The athletic swing of Michael Campbell
by Jonathan Yarwood
I first began working with Michael Campbell at the end of
1997. A wrist injury had sent his
ranking down to 371 and he didn’t have a card to play
in Europe or the United States. He was struggling to find
his swing, trying to recapture
his form from 1995, when he finished in the Top
10 on the European money list and led the British Open after
the third round.
Initially, when we first met, we talked about his swing and
developed a "blue print" for his frame.
He has a great physique for golf—he’s strong and
stocky with a low center of gravity—and he is athletic.
We created a very simple and efficient swing, one that works
on a single plane back and down, as opposed to Nick Price
or Nick Faldo,
who have two distinct planes. We wanted one axis, not a lot
of movement in his body, not a lot of changes in the direction
of his club. Quite like Tiger used to swing.
I have always thought that a swing is like an unfinished painting.
We are always improving, tweaking and studying more about
it. Before the U.S. Open, we focused on creating more resistance
in his right side at the start of the swing to allow the club
to swing up and on plane sooner. We want him to feel everything
is in sync so that he can attack the ball off of the tee without
pulling it. When he turns early with the right side, his right
arm gets behind him and his swing gets quite long and he loses
his balance. If Michael, or any player at this level starts
driving badly, it’s difficult to score.
We have also worked on his short game and added some new shots
to accommodate different courses and different conditions.
Now he has a variety of chips with different spins on them—the
normal crisp stop chip, cutting the ball, adding topspin or
a little overspin, lots of variety. What happens in big tournaments
is the pins are tucked into impossible positions, so by using
subtle spins you increase your landing area to get close.
And his lob shots are more consistent. Most people think you
take a big long swing and cut it, but Michael actually takes
a short swing and scoops on the way through, which is good
under pressure because there are fewer moving parts.
The week of the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, Michael showed up
with a belly putter—he was unhappy with his putting.
So we fiddled around and went through our system of putting,
which for us consists of filming the ball, recording the performance
of the ball and creating a good stroke from there. When we
checked his stroke that Monday, there were more than a few
things wrong—the ball had a lot of topspin and appeared
to launch off of the putter. We set him up differently, locked
in his arms, moved the ball forward and flattened his left
wrist. All of this helped create more of an arc stroke, reduced
the launch on the ball and resulted in more online putts.
The problem for professional golfers on Tour is finding time
to make changes. Changes take time for anyone and it’s
hard to work on things during the tournament schedule. With
Michael, we have video files of his swing from over the years
when he is swinging well, and we compare them. We also have
technology where he can send us a streaming video of his swing
over the Internet for me to check when he is on Tour and I
am in Florida. Once we find the problem, we give him feedback
and send him a video of his good swings.
Throughout this process, achieving small goals have been the
key to success. When I first started working with him, our
first goal was to regain his card back in Europe, and then
to contend in Tour events. After falling short on several
occasions, he finally got his first European Tour win in 1999—the
Johnnie Walker Classic. The next year he finished fourth on
the money list in Europe.
When he won the U.S. Open this year, the whole country of
New Zealand came to a standstill. Even Parliament had a three
hour recess so they could watch what was called the single
greatest moment in New Zealand sports history. This victory
lead to our next major goal, which was trying to validate
what he did in the U.S. Open. Going to the British Open several
weeks later and playing much better than he finished—he
didn’t hole a lot of putts, have much luck or play as
well as he did at Pinehurst—but a top ten finish was
great to validate his U.S. Open victory. And we all feel that
the best is yet to come.
Jonathan Yarwood has coached for 13 years and is an instructor
at the In-sync Golf Academy in Sarasota, Florida. Yarwood
is a Leadbetter-certified teacher who has coached at all professional
Majors in the last five years, and holds the distinction of
teaching winning players on all four major tours around the