How Charley Hoffman's Data-Driven Approach Produced a Breakthrough in His Swing

Charley Hoffman’s runner-up finish at the WM Phoenix Open last weekend was not only a product of elite play on the course, but a data-driven approach off the course.

Charley came into TPI last month with his team (coach Mark Blackburn and trainer Kayleigh Franklin) for a regular assessment.  He wasn’t happy with his swing, and was hoping his team could help diagnose any potential underlying issues.

The approach we take at TPI - and what we teach in our Certication courses - is to always evaluate whether or not a golfer’s movement capabilities could be affecting their mechanics.  Whether through our TPI screen, 3D analysis or force and pressure data, we want to consider whether or not the body could be part of the problem.  

We call this philosophy the Body-Swing Connection.  Not only was Charley a perfect example of a Body-Swing Connection, his assessment demonstrated how something as common as limited lower body rotation could affect club delivery, ball flight tendency and even grip. 

Movement patterns are often built around physical limitations and injuries can be especially powerful motivators of how a golfer moves in their swing.  Several years ago, Charley started to experience lower back pain, a common ailment of competitive and amateur golfers.  This not only influenced how rotated his lower body, it actually began to change how he delivered the club to the ball.  

As Charley’s ability to rotate became limited, he began to move his pelvis towards the target line on the downswing.  This is an example of a swing characteristic called Early Extension.  When internal rotation becomes challenged, it’s often easier for a golfer to move their lower body closer to the ball.  After all, the body tends to do what is easiest, not always what is best.  Early extension often causes a golfer to feel “trapped” and can affect how they release the club, as it did in Charley’s case.   

As you’ll see in the video above, the breakthrough came when Mark suggested we compare Charley’s grip from this session to a past session when he was playing his best.  The data indicated that Charley’s grip had become over 20° weaker over the last several years!  This is a MASSIVE difference, especially for a TOUR player.  

What’s more, Charley had no idea he was gripping the club differently.  It was a subconscious change in response to how his body was moving.  Great athletes are usually great compensators. 

This is an example of why it’s so important to evaluate a golfer’s movement when making recommendations for their swing.  As you see with Charley, a physical limitation - whether strength, mobility, power, or injury-related - can often have a significant impact on their mechanics.  If we don’t consider these potential underlying factors, we might just chasing the smoke, not the fire.

If you are a coach, fitness or medical professional interested in learning more about how to help golfers determine if their body is affecting their swing, check out our newly updated Level 1 online course.

If you're a golfer interested in a physical assessment, you can connect with a TPI Certified expert via our Find an Expert page


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