Why does Hideki Matsuyama ‘pause’ so much in his golf swing?

Hideki's about to start his downswing, trust me. Just give it a few more moments.

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Watching Hideki Matsuyama’s golf swing, it’s impossible not to notice. He sets up with textbook-perfect posture, takes the club away without much fanfare, and then when his golf swing reaches the top of his backswing, he pauses for what seems like an eternity. In reality it’s only about .2 seconds, but because so many players have an almost instantaneous transition from backswing-to-downswing, Hideki’s pronounced pause seems makes it seem like time stands still.

Hideki’s backswing pause has become his signature, but what’s interesting is that it’s a relatively new invention. As Hideki told Golf Digest in 2018: When he got on tour in 2014 he started swinging so hard that his backswing got too quick and uncontrollable. The pause came when he tried to slow down his backswing, and now, he doesn’t even notice he’s doing it.

“I don’t even know I pause, so it’s hard for me to say, ‘okay, what am I thinking at the top or what’s my first swing thought in the transition,'” he said later that year. “I really don’t know how that pause got into my swing. I guess as far as timing is concerned, I try to be as slow as I can at the top.”

It may seem like a throwaway line, but it’s actually quite revealing that Hideki talks about getting “as slow as he can” at the top, because that’s exactly what’s happening. We describe it as a pause, but if you slow the footage way down and look closely, as I’ve done below, you can see there’s never a point when Matsuyama’s swing actually stops.

His club is getting set at the top; his lower body turns and then presses into the ground as it prepares to rotate; his torso begins it’s rotation. There’s no pause, he’s just going in extreme slow motion.

It’s unique, for sure, but Hideki’s pause is really just a slow-motion transition that helps him create the proper sequence in his golf swing. That’s one of the biggest keys to power, and this year year at Augusta, it’s helping him pull away from the field.

Luke Kerr-Dineen

Golf.com Contributor

Luke Kerr-Dineen is the Director of Game Improvement Content at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com. In his role he oversees all the brand’s service journalism spanning instruction, equipment, health and fitness, across all of GOLF’s multimedia platforms.

An alumni of the International Junior Golf Academy and the University of South Carolina–Beaufort golf team, where he helped them to No. 1 in the national NAIA rankings, Luke moved to New York in 2012 to pursue his Masters degree in Journalism from Columbia University and in 2017 was named News Media Alliance’s “Rising Star.” His work has also appeared in USA Today, Golf Digest, Newsweek and The Daily Beast.