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Momentum: More Distance Less Headache

Updated: Feb 7

I've been looking for a few months on some instruction based on momentum. I've found some discussion on what the role of physics is in the golf swing, the use of momentum, the types of energy transfer so on and so forth. I've yet to find any discussion on how to use momentum throughout the golf swing to improve the movement of the golf club.

Over the past year, I've been catching myself talking more and more about momentum as a way to make students understand why each step that we learn has to be done. Golf is really about the movement of an object through space with a guided collision into the golf ball. Being able to understand the movement of momentum in the right manner is essential in increasing distance, control and also in helping your body stay injury free.

After hours of making sure I studied and understood the concept and looking at endless confusing equations and geek terminology, I believe I'm ready to distill this concept in a few paragraphs.

Momentum should be thought of in terms of real world examples. What I mean to say, is that it is easy for people to understand that a large object moving very quickly (A train) has alot of momentum; or a rugby player running at full speed. The actual equation for momentum is simple enough then to understand: Momentum is an objects mass multiplied by its velocity.

In golf this means we need to move more mass faster to create more linear momentum. Sounds simple enough doesn't it?

Remember this guy below?

The guy above (Love Him or Hate Him) has a degree in Physics. Physics discusses the role of collisions and movement of masses and objects through space. So it makes perfect sense to understand that by Bryson increasing his mass he naturally will create more linear momentum into the ball than he did before. Know what else Bryson did? He hooked up with the worlds Long Drive Champ: Kyle Berkshire who taught him a thing or two about velocity and creating clubhead speed.

Check this guy out here, this is pretty unreal and an interesting discussing into the swing thought process of a BIG hitter:

Did you notice that Kyle is not the size of Bryson (Not quite anyway). Well he's created momentum and force using technique. Put those two things together: Mass and technique and you've got yourself a pretty solid change in momentum, resulting force and increased distance and control. One more thing to notice that is so incredibly important about golf. NO ONE STANDS STILL AND HITS IT. There is a significant amount of proper movement in the golf swing, and I am suggesting here that you move your body much more than you think you should and learn how to harness momentum in order to improve your golf game significantly. I'm about to tell you the 8 Areas where we can maximize the momentum and make increases in distance and accuracy.

Momentum to Start the Swing

When we swing, we start by pushing momentum forward with a little mini micro move. I learned about this move from Jim Mclean, who first brought light to this via his teaching, and I use it in my own swing and always mandate it during advanced lessons where the student needs to piece everything in the swing together and get things moving athletically and cohesively.

Check out our Set up Article Here First before you Get Started to make sure the premises are correct.

Momentum in the First Foot of the Backswing

The One Piece Take away, is the use of this beginning momentum outlined above to generate enough force to end the back swing after 1 foot. Believe it or not we don't really want to pull or generate more force beyond the first foot of the backswing. If we have the forward mini micro move and then an acceleration of our mass from front foot to back foot we have moved enough mass backward to get us to the top of the back swing. I advocate movement into the back leg as it really makes feeling the proper sequence much easier for golfers, especially at the start.

Gravitational Momentum Maximization

So if we want to move more mass faster, it would mean we would need more energy to do so. That's a good way to tire out faster, unless we harness the existing and stable forces on earth. What's more important to human motion than gravity. So let's use momentum via transition to increase the ease of moving our body (Mass) faster through the ball. This is also an area where I see so many golfers lose their swing.

Impulse Creation

Impulse is not what you feel when you see a sale on Amazon. Impulse in physics is the amount of force applied over a small time interval. In this case, it's right at impact. Knowing that we are trying to use the gravitational forces from the top of the back swing to the moment of impact, we need to rapidly apply maximal force to the ball very quickly. In doing so, we maximize the energy transfer to the ball, retain our balance through impact (control and direction). It's this maximized creation of impulse in the swing that makes a great golfer's swing look effortless. The application of force and transfer of energy stored in the shaft into the ball at the correct time that makes a massive impact on the golf ball and thus enhances the collision between club and ball. In short, more distance! If we want to increase the amount of force on a ball, we must apply it for as long as possible, meaning that we want that force to start/reach maximal at the ball and to continue to use this momentum to transfer energy to the golf ball itself. Translation, long and on target!

Extension Momentum

I read an interesting discussion article by some other professionals the other day on a track man forum, which discussed not trying to neutralize the numbers of your golf shot. I.e. meaning not trying to get the club path close to zero and the club face close to square to the path and starting more or less on target. I thought that the author was thinking about things in the incorrect way. It also got me reminiscing about some of my students' questions about movement of the club face and keeping the ball on target. I realized that we are looking and thinking about golf in a singular dimension and not really understanding how momentum impacts the game and the direction and trajectory of the golf ball.

The extension is the hall-mark of a great golfers swing. You will almost always see it on still pictures of golfers with that powerful and aggressive follow through motion with the club pointing down the line, the golfer's face in a pleasurable grimace and a piece of dirt scalped from the earth by sheer power and force. It's almost as if the photographer understands the importance of this move in the golf swing, even without any understanding of the actual golf swing itself. Well, I would say that we as humans do know how to project objects toward targets and we often get in the way of things happening, just like our Trackman Author who was advocating curving the ball one direction as a fall back swing. I disagreed with him whole heartedly, and here's why.

We Hit the Ball Laterally

Anyone that tells you to rotate without shifting weight doesn't know the most efficient way to hit an object. Anyone that tells you not to move your head wants to hurt you and again, doesn't understand the physics. It's simple really. If we use each leg independently (Right leg in the backswing, and left leg in the follow through), we are moving laterally. We are moving from right to left.

When we move from right to left, our spine is between our hips, and our spine is also moving laterally with our hip movement or weight transfer. This movement laterally allows people to maintain their posture better as the spine is moving laterally just as we do when we walk. Meaning it is easy to replicate.

If we move the body laterally, we are moving more mass. That means we are generating more force. Generating more force means generating more linear or lateral momentum. If we generate more lateral momentum, then we have a greater chance of hitting the ball farther and straighter. Furthermore, if we are shifting our weight properly and we can achieve the weight transfer happening before the club is swung, or the impulse is created, we can almost entirely remove one side of the golf course as it would be almost impossible to hit the ball to the left. (i.e. pull it or hook it). That's a very good thing and solves the issue that our friend Mr. Trackman was trying to cleverly accomplish.

Also, we use that lateral momentum or linear momentum to project our arms away from our body and to project the club toward the target. The effect of the larger amount of mass moving linearly, means that the smaller mass of the clubhead will not overtake the linear momentum generated through weight shift. It's really that easy and if you watch great golfers they all have an excellent and aggressive linear weight transfer or transition. The effect is the powerful extension through the ball.

Angular Momentum to Stop us Falling Over

This concept is both easy and tricky, but should be read in the context of the above point of rotation of the club through impact and the extension of the club toward the target via lateral/linear momentum. The best example I could find to describe this is our good old grade 9 physics class experiment which uses a chair and a bike tire with two handles on the axle. The example can be understood in the below image:

The above image can be substitute for the golf club and the rotation of the club through impact. This is where a majority of golfers get their golf swing wrong. We must remember that we cannot look at the swing in terms of the impact only, which is what all launch monitors and simulators do. We have to think of this in terms of consistent control of momentum and the effect of angles and collision in reference to momentum.

Here we can see the "L" is the variable for angular momentum, and we can see that as an fixed object rotates (golf club) it creates angular momentum which acts in the direction of the shaft. The object above is representative of a golf shaft that is being rotate. So, as we rotate through the shot with the club, we will exit on the correct angle (It should match the shaft plane at address, and the angular momentum will pull us into the balanced finish position. If done correctly and without retardation of the club, its rotation or its momentum, we can produce balanced, consistent shots.

If you shift your weight and don't add in this corresponding angular momentum with the proper exit plane, you will soon find yourself feeling like you are going to fall over. Your body hates being out of balance, and so it will have to counteract this move (usually by swinging up) or by leaning back into a chiropractors dream - the dreaded reverse C position. OUCH!

When we play golf, we need to keep it simple: we aim the club face, check our set up parameters, and make a consistent and proper tempo from start to finish each time. The ball will always react the same given the parameters are set properly, we aim properly, and we can consistently produce a great tempo.

With some understanding of the movement of our body and our club, some matching of movements between body and club and some work on tempo and set up, we can make massive changes to your golf swing faster and better than you thought possible. Watch the hard work of tempo and momentum at work here

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