Who Is He?
To most, Rory McIlroy will need very little introduction. Former world number one, 10 time professional tour winner, two time major champion and one of the highest paid sports people on the planet is quite a list of achievements to rack up, particularly before your 25th birthday.
Even more astounding when you appreciate that both of his major wins came in the form of eight shot victories. Only one other player in the modern era has been able to beat a field in such a fashion and that is Tiger Woods.
What He Does
Regarded as having one of the best swings in the modern game, Rory McIlroy uses his slight size but incredible athleticism to hit the ball as far as most on the tour and keeps up with guys twice his size.
Working with his long time coach, Michael Bannon, head professional at Bangor Golf Club in Northern Ireland, McIlroy has always studied his fundamentals closely but states that he plays his best golf when he has very few swing thoughts and just trusts his movement, 'a grip it and rip it' style of play at it's best.
Rory McIlroy's incredible athleticism allows him to rotate his shoulders over 110 degrees during his backswing by also maintaining a very straight left arm, this creates an incredibly wide and powerful movement. He then launches at the golf ball with the most dramatic and fastest leg action you will see from any golfer. The clearance of his left side and drive towards the target from his bottom half is responsible for unleashing his substantial club head speed towards the golf ball. He stays down through the impact position beautifully and extends forward to a nicely balanced follow through position even though the golf ball often flies over 300 yards.
What Can You Learn?
McIlroy shows that you don't need to be the biggest, tallest and strongest guy on the tour to hit the ball a long way. He shows that he uses every ounce of his power with incredible fitness and flexibility. He is a case study in how leg action can generate power. To simplify his movement, you should focus on winding up fully in your backswing and then turning your belt buckle to face the target as quickly as possible during your downswing phase. This will release the leg action as quickly as McIlroy's and generate your longest shots.
What Should You Avoid?
Rory McIlroy is able to swing in the way he does due to his fantastic level of fitness and flexibility and all round athleticism. It will be interesting to see how his swing changes and develops as he matures and his body changes shape. You should only endeavour to copy McIlroy's swing if you feel that you have a reasonable level of fitness and flexibility as this is the epitome of a young man's golf swing.
Rory McIlroy Pro Golfer Swing Sequence
Rory McIlroy is one of the best golfers in the world – of course, that isn't exactly breaking news to anyone who follows the world of professional golf. McIlory is already the owner of four major championships, and he is still just 27 years of age. The list of players throughout the history of the game to win four majors is rather short, so to accomplish that feat with so much career left to go is certainly noteworthy. Expected to be a fixture on the world golf stage for many years to come, it would be a surprise if McIlroy doesn't win several more majors along the way.
While you have to possess a quality all-around game to win major championships, it is the swing of Rory McIlroy that stands out when you watch him play. Despite his relatively short stature, McIlroy is one of the most powerful players in the game, regularly launching drives in excess of 300 yards. He is also able to hit towering high iron shots, making it possible for him to access pins that many other golfers simply can't reach. Some would argue that McIlroy has the best swing in the game, and while that point is open for debate, there is no doubt that he is in the conversation for that title.
In the content below, we are going to take a look at the swing sequence of Rory McIlroy in order to pick out bits and pieces that may be useful for you in your own game. Of course, it would be foolish to attempt to copy McIlroy's swing from top to bottom, as every golfer is unique and has their own capabilities and limitations to consider. However, you can learn from the swings of other golfers, and McIlroy certainly carves out an impressive example. Even if you only take one or two things away from his swing that you can use in your own, those points may be enough to take you to the next level on the course.
It is important to remember that there are likely more good parts to your current swing than bad, even if you don't feel like you are a very good golfer at the moment. Even a poor swing is usually just a couple of adjustments away from being able to produce nice golf shots. With that in mind, don't talk yourself into a full 'overhaul' of your swing just because you may be struggling at the moment – use some of the tips you find below to alter your technique one piece at a time until you start to see positive results. The swing you are left with likely won't look much like the swing McIlroy uses to get around the course each week, but that's okay – as long as you are able to move the ball toward the target with consistency, you can post good scores and have a great time in the process.
All of the instruction below is based on right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Before the Swing Begins
The most important lesson that you can learn from $Rory McIlory might actually be found before he even starts his swing. While preparing to hit a shot, McIlroy gets himself into a great position over the ball, with his body in a powerful, balanced stance that allows him to swing aggressively time after time. Most amateur golfers fail to get into a great stance prior to starting the swing, and the results speak for themselves. If you would like to make quick and significant improvements to your game, the first place to look is your address position.
So what is it about the stance used by McIlory that makes it so effective? Consider the following points –
- Flex in the knees. The lower body is the engine of the swing, especially in the downswing, yet many amateur golfers fail to engage it at all at address. This, of course, is a mistake. As you stand over the ball, you need to make sure you have enough flex in your knees to engage your legs and get them ready for the swing that is to come. You don't have to be deep in a squatting position, but there needs to be enough flex to make your legs feel 'alive' and ready to move as needed.
- Flat back. From the back of his belt up to the base of his neck, McIlroy is able to create a straight line around which he can swing once the club goes in motion. Putting yourself in this kind of flat back position is important because it will free up your shoulders to make a great turn both back and through. It is the shoulder turn that is going to help you get the club all the way back to build power, but you will only make a good turn if your back is in the right position to start with. To make it easier to get into a good position with your back, you should feel like you are sticking your backside out behind you at address.
- Chin up, eyes down. This is one of the tricky points in the address position that many players get wrong. When you stand over the ball ready to swing, you want to have your eyes down on the ball – but you want to have your chin up and free from your chest. The average player tucks their chin down into their chest, which makes it difficult for the left shoulder to turn back properly. As long as your eyes are looking down directly at the ball, you should feel free to keep your chin up off of your chest in order to permit a great turn. Also, keeping your head up in this way will help with your overall posture.
- Hands below shoulders. You don't want to be reaching out for the ball at address, but you don't want to be 'jammed up' either by standing too close. McIlroy gets his positioning just right, as his hands are positioned perfectly below his shoulders as he prepared to hit. That means that his arms are hanging freely, and he should be nice and relaxed before the takeaway puts the club in motion. Although it looks like he is swinging hard at the ball – and he is – there is plenty of freedom in the motion overall.
It should be no surprise that a player of the caliber of Rory McIlroy starts off his swing from an excellent address position. Standing over the ball properly is one of the most important parts of ball striking, as the position that you use at address has a lot to say about where the club is going to go during the swing. While it might seem a bit boring to work on your address position during your next visit to the range, that is exactly what you should be doing if you want to improve your game in short order. Sharpening up your stance can have a positive influence on your game rather quickly, so invest some time and effort in the points listed above and look forward to improved play.
Picture Perfect Halfway Back Position
One of the convenient points to use your check on your swing is the 'halfway back' position of the backswing. In other words, you are going to look at the positions that you have reached when your left arm is parallel with the ground during the backswing. This is an easy point to use because it is so simple to identify – you can just let the video run until your arm gets to parallel on the way back, and then freeze the recording to check on how you are doing.
When you follow that procedure to evaluate the swing of Rory McIlroy, you are certain to be impressed by what you see. McIlroy is in a picture-perfect position at this point of his swing, and you can tell that great things are about to happen when the club returns back to the ball. The following points are all present in McIlroy's swing when you pause it halfway back –
- Left arm extension. Having plenty of extension in your left arm is crucial to producing power and speed in the golf swing. Why is extension important? It's simple – extension leads to width and length in your swing, and those elements provide you with the time necessary to accelerate the club into the back of the ball. Think about it this way – if you had two identical cars on a race track, and one got to accelerate for 100 feet while the other sped up for 200 feet, which would be going faster? The one that went twice as far, of course. The concept is the same in golf. A longer swing with greater width is going to develop more power than a similar swing on a shorter arc. This is one of many reasons why McIlroy is able to generate power from a relatively small frame – he gets everything possible out of his swing and the results are amazing.
- Full set in the wrists. At the same time the left arm is parallel to the ground, the club is vertical pointing up to the sky. To get the arm and the shaft of the club in those positions at the same time, it is necessary to hinge the wrists fully on the way back. This action has taken place somewhere between the takeaway and halfway back, which is the perfect time to get the hands involved. Many amateur players struggle on this point, as they either involve the hands too soon, or not at all. By setting the club at the right time, you will position yourself perfectly to finish the backswing and then start the downswing all in a timely manner. Also, by having the club set that this point, you will take one variable out of the equation for later in the swing.
- Stability in the right leg. If you watch a video of Rory McIlroy swinging the club, pause it at the halfway back position and take a look at his right leg. What do you see? Most likely, you see that nothing has really changed from address. Sure, the knee may have slightly less flex than it did over the ball, but mostly, the stance is the same as it was before the swing began. This is an important point because of what it means for your balance. If you can keep your right leg steady throughout the backswing, it will be much easier to stay on balance from start to finish. Rory McIlroy is almost always nicely balance while he swings the club, and much of that balance can be attributed to the stability in his right leg.
If you managed to put your body and the club in positions similar to those found by McIlroy during his swing, you would be well on your way to quality ball striking. Of course, your positions aren't going to match his identically, and that is okay. If you would like to pick out one specific thing from this part of his swing to imitate, it should absolutely be the stability of the right leg. Balance is an incredibly important part of golf, and controlling the right leg is one of the big keys to keeping your weight exactly where it needs to be.
At the Top
This is probably the most-often analyzed point of the golf swing, and for good reason. When you pause a swing video at the top, you can learn a lot about what has happened in the swing up until that point – and you can also learn about the downswing that is about to begin. It should be no surprise that Rory McIlroy is in a great position when he gets to the top of his backswing, as it is this position that largely leads to the powerful, consistent ball striking for which he is so well-known.
Review the list of points below for the highlights of McIlroy's powerful top-of-swing position.
- Maintained extension. Remember that extension in the left arm that was present halfway back? It hasn't gone anywhere, as the left arm is still fully extended at the top of the swing. That means the club is a great distance from the back of his head as he transitions from backswing to downswing – and that width that has been built up is going to be extremely beneficial as he accelerates the club as quickly as possible coming down. It is common for an amateur golfer to lose their extension at the top of the swing as the left arm collapses slightly, but that isn't the case when looking at the swing of a top pro like McIlroy.
- Right elbow pointing down. This is likely the point that will provide the greatest lesson for the average golfer. When you reach the top of your backswing, your right elbow should be pointed down toward the ground. Unfortunately, many amateurs – especially those who fight a slice – will allow this elbow to 'fly' away from their side and point out behind them during the transition. This kind of right arm action will cause the club to move 'over the top' as you start the downswing, and a weak slice is the likely result. You should feel like you are keeping your right elbow down and your arm tucked in tight when you get to the top of the swing.
- Full shoulder turn. Rory McIlroy has one of the best shoulder turns in the game, which is a large part of the reason why he can produce amazing power through the ball. Unless you have elite flexibility and are in tremendous physical shape, you are likely not going to be able to make a turn that quite lives up to the standard set by McIlroy. However, you can always strive to make the best turn possible, as adding even an inch or two of rotation can do wonders for your ball striking power. At the very least, make it a goal to turn your left shoulder under your chin as you go back. As long as you can at least hit that point, you should have enough turn stored up to unleash some impressive power on the way through.
Looking at a still image of Rory McIlroy at the top of the swing makes it clear that he is one of the best players in the game. Even if you looked at nothing else, you could tell that this is an elite ball striker with amazing power just by seeing this one image. At the top, McIlroy looks athletic, balanced, relaxed, and ready to strike. It is hard to imagine much going wrong between this beautiful top of the swing position and impact, and indeed, it is rare that there is much of a problem on the way down. Most of the time, this position at the top leads directly to a great strike and an accurate shot.
The Moment of Impact
For all of the work that you do during the golf swing, there is only one fraction of second when the club actually contacts the ball, so you need to make it count. Everything that has been done throughout the swing has been designed to help you reach a great impact position, with both your both and the club in great spots. To finish off our review of Rory McIlroy's swing sequence, lets review a few key points related to his impact position.
- Head down on the ball. Of course, this is a point that seems like a 'no brainer' for a professional golfer, but it needs to be highlighted anyway due to its importance. McIlroy has his head perfectly down on the ball as it smashes it down the fairway. To make sure you can match up with this same position in your own swing, do your best to see the ball while you hit it. That might seem simple, but it can be harder than it sounds when you are nervous about the outcome of your shot.
- Left foot flat on the ground. It is common for amateur golfers to bring the left heel up off the ground during the downswing in an effort to add speed and length to the swing. This is a mistake, however, as it is only going to make it more difficult to strike the ball solidly at the bottom. Do your best to imitate Rory McIlroy by keeping that left heel flat on the ground as you swing through impact. It is important to note that this point only applies to your left heel, as there is nothing wrong with allowing your right heel to release off the ground as you approach impact (as long as you are staying on balance, of course).
- Right arm below left. This is a classic position for a professional golfer, but it is rarely seen among the amateur community. McIlroy has his right arm below his left as it impacts the ball, allowing him to strike powerfully from the inside. This doesn't mean that he is necessarily hitting a draw, however, as it is possible to hit a fade from this spot as long as the clubface is open to the target line. By keeping the right arm low and hitting from the inside, McIlroy is able to make the most of his power potential because no energy is lost hitting across the ball from outside-in at impact.
In all, Rory McIlroy has a simply beautiful golf swing that is highly effective – and it is no surprise that this swing has taken him to the top of the game on many occasions. With a long career ahead of him and plenty of great experiences to draw on already, it seems certain that McIlroy will remain one of the game's top players for many years to come. While you aren't going to be able to copy his swing frame-for-frame, you should be able to improve your own swing by learning a few things from the technique of one of the best in the world.