Tiger Woods and Kevin Chappell Talking Ground Mechanics

Oct 28, 2018 | Golf, Insights, PGA Tour Data

ny time Tiger Woods touches the grip of a golf club, the internet goes wild. This week Tiger participated in a clinic with Kevin Chappell at Pebble Beach and it was no exception. Tiger took full swings for the first time in ages and while most golf fans were interested in how his swing looked, we at BODITRAK were far more interested in how he and Chappell described their swing, specifically their ground mechancis.

Here’s a video captured by Alex Dunlop of Newcastle GC near Seattle, WA.

Tiger is one of the most thoughtful students of golf and Chappell – who works with BODITRAK advisor Mark Blackburn – is extremely comfortable with technology and concepts like ground mechanics. Unsurprisingly, they make some really interesting observations about how they use different strategies to leverage the ground. We’ve transcribed a few pieces of their dialogue and added our commentary.

Chappell: “Tiger uses the ground violently. More like a Justin Thomas.  He’s jumping off the ground.”

Like many of golf’s prolific bombers, Tiger drives his legs into the ground and extends his legs on the downswing. The average PGA TOUR player will lift their hips as much as 4″ in the downswing. Sometimes, this can cause his feet to pop up off the ground near impact, like Tiger’s here:

Chappell: My keys are to load my right glute, unload my right glute and load my left glute.  Tiger is probably a little different.

Everyone has unique swing thoughts, but if you’re focused on how to load and unload your glutes, you’re probably in good company.

Tiger: “I grew up a pretty scrawny kid so in order to hit the ball far, I learned to jump and use the ground as a lever.”

This is extremely common in junior golfers. Young athletes generally have fairly undeveloped upper bodies and core musculature. As a result, they have to rely on their lower body to generate power. The most natural strategy to jump and, in Tiger’s words, “use the ground as a lever.”

Chappell referred to Justin Thomas several times as the clinic. In many ways, Thomas is the posterboy for using the ground to maximize distance. While we’ve broken down Thomas’ move in numerous places, one fascinating comparison for Thomas, the 2017 PGA Champion, is the 2016 PGA Champion, Jimmy Walker. Look at the lead leg of Justin (left) and Jimmy Walker (right) below.

Notice a difference?  Justin pushes hard off his lead leg on the downswing, extending his left knee.  Contrast that move with Walker, who maintains knee flexion through impact.  How is this technique reflected in their BODITRAK data?  While it might not look terribly different to the untrained eye, it produces VERY different pressure traces.  Prior to impact, Thomas (left) has around 7% of pressure on his lead leg.  This is a result of Thomas pushing hard off his lead leg and actually lifting his foot off the ground.  Check out Walker’s trace (right).  Near impact, Walker has 89% of his pressure in his lead leg.  This is evidence of him absorbing the ground – rather than pushing into it – on the downswing.

Walker’s instructor, Butch Harmon, notes that Walker’s knee bend is unlike most modern players, but at 6’2″ and 180 lbs, he doesn’t need to leverage the ground like smaller players to generate above-average speed.

Just like Walker and Thomas, Tiger and Chappell are both world class players who have very different – yet efficient – strategies for leveraging the ground.