Roger Schiffman, writing in the Golf Digest Instruction Blog, reports that Canadian Mike Weir has decided to return to the Stack and Tilt swing method.
Weir sort of came out of the woodwork of the Tour’s high-level players when he won the Masters in 2003. He had a neat, tidy look about his game and his peak seemed well out in front of him. We soon began to see profiles on the Golf Channel of Weir’s life at his home in Utah, always a sign that you’ve arrived.
But like so many players (e.g., Tiger Woods), Mike decided that he wanted to get better. So in 2007 he began pursuing the Stack and Tilt swing method taught by Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer. For those of you unfamiliar with this method, it’s an anathema to traditional ideas about what a good golf swing should be, but its proponents swear by it.
Devised to take the timing out of the shifting hips in the golf swing, it involves “stacking” your weight over your lead foot and keeping it there throughout the swing. This rather than letting any of your weight move to your back leg on your backswing and then back again to the forward leg on the downswing. Traditionalists criticize it as the dreaded “reverse pivot,” but the stackers insist that the weight stays over the front foot and doesn’t move outside of it as in a classic reverse pivot. They claim that this allows the club to come into the ball on an inside, solid path for more distance.
The PGA Tour remains unconvinced. Only a handful or two of Tour players have adopted the method, the two most notable being Aaron Baddeley and Weir. And both of them abandoned it after some initial success.
Schiffman reports that Weir sought advice from Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Jack Nicklaus and then worked some sessions with Jim Flick (good details at the link).
And then he went back to his original teacher, Mike Wilson.
And now he’s scurrying back to Bennett and Plummer.
So what is all of this wandering in the desert all about? Schiffman reports that it’s an effort to play better so that he can keep his card by the end of the year. But in truth, it’s consciousness, mostly. Or the loss of it.
One of the things that happens to you at that level is that you become so enmeshed in what you’re doing with your swing that you lose touch with it. All of the awareness you had about all the little subtleties and nuances that you’ve spent hours, days, weeks and years building, blur over time.
For the most part, on the range especially, it’s because you were making practice swings with other things on your mind. A highly developed swing is like a delicate little garden you have to tend, paying attention to all the lush stuff that’s above ground and all the new little shoots that keep coming out of the ground. If you just keep going with the organic development of it all, there’s not much to “do.” Just keep swinging and watching with fascination.
But as the huge investment of time accumulates, the mind wanders and the awareness is diminished. And as that slowly happens, you’re just making swings without any learning occurring, either maintenance learning or new learning. Oh, how many times have we stumbled across a swing thought that we forgot we used to do? That’s the phenomenon right there. Hence the old adage, “I’ve forgotten more than I know about my swing.”
Maybe some of it is the enormity of the problem. With all the millions of subtle positions that all the body parts and club can be in through the swing arc, how do you coordinate them all? How do you feel all of them? How do you track all of them? Which ones are important and which ones are just extraneous noise? And once you identify some of them, how do you go about developing it? And which of the old ones do you let go of? That’s where a good, low-impact coach can be invaluable. Someone who can help you sort it out without imposing himself.
Most of the good players I know did the hard work of getting their early reps in on the range with a good teacher to the point that they could be self-sufficient on the golf course. Over the long term, the progression of the migration is from playing…to taking lessons…to playing…to fine-tuning lessons…to more playing…to heavy range work…to mostly playing with mere maintenance lessons to remind you of what you do well.
And once you’ve migrated from “mostly range” to “mostly playing,” you’ve evolved your swing from pedantic to holistic. Rory McIlroy’s swing that was so brightly highlighted during the U.S. Open is a perfect example of a holistic swing. He is to the point that he does not think of his swing when he plays. He thinks of the target and how he wants to flight the ball there: high, low, draw, fade.
Yet he still stays in touch with his teacher to nurture his freedom from technical thoughts. If you can get to the right positions in practice, freedom will flow from there. When you feel freedom, you know you have a golf swing.
So hopefully whatever Mike Weir chooses to do will get him back to the freedom he once felt when he was at the top of his game. Or at least to the near freedom that caused him to wander off in search. It would be a shame for someone with his talent and personality to get lost on the dark side of the moon.