Making golf harder than it needs to be

James posted an insightful comment yesterday.

Look how many folks have studied (and are still studying) Ben Hogan’s swing, and yet how many Ben Hogans has all that effort produced? None. No one is even close! There is only one Ben Hogan and that’s the way it will always be. Same with Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, etc. No one even comes close to swinging like these greats. Classical golf instruction just doesn’t work. Think where Lee Trevino, Jim Furyk, and Hubert Green would be if they had wasted their time trying to emulate the swing of Ben Hogan?

I couldn’t agree more. So much of golf instruction is based on hindsight – we copy those who are winning at the time.

When I first started having golf lessons Nick Faldo was the rage. He was the dominant player so my coaches used him as the role model. Then came Nick Price, Appleby, Woods etc. I’m sure anyone taking lessons now is being compared to Rory McIlroy.

But this is garbage. It’s also lazy teaching – showing no imagination on the coach’s part. It’s cut and paste and it doesn’t work.

Try this. Grab a sheet of paper and scrawl your everyday signature on the top of the page. In the middle of the page try and make a perfect replica of your first attempt. Take your time. Go slow. Make sure your copy is as perfect as can be.

At the bottom of the page let rip with another signature. Don’t think and analyse, just flow with your best effort.

Almost always the top and bottom signatures will be similar. They won’t be exact matches, but they’ll be close. The middle attempt will look like something out of Kindergarden – it will wobble and it’ll be ugly. But this is exactly how most of us play golf. We try and copy our previous best swings or those of someone else. We waste energy trying to remember how to hit the ball.

But if you can’t make a copy of your signature with any confidence, what chance do you have with your golf swing? There’s no chance.

Golf coaches, enthusiasts and the websites they visit bang on about the perfect swing and what makes such and such a player so good. There’s no agreement because nobody really knows. As technology improves the detail of the analysis gets deeper and deeper. But none of this is helping because we’re not advanced enough to take this information and transfer it into a flowing golf swing. The information hinders rather than helps.

Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy didn’t become great champions because they tried to copy or replicate their style. Their technique found them. And it showed up because they played the game. You need to be brave and swing without fear. You have to be patient enough to let your swing shine through – it’s there and it’s way better than you’d ever think.

Copying and modeling your swing on a expert golfer seems like a good thing to do. This is classical coaching but as James says, it just doesn’t work. It makes golf improvement harder (way harder) than it needs to be.

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8 Comments

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    I was impressed with the amateurs win in NZ the other day. His swing was solid and more importantly his facial expression was rock solid after powerful drives straight down the middle. I think if you copy a swing you have to copy the facial expression.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 28, 2012

      Cam280: I wouldn’t copy too much. Go with your own thing and I reckon you’ll do much better.

  • Lukey

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    The biggest thing I picked up from Rory McIlroy was the fact that he never backs off a swing, once he has made his mind up bang 100% commitment to the shot.So my point being you can still watch the great players and still learn just do not try to emulate THEIR SWING .So stick with your auto golf and don’t hold back just give it 100% with YOUR SWING.
    Cheers Lukey

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 29, 2012

      Rory dances. He flows and makes the game look ridiculously easy.

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    Wow Cameron, I am honored! I don’t usually enjoy being polemical, but sometimes it’s the only way to get one’s point across. I agree Lukey, I could (and sometimes do) spend hours watching videos of the swings of golf’s greats, or looking at swing sequence photos; not trying to copy them move for move, but just trying to “absorb” something from them. My favorite, of course, is Ben Hogan, but I think there’s something to be gained from each one of them. Golf swings are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. I think it’s interesting that you hear of pros watching other pros swing to learn something from them, but not of pros reading other pros instructional books. “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 29, 2012

      Thanks James for sharing and stopping by.

  • James Smith

    Reply Reply November 30, 2012

    I should add that I don’t like “stop-action” or “frame-by-frame” swing analysis. It reminds me of dissecting a frog in biology class. It kills the frog. 🙂

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply December 2, 2012

      James: It’s interesting but ultimately ineffective to see so much detail of your swing. It usually just bogs you down.

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