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Ian Poulter Swing Sequence
by Simon Holmes

Ian Poulter posed for this and the following shots at his Florida base, Lake Nona, where he lives a drive and a wedge away from his coach, David Leadbetter.

This and the following sequences were shot the week before Ian flew to Augusta for the Masters. Having finished strongly there last year much was expected of Poults at the first major of the year and for the first two rounds he continued to prove that he is a force to be reckoned with.

As he would be the first to acknowledge, his swing is a work in progress. He is not overly technical in the way he likes to think about his game, and there are a number of tendencies he has to be wary of that many readers will find interesting. But, ultimately, Ian gets the ball around the golf course with a strength of character and a self-belief that is second to none.

Good angles, solid base

Ian is hitting a 4-iron in this sequence and, as he prepares to get his swing underway, we can appreciate the good body angles the top players all display at address. This is an area of constant correction. Ian has always had a tendency of sitting back on his heels and getting his hands too low at the set-up. So getting his weight forwards, on to the balls of his feet, and his hands up a little is something that requires his full attention and fine-tuning his posture is something Ian is meticulous about (as should you be). As a result of his physical training regime, Ian has improved his strength in his lower body and his legs give him significantly more support than they did.

Good early rotation

I really like the rotation of the left forearm in this classic takeaway move; look at the way the logo on the back of the glove has noticeably turned clockwise away from the target (compared to the address position). This enables Ian to keep the clubface rotating around his body, the clubface square to the path along which it is travelling - vital for neutral shot-making. It is interesting to see that the upper part of the left arm loses connection with the chest quite early in the swing and that the left shoulder appears to turn into the chin, as opposed to on a steeper plane under the chin. The effect is a flattening of the plane of the shoulders.

Building up the 'coil’

Halfway back and we can see the shaft swinging up as the cocking or or 'setting’ of the wrists takes effect. I personally recommend an early folding of the right elbow with the simultaneous cocking of the wrists as I believe this makes the transition so much more balanced and stable as the player shifts into the downswing. As for the lower body, take a look at the way Ian’s left knee is 'holding’ in pretty much the same position it occupied at address. This is a sign of a strong leg action and something all aspiring young players should strive to imitate, as the resistance of the legs in the backswing promotes a good coil.

Fully wound up

Compare this with the previous frame and you will see there is a huge difference in the body positions. The shoulders have now fully turned and this causes the centre to react. The left knee comes out to the ball a fraction, the hips are now fully rotated and all the strong muscles around the body 'core’ are wound up and ready to give speed and 'load’ to the shaft .Another key detail here is where the shaft points at the top of the swing. Ian has always had a tendency for the shaft to fall behind the right elbow into a laid-off position. This is caused by a flatter shoulder plane, which in itself causes the right elbow to be lower than the left.

The delivery position

Deep into the 'delivery position’ and we can see how dramatically the hips have cleared. This is a necessary dynamic within a good swing although you do need to be careful that the left hip doesn't get too much higher than the right, as this can lead to the arms becoming separated from the upper body - a hint of which we can see here in the gap between Ian’s left arm and chest. I do like the way Ian has held back his shoulders - you can see that they are aimed way to the right of target, which is a very powerful position. Anyone who slices the ball could use this image as a positive reminder of keeping the right shoulder back and approaching the ball on the desired inside path.

Squaring the clubface

The re-rotation of the left forearm is instrumental in allowing Ian to plant the clubface squarely on the back of the ball. The left forearm squares up the clubface and again the back of the left hand returns to that same address position. This is vital for controlling the flight of the irons and we can now understand why this is one of the strengths of Ian’s game. The left hip has 'braced’ and the left leg has straightened for support. (My only concern here is that the aggressive transfer of weight has caused the left foot to roll over a little too early - I would rather see the left foot planted as the club meets the ball. The right side is also a little low, potentially trapped’, which can lead to inconsistencies through impact.)

The 'Exit’

The right side is still lagging behind as we look at the exit position. The left hip is leading the extension and the hands have had to slightly correct the inside approach path by rotating the face square independently. The spine angle has been maintained (if you look at the address position) and this does allow Ian to keep downward pressure on the shaft at impact despite the slightly high hand position.

The Finish

Pretty in pink! The left foot has now restabilised and the right side has caught up and indeed overtaken the left side. You can see that Ian’s hips are more level and the right shoulder is now closer to the target. The long finish with the arms is a result of the inside path of the delivery and the subsequent correction via the hands to square up the clubface. Ian walks at a brisk pace and the tempo of his swing is similarly upbeat and matches his intense competitive personality.

Characterful set-up

Lots of interesting things to take in from this angle. Let’s start with the stance. Notice that Ian’s feet are squared in, toes pointing forwards, which in the swing provides a lot of torque with the ground .Moving up we can see that Ian loads up more weight on his left side and this causes the spine to be more or less vertical, despite the right side being slightly lower than the left at address. A final point to note here is the position of the hands in relation to the ball.With a neutral grip, Ian prefers to set his hands slightly behind the ball at address, there being quite an angle in the back of his left wrist as a result. These are the personal traits in the set-up of a highly individual player.

The takeaway

As I mentioned in the previous sequence, I like the rotation of the club away from the ball and you can clearly see how the logo of the glove has turned to face the camera as Ian takes it to the 9 o’clock position. The hands are noticeably outside the right foot by the time the clubshaft is parallel to the ground and this is probably caused by the fact the hands were slightly behind the ball at address. As a result the right arm starts to get behind his body which can cause the spine to tilt towards the hole. Great leg work so far, with minimal weight-shift and the gap between the knees holding strong.

Halfway back

The legs are still very stable and strong to this point - almost no motion in the ankles and knees so far. Meanwhile the hips are just reacting slightly to the rotation of the trunk as the arm-swing forces the shoulders and chest to turn. The left arm rotation continues and the right arm is now folding into a good 'set’ position. The swing plane looks good here and I know Ian works hard to shallow the plane and to get the left arm to work more across his body.

Full turn to the top

Beautiful co-ordination here between the arms and body. Ian completes his backswing with a winding-up of the body and maintains the radius of his swing by keeping the left arm rotating and the right elbow wide. From this position he should be maximising his power and accuracy. The behaviour of the right leg is interesting. The right hip is now almost closer to the target than it was at address. This move is a classic from the so-called 'stack and tilt’ school of swing theory as favoured by a number of players on tour lately - including Aaron Baddeley. The left side has moved towards the right side and you can clearly see that the spine is leaning to the left foot.

Wrists retain the power

As he moves into the downswing, Ian has lost some of the width that we saw at the top and it looks as though the right arm is in danger of being 'trapped’ behind the right hip. This is something he has to be wary of. At the same time, you can see that the shaft is still fully loaded and Ian has certainly not lost any of the powerful wrist cock. The top pros are so good at timing the release of power. They understand that the later they release the load on the shaft, the more efficient the release of power into the swing.

Impact

This is a very interesting position. While Ian had his hands behind the ball at address, we can see that the position is now reversed at impact. Ian delofts the clubface noticeably with a 'late’ impact position and squeezes the ball forward. (I would like to see the right side more forward and leaning down on the shaft more to keep the hands lower at impact and the clubface more passive.) One look at his left foot tells us that the weight has been forced to the outside - a position that suggests tome that Ian’s stability has been compromised and that the pressure on the left foot has forced it to 'jump’.

The 'Exit’

Here we can clearly see the right side 'hanging back’ as the left side clears away to make space for the right side. The trap that we can identify with at impact has been released as the right hand and arm releases over the left side. If Ian gets the club more online at the top of the backswing and then at the delivery, I think we will see a more passive hand action in the exit. At his best Ian has a very neutral flight and his body releases the club with the hands and arms remaining very stable.

Elegance at the finish

This is what I would term a very 'complete’ finish position, with a long arm swing and the clubshaft fully released down the back. The right side has fully caught up with the left and now extends to the target. Note also that the hips have now levelled out and the right hip has raised through to a long high finish. We have seen that there are a number of individual moves in this swing. You would hardly expect anything else from Poults And there’s a valuable lesson in that: you don’t have to be textbook to be a world-class player.With his self belief and confidence, Ian gets a huge amount out of his game. He works hard and his swing is improving. At his best, he is very good. He may be famous for his natty attire but don’t underestimate this swing and the man’s ability to produce great results.

 

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