Who Is He?
A multiple major winner, a fixture on the tour for over 15 years, and all round nice guy. Also the guy that would surely be top of a survey of golfers if asked whose golf swing you would most like to copy. Ernie Els was allegedly playing scratch golf in South Africa aged 13 years old, and from then on developed one of the smoothest, most reliable and best looking swings of the modern era.
What He Does
Els has always had the ability to make the very difficult look very easy. From a solid address position, Els works a good 90 degree shoulder rotation with a quite dynamic leg action, which includes his left knee moving in towards the golf ball a substantial amount during the backswing. This allows him to create a full backswing which is recognised as one of the widest and highest left arm positions in all of golf. This wide arc is accompanied by incredibly late and fast releasing hands. This is one of the reasons Ernie gets his nickname as 'The Big Easy'. He hits big shots with an easy looking swing.
What Can You Learn?
If you ever felt that you are guilty of creating 'powerless effort' instead of 'effortless power', you should lock yourself in a darkened room with one of Ernie's golf swings on repeat and stay there for half an hour. You cannot help but be impressed with his timing and his balance through the ball. He creates this effortless power by using an aggressive wrist setting action in the backswing where he sets the golf club to an L shaped position when his left arm is horizontal to the ground, the club is vertical. He then maintains this L shaped position throughout the top of his backswing and throughout most of his downswing. As his hands return back in front of his legs before impact, he has still maintained nearly all of this 90 degree L shaped position. Then at the last second as he gets towards the ball, his hands release in a dynamic, rotational action. Just after impact, you will notice that his right hand is significantly more on top of his left than most other golfers. This is the secret to Els' huge power with his easy looking swing.
What Should You Avoid?
Trying to copy Els' extra high and wide backswing, and perfect timing with his late releasing hand action can cause some less experienced golfer's issues. Any sense of flicking the ball with the hands or scooping with the back of the wrist would cause massive inconsistencies of not only direction, but also the strike.
Ernie Els Pro Golfer Swing Sequence
For the serious golf fan, watching Ernie Els swing the golf club is one of the great joys of the game. With an incredible tempo and picture-perfect technique, Els is able to launch the ball powerfully down the fairway time and time again. Of course, to go along with that great swing Els also has a beautiful touch on and around the greens, which is why he is a multiple major champion and one of the best players of his generation. On top of all of that skill is also a friendly and engaging personality, meaning Els is easily one of the most popular golfers in the world.
There is plenty that the average golfer can learn from watching Ernie Els, but this article is going to focus only on the sequencing of his powerful swing. Have you ever tried to figure out how Els can hit the ball so far despite using such a smooth and flowing swing? To many observers, it doesn't look like he is even swinging hard enough to produce the speed required to hit powerful shots. However, power in golf is all about sequencing, and that is something that Els does as well as anybody in the world. When you are able to get all of the parts of your golf swing working in the right order, they combine to produce more power than any single part of the swing would have been able to make on its own.
In terms of your own swing, are you sequencing everything properly in order to maximize your power potential? If you are like most players, you are probably making at least one or two sequencing mistakes in your current swing – even if you don't know it. Most golfers blame their poor shots on putting the club in the wrong position, but sometimes it is simply poor sequencing that is to blame for the errant shots. Get everything to work together in the right order and you will find that your swing is capable of more than you previously imagined.
Ernie Els is a rare talent, and you shouldn't expect to suddenly start striking the ball like one of the best players in the world simply by fixing your sequencing. In addition to his skills, Els is also a large man, which helps him to produce power from that fluid swing. With his size and his talent, your results are always going to fall somewhat short of his lofty standard. However, that doesn't mean that you can't take steps in the right direction with your game by working hard on your sequencing. Make the order of your swing mechanics a top priority during your upcoming practice sessions and you are likely to love the results.
All of the instruction below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
How Els Does It
It really isn't possible to have a swing that can be called 'perfect'. After all, every golfer hits bad shots, so nobody really has a perfect swing. With that said, Ernie Els is about as close as you can get. Watching his swing, it is hard to find a flaw, even in slow motion. The positions are excellent, the rhythm is beautiful, and there is no panic at the bottom of the swing. The club truly flows through impact, which is a talent that very few golfers possess. Even when compared to his peers on the PGA Tour, Ernie Els stands out from the crowd as one of the best swingers of the club that the game has ever seen.
So in terms of sequencing, what is it that Els does so well? In reality, he does everything well, but the three points below should be highlighted because of how important they are to the success of his swing.
- Shoulders get it started. Most people think about the sequencing of the swing as something that happens from the top down, but it actually gets started as soon as the club goes in motion. If you are able to start your swing with a simple shoulder turn, as Ernie Els is able to do, you set yourself up on a great path for a swing that falls perfectly in order. Your shoulders should initiate the action by turning away from the target while the rest of your body remains quiet. This allows the club to eventually wind up behind your body, which is where it needs to be when the downswing begins. Without this takeaway, the club would never get all the way back and you wouldn't have a chance to sequence the downswing properly. This might seem like a simple step, but it is incredibly important to your overall swing.
- Pause at the top. Out of everything that Els does in his golf swing, this is the single most important point. When the club arrives at the top of the backswing, it pauses (just barely) as the lower body gets started. Once his hips are turning toward the target, the club then changes direction and starts down toward the ball. This part of the swing takes just a fraction of a second, but it is the entire reason why Els is able to hit the ball so powerfully with such a smooth rhythm. By turning his lower body while the club is 'waiting' at the top, he is building up power that can be used later in the downswing. That lower body rotation will pull the club down through impact with impressive speed, and the ball will be launched into the distance. There is no rush at the top of Els' swing, but the same cannot be said for the average amateur player. Take the rush out of the top of your swing and you will quickly become a better golfer.
- Hit comes last. This last point is really a result of the steps that have come before. By starting the downswing with his lower body, Els is able to trail the club head behind the rest of his rotation (often referred to as 'lag'). By lagging the club beautifully in the downswing, Els waits until the last possible second to start the 'hit' portion of the swing. A delayed hit is one of the biggest keys to unlocking your power potential, so working on this skill can take you a long way in your pursuit of distance and consistent ball striking.
It can actually be a little intimidating to watch Els' swing on video. He has clearly spent a lifetime working on that swing, and it is a thing of beauty to be sure. Don't make the mistake of holding yourself to that standard, however. All you need to do is learn from the basic techniques within his swing, specifically the sequencing that he uses to strike solid shots. Els has been able to hold up nicely under pressure during his career, and that ability is due in large part to his smooth rhythm and never-rushed approach to the game. Whether you are a total beginner or an experienced player, taking cues from Els' swing sequence is a great way to get better.
The Right Mindset
Whether Ernie Els is giving an interview, walking around the course, or actually hitting a shot, his rhythm, tempo, and temperament always seem to remain pretty even. He is a laid back guy by nature, and that comes through clearly in his golf game. There is no rush to anything that he does throughout the day, so why would he rush when he gets to the top of his golf swing?
Of course, you can't simply copy Ernie Els' personality. He is who he is, and you are who you are. It would be silly (and a waste of time) to attempt to change your personality in order to play better golf. You need to be yourself on the course, but you can copy a bit of Ernie's approach to the game when it comes to actually hitting shots. When you stand over the ball to start your swing, there should be no sense of urgency or speed to your process. You should be able to take your time, settle in to your stance, and make a swing that builds gradually from the takeaway all the way through impact. By having the right mindset before your swing even begins, you will stand a much better chance of making of smooth swing that holds up under pressure all day long.
With that said, you don't want to contribute to the slow play problem that is already plaguing the game of golf. Rounds of golf – especially on a sunny weekend day at a public course – are taking far longer than they should, and the game as a whole is suffering as a result. As a golfer, it is your duty to maintain a reasonable pace of play, even while taking your time over the ball prior to a swing. Can both of those goals be accomplished at the same time? Sure they can. Use the tips below to simultaneously play faster and allow yourself more time for the actual process of hitting a shot.
- Be Ready. The number one thing you can do to help pace of play is simply to be ready to hit your shot when it is your turn. While others are hitting, you should be analyzing your shot, picking a club, picking a target, getting a yardage, etc. Too many golfers make the mistake of starting this process once it is actually their turn – which leads to six hour rounds of golf. Go about your business quietly without distracting others, and be ready to fire when you are away.
- Focus on golf. Nothing slows down a round of golf faster than taking a cell phone call, stopping to take pictures of the course, taking forever to pick up a snack – in other words, all non-golf activities. While you are on the course, focus on playing the game as much as possible. Of course you can still have fun with your friends, but be considerate to those behind you and save the other activities for after the round is over.
- Don't overanalyze. All of the green reading in the world isn't going to make your putting stroke any better, so get a good read and send the ball on its way. The same goes for full shots – once you check your yardage and the wind, pick a club and let it fly. Overanalyzing your shots not only slows down the game for everyone else, but it also will harm your level of play. Even though it doesn't require running and jumping, golf is still a sport that demands you to make an athletic move in order to strike the ball solidly. Too much analysis will lock up your body and you will lose your athletic ability.
One of the reasons that people often hurry through their swing is that they know they took too long getting ready for the shot, and they can feel the group behind them getting impatient. By playing fast up until the point when you are ready to swing, you can feel free to take a couple extra moments to gather your thoughts and focus your mind in on the task at hand. Whether you play on the PGA Tour like Ernie Els or you just play on the weekends with your friends, having the right mindset before your swing is key to getting all of the parts in the right order.
Staying Within Your Swing
One of the main problems that many golfers have when trying to swing in sequence is getting outside of what they are normally capable of doing. The swing that you make on the range is the one that you should be trying to make on the course – however, many players try to do more than that in an effort to hit the ball higher, farther, etc. Stepping outside of your normal comfort zone in order to force the ball down the fairway is always a bad idea, and it will lead to your swing getting out of sequence. Ernie Els does a great job of staying within his natural swing, and he is able to perform consistently as a result. Els doesn't just have a great sequence because of his beautiful technique – he also knows that he shouldn't try to go above and beyond what he is capable of doing with the golf club. He trusts his swing and knows his limits, and you should too.
This is something that is easier said than done, unfortunately. When you get out on the course, it is easy to try pushing the limits, expanding the boundaries of your game in order to pull off incredible shots. Even if you know better, sometimes temptation will get the better of you. For example, if you find yourself in the fairway of a long par five with 250 yards to the green – all over water – you may be tempted to go for the green in two to set up an eagle putt. Of course, this is only a good idea if you know you can easily carry the 250-yard distance. If not, you will need to lay up. It is at this point when many golfers would expand their swing, reaching back for a little extra in order to go for it.
As you know by know, the smart decision would be to stay within your usual swing and simply lay up in order to attack the hole with your next shot. Why? Because the sequencing of your swing is likely to fall apart under the pressure of trying to hit the ball as hard as possible. When you reach back for something extra, you will rush, and your hands and arms will usually beat your lower body through the downswing. That not only means a shot that will fly off target, but it also can lead to a loss of distance. That's right – by trying to swing harder, you will frequently wind up hitting the ball shorter in the end.
You aren't going to see Ernie Els come out of his shoe trying to smash the ball down the fairway. If he is facing a shot that falls outside of his normal limits, he will simply take another path to the hole. That is exactly the tact that you should be taking when you are on the course. You don't want to damage the sequencing of your swing by regularly trying to hit shots that you aren't capable of hitting – so stay patient and be realistic with your shot selection. Your scorecard will thank you, and your swing will remain intact for the rest of the round.
The Importance of Practice
It is nearly impossible to get your swing properly in sequence if you don't practice on a regular basis. Sequencing is often the first thing to go when your swing gets 'rusty', so try to hit balls at least periodically in order to stay as sharp as possible. You don't have to visit the range every day, but getting in a habit of going once per week or even once per month could do wonders for your game.
As you would imagine, Ernie Els has put in plenty of practice time during his illustrious career. There is almost no way to quantify how much Els has practiced through the years, but needless to say he has hit hundreds of thousands of practice shots in order to develop the sequence and rhythm that he possesses today. Unless you are a professional golfer, you aren't going to be able to devote the time necessary to master your craft, but you can still improve over time with regular visits to the driving range.
When you do get out to the range for a practice session, don't take your sequencing for granted. Most golfers ignore this part of the swing, but focusing on the order of your swing mechanics is a great way to get better. The basic outline of a proper swing sequence is as follows –
- Takeaway using the shoulders turn turn the club away from the target.
- Finish the backswing using more shoulder rotation while the lower body remains stable and balanced.
- As the club approaches the top of the backswing, the hips should begin to unwind toward the target.
- With the hips leading the way, the arms and club should begin to make the trip down toward impact.
- During the downswing, the angle should be held between the left arm and the club shaft (known as lag).
- At the last possible moment, the lag is released and the club is powered through the ball and up into the finish position.
That is only a list of six steps, but getting all six of those steps in order can be harder than you might imagine. Take them one at a time, and don't be afraid to make slow swings on the range in order to get a better feel for how the swing should progress. It may take a little bit of time, but you will gradually get more and more comfortable with executing the swing in the proper order from start to finish.
There is no argument that Ernie Els is one of the great players in golf history, and his beautiful swing has a lot to do with his accomplishments on the course. Keeping the swing in sequence is a challenge for golfers of all skill levels, but that is something that Els has done a great job with throughout his long career. It is impossible to hit powerful golf shots without a well-sequenced swing, so the average golfer could benefit greatly be following Els' lead in this area. Take the time to work on your own swing sequence and you may start to hit the ball better than ever before.