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Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Stack and Tilt Golf Swing - A Review

Copyright (c) 2011 Scott Cole

One of the hottest topics in golf circles for the last couple years is whether the Stack and Tilt golf swing will revolutionize the game of golf. Many proponents of the swing are almost cult like in their backing of the model, while more traditional instructors appear to be equally strongly opposed.

The Stack and Tilt golf swing model first came onto the scene in 2005. It was developed by instructors Andy Plummer and Michael Bennett, who were very interested in working with tour players. Some of the tour players they initially started working with include Steve Elkington, Dean Wilson and Charlie Wi. Other players that have since adopted some or all of the model into their swings include JJ Henry, Troy Matteson and Tommy Armour III. Stars that employed the model but have since abandoned it include Aaron Baddeley and Mike Weir.

The Stack and Tilt golf swing is controversial in a few ways. First is the way it has been marketed as the swing that is "Remaking Golf." A book and DVD set have been published. The book is highly critical of conventional instruction, but in a somewhat misleading manner. Some of the comparisons between the Stack and Tilt swing and the supposed conventional swing are misleading in that most instructors worth a grain of salt would clearly not teach swing positions similar to those compared to in the book.

The second way that the swing is controversial is that it does away with any type of weight shift in the golf swing from the front foot to the back foot in the back swing. Most weight is kept on the front foot throughout the swing in an effort to keep the upper body "centered." Many golfers have a habit of swaying too much in the back swing, and this idea is meant to counter that issue. A big sway in the back swing tends to lead to inconsistent ball striking among average golfers. On the other hand, some very successful golfers have had a bit of a sway in their swing, as taught by renowned instructor Jimmy Ballard. These players include Curtis Strange, Hal Sutton and Rocco Mediate.

Traditional golf instructors prefer to see a little weight shift to the rear leg in the back swing, particularly for longer shots, as this helps to add swing speed. Most competitors in long drive competitions clearly have a very large weight transfer to the back foot in the back swing. This helps create depth away from the ball, and more room to generate club head speed. However, timing this move is clearly more difficult.

In the Stack and Tilt model, there is a forward thrust in the hips that is offered as a different way to add swing speed. Old guard instructors are quick to point out that this thrust in the hips results in a "Reverse C" position, which puts pressure on the lower back. Anyone with lower back issues will have difficulty with this aspect of the swing.

One other aspect about the controversy surrounding the swing model is that many of the proponents suggest that the book is not meant to be followed to the letter. When describing certain feel positions in the swing, some of the positions illustrated in the book are exaggerated. Furthermore, many of the drills that are associated with the model that may be seen on the internet also exaggerate these positions. When confronted about these positions, particularly the lean of the spine toward the target in the back swing and the severe tilt in the spine away from the target in the follow through position, many proponents suggest that they are simply exaggerations, and only meant for drills. However, the book certainly does NOT make this suggestion.

Generally speaking, the Stack and Tilt model has some merit. For golfers who tend to be less skilled and have difficulty making solid contact, or tend to slice the ball, the Stack and Tilt swing can certainly be helpful. It forces the golfer to strike the ball with a descending blow, which results in the swing bottoming out past where the ball was sitting. This is a critical fundamental to solid ball striking. Most good golfers are already swinging the club in a similar way with their short irons, as there is very little weight shift involved. Furthermore, the model also encourages hitting the ball from a more inside out swing path, which will allow the golfer to learn how to hit a draw. This is done by swinging the arms more behind the body in the back swing while turning the shoulders on a steeper plane than with more conventional instruction.

On the other hand, there does appear to be an issue with ball flight when dealing with longer clubs. Maintaining most weight on the front foot and swinging the arms behind the body more does not allow for traditional shot making. From that position, the player has to come way over the top in the downswing with a big loop in order to a fade. Also, it is more difficult to get the ball high in the air using less lofted clubs with more weight on the front foot in the back swing. A steeper swing plane is then required to compensate and that can lead to other issues.

Overall, the debate regarding the merits of the Stack and Tilt swing versus more conventional golf instruction will likely rage on. Many proponents of the Stack and Tilt swing are now hoping for validation from Tiger Woods, who is now being taught by Sean Foley, a disciple of the swing model. Foley does not employ the entire model in his instruction, but he clearly does apply a good piece of it as evidenced by how Tiger appears to be swinging more recently.

A good instructor will learn to take the best of all models available and apply them in their instruction. The bottom line is that no one swing model is perfect for every golfer, or every shot for that matter. With that said, Plummer and Bennett have boldly put forth some new concepts and they are to be commended for that. The book is a good read and recommended to any golfer looking for new ways to improve their ball striking.

(ArticlesBase SC #4005775)

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