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Thursday, 14 May 2015

My Swing

One of the things golf either teaches you, or it doesn't, is you have to be yourself. You have to swing your own swing and play your own game. When you learn the game as a kid, you usually learn by imitation. I learned my swing by imitating my father, who introduced me to the game, and then Jack Nicklaus. 

While my swing may not have been a perfect imitation of Jack's, or my father's, they formed the basis for what I imagined to be the best way to swing the club. As a result of being a pretty good imitator, I hit the ball long, high, and with a predominant fade. I played hockey and baseball, and therefore had no problem really giving the ball a good wallop. In fact, for years I hit the ball as far, or farther, than anyone I ever encountered on the golf course. I would routinely have people tell me they had never seen drives find places on the course where mine came to rest. Sometimes that even included places on my own fairway!

I remember, as an eleven or twelve year old, I drove a par four green at three hundred and twenty nine yards on a course in England. I had power to burn from an early age. A club maker clocked my swing at one hundred and thirty five miles an hour when I was about thirty years old. Whether his equipment was accurate, I don't know, but it was the fastest he had ever seen. 

Of course, many of us, as we get older, fondly remember being longer and stronger than we probably really were. I think it was Lee Trevino who said, "the older I get, the better I was." We do tend to have selective memory, and there is nothing more painful, or pitiful to listen to than an old jock talking about how good he used to be. I wasn't a really good player, but I was long, baby! Trust me.

Now, at fifty eight, with a ruined back, and bone spurs and stenosis in my neck that cause my left arm to burn most of the time, and knees hobbled from years of hockey, rugby and soccer, I can't swing hard enough to break an egg. I am lucky to hit a drive as far as I once routinely hit a five wood, despite the advantages of modern technology. It's really rather pitiful. And yet, I can still occasionally manage a round of par or better, although I am more likely just content to break eighty any more.

What really bugs me, however, is that at some point I became enamoured with technique, or swing mechanics. I made changes to my swing over the years, having now reached the point where I can't even find my natural swing. I find myself thinking, prior to almost every round, how am I going to swing it today? Will I swing like Lee Trevino, Freddy Couples, Jack Nicklaus, or  maybe Moe Norman? I've tried to copy them all, sometimes with good results. But, what I really wish is that I could just learn to swing like me. 

I recently came upon the idea that, if I just swung the club with my eyes closed a few times, I would find my swing. If you try it, you will find how smooth and fluid your swing is, and how natural it feels. The problem is that swinging the club and hitting the ball are two different things. How many people don't you encounter who have a smooth, even graceful practice swing, and then, when it comes to hitting the ball, look like a caveman killing his lunch! It isn't really about the swing at all.

Golf is about striking the ball, not swinging the club. The sweetest swing in the world will produce a terrible shot if the strike isn't correct. If the clubface is misaligned, or moving on the wrong path when it strikes the ball, the ball will end up in another county, despite the fact that the swing was mechanically sound. It's all about the strike. Bobby Jones made the strike the object of his intense concentration when playing. He understood how a ball had to be struck to produce the desired result and set about striking it just that way, leaving his swing to take care of itself.

Last night, after much thought about what swing I would try today, I concluded that I would use the Moe Norman, "natural golf" swing today. In the clear light of dawn, I have come to my senses and decided instead to just strike the ball with the definite intent to propel it to the target, and my swing be damned. I don't care if my swing looks like I'm falling off a ladder. I just want to try to strike the ball as it must be struck to make it go to the target. We'll see whether I can keep my resolve and do just that.