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Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Forget the Swing

I don't know why it is, but golf tends to really mess with your mind.  This is especially true if you end up studying the game and reading all the various theories about the golf swing.  I don't really know when it happened, but somewhere along the line most golfers became obsessed with the swing instead of the strike.

Golf is really quite scientific.  The ball reacts according to the laws of physics.  It moves up, or down, left, or right, based on the angle and direction of the strike.  If the club is square to the target and is moving down the target line at impact, the only possible result is a straight shot.  All the other shot shapes can be explained the same way.  

And yet we have all this strange teaching to try to correct faults with club path and club angle by focussing on our swing instead of the strike.  If someone is slicing the ball they get offered advice like strenthening their grip, changing their alignment, changing the path of their backswing, dropping their right elbow to their side on the downswing, etc.  All these things might help, but the thing the slicer needs to understand is what they want the clubface to do.  Once they understand that a slice is caused by the clubface being open at impact with the club path going to the left, they can make the adjustments necessary to have the clubface square at impact.

When we know what we want the club to do, we can soon figure out how best to do it.  We need to move away from the swing and just focus on the strike.  This is perhaps where the problem comes in for teachers.  The fact is you wouldn't have to give many lessons if you taught students how the ball needed to be struck and then suggested they find the best way to do it for themselves.  For teachers to stay busy golfers have to continue to believe the answer lies in perfecting the golf swing.

It never ceases to amaze me how many people I've met who have played for years, had lessons, and don't even know how to aim the clubface.  It's incredible.  If you can't aim your clubface at the target, what are your chances of hitting it?  (For those who don't know it, you aim your clubface by having the bottom groove on your club square to the target.  That's why many newer clubs have the bottom groove painted white.)  Why are golfers not taught this vital fact?  They get taught how to grip the club, how to position their body, how to swing the club, but not how to aim the club.  It makes no sense.

I'm starting to learn to do it--to just see the strike I want to make and strike it, without thinking about my swing.  But after years of being swing-focussed, it's hard not to entertain those swing thoughts.  I still think that picturing a nail in the back center of the ball and trying to drive that nail straight down the target line is the best way to play the game.  But I will surely find my mind wandering to thoughts about my shoulder turn, or whatever.  That's the price you pay for reading too many golf instructional books and articles.  Forget the swing.  Just hit it like Moe.