I’ve been working with Erik for about 15 months, almost exclusively through remote coaching: I upload videos to YouTube, he gives me feedback. Early last fall I did spend some time in Erie for a group coaching session that I found very productive. And though my game is improving it hasn’t been at the pace I’d hoped for; I’ve been bouncing back and forth between an 8 handicap index and about 12 for the past 18 months. I have been maintaining things in the 8-9 range since late last summer so I feel like I’ve reached a new plateau. In case you don’t understand golf handicap indexes: and 8-9 index roughly means that about 40% of the time I play about 8-9 strokes over par. Gross simplification but in the end all that really matters is how my own personal index is changing. I’d like to at least bounce off a 5 index or lower by the end of 2022.
Driver swing from January 2021
The image above shows where I started with Erik in early 2021, and where the fundamental issues have been and still remain with my swing: my hips sway way too far back away from the target (see how much they’ve moved outside the red line box to the left) and my spine tilts back towards the target (draw a line from my crotch to the top of my head and notice how it makes about a 10 degree angle to the right of center). Erik has been patiently guiding me through fixing this and, while I’ve made progress, my happy place is to revert to these old habits.
Erik stresses repeatedly to his students that slow, exaggerated repetition is necessary to learn new motion habits. He calls this Simple, Specific, Slow, Short, and Success - The Five “S”s of Great Practice. I’m starting to understand more of this, but I’m also realizing that without in-person guidance it can be difficult for me to understand what “good” or “better” actually look and feel like.
Massive exaggeration of left hip and spine angle
This is where Gears comes in, and while I was excited to visit and go through this process I was skeptical that it would be any different than a live coaching session. In the photo above you can see me decked out in my body suit, and sensors added to my hat and golf club. I have eight hours of Gears training banked with Erik, but we decided that given how close I live to Erie in the summer that we would only use a third to half of the time and allow for one or two follow-up sessions. We focused on addressing my hip sway and spine angle.
We started with a baseline swing capture which looked close to (but not as bad as) the first driver swing photo above. I’ve improved my arm position and hip turn but significant problems remained. Seeing the live feedback (well, right after the swing) from Gears had a huge impact on me. Apparently, data and quantification are helpful!
I don’t think the data mattered as much as the feel guidance that Erik subsequently gave me. I know Erik struggles at times with remote coaching on what advice to give his students on how to feel like they are making the proper change. Different people require different suggestions. We started with me thinking about pushing my left quadriceps into my left toes and keeping the left knee in alignment with the rest of the leg. This had the benefit of reducing the sway (see my left knee collapsing away from the target at the top image?). I also had the tendency to lift my right heel when I make this move, so he had me force my weight into that heel. I think this also helps me effectively get some weight transfer away from the target as I initiate my backswing.
The second big exaggeration was designed to address my spine angle: imagine the left side of my chest moving laterally (and mostly flat) away from the target, bringing my back to a position where it faces the target. The “mostly flat” element is important because if I rotate the chest but point it to the sky, I ended up with that reverse tilt that is so bad. So in my head I imagine I have a golf tee sticking out of my sternum and I try to keep it pointed like a laser on a horizontal line directly behind me.
Gears and coach giving feedback
Putting these two moves together is not easy. When I emphasize one, the other worsens. Erik says that’s OK and normal, and that I should consciously alternate my work on both; they’ll come together over time. This image above (see the thumbs up from Erik?) is an example of me putting it all together, and shows the power of the Gears feedback. This is near the top of my backswing and I kept the spine angle slightly away from the target (Sp: 97.1°, where 90° would be exactly vertical) and my pelvis actually in front of the centerline. While I don’t necessarily want it to be over 3 inches in front of center at this point, the exaggerated move will help my correct my fundamental flaws.
I feel like I learned and saw enough that I can be a better critic of my own swing, and improve my practice repetition in front of a mirror.