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Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Swing to Your Target

The cornerstone of Harvey Penick's teaching was "Take Dead Aim."  That, and "One Shot at a Time," are the most important things a golfer can learn.  

Sure, there are fundamentals that can help you hit the ball more consistently.  But for every fundamental, I can name a top golfer who didn't follow it.  There are many ways to swing a golf club, but unless that swing is directed at the target, it's not going to produce good results.  

I was reading George Knudson's book, The Natural Golf Swing.  What I think was most important in the teaching Knudsen provides is that you don't swing at the golf ball; you swing to the target.  As Knudsen, who was one of the best swingers of a golf club we've ever seen, pointed out, golf is a target game.  Like any target game, the focus of every shot has to be where, not how, you hit it.  

Anyone who has played golf for any length of time has hit a great shot.  They've chipped it in, or holed one from the fairway, or hit a wonderful recovery shot after finding themselves in jail.  Chances are, when they hit those shots, they were locked in on their target when they hit it.  I've got a bank of memories like that--like the six iron I hit over a towering tree to four feet ion the final hole in a scramble while playing with my father and his cronies.  We made birdie and won by a stroke.

As I remember those shots, I realize was really into the shot.  I took several looks at the target and really locked on it.  I actually "stared it down."  Raymond Floyd was famous for his stare.  When he was in the zone he stared his target down. His stare was intimidating to his opponents.  But he wasn't trying to be intimidating to them.  He was staring down his target.  He was determined to hit it where he was looking.  He wrote that his wife said she had occasionally seen him win without the stare, but she'd never seen him lose when he had it.

I don't know why I can't always lock on to the target--why sometimes I just hit it in the right general direction of the target instead of dead at it.  But we all go to sleep on shots; not giving them the attention they deserve.  Bobby Jones said he often found himself doing this during times of prosperity, when he was playing really well, or when he was driving into a wide fairway, or to a big green.  He had to always be on guard against letting up on the shots that looked easy.  He dealt with this by trying to hit the perfect shot--instead of hitting it in the fairway, hitting it dead center of the fairway.  Or instead of hitting it on the green, hitting it in the hole.

It's easy to lose your focus in golf.  People tend to think about all kinds of things as they are hitting their shot.  But where should your focus be, and what should you be thinking about as you swing the club?  The target, because golf is a target game.  As George Knudsen taught, "Swing to your target."