Who Is He?
K. J. Choi, 'The Korean Tank', as he is politely referred to on tour, was the first of a growing band of Korean golfers to find a place on the PGA tour. A previous life as a weight lifter and body builder has given K. J. the reputation of a formidable athlete packed into his diminutive frame.
What He Does?
K. J. Choi is the archetypal player of the power fade. At only 5 feet eight inches tall, he does not have the long armed, wide swing of many of the tour's longest hitters. Instead
K. J. has to use his powerful mid section and core to generate power.
By allowing the ball flight to be left to right, K. J. is able to unwind his upper body as quickly as possible through the impact phase. This will produce a slightly out to in and across the line swing path. It also means he can accelerate the club hard and focus on hitting the ball as far as possible. He is also a big advocate of carrying a hybrid club in the place of his long irons and can often be seen carrying as many as seven head covers around the golf course.
What Can You Learn?
K. J. is one of the biggest exponents of playing with what you have and trusting your shot shape. Many golfers favour a draw over a fade, but if your fade is consistent and reliable and long enough, you can learn to play with this and embrace it as K. J. has done. K. J. Choi works on maintaining a very connected backswing position, he makes a good shoulder rotation away from the golf ball in the backswing and maintains a connected left arm and chest relationship.
If you feel less confident with your long irons, don't be afraid of replacing them all with hybrid clubs. Remember you are not carrying clubs for show, you are carrying them for performance. High lofted hybrids can fill your game with confidence and improve your scores.
What Should You Avoid?
The key to a consistent power fade ball flight is to ensure that it does not become too much of a slice, particularly with the longer golf clubs. If you notice your power fade is moving more than half a fairway across, you should consider whether this is now actually an out of control slice. If the direction of your club face and your swing path are too far apart at impact, you may consider that you are imparting too much tilted back spin (sometimes referred to as side spin) on the ball.
K.J. Choi – Pro Golfer Swing Sequence
The average golfer can learn a great deal about the game from watching the swings of the top players in the world. One of the great lessons that can quickly be learned when you start to observe professional swings is the fact that no two swings are the same. While all of the golfers on the top tours are able to produce incredible shots and great scores, they all do it in their own way. Therefore, as an amateur player aspiring to get better, you should resist the temptation to fully copy the swing of your favorite player, as you will never be able to exactly replicate the move they make. Instead, you should learn from some of the different mechanics that they use within the swing, and then incorporate those into the swing you already have.
One of the players you can learn from is accomplished pro K.J. Choi. As one of the best male golfers in history from Asia, Choi is well-known around the world for his impressive game and likeable attitude. He has earned many fans throughout his long career, which has seen him climb into the top ten in the world rankings for a total of 40 weeks. In total, he has amassed 22 professional wins, including eight on the PGA Tour. By any measure, Choi is one of the top golfers of his generation.
Where many professional golfers are tall and slender, Choi is just 5'8'' tall and has a muscular build. In fact, he has a history as a competitive power lifter prior to moving to golf, which obviously gave him plenty of strength to work with on the course. When the average golfer watches Choi swing the club, the first thing they should notice is the consistency and balance that are present. It is hard to imagine how Choi hits any bad shots at all when you watch him swing, as it seems to be the exact same move over and over again. There is a great tempo in place within his swing as well – nothing looks forced or rushed at any point. If you are a player who would like to become more consistent with your swing technique from the start of a round to the end, K.J. Choi is a great player to watch.
It was not by accident that K.J. Choi was able to rise near the top of the professional golf world during his career, as he put in plenty of hard work to go along with his talent. A swing like the one used by Choi does not build itself – rather, it must be created with plenty of practice time and a strict focus on the fundamentals. In addition to learning from the mechanics of Choi's swing, you can also learn from his work ethic – plenty of practice time and a commitment to the game is the only way to improve over the long run.
All of the content 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.
There is a lot to like about the golf swing of K.J. Choi. If you watch it over and over again, you are sure to keep noticing new points that you can highlight as being strengths of his technique. The specific points that you take away to use on your own game will depend on the strengths and weaknesses of your swing currently, but everyone can appreciate the repeatable nature of how Choi moves the club through the ball. Following is a list of three of the top points that should be highlighted regarding the excellent golf swing of K.J. Choi.
- Lack of extra movement. As mentioned above, K.J. Choi possesses an extremely repeatable swing – meaning he can make the same move over and over again. One of the reasons he is able to do that is the lack of extra movements in his swing. The overall swinging motion is a simple turn back to the right, followed by a turn through the ball. There isn't much (if any) wasted motion in the shot, so he is able to swing the same way time after time. This is a major contrast to the average amateur player, who typically has quite a bit of wasted motion within the swing. As you work on improving your game, take note of how streamlined and simple Choi's swing is, and then work toward that goal for yourself.
- Beautiful address position. It is hard to imagine that there is a better address position on the PGA Tour than the one used by K.J. Choi. As he stands over the ball, Choi is beautifully balanced, with his feet just outside of his shoulders and hit hands directly over the clubhead (with the driver). His head is set just slightly behind the position of the ball, which is lined up off of the inside of his left foot. Overall, Choi's address position is simply picture perfect, and it lays the ground work for the quality swing that is to follow. If you are wondering how Choi has been able to produce such powerful, repeatable golf swings throughout his long career, it all begins with the position that he places his body in at address.
- Reasonable effort. One of the leading mistakes made by amateur golfers is 'over swinging', or trying too hard to launch the ball down the fairway. When you watch Choi swing, it is clear that he is staying 'within himself' throughout the action. He knows that he has excellent mechanics and plenty of strength to his powerful shots, so there is no need to force addition effort at any point during the swing. The whole swing looks to be composed and consistent, and he holds his balance perfectly on the follow through shot after shot. If you are a player who is consistently leaning over to one side or the other after your swing has finished, you can learn a lot by the restraint that Choi demonstrates when swinging the club.
Of course, there are more than just three good things about the golf swing of K.J. Choi. However, the three points listed above are among the key highlights of his swing, and they are all points that you can learn from as you work on your own game. Remember, you shouldn't be trying to create an exact copy of K.J. Choi's golf swing when you head to the range for your next practice session. Instead, you should be using what you have learned from his swing in order to make adjustments to your own swing. By making smart adjustments, one at a time, to your own swing, you will eventually be left with a finished product that you can rely on to perform well each time to head out to the course.
Changing Your Focus
If you are like most other amateur golfers out there, you are focused on one thing when you stand over the ball – distance. There is nothing wrong with hitting the ball a long distance, of course, but distance should never be your main focus while swinging the club. If you watch the swing of K.J. Choi carefully, you can actually see how he is focused on control and balance rather than distance. He is able to generate plenty of distance thanks to his strength and great mechanics, but he isn't going out of his way to smash the ball as hard as possible. Put another way, he is worried about making a great swing, and the distance comes as a side effect of that effort.
So, do you go all out to hit the ball as hard as possible, or are you able to keep yourself under control? If any of the following three points are present in your current golf swing, you might be trying too hard to maximize your power.
- Falling off balance at the finish. This is the classic sign of a player who is trying to swing the club too hard. If you can't hold on to your balance at the end of the golf swing, you need to think about backing off of your effort slightly until you regain control of your body. It is nearly impossible to strike quality shots while you are falling over, which is why you almost never see professional golfers making this mistake. When watching Choi's swing, for instance, you see a player who is beautifully balanced all the way through the swing and into the finish.
- Poor contact. Players who try to smash the ball with maximum power on each swing tend to have trouble finding the sweet spot at impact. Are you consistently hitting the ball out off of the toe or in off the heel? If so, you are probably swinging too hard. Swinging hard might feel like it is going to help you achieve more distance, but it will actually cost you distance because of the poor contact you are making at the bottom of the swing. Hitting the sweet spot at impact is the more important single thing you can do to create distance, so that goal should always be prioritized over sheer effort in the swing.
- Extremely long swing. If you take a look at K.J. Choi's swing in slow motion, you will find that the club stops right around parallel to the ground at the top of the swing. This stands in contrast to many amateur golfers, who keep the club going well past parallel before they transition into the downswing. An extra-long golf swing is unlikely to help you build power, but it will make it more difficult to hit the ball cleanly. Keep your swing tight going back to make it easier to find the ball coming down, and your overall game will improve as a result.
If you have been focused on distance throughout your time as a golfer, it is going to take some work to adjust your goals. During your next trip to the driving range, try centering your focus on striking the ball cleanly and sending it directly toward your targets time after time. Forget completely about how far you are hitting the ball and work only on the control you have over the club throughout the swing. Once you see just how accurate you can be by focusing on control over distance, you might find that you start to enjoy playing the game this way. Sure, hitting long drives might be fun, but posting low scores is what the game is all about – and that only happens when you hit accurate shots hole after hole.
The Crucial Left Heel
As your swing transitions from backswing to downswing, there is going to be a lot of rotation taking place in your lower body (or, at least, there should be). This rotation is really the engine of the swing, as it is going to provide you with the power necessary to whip the club through the hitting area. Players who are able to produce a quality lower body turn through the ball will be able to achieve impressive swing speeds without falling off balance or having to force the swing. As you would expect, K.J. Choi does a great job of using his lower body to develop speed on the way down into contact.
One of the parts of the body that is often overlooked at this point in the swing is the left heel. Ideally, your left heel will stay down on the ground throughout the golf swing – especially as the club is moving through the hitting area. While K.J. Choi does this perfectly, it is a point that many amateur golfers struggle to hit successfully. Instead, they bring the left heel up off the ground as the club approaches impact, which can cause a number of problems. For one thing, lifting the left heel will change the level of your body prior to impact, meaning you may have trouble making solid contact. Also, you will lose rotational speed while moving vertically, so your swing might not have the same amount of power that it would have otherwise.
The lesson here is simple – keep your left heel down on the ground as you move through the strike. Of course, this might be a little easier said than done if you are currently in a habit of letting that heel come off the ground. To learn how to stay grounded throughout the downswing, try making some slow-motion swings during your next trip to the driving range. While swinging slowly, it should be easier to force yourself to keep the left heel down. Think about rotating around that left leg all the way to a full finish without coming up onto your toes. Then, after you get comfortable with this type of swing, gradually increase the speed of your swing until you are whipping the club through the ball at maximum velocity with your heel staying on the ground. It is going to take some time to get comfortable with this technique, but it will be worth it in the end when you can reap the rewards.
Working on the movement of your left heel in the downswing is another point that will serve to simplify your overall swinging action. As was mentioned earlier, your goal should be to make the simplest swing you can achieve while still hitting the ball powerfully. K.J. Choi is an excellent example of what can be done with a simple golf swing, so you should be aspiring to live up to his model. One of the reasons that his swing looks so repeatable is the lack of footwork in the downswing – the left heel stays down and the lower body rotation continues beautifully through the strike.
If you are able to gain control over your left heel in the downswing, you will also find that your short game improves as a result. When pitching the golf ball, you are making a mini version of your full swing – meaning you may be tempted to bring the left heel up on these shots as well. When that happens, it will affect the quality of the contact you make with the ball, and you will have trouble controlling your distance properly. Now that you have taken this needless move out of your full swing, it should be out of your short game as well, and your pitching ability will be improved as a result.
It's All About Rhythm
So much of the game of golf comes down to rhythm. This is why it can be a mistake to look at still images of the golf swing. In fact, it can also be trouble to spend too much time reviewing slow-motion swings, as the slowed down effect of the video takes away from the actual rhythm of the swing. For instance, when looking at the swing of K.J. Choi, you would be making a mistake if you only looked at still pictures of the various positions that he hits. Sure, he puts his body and the club into good spots throughout the swing, but his game is about much more than that. More important, he has beautiful rhythm throughout the move, which is why he can produce quality shots all round long.
During your last practice session, how much of your time did you spend thinking about rhythm? If you are like most players, the answer to that question is 'not very much', or 'none'. Unfortunately, most golfers simply don't work on their rhythm very often, which is why the average player is extremely inconsistent out on the course. Sure, you can hit some good shots from time to time during a round, but it is the ability to hit those shots over and over again that will separate you from the competition.
To practice your rhythm on the range, you should consider working on a counting drill that will help you even out the speed of your backswing and downswing. This drill is simple, and you can use it as often as you like. In fact, you could even use it on the course, although you would probably want to count in your head as opposed to out loud. To use this drill to achieve better rhythm, follow the steps below –
- Take your seven iron from the bag and set a few golf balls down in front of you. Position one ball in the right spot in your stance for a seven iron shot, and pick out a target in the distance.
- Once you have lined up with your target and taken your stance, start your swing as you would normally. However, for this swing, you are going to say the number 'one' out loud as your swing is beginning.
- Continue your swing back as usual, and count off the number 'two' when the club is halfway through the backswing (marked by the point at which it is parallel with the ground).
- At the top of the backswing, you are going to count off the number 'three'.
- Finally, you will say 'four' when you strike the ball at impact.
This drill is literally as simple as counting from one to four, while swinging your golf club. So what is this going to do? Hopefully, it will help you to even out your tempo – specifically, it should allow you to hit shots without rushing the backswing. If you notice that you are running out of time to count from one to three during the backswing, you are probably moving the club back too quick. Use this drill over and over on the range until you are happy with the progress you have made.
K.J. Choi has one of the best golf swings in professional golf, and his accomplishments over the years speak for themselves. While you might not even achieve the kind of ball striking that K.J. Choi can produce, you can certainly learn from the many great attributes of his swing.