Welcome to Play Smart, a game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Game Improvement Editor Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf. Today, we’re talking about 2021 U.S. Open winner Jon Rahm
2021 U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm has one of my favorite golf swings on the PGA Tour. It’s unique and interesting, and better yet, it’s one of those golf swings that regular golfers can learn a lot from.
Rahm’s swing isn’t the kind that comes out of a highly technical background. It’s a move that’s largely homegrown, but one that’s been nurtured under the watchful eye of GOLF Top 100 Teacher Dave Phillips, who has helped him build his swing around his body’s strengths and weaknesses.
That’s the unique part, and now for the interesting bit: Rahm, for as incredible an athlete as he is, isn’t a perfect, prototypical one. He’s really strong, but not the most flexible — but that’s OK, because he’s built his golf swing around both of those things.
Rahm’s short backswing
“When we physically tested Jon, he’s not the most flexible guy in the world.” says Phillips, Rahm’s coach who doubles as the co-founder of the Titleist Performance Institute, in the video below. “But he uses what he has very well.”
It’s Rahm’s hips that are most inflexible, by tour player’s standards — something many of us can relate to. Increasing his hip mobility is something they work on in the gym. But in the golf swing, that lack of flexibility is something they embrace.
According to TPI data, Rahm only turns his hips around 30 degrees on the backswing, compared with the PGA Tour average, which is closer to 45 degrees. That’s probably why you notice Rahm has a backswing that’s shorter than most. But that’s OK! Rather than chasing more of what he doesn’t have because he saw it in a textbook, they embrace a shorter backswing, which helps Rahm keep his arms in front of his body and stay in his posture.
“If he tried to have a long swing like Dustin Johnson, he would probably come out of his posture,” Phillips says.
Instead, he found another way to generate power.
Loading the lead wrist
Ultimately, the best golf swing is the one that works for you. It’s one that you can repeat, because it’s built around your unique body’s strengths and weaknesses.
In the case of Rahm, he may not be the most flexible golfer in the world, but he may be the strongest — especially in his upper body. So that’s what he puts to use in his golf swing.
Once his short backswing is complete, Phillips’ fellow TPI co-founder Dr. Greg Rose explains that he creates an extraordinary amount of force with his upper body, particular his left wrist and core. He uses both to pull and throw the club into the ball with incredible speed.
“He has an incredible ability to load the wrist joint,” Dr. Rose says in the same video. “He has a lot of power coming from that strong upper body.”
Rose went on to explain that if he were to rate all the muscles that Rahm uses to generate his power, he would say “his wrist is No. 1, his core is No. 2, and his shoulder is No. 3.”
All of which is to say, Rahm figured out a golf swing formula that worked for him, and he has a U.S. Open trophy to show for it. If there’s one thing you should take away from this article, it’s not that you should go out and copy Jon Rahm’s move; rather, that you should learn from him, by working with a coach who will help you find the best swing for you.