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.

J.B. Holmes 1

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

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°.


J.B. Holmes 2

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.

J.B. Holmes Short but Powerful Swing

J.B. Holmes Short but Powerful Swing

If you follow professional golf, you probably know a couple things about J.B. Holmes. First, you know that he is an excellent professional golfer. He has plenty of accomplishments to his name, and he has racked up some serious prize money over the years. The other piece of knowledge you have about Holmes is the fact that he is one of the longest players in the game. Long-known for his impressive power, J.B. tends to draw a crowd wherever he goes simply because of his ability to blast it off the tee.

Since turning professional in 2005, Holmes has a total of seven wins to his credit, four of which have come on the PGA Tour. He has twice finished in the top five of a major championship, with a T4 finish at the 2016 Masters and a 3rd place in the 2016 Open Championship. Incredibly, Holmes posted these career-best major finishes after dealing with a major medical issue in 2011. Holmes had to undergo brain surgery to address structural defects in his cerebellum, and then also experienced a setback due to complications from the surgery. To come back from such a difficult personal experience to play great golf in the years that followed says a lot about J.B. Holmes both on and off the golf course.

In this article, we are going to take a close look at Holmes' golf swing – specifically, the short backswing he uses, even off the tee. Long driving is usually associated with a long backswing, but that certainly isn't the case with J.B. Holmes. Even though he employs a short swing – one of the shortest on Tour – he is still an incredibly long hitter. While you probably aren't going to match up with J.B. off the tee anytime soon, you can still learn from his example. Many amateur golfers can benefit from learning the lesson that it isn't necessary to make a long backswing when trying to hit long drives. The rest of your technique is far more important than the length of your swing, and that point should be crystal clear by the end of this article.

It is tremendously helpful to learn from the swings of the best golfers in the world, as they are obviously doing a lot of things right along the way. However, it should be mentioned that you don't need to attempt to copy the swing of any one particular player in order to improve your own game. In fact, trying to copy the swing of a top player will usually just end in frustration and disappointment. You should always take what you learn from others and try to apply it to your own game in subtle ways. For instance, after reading this article, you may decide that you want to tighten up your backswing a little bit. That could be a good idea – but don't run off to the range and try to swing exactly like J.B. Holmes.

All of the content in the article below is written from the perspective of a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

How J.B. Makes It Work

How J.B. Makes It Work

With a backswing that doesn't put the club anywhere near parallel to the ground at the top, how does J.B. Holmes manage to produce such impressive power? Well, after taking a look at his golf swing, that question should be pretty easy to answer. Holmes does just about everything well in his swing, and the end result speaks for itself. You don't hit the ball this far and this accurately on accident – Holmes moves the club through the ball impressively time after time.

The following list highlights three of the best characteristics of J.B. Holmes' golf swing.

  • An athletic stance. Every good golf swing needs to start with a good stance, and that is certainly what we see here. Holmes checks all of the boxes when it comes to an athletic address position, with his knees flexed and chin up away from his chest. Even without seeing him swing the club, you could probably guess that he was going to have plenty of power just by looking at his stance. In addition to engaging his muscles nicely, J.B. also does a nice job of setting up in a parallel position to his target line. Nothing is out of place, meaning he shouldn't need to make any major corrections later in the swing to get back on track. In many ways, there is nothing to see with regard to his address position – and that is a good thing. Without making any pre-swing mistakes, Holmes can focus on swinging the club aggressively while being confident that he will arrive in the right position at impact.
  • A great shoulder turn. Too many people associate a big shoulder turn with a long backswing. In reality, the two aren't that closely related. Making a long backswing – in terms of how far the club travels – has more to do with hand action than anything else. J.B. Holmes is a great example of this concept. Despite the fact that J.B. does not get near parallel with the shaft at the top, he still makes an excellent shoulder turn away from the target. At the top, his left shoulder is well behind the ball, and his back is basically pointed toward the target. With this much turn, it should be no surprise that Holmes is able to launch the ball well over 300 yards, even if he doesn't have what most people would consider to be a 'long' backswing.
  • Unbelievable lag in the downswing. This is really the highlight of the entire swing. Once he has completed the backswing, J.B. Holmes pulls the club down into the slot more aggressively than just about any other player in the world. Even when watching a video in slow-motion, it can be hard to see this move because of just how quickly it occurs. When his left arm is parallel with the ground in the downswing, the club shaft is bending significantly and it is obvious that something impressive is about to take place. A few other golfers are able to lag the club in a similar fashion – Sergio Garcia is one, for example – but this kind of raw power and aggression is rarely seen in the golf world. There is almost no way you will be able to replicate this action in your game, but you can still work on bettering your own lag. Even adding a little bit of lag to your motion can have a profound effect on your driving distance.

In the end, the length of J.B. Holmes' backswing is really irrelevant in the discussion of his driving distance. A long club swing is not necessary in order to produce powerful shots, and J.B. proves that point perfectly. Thanks to excellent shoulder rotation, solid mechanics, and world-class lag, J.B. regularly launches drives that soar well beyond the 300-yard mark.

The Benefits of a Short Backswing

The Benefits of a Short Backswing

Now that you have learned a bit about how effective J.B. Holmes can be with a short backswing, you might be thinking about tightening up your own motion. But is that a good idea? In this section, we will highlight some of the benefits you may enjoy if you decide to shorten the length of your swing. It will still be up to you to decide whether or not to go ahead with this change, but there is a good chance you will be compelled to do so once you review the points below.

  • Added consistency. One of the most compelling reasons to tighten up your backswing is the fact that you stand to be more consistent from swing to swing as a result. The logic here is pretty simple – if you make a shorter swing, there is less time for something to go wrong. With fewer moving parts involved, your swing should repeat nicely from shot to shot, something that has certainly benefitted J.B. Holmes over the years. Every golfer would like to realize the dream of becoming more consistent, and shortening up your backswing may be one path to making that a reality.
  • Improved balance. Making a long backswing is one of the easiest ways to lose your balance. As the backswing continues to drift farther and farther around your back, it is only natural to be pulled to the left at the top of the swing. This loss of balance is going to make it difficult to achieve a clean strike at the bottom. Even if you do manage to hit the ball cleanly, you will probably lose some power along the way because you will have had to make adjustments in the downswing to recover your balance. By making a point to stop short, you can stay on balance properly and deliver all of your potential power into the back of the golf ball at impact.
  • Better short iron play. When you think about your golf swing, you probably tend to think first about what your mechanics are going to mean for long shots off the tee. However, it is just as important to hit quality shots with your irons – especially your short irons – and a shorter backswing will be great for your wedge game. Hitting accurate wedge shots is all about staying under control and repeating the same motion over and over again. A shorter swing should help you do just that, so don't be surprised if you see dramatic improvement in this area when you shorten things up.
  • Easier on your body. We don't tend to think of golf as a physical game, but it can certainly take its toll on your body as the years go by. Many golfers struggle with back problems after years of playing this game, as the repeated twisting can wear down the muscles in your back. By making a shorter arm swing, you should relieve some of the pressure that would be otherwise placed on your body with the use of a longer turn. This adjustment isn't totally going to take away the physical challenges presented by golf, but it may help a bit, especially for those with limited flexibility.

You stand to improve your golf game in many important ways when you decide to work on making a shorter arm swing going back. Of course, nothing comes easy in golf, so this change is going to take more than just a trip or two to the range to incorporate into your technique. Commit yourself to putting in plenty of practice time before you expect to see results out of this adjustment.

Mastering Your Timing

Mastering Your Timing

So far, everything sounds pretty good. You simply tighten up your backswing, keep your arm swing under control going back, and send the club down into the ball with confidence. What could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, this is golf, which means plenty can go wrong. In this case, the biggest problem you are going to face is your timing. Now that you have shortened your swing, the timing of your action is going to be affected overall. It will take some time and plenty of practice to find a new rhythm that allows you to deliver the club to the ball properly.

The problem here is that you have made your arm swing shorter, but the rest of the timing of your swing is not going to change. Your shoulder turn should be just as long as it was before, meaning you will need to give yourself enough time to finish that part of the move. Most people who shorten their backswings wind up rushing as a result. They feel like the swing is shorter, so it should be quicker as well. That isn't necessarily the case. Shortening your swing is great for control, but it doesn't mean that you need to swing the club at a quicker pace than you did before. J.B. Holmes has an excellent tempo in his swing and you should be trying to accomplish the same thing.

So how can you get used to the timing of your new swing? One of the best ways to get on track is to briefly break the swing into two halves. You aren't going to hit balls during this practice drill, so you can do this work anywhere you have room to swing the club safely. Once you find a place to swing, take your favorite club from your bag and setup in a comfortable address position. Swing the club up to the top of your swing, pause, and hold yourself there for a few seconds. Once a few seconds have passed, go ahead and swing down and on through to the finish. Repeat this two-phase swing as many times as you would like.

By making practice swings which are broken up into two parts, you are going to accomplish a number of things. First, you are going to get a better feel for the length of your new swing, since you will be pausing at the top for much longer than you would in a normal swing. Also, you are going to get a better idea for how long it takes to complete your shoulder turn. Once you have spent some time working on this drill, you should no longer feel compelled to rush through the backswing in order to get the downswing started. This drill will teach you how to take your time, and that just might be the most important lesson of all when trying to make this change.

Once you get comfortable with this drill, you may find that you want to use it during all of your practice sessions just to keep your rhythm in check. Hurrying through the golf swing is a major problem for a huge number of amateur golfers, but you might be able to take yourself off of that list if you are willing to add this basic drill to your routine at the driving range. While working on the timing of your new swing, make sure to not be hard on yourself if things don't go as planned right away. It always takes longer than you expect to make changes to your golf game – especially with a change as significant as altering the length of your arm swing. Be patient, don't worry too much about some of the bad shots you hit on the range, and look forward to the day when you are completely comfortable with this new move.

Other Distance Tips

Other Distance Tips

Throughout this article, we have talked about how J.B. Holmes is able to produce an impressively powerful golf swing through the use of a relatively short backswing. His short backswing is one of the first things you notice when watching him swing, but certainly that isn't the entire story. If you want to hit long drives, you should focus on doing a number of different things right, rather than just working on the length of your swing. Only when you bring everything together into a nice package will you be able to launch the ball out there a significant distance.

So what else should you focus on when it comes to distance generation? Consider the tips listed below.

  • Give yourself room. Strategy has more to do with how far you hit the golf ball than you might think. If you are consistently aiming toward tight targets, your swing is likely to be restricted and cautious – and there is nothing about those two words that correlates with power. To make sure you feel free enough to turn the club loose through the hitting area, pick conservative targets that provide plenty of margin for error. Knowing that you have room to work with, it will be easier to let it fly when you go through impact.
  • Have the right equipment. It isn't a good idea to try and buy your way to a better golf game, but you should make sure that you are using the right gear for the needs of your swing. Playing with a driver that is poorly matched to your abilities, for example, is going to leave you with a less-than-ideal ball flight. Visit your local club pro and ask about a fitting session on a launch monitor to make sure the driver in your bag is holding up its end of the bargain.
  • Focus on balance. Too often, golfers think the best way to hit the ball hard is to swing as hard as they can. That might sound like a good plan, but it typically does not work out in your favor. Rather than focusing on effort, place the emphasis on balance to make sure you can hit the sweet spot as often as possible. By striking the sweet spot, you will maximize the transfer of energy between the golf club and the ball. In addition to helping you hit the ball farther, improving your balance is just going to make you a better player overall.
  • Turn the ball over. All other things being equal, a draw is going to travel farther than a fade. If you would like to squeeze a few more yards out of your drives without having to swing the club any faster, work on learning how to hit a controlled draw. Turning the ball from right to left in the air – even if only by a few yards – will help you move the ball farther down the fairway.

J.B. Holmes is one of the best golfers in the world, and he uses a relatively short backswing to get the job done. That should be all the proof you need that a long backswing isn't necessary to play good golf. Not only has Holmes become one of the best in the world with that short backswing, he is even able to stand out among his peers as one of the longest hitters. Any way you look at it, J.B. Holmes has used his swing to rise to an incredible level – meaning you should have no doubt that using a shorter backswing has the potential to help your game. Good luck!