By Roger Schiffman
Have you noticed an interesting thing about Rory McIlroy's swing as he's been on his tear this summer? Yes, he seems to be playing effortlessly--driving the ball beautifully, sticking his wedges and making a boatload of putts. But I'm talking about something that seems a little different in his swing. As I discuss what I've seen with some of my colleagues in the golf business, it's pretty clear that Rory is doing two things he didn't use to do:
(1) He's starting the downswing with a more pronounced hip bump and then active lower-body turn.
(2) His downswing plane is noticeably inside his backswing plane.
I think they are related. The hip bump in No. 1 leads to No. 2. And No. 2 is a really good thing if you want to swing the club into the ball from inside the target line, thereby creating a shallower and more powerful angle of attack. And No. 2 is also one way to gain feel and sensitivity for the clubhead.
As my good friend and teacher, Jim Flick, once told me, re-routing the club to the inside on the downswing is usually preferable than re-routing the other way (though some great players did that, namely Sam Snead and Bobby Jones). For the average golfer, Jim would much rather see a Jim Furyk move (dropping the club to the inside) than a Bruce Lietzke move (looping it to the outside).
Why is that? When you swing into the ball from the inside, you can create extra clubhead speed with less effort, and it's easier to draw the ball, which not only rolls more but has a more penetrating flight. This is especially good if you are a weaker player and need distance rather than control.
But why re-route the club to get it to the inside? Why not simply take the club back to the inside initially? Because if you swing the club straighter back (the modern term is wider), you can create a bigger swing arc before you re-route the club to the inside. Generally, the bigger the arc, the more clubhead speed you can generate (see Davis Love III, John Daly, Ernie Els, Bubba Watson).
Here's what Jim says to do: Swing the club straight back with your hands and arms (not your shoulders--that would cause the club to go back on an inside path). Then, as your first move down, shift your weight to the outside of your left foot while keeping your shoulders turned. While still keeping your shoulders turned, feel as if you simply drop your arms and the club down to the ball. You need to feel this move with your arms, not your hands, which only would flatten the clubshaft. Jim says to think of Jack Nicklaus' key of keeping his shirt buttons facing to the right of the ball as you swing through impact.
All of this combined will allow you to swing the club into the ball more from the inside, resulting in more delay of the wrists, and longer, more powerful shots that curve from right to left (for a right-hander). Prominent tour players (present and past) who make this inside move on the downswing include: