By TrackMan Master – Peter Egazarian, PGA, TPI3
There has been plenty of great studies done on the aspect of timing in the golf swing, but let’s explore the full swing as a duration of time. What would happen if a player is asked to selectively change the duration of time of their full swing?
What would be the effects of the player choosing a purposefully longer or shorter than their normal full swing? How would it impact the consistency of the club and ball performance? The outcomes measured on TrackMan have been fascinating and we can draw multiple conclusions.
During this test, 16 players (8 Men and 8 Women) ranging in golf handicap from +1 to 34. The players were asked to hit 30 golf shots on TrackMan in a controlled indoor studio (15 drivers & 15 6 irons). The first ten are taken with the player’s “normal” golf swing.
The player is then asked to selectively cause their golf swing “longer” duration of time, for the next ten, and then a “shorter” duration than “normal” for the third set of 10 shots. The player’s ability to regulate the duration of time of each swing is confirmed with K-Motion 3D evaluation software.
Players participating were not given any prior information as to the nature of the test or coaching during the test protocol. Players were able to lengthen the full swing duration of time between .02 to .13 of a second and shorten between .02 to .08 of second during the test (on average).
Original hypothesis: It is not possible for a player to change the full swing duration of time, but only reposition how the time is utilized during the full swing.
1. Is the player’s existing full swing effective or ineffective?
First, let’s classify a player’s full swing into two categories, regardless of style, as effective (consistent control) or ineffective (inconsistent control). Control in the context of ball contact, distance, and direction.
During this test, players are given the autonomy to select the means in which to control the full swing duration of time. For the players that have an existing full swing that is effective, the test proved the effectiveness of their existing full swing motor pattern. The players that had an ineffective full swing motor pattern were provided with an opportunity to choose an alternative motor pattern through the test protocol. That choice can be proven or disproven to be more effective.
The parameters measured during this test provide us evidence that arbitrary in-round swing changes are not only ineffective but contribute directly to a decline in performance and a decline in the consistency of the outcome. The evidence is shown in the data of the ineffective motor pattern of the “normal” full swings or the alternative duration that has proven to be an ineffective choice.
Look directly to the duration of time consistency of the 6 iron and driver full swings. Regardless of gender, the “shorter” duration of time provided the most consistent duration of time. The 6 iron “short” full swings were -/+ .01 of a second and the Driver full swings -/+ .03 of a second. This compared to the 6 iron “normal” full swings were -/+ .04 of a second and Driver full swings -/+ .05 of a second. The “longer” 6 iron full swings were -/+ .06 of a second and Driver full swing -/+ .05 of a second.
These values may appear to be small, but relative to each other they are significant. Additionally, a consistency value of .01 of a second for the “short” 6 iron full swings describes an impressive amount of consistency in the player’s chosen movements.
During this test, the golf swing was measured between .88 of a second and 1.75 seconds. This is overall a very short time and any inconsistencies in the player’s movements or duration of time during the full swing will result in greater inconsistency in the control of the club and ball.
When interviewing the players their selections often reflected choices that would improve the outcome during a round of golf. The most often provided answer to achieving a “longer” duration of time was to lengthen the backswing.
The solution to achieving a “shorter” duration of time was to shorten the player’s backswing. The players also provided feedback on the confusion of which adjustment would be most effective, but through this test, the players were provided more context to the more effective choice.
This test also validates, that if the player is aware of the choice that leads to an effective motor pattern, performance can improve. If the player is not aware of the effective choice to make, then each adjustment is arbitrary and most likely ineffective. During the test, each player gained a different level of self-awareness pertaining to which duration of time was most effective.
2. Does changing the duration of time during the full swing effect consistency?
Players that presently have an effective motor pattern, regardless of gender or handicap, both lengthening and shortening caused greater inconsistency. The players with an ineffective full swing motor pattern identified either a longer or shorter duration of time to be a more effective baseline motor pattern.
This shows that the original hypothesis is correct for a player with an effective full swing motor pattern. Changing the existing duration of time leads to a less consistent outcome while repositioning how that time is utilized is imperative.
The player with an ineffective motor pattern proves the original hypothesis to be incorrect, but in testing this hypothesis, players have been provided an opportunity to discover a more effective baseline motor pattern. The player with the most effective motor pattern showed significant inconsistencies when changing the full swing duration of time.
A 9-handicap player experienced a 30-yard carry distance loss with driver and an 11-yard loss with 6 iron “longer” full swing duration. The player’s carry consistency went from -/+ 8.4 yards to -/+ 27 yards on “longer” driver full swings. This player’s driver carry distance consistency with “shorter” full swings again lost control -/+ 16.9 yards vs the “normal” full swing consistency of -/+8.4 yards.
Other parameters that became more inconsistent were side (-/+ 56.9 ft) and low point (-/+ 2.6 inches) which lead to the player losing control of the quality of contact, distance, and direction.
The most consistent parameter regardless of gender was the low point with a “shorter duration” 6 iron and an average value of 3.4A (after) and a consistency value of -/+ .95 inches. The next most consistent parameters were also from “short” duration 6 iron full swings which all contribute to a very stable carry distance (-/+ 10.6 yards). A very consistent dynamic loft (-/+1.7 degrees) paired with a consistent low point (.95 inch) results in the most consistent smash factor value of -/+.04 of a 1.32 average smash factor.
The players tested, identifying as male, had the most consistent full swings were the “short” duration of time for both the driver and 6 iron, with carry distance of 159.3 with consistency of -/+ 7.3 yards for 6 iron and 223.5 yards of carry with a consistency of -/+ 16.1 yards for the driver. Compare these results to the “normal” duration full swings with a carry distance of 152.8 and consistency of -/+ 15.2 yards and a driver carry distance of 202.8 and consistency of -/+ 19.3.
Additionally, full swings with a “short” duration of time improved the 6-iron consistency of the low point with a value of -/+ .67 inches and -/+ 1.0 inch with the driver.
The player tested, identifying as female, 88% of the participants provided verbal feedback that a shorter duration of time provided the players with greater consistency.
These players identified with the “shorter” duration of time because it was closer to the normal duration of time than the swings made with the “longer” duration of time.
Regardless of scoring range, 88% of the participant’s “normal” swing was measured as effective therefore providing further evidence to support the first conclusion that an effective motor pattern is negatively affected with the change in full swing duration of time.
The performance of the remaining 12% that were dramatically in favor of a longer duration of time provides further evidence that a player with an ineffective full swing can find a more effective baseline motor patter through this test protocol.
One male test subject with a 9-handicap added 21 yards (-/+ 8.1 yards) to their driver distance with a full swing .05 of second shorter and an improved low point consistency of -/+ .84 inches.
Another player with a 32-handicap added 70.5 yards to their driver distance with a full swing duration .19 of a second shorter and an improved low point consistency from -/+ 1.9 inches to -/+.4 of an inch.
The higher handicap player clearly has greater room for improvement than the 9-handicap player, but this is a significant improvement.
Following each test, players were interviewed as to how each player chose to change the full swing duration of time. The most common answer was to alter the length of the backswing to either lengthen or shorten the swing duration of time.
Players that chose to lengthen the backswing often found it difficult to contact the ball which is reflected in the inconsistency of smash factor with a -/+ of .07 vs the shorter duration consistency value of -/+ .04. Additionally, players with a “longer” duration full swing proved controlling low point difficult as well averaging 1.7A (after) with a consistency of -/+1.02 inches vs “shorter” duration average low point of 3.4A (after) doubling the “longer” duration of time full swings.
Players that chose to shorten their backswing often sited greater ease in making better contact with the golf ball which is reflected in the consistency of the low point of -/+.95 of an inch. The consistency of the “shorter” full swing 6 irons (.01 second) and drivers (.03 second) duration of time displays very similar body movements across the sample of players.
This can be directly related to why the player’s low point control is dramatically improved versus the “longer” and “normal” full swings. In a later article, I will highlight the 3D data collected during this test providing evidence to further support the consistency of body movements relating to full swing duration of time consistency.
Players also expressed more confidence in the driver because the ball was on a tee and a comfortable height. The consistency data below reflects the difference of the golf ball being on a tee versus the ground. The data shows that across the board smash factor was consistently 1.40 with a -/+ of .04 in “longer” and “shorter swings.
All Players Data
The above data represents the absolute measurements with consistency values for each swing duration of time and parameter for gender identification. The consistency values are provided in -/+ by the identified measurements.
3. The test process is a Self-Discovery Protocol.
Any coach can guide their player through this test as a self-discovery protocol. This protocol can guide the player to an alternative baseline motor pattern given the existing pattern is ineffective.
The protocol would be most effectively administered by a coach providing feedback to the player as to the movements discovered during the test protocol. The ability of the coach to isolate the most effective aspects of the effective motor pattern can prove to be invaluable to the player’s long-term full swing performance.
During the test protocol players who’s “normal” full swing was proving to be ineffective, often discovered an alternative baseline motor pattern. This depended greatly on the player’s personal choice on how to add or subtract time from their golf swing.
Following the conclusion of the test, 40% of participants have chosen to further explore the baseline motor pattern discovered during the test protocol.
One low handicap test subject discovered a “shorter” full swing motor pattern that was .88 of a second that improved the consistency of his carry distance to -/+ 1.5 yards, smash factor to -/+.004, and side to -/+ 4.4 yards. This player’s 6 iron distance increased by 20 yards versus their “normal” swing.
One test subject discovered greater distance and consistency at a longer full swing duration of time. This high handicap test subject discovered a motor pattern that was .14 of a second longer, but increased driver distance by 22 yards while controlling the consistency of side -/+ 20 feet better than with the player’s “normal” swing duration of time.
This player has an inherently long backswing. During the test, this player chose to “slow down” the time of the backswing rather than altering its length. Provided the similarity in the player’s inherent preference, I would expect to see an improvement.
These are two examples of players at both the high and low end of the scoring spectrum and provides quantifiable data to support this as a self-discovery protocol. The availability of choice is the most important aspect of providing the player with a greater opportunity to long term ownership of the discovered effective motor pattern.