Top Myths in Golf

Top Myths in Golf

Prepare yourself – this article is going to make you think!

I do over a thousand hours of coaching each year – each time, I ask my pupils the question

What do you think you need to do to create a good shot?

I am then invariably met with responses of cliches which players believe to be true, usually based on things they have heard, or things which have been perpetuated throughout the golf industry. In this article, I am going to go through those cliches and show you that they are not the cause of your bad shots. Then I will offer some advice at the end on what you should actually be working on.

Let’s go..

 

 

Head Up

If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase “I looked up” after a topped shot, I would be a rich man. But is looking up really the cause of your bad shot?

I have often recorded a player after both topping the ball and striking one pure. I have not yet seen a player look up earlier during the topped shot. They often Believe they have, but it’s just not true. Even if your 15 handicap buddies tell you that you did.

And, if looking up early did cause a topped shot, both Annika Sorenstam and David Duval wouldn’t have reached number one in the world (and shot a 59) doing so – like the below pictures show.

head up downsized

Not only that, but forcing yourself to ‘Stay down’ is actively sabotaging your ability to strike the ball with any consistency. I am not going to go into the complexities of why in this article, but trust me – throw this myth away NOW.

 

 

I keep Over-swinging

Ah, one of my favorites. Why? Because I spent many years trying to ‘fix’ my own overswing, and I wish I hadn’t. Such wasted time that I could have better spent on more relevant things to develop.

So, you think that an overswing is causing you to hit the ball poorly? Well, how are these guys below so successful?

overswing downsized

What is an ‘over swing’ anyway? Surely you can only swing over something if there is a pre-defined ideal? Is swinging parallel to the ground ideal? Well, what about these guys then?

short swing downsized

There are some pretty good players in both categories. I wouldn’t mind having their bank accounts.

 

 

Your feet have to stay still

What, like these guys’ feet?

Or Lexi Thompson?

These players are dancing their way to the bank.

In fact, Bubba is one of the best drivers of the ball in the world, for combined accuracy and distance.

Have a look at these players with ‘stable footwork’

jump downsized

 

 

My left arm is bending at the top

Yeah, because that is the cause of your 40 yard banana ball, right? Wrong – or these guys wouldn’t be able to hit it great.

bent at top downsized

 

 

But my left arm bends at impact

This one is controversial, and if you knew what I knew about how the golf swing works, you would throw this myth out too. I’m not going to say anything more than that, other than to show you some pictures of some of the best strikers in the world with splayed elbows and bent lead arms at impact.

at impact downsized

Just because a pro may have straighter arms at impact does not mean they are actively trying to straighten them. In fact, it could be the complete reverse. Think about this – in a game of tug of war, just because the other team is pulling you in one direction doesn’t mean you are not pulling in the opposite direction. Golf is a game of tug of war with a clubhead which effectively weighs many times more as it is being swung through impact.

Oh, by the way – combine trying to keep your left arm straight with the head down myth – good luck with breaking 100.

 

 

My clubface is closed at the top

Oh your clubface is closed – like these guys?

closed downsized

Or is it more ‘toe-down’ at the top, like these guys?

open face downsized

I wouldn’t mind any of their playing records.

 

 

My front foot comes up in the backswing

You know, before we all got taught to keep our feet on the ground, there were a ton of guys who did that too – and they played great golf. Even Bubba Watson now (who wasn’t taught at all, so wasn’t exposed to this myth) lifts his front foot.

left foot up downsized

Just because a myth has become perpetuated to the point it is no longer questioned does NOT make it correct.

 

 

My takeaway is not Correct

Define correct.

Now think here – really think hard. WHY is that ‘correct’? Who decided? And what did that decision based upon? Do you think there is a chance it may be less relevant than you thought?

Besides, which one of the below takeaways is ‘correct’. These guys?

inside takeaway downsized

Or these ones?

outside takeaway downsized

You decide

 

 

My backswing is too steep

Do you mean like these ones?

steep back downsized

 

Or did you mean the left arm position at the top?

steep top downsized

 

 

My backswing is too flat

Like these ones?

flat half downsized

 

Or did you mean the left arm position at the top?

flat top downsized

 

 

My club is laid off at the top

Congratulations – you have a trait similar to some of the best players in the world, as evidenced below. Who decided that a club aiming ‘parallel to the target line at the top’ was the ideal anyway? It sure looks pretty, but is it important?

laid-off-downsized

 

 

My club is across the line at the top

Is it a ‘fault’? You decide – some of the best ball strikers ever to have lived are in this category.

across Downsized

 

 

I come out of my Posture

There are quite a few majors in this group

angles downsized

And now to the fun part

I know what you are thinking, and I would have been thinking the same things too (15 years ago).

But they are talented

Or

But they are getting away with it, and could be better if they made their swings better

 

Well, ask yourself this – what is your idea of ‘better’. If it is based on an assumption that a swing which is symmetrical and pretty is better, go ahead and work on how your swing looks. You can look great as you shoot your over par rounds – because these above guys (and more) are raking in the money (or have raked it in).

Studies in biomechanics are now showing that some of the above ‘ugly’ swing traits are actually very beneficial. It will take time for the golf magazines to catch up, but you will see.

Also, regarding the ‘talented’ comment – GREAT. Let’s define what that is, and see if we can improve that in ourselves.

 

 

What are they talented at?

This is a much better question, and it brings us closer to the fundamental difference between you and a professional. Read this line over and over and over……. Until it haunts your dreams

The biggest difference between a professional and an amateur is how the club impacts the ball

That’s right! This below video shows the most important part of an entire golf swing – impact. And I am not talking about body positions at impact – I am talking about how the club and the ball interact through that fraction of space where they are in contact with one another.

So, if this is all that matters to the golf ball, wouldn’t it be a good idea to work on this stuff directly? Wouldn’t it be better to improve our understanding of it, as well as our ability to get the desired impact?

With The Strike Plan, this is exactly what you will improve – and it will have a DIRECT positive impact on your game and your scores. CLICK HERE to learn more – or see the bottom of the article.

 

 

Style versus function

The overriding message in every forum, every magazine and every book (apart from my own) is to improve your style to improve your function. Swing it this/that way – move your body like this/that etc is all dished out in the hopes that it improves impact function.

But do you teach a child the mechanics (style) of putting a fork into their mouth in order to get the function (feed themselves)? Or, does form (mechanics) arise as a result of improved function, with focus on the function itself?

We all know the answer to that, unless you are teaching your kids how to bend their arms and wrists to feed themselves.

5-6 years old boy and plate of cooked vegetables isolated on white

Wait, was it alpha or gamma torque I need to apply? I’m so hungry

When technique arises as a result of function, it is far more adaptable. A child who learns simply to put the fork into their mouth can do it with many different techniques – with the arm taking different trajectories into the mouth, or even with their elbow on a table.

A child who learns through a set of defined commands will may produce a functional (albeit unnatural technique), but it will be far less adaptable.

Your brain will co-ordinate all the necessary variables into an appropriate blend, if it has function as its primary objective.

 

 

So, style is irrelevant?

I am not saying that style is irrelevant – far from it. But I am saying that the common perception of what is important in the golf swing is far from the truth – as evidence by the vast amount of players with different styles on tour.

And the kicker?

These players have often come to these styles IN SPITE of being taught commonly held beliefs about perfect takeaways etc.

There ARE some commonalities among good players, but you are not going to find those things in your magazines. And, most of the time people are actively sabotaging themselves by following the above myths. There ARE certain swing mechanics which produce bigger margins for error/more technical repeatability, but one thing is true

Any style change you make should serve a purpose. It should

 

1. Improve impact

2. Improve repeatability of impact

3. Reduce injury

 

You should NOT be making swing changes simply to look prettier or more like your favourite model.

 

 

Skill training and self-organizing

What most people don’t understand is that biological organisms (of which we are one) will automatically develop technique as a result of improved function. This phenomenon is called self-organizing. For example, we self-organize the complex techniques involved in walking simply by improving the function of walking, not by focusing on what bits are moving and when.

There are ways of actively speeding up this process of self-organizing appropriate technique, but most people actively sabotage and slow down the process by incorrect learning methods, or trying to learn the wrong things.

 

 

But I’ve heard that pros have worked on X/Y/Z

Sure, Tiger has worked on quieter footwork, and tons of other players have worked on swing plane, takeaways etc.

But, if I took a beginner sprinter and weighed them down with a lead weight and then trained them for 5 years, would they get better at sprinting? Sure they would. But it may be IN SPITE of the lead weight, not because of it.

Alternatively, a player may be a world-beater after I give them a magic tee to put in their back pocket. But anybody would be a fool to think that the magic tee was the cause of the success. Correlation does not equal causation.

 

 

Take home messages

Technique matters – but most things that the average amateur deems ‘correct technique’ can seriously be called into question. Unless a technique helps you achieve a more consistent or better impact (or in a safer way for your body), it is a waste of time. If you are busy trying to get your club ‘on-line’ at the top, is that really improving your function? Or is it just a lead weight or a magic tee?

We should focus more on improving function. In my book “The Practice manual”, I outline new ways for developing better golf based on an understanding of motor learning research. I look at skill development approaches, as well as ways to better self-organize technique.

The main messages I want everyone to get is that

 

  • There are much wider acceptable boundaries of swing style which will produce function
  • Lots of things held dear as technical ‘musts’ are nothing more than old wives tales
  • Pro’s have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
  • Skill is different to technique
  • Form can (and does) arise from function.
  • Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
  • Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
  • There is more to a golfer than their swing style. Trying to get good at golf by only improving your swing style is myopic, at best.

 

I understand that many of you will have strongly held beliefs challenged after this article. Good. Maybe it will open your eyes to why you are not as good as you should be.

 

Get The Strike Plan

If you want to learn more about the common denominator between all of the top players – strike quality – click the image below to learn about The Strike Plan – your guide to professional-quality impact.

Strike plan enter

 

 

12 Comments

  • Chris Carlisle

    Thank you for describing so succinctly the main problem with golf instruction. It’s taken me years of unlearning to come to a similar conclusion. I wish I could go back in time with a “form follows function” mindset. I spent most of my life teaching and playing with a technique mindset. I look forward to reading your book.

    • admin

      Thanks Chris – wish it had hit me sooner too. Things started to get a whole lot easier for my game and my pupils when we focused more on function. I started to notice that form would spontaneously arise over time, which started me thinking we had it all backwards

  • Paul Kelly

    Nothing new here, but that doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Ernest Jones and his followers most notably including Angel de la Torre and his son Manuel de la Torre were all about function and not style. Even John Jacobs debunked the myths of head down, straight left arm, transfer your weight etc in the 1960s and 70s. The old school Scots pros who first took the game to the USA understood how the club struck the ball and advised the individual based only on their how their position and movements affected the strike. Anybody who has ever played or even witnessed good, sub-par golf knows that propelling the golf ball is not the difficult part of the game.

    • admin

      Yes Paul, many coaches before me came to a similar conclusion. Lot’s more to great golf than how a swing looks – although there are still certain elements of a good swing which all professionals have.

  • Viv Ross

    Great article again Adam! I think the introduction of the video camera started us all on the wrong path too early.

  • Clay

    I like this philosophy. I play golf. Have 2 young children 5&7 and adopt a similar approach to teaching hitting or catching any ball. The only thing I drum into them is “keep your eye on the ball, your hands arms and body know what to do by themselves” Those golfers you’ve shown with head up at impact is too misleading for me. They are only head up once everything is in place and a nano second before impact. Eye on the ball is everything in any ball sport.

    • admin

      Hi Clay – I see the “head down” advice from well-meaning parents completely ruin a lot of junior golfers. The reason why? As the article describes – the INTENT to keep the head down will, in most cases, destroy body rotation and limit the ability for the left shoulder to move up hard. While many pros are still looking at the ball at impact (and hence keeping their heads down), they are not doing so intentionally – and they are still rotating their bodies. It’s hard to describe unless you have seen both versions (intentional and non-intentional) live thousands and thousands of times and have seen the destructive effects of the “head down” advice like I, and many other professionals, have.

      • Paul Sherrington

        100 % correct again Adam, I use still pictures of top players Henrik Stenson, Dustin Johnson, David Duval, Anoka Sorenstam not seeing the ball at impact and Novack Djokovic and Rafa Nadal not watching the ball onto the racket in tennis. Unfortunately even John Jacobs superb instruction 40+ years ago still doesn’t stop the head down crowd carrying on this golfing urban myth which as you have rightly said kills beginners opportunity to rotate through the ball often leading to back pain.
        You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink!

    • admin

      Also, based on my experience and filming amateur swings daily – I will bet that if you film 100 amateur swings, they are ALL looking at the ball at impact (use a slow motion camera, not your eye – this can be misleading). I will also bet that they are still looking at the ball at impact when they top/duff the shot. Now run an experiment – ask 100 of those to try to keep their head down – see what happens to their body rotations and left shoulder movement – I will bet you not one person will improve in that area, and the majority will get worse – even if they hit the ball better initially. As I said, you can start that watch by slamming it against a table.

  • John Titan

    Thousands of ways to swing, amazing how you don’t talk about a players physical capabilities as to why they swing the club the way they do. Maybe that’s coming. Nice article though.

  • Cathrine Vincenti

    thx for good reading article! yes this is encouraging and would provide me and lot of amateurs further trust in our swings, if we just focus on function and targets, instead of good looking concistent technique. At least, I tend to get stuck if I think too much of the technical thoughs during play. For practice technical corrections are still valid to me, to lower my handicap still.

    • admin

      nice reply – yes technical work can and should still be done. There is balance between all facets, and value to all. Lots of amateurs just get stuck too deep and too long on the technical elements, obsessing over things which are purely style related (and not necessarily function related).

Post A Comment