By Travis Fulton, Director of Instruction, TOUR Academies
If you were to poll the game’s top instructors and ask them who has the best swing on the PGA TOUR, Adam Scott’s name would invariably come up most often. The Aussie’s swing is pure poetry in motion -- powerful, graceful, and seemingly never out of sync. I’ve had the privilege of analyzing Scott’s driver swing several times this summer for DIRECTV’s Launch Pad channel, including this past week at The Barclays, and I can tell you it is certainly one of the most consistent, repetitive motions in golf. Perhaps that explains why Scott is seemingly in contention in every major these days. In his last 12 major starts, dating to the 2011 Masters, Scott has finished outside of the top 15 only twice. Seven times he’s finished in the top 8, including a first (this year’s Masters) and two seconds.
A big reason why Scott’s swing is so revered is because he has such great timing. What is timing? It’s the ability to return the left shoulder, left hand and clubhead in a straight line at impact and sustain it to the low point of your swing’s arc. This low point just happens to occur directly below your left shoulder. If you release the club too early and your left arm begins to break down, or the clubhead lags way too behind the hands at impact, then your timing is out of sync and your power and accuracy will suffer.
One of the things that contributes to Scott’s timing is that he maintains a relatively straight left arm throughout the swing. In other words, he has excellent width to his swing, which is one of the principles he learned from his former coach – Butch Harmon. Width can be defined as the distance between the tip of the left shoulder and the hands (for a right-handed golfer). Halfway back and at the top of his backswing, Scott’s hands are miles away from his left shoulder. And while the actual arc the clubhead travels on the downswing gets narrower, his left arm remains extended into delivery and through impact. That combination of width and timing is what makes Scott such an excellent driver of the ball. (Scott is 14th on TOUR in total driving, which is a combination of driving distance and accuracy.)
What’s interesting is that Scott’s ability to maintain a straight left arm has more to do with what his right arm is doing than his left. On the backswing, he gets his width at the top by pushing his right elbow out away from his chest. It’s as if he’s holding a tray of drinks. By letting the right elbow fold, he’s providing structure to his left arm so that it’s able to remain extended. On the downswing, he drops his right elbow down in front of his right hip, maintaining some bend to his right wrist. Again, this provides structure (and length) to his left arm into the delivery position. The right arm then begins to straighten past the ball, further lengthening out the left arm.
Most pros don’t have to train the right arm to work in this supporting manner because it just occurs unconsciously. But at the TOURAcademies, we often have to train our students to be more conscious of what their right arm is doing, so that they, too, can maintain a straight left arm and improve their timing and ballstriking.
Travis Fulton is the Director of Instruction for the TOUR Academies at TPC Sawgrass and the World Golf Village. For more game-improvement tips from the TOURAcademy instructors, on-the-spot club recommendations and 3D previews of each hole you play, download the TOURCaddie PRO app at www.pgatourcaddie.com.