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Saturday, 27 June 2015

Bobby Jones on Golf: Relieving Tension

One of the things you notice about most top players is how relaxed they appear as they prepare to strike the ball, and how smooth and effortless their swings are. When you watch Fred Couples, or Ernie Els hit the ball so far, with such little effort, you appreciate that golf is not about brute force. The absence of tension in their setup and their swing is obvious with all good players, regardless of how quick their tempo might be. 

Bobby Jones set out a set of rules that can help any golfer, regardless of their ability, to relieve the one thing that ruins more golf shots than anything else; and that is tension. In his book Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby wrote:

"Because tension is the golfer's worst enemy, and the problem of remaining completely relaxed in order to complete a rhythmic swing his most difficult task, I am going to set out a few simple rules that will be of help in loosening up, regardless of the mechanical precision of the swing. We all want to develop a swing free of imperfections, but even the most perfect swing must have rhythm, and the most imperfect one may be made fairly effective by the addition only of a sense of timing.

Here are the rules:

1.  Grip the club lightly. Hold it mainly in the fingers, so that it can at all times be controlled and kept from turning in the hands without tautening the forearm muscles. But don't squeeze it. If you begin by gripping lightly, the hands will automatically tighten their hold as the progress of the swing makes this necessary. Make certain that you can feel the club head.

2.  In addressing the ball, arrange the posture as naturally and as comfortably as possible. Avoid strain in the position as much as you can. Don't bend over too far, don't reach for the ball, don't stiffen the legs, and don't spread the feet. These seem to be a lot of "don'ts," but in reality they are merely saying, "Stand erect, let the arms hang naturally from the shoulders, and bring the ball close enough to reach comfortably."

3.  Use the legs and hips in beginning the backswing. Don't begin by picking the club up with the hands and arms. Swing the club back and give the hips a full windup. If an ample use of the important muscles in the waist and back is not made, the effort will be too great and the swing will lose its smoothness.

4.  Be sure that the backswing is long enough. This gives the downswing plenty of time to get up speed before impact. A backswing that is too short inevitably leads to hurry and tension.

5.  Start the downswing in leisurely fashion. Don't hit from the top of the swing. If the backswing has been of ample length there is no need to be in too much hurry coming down. Let the acceleration be smooth and gradual.

6.  When it comes time to hit, don't leap at the ball. Let the club head do some of the work. Think of giving it speed and then let it float against and through the ball. Remember Newton's law that a body in motion tends to continue its motion in a straight line until acted upon by outside forces. Be careful of what "outside forces" you set up in trying at the last moment for that extra distance. Keep on swinging until the ball has had a good start down the fairway.

I have seen any number of players with terrible swings who obtained good results from a sense of rhythm and timing and nothing more; it is truly amazing how far one can go if he can only keep from tightening up. The effort to hit hard, instead of increasing the power of the swing, usually finishes in a sort of shove as what should have been the propelling force is expended too soon. The more leisurely swing, conserving this energy and discharging it where it will do the most good, yields more yards with considerably less effort."

We may never be able to learn to swing the club like the Big Easy, or Freddie, but we can all learn to relax our grip, take it a little easier, and let the club do some of the work. My old father always said, "Swing easy and accept the extra distance." He must have read Bobby's book.