A natural swing … Is this the way to better golf?

Sally Jenkins’ article is spot on.

Here are a few quotes with my thoughts below.

What that ought to tell you is that there’s no ”right” technique, and you should fire your instructor if he insists there is.

CS: Couldn’t agree more. While there are certain principles that are important, you’ve gotta find your style.

The lesson amateurs should take from pro golf’s most recent events is that we’re being oversold, over-studied and over-confused by a consultant class. For some the swing is a manufactured move and for others it’s a more natural move. For Na, it’s a counter-intuitive motion, self-conscious to the point of phobia.

CS: How refreshing. Love it.

For Fowler, it’s an entirely different game – loose and fast and unthinking – but it led to first and second place finishes in the past two weeks. ”If you asked me to discuss the mechanics of my swing, I’m afraid it would be a short conversation, I’m a feel player,” he once said.

CS: While Fowler only won for the first time last week, he has been a very good player for a few years. He is completely uninhibited and certainly doesn’t let thoughts of swing get in the way.

You’d do better listening to sports psychologist Fran Pirozzollo, who once said: ”A physicist can describe the perfect golf swing and write it down in scientific language, but the smart golfer doesn’t read it. The smart golfer gives it to his opponent to contemplate.”

CS: What a great quote. Science is a fantastic way to learn more but knowledge isn’t always enough. You need to be able to apply the scientific reasoning in a meaningful way. I should know, when I was involved in a biomechanical study of the golf swing it came close to destroying me. Information by itself can be dangerous.

But it seems too much teaching leads to too much thinking. ”You swing your best when you have the fewest things to think about,” Bobby Jones said.

CS: This might be the most profound quote in the entire article. If not, this one from Peter Alliss talking about Tiger Woods comes close,

If he couldn’t be put right in an hour, I’d go home and stick my head in a bucket of ice water, because it’s so simple. You stand and you swing.”

I know the golf coaches are going to be up in arms with an article like this. They do have to defend themselves because if they promoted this kind of teaching they would be out of business. Or would they?

The way I look at it great coaching (and that’s what the natural approach is) would allow more people to play better golf. With better play comes more confidence and a desire to play more. This has other economical benefits for the pro willing to change his financial model.

Plus, a coach with a difference will stand out in a crowded marketplace. And currently there would be no shortage of victims who have been left paralysed by a crazy system.

Anyone for a golf lesson?

Read the full article here.

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9 Comments

  • Mike Divot

    Reply Reply May 16, 2012

    That quote by Fran Pirozzollo is how I feel about “The Golfing Machine”.

    It is useless knowledge unless it can be applied, and even then it should be applied without the student knowing the theory.

    On a similar note: Ben Hogan must be spinning in his grave to see how his “sheet of glass” idea has been perverted into the notion of “swing plane” and all the endless, attendant nonsense around “swing plane”. I reckon it is the single most damaging concept to have crept into golf instruction, ever.

    Alliss quote is funny.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 17, 2012

      Mike: Funny you mention The Golfing Machine – I was taught that method for a while and even had the book. Did you ever read it?
      I’m not sure that it all was that correct but how on earth was anyone supposed to apply it? Bloody impossible. I remember one lesson where the coach had me by the hips and was trying to get me to hit the ball while he was spinning my hips. That all seems ludicrous now.

      Ben Hogan is the pin up boy for most instruction. The story goes,

      He couldn’t play that well. Big snap hooks.
      Rebuilt his swing with lots of practice and swing theory
      Became the best player of all time.

      I’m pretty sure Ben Hogan didn’t make things as complicated as they have turned out. It’s getting out of control and shows no sign of slowing.

      I agree about swing plane. There really is nothing positive that comes from it and gets in the way for anyone to hit the ball. I know of a guy who has spent a lifetime working on his swing plane. He still can’t play that well.

      Thanks for posting,

      Cameron

  • Luke

    Reply Reply May 17, 2012

    I hope you don’t mind me mentioning another site Cameron, but if anyone wants a laugh, they should go check out the instruction forum at golfwrx. Jokes aside, I feel pity for most of those guys now and marvel that any of them can still break 100 and get round in less than 6 hours.

    As mentioned previously, I’ve recently been through the ringer with all this rubbish. Stack and tilt was a particular favourite – absolute madness! I used to scoff at the likes of Peter Alliss and quotes like that thinking “Get with the picture you silly old buffer. It might have been like that in 1927, but there’s no way the game and the swing is that simple now!”. Of course, the more I get back to automatic and the further I’m getting away from ‘swing crack’, the more I’m realising how right he is. I’m back to knowing nothing about the golf swing and I’ve never felt better. Who was it that said you’re better off being as dumb as a rock to play this game well?!

    By the way, that was an astonishing performance from Kevin Na, whatever you may think of his antics. How he managed to stay in contention with all that going on is beyond me – it’s actually mind boggling. He must be one talented guy. Let’s hope someone sensible gets hold of him…

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 17, 2012

      Luke: It’s no worries about the other site as long as you don’t mind me using “swing crack”, I love it.

      I once spent some time on a forum and was keen to share some findings with the participants in relation to their role model. I wrongly assumed they’d be interested and keen to learn. They didn’t give a stuff. This was years ago now (about 8yrs) and sometime ago (about 2 years) I paid a visit to the forum. It was the same guys going around in the same circles. I’m so glad I got away from all that Swing Crack. There’s so much more about golf than the stupid bloody swing.

      Na’s performance was very good. In a strange way I think all the crap going on maybe offered him enough distraction to play well. The same thing happens with golfers on the practice tee. They try so many things that eventually their system tires and they start hitting the ball well. They only start playing poorly again when they try and work out what they’re doing right.

      The sad thing for Na may be that he will work really hard on his technique for the next few years only to NEVER be in the same position that he found himself in on Sunday morning. Leading the 5th major!

      You make an interesting point about being as “dumb as a rock to play this game well”. The really smart guys I know rarely become good players. They tire quickly from all the theory and walk away from the game. The “dumb” ones tend to play so much better. The same goes for the coaches, the smart ones tend to be too technical while the dumber ones keep things simple.

      Thanks for posting,

      Cameron

      • Mike Divot

        Reply Reply May 17, 2012

        In baseball, the hitting coaches know plenty about the swing. It’s very technical. An awful lot of it is very similar to the golf swing.

        But they never lose sight of what they’re trying to do: put bat on ball and slam it out of the park.

        In golf, indulgence in the technical side has become an end in itself.

        • Cameron

          Reply Reply May 19, 2012

          Mike: The same in tennis. While there is probably too much technical instruction at times it doesn’t get to the point of over analysis like golf does. I walk past the local tennis every day and there are lots of people enjoying the game and they don’t seem to be obsessing over their serve or forehand. Further, the top spin backhand is considered the toughest shot in the game – regular players don’t seem to attempt it if they haven’t learned it – they go with the slice. Golfer’s tend not to have the same mindset.

          Cameron

  • Luke

    Reply Reply May 17, 2012

    Very astute comment from Mike there I think. To me a lot of golf teachers seem to have lost sight of what they are trying to achieve. Instead of aiming to get their pupils around the course in as fewer strokes as possible, it’s become about who can create the most out there new swing theory and in a lot of cases, how they can sell it to keep students coming back. To me, Butch Harmon has rightly earned the tag of best swing coach in the world because it’s my understanding that he doesn’t mess with a student’s OWN swing, but just adjusts it to get the best out of it. This suited Tiger who was a feel player. I firmly believe his achievements under Haney were inspite of Haney’s teachings and not because of them. Ultimately Tiger has the talent, the short game and the know-how to make anything work but it’s frightening to think how much he might have won if he’d found another Butch style teacher that kept things simple. Now he’s with Foley, a guy who really is obsessed with the latest swing model and I’m starting to think that even for Tiger, it’s one step too far. I always thought Tiger had too much of a smart golfing brain to get in to a mess like this. Then again, he’s made a career out of doing the impossible, so you never know…

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply May 19, 2012

      Luke:

      To me a lot of golf teachers seem to have lost sight of what they are trying to achieve. Instead of aiming to get their pupils around the course in as fewer strokes as possible, it’s become about who can create the most out there new swing theory and in a lot of cases, how they can sell it to keep students coming back.

      I have the same thinking here Luke. It’s not that they’re bad people, just their thinking is clouded and they place too much emphasis on technique. I heard a pro the other day saying that Bubba Watson is bad for the game because he promotes bad technique. WTF? This is the attitude that needs a good kicking. Golf would be much more enjoyable with more Bubba’s.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply May 19, 2012

    You are so right Cam Bubba is a breath of fresh air and is quite exciting to watch and not that you see too much of him but even Tommy two gloves Gainey can be fun to watch because they are not the norm.
    Cheers Lukey

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