Is David Leadbetter improving Lydia Ko's swing – or ruining it?


Lydia Ko is unbelievable. She is the world number one. She was the youngest golfer of either gender to be ranked number one in the world. She was the youngest to win a professional event. She was the youngest to win a major. She was the youngest to get five wins. The youngest to get 10 wins. She was the youngest to win five times in one season. 

At the moment, Lydia Ko seems almost untouchable in the women's game. She was the strongest odds-on favourite in golf history to win last week's New Zealand Open, according to former world number one Laura Davies.

"In English prices, she's 8/13," said Davies. "Tiger [Woods] is the only one who's started this short. I saw him once at 10/11 when he was at his absolute best, but this is the shortest price ever [for a golf tournament]."

Ko went on to prove the bookies right, shooting a 2-under 70 in the final round – despite a 5.7-magnitude earthquake 10 minutes before her tee time – to triumph by two shots and win her home event for the third time in four years. 


They say, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it". Lydia Ko's swing clearly isn't broken, but she's determined to fix it anyway. 

"The thing that perplexes me about Lydia Ko is that she continues to tweak this golf swing," says former PGA Tour pro Charlie Rymer, now a Golf Channel analyst. "When I first saw her golf swing, I really thought it was very close to perfection. The work ethic, constantly trying improve and get better, that's all great, until you get to the top of the world. Then, I think you've got to shift gears, and rather than continue to change, change, change, you have to learn to repeat, repeat, repeat. She hasn't quite got to that phase yet. I think it's scary that she continues to tweak her golf swing."

"I think it's scary that she continues to tweak her golf swing"

"Lydia Ko's biggest challenge this year is her swing change," agrees LPGA Tour pro Paige Mackenzie. "I'm incredibly perplexed that she's continuing to change. This time last year she was working on changing from a fade to a draw, and now we're continuing to see changes within her golf swing."

So how much has Lydia Ko's swing changed? 

This was it during 2013:

And here it is more recently:

The changes are quite clear to see, most noticeably the much steeper shaft angle on the takeaway, a move Ko rehearses in that second clip. 

"You can see how much steeper the shaft angle is," says Mackenzie. "She is working with Sean Hogan and David Leadbetter. This looks like part of David Leadbetter's new A-Frame method of teaching, but it's scary to be in that much of a different position in your backswing than you were prior."

Even three-time PGA Tour winner Billy Horschel weighed in with his concerns, tweeting, "She had a beautiful swing before Leadbetter got his hands on in. Super talented player. She's a stud!"


Mackenzie isn't sure the change is for the better. 

"On the way down, it re-routes, so there is a lot more movement than what she was doing naturally. Whenever I see a player move away from what they do naturally, it is a little bit frightening."

"Whenever I see a player move away from what they do naturally, it is a little bit frightening."

Charlie Rymer says that doesn't mean you should settle for a swing that isn't good enough to get the results you want – "If you're trying to get from breaking 100 to breaking 85, you've got to look at making some wholesale changes" – but there comes a time when you should settle for what you've got. "If you're number one in the world, and you're making changes this significant, to me it just doesn't make sense," he says. "She's got so much talent, but the golf graveyard is full of great players that continued to tweak after they'd already figured it out. I hope she doesn't become one of those tombstones in that graveyard." 

Do you think Ko is right to keep striving for improvement, or should she leave well alone?