There is a certain aesthetic pleasure in watching a tightly connected, “flat” looking golf swing. The movement appears centered and simple. The energy seems to come 100 % from rotation, and there is little or no rangy or loose movement. At the same time there is a whip-like action that creates effortless looking power that allows physically smaller players to create tremendous distance. The prototype of this type of swing is, of course, Ben Hogan, and I have done a few studies of his swing, some by himself and another comparing him with Tiger Woods. Here we look at the golf swing of the newest player being compared with Hogan, Jonathan Byrd, and we put him side-by-side to check out the similarities and differences.
The similarities in the two swings are more cosmetic than substantial. Byrd’s arm position at the top, specifically the angle of his left arm to the ground is very close to Hogan’s position. But as we look closer there are many significant differences. Ben Hogan reaches the top by adding posture to a fairly erect starting position. Byrd, on the other hand, starts more bent over and with lower hands, then raises slightly in the takeaway and never lowers again until the forward swing is under way. Hogan continues to compress into the ground by deepening his waist, then lowers again starting the forward swing while keeping his head out over the ball. Byrd stays tall and backs away from the ball slightly in transition, which lessens his spine angle and causes his right arm to fall more behind his right side than does Hogan’s. Byrd is saved by his incredible strength: lesser physical specimens would have trouble rotating the hands in front of the ball from this approach.
My purpose here is not to criticize, but to compare. It is my feeling that as good as Byrd is now, he could be better by incorporating some of the key elements of Hogan’s golf swing. At the very least I believe that he could hit the ball significantly farther by improving his use of his pivot and the ground forces that help build additional torque between the upper and lower bodies, possibly leading to increased clubhead speed and more distance with the driver. That said, Byrd’s shot-making and overall control, combined with his powerful physical presence, make him a player to watch in every tournament, including the majors.