Stack and Tilt Seminar at FCGU Review (from 11/17/2011)
Last week Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer made their way from the LPGA National Summit down the highway to Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers. I understand there may be a wide ranged audience reading this; therefore, this post will be an overview at some times and will go into more specific detail at other times. As an attendee who saw them in Ft. Myers, I would like to relay some factual information from their presentation regarding Stack & Tilt ® as a whole. Second, rather than go into too much swing detail of their system (we’ll talk about the word system too), I’d also like to share my own experience past and present regarding this topic.
Here is some background information that was relayed during the presentation:
1) As tour pros searching to put some order to all of the information they had heard throughout the years Mike and Andy sought out to find the fundamentals that were essential to effective ball-striking. With the influence of learning from Mac O’Grady they set out measuring different aspects of the golf swing looking for answers as to how certain moves promoted certain outcomes. Mike and Andy found the common concepts of grip, alignment, and posture to be quite varied amongst tour pros and therefore could not include them as fundamentals. The fundamentals they found that were consistent with good ball strikers were:
(1) hitting the ground with precision
(2) hitting the ball with enough distance to golf effectively, and
(3) hitting the ball with a predictable curve.
2) Mike and Andy’s system measures how much certain characteristics happen during the golf
swing that would promote the three fundamentals listed above.
3) Therefore, Stack & Tilt ® is not a method, it is a system of classification.
4) The word system sometimes connotes “one swing” in some people’s minds. TrackMan has proved that not many people, not even tour pros, swing the same way twice in a row. Thus, teaching and expecting overall golfers to have “one swing” is not logical or rational. Mike and Andy individually address the biggest problem first when diagnosing a swing and initially prescribe the change that would have the most benefit. Refinement continues to occur when necessary from there. When doing their research Mike and Andy went through thousands of golf swings. Interestingly, the ones that exhibited the best ball striking looked to Mike like they “all took the same lesson.” While there is not one swing nor is it realistic to expect a golfer to swing the same exact way every time, Mike and Andy found that certain characteristics were considerably more effective for playing golf in line with the three fundamentals.
Here are some points that may be of interest that were also relayed during the presentation:
1) Stack & Tilt ® was a name made up for a Golf Digest Magazine article. The editor could not see certain moves so they were exaggerated in the pictures until he could “see” them. The exaggerated pictures were the ones published.
2) From my written notes: The longest hitters of the golf ball straighten their back leg the most on the backswing.
3) From my written notes: Mike and Andy teach what they teach “not because of the old guys or the new guys, but because of what it does.”
4) Heard near me when Andy was introducing himself expressing his thankfulness for the opportunity to speak, “Those guys are genuine. That was nice.”
5) Heard near me when Mike was explaining the changing tilt and extension exhibited by the spine during the swing in order for it to stay centered, “I never thought about it like that. But it makes so much sense.”
6) Heard near me before the presentation started, “I hate Stack and Tilt.” [Why’s that?] “I hate Stack and Tilt.” It’s here that I’d like to switch gears and do two things. I’d like to explain my personal experience with Stack & Tilt ®. I’d also like to address some of the comments like these that are sometimes heard within the golf community, regardless of what topic it may be about.
As I picture it, there are two main options that occur if a golfer is to hit the ball well.
1) The golfer may move off the ball in the backswing but (keeping with the pretense of effective contact) would then have to move back towards the ball on the downswing. There are pros who exhibit this option; they are the fastest and most consistent at getting back to and through the ball.
2) The golfer can stay centered and over the ball during the backswing. There is still weight transfer forward on the downswing in this option but the weight does not have to move forward to first get back to the ball; it is already there. Tour pros exhibit both of these options.
Speaking of those two options, I will never forget the evening on a range in Iowa after a round of NCAAs in college. I did not have the best round and sought out some time on the range to figure out a way to make the next two days of the tournament a bit easier. All day I had struggled with inconsistent contact. I worked slowly from slow and short swings feeling what had to happen in order to make crisp contact and compress the ball. In a few minutes I realized I did not have a choice, I had to feel like I stayed on my right side (I’m lefty) and that my right shoulder went down on the backswing. At the time had no idea if anyone in the world ever “had” to do this because I vividly remember thinking how bad of a golfer I was. In my mind I was “bad” because I could not hit the ball well using the common cues and visuals I had grown up hearing. Those common cues and visuals must have been what “everyone else” was using but I was “bad” because I had to feel something different.
The next day I did much better (…OK this is humbling but I shot 14 shots better…there are only 18 holes in a round). =)
How relieved do you think I was years down the road when I learned that many golfers past and present exhibited those components of keeping weight more forward and having a steeper shoulder turn? Very. But why should that have even happened? Why was it that I had a picture of the golf swing that made me fight against what I had to feel to hit the ball well?
Is it that every golfer has to do exactly what I felt? No way. But perhaps the overall picture of the golf swing would be better suited if everyone viewed it as different components that happen in different amounts for different golfers – termed classifying. Naturally then, a certain degree of each component would be the most useful for effective ball striking – termed prescribing. From what I heard at the presentation, Stack & Tilt ® does just that; it classifies and prescribes.
Since participating in online forums and teaching groups, I started seeing numerous pictures of good ball strikers – from Hogan, Snead, and Nicklaus to McIlroy, Mickelson, and Bubba (sorry being a south paw those last two stick out). Even being blonde it was very hard not to notice and see overwhelmingly obvious similarities when measuring certain parts of their swings. One that stuck out the most was something very opposite of what I read and heard growing up. These players listed all have straighter back legs and bent front legs at the top of their backswing. That is exactly what I had to feel like on the range in Iowa to make better contact. Maybe I am to blame for not doing adequate research growing up and finding out this information on my own. Or maybe the information was not readily available due to technology differences. Or maybe the information was not promoted because it was different than the common thought. I do not know.
Finally, I’d like to address the comment listed above that I heard before the presentation began. I am sure I have made similar statements about topics at times because I did not understand the topic enough. I realize now that any strong statement against something that has good intentions (no matter what the topic) can be a tricky one to consistently defend well and with accuracy.
An observation I have made throughout the years is one of how Stack & Tilt ® is sometimes portrayed (or rejected) by those who may not know as much about it as necessary to make an educated opinion. Many times I would see a shrug, crinkled face, and an attempt at a neutral comment like “well, whatever works, but I’m an open teacher.” Interestingly I would think those who consider themselves open teachers would jump at the opportunity to learn everything they can about the system thereby increasing the material for their open approach. Stack & Tilt ® is a system of classification. Everyone who swings a golf club theoretically Stacks & Tilts ® because they would all then fit somewhere within the system of classification. Sure there are some things that are more efficient than others. The amount of a measured move a golfer makes may be different than what the best ball-strikers exhibit, but it’s still within the system. Secondly then, Mike and Andy do not teach the same thing to every one of their students. As stated earlier, whatever component that would most help the individual golfer to start achieving the three fundamentals would be the component addressed first, and so on and so forth.
A very relevant comment I saw in an online group recently was from Melainey Gunning, a registered Stack & Tilt ® Instructor: Stack & Tilt is a system, not a method. It is a way to measure a golf swing for the teacher. It is a system simple enough for the beginner and detailed enough for the most sophisticated player. It’s all how you explain what you are doing….redefining the fundamentals of golf to be more effective for golfers to improve at a faster rate, when they improve faster, they play more often and longer, thus spending more money on green/cart fees for the owner of the course. We should be proud of the name 🙂
I wonder if the system were never named if it would be thought of by those unfamiliar in the same way that it sometimes is today. Or, would Mike and Andy be the great teachers on tour that they are who have players who happen to swing a golf club in a way which happens to be classifiable for such a purpose that happens to promote (1) hitting the ground in the same spot, (2) with enough distance, and (3) with a predictable curve? I do not know. But I do know those fundamentals make organizing and progressing a golf swing feasible and realistic. That’s certainly something to be proud of.