I'll plainly admit it (and have, a few times, in the forum): when Stack and Tilt first came out in Golf Digest in 2007 I said things like "I don't know much about it, but it seems like they're trying to sell it pretty hard and I'll wait a little while to see if it's still around in a few years before I really devote much thought to it." I didn't look into it, I didn't seek understanding, and I kept tinkering away at my own "conventional" swing.
Ooops. My bad.
Earlier this year I hooked up with a Stack and Tilt instructor in my hometown - and given that there are only about 20 truly qualified instructors, I am fortunate to have one nearby - and my opinions about Stack and Tilt changed as I gained insight into the swing pattern built by Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer.
Throughout the summer, my instructor applied a few "pieces" of the Stack and Tilt pattern to my golf swing. The more instruction I got the more the information made sense to me, and the closer I got to "full conversion." Any objections or disinterest I had regarding Stack and Tilt slowly dissolved away in the face of information and consideration.
The Swing Itself
The first piece of that information came when my instructor pointed out that Ben Hogan was often used by Stack and Tilt instructors to demonstrate several of the pieces of the Stack and Tilt swing. Not all, mind you, but most. I'd previously mentioned to him that I was keen to swing like Ben Hogan. Like so many others, I own a tattered copy of Five Lessons and have pored through the information in it countless times.
That Ben Hogan's swing resembles the Stack and Tilt swing emphasizes that S&T isn't some new thing thought up in a lab. Rather, it's a swing that came from careful study. Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer cast aside everything that people have said a golf swing should be and looked at what a golf swings actually were. They studied actual golfers - pros and beginners and everyone in between - and paid attention to the things they were seeing.
This information led to a complete re-evaluation of the golf swing during which Mike and Andy threw out every convention and, essentially, started from scratch. They watched video and examined images of good and bad players. They discarded conventional "fundamentals" like the grip or "alignment" in favor of new fundamentals like "striking the ground after the golf ball," something the average player doesn't do with any consistency at all but which the best players do incredibly well.
Eventually, they saw light at the end of the tunnel. They classified the components of the golf swing exhibited by the best players and noted how they connected. Though no one golfer in history exhibited 100% of the "new" swing, every great golfer in the past exhibited a high percentage of the moves and every poor golfer a low percentage (or none!).
Armed with this information, Mike and Andy released a DVD. It sold well, and people began Stacking and Tilting as best they could based on DVDs. Web sites slowly began seeing more posts from people talking about how they've begun hitting the ball better.
But Stack and Tilt remains a bit of a "closet" swing. It's still subject to ridicule from the poorly informed and the majority of golf instructors don't teach Stack and Tilt. Students who are interested in Stack and Tilt have, with the exception of the DVDs, been left to fend for themselves.
Fortunately, we now have a book. Titled The Stack and Tilt Swing: The Definitive Guide to the Swing that is Remaking Golf, this book is exactly that - the definitive guide.
The book starts off with a shocking but simple proclamation:
If all of the golf instruction books, videos, and lessons for the last hundred years had taught people to keep their weight on the left side and to swing their hands inward, we would have generations of golfers drawing the ball instead of slicing. Golf would be a different game. Instead, most instruction today teaches moves that lead not only to a slice but also to hitting the ground behind the ball, which has inhibited the development of players and the game itself. Golfers are either learning the wrong things, or the right things in the wrong order. Either way, their games are not improving.Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer in The Stack and Tilt Swing
If you keep reading, Mike and Andy quickly lay out that even the most commonly accepted fundamentals - grip, alignment, posture - aren't true fundamentals. Consider Lee Trevino. Paul Azinger. Ben Hogan. Jack Nicklaus. Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player… each one of them had a different grip. Some aimed right, others left, and some right down the middle.
The book quickly points out that the true fundamentals are hitting the ball before the ground with enough power and control to play the golf course. The Stack and Tilt swing isn't the swing model that would solely create maximum power, but it generates more than enough power to satisfy, say, Troy Matteson (top ten in driving distance this year). It's also not the most controlled swing out there either, but that'd be a chipping motion. Instead, Mike and Andy suggest that it's the best blend of power and control.
Hogan's Five Lessons is loved by so many not just because Ben Hogan wrote it but because the book laid out Hogan's understanding of the golf swing in five very simple sections. It's easy to digest, easy to read, and well illustrated. The Stack and Tilt Swing follows a similar pattern of simplicity, ease, and illustration.
The first two chapters ("Golf's Real Fundamentals" and "Stack & Tilt: The Basic Form") should be read by every golfer on the planet. Seriously - stop in at a Barnes & Noble, read the 40 pages, then ask yourself if it's worth twenty bucks to find out more. These chapters lay out the basis for the Stack and Tilt swing and do a mighty fine job of not only dispelling misconceptions but also demonstrating how much of Stack and Tilt was derived from the best players to ever play the game. It's part sales pitch and part pep talk - it leaves you feeling exhilarated at what the rest of the pages contain.
The next two chapters ("The Setup and Backswing" and "The Downswing and Follow-Through") contain the entire Stack and Tilt swing. Two chapters, 50 or so odd pages, heavily illustrated. That's it, and frankly, that's another of the selling points. It's a simple motion; even Five Lessons took more pages than that, and modern golf books often go on for two, three, or even four times as long (with fewer illustrations). The remaining chapters continually reinforce the key things shared in these chapters, often in new ways that virtually guarantee it'll sink in at some point.
The fifth chapter ("Stack and Tilt Versus the Conventional Swing") might seem misplaced at first, but when reading the book you'll notice that the differences were hinted at in earlier chapters while the full-on detail was appropriately held until the S&T swing was explained. This chapter does a wonderful job of outlining the differences between Stack and Tilt the conventional swing at several key points throughout the swings. This chart, which appears at the end of the chapter, summarizes things nicely:
Chapter six ("Circles and Cones") discusses shot shape. It's here that you'll learn how to hit bigger draws, how to hit a fade, and how to determine what an acceptable shot is. I've never seen the idea of a "cone" in any other golf book, and yet the idea is so simple that you'll find yourself wondering why nobody's thought of it before.
The "cone" is a key piece of information that sets up the remaining chapters, seven through nine ("Priorities and Drills," "Fixing Common Faults," and "Tracking Progress"), which gives the golfer the power to understand and diagnose problems in his own swing. The drills Mike and Andy provide are easy to understand and require little in the way of added gear or equipment. They each have a clear purpose and are specific in how they should be performed, and as you'd expect, are illustrated nicely.
Though Hogan briefly addressed common faults and issues throughout his text, The Stack and Tilt Swing's chapters on fixing your faults and tracking progress push this book into an entirely new territory. In fact, most golf instruction books ask the golfer to hit the proper positions and seem to assume that if your swing is off, fixing it is as simple as finding where you get out of position in order to fix things.
The Stack and Tilt Swing switches things up. It asks the golfer to observe his ball flight, then provides a checklist of possible faults based on the types of shots the golfer's hitting. The checklists are simple and inspire confidence, unlike "flavor of the day" swing keys that golfers typically resort to. It's tough to over-emphasize how different this approach is from most golf books.
In the end, the book does everything a good instructor can do. It sells the student on the idea and pumps them up for what they'll learn, it explains the basic swing simply, it explains variations on the swing to hit shots with a different shape, it provides drills to ingrain the swing, and then it helps the student to be self-sufficient and correct flaws when they pop up.
Throughout, it's wonderfully illustrated, both with images of world-class golfers from the PGA Tour (Hogan, Nicklaus, Trevino, Woods) and of Plummer and Bennett demonstrating the principles. Sprinkled throughout the pages are quotes from current Stack and Tilters on the PGA Tour describing their feeling for a particular piece of the swing or telling a short story that aids in understanding. The language is concise, easy to understand, engaging, and friendly.
Perhaps I said it all in my review on Barnes & Noble's site:
I've played to a low single digit handicap for years, and though I enjoyed the process of working on my own swing, I'd go through lengthy periods of time when I was searching for the key to my swing. Invariably, I'd find something, play well for a few rounds, and then enter another lull.
This year I decided to work with a Stack and Tilt instructor. Like many, I misunderstood a lot of the principles and had a lot of misconceptions about the swing, but with 20 or so PGA Tour players taking to it, I reconsidered. I'm glad I did - this year has been one of the most productive in my golf career. Not only do I know how to swing, I know how to fix it when things go awry.
Stack and Tilt is a fairly simple method of playing good golf, but nobody can do it alone. If you can't find an instructor nearby, this book does a great job as a stand-in (and if you can find an instructor, this book is a great reminder between lessons). The book's photos wonderfully illustrate the concepts and the instructions are simple, clear, and concise. Not only are the positions and ideas explained thoroughly, but PGA Tour pros contribute their "feelings" and "sensations" to help players who are helping themselves.
The book is more than a "here is how to swing the club" guide as well. The last third of the book is invaluable to golfers as it contains drills, common faults and their fixes, and much more. This book does more to actually help the golfer in 240 or so pages than most golf instructional books do in 400. It's not much of a stretch to call this potentially the most beneficial golf instruction book since Hogan's "Five Lessons."
Even if you're not a fan of the Stack and Tilt swing, I encourage you to pick up this book. Read the first chapter - I think you may change your mind. Implement some of the principles of the swing and, when you start beating your buddies, the book will pay for itself in no time.My review at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble
I wrote that on November 12 (I had the book a week before its general release), and I'm more convinced of the importance of this book now than I was then.
The Stack and Tilt Swing is a complete guide to the golf swing. The book, like the swing, is simple to understand, and the main points are continually revisited in new and different ways that help it really sink in. Not only that, but the golfer is given the tools to understand their flaws. No longer will you be forced to say something like "I think I rushed that one" or "I didn't release the club well enough there." No longer will you visit the range, hit 100 balls, and leave more frustrated than when you showed up. Instead, you'll be able to practice with a purpose and work on specific things to improve your swing based on your contact and the ball flight. Five Lessons never gave you that.
Remember the opening statement Mike and Andy make? They conclude the book in a similar fashion that hints at how revelatory Mike and Andy believe Stack and Tilt to be:
In the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, a student-athlete from Oregon State named Dick Fosbury won the gold medal in the high jump using a new technique: He went over the bar backwards - and shattered the Olympic record. The "Fosbury Flop," as his method became known, revolutionized the sport. At the Munich Games in 1972 more than two-thirds of the high-jump competitors went over the bar just like Fosbury had years earlier.Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer in The Stack and Tilt Swing
Stack and Tilt is probably not as huge as the Fosbury Flop, but it's up there, and the book belongs on the shelves of any and every golfer who considers themselves a student of the game. Whether you adopt the Stack and Tilt swing for yourself - and I'd wager that if you read the first two chapters with an open mind you will - the book is virtually guaranteed to offer at least one or two bits of information in exchange for the measly $18 or $19 retailers are charging.