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February 26 2013

2:45 PM

Tip from Travis: Flat ... or not?


Matt Kuchar swings his arm in a flat angle, but his shoulders are steep. (Franklin/Getty Images)

By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy

Kuuuuuuch! Even with a little snow and cold weather in the desert, Matt Kuchar continued his great play with yet another win on the PGA TOUR. Kucher is a player that, at first glance, doesn’t do a whole lot the conventional way, from his putting style with the belly putter to his very flat backswing.

At the TOUR Academies, we get a lot of questions about the shape and appearance of Kuchar’s backswing. Matt and his swing coach Chris O’Connell have done some great things with Kuchar’s game over the years. The most apparent was Kuchar’s dramatic change in his backswing, that saw his lead arm swing much more in (and around) his body.

These movements resulted in the lead arm -- to the eye -- appearing very flat because the lead arm at the top of the swing was under the right shoulder. Most TOUR players will see their lead arm cover the right shoulder at the top, where again Kuchar's is well under it. Counter these movements with Kuchar’s tall frame and extreme forward bend at address, and you have yourself what many call the flattest backswing on the PGA TOUR.

The reality is that Kuchar is still able to maintain efficient clubhead path and clubface numbers at impact from this position at the top. One would think because he looks so flat, that he would swing extremely from the inside on the downswing. However, Kuchar doesn’t, because he is still able to hit down on it through impact with a swing direction that is square, or even maybe a bit to the left.

The counter to Kuchar’s flat left arm movements is how he uses his shoulders and hips during the backswing:

1. Kuchar's shoulder turn is what we refer to as a steep shoulder turn. Again, he is very bowed forward at address, and then turns around this angle so his shoulders are tilted well towards the ground, rather than the horizon. A good rule of thumb is if you swing flat with the arms, then the shoulders need to turn steeper so you can maintain an orientation to the ground that allows you to hit down on it. Conversely, if your shoulders turn flat to the horizon, then the lead arm needs to work more up and down to gain the similar leverage and angles back to impact.

2. In addition to the change of the lead arm and shoulder plane, Kuchar also had to learn how to use his hips differently. You may have noticed how Kuchar really stays in his spine angle as a result of keeping his hips back during the swing. If you were to slide a chair under Matt’s rear end at address, he would push that chair slightly up off its legs as a result of his right hip moving up and back during the backswing, and then again through impact because of the left hip clearing and staying back on the chair. These movements really allow for Kuchar to stay in his spine angle through impact and still get the clubhead to exit relatively left through impact.

So even though Kuchar’s lead arm is flat at the top of the swing, his shoulders and hips are steep, resulting in a combination that still achieves efficient alignments through impact.

Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction at the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more information on the TOUR Academy, click here.

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