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Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Bobby Jones on Swinging the Club Head

There are exceptions to every rule.  But, generally speaking, what is most obvious when watching the better players swing the club is the timing, rhythm, and fluidity of their swings.  Very few really good players look like a caveman killing his lunch when they strike the ball.  The better players swing the club head.  The poor players try to use the shaft of the club to transmit force to the ball.  As Bobby Jones put it, they might as well be swinging a broom handle, rather than a finely crafted golf club.

In his book Bobby Jones on Golf, Bobby elaborates on just what it means to swing the club head:

"Two of golf's most eminent instructors, MacDonald Smith and Ernst Jones, built all their teaching around the one conception, 'Swing the club head.'  There are other details to be thought of, of course, in developing anything like a sound swing, but in the end it will be found that this is the prime necessity.  Those who are able to sense what it means to 'swing the club head' will find that they can thus cover up a multitude of sins, and those who sense it not will find no amount of striving for perfection in positioning will quite take its place.

In order to make easier the discovery of this sense of swinging, the club must be swung back far enough so that there will be no need for hurry or quickened effort coming down.  This is the one point I have tried to stress more than anything else--the necessity for an ample backswing if one is truly to swing the club head.  The man who allows himself only a short backswing can never be a swinger, because his abbreviated length does not allow space for a smooth acceleration to get him up to speed by the time the club reaches the ball.

Rhythm and timing we all must have, yet no one knows how to teach either.  The nearest approach to an appreciation of what they are is in this conception of swinging.  The man who hits at the ball, rather than through it, has no sense of rhythm; similarly, the man who, after a short backswing, attempts to make up for lost space by a convulsive effort initiating the downstroke has no sense of rhythm.

The only one who has a chance to achieve a rhythmic, well-timed stroke is the man who, in spite of all else, yet swings his club head, and the crucial area is where the swing changes direction at the top.  If the backswing can be made to flow back leisurely, and to an ample length, from wherevthe start downward can be made without feeling that therevmay not be enough time left, there is a good chance of success.  But a hurried backswing induces a hurried start downward, and a short backswing makes some sort of rescue measures imperative.  A good golfer will not like to be guilty of either...

Stiff or wooden wrists shorten the backswing and otherwise destroy the feel of the club head.  Without the supple connection of relaxed and active wrist joints, and a delicate, sensitive grip, the golf club, which has been so carefully weighted and balanced, might just as well be a broom handle with nothing on the end.  The club head cannot be swung unless it can be felt at the end of the shaft.

So swing, swing, swing, if you want to play better golf; fight down any tautness wherever it may make its appearance; strive for relaxed muscles throughout, and encourage a feeling of laziness in the backswing and the start downward.  Go back far enough, trust your swing, and then--swing the club head through."

It's funny, but as I read this instruction, I think of Freddie Couples and his full, lazy, rhythmic swing.  No wonder I like to think about Freddie when I feel I'm getting too quick, or like I'm lurching at the ball, instead of swinging through it.  That Bobby Jones was sure able to paint the picture.