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High Expectations - Chris Wood Swing Sequence

Swing analysis by Chris Wood & his coach Paul Mitchell

Chris and I have worked together now for 8 years. He first came to me at Bristol & Clifton as a 14-year-old and showed enormous promise. He had all the ingredients you look for in the making of a great player - i.e. a fantastic work ethic, incredible determination, and he's a great listener and a quick learner.

His ball striking didn't particularly impress me to start with, but his attitude did. After a couple of lessons we gelled and I realised that in Chris I had the raw materials to fulfil one of my own ambitions as a coach, and help take a player to the highest level.

This past winter we invested a lot of time working on the swing, and the following sequences show where we're at. If you want to get anywhere in this game you have to work hard and Chris certainly does that. He will hit balls in the dark on the range and practice his putting in the rain. Long term, Chris wants to be classed as a great player. He wants to be No. 1 in the world. In the shorter term, he wants to play his way into Monty's team for the Ryder Cup this October.

I'd put money on him making it, too.

What's in the bag?
Irons MP-62 (3/4), MP-68 (5-PW)
Shaft Rifle 7.0
Length +1”
Grip Tour Velvet 58
Tape 2 tapes
Lie 3 degrees upright
Fairway MX-700 (15 degrees) / MP Titanium (18):
Shaft Diamana Whiteboard 83X
Wedges MPT-10 Black Satin 54deg. 60/08 deg
Driver Titleist 909 D2 8.5,
Shaft Aldila RIP 70 X Stiff 45"
Putter Scotty Cameron Studio Select 1.5

I have always had a pretty good posture - when you're 6' 5” you have to keep a close eye on your body position, and that's what I do, week-in, week-out. From the set-up position you see here, the first move is noticeably wide away from the ball - and I like that. This is something I make a conscious effort to achieve in the early stages of the swing - good width and a coordinated arm and body

‘Wide-and-slow' move gets swing off to a good start

This is a great start to the swing and this series of movement from the set-up to this checkpoint is something all aspiring players should look to copy. The shaft is now parallel to the line of his toes and the wrists, which have been relatively quiet thus far, are about to hinge and set the club up. Chris has worked hard on this one-piece move away from the ball - he likes to get a feeling of the clubhead, hands, arms and shoulders turning away from the ball in unison. PM

Legs hold steady - the early signs of the coiling process are already evident

As Chris starts to hinge the wrists upwards, you can see how well he maintains the distance between his left hand and the centre of his chest. This is an extremely powerful position and you may even notice how, in frame 5 below, he can cock his wrists further as he pulls the clubhead down towards the ball. Many of the longer hitters tend to have this trait, as it can help to store more energy in the shaft up until the very last moment. PM

The way I would describe my swing is that it is all 'body connected '. Looking at these photos confirms it: doesn't seem like there is too much use of the arms during the swing. It looks as though it is all coming from my body, which is great because it means I am using my big muscles. One of the things Paul has been encouraging me to work on is the stability of my legs at the top of the backswing. Occasionally I am prone to losing the resistance between my knees at the top of my backswing, which, if I'm critical, have probably done a little bit here. I would like to see my right leg a little bit more flexed instead of it straightening as it has which means it has lost all the coil I have built into my backswing. It is something I am working on in the gym - my glute strength and leg strength. I am not quite strong enough to be able to hold it there yet. CW

Wonderful ‘squat' into the downswing, while the wrists actually increase their hinge

I really like this position - a great angle between my arms and the clubhead as I swing down to the ball. There is a lot of power stored in there. The club is ready to accelerate and release through the ball. CW

The quality of this impact position is an inspiration to all aspiring young players out there. There is so much to take from it. First of all, you can sense how still the head is behind the ball as the club is released. The right heel is only just now lifting off the ground - there has been no eagerness to drive too quickly off the right side - and the right knee is just easing towards the target. This allows the hips to rotate and clear out of the way, and over the following frames you can see how the belt buckle turns to face the target. PM

This is an area of the swing so many amateurs fail to enjoy for the simple reason they forget to commit themselves to swinging all the way through the ball to a finish. The swing doesn't stop at impact. To achieve your full ball-striking potential, you need to rotate your body all the way through the shot so that you are able to drive your weight toward the target. The rotation and the clearing of the hips - illustrated so well here - allows for the free presentation of the hands and arms through the impact area, while the freewheeling swinging motion takes him all the way to a balanced follow through position. PM

Right shoulder all the way to the target, club wrapped around the neck. A youthful finish - the sign of a very athletic player

Chris sets up beautifully to the ball. At a little over 6 foot 5 inches tall he has to contend with the same challenges as did the great Nick Faldo - i.e. constantly checking and adjusting his body angles so that he is able to move from a consistent position. Posture is a critical component of the address position and Chris works hard on this aspect of his game (gym work has helped him massively in the last couple of years). His weight is perfectly balanced in the centre of his feet, just like a goalkeeper waiting in anticipation of a penalty kick. He is athletic, poised to deliver the golf club to the ball in the most efficient and powerful way. PM

From this angle you really do get a good impression of the way my arms and my body work 'together' in getting the swing underway - it's a real one-piece move. Faldo was always an inspiration to me and I admired the way he worked on the stages of the move away to get the club working on path and on the right plane - which is exactly what I work on achieving. CW

I have always had a good swing plane as well. It has been one of the features of my swing. That is half the battle. If you can keep your club on plane you know you are going to be coming back down to the ball on a similar line to the one going back and it makes it a lot easier. CW

Look at the ratio of hip to shoulder turn - a terrific coiling of the upper body

Chris is using a 5-iron in this sequence and this would be the full extent of his backswing - a controlled, compact action, with the arms and body in sync, in balance. The left arm matches up nicely with the plane of the shoulders, the elbows are level and the spine angle has been beautifully maintained. All the tell-tale signs of a solid backswing. PM

Thanks to the quality of his transition move into the downswing, Chris has all the room in the world to swing the clubhead on the correct path into the ball - rarely does he suffer the problem of getting the clubhead ‘stuck' behind the body in too much of an inside position. The hands here are beautifully positioned and this allows for the consistent release of the hands and arms. PM

Thanks to the shape and consistency of my backswing, I have always been able to get back to a pretty good impact position - and this looks spot on. And from the top of the swing, it does not look as though I have had to do much to get back to this position. This is all down to establishing a good posture, keeping it all on plane, and not rushing the moves down to impact. Coming in to impact (frame 5, left) it looks like I am coming down right 'on top' of the ball. I am not trapped behind it. It looks as though the clubhead is coming down in front of my body, exactly as my coach wants it. If we add a plane line on there it's a fraction outside the ball, which in this case is perfect: I'm trying to hit a fade, and I'm on track to do just that. CW

These final frames reveal probably the one area of concern I have right now - a long, gangly finish with a little too much of a 'Reverse-C' get a more upright finish rather than a reverse-C shape in my back like this one here. That is putting a lot of stress on my back. Someone like Henrik Stenson finishes very upright. It looks like there is minimal stress on his back. That is what I am working on. The follow through position is my natural finish. I have always been like that. I can improve the stability of the leg action and that's something we work on. CW

Over many years, Chris has worked tirelessly on improving his technique and I believe in this we are looking at the swing of a multiple major champion. The Masters at Augusta - which he is so excited about playing (and I'm rather looking forward to the trip too!) would be as good as any place to start! PM

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine





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