J B Holmes

You might say J.B. Holmes is the anti-John Daly. Where

Daly’s swing is extremely long, Holmes features an abbreviated backswing in which the club shaft does not reach parallel with the ground.

One thing the pair do have in common: prodigious length. In fact, Holmes has twice led the PGA Tour in driving distance and never ranked lower than seventh in his six full seasons. In 2011, his average drive of 318.4 yards topped the Tour.

How does Holmes create so much power from such a short swing? Read on for the explanation.

Unconventional move: Even with the driver, Holmes takes the club back to about
80 percent of what’s normally considered a full backswing.

Who else does it: Jason Gore, Allen Doyle

What it looks like 

J.B. Holmes 1

J.B. Holmes 2

Photo 1: Viewed face on, notice that Holmes (emulated here by our swing model) does not cock his wrists as completely as most golfers. He does, however, make a full (90°) shoulder turn, while rotating the hips less than the standard 45°.


Photo 2: Holmes’ swing is very upright (vertical) and his body raises considerably from the address level.


Why it’s a problem for amateurs: Few golfers could generate adequate power with a backswing this short. The minimal wrist hinge would have to be maintained very deep in the downswing – until the last split-second before impact, basically. Also, raising the upper body causes the
spine angle to change, which usually results in poor ballstriking. 

How Holmes gets away with it: The source of Holmes’ immense power? The tension and torque created between his big shoulder turn and small hip turn. Holmes starts the downswing with an aggressive rotation of his hips; the torso, shoulders and arms follow in sequence. Instead of casting the club with the hands, his arms pull it downward (led by the lower body and core). Thus, he maintains – and even increases – his wrist hinge before unloading into the ball. 

The cure: As in Holmes’ case, a short backswing can actually be a very good thing. In fact, if you have a brief move back and struggle to generate distance, a longer backswing may not be the answer. Instead, work on ingraining a proper downswing following this sequence: 

  • The first move after completing the backswing is to place your left heel back on the ground (or gently press your heel to the turf if it does not lift on the backswing). This sends a signal up through the body.
  • The left hip begins rotating toward the target…
  • Pulling the torso into rotation, then the shoulders, and finally…
  • The arms, which pull down toward the ball. 

A good way to practice is to pause for 2-3 beats at the top of the backswing before proceeding with the downswing. This prevents your hands from taking over and engages the lower body first.