If it’s possible for a golf instructor to simultaneously be one of the game’s most influential golfing minds and one of its most underrated, that would well describe the impact of the PGA of America’s National Teacher of the Year in 2000, Dr. Jim Suttie. A golf icon in the Chicago area (three times a recipient of the Illinois PGA Section’s Teacher of the Year award) and a legend when it comes to the volume and quality of golf knowledge he’s imparted on the public, Suttie, a PhD who’s best known simply as “Doc” to friends and students, is a gentle soul with titanic mind and never-ending curiosity for methods that can help golfers improve their games. He has been listed among GOLF Magazine’s Top-100 instructors and among the Top 20 in America on Golf Digest’s 50 Greatest Teachers list.
One of the arenas in which Suttie is a true pioneer is in video swing analysis. “Basically, I was the first instructor to develop a Model Swing and make comparisons against it,” Suttie says of his doctorate thesis project “A Biomechanical Comparison Between a Conventional Golf Swing Learning Technique and a Unique Kinesthetic Feedback Technique,” in which he documented tens of thousands of swings, taking note of “every moving joint on their bodies” by examining actual film shot at 220 frames per second to show exacting and minute details.
“I compared the high-speed film analysis of three groups of golfers being taught with different methods. I compared them to a model swing which was comprised of more than 50 golfers on the PGA Tour. Every swing I captured and analyzed took at least one day to digitize as I looked at every joint in the body, some points on the clubhead, shaft, hands and head,” Suttie explains.
At the time, Suttie’s primary focus in game improvement was on a golfer’s biomechanical motion. Over time, he’s become less technical-yet-ever-analytical in his approach, having learned that there is not just “one, great, perfect” model swing. Different body types, different swing speeds and different tendencies through the process of the golf swing, according to Suttie, dictate that there are multiple correct ways to efficiently and consistently swing a golf club.
“For years, I was focused on improving golfers through better biomechanics and studying every part on the body that moved. Now, the way I describe my approach is to ‘Fix face first,’” he says. When I work with a golfer, I look at their ball flight to give me a guide to see what we need to do to fix their face position at impact. That means will work to improve their angle of attack, observing the movement of the shaft as well as the body’s movement.”
His pioneering work led Suttie to become one of the most prolific users of V1 Pro technology. Video feedback is an essential component to Suttie’s teaching. His instruction studio features a four-camera system.
“I use four camera views and use them all on every student. Downline, face-on, rear and overhead. The rear camera (golfer’s back) more of a 3-D perspective of the club traveling into the ball,” he says.
Dr. Suttie and V1 Pro
“V1 Pro is a great feedback mechanism because you can see the golfer from many angles and dimensions. The immediate feedback video provided is one of the best ways to learn. My research shows 80 percent of learning is visual, so V1 Pro with side-by-side comparisons to models swings is the perfect way to learn,” Suttie says.
Suttie says studying video through years has helped his teaching style evolve. “My focus today is less about trying to emulate the way a great player swings and more about matching swing elements. One of my most successful students from the 1980s and 1990s, Paul Azinger is a good example. Paul had a strong grip, so playing the ball back in his stance with a shorter, lower swing with fast hips and very minimal hand action all paired well together. His swing elements match. He’s not emulating Ben Hogan or Jack Nicklaus. He’s swinging a swing that works for him repeatedly.”
Suttie is still helping top players. When two-time winner on the PGA Tour Kevin Streelman posted a solo fourth-place finish at the Memorial, he told the media he credit a return to Suttie for guidance. “Kevin still sends me video that we analyze using V1,” Suttie says. “In the grand scheme, his swing hasn’t changed much through the years, so he can easily come back strong. He’s got a great natural swing, so it’s easier to for him to get back to the stuff that works.”
After four-plus decades in the business, Suttie still tirelessly studies the game and seeks new ways to help golfers play better. He’s thinking of ways to make V1 Sports better, too. “I bet 3-D video analysis is something that could be the next frontier of video analysis and I bet V1 Sports could be at the cutting edge.”
Visit www.jimsuttie.com to see his array of instruction offerings in Florida and Utah, and online.
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