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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Sam Snead on Finding the Swing That Feels "YOU"

I learned to play the game by first imitating my father's swing.  Later, as I watched the game on TV, I tried to copy Jack Nicklaus.  He was, after all, the best.  

I was quite athletic, playing competitive hockey, baseball, soccer, and rugby, so I had strong legs and, by copying Jack's swing, found that I could hit the ball high, far, and predominantly left to right.  It served me fairly well until I started experiencing back and neck issues that have now left me hobbling around like an old man, forced to use a golf buggy to get around the course.  

My legs, which were powerful, are now obviously not able to fire like they did when I could kick fifty yard field goals.  Now, when I'm wearing shorts, I'm often asked whether those are my legs, or am I riding a chicken--just kidding.  But the fact remains that changes in my body have necessitated making changes in my swing.  It hurts to hit a high fade.  My swing has flattened considerably and I tend now to hit a draw.  I don't like hitting a draw, having played the fade for so many years, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.

Right now, I feel like I'm searching for the best swing, given my physical limitations, that will produce consistent results.  I'm not the same guy I was, and I have to go back to the drawing board.  That is why I was interested to read Sam Snead's take on finding the right swing.

Sam, in his 1975 book, co-authored with Larry Sheehan, talked about style.  Under the heading: "STYLE: FIND THE SWING THAT FEELS "YOU," Sam said:

"A golf swing is like a fingerprint, identifying its owner and also telling a bit about what the person is like.  In all the years I've played and taught, I don't think I've ever seen two swing exactly alike.  Physical and temperamental factors create some of the differences.  A short, fat fellow, for instance, naturally swings on a flatter plane and with a shorter arc than a lanky golfer.  An excitable kind of guy naturally swings faster than a placid individual...An aggressive person will tend to hit more with his hands, whereas a more timid fellow will depend on his body turn to generate power.

Other differences in style come from the random nature of the learning process...A good player goes with the type of swing that will work for him most consistently, no matter what it looks like or how hard it may be to execute.  Thus there is no end to the peculiarities on tour.  Lee Trevino looks like he's aiming 45 degrees left of target when he stands up to the ball.  Watch his swing and not where the shot goes and you'd guess he couldn't break 90!  Jack Nicklaus and Gay Brewer play with a flying right elbow on their backswings.  Miller Barber does a loop-the-loop in his swing that makes you dizzy...

The list of eccentricities in style, or departures from norm, is practically endless among good players, and it suggests that individual style in golf is not only inevitable but desirable.  Learning to play golf well becomes largely a search for your own personal style."

Sam goes on to say that his swing came to be used as a model because it was " simple and smooth and relatively free of idiosyncrasy."   He further said:

"This swing of mine came to have an easy-to-copy quality, I think, because when I set out to build a golf game--untutored, as I mentioned earlier--I worked from results backwards.  I had no preconceived notions of form when I began.  My only desire was to hit the ball hard and long, and reasonably straight.  If it had been necessary for me to swing with one foot in the air, or with both eyes closed, I probably would have done that.  I let results impose form on my swing, rather than theory or style or any other factor."

So, for golfers, the game is, and always must be, a search for a personal style and swing that produces workable, if not necessarily great, golf shots.  We need to let the flight of the ball teach us whether we are on the right track.  If the ball flies far and true, keep doing what you're doing.  If, despite having developed an orthodox swing, the ball flies crooked, perhaps we need to think outside the box and be a bit unorthodox.  It didn't do Lee Trevino any harm.  At the end of the day our golf swing is our swing.  We need to find it and own it.  As Sam said, you need to find the swing that feels "YOU."