When discussing uniformity in golf instruction, we cannot ignore the now-famous, if not infamous, “Stack & Tilt” swing techniques introduced to the golf world by Mike Plummer and Andy Bennett with a huge splash on the June 2007 cover of Golf Digest. No other technique has had such an impact in golf instruction. It is considered revolutionary, controversial, cutting edge, gimmicky, and all of the above. Without a doubt, it received everyone’s attention from playing professionals, teaching professionals and amateurs alike.   The main premise behind the technique is to strike the ground at the same place every time, and according to both Plummer and Bennett this is most easily performed by maintaining the weight over the front foot (left foot for right-handed golfers) throughout the swing.  This, of course, goes against the paradigm of what has been taught since the game’s inception.   Another premise is the spine’s position both at address and during the course of the back swing. Again Plummer and Bennett adhere to the spine being straight (all the vertebrae being stacked on top of one another) at address.  In other words, it should not be “tilted” away from the target.  From this starting position there is naturally more weight on the front foot. While the backswing is performed on a steady axis, the spine will have a slight forward spine tilt toward the target. This is counteracted through impact by the turning and thrusting of the left hip, causing the spine to tilt away from the target.   Third, they have brought to light a change in how we look at ball flight laws. They point out that the initial direction of the ball is dictated by clubface direction, rather than the path the clubhead was traveling. The path creates the spin in relation to the angle of the clubface.   Finally, their technique produces a more around-your-body type swing (flatter if you will), with the back leg straightening slightly during the backswing, allowing the spine to also bend lower toward the ball during the backswing (face closer to the ball, so to speak, at the top of backswing than at address).   I believe this pretty much covers it with regards to their main principles. It should be said that it was not Plummer and Bennett that coined the term “Stack & Tilt.” Golf Digest wanted a term for their technique and offered dozens, which they both turned down. Stack and tilt were simply two words they used every day in their teaching, so they stuck and the rest is history.   History is, of course, what Plummer and Bennett base their swing theories upon. There is merit to many of their ideas, and some are plain physics such as basic ball flight laws. However, they are attempting to create a paradigm shift in the way many golfers, amateurs, and teaching professionals have learned about how the body should move and how the club should be swung. Their theories evolved from Homer Kelly’s The Golfing Machine and Mac O’Grady’s teachings. You may agree or disagree with some or all of Stack & Tilt, but that is not the idea. The goal is to broaden your knowledge base and open your mind to new ideas. Some of the ideas may very well be old ones brought to light in a way that appeals to the masses, easier to understand, and perhaps easier to perform for many golfers.   I have my own ideas and opinions about Stack & Tilt, some favorable, some not, which I will share in the next article. In the meantime, if you have never read The Golfing Machine, I encourage you to do so, but be forewarned. In many circles it has been considered to be the most important book ever written on golf instruction, and in others the most complicated. You’ll love it or hate it.  

PART 2:  STACK & TILT STRIPPED DOWN

  Stack & Tilt aficionados regard the technique as the “holy grail” to golf enlightenment. They are devout followers of Plummer and Bennett, O’Grady, and The Golfing Machine. The techniques are based on physics, biomechanics, and kinesiology, and are espoused by its proponents like the gospel.   As I mentioned above, the main premise of the technique is to strike the ground in the same place every time with the club. Let’s put this in perspective. One of the most difficult elements for golfers of most levels is to strike the ball consistently without striking the ground before the ball, or conversely, missing the ground altogether (hitting fat and thin shots). The main concepts of Stack & Tilt that help rectify these problems are to start with and maintain the weight on the front/lead foot throughout the swing.   I do not have enough space to dissect what is right and wrong with this concept, but suffice it to say, it is not necessary for the individual who is coordinated with a proper transition when initiating the downswing.  Unfortunately, many golfers begin their downswings by initiating with an upper-body spine rotation towards the target. If the weight is already favoring the front foot at the top of the backswing, then this move can be effective as long as:   1)      The back swing is flat (lead arm matches shoulder plane) 2)      The shoulder plane is steeper (lead shoulder is lower)   Both can be seen in the swing on the left side of the photo:     Let’s dissect this concept further. We all know that golf swing efficacy is difficult to maintain. There are times when it is working on all cylinders, and yet other times when we simply can’t recreate that magical feel. Why is this? It is because it involves proprioception – the mind-body connection that gives us a sense of our body parts. Basically, it’s a feel for what we are doing while performing a movement. What I find perplexing with Stack & Tilt is that we move the arms and club, and coil the body away from the target while attempting to maintain the weight toward the target. This is paradoxical, because if the components of our upper body are moving in one direction, the weight distribution should follow. It should follow in a natural way and not contrived. However, with Stack & Tilt, it is suggested the weight be maintained on the front foot.  The problem that invariably occurs is that golfers don’t simply maintain the weight on the front foot, but they increase it in an effort to stay there. Proof is in the pudding.   We have seen Tiger work more closely toward this concept with Sean Foley. Sean does not adhere to Stack & Tilt, but rather a biomechanically sound swing based on geometry. I agree with him on his swing concepts, and in working with Tiger we see he has gotten Tiger more on his left side at address. From there he wants to see Tiger coil deeply into his backswing in order to create leverage with the ground with both feet.  By favoring the left side at address, the coiling of the torso away from the target places the weight equally on both feet at the top of the swing, with both being corkscrewed into the ground. From there, everything moves toward the target mindlessly with a complete release (hips, torso, wrists).  Tiger, in his effort to incorporate these changes, on occasion increases his weight to the left foot during the backswing, which has caused some problems. He has popped shots up on numerous occasions and has been struggling with fairway bunkers because he has been too steep.   This being said, the concept of favoring a little weight on the forward foot at address can be effective, but it must be done properly, and although the idea of maintaining it there is nice in theory, it is not plausible due to the movement away from the target with the club, arms, and torso.   Next article – Par 3: The deception   DAVID HILL Is a USGTF Level IV Member and Examiner:
  • 24-year golf professional
  • USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional
  • Class A Member, Canadian PGA
  • Over 25,000 lessons given in career
  • Director of instruction, Elm Ridge CC, Montreal, Canada
  • Owner, Montreal Golf Academy (four locations)
  • President/owner Marquis Golf (corporate golf/travel)
  • Top 50 Canadian teacher (National Post)
  • Top 100 World Golf Teachers Federation teaching professional
  • International PGA member
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