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Saturday, 10 September 2016

To Swing or to Strike: That is the Question

Bobby Jones really understood the game.  His books are brimming with his deep insight into what is really important when it comes to playing your best.  

Most teachers, or golfers in general, seem to find it impossible not to talk about the golf swing.  Bobby was less inclined to get into the mechanics of the swing, since he had been taught by Stewart Maiden to think about hitting the ball, not swinging the club.  I think the swing verses the strike issue is nicely dealt with by Bobby in his book, Golf is my Game.  He wrote:

    "The swinging of the 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 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."

So, the question for those of us trying to play this game is, are we thinking about the strike or the swing?  It is obvious what is most important when you really think about it.  All the different swings we see among the top players in the game tell us that there is more than one prescribed way to swing the club.  But the ball only responds to the manner in which it is struck.  What matters is only the angle of the clubface, the direction it is travelling, and how fast it is travelling.  That's all the ball cares about.

It's infinitely better to be a good ball-striker than it is to be a good swinger.  If we can visualize how we want to strike the ball, it's amazing how we are all capable of figuring out a way to do it.  We will never all do it the same way because we are all different.  So, I don't know about you, but I intend to try to focus on the strike with all my might.  I'll try to trust myself, after all these years of hitting balls, to manage to figure out the best way to do it on that day.  I know the current culture in golf is to think swing thoughts.  But I'm going to try to forget all that and just try to hit the ball as I know it must be hit to go straight, fade, or draw.  

If you don't know how the ball must be struck to produce the different shots, Bobby Jones dealt with that subject.  I have covered that material in the featured post on my site, entitled The Wisdom of Bobby Jones: Striking the Ball.