Analysing the swing of a ‘disruptor’

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 15, 2019 11:36

Following 20-year-old Matthew Wolff’s triumph at the 3M Open earlier this month, professional golf could be about to enter a watershed moment.

Wonky, weird or wonderous – whatever fans make of Wolff’s trademark swing, there can be no denying that it has a certain unique charm about it, even though there are players who have taken a similar approach in the past. Typically, Wolff raises his club to the very heavens, putting faith in his own instinct to guide the club accurately, where others would compromise on power for the sake of a straighter drive:

Wolff is also unique in that the speed of the follow-through is lightning-fast, essentially making him to golf what Bruce Lee was to martial arts – and he’s only 20 years old. His impact has perhaps changed not only the sport itself, but also other elements. For instance, in other sports such as football and Formula 1, contests are dominated by the favourites. However, with a new generation of golfers casting such unpredictability into the rankings, we may see changes across many facets of the sport such as longer odds being given for favourites in betting markets, as well as punters taking chances on newcomers like Wolff over the established favourites.

Another unique trait is his heel lift in the first part of the swing, with Wolff raising his left heel to stabilise his stance and safeguard the degree of power with which he is about to strike the ball. Both his hip and shoulder also turn to an unusually significant degree, accentuating the idea that every key element of a conventional swing is being greatly and deliberately exaggerated.

The second part of the strike then begins, with an incredible amount of shallowing, in which the club’s head is almost horizontal as it goes through the downward swing phase. What is an already huge amount of power is redoubled by the amount of shallowing, and the velocity of the swing is maintained right through to the moment of impact by the huge thrust of his left hip.

Golfing history is, of course, awash with unique swings, but how could Wolff’s shape up against the likes of comeback king Tiger Woods and Bubba Watson? Those two serve as very topical examples of how power can dominate, even when there is less focus on finesse and more on instinct.

The only potential drawback is that where the physical aspects of the conventional swing are exaggerated, so too are any mistakes. If Wolff was to make even the slightest misjudgement, the botch would have a decidedly comedic vibe. By nature, such power hitters are also easily riled by their own mistakes – no matter how rare they are – which in turn can make a negative impact on several holes, rather than just one.

On current evidence, Wolff looks like the future of golf. It speaks volumes when a college golfer skips a level and is clearly better for it. Provided that Wolff can continue to be the ‘disruptor’ he promises to be, then the unusual will become more celebrated, effective, and entertaining than ever before.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick July 15, 2019 11:36
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