I have been working with the Molinari brothers since the summer of 2004, when Edoardo emailed me to ask if the two of them could fly over to The Wisley for me to take a look at their swings. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, for in the shape of Francesco (28) and Edoardo (30), Europe has two of the finest ball strikers in world golf. The way in which Edoardo barn-stormed his way into Monty’s Ryder Cup side last year was spectacular, and watching the two of them play together at Celtic Manor was one of the proudest moments of my career.
The following sequence gives me an opportunity to point out a handful of the high quality moves that make Edoardo such a consistent ball striker. And one of the first things you will notice is that his arm swing is relatively short compared to the majority of players out on tour. This is simply Edoardo’s preferred way of doing things; such is his strength and athleticism in his core he is able to use the rotational speed of his body to accelerate the arms and clubhead through the ball.
For anyone with that ability I suggest that a compact arm-swing (coupled with a full shoulder rotation) is often a very successful combination. My overriding goal as a coach is to enhance movements that come naturally to a player, and not to instigate change in a search for some notion of orthodoxy.
To borrow a terrific phrase from the eminent sport’s psychologist Dr Bob Rotella, ‘golf is not a game of perfect’, and Edoardo’s technique is individual to him, just as your swing is your own swing. The successful player/coach relationship is one that focuses on making the best of what a player has got, fine-tuning natural instincts to find a repeating method.
Having said that, Edoardo has worked very hard over the last year or so on his swing plane, as he wanted to eliminate any tendency to hook the ball and replace that with a basic straight shot, which, if he ‘misses’, falls gently to the right. This is the safe option you tend to see among better players, and it was a change I whole-heartedly endorsed, as a player enjoys much more ball flight control with a more neutral plane and impact position.
I hope you find the analysis interesting and find one or two lessons here that you can apply to your own game.
Shape, width & rhythm controlled by the body motion
The start of the golf swing is obviously a critical phase, as what you initiate here determines what is to follow. Looking at images 1-3 in this face-on sequence – i.e. the early move away from the ball to a position where the club reaches horizontal – the key is that you engender a sense of togetherness as the hand, arms and club work as a unit in harmony with the torso.
Edoardo does this very well...and with his own style. While the left arm remains nicely connected to the upper part of the chest in frames 1-3, the right arm floats a little as he gets the club to the horizontal.We have experimented with Edoardo keeping the right arm closer to the chest (which, normally, I’d like to see), but this is something he tells me he feels uncomfortable doing (he says he feels that makes it difficult for him to complete the turn of the right shoulder into the backswing). So, while the purist might suggest that the right arm should be folding a little earlier, this is not a ‘feel’ Edoardo likes. Moving to frames 4 & 5, however, quickly shows us just how beautifully he can turn his right shoulder to achieve his preferred position at the top of the swing.
The extent to which Edoardo extends his right arm to the top – combined with the fullness of the shoulder rotation – explains why the wrists are so firm as he completes his backswing. Any additional wrist action would just be ‘flicky’ and not contribute in a positive way. (We have experimented with adding greater wrist hinge, but this firm wristed action is the one that undoubtedly works best for him.)
Moving into the down swing, frame 6 illustrates perfect balance when orchestrating the all-important change of direction.When he’s playing at his best this is a very slow movement – there’s no real speed from the top of the swing to this point. And that prevents him developing too much ‘lag’ (i.e. an acute angle between his wrists and the shaft) on the way back down. One of the dangers of a firm-wristed backswing is that if you make a fast movement back to the ball with the arms you are liable to get too much ‘down lag’ of the wrists, and that would defeat all of the good stuff in the backswing (and results in being too ‘handsy’ through impact).
On the range, to keep the transition slow and smooth, Edoardo makes sure he gets the feeling the club is as wide as possible coming down (just as it was going back). And it’s a great exercise for all players – to simply hit balls with the feeling of moving in slow motion from the top. Once you develop that move into the downswing you can then focus on generating speed with the rotation of your body core through impact – tell yourself to get ‘across’ and then ‘rotate’. Across starts the downswing, rotation releases impact.
One point I’d just add here is that Edoardo makes more or less the same length swing with a driver – this compact and controlled arm-swing is not exclusive to the irons.
Down the line, a study in angles & swing plane
From the perfect posture, Edoardo’s first key is to get his hands and the grip-end of the club working ‘in’ while simultaneously working the clubhead up, keeping it outside the hands. This is perfectly illustrated in the sequence 1-3. And the purpose of this combination move is to stop the clubshaft getting too flat in the backswing (one of the tendencies he has to be wary of).
Study these early moves – they really do illustrate a fine takeaway sequence. Pay special attention to the way in which Edoardo keeps his upper left arm in contact with the left side of the upper chest, another protective measure designed to make sure the left arm doesn’t roll away in the early stages of the backswing and get too flat.
Again, the point I’m making here is that in order to develop your swing technique you simply have to be aware of your natural tendencies: Edoardo has a habit of wanting to roll the left arm off the chest at the start of the swing, and so he was very pleased with the position in pictures 1-4 when I ran through this feature with him in Turin mid-January. What we want to see during the move away sequence is the left arm comfortably on the chest and the shaft pointing down to the ball-to-target line – even slightly inside it.
As I have highlighted in the caption, if I were being hyper-critical I would suggest that the hands are a little too ‘deep’ in frame 4; ideally, I like to see the hands pretty much in the middle of the chest as you look from this angle. And that would help in as far as moving to frame 5, Edoardo’s top-of-the backswing position, we would then expect to see the left arm a little higher, so that the underside of the arm is closer to the right shoulder plane. Here, it’s not quite perfect, but the shaft is in a very good plane, and because of his lever action he has limited wrist hinge in the backswing, which we both like. [As you look at the position at the top the club appears to be laid off, but with a fuller hingeing of the wrists it would be on the ball-to-target line.]
Looking at this sequence, Edoardo also made the comment that he felt his position in frame 6 is slightly too flat – i.e. the shaft angle is a little flat as he moves into the downswing, and as a result the club is a little ‘behind’ him (a potential problem as this can get him on too much of an inside-to-out path, necessitating hand action to recover impact. If he over-uses the hands he will hook the ball (old problem), under use them and he will block it right). the hands he will block it right).
Interestingly, this analysis highlights the way we use images (both photos and video) to isolate specific areas and pin-point adjustments that need to be made. On the strength of these images that adjustment would involve making the left arm work slightly more upright in the backswing and the shaft plane slightly steeper in the downswing. The result being he would rely less on hand-eye coordination, which is always susceptible under pressure.
Finally, let me stress that not all golfers can make this firm-wristed action work effectively. You need the athletic ability to create body speed in order to generate power. Edoardo is a fine example of that method.With rotation and a natural weight shift he swings to a balanced finish as the right side releases, shifting off his right foot only once the ball has been dispatched, the rolling action of the right foot an effective guard against spinning out of the shot.