Vertical is Vertical...Except When It's Not

Wed, 02/12/2014 - 14:00 -- Don Trahan

Many golf instructors will teach a particular type of swing, yet they do not use it themselves. They tell you to do as they say, not as they do. Well, I think that is simply ridiculous. If you don't use the swing you teach to others, what's the point of teaching at all?

Sometimes, Surgites will send me messages when they think I'm not adhering to the basic rules of the 3/4, vertical swing. I will admit that on rare occasion, this may be the case, however it is never my intent.

When I'm instructing from the backyard driving range, I'm usually talking fast and demonstrating the points of the swing at the same time. Looking at the camera and switching between a face-on look and down-the-line is also very common. When this happens, it may look as though I'm not following my own rules. But rest assured, I'm as vertical a swinger as there is!

Check out today's video as I address two separate emails that were sent my way from the same person!

Keep it vertical!

The Surge

If you can't view the YouTube video above try CLICKING HERE. You must allow popups from this site for the link to work.


Hal's picture

Submitted by Hal on

Bob, You were right and as Don stated in the Video he may not be exactly vertical. Don stated he is doing a lot of moving and turning, twisting on an unstable platform. Don has been my teacher for 15 years and developed in a really good friendship, also. We play a lot of golf together and I , as a shadetree amateur will watch him when we play from face on and from down the line from behind. I am watching and gleaning every bit of advice I can by watching his movements. I can tell you he is as vertical and ppgs as can be.
Hal's picture

Submitted by michel.paquette... on

Today's lesson was very helpful as I realized my hands were not going up high enough on the backswing. It's the wrong clock problem ! I am not sure why you would still designate the position "between 1 and 2 o'clock" by the term "vertical" but it is very apparent that keeping the direction of the shaft pointed to the sky will rob a golfer of a lot of power.
Michel Paquette
Montreal (Canada)

reedclfd's picture

Submitted by reedclfd on

Michel: Keep in mind that when Surge is talking about a "vertical swing", he is referring to the full swing as seen from a "down-the-line" view. From a "face-on" view, the club must go to the 1 or 2-o'clock position to complete the BUS and enable a proper FUS for a full swing. Take another look at today's video as Surge explains it very well. Take care, R2

Kevin McGarrahan's picture

Submitted by Kevin McGarrahan on


Stopping the backswing when the shaft is pointed at the sky does not rob one of power, per se. If you follow what Don teaches, you will have all the power you need. When I first started with the PPGS, I had been swinging full bore rotational. I could hit 260-280 yards, most often way right. I went the route of getting new clubs that were supposed to correct my faults and give me more distance - did not happen. My distance with my driver dropped to 185-195 yards, although I did hit it relatively straighter.

When I learned the PPGS, I had a tendency to think about each of the individual points Don teaches. As a result, I was not accelerating through the ball and up to the T-finish. Then, last year, I finally put it all together and didn't have to think pieces any more. I am now hitting my driver back in the 235-yard range and expect to get more when I get my clubs PROPERLY fitted. No more off-the-shelf or over the internet clubs that are "fitted" based on my 5-iron, 7-iron, or driver. The PPGS, limited 70* turn, 3/4 vertical swing does work.


Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

I am one of those who have been privileged to play golf with Don Trahan and I attended the first and second PPGS tournaments. He is vertical for sure. Enviously so. The only time he is less vetical in the back swing is when he is hitting a big draw or hook as demonstrated in the 'working the ball' videos. Even then he is at no less than 11 from what I've seen.
We need to keep in mind that it is only near the top on both sides that the swing is truly vertical and around 12 oclock. Once we drop in there is a bit of a lay off. This why all most all pros and better golfers look like they are bringing the back (right) elbow into the right pocket on the way to the impact position.
This is one we could all watch again to see the lead into impact.'s picture

Submitted by charles.lerche@... on

If I have understood Don correctly, there is no real static position at the top of the back swing. Rather, there is a point where you start the "bump" and create the secondary spine angle to enable the correct FUS--but the hands keep moving all the time. Once you go to the FUS, there is going to be some "laying off" as you go into the "slot" (why? because otherwise you would slam the club into the ground), but Don makes it clear that you fight this. When I see this in Don's swing I have come to think that that is one source for the "pop" he the torque created by resisting getting laid off, which is then released later into the ball.

While you certainly have to keep the top of the back swing in mind, it seems to me that if you don't break your wrists (which we don't) then the most important part of "verticality" is when and how you lift from the "catcher's mitt). You lift up--you don't pull back.

If you do this, then you are vertical and not rotational. Don allows for some variation between say 12 o'clock to about 11 o'clock (and even suggests over the line might be good), and that seems normal to me given human differences and the fact that we are not all playing (yet :-) with well fitted clubs.

Finally, we are using a clearly vertical model. However, as you get used to it you can modify it to create shots as mentioned above, and this is a great advantage; since it is relatively uncomplicated (as indicated in the relevant videos) to do is.

rpmaco's picture

Submitted by rpmaco on

Surge, Thanks very much for clearing up my question and understanding of club position at the top of the backswing. I probably have been thinking too much of club position at the top of backswing and need to be concentrating more on the forward swing and follow through. Probably my backswing thought should be to keep the left arm from passing the toe line on the backswing and my right arm from passing the toe line on the forward swing. I believe this will help me get more energy into the release at the ball and better distance off of the tee.

Bob Macosko

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Keep it Simple Slim. (Slim is more polite than Stupid, lol!)
Bob, as a fellow Bob and life long golfaholic I Have to agree with your thought of just keeping things relatively over the toeline. Remember it is the upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder we want to keep over the toe line and it is okay for the end of the shaft and head, along with the forearm to pass inside just behind both at the 3/4 point back and nearing a 3/4 point through. We can get so caught up in vertical positions that our swing has no zip but is over controlled and tight. The cactus drill helps many of us because it keeps things simple by having us feel and see (by video, shadow and mirror -and friend) if we are at or near the right ear in the back swing and follow through left ear. In between the club needs to be allowed to swing at natural angles.
If our grip and set up (master set up and knees) are correct than it should flow smoothly up, down and up again. We may never look exactly like Don but by close enough:)
Here are a couple of my favorite vids that may also help.

Simple and repeatable.'s picture

Submitted by on

Roberto -

If you want zip in the swing ya gotta think rock & string, rock & string, rock & string. I know you probably do this unconciously, but in order to maximize the centrifugal force and the resulting club head speed, you have to maintain a constant relationship from the axis of rotation at the top of the spine right down to the sweet spot on the club. If you were to look at the rock on the end of the string in real slow motion you would see that your hand would be moving opposite the force created by the swinging rock (Newton's Third Law). And that is precisely what our golf swing has to do but it can't do it in pieces. It is a smooth, rhythmic, dynamic movement. I love to watch Don swing as he works through the bag in his videos - That is an artist.

So, when we set up in our athletically ready position, we maintain a very stable center of balance and still head position. As we are swinging the rock on the end of the string, we have to maintain a force exactly opposite of the sweet spot on the club. The faster the arm swing, the more force we exert through our feet, legs, hips and torso to maintain our balance and position.

In terms of verticality, I think it may be difficult for some folks to be absolutely vertical. I know it is for me, but it seems to me that less effort is required to swing more vertically than to swing on a more horizontal plane. And it has the added benefit of being more accurate, at least it is for me.

What did Chevy Chase say in Caddie Shack? Be the ball. I think we need to be the rock & string.

Oh, going to Phoenix Arizona tomorrow. 4 days of keepin it vertical!!!

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Ahhh.... beautiful words to even say as tempo keepers. One.two..threeeeee!
"The faster the arm swing, the more force we exert..." How true. As Earnest Jones swing student Torre states, "When acceleration is applied, it is applied with the arms. Again be reminded, THE ARMS ARE NOT THE FORARMS (AND HANDS)- rather the entire unit from the shoulders (as Surge teaches).
This is why when we have our best full swings they are ones we'll observe seemed effortless. The reason is our tempo and timing were near perfection during that less than 1.5 seconds. Acceleration started on a correct path and we never broke the string from start to finish but it was one flowing motion.
Ah to repeat that always.Zip indeed.
Have fun in the southwest sun. As a couple who live in almost identical weather as that of Phoenix Az, Cindy and I tease, "We should retire in Las Vegas some day". But wait, .... we already live here. Played golf twice this week with 70 and sunny.

MikefromKy's picture

Submitted by MikefromKy on

It is supposed to get up in 60's by the end of the week here in Northern Ky / Cincinnati. That means the ice and snow will be gone but will be wet and no golf for a while.
Will be glad when March gets here.

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

We actually enjoy the 60-68 range.
You all back east have suffered unusually more severely cold, wet, frozen days over the wi.nter. Here has been unusually warmer and drier. Though pleasant it might bode for lots of fires this summer. We are actually hoping for some early spring snow and rain. One extreme or the other world wide.
Hope your playing days come soon..

Dave Everitt's picture

Submitted by Dave Everitt on

Thanks Bob, your comment on the toe line just solved some of my problems with long pitches. I started focusing on the feel of rhythmically pulling the left elbow to the right toe, on the back swing and pulling the right elbow to the toe on the forward swing. It's a good feel, an easy way to stay centered, to keep your levels, have good tempo, get consistent contact and hit the ball very straight from a square setup.

Robert Meade's picture

Submitted by Robert Meade on

Play was suspended in Bogota Columbia mid way today.
DJ had one boogie, two birds with 9 pars after his first 12 holes.
Sitting tied 34th out of 142. Not a bad start.

Dave Everitt's picture

Submitted by Dave Everitt on

Kevin, I've used this method for years now with all full swings and also with short game and putting. If I take a practice swing when putting or making any kind of a shot I always do it while facing the target and standing a couple of steps in back of the ball, before walking into the shot. This helps to keep a separation between planning and execution. Taking any kind of a practice swing beside the ball is counterproductive for me because it makes the game less reactive.

avguy's picture

Submitted by avguy on

NP on the forums over at Golf Wrx. I wish all of us here with PPGS had a voice on there. It's actually a world-wide membership (free), with tons of lively discussions and even an excellent place to sell or buy used golf clubs. I try and chime in on their Instruction & Academy topics with my use of PPGS.

Lots of golfers on Golf Wrx in the Phoenix area have organized for full group tee time outings at courses around here - then they post pics and stories about it later in the aftermath.

I guess the Equipment junkie in me is what attracted me to it, as teaching wise, I get over 90 percent of that stuff here. edit: Just wanted to add one more caveat guys/gals about wrx - Tom Wishon post there often. You can talk to him about anything in golf club industry/building. Doc Griffen regularily is mentioning Mr. Wishon.

Allan's picture

Submitted by Allan on


I was trying to watch your video about an answer to Ross Bradfield. The problem was the dark tree behind your right side prevented me from seeing the preferred positions for arms and elbows on the backswing.

Can you improve the lighting so that your arms are easier to see and re-issue that video?

The light level in the video was lower than "normal" that day.

Allan Griffin's picture

Submitted by bwnaatrapp@bigp... on

your explanation of the various clock positions was like turning on a light, it all now makes sense, i have been trying to figure it out for years, i use one irons and it now makes more sense then ever, i will pratice and see what happens.