shawn Clement demonstrates how one uses the momentum of the rotating lower body to help throw the arms/clubshaft up to the end-backswing position. Many beginner golfers use the one-piece takeaway - whereby the two arms and shoulders are moved together as a single unit at the start of the backswing. Unfortunately, they often perform the one-piece takeaway maneuver in a too-stiff manner with no sense of flow and they often only move their upper torso while keeping their lower body static. That is a major swing fault and it may cause the upper body to become detached/disconnected from an overly static lower body. That predisposes the golfer to becoming an upper body swinger and it also predisposes to the 'upper body dive' move, which is a major cause of an OTT move (I discuss the problem of an 'upper body dive' move in great detail in my downswing chapter). Beginner golfers should mimic Shawn Clement's flowing lower body movements, and I think that his idea of pre-programming the mental idea of "catching the next swing" is a good mental idea for beginner golfers who feel frozen at address and who have difficulty initiating the backswing takeaway in a fluid manner. It is perfectly acceptable to sway the thighs slightly towards the target in a forward press motion to get a sense of flow established before starting the takeaway - if it helps one start the backswing with a smooth hip pivot-rotation movement.

Shawn Clement also likens the golfer's body to a construction site crane and he uses the analogy of the crane swinging a heavy wrecking ball. The wrecking ball represents the clubshaft. In that analogy, one can think of the crane (upper and lower body) offering both structural support for the swinging arms/clubshaft and also moving slowly in space in order to set the arm/clubshaft swing into motion at the start of the backswing. I think that the idea of the body being structurally equivalent to a construction site crane may be a useful mental image for beginner golfers.

Another Shawn Clement swing video lesson [5] helps reinforce the mental image of the body being structurally equivalent to a structurally-stable crane.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tstAAWUGN6c

In this video lesson, you can see Shawn Clement swinging his arms, and therefore the clubshaft, back-and-forth along a very consistent swingpath. Note how the clubhead always hits the ground at a certain distance from his feet, and note that the 'distance' is determined by his body's postural aligment at address and during the swing motion. In other words, when a golfer adopts an optimal body postural alignment at address, he should maintain that same postural alignment throughout the entire backswing and downswing. Here is a capure image photo of Shawn Clement's postural alignment during his swing.


Shawn Clement's address posture - capture image from a Shawn Clement swing video lesson [5]


Shawn Clement has a very traditional posture that is routinely adopted by the majority of tour professional golfers. He has a slight degree of flex in his kness, and he bends at the hips in such a way that his lower-mid spine is perfectly straight (long green line). He allows his upper back to be naturally rounded (short green line) and he makes no attempt to keep his upper back artificially straight. He keeps his head in natural alignment with the cervical spine and he looks directly down at the ball. He has the "correct" amount of bend at the hips - note that a red line drawn down the midlle of the right arm hits the ground just in front of the toes. Note that there is a very slight difference in the vertical alignment (longitudanal axis) between his right arm and right forearm (two yellow lines), which is a biomechnically natural phenomenon that happens when the arms hang down naturally from the shoulder joints. He doesn't artificially straighten the elbow joints or artificially downcock (ulnar deviate) his wrists in order to get the clubshaft to line up in a straight line with the arms. This natural posture allows his arms to swing freely under his chin in a natural arc during the downswing. If he keeps a constant spine angle during his downswing and simply swings his arms across the front of his rotating body, so that the hands pass under the chin, then he will produce a natural clubhead swingarc that will allow the clubhead to hit the ground at the same distance from his feet swing-after-swing. Shawn Clement correctly points out that one shouldn't stretch out the arms in an attempt to reach-out for the ball, and that one should move one's feet closer to the ball in order to maintain the optimum body alignments. The distance between the toes and the ball will depend on the club used - a shorter distance for short irons and a longer distance for long irons/woods.

If one mentally pictures Shawn Clement's swing, one thinks of his right hip clearing in the backswing so that he can sling the clubshaft effortlessly up to its end-backswing position using the momentum generated by a rotating lower/upper body. At the end-backswing position, Shawn Clement has adopted the reverse-K position, and he is now ready to start the downswing. One can think of the reverse-K position being a postural situation where one has adopted a braced tilt postion, and in this next video lesson [6], Shawn Clement talks about the braced tilt posture - and how the braced tilt posture allows one to swing the arms powerfully through the impact zone.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI3i936JRd0

In this video lesson, Shawn Clement starts off talking about how one should adopt a slight degree of rightwards spinal tilt at address, and how one should maintain that same degree of rightwards spinal tilt during the entire backswing. At 0.55 minutes into the video lesson, he talks of a "feeling" where one can apply downward pressure from the head down to the left foot as if there is a downward-directed force that provides a stabilising pressure from the head via the spine to the pelvis and then down through the left leg to the left foot.


Braced tilt concept - capture image from a Shawn Clement swing video lesson [6]


In this image, the green lines depicts the braced tilt position that one adopts at address, and which is maintained throughout the entire backswing and entire downswing. At the start of the downswing, a golfer is going to be swinging the arms down and forwards towards the ball and the skeletal structure underpinning the braced tilt structure (head, spine, pelvis, left femur, left tibia, and left foot) provides the support needed to keep the body in balance while the arms are swinging towards the target. If a golfer didn't didn't have a braced tilt supporting structure, then the momentum of the swinging arms would cause the golfer to become unbalanced in the downswing and cause him to topple forwards in the direction of the target. A beginner golfer should have a clear mental image of the braced tilt supporting structure and realise that he needs to maintain rightwards spinal tilt away from the target throughout the entire downswing, so that his arms can swing powerfully under his chin towards the target - while he remains in perfect balance. During the downswing, the degree of rightwards spinal tilt actually increases, because the head (and therefore upper swing center) is kept back near its end-backswing position while the lower swing center moves forward (as described by Shawn Clement at 6:40 minutes into the video lesson). 

Consider the following photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's downswing.


Ben Hogan's downswing action - capture images from a 1953 film


Image 1 shows Ben Hogan at the end-backswing position, where he has adopted the classic reverse-K position. Note his rightwards spinal tilt, and note that his head is positioned right of the center of his stance. I have placed two red lines alongside the outer border of his left/right pelvis so that one can see how much he shifts the pelvis (and therefore lower swing center) left-laterally during the downswing. Note how Ben Hogan braces his body against a firm supportive left leg during the downswing, and note how he keeps his head (and therefore upper swing center) back at the end-backswing position. By keeping his head back while allowing his lower body to move left-laterally towards the target, he automatically develops a greater degree of rightwards spinal tilt during the downswing. Beginner golfers must ensure that they keep the head back while allowing the lower body to shift freely towards the target - and this will ensure that they acquire the correct body alignment by impact (last image in the above photo-sequence - note that Ben Hogan's lower swing center is located at the red line, thereby indicating a left-lateral pelvic shift of approximately 6-8") while the upper swing center is roughly back at its address position location-point. 

If a beginner golfer has a mental image of a braced tilt swing, that allows the arms to be swung powerfully across the front of the rotating body, then he will have come to appreciate the fact that clubhead speed is dependent on a supporting skeletal structure that braces the body so that the arms can be catapulted across the front of the rotating body during the downswing. Shawn Clement's one-leg swing video lesson [7] brilliantly demonstrates this point.  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2FnfZlRwak

Carefully consider what Shawn Clement is doing in this one-leg drill. He is essentially swinging his torso/arms across a braced left leg and he has most of his weight over the left leg during both the backswing and downswing. However, note that he has his spine tilted to the right during the entire backswing and downswing and he always keeps his head behind the ball. Note that he has a rotary swing and that he simply rotates his shoulders around his rightwards-tilted spine in the backswing with very little weight shift to the right, and note that he cannot push off the inside of his right foot at the start of the downswing because he has minimal weight over the right foot at the end-backswing position. He uses the momentum that the arms/clubshaft have gained in the backswing to start his downswing, and he simply pivots over the braced left leg in the downswing while catapulting his arms across the front of his rotating torso.


Shawn Clement's one-leg swing - capture images from a Shawn Clement swing video lesson [7]

Note that Shawn Clement has a slight tendency to lose his spine angle at the end-backswing position because his right pelvis is so far back. Note that his lower swing center moves slightly leftwards during the downswing as his left thigh rotates counterclockwise, and that the leftwards movement of the lower swing center increases his rightwards spinal tilt. Note that his head and upper swing center do not move much during the backswing and downswing and that allows him to consistently hit the ground at the same place swing-after-swing. Note that he has minimal lateral weight shift during his backswing, and that he cannot use his lower body to generate greater swing power by pushing off the right foot at the start of the downswing. Note that he braces his left leg to support the rotating torso in such a way that he can i) can keep the upper swing center (fulcrum-centerpoint for the two shoulder socket joints) stabilised while the arms are slung across the front of the rotating torso during the downswing.

What's extremely interesting, and very informative, is the fact that Shawn Clement can hit the ball as far (if not slightly further) on one-leg as he can hit the ball on two legs using his standard swing - greater than 195 yards with a five-iron. That fact should make a beginner golfer question the wisdom of many golf teachers who assert that one needs to perform the following maneuvers to generate a large amount of swing power during a full golf swing - i) shift a significant amount of weight onto the back foot during the backswing so that one can transfer weight back to the left side during the downswing; ii) push off the right foot at the start of the downswing in order to forcefully shift-rotate the lower body towards the target; iii) restrict the hip turn during the backswing so that one can coil the upper body against the resistance of the restricted lower body turn. What Shawn Clement dramatically demonstrates is the simple fact that one can generate ample swing power to hit the ball a long distance by using a rotary swing with little weight shift.

 Consider a composite image of Shawn Clement performing the one-leg drill.


Composite image of Shawn Clement's one-leg swing - from two capture images from a Shawn Clement swing video lesson [7]


In this composite image of Shawn Clement at the end-backswing and end-followthrough positions, I used a spline tool to trace the clubhead swingpath. Note how little the torso shifts from side-to-side during the downswing and followthrough. Note how Shawn Clement can still perform a complete arm swing during his one-leg swing action drill. In other words, as long as one can swing the arms freely and smoothly over a reasonably long arm swingarc, then one should be able to generate sufficient swing power to hit the ball a long distance. Swing power is roughly proportional to the speed of movement of the arms during the downswing - presuming that one has optimised all the other critical parameters (eg. obtained a left arm-clubshaft angle of 90 degrees in the backswing, rotated the shoulders sufficiently in the backswing to get the left arm to about the 10:30 o'clock position at the end-backswing position, swung the arms smoothly and optimally fast at the start of the downswing in such a way that clubshaft lag is maximised, and swung the arms/clubshaft freely through the impact zone to a complete finish while allowing the clubshaft's release action to happen naturally without any interference). Beginner golfers should practice this drill so that they can learn the importance of i) adopting a braced tilt position at address with a rightwards pre-tilted spine; ii) keeping the head and upper swing center near-stationary during the downswing while the lower swing center moves forward; iii) allowing the arms to swing freely through the impact zone while the mid-upper torso rotates smoothly in space against the supportive resistance of a braced left leg; iv) keeping the body in perfect balance during the entire backswing, downswing and followthrough. If a beginner golfer can achieve these goals, then he will maximise his chances of hitting the ball solidly on the sweetspot of the clubface with a maximum amount of clubhead speed at impact.  

An essential element of Shawn Clement's swing methodology is the role of the hips in the swing. Shawn Clement places great emphasis on the hip clearing action in both the backswing and downswing. During the backswing, the right hip clears (opens like a barn door) and that clearing action i) allows the shoulders to turn more fully so that one can get a more complete backswing arm arc, and ii) it allows the arms to move inside freely without banging against the body. During the downswing and early followthrough, the left hip clears and that allows the arms to swing freely across the front of the rotating body without any restriction. I think that it is important that a beginner golfer fully understands how to shift-pivot the pelvis correctly in the downswing, so that the body can remain in perfect balance while the arms are swinging across the front of the body. Shawn Clement discusses the "correct" method of executing the downswing pelvic shift-pivot action in a very important swing video lesson [8].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNwSfz0_KDM

It is very important that a beginner golfer clearly understands this video lesson because moving the pelvis correctly is a key element of the downswing pivot action.

During the backswing, a golfer should pivot over the right femoral head in such a way that the right buttocks moves backwards and leftwards - in a way that Shawn Clement describes as "wiping the right back pocket against the window in a wipe-direction towards the target". Then, note that the downswing pelvic action starts with a small pelvis shift movement (hip bump) whereby the entire pelvis shifts left-laterally towards the target while the left pelvis is being pulled back towards the tush line (window). That will cause the pelvis to become square to the ball-target line without the right buttocks being pulled forward off the tush line. If the right buttocks is pulled outwards (towards the ball-target line) in the early downswing, the golfer may lose his balance and topple forwards towards the ball-target line. Even if the golfer doesn't lose his balance, a premature rotary movement of the right buttocks outwards (towards the ball-target line) predisposes to hip spinning, subsequent roundhousing of the right shoulder, and thereby an OTT move.


Left butt being pulled back to the window (tush line) - capture image from a Shawn Clement video lesson [8]


Image 1 shows Shawn Clement at the end-backswing position with his right buttock closely applied to the window (tush line). Then, during the early downswing (image 2), as the pelvis shifts left-laterally, the left buttock is simultaneously pulled back towards the window (tush line).

A golfer should note that if he performs the initial downswing hip shift-rotation movement correctly, that the right thigh will slant more towards the target while the left leg straightens. Look at this photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's downswing action.


Ben Hogan's downswing action - capture images from a 1953 film


Note how Ben Hogan's right leg becomes more slanted in images 3 and 4, and note how his left thigh rotates counterclockwise (as seen from above) during the left leg straightening action. As the left thigh rotates counterclockwise, it causes the left femoral head to move backwards away from the ball-target line, and also rightwards away from the target, and this bi-directional movement of the left femoral head causes the left pelvis to start moving back towards the tush line, and also slightly away from the target. During this early phase of the downswing, the pelvis becomes relatively square to the ball-target line, and this phase of the downswing is therefore often called the "hip squaring phase" of the downswing. During the later downswing, the left back pocket will "wipe against the window in a wipe-direction away from the target" and this movement of the left pelvis away from the ball-target line (and also away from the target) is often called the "left hip clearing action". During the hip squaring phase of the downswing, as the pelvis shifts left-laterally, the lowest lumbar vertebra must also be moving left-laterally, and the lower swing center is therefore also moving leftwards. If the head (and therefore upper swing center) is kept back, the spine will automatically acquire a greater amount of rightwards spinal tilt (secondary axis tilt) as the downswing evolves, and this creates the stable braced-tilt posture at impact that allows the golfer to remain in perfect balance at impact. Many beginner golfers do not keep the head (and therefore upper spine) back and the head, entire spine, and entire pelvis slides too far left-laterally in the direction of the target during the downswing - resulting in weak, pushed shots. By bracing the head/spine against a straightening left leg/left foot, a golfer produces a stable skeletal supporting structure that can support the swinging arms as they swing through the impact zone. A beginner golfer must have the distinct "feeling" that the arms are swinging freely through the impact zone at a fast speed while the upper swing center is kept back at a location-point that is very close to its address position location-point. 

Consider the sequencing of body movements in the downswing.


Angular speed of body parts during the downswing - from reference number [9]


This graph offers a beginner golfer an idea of the approximate angular speed of movement of different body parts during the downswing. It can be seen that the pelvis moves first, and the shoulders second and the arms third, and that each sequentially-moving body part moves faster-and-faster. The sequenced movements of the lower and upper torso help propel the arms rapidly across the front of the rotating torso during the mid-late downswing. Note that the arms are moving much faster than the rotating torso during the mid-late downswing, and this is an essential feature of a professional golfer's swing (note that Ben Hogan's left elbow is moving progressively further away from his right shoulder, and steadily closer to his left hip joint, as the downswing evolves in the above photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's downswing). Ultimate clubhead speed is very dependent on the speed of arm movement through the mid-late downswing, and a beginner golfer must deliberately swing the arms freely, smoothly and very fast through the impact zone. Many beginner golfers are so overly focused on hitting at the ball, that they slow their arms down as they approach the ball in the late downswing. Shawn Clement therefore correctly recommends that a beginnner golfer should focus on hitting through the ball, by accelerating the arms/clubshaft through the impact zone, in this next video lesson [10].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBFLHjDA7rw

In this video lesson, Shawn Clement emphasizes a very important point - a golfer's focus should be on whipping the clubshaft through the impact zone, and he should not focus his attention on hitting at the ball. A golfer's focus must be on maximising clubhead speed in the early post-impact phase of the swing - at a point that is ahead of the forward (left) foot. A golfer must focus on releasing the club, so that it swishes at maximum speed ahead of the ball. Shawn Clement talks of widening one's focus and not hitting at the ball, but mentally picturing the clubhead continuing to move at a very fast speed through the impact zone, so that it can easily hit a second ball placed 6" in front of the main ball. His two-ball drill is an excellent drill that can help a beginner golfer learn to hit through the ball and at the same time stay down on the shot (maintain a constant spine angle through impact). Pay particular attention to Shawn Clement's right arm as he releases the club through the impact zone. Note that his right arm gets fully-extended down the target line in the followthrough - as if he were stretching-out to shake hands with the target - and this happens because he is catapulting/slinging his arms/clubshaft freely through the impact zone. Many beginner golfers are so focused on hitting at the ball, that they release the club prematurely and the clubshaft flips past their slow-moving hands at impact. A beginner golfer should focus on getting his right arm/forearm fully-extended after impact, and he should "feel" as if he were casting the clubshaft at the target (and not at the ball).

Consider another photo-sequence of Ben Hogan's swing.


Ben Hogan downswing and followthrough - capture images from a swing video


In the this photo-sequence, one should note that Ben Hogan's left arm is closely angled against his chest wall as he starts the downswing (image 1). However, during the evolution of the downswing (images 2-5), as he rotates his pelvis and upper torso, he also swings his arms freely towards the target. One can readily note that his arms are outracing the upper torso during the mid-late downswing - note the widening gap between the left elbow and right shoulder. This fact indicates that Hogan is catapulting/slinging his arms across the front of his rotating torso during the downswing. Note how Hogan's right arm becomes fully extended during the followthrough - as a result of the momentum gained by the arms/clubshaft in the mid-late downswing. It almost looks like Ben Hogan is casting his clubshaft in the direction of the target. However, note that Hogan's torso has continued to turn through the impact zone, and his chest/abdomen is facing just to the left of the target - which allows Hogan to direct the clubshaft along a slightly inside track, which results in a rounded clubshaft swingarc. It is very important that a beginner golfer understands the need to continue to rotate the torso through the impact zone and the need to actively continue the torso rotation through the entire followthrough phase of the golf swing. It is a mistake for a beginner golfer to stop his torso rotation at impact and allow the arms to fly past the body - this will result in uncontrolled hooked shots as the arms swing uncontrollably through the impact zone and then wrap around the side of the non-rotating body. By continuing to rotate the torso through the shot, both arms can freely extend fully in a targetwise direction without any banging of the arms against the body and without any chicken-winging. Shawn Clement discusses the problem of chicken-winging in the following video lesson [11].  

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEcS4QqZQVo

In this video lesson, Shawn Clement describes how one starts the downswing with a hip shift-rotation movement against a braced left knee, and how the lower swing center moves forward as the lower body shifts its weight towards the target. This downswing lower torso shift-rotation movement helps to catapult the arms through the impact zone, and the momentum of the swinging arms/clubshaft should pull the two arms into full extension post-impact.


Full extension of the arms in the followthrough - capture image from a Shawn Clement video lesson [11]


Note how both arms are extended away from the body in the late followthrough and note that there is no collapsing of the left arm against the body (chicken-winging).

Here is another good photo-example of full arm extension in the followthrough.


Stuart Appleby followthrough - capture images from a swing video [12]


Note how both of Stuart Appleby's arms become fully extended post-impact and note how he continues to rotate his torso actively during the followthrough. The continuing rotation of the torso allows him to keep his arms in front of his body - note that the butt end of the clubshaft points at his mid-torso during the early-mid followthrough. Note the width of his arm swingarc in the followthrough and note the total absence of chicken-winging (excessive bending of the left elbow in the early followthrough with collapsing of the left arm against the side of the body). Note that the clubhead is only square to the ball-target line at impact, and note that Stuart Appleby makes no attempt to steer the clubhead towards the target after impact - note that the clubhead moves inside immediately after impact secondary to the continued rotation of the upper torso, and therefore both shoulder sockets, in a direction that is slightly left of the ball-target line. Beginner golfers must avoid trying to artificially steer the clubhead straight towards the target after impact. The clubhead must move along a rounded arc post impact - as demonstrated in this capture photo from a Kevin Na swing video.


Kevin Na followthrough - capture image from a swing video [13]

Note the symmterically rounded arc of Kevin Na's clubhead swingpath. Note that the clubhead never travels in a straight line at any point in the swing.

In the two photo-sequences of Ben Hogan's and Stuart Appleby's downswing/followthrough (posted above), note that the clubshaft never flips past the hands at impact. At impact, the hands should be in line with the ball, or marginally ahead of the ball, when hitting a driver and significantly ahead of the ball when hitting an iron.

Getting the hands ahead of the ball at impact is very characteristic of a professional golfer's swing when hitting irons. Shawn Clement discusses this issue in his swing video lesson on pronation/supination at impact [14].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TjyLKNodbg

In this video lesson, Shawn Clement discusses the position of the left wrist at impact. He starts off by stating that he prefers to use the terms "arched" or bowed" rather than supinated/pronated to describe the palmar flexed left wrist position (flat left wrist position or slightly bowed left wrist position) at impact. This statement implies an imperfect understanding of the words arched/ bowed versus supinated/pronated. Beginner golfers must learn to use these terms correctly- see my wrist glossary page to fully understand the correct use of the wrist/hand movement terms "arched/bowed/cupped/supinated/pronated". Shawn Clement also describes both wrists as being hinged back at the end of the backswing. Again, that statement is incorrect - the right wrist is hinged back (without any upcocking) while the left wrist is upcocked (without any back-hinging). The left wrist should never hinge (bend) at any time-point during either the backswing or downswing.

See this insightful video lesson by Martin Hall if you want to better understand the "correct" hinging/cocking movements of the left and right wrists during the golf swing [15].

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44fev4wqC6U

Shawn Clement states in this video lesson that one should think of hitting down on the ball with the intention of compressing the clubface against the ball. Many beginner golfers attempt to hit up on the ball in a futile attempt to get the ball into the air. That's a major swing fault. A beginner golfer must attempt to hit down on the ball by getting his hands ahead of the ball by impact. If the hands are ahead of the ball at impact, then the clubshaft will be leaning forward in the direction of the target. The ball will still gain height after impact - in direct proportion to the club's loft. A higher lofted club (eg. pitching wedge with 48 degrees of loft) will cause the ball to fly higher than a club with less loft (eg. 8 iron with 38 degrees of loft).  A beginner golfer needs to learn to trust the golf club's loft to get the ball in the air.


Shawn Clement at address and at impact - capture images from a Shawn Clement video lesson [14]

Note that at address (image 1), Shawn Clement's left wrist is slightly bent/cupped (not palmar flexed or dorsiflexed) because his hands are only minimally ahead of the ball - the left wrist should appear slightly bent/cupped at address if the grip is neutral and the clubshaft is roughly perpendicular to the ball-target line. At impact (image 2), his hands are well ahead of the ball, and therefore his left wrist is bowed/arched (palmar flexed). The amount the left wrist becomes arched (palmar flexed) at impact depends on how far ahead of the ball the left wrist is at impact. If  a golfer hits down on the ball, then the low point of the clubhead swingarc will automatically occur ahead of the ball, thus producing a divot ahead of the ball. A beginner golfer must not attempt to produce deep divots by generating a too-steep clubshaft attack angle, and the optimum divot depth with long-mid irons is often very shallow - a mere scuffing of the grass. Shawn Clement demonstrates the correct amount of divot depth in the following video lesson [16].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Arw9nzj3s

Here is capture photo from that video lesson.


Shawn Clement practice swing - capture images from a Shawn Clement video lesson [16]


Note how Shawn Clement's clubhead merely scuffs the grass at a certain point on the ground in his repeated practice swings and that the lowest point of the clubhead swingarc is just ahead of the ball position. In other words, the standard iron swing arc should have a low point that is roughly opposite the left armpit (as measured at address and not at impact) and that is where the clubhead produces its maximum divot depth (approximately 4" ahead of the start of the divot). If a golfer places the ball a few inches behind this ground-impact location point, then the ball will be struck first (before the clubhead scuffs the ground and produces a shallow divot) and the clubhead will still be on a descending swingpath at the exact point of ball impact. Note that two biomechanical phenomena are responsible for the fact that the clubshaft has forward shaft lean at impact and a low point a few inches ahead of the ball - i) the hands are opposite the inner left thigh at impact, and ii) the left inner thigh has moved slightly leftwards towards the target during the downswing due to the lateral pelvis shift-rotation movement that causes the lower swing center to move left-laterally during the downswing. Those two body actions are necessary if a golfer wants to acquire the correct impact alignment. Many golf instructors refer to the body/arm/hand position at impact as the impact fix alignment. However, it is very important that a beginner golfer understand that the impact fix alignment is not a static position. It is merely a moment-in-time that is captured by a swing video camera. A golfer must swing through the impact zone, and he should not attempt to artificially create this impact fix alignment. He should "feel" his body moving through that impact fix alignment position as a result of moving the lower body correctly and as a result of swinging the arms fast and freely through the impact zone with perfect timing. There is no substitute for perfect timing! That's what makes Shawn Clement such an excellent ball striker - he has perfect timing (perfect in the sense that a sequence of different body movements has to occur i) in the correct sequence and ii) with perfect time-coordination).

[ By the way, I would recommend that you ignore all his comments that he expressed in that video lessson about "gravity", especially the comment that gravity causes the clubhead to strike the ground ahead of the ball. I think that his explanations would make more sense if he used the term "club's angular momentum" to signify the acquired force that causes the clubhead to strike the ground ahead of the ball ]

When one looks at Shawn Clement hitting the ball in that previous video lesson, one can only marvel at his sense of balance. He is not only in a state of perfect balance at address and during the backswing, but he looks like he remains in perfect balance through the downswing, through the impact zone, and through the entire followthrough to the finish postion. He finishes his full golf swing in perfect balance! Shawn Clement believes that one shouldn't try and artificially manufacture a perfect finish position, but rather that a perfect finish position is the end-result of perfectly executed body/arm movements that occur prior to impact and after impact. A perfect finish is a marker of a perfect golf swing!

Shawn Clement discusses the finish position in the following swing video lesson [17].

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKYn7et8B8g

Here is a capture image of Shawn Clement at the finish position.


Finish position - capture image from a Shawn Clement video lesson [17]


Note Shawn Clement's perfect finish position. He ends up standing perfectly erect with nearly all his weight over his straight left leg, and with his pelvis perfectly square to the target and with his knees together ("kissing knees"). His torso is perfectly erect and his head is stacked vertically over his erect torso, which is perfectly in line with his straight left leg. The sole of his right shoe is vertical and parallel to his erect torso.

To get to that perfect finish position, a golfer needs to allow the momentum of the swinging arms/clubshaft pull him to that finish position. The amount of momentum gained by the arms/clubshaft (by the time it passes through the impact zone) determines the optimum stance width. With a driver, a golfer usually generates maximum momentum and that allows a golfer to adopt a wider stance that will still allow the golfer to finish with a square pelvis and the front of both thighs facing the target with both knees close together ("kissing knees"). With a shorter iron, a golfer has generated less momentum through the impact zone and a narrower stance is more appropriate if the golfer wants to have a perfect finish like Shawn Clement's.

 

Comments, criticism and controversy:

 

Insightful comments from readers will be posted in this section.

 

Jeff Mann.

February 2008.

 

References:

 

1. Shawn Clement swing video lessons on U-tube.

Available at http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=clemshaw

 

2. Shawn Clement's golf website.

http://web.mac.com/shawnclement/Site/Welcome.html

 

3. Shawn Clement video lesson - Takeaway drill lesson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AXReWUx4Cg

 

4. Shawn Clement video lesson - Takeaway and starting swing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XgcAsIR2O_4

 

5. Shawn Clement video lesson - Distance to the ball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tstAAWUGN6c

 

6. Shawn Clement video lesson - Braced tilt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI3i936JRd0

 

7. Shawn Clement video lesson - One-leg swing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2FnfZlRwak

 

8. Shawn Clement video lesson - Hogan's Power drill.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNwSfz0_KDM

 

9. The Fundamentals of Hogan. David Leadbetter.



 

10. Shawn Clement video lesson - Through the ball.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBFLHjDA7rw

 

11. Shawn Clement video lesson - Chicken wing and across the line.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEcS4QqZQVo

 

12. Stuart Appleby swing video anlaysis.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_jqJ9R2LypY&NR=1

 

13. Kevin Na swing video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E0EKksPTyk0

 

14. Shawn Clement video lesson - Pronation/supination.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TjyLKNodbg

 

15. Martin Hall video lesson on wrist movements in the golf swing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=44fev4wqC6U

 

16. Shawn Clement video lesson - Contact and spin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Arw9nzj3s

 

17. Shawn Clement video lesson - Finish position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKYn7et8B8g