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Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Chicken or the Egg

While I often talk about the strike being more important than the swing, there is no doubt that a sound swing, just like a good grip and a good set up, enhances your chances of making a good strike. That's why it's kind of a chicken or the egg thing when it comes to what is more important and what comes first--a good swing or a good strike.

I say this because I seem to be an expert at not practising what I preach. I suggest, based on Bobby Jones' advice, that people focus on the strike, and then find myself fiddling with my swing. In that respect, I'm really a golfing hypocrite. I say one thing and find myself regularly doing another. I wish I had never discovered just how many ways there are to swing the club--all of which can work quite well, or not work at all. 

The problem, of course, with fiddling with your swing is that you are essentially distracting yourself from the business at hand, which is to knock the ball towards the hole. The other problem with fiddling with your swing is the fact that things can always get worse instead of better as a result. For every top player who has made swing changes and actually got better, we can probably name one or more that have actually got worse by making changes. And the question is always whether or not the golfer making those changes might have improved his play anyway had he not made the swing change.

Tiger is perhaps the best example. He took the golf world by storm. He was the best at every level he played. When he went from Butch to Hank Haney, Brandel Chamblee argued recently that he actually got better. But, was there not a period of time during that swing change where he was actually worse until he got better? If I am not mistaken, when Tiger switched to Haney he didn't win a Major for at least a year and a half at a time when he was the overwhelming favourite to win every time he teed it up. 

Then, of course, Tiger made other changes under other coaches and now finds himself pretty much out of the picture. Tiger's woes on the golf course obviously have had to do with things other than just swing changes. Injuries have been a factor. Personal issues have been another, as has an obvious loss of confidence ever since he was chased down at the PGA championship by a little known Korean player, losing a lead in a Major for the first time in his career. That he's never won a Major since Yang beat him is no coincidence. Tiger found out that he wasn't invincible with a lead after all.

I think the record shows that while Tiger was making changes to his swing, even if he did eventually become a better ballstriker, at least under Haney, there was a period of time where he stopped winning while he was incorporating those changes. And I think that was because his focus during those intervals was on swinging the club instead of getting the ball in the hole and winning golf tournaments.

The obvious question that begs to be asked, but can never be answered, is what Tiger might have accomplished in the game had he not made any swing changes. I think Tiger would, could, and probably should, have smashed virtually every record in the game had he just stuck with the swing he had when he arrived on tour under Butch--had he just danced with the one he brung. That's the thing about making swing changes; we never know whether we will get better or worse. And, if we get better, we will also never be absolutely certain it was because of the swing change and not just the fact that we learned to play better.

Ultimately, golf is all about getting the ball in the hole the quickest. There are no pictures on the scorecard, and the best players don't always have the best, or prettiest, swings. Therefore, I really believe the more our focus remains upon doing just that--getting the ball in the hole--the better off we will be. I, for one, very much regret having gone down this road, experimenting with my golf swing. I wish I had just danced with the gal I had brung. Others, of course, may feel differently.

I believe that it's all about the strike. But it's the old, which came first argument--the chicken or the egg--the swing or the strike. All I know is I just wish I could practise what I preach and go out every day focussing on striking the ball in such a way as to make it behave; and putting all my mental and physical energy into just trying to get the damned ball from the teeing ground into the hole in the fewest strokes possible. That is, after all, what golf is really all about.