How John Tillery Changed Kevin Kisner’s Swing from the Ground Up
The PGA Tour recently published an excellent analysis of Kevin Kisner’s swing and the work he did to overhaul it with instructor (and BodiTrak advisor) John Tillery.
In addition to offering a glimpse into the process of making a swing change on the PGA Tour, the piece provided excellent insight into how an instructor is able to identify and correct dysfunction by observing how the player interacts with the ground.
Kisner and Tillery began working together in 2013. Kisner was toiling on the web.com Tour and knew that his swing wasn’t good enough to consistently compete on the PGA Tour. During their first official session (which lasted several hours), Tillery didn’t make any immediate suggestions, but outlined long-term changes that could be made, many of which related to how Kisner used the ground.
Tillery was an early adopter of BodiTrak on TOUR and strongly believes that efficient ground mechanics are critical for performance.
The first of the issues Tillery addressed was Kisner’s backswing pivot, which disrupted his downswing transition and invited ugly blocks.
Kisner used to turn his hips too quickly at the start of the backswing. His weight stayed on his left foot instead of shifting to his right side. At the top of his backswing, Kisner’s upper body tilted too far away from the target.
“His sequence of how his body moved was out of whack,” Tillery said. “As soon as the club started swinging back, he’d start turning his hips and moving the bottom of his spine forward. He’d tilt his torso too far to the right to have some sense of getting behind the ball since his weight wasn’t shifting to the right. It got him in a spot where he couldn’t have any lateral motion (back to his left side) in the downswing.”
One of the drills Tillery used to correct this was putting an alignment rod into the ground against Kisner’s right hip. This helped him feel the loading and weight shift in his backswing. “Kisner wants to feel like he’s putting pressure into his right foot as the club starts swinging. This keeps his right hip pressing against the alignment rod until his left arm is parallel to the ground.
Instructors often use tools to like this to help students “feel” the move Jordan Spieth’s instructor Cameron McCormick uses the handle of a golf club to help Jordan feel like he’s loading into his trail leg without swaying. This ability requires tremendous physical capabilities, something that Tillery, a TPI Certified instructor, surely appreciates.
Kisner’s improper body motion on his backswing made it impossible for him to make the proper transition to the downswing.
Because Kisner didn’t shift his weight properly in the backswing, he was unable to shift his weight to his left side at the start of the downswing. “He would spin out and lock his left leg prematurely,” Tillery said about Kisner’s downswing.
This led to a downswing that was too narrow and an impact that was too steep. The club shaft was too vertical on the downswing and the clubface was open in relation to the path. That’s why his predominant miss was well to the right.
Now that Kisner is putting more pressure into his right foot early in the backswing and his torso is less tilted to the right, he can shift his weight to the left at the start of the downswing. He does this while maintaining the width of his downswing, which allows the club to swing down on a shallower plane and keeps him from turning his body too fast at the start of the downswing.
“We wanted him to be able to feel some pressure down and into his left foot in transition versus just spinning his hips,” Tillery said.
When BodiTrak’s Terry Hashimoto visited Tillery last summer, he demonstrated a drill he uses to help identify whether the pressure shift was appropriate or just merely superficial.
Kisner and Tillery are a great story of how the right partnership can change a career and how the answers can be found in the ground.