Analyzing Justin Thomas’ CoP Trace on BODITRAK

Nov 5, 2018 | Golf, home-insights, Insights

BodiTrak advisors Dr. Sasho Mackenzie and Mark Blackburn do a terrific job breaking down Justin Thomas’ ground interaction in the FootJoy Performance Fit swing analysis above. We refer to Thomas’ center of pressure trace as a Power Z Trace, something that’s extremely common among golf’s longest hitters. We wanted to highlight a few key points that Sasho and Mark made to elaborate on some of the important concepts in analyzing center of pressure traces.

The first thing to observe is that Thomas transfers pressure to his lead foot early on his downswing. Specifically, he has maximum pressure in his lead foot when his lead arm is parallel with the ground on the downswing. We try to avoid making sweeping statements about trends with BodiTrak data, but we will say that having maximum pressure into the lead foot when the lead arm is parallel is extremely common amongst great ball strikers.

The tremendous pressure that Thomas puts into the ground with his lead foot not only helps develop his 119 mph of club head speed, but helps orient his body to produce the best launch characteristics on TOUR.

As Sasho notes in the video, “There is a huge ground force [under Thomas’ lead foot]. Probably over two times his body weight. That’s going to launch that lead side up and there’s going to be very little contact with the ground and the lead foot at impact.  That’s going to help orient his body… so that he can hit up on the ball.”

By tilting his body-axis [see Mark’s example at right from a recent feature], Thomas is able to hit up on the ball, helping to maximize launch angle and minimize spin.

This is confirmed by data from a 2015 project that the PGA TOUR did with BodiTrak advisor Dr. Robert Neal.  Fascinated by the 150 lb Thomas’ prodigious length, the PGA TOUR asked Dr. Neal to investigate HOW Thomas was able to hit the ball so far.  What they found was that in addition to creating tremendous speed, Thomas delivered the club to the ball at a near-optimal angle for his swing.

Thomas is among the TOUR leaders in launch angle at 14°. According to Dr. Neal, what makes Thomas exceptional – or in Dr. Neal’s words “a phenomenon” – is that he’s able to achieve the high launch angle with a relatively low spin rate on the ball, giving him a “piercing” ball flight. This is made possible by an angle of attack that is an astonishing +4.8°, more than 6° higher than the PGA TOUR average. What Thomas does to orient his body to achieve these conditions at impact is reflected in the data on BodiTrak.

Tilting isn’t the only product of vertical force in Thomas’ swing.According to Dr. Neal’s data, Thomas has lifted his pelvis almost three inches at impact.This sort of vertical thrust of the pelvis is evident among the vast majority of golf’s longest drivers.

That is one of the power moves that we see,” says Dr. Neal, “If someone isn’t able to raise [the pelvis] or push off the ground, they won’t be able to generate the same speed [as someone who does].

Check out freeze frames of Thomas at impact.Data from BodiTrak indicates that Thomas has just 7% of his pressure in his lead foot at impact, evidenced by him being on the tip-toe of his lead foot like a ballerina.

As Sasho notes in the video above, Thomas is still pushing off of his trail foot at impact, but the 93/7 pressure distribution between his trail and lead foot is mostly due to the fact that his lead foot is lightly touching the ground.

Thomas is one of the most exciting young players in golf.He uses every ounce of his body to be among the fastest in the game.So much of what Thomas is able to accomplish in the swing is made possible by how he uses the ground.The dynamic, “z-trace” is not only evidence of how Thomas creates club head speed, but also orients his body to hit up on the golf ball.Dynamic center of pressure traces might look like a scattered mess at first glance, but hopefully this helps demonstrate how analyzing them can illuminate exactly HOW a player like Thomas is using the ground.