"Weight Forward" are two words found in both S&T's "ten words" (now twelve words) and 5 Simple Keys®. Because of this, and other factors, many in the golf world have claimed that 5SK is a "copy" or a "derivative" version of S&T. This was addressed here and elsewhere, this article shall further explore more differences in understanding.
In the S&T world, the intent of "weight forward" is to keep the weight forward throughout the entire golf swing. Depending on the source, weight should start 55% forward at address (A1), be 60-67% forward at the top of the backswing (A4), and never shift back more than 50/50 at any point in the golf swing.
In the 5SK world, "weight forward" (which is Key #2) does not mean at address or at the top of the backswing, but at impact (and even then, to varying degrees - more so when the ball is on the ground, less so with a ball that's teed up). As 5SK is built upon the true commonalities of the game's greatest players, these commonalities do not include "weight forward" at address and definitely don't include "weight forward" at the top of the backswing.
In the S&T 2.0 DVDs, the Stack and Tilt Golf Swing book, and in materials produced from the 2.0 DVDs (which show up on Facebook or elsewhere online from time to time), one can gather data from Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer about what they published as "measurements" from the players they were teaching at the time at various positions in their golf swings. This post won't get into the "weight versus pressure" discussion again (if you need a primer, this thread and the accompanying video is a good place to start).
Regarding the tools used, the SAM Balance Lab and the SwingCatalyst function exactly the same way. They measure "weight" distribution when the golfer is not moving, or "pressure" (force across an area - the golfer's feet in this case) when the golfer is moving (as one cannot measure "weight" in a dynamic or moving system). The software may vary in exactly how it displays this data, but the SAM and the SwingCatalyst often use the exact same plates, and again measure things exactly the same.
Let's examine some of the "data" found in the S&T 2.0 DVDs. Grant Waite's swing is used during the "Checkpoint Detail" (31:00, disc 2) section of the DVDs and these pressure numbers are shared:
Here’s what was measured on a SwingCatalyst at the PGA Merchandise Show just a few months ago with properly synchronized video and properly functioning software:
(Note: the numbers are smaller and in the top right corner of the SwingCatalyst photos. Additionally, the numbers are displayed with the right foot on the right - the opposite of the non-SwingCatalyst photos as seen in the S&T 2.0 DVDs.)
As one should expect, Grant’s pressure moves to the right side as his right hip moves higher and his left hip lower, his right knee stretches and his left knee bends, and his arms move to the right while virtually everything else stays fairly centered. The numbers seen in the second set of photos match both the physics of the golf swing (decreasing flex applies pressure, increasing flex relieves pressure).
As one can see, there is a conflict of data. S&T’s “model” says the pressure never moves beyond 50% towards the trail side, while in reality and on a properly functioning system Grant Waite puts upwards of 65% pressure into the trail side throughout parts of the backswing. In fact, the pressure distribution still favors the trail side through the transition and into the early part of the downswing!
The response from many in the S&T camp is that Mike and Andy are talking about weight, not pressure. Let's examine this claim. When Grant was asked to pose at A4, his weight measured 47/53, with the 53% being on his trail (right) foot.
These numbers match the static position (weight and pressure are identical when the golfer is not moving) as demonstrated below:
In the image above, the vertical line represents the center line of the golfer's body. Care was taken to place the feet consistently and equally apart, and to place the stick perpendicular to the stance line, with the camera pointed directly at the stick. The small line by the golfer's right hip marks the starting position of his right hip at A1. Note that the golfer has maintained a centered pivot and not done anything to shift his hips towards his trail foot.
Here is a photo of the balls and stick you see in the camera view:
Care was taken to set up identically each time. The weight of the golf balls had no effect (they don't even register) on the readings from the platform.
In motion, here’s a video of a slowly made backswing so as to approximate “weight” (i.e. non-dynamic) throughout the backswing, stopping at the top of the backswing (A4) position:
In this video, the golfer has managed to achieve a static A4 position while maintaining a steady head (Key #1) and a centered shoulder turn (per S&T), but had 55% of his weight on his trail foot at A4.
How would a backswing look if the golfer tried to achieve 67% weight forward at A4 while making a centered pivot?
That’s awkward looking. The hips travel forward a considerable amount, the head drops (due to the axis tilt the sliding hips create), and the A4 position looks nothing like what one could expect to see on the PGA Tour.
The S&T 2.0 DVDs, Troy Matteson is asked how far he felt his weight was when he shot a pair of back-to-back 61s to set a PGA Tour scoring record. Troy says "I'm gonna say 65/35, but it probably wasn't that far forward."
Andy Plummer then asks Troy to try an 80/20 swing. Yes, 80% forward. This is shown as the result:
Andy points out that on this swing "he [Troy] recorded the highest clubhead speed of the day (for himself or any of the other players). Second, he hit this ball farthest (of his balls or any of the other players), both in terms of carry and in terms of total yards."
The idea that by getting weight even farther forward allows you to hit the ball crazy distances is strongly implied. Two inconsistencies can be noticed.
First, Troy hit the drive above with a clubhead speed of 117.2 MPH, yet at another point in the DVDs Troy is shown swinging 117.6 MPH:
Andy's statement is incorrect - Troy swung faster on a different swing.
Second, recall the 67% forward backswing video above? Here's one demonstrating 83% forward. Have a gander:
In the video above the head stayed steady. What does a swing look like if one does not restrict head movement? What if the golfer simply tries to get weight forward without regard for a centered pivot?
Here is the result:
Why does this matter? Because "weight forward" plays such a central role in the S&T golf swing. For example, in the first sentence of the introduction of the Stack and Tilt Golf Swing book, Mike and Andy wrote “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.”
Yet then Andy Plummer posts this image:
The golfer who supposedly has their weight (or pressure) the most BACK has a swing plane oriented most to the right, and the golfer with his weight (or pressure) the most forward is swinging the least to the right.
Yes, those golfers do other things throughout the swing to change their impact conditions, but this image speaks to the opposite of the book's first sentence above.
Here’s another example.
This picture is shown on the DVDs (Garrett Willis on the left, Bill Lunde in the middle, and JJ Henry on the right) and Mike and Andy tell us that the player’s weight distribution at impact is the primary factor affecting each of their shot heights: Garrett hits the ball lowest while JJ hits it highest. Mike says "Garrett's weight is back the most and he hits the ball the lowest."
Minutes later another image is shown as a secondary factor in the shot height:
One could easily see how a golfer's weight being more forward can help him to control the clubface, the rate of closure, etc. Yet in this segment of the DVD, the implication is again clear: weight forward is the primary controlling piece in determining shot height, with other things falling well down the list of importance. Indeed, there are many, many factors that determine shot height, but it is often weight distribution is well, well down on the list.
A golfer trying to hit the ball the highest would not be well served to get his weight forward the most - in fact, they'd likely want to put the ball forward, keep their weight relatively back, and try their darndest to time their flip to pick the ball from the turf (note: this is not an advisable way to play consistently good golf, however!).
So where does that leave the idea of "weight forward" throughout the golf swing as expressed in the S&T 2.0 DVDs?
Basically, it’s clear that the S&T 2.0 DVD set may have been released without a full understanding of the tools used to measure the data or ensuring that they're providing accurate data.
Again, the SAM Balance Lab, like the SwingCatalyst (and the other commercially available pressure plate systems) measures pressure throughout a dynamic motion. But again even if one gives the benefit of the doubt and pretends that the equipment used in the S&T 2.0 DVDs is somehow measuring static “weight” the numbers don’t make sense either.
Furthermore, the constant overreaching to apply “weight forward” as an explanation for everything from shot height to “how to hit a draw” leads to a series of conflicting situations.
Let's examine several of the more glaring examples.
One can start by looking again at the stills from their description of the “model” swing from DVD 2.
Here again is what one will find with a properly synchronized video:
The numbers from the "checkpoints" section of the S&T 2.0 DVDs are not even consistent within the same DVD! Note this screenshot, which shows Grant Waite 64% on his trail foot at the top of the backswing, from minutes earlier:
Those numbers far more closely match the numbers Grant achieved on the SwingCatalyst above, not the 67% forward during the "Checkpoint Detail" section of disc 2.
Throughout testing of top-level players (low single digits and better), pressure numbers for the same club stayed within about 1-2% at each point in the swing from A1 to A6 for each player. The numbers at A7 varied slightly more - up to about 4-5% - largely due to the fact that the cameras rarely captured impact exactly, so the clubhead was within about one foot to either side of impact.
In other words, top-level players are incredibly consistent, particularly during the slower parts of their swing like the backswing and through the transition to the early part of the downswing. That consistency is not seen here:
Charlie Wi’s numbers at A4 range from 52% left to 63% left (a range of 11%). Troy’s range from 68% to 80% (12% range). Yet spotting the differences between these is quite difficult (the middle shows both overlapped, with the top at 50% opacity):
This image speaks to the poor synchronization with the video or the poor output from the software that was used, because PGA Tour level players do not have ranges of 11 or 12%, and one would expect to see substantially more differences between the overlapped frames than above if they did vary that much. (In fact, a good portion of the small differences appears to be due to slightly different camera angles relative to the player - the ball position is slightly different, the players were slightly different heights, etc.)
Further evidence that speaks to the poor synchronization of data or some other basic misunderstanding of the technology is available on DVDs 3 and 4.
Several examples follow.
A 59/41 split means that the tip of Dean's right foot is applying ~70% as much weight at this point as as his left foot.
If those numbers were accurate, Brad Faxon would be one of the only PGA Tour-level players whose weight (pressure) is moving backwards throughout his downswing and follow-through. Care was taken to say "one of the few"… because apparently Troy Matteson is another?
Combined, with a line up the center of their feet:
How about a few more?
Here’s Grant Waite again. He’s been shown in the “Model” section as 67% left at A4. He’s been shown in a screenshot as 64% right. On the SwingCatalyst, Grant was 53% right with his weight at the top of the backswing, and 60-65% right with his pressure.
Hmmm. How about Charlie Wi?
What about Grant Waite with a driver?
There are plenty of reasons to suspect the above are simply "bad data." Unfortunately the numbers in the S&T 2.0 DVDs are both inconsistent and incorrect. They contradict themselves and the data available from others who don't believe the weight should be forward throughout the entire swing.
The feel of “weight forward throughout the swing” is one that works for a lot of golfers, and everyone who plays the game of golf is a feel player. Feelings produce mechanics, and it's the job of a golf instructor (or the self-taught golfer) to find the feels that produce the proper mechanics.
Some S&T instructors have said “well, I know that feeling weight forward helps my students." There's no doubt it's helped many golfers, but the problem is simply this: it will work until it stops working, at which point feeling "weight forward" can lead to severe issues.
In all of 5SK's testing, on SAM Balance Lab, SwingCatalyst, and other pressure plates, every good player tested shifts their pressure towards their trail foot - some significantly so (~80% pressure on the trail foot) during their backswing. Pressure never reaches more than 50% forward until early in the downswing. Almost all of the top players asked to pose at the top of their backdswings (A4) have fit between 55/45 and 45/55 - that is, their static weight is somewhere within 5% of 50/50. Some were more rightward - below is a photo showing a golfer modeling 61/39 right - and we imagine Troy Matteson might be as far as 60/40 weight forward on some swings, though we would not call that ideal.
So again, what’s the harm? The average golfer needs more weight forward, doesn't he?
At Golf Evolution we’ve seen a number of players coming to us who are “trying” to implement 80/20 weight forward as prescribed in the S&T DVDs. Their heads are moving down and forward. They’re trying to get their weight more forward - and they’re struggling.
We've been able to help these players quickly by sharing with them what the pressure and weight actually does in players who make a centered pivot - accurate, valid data.
Pressure shifts to the right. Weight stays relatively close to 50/50.
The numbers on the S&T 2.0 DVDs? We'll let you decide.