How to Integrate Hunter Mahan’s Swing Tips

Another nice piece of work at Golf.com, “Hunter Mahan: 6 Easy Ways to Crush It Down the Fairway.” It’s a 6-page, cohesive explanation of what he does with his favorite club, his driver. He has some moral authority here because he’s 71st in Driving Distance, 30th in Driving Accuracy and, combining those two in Total Driving, 8th…out of 191 players.

It’s a very interesting piece because his coach is Sean Foley, so as you’re reading it, you feel like you’re in the mind of one of the great teachers in the game right now. Hard to argue when you know he also teaches Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and recently added Lee Westwood to the fold. 

As I have noted in previous posts, Mahan is one of the most interesting players in the game right now; and that’s not just because he left a two-shot lead on the table at the RBC Canadian Open to be with his wife, Kandi, for the birth of their first child, Zoe. I’ve had chances to ask questions of him in the media center of the Accenture Match Play Championship for three years now and he is intelligent, thoughtful, honest and very forthcoming. And for all his quiet demeanor, he’s an emotional player. When he was talking about the fruition of all the hard work he’d put into his short game, it was like he was bursting with self-satisfied pride that he had overcome this Achilles in his game.

He put his article together very cogently in linear fashion from the backswing to the finish to the finishing-touches practice routine:

  1. “Start Your Swing in Slow Motion,” is where he begins and he uses the analogy of a baseball batter for how to get the club into position to swing back to the ball.
  2. “Coil Into Your Right Thigh” describes the feelings you should have as you load up this power source. He makes it very easy to imagine.
  3. “Use Your New Downswing Trigger,” explains his ideas about how the downswing should begin, swinging the right shoulder down rather than across.
  4. “Go Toe-to-Toe For a Perfect Weight Shift,” is an important element because you can drive that left shoulder down all you want, but it won’t matter if you can’t find a way to get to your left side.
  5. “Line Up Your Left Hip and Left Foot,” describes the importance of posting up over your left foot at the finish so that you’re not sliding through the ball.
  6. “Practice in Slow-Mo and Hold Your Finish,” describes the Tai Chi-like work necessary to ingrain the pieces into an integrated swing.

With an article this short, the best way to approach it is as if every word is important and put there for a reason. So often, we’ll read something about the backswing that’s different than our own and we’ll chose to adapt rather than adopt. Or you’ll turn into your right thigh the first couple of times and feel like it introduces more tension than power.

Working through these first two items takes as much imagining as anything else because the first instinct is to pick up a club and try to swing that way. Without prepping your body, you’re just as likely to default to your current backswing without realizing it.

The same holds true for the downswing tip about the right shoulder moving down. This is the one that intrigued me, so much so that I warmed it up on the range with some slow, half lob wedges gradually picking up the speed. Then on to a deliberate short iron, middle iron and 5-wood. And then to the driver.

Because it feels so much more instinctive and powerful, the urge is to hit it faster and harder. You know you’ve gone too far with that urge to surge when you can’t finish the swing in balance, producing big hooks and pushes.

And so all I did through my round was make a deliberate backswing…and then focus on the right shoulder swinging down. Even then, in the urge to hit it more powerfully, that shoulder would swing around rather than down. The difference is that “down” feels faster and more efficient because it’s all moving on plane, while “around” gets bunched up trying to add power.

From there the tendency is to try to get off the mechanical observations and onto a feeling that is a proxy for the mechanics. Hurry, hurry, hurry, always in a hurry. With so little warm-up and so few reps, it was too soon to move away from the mechanics of the new move. And later in the round as your mind is numbed by all of the concentrated effort, the results get even more uneven.

Concentrated reps off and on the course and done with an expansive awareness are the key to it all. That’s what gets you to feelings and away from mechanics.

I’ll have more to say about these ideas over time.

In the meantime, mull over what Hunter has to say and see what you think.

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