Rory McIlroy Golf Swing Analysis
I had seen Rory a lot at the golf club, he’d been playing there since he was 2 ½ years old but the first time I really coached him was when he was about eight years of age. What you have to realise with Rory is that by that time he was already a golfer. Normally when you coach a boy or girl of that age you have to start them off with all the really basic things like teaching them how to move. But Rory already had a lot of this so I was starting further up the line.
When Rory first stared with me he had a strong grip but in terms of giving him power and being able to hit the golf ball, that was a good thing. The grip was strong in his left had but his right hand was fine. Sometimes with young people they might need that extra feeling of strength in the left hand so we didn’t change it immediately. But I told him all along that he would, at some stage, need to change that grip. I knew that with Rory’s technique and swing speed, at some stage he’d hit the ball left with that grip. In the end, I think he was about 12 when he actually came to me and said, ‘I think I need to change my grip now.’
At one time he had a very high left arm and in fact both of his arms were straight at the top of the backswing so we had to work on that. We also had to work a lot on Rory’s rhythm because it was very quick from the top of his backswing, the transition. We changed that so it was smoother from the top of the backswing to the start of the downswing.
All the way through this time, Rory was very good when I told him one part of the swing to fix. He’d go away for two weeks and have that part fixed. He was very quick at that. Over a period of years, until he was 16 or 17, that was when the swing building was done.
1 Rory’s trademarks
Rory’s clubface was always in a good position at the top of the backswing and he always had a very strong leg movement into the downswing. At one stage this was very, very pronounced. But we kept it because he always liked to have that push down into his left side as he started down so we didn’t rub it out completely and now it gives him quite a bit of power. Even now, he still likes to feel that he pushes down into his left side and he really grabs the ground with his left foot.
One of the other things would be balance. From an early age we worked on getting him to hold his position in the finish and pointing his right shoulder at the target. That’s followed through into today where you see one of his trademarks is that he holds a really balanced finish position.
2 Today’s blueprint
I like to think that the downswing is a reaction to the backswing. If you take the club away on plane and get into a nice tight position at the top, then if you start the downswing from the ground up with your knees and hips then the whole thing should follow through in the right dynamic sequence.
There are two different periods of time when Rory’s swing was great, 2009 and 2011. If you looked at how the body worked it was very stable – there was very little leg movement in the backswing. His upper body turned to a point but it didn’t go too far past 90˚ – his hands and arms reached that point at the same time as his shoulders. From there everything moved down gracefully and in the right sequence. The timing, the rhythm, everything was really really good. In those years we just did a check on the backswing to make sure the club wasn’t too outside or inside the line and any little glitches were fixed but there wasn’t too much to go wrong.
3 Changing body shape
When Rory started to develop his body, we had to work out whether to change things or not. He was playing a lot of golf, trying to get his game going and score well in tournaments so sometimes there might be a little fault and I’d let him carry on with it for a little while. But the problem with that is that you get too far off the straight line so in the end you have to bring it back in. Over the last couple of years we’ve had weeks where we do intense training when we rub out any little flaws. We had a period at the end of last year, beginning of this when we had to do that because the swing had got a little bit out of control. It was unstable at the top, Rory’s knees were working too much and there was too much of a pull inside with his takeaway – the clubhead was getting behind his hands. That meant it dropped behind him on the way down and he hit it out right.
We are back with it again now and we are working on getting that stability and its looking good again. But with a player like Rory I feel that it is always a work in progress because he likes to play different shots. He doesn’t like to just stand and hit one shot all the time. He likes move around to hit fades and draws, low and high. So with someone like that the swing can change. Its never like we are up against a big problem but we have to work with it. If Rory says, “ I’m hitting it well, leave me alone” we’ll do just that!
What you can learn from Rory
I’d say balance is the big thing. How Rory maintains his balance through his golf swing and holds his finish is a great thing to copy. Sometimes I would teach people from the finish position backwards. I’d show them how to finish and then bring them back to impact. I’d get them to make a small backswing and then drive through into that position.
Throughout my time as a coach people who are struggling with their games have always said to me, ‘I’m lifting my head’. But you have to lift your head otherwise you won’t be able to get into the right finish position. Never try to keep your head down too long. As soon as you feel that you’ve hit the ball, get through into that finish position. Learn how to finish properly.
I’ve videoed thousands of people and its very rare that I would see anyone lift their head before impact. It’s more to do with something else in the swing, their feet may have come off the ground, they may have straightened their legs, they may have fallen backwards to give the impression they’ve lifted their head. So finding a good finish position is a good way of starting your practice. Go to the finish, hold it and look at the target. This is something you can do that will help you without thinking technically about the golf swing.
The other big thing you can learn from Rory, if we get away from the golf swing for a second, is the imagination he has around the golf course. Rory never really sees a shot as a straight shot. I think versatility and imagination is a good thing for people to look at and not to discount anyway of playing a golf shot.