PART III: BACKSWING, TRANSITION, DOWNSWING
I delayed posting this part of the review because I wanted to experiment a little further on some aspects of MGS. I apologize in advance for a lengthy post here, but the idea is to provide as much information as I can from my experience in hopes someone out there may benefit.
The following is not to make the MGS swing sound more complicated or difficult than it actually is. Breaking the swing down in parts is only my way of relating what I experienced when trying to follow Kiran’s instruction as she had written it.
The approach in this Part III is a little different because once you perform Kiran’s setup and twist; you then enter the realm of figuring out and performing the biometrics for any good swing given you abilities and physique. Make no mistake, you can also ruin this swing with the common faults that amateurs commit with any swing methodology, so don’t just blame MGS if you are getting slices, hooks, etc., or having trouble making good contact.
Obvious in Kiran’s title is the “Minimalist” concept, ie, less shoulder turn, less hip turn, less forearm rotation, less wrist cock, less weight shift, less body rotation back and down. As I practiced this swing my assumption was that her intent was that by minimizing these elements in the swing you are also minimizing the necessary timing that each requires, and therefore making the kinematic sequencing easier. Though the instruction seems geared to the beginning golfer, I found it can benefit the long time golfer as well as the accomplished golfer by reducing some of the timing elements required for good ball contact.
At the expense of being called redundant, I’ll say again that IMO the setup and pre-turn (twist) places the golfer in a better position to perform a golf swing as compared to the conventional setup. This is probably the No. 1 advantage of Kiran’s “method” This SETUP GREATLY REDUCES THE POTENTIAL FOR COMMON ERRORS THAT GOLFERS COMMIT IN THE SETUP AND BS and provides a more consistence means to achieving good positions at the top of the BS.
Once you have worked out the elements of the setup that are best for YOU, the swing becomes much more consistent and repeatable, which is the object of any instruction.
That said, I’ll relate some areas I had concern with and eventually worked out for myself.
A. MGS BACKSWING PATH: The instruction has you take the club back on what looks like a too-far-inside path. Seemed strange to me at first because of the dangers of swing flaws from that too-inside type of path (over the top move, casting, too much of an inside out swing, pushes and blocks). But I realized that it was not really that far inside if you looked at it in relation to the pre-turned shoulders.
However, I still had the sensation the BS was coming back inside more than I’m used to, especially if you are trying to get the clubhead opposite the mirror outside the trail foot in her instruction picture. As far as an inside, under plane swing goes, Jim McLean in his book “The Slot Swing” shows there are basically 3 ways to take the club back and then find the DS slot: 1. Take it back outside the shaft plane and the loop it back in to on plane (Furyk and a lot of others), 2. Take it back on the shaft plane and down on the shaft plane (Tiger), or 3. Take it back inside and under plane and move it slightly over to come down on plane and in the slot (Sam Snead, Moe Norman, Mike Austin, Bruce Litzke). He explains that number 3, inside, under plane takeaway, is the most natural way to take the club back. It’s the way a child would do it if using a club that is too heavy for him; or it is what you would do if taking back a sledge hammer to then hit a stake or a spike. So at least conceptually you don’t need to feel uncomfortable about using Kiran’s instruction on where to take the HANDS and CLUBHEAD in the BS. I normally use a slightly inside and under plane takeaway in my regular setup and play some decent golf.
Using the MGS prescribed inside takeaway I had to hit a lot of balls to finally become more comfortable with the inside BS hand path. (I’m unclear about the need to make the clubhead itself come back in a straight line as the instruction shows rather than in an arc. Perhaps Kiran or Kevin can elaborate further on this requirement.
I wound up close to the instruction but with a clubhead not quite as far inside. I paid more attention to the hand path and let the clubhead find its path accordingly, rather than trying to make the clubhead fit that position opposite the right foot. Ball striking improved. After all, the important thing is getting the hands to the proper position at the top; how you get there can vary. Depending on your anatomy, especially if you are heavy in the chest and shoulder area, I’d play around with the take away path to find the optimum for you.
Dealing with my uncomfortable feelings on the inside take away, I found that, given the pre-turned shoulders, what Kiran showed was good instruction and should be followed by most students. CONCLUSION: As mentioned above, I personally am more concerned with the hand path in the BS because that is what is more reliable to get you to the proper position at the top. Clubhead path can change too much from club to club and with different anatomies and postures to be reliable enough for a swing key.
RAISING THE RIGHT ARM IN THE BS: I had already performed the twist so the turn was mostly complete. Per the instruction I used a rising lead arm up the pre-turned chest until the hands were about shoulder high and the lead arm at, or just above, parallel to the ground at the end. That put me in a good leverage position as mentioned before.
FIRST MISTAKE: At first my lead arm and hand path were too far inside due to too much forward bend before the twist, as mentioned previously. I must have hit 100 shots ½ inch toward the heel of the clubface before realizing what caused the shaft to be too far behind me at the top of the BS. My arms were too far behind me with the flatter swing plane that the to-much-forward-bend produced. The adjustment was to do less forward bend which produce a little more of a vertical posture after the twist. This got the arms more vertical and less behind me, which allowed me to swing left on a better arc in the DS and get a decent tumble of the clubhead.
SECOND MISTAKE: At the start of the takeaway I was lifting the clubhead too much in the first two feet of the takeaway. This was a carryover from my normal swing where I begin cocking the wrists during the early part of the BS. But with the MGS, and the no wrist cock, I fixed the fault by keeping the clubhead closer to the ground during the earlier part of the takeaway. Not at ground level, but not letting the shaft get too vertical until later in the BS.
NO FOREARM ROTATION IN THE BS: This I assume is to eliminate the toe-up to toe-up type of BS and DS. Seems she wants to keep the clubface more perpendicular to the swing path and eliminate some timing issues on re-rotating the arms and clubface into impact.
Many instructors advocate rotation of the club in the BS, albeit using the lead shoulder and humerus to perform it (Austin). I see some advantage for clubhead speed but that is usually outweighed by the timing issue for re-rotating the clubface properly in the DS. The no-rotation is OK for straight shots but makes it harder to work the ball with draws and fades. If you are not doing either, I’d stick with the instruction and minimize any forearm rotation/clubhead rotation in the BS. It fits better with the no-wrist-cock type of BS.
AFTER SETUP AND TWIST, DO YOU, CAN YOU, SHOULD YOU, TURN THE SHOULDERS MORE DURING THE BS? It seems the instruction has you perform about a 70 percent shoulder turn during the pre-twist. If you follow the instruction, you just lift the arms and perform the DS from that position. I did it that way and produced good contact and ball flight, but I did not feel the coil I normally do with my regular swing.
I then tried taking the shoulders to a 90 degree turn in the BS making sure I coiled the spine a little more and checked to make sure I rotated the shoulders perpendicular to the pre-set spine angle. The results were excellent with good contact and some additional clubhead speed. BUT, is this ‘changing’ the MGS or is it just ‘adding something’ to it? Obviously the more you rotate the more timing is required to re-rotate, so you’re introducing more of a variable here that requires you to time the DS properly. The additional angular momentum did give additional clubhead speed and thus shots went a little further, but if you try this and it costs you accuracy, I would stick with the model.
ANOTHER BACKSWING NECESSITY: As I mentioned before, at setup there is the angle formed by the lead forearm and the shaft while the butt end it is pointing at the zipper. It is to your great advantage to maintain that angle in the backswing and downswing. That is common instruction with the better instructors using a conventional setup, but is particularly necessary with the MGS inside takeaway. Let that angle increase too much and you get the clubhead inside the hands, get the clubshaft off plane, and get the shaft too far behind you, all of which requires compensations to correct it in the DS.
B. NO HIP TURN IN THE BS?: The instruction does not tell you to turn the hips in the BS. If the torso is pre-turned, then the hips, (if I understand correctly), should stay pretty much where they are at setup (correct me if I’m wrong). This may be in line with a “quiet lower body” concept that is fashionable in the golf world today. But this is where I differ a little with the instruction (if I’m interpreting it correctly).
With my experience, if I pre-turn the torso in the MGS, then in order to stay in balance in the BS I needed to allow the hips to turn a little in order to maintain dynamic balance and not have a disconnect with the upper and lower body. This could be done with a slight pre-turn of the right hip into a slightly closed position at setup. This is particularly true for heavier or less flexible golfers in order to keep the center of mass in a position to keep your balance when performing the swing.
This is not a just another “tip”, rather it is based on serious scientific study of the golf swing; the kind you don’t hear about from most instructors because they don’t get involved with scientific golf. Even if you are not setting up like MGS, that slight pre-turned trail hip, and a firm trail leg with the knee over the toe, will help in keeping the pivot between the feet, and promote balance during the swing. If the body is using various skeletal muscles to subconsciously compensate for being out of balance, they can’t free up to help the golf swing muscles perform the swing. Instead they detract from the swing performing muscles as they strive to keep you in balance. If you are swinging in balance, the result is a freer swing with clubhead speed going up and better accuracy is usually attainable.
So with my MGS swing practice I used a slight pre-turned (to the right) trail hip at setup to accommodate the pre-turned shoulders. Because I like to keep the center of gravity/ center of mass at or in front or at the ball during impact, all I do is turn the right hip back slightly, I don’t slide it along the target line. I used a reverse K setup. This allows me to do an early return of the lead hip during the rest of the BS and have the majority of my weight on the lead side during impact. (This was a Hogan post-accident change he made before winning the majority of his majors. I like to keep the center of gravity/center of mass in front or at the ball during impact (a Stack and Tilt principle, also Hogan, and the Right Sided Swing folks) . I’m not saying to use the early return; it’s peculiar to me, but for MGS I don’t think I can neglect at least some hip turn and recommend you experiment by allowing some hip turn to keep in balance during the dynamic part of the swing.
C. VERTICAL RIGHT FOREARM in the BS: IMO this is another ESSENTIAL to this swing. My mistake at first was to use more of a punch elbow position which has the right forearm less vertical and the right elbow closer to the outside of the right hip so the right arm can leverage against the right shoulder during the release. Trackman showed a 2 degree out to in swing path and a slightly closed clubface at impact due to letting the trail elbow float more behind the right hip. I was hooding the clubface; low pull draws.
I corrected by making sure I followed the MGS instruction to keep the trail elbow pointing at the trail hip throughout the BS. This aids in getting the lead forearm more vertical in the BS as well as being able to use the trail arm from a vertical position with whatever degree of force you may elect to use. What will make some difference here is whether you are a dominant left side swinger or dominant right side hitter. I have watched many a good golfer on the range and on the course and the better ball strikers have been those that get that trial forearm more vertical in the BS. Flexibility and anatomy play a role in how well you can do this, but I recommend trying to reach a position depicted in Kiran’s pictures. It doesn’t have to be absolutely vertical, but more or less on some vertical plane.
CAN YOU TAKE THE HANDS HIGHER THAN SHOULDER HEIGHT DURING THE BS? I can say with certainty that taking the hands only to shoulder height can produce powerful drives and high caliber golf. I have seen many good golfers with hands only to shoulder height hit 300 plus drives and play excellent irons for sub par rounds. Kiran’s suggested setup will put your hands and the other levers in an excellent leverage position to perform optimally with a one plane swing. I did experiment by moving the hands higher than the trail shoulder in the BS to provide a longer and wider arc. This tends to shade the swing toward a two-plane move depending on how high you get them and it introduces another timing element in the otherwise basic swing. I did get a little more clubhead speed but Trackman showed that the quality of contact was overall not as consistent. CONCLUSION: Stay with the recommended instruction and you can obtain all you need for good ball striking.
NO WRISTCOCK: This was a problem at first for me and then came a big surprise. It took some timing adjustment but I figured if Stricker, Holms, D.J. Trehan, and Bubba Watson use it, Don Trahan teaches it, and Kiran recommends it, I’ll stick with it and give it a chance.
Cocking the wrists produces an important lever in the BS/DS. It can provide additional clubhead speed. But forming that angle and then using the release properly can be the bane of the amateur golfer. It can create some serious timing issues and inconsistencies in the DS if you don’t release it properly on the right plane and at the right time. I can see why Kiran wants to eliminate it or at lease reduce it to make the DS easier.
(1) First mistake was gripping the right hand too tight to prevent a natural wrist cocking action in the BS (hands became too stiff and forearms too tight. Hard muscles are slow muscles). Bad ball contact resulted with hits near the heel and the clubface was not closing enough into impact.
(2) Second mistake was not allowing the lead wrist to cock just a little bit. Again everything was too stiff. I corrected by using less grip pressure, taking the tension out of the forearms, and ALLOWING the lead wrist to cock just a little with the momentum of the BS. I also had to find the proper position of the trail hand at the top and eventually just tried to get it comfortable with the lead hand doing the positioning. I got used to not wrist-cocking by hitting a ton of balls and the timing eventually came and impact improved tremendously. I was impressed with the quality of impact and the repeatability of a no/or lesser wrist cock swing. If you will check Kiran’s videos and those that don’t use a wrist cock, you will notice that they all have a slight wrist bend/wrist cock. Not significant as if you intentionally cocked the wrists like Mcllory, but allowing the relaxed wrists to bend slightly with the momentum of the BS.
What I had to get used to was the feeling that the area from the trail elbow to the clubface was one big lever. If you normally cock your wrists in your regular swing and then all of a sudden stop doing it, there will be a change in timing that you need to get used to. Stick with it. Any change takes time and practice and this area required the most work (weeks). But when it finally began to sink in, Trackman showed I was getting better ball contact and compressing the ball better. I was getting a more piercing ball flight and additional distance. I use a 3 hybrid but also tried my normal 3 iron and had good enough results in terms of distance and control to suggest putting the 3 iron back in my bag if I decide to stick with the lesser-wrist-cock type of swing. This area warrants further practice to see if the good ball striking remains and is consistent over time.
A NOTE HERE: When performing the downswing with the no wrist cock BS, I learned to keep the tension out of the hands and wrists and ALLOW the club to float-load a little during the early part to the DS. Some will also call this “downcocking” but that may imply an active move to intentionally create more of a leverage angle. I prefer the term float-loading because for me it is just allowing the creation of more of a leverage angle as the hands come down as opposed to actively trying to create it. This is a tricky area to explain because it may vary considerably for golfer to golfer. The main point is to keep the tension out of the hands and forearms in the BS and transition to the DS. If you are coming down on plane the club will fall into the slot pretty much on its own unless you prevent it from doing so with too much tension in the grip or forearms.
TRANSITION FROM BS TO DS: There’s not much in the MGS instruction on this subject. If you follow the instruction, there won’t be much of a weight shift, if any, in the BS and the hips will not have turned much in the BS. There’s no slide or hip bump because you didn’t move much in the BS. So what key can be used to start the DS? I tried the usual lead hip trigger and let the arms drop a little before turning the spine and shoulders. Worked well for the most part but felt a little different because I hadn’t done much of a hip turn to start with during the BS.
Then I tried performing the transition with a slight squat. This permitted the arms to drop a little before the turn, the lead knee to move a little laterally and allowed me to use the ground as a lever with the feet. The Ground Force Reaction (GFR) can provide additional leverage as you start the DS from the ground up and give you a better kinematic sequence. This move was what worked FOR ME and gave a better blend of the lower body and upper body sequence.
THE DOWNSWING: As with any instruction method, the DS can be interfered with by poor sequencing, i.e. casting, over-the-top move, lunging with the trail shoulder, or in general starting the DS with the upper body rather that from the ground up. So if the swing is not working for you, it’s probably because you still have the same DS faults as you did with your normal swing.
On the other hand, the setup places you in and excellent position to perform the swing on the proper axis of rotation (see the Chi line link in Part I). As long as you hold your spine tilt and spine angle, and have the shoulders rotate perpendicular to the spine, you can produce good shots. Dip the rear shoulder too much and you’ll get fat shots and blocks. Slide the torso forward to much and you’ll change the swing arc, get thin shots, hood the clubface, and get a low ball flight. Just rotate around the slightly tilted spine and you can find what is optimum FOR YOU.
The way Kevin performs the swing in his videos appears to be heavily lead arm/lead shoulder swinging oriented. (He confirmed this in an e-mail recently). His way is probably a better way to perform the swing since a number of studies show that the lead shoulder and upper lead arm heavily influence clubhead speed. I tried it this way and it performed well. But my normal swing is to also using my hands and right arm in a throwing motion per Austin, and the later Manzella instruction. So I stuck with what I know and it performed well FOR ME.
From some of Kevin’s earlier videos it could appear that the MGS is merely an arm swing. IMO it is anything but. You are in an excellent position to rotate the torso, without manipulation, through impact into a balanced finish (which is more obvious in one of his later videos). IMO YOU NEED TO ROTATE THE TORSO AND SHOULDRS TO PERFORM ANY SWING PROPERLY. With Kiran’s setup you are in a very good position to do so AS LONG AS YOU DON’T SLIDE YOU BODY PAST THE CHI LINE and you KEEP YOU HEAD IN PLACE UNTIL IMPACT; NOT FROZEN, JUST CLOSE TO WHERE IT WAS AT SETUP.
DISTANCE: Initially I generally had a loss of distance due to some loss of timing/rhythm when using the no wrist cock swing. That quickly changed as I found the tempo and rhythm with the new hand position. In fact, Trackman showed some better contact/compression on a number of swings and some occasional increase in distance when the mechanics were timed well. CONCLUSION: There is no loss of distance with this swing so long as you aren’t committing the same DS faults that are common with amateurs.
CAN YOU IMPROVE THE NUMBERS?: As always, this depends on your abilities, athleticism, coordination, practice time, and in general, you talent level.
As mentioned above, I experimented by adding some additional hip turn, some additional shoulder turn, higher hands, and by using more of a wrist cock in the BS. Yes, all of them produced more distance, but it’s only because I had those things figured out before trying MGS. The question is, are you changing the MGS or are you merely adding to it based on your talent level?
You can experiment with these “additions” while learning the MGS if you like but I don’t recommend getting away from the basic instruction until you have a good repeatable swing and excellent ball striking. They all create additional timing issues as the swing gets longer and there are more moving body parts to coordinate. Keep in mind that by itself, more distance is not better golf. Anything you do that diminishes ACCURACY is a step backwards IMO. Going beyond the teaching is
OVERALL CONCLUSIONS RE THE MGS:
An excellent way to learn the golf swing and play good golf.
The cornerstone of MGS is the setup and pre-turn/twist. This highly reduces the common faults amateurs commit during the setup and BS that cause 90% of the DS problems. It places the golfer in a good, repeatable position at the top to perform the DS with an excellent use of leverage and good biometrics.
The instruction is designed to minimize timing issues by reducing weight shift, hip turn, arm rotation, and wrist cock. Surprisingly, these reductions are not necessarily at the expense of good distance and accurate shots. Kiran makes a strong case for “less is more”, particularly with golfers that have trouble finding the right positions, mechanics, and timing using the conventional setup.
As a footnote, along the way I intentionally introduced many of the common swing faults to see the consequences and be able to identify anything peculiar to the MGS. So if at some point someone is having trouble with this swing, I may be able to help.
Lastly, I hope in all of this rambling there is some kernel of advice or experience that will help someone along the way. Keep in mind that this is a “minimalist” swing and you won’t be prone to overdo or over think it. As I continure the experimentation I'll post some additional info if I think it might be of interest.
Any questions or comments, feel free to post them. Cheers.