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Monday, 16 November 2015

How'd My Swing Look?

It seems to me that one of the hardest things to do in golf is to stop thinking about your swing.  We often hear that impact, or the strike, is what really counts, but I still can't resist thinking about my backswing, or my left arm, even though I know "you don't hit the ball with your backswing, laddie."

I watched Dubuisson and Patrick Reed hit the ball this week.  It was very instructive.  Both of those guys have swings that are perhaps not quite textbook, but they can both flat out play.  Did you see the fairway bunker shot that Reed holed for eagle in the last round in Shanghai this week?  It was magic.

Those guys are ball strikers.  They hit more shots with cut-off, abbreviated finishes than probably anyone else in the game.  Dubuisson sometimes looks like he finishes with his weight on his back foot when he lashes at a drive.  You might not necessarily be inclined to recommend those swings to anyone.  But, man, do they ever strike it sweetly.

Steve is beginning to embrace the concept that is so obviously understood by Dubuisson and Reed, namely that the strike is what is all important.  Steve, who took up golf later in life, has always been caught up in the idea that it is the swing that counts.  When we first started playing together, he would often ask me how his swing looked after he played a shot.  My usual response was to ask him how the shot turned out.  After all, there really are no style points in golf.  

Yesterday, instead of watching Steve swing, I was focussing intently on his strike.  I would see him catch the ball first, brush the grass, and produce that nice sound and, without watching where the ball went, would say, "Good strike."  When he caught the ground first, or hit it thin, I'd say so, so he was getting some extra feedback from me on the strike, as opposed to his swing.

More often than not, the good strikes produced very acceptable results.  I'd then smile and say, "Terrible swing. But great strike."  

Bobby Jones, who I always feel compelled to quote from because he often said it first, and more often than not said it best, talked about why it is that golfers, paricularly golfers who take the game up later in life, look so uncomfortable.  In his book Golf is my Game, in chapter two, Bobby wrote:

"Those players we see today who have the appearance of naturalness and ease in their play are immediately identified as having begun to play as youngsters.  I think they have this appearance because they first thought of the game in terms of striking the ball.  So they set about doing this with no more self-consciousness than we would associate with chopping wood, throwing stones, or beating rugs.

I am confident that the adult golfer can and should approach the game in the same way.  He may not have the time available to the youngster, but he has the advantage of adult understanding.  In a few minutes study of this material in this chapter, he can learn as much about the possible means of controlling a golf ball as a boy could learn in years of play.

I am not one who enjoys heaping ridicule upon the average golfer.  It seems to me that those grotesque characters we see in cartoons are rare in real life.  The unskilled golfer often looks uncomfortable, strained, unsure, sometimes even unhappy, but he hardly ever presents a ludicrous aspect.  And I think that a great measure of his discomfiture is derived from his conscious efforts to follow prescribed routine, to look and move like someone else, or as he has been told.  I think he would present a more natural appearance if he should put his mind upon striking the ball, rather than upon swinging the club...

Golf is played by striking the ball with the head of the club.  The objective of the player is not to swing the club in a specified manner, nor to execute a series of complicated movements in a prescribed sequence, nor to look pretty while he is doing it, but primarily and essentially to strike the ball with the head of the club so that the ball will perform according to his wishes.

No one can play golf until he knows the many ways in which a ball can be expected to respond when it is struck in different ways.  If you think all this should be obvious, please believe me when I assure you that I have seen many really good players attempt shots they should have known were impossible."

So, all of us, it would seem, have a choice.  We can continue to focus on improving our swing, or we can focus on the part of the game where the rubber really hits the road; the strike.  I say "we," because I am just as susceptible as the next guy to getting caught up in thinking about swing mechanics.  

I have covered in depth Bobby Jones' information from this chapter in a blog entitled, The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Striking the Ball.  I invite you to check it out if you don't have access to the book Golf is my Game.  It's the most important information you can ever learn about golf.  That's not just my opinion, because my opinion really doesn't amount to a hill of beans, it is Bobby's assertion.  After all, there are enough characters out there telling you how to swing the club.  But Bobby Jones tells you what's really important; how to strike the ball with the club head.