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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

What Are You Working On?

One great player--I think it was Henry Cotton--said that all you had to do was watch any top group of golfers tee off to understand that there is no "correct" golf swing. All the top players have individualized swings. Their swings are as unique to them as their signature. 

I was watching the top contenders in the FedEx playoff this past week and it really struck home. You had Leishman's upright swing. Then there was Rickie Fowler's flatter, but not as flat as it used to be, swing. And then you had Jason Day's swing. All very different; and all very effective. So which of those swings would you teach? The answer is probably none of them; or maybe all of them. 

Now there are some players out there with "cookie-cutter" swings that show that the player was likely well-coached in his or her formative years. And those swings are sound, and generally pleasing to the eye. But since the top players all seem to have easily identifiable swings, unique to them, it begs the question why so much time and energy is spent by teachers trying to teach people how to swing a golf club. 

There is, according to Bobby Jones, virtue in a sound swing from a mechanical standpoint. A player with a mechanically sound swing will play more consistently. But Bobby Jones understood that it was the strike that really mattered. The only thing the golf ball reacts to is the speed, angle and path of the clubface at impact. The golf ball is no respecter of swings. It doesn't care if your swing is short or long. It doesn't favour a slow, smooth swing over a quick one. It doesn't prefer a flat swing over an upright one. It only cares about how it is struck.

So why do we all worry so much about our swing? There are no points given for looking good in golf. All that matters is that we learn to strike the ball in such a way as to make it bend to our wishes. Now, we can start the game as kids and learn by trial and error how to strike the ball correctly; or we can learn how to properly strike a golf ball to produce the various shots by watching better players or teachers. Bobby Jones said that he learned different shots by watching other players strike the ball. He said he didn't watch their swing. He zoomed in on the strike.

Try watching the way the good players strike the ball next time, instead of watching their swing. It's really quite instructive. Bobby Jones said he never once heard his teacher, Stewart Maiden, discuss the golf swing. He said Maiden just helped a student develop a good grip, helped them get in a good position to hit the ball; and then he just told them to go ahead and hit it. 

Stewart Maiden was all business. He believed that golf was not about swinging a club. He believed it was about striking a ball from the tee towards the hole. When Bobby was worrying about his backswing, Maiden told him, "You donnae hit the ball wi' yer backswing, laddie." 

I'm amazed at how often I see people on the range, or even on the golf course, fussing over their takeaway, or their backswing. Bobby Jones aptly pointed out that the whole purpose of the backswing was to get us in a position where we feel most capable of striking the ball in the intended manner. It always boiled down to the strike for Bobby.

So, if you are tired of "working" on your swing and not seeing the improvement you are hoping for, why not try learning to strike the ball more effectively. The single most important lesson Bobby Jones ever gave was on that subject. He believed that the material he provided in that chapter could literally transform your game overnight. I've covered it in my featured article, entitled "The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Striking the Ball."