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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Get the Emphasis on the Right Syllable

Bobby Jones wrote about the golf swing despite the fact that his teacher, Stewart Maiden, never, in Bobby's recollection, ever discussed the golf swing.  Maiden was a no-nonsense Scot who believed that golf was about striking the ball, not swinging the club.  This was never lost on Bobby, even if he was persuaded to discuss the mechanics of the golf swing.

I am always amazed at Bobby's gift for getting to the crux of the matter, weeding out all the unnecessary minutae that many teachers find difficult to resist discussing when dealing with the golf swing.  In his book, Golf is my Game, Bobby began his chapter on the downswing with a very profound statement about the swing.  He wrote:

    "The swinging of the golf club back from the ball is undertaken for the sole purpose of getting the player to a proper position for striking.  So the one influence most likely to assure the satisfactory progression of the swing is the clearly visualized contact between club and ball still at the forefront of the player's mind.  Just as the backswing should not begin until this picture is adequately established, so the movement should continue until there results an awareness that the player has become capable of striking in the intended manner.
     I stress this point, and intend to continue to do so, because I know that the unrelenting effort to play golf in this way can do more for a player than anything else he can possibly do.  When every move of the swing is dominated by the determination to strike the ball in a definite fashion, the complicated sequence of movements must acquire purpose and unity attainable in no other way."

It always comes back to the strike--to impact.  There is room for much individuality in swinging the golf club.  When one considers all the great players and how different each of them swing the club, it is readily apparent that the issue with any player trying to succeed at this game is finding the easiest and most consistent and effective way for them to strike the ball in the required manner.  There are no points given for style.

That's perhaps why we see people with graceful, stylish swings who can't hold a candle to other players who swing like a caveman killing his lunch.  The only thing that really counts is the ability to strike the ball as it must be struck to produce the desired shot.  

Every golfer must ask himself whether his focus is on striking the ball, or swinging the club.  If he is thinking about swinging the club, he is approaching the game ass-backwards.  If he swings the club with the sole intention of striking the ball as it must be struck, chances are his swing will look after itself.  Scotiabank advertises that their customers are richer than they think.  Golfers, when they focus on the strike, are often more capable than they think.

The key is knowing what the clubface must be doing as it strikes the ball.  If you don't know what the clubface must do to produce a straight shot, a fade, a draw, a high shot, or low shot; your chances of producing that shot are seriously diminished.  

I was playing with a gal the other day who was really struggling.  She believed that there was something seriously wrong with her swing.  I suggested that she forget about her swing and just focus on hitting the back of the ball with the clubface moving down the target line.  She immediately started playing better, hitting some real beauties.  By thinking about striking the ball, instead of swinging the club, she got the emphasis on the right syllable.  She was in business.  

By the way, even as I write this, I am reminded of the fact that I'm just as guilty as the next guy of thinking about my swing plane, or my backswing, instead of how I want to strike the ball, as the next guy.  That's why it's so important to look to the guys like Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus--golfers who really figured it out--for the answers to this game.  It's a case of do as I say--or rather as Bobby Jones said--not as I do.

Most of us are quite capable of hitting a ball with a stick.  It's just when we worry about what our right knee or left arm is doing, instead of hitting the ball, that we get ourselves in trouble.  That Bobby Jones wasn't just a great player.  He was a heckuva teacher.