The Swing Jacket:
In a July telephone interview with Bill Walsh, President of Swing Jacket, Inc., I voiced my general skepticism that his contraption would improve my swing. The first thing Walsh said to me was, "Take your time. Hit 50 balls with it, and then decide." Admittedly, I had only hit 20 or so my first time out. I had not hit them badly, but I had certainly not hit them well, either. Frankly, the experience seemed like a waste of time.
"Did you watch the video that's included with the Jacket?" asked Walsh. I had not. "The key is the rotation of the torso. The Swing Jacket forces your shoulders to turn on plane with the target and keeps your arms on plane with the ball." I admitted that I did feel as if my arms were pinned to my sides. "Give it time," said Walsh.
The Swing Jacket was developed over a 2.5-year period at the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Calgary. According to Walsh, they went through 52 prototypes before finding the right combination of features and dimensions. And according to the company's PR materials, Peter Jacobsen, Scott McCarron, D.A. Weibring, Billy Andrade, Paul Stankowski, Tom Purtzer, and Bernhard Langer all own and practice with a Swing Jacket.
So, armed with Walsh's advice, and the slightly shaky belief that all those pros couldn't be completely wrong, I headed back out to the range. One drawback of the Swing Jacket is that you feel like a complete doofus putting it on and practicing with it. So I found an empty range and hit 50 balls with my 6-iron, using nothing more than a half-swing. The first 35 were miserable. The next 10 were barely acceptable, but the final five .Ah, those final five felt great. All of them were high, with a slight draw. So I kept practicing with it.
OK, said I, now to test it out on some other players. Although the promo materials say the Jacket is supposed to fit 36-50" chests, two golfers who tried it on couldn't fit into it. Two others, however, did fit. And they each had a somewhat different result.
Dan is a high handicapper, who is also a fine tennis player. He suffers from a top-spin hook, stemming from too-active hands and wrists. Dan liked the Swing Jacket, but it didn't seem to help his nasty hook. It did stress to him the importance of the torso "coil," though, and this may eventually fix that hook.
Carrick is another high handicapper who hits the ball a country mile in God-knows-what direction. His results with the Swing Jacket were simply amazing: After only three balls, he was hitting towering draws close to 200 yards with his 5-iron. Not one slice. Not one rope hook.
And your intrepid reporter? The Swing Jacket got me to focus on my body turn. It feels like I'm only taking half a swing these days, because my arms stay closer to my body, but I'll be a duffer's uncle if I'm not striking my irons more crisply than ever-long, accurate, and with a slight draw.
Lest you think that The Swing Jacket is a silver bullet, here are the minuses: (1) Price -- $99 (but you get a nice video and carrying case). (2) Embarrassment - It does look funny. (3) Time - You definitely need patience. (4) Follow-through - The follow through is very restricted. Forget that "high hands" finish you covet. (Although Walsh claims it can be achieved with proper body rotation.) (5) Handsy, top-spin hooks - The Jacket can only get you part way to the solution.
All in all, The Swing Jacket has proven itself effective over the course of the seven months that I've worked with it. The video and drills detailed in the promotional materials were critical in using the device correctly. And even though it almost pushed me to the limits of my patience, the rewards were worth the frustrations.
Further information: www.swingjacket.com