By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, PGA TOUR Academy
At the TOUR Academies, we get a lot of questions why Tiger Woods' practice swings are so far to the left -- or in many eyes -- over the top. Every time I watch Woods take a practice swing, I cringe a little, because although Tiger needs to swing more left during his swing, most amateurs need to do just the opposite.
When Tiger started under the tutelage of Sean Foley a couple years ago, one of the things they've done is get Tiger's swing direction more to the left in relation to the target line. Historically, Tiger has struggled on the downswing getting the club “stuck” behind him, which affected his swing direction. His swing moved to the right, resulting in pushes and hooks. Foley has done a terrific job rebuilding Tiger’s backswing so he can now swing more left through impact, creating a more reliable ball flight.
What’s interesting about the golf swing is that swing direction is different than the actual clubhead path. Swing direction is simply the direction you are swinging in relationship to the target line. You would think that if I swing left of the target line, then my path would be left. However, this is not always true because you must factor in the attack angle of the clubhead as well.
Attack angle simply indentifies whether you are hitting down or up on the ball relative to the ground. To keep it simple: The more you hit down on it, the more it affects the path of the club head to the right (from the inside). For example, if you hit down on the ball 3 degrees, then this affects your path 3 degrees to the right. Now, say you hit down on the ball 3 degrees with a swing direction to the right 3 degrees. Your path will now be six degrees to the right. This combination of hitting down and to the right is what’s needed for most amateurs -- who are swinging across their body to the left -- because it gets the path of the clubhead working from the inside, creating the opportunity to hit a draw. However, in Tiger’s scenario too much of this became detrimental and needed to be changed to get his full swing back on track.
This swing change to the left has gotten Tiger’s clubhead path closer to zero (target line). For simple math, take the above example again with an attack angle of 3 degrees down. Again, this affects the path of the club head 3 degrees to the right; therefore, Tiger is now swinging to the left. Call it 3 degrees to achieve a clubhead path that is close to zero.
A bit confusing, I know, but it's one of the reasons why you have seen the rebuilding of Tiger’s swing for the third time. After watching him this week in Miami, he's back for good.
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.