Which swing is better?
Looks can be Deceiving
Adam, How could you let your swing get worse?
- We put too much emphasis on technique. We believe that one day we will hit all these magic positions and every ball will fly towards the target. It doesn’t happen. Tiger has been working on his swing for 8 hours a day for 30 years and still hasn’t got it done. When he gets it done he realizes it’s not perfect and goes searching for a new idea that maybe this time will be perfect.
- We don’t put enough emphasis on the intangibles, the things you can’t see or touch. Concepts, skills, co-ordination/motor control, clubhead awareness, natural movement sequences (what our body wants to do to produce a good shot versus what we tell it to do). The most important things I learned in this time was how to control the ball better through clubface and path control rather than forcing a perfect backswing, which didn’t work.
- There is also a lot to be said for the ability of the human body to self-organize. I believe that through creating the correct goal (by visualizing impact) my body was able to find out a way to do it which fits in with my muscle max strength points, flexibility profile, muscle firing patterns, balance points, movement sequences and a few other things that we probably don’t yet know about. On top of this, the improvements happened harmoniously as one – constantly jostling and pushing each other in the right area. The more I study about biology, evolution, genetics, motor learning etc, the more I see the possibility for this to be true.
- Better backswings don’t make better downswings all the time. And even if they did, better downswings don’t always make better impacts. And even if they did, better impacts don’t always make better ball flights, and if they did better ball flights don’t always make better scores. And if they did, those scores may not always be as consistent as before.
- The first swing – the funky one – is using the right side of my brain more. It is much more creative as I am thinking more in terms of ball flight. On a scale of 1-10, my thinking is generally in the lower side, 1 or 2. With the better looking swing, thinking is not only elevated to 8-9/10, but it is using the left side of my brain (analytical) and focus on moving specific body parts (internal focus). We know a great from scientific literature that best performers are more right brained and less high up on the thinking scale, especially when hitting the zone. Also, they tend to think of external thoughts, such as club/ball flight rather than internal (body parts). Thinking too much and/or about body parts hampers co-ordination and consistency of movement in almost every skill endeavor.
- Individuality is slowly being sucked out of the game. As we watch in the future, swings will generally get better and better in terms of technical movement patterns. But those players may be there not because of how good their technique is, but in spite of it. To put this another way, would Jack Nicklaus have won 18 majors if someone had changed his flying right elbow and turned him into a drawer of the ball rather than his stock fade. It seems like everyone sees the holy grail of golf to be that draw shot – what’s wrong with trying to control your fade? Would Lee Trevino have been the player he was if someone had told him he needed to align straight? Would Duval have reached world number 1 and shot an unbelievable 59 if someone had told him he needed a neutral grip to play good golf? What about the shaft plane of Jiminez or Raymond Floyd – two of the most consistent players throughout history. If Seve Had known about K-vest and AMM would he really have been better? What about Arnold Palmer and his follow-through, (did I mention Jim Furyk). What if someone had told Nancy lopes she needed to speed her swing up and be less across the line? What if someone had told Montgomery to stop swaying his hips like that, would he have been more consistent than 7 order of merits in a row? More importantly, what do these guys have that allow them to do these things and still play better golf than you? What can you learn from that, what can you practice? The best coaches I have seen allow variances within the technique, often quite large.
- For players who need to work on their technique – don’t forget there are several ways you can achieve this. You don’t always have to force a body position, sometimes you can just think of something more external (like ball flight or club and ball interaction) and the desired change can happen as a result of that.
- Also, If you are going to make a change which requires a lot of mental effort and concentration, make sure you periodize your practice so that you are doing it less by the time you hit competitions. There is a time and a place to be working on your swing – playing golf is not that time.
- Don’t chase the fallacy that “If I just get this one piece in my swing correct, I’ll be able to play golf”. It doesn’t work like that. Even if it did, you quickly get used to the new move and start looking for something else to work on as you are still hitting it poor. It’s called chasing the dragon. Allow yourself to play golf when you are on the course, play golf swing when you are on the range.
To re-iterate the take home lesson once more – it is not that working on your movement technique is a bad thing, it’s just to understand the limits of it. There is no perfect swing, and good golf is a multitude of factors far beyond what we see on a camera. Keep working on better technique, by all means, but be aware that you come across the law of diminishing returns at some point. I hope this article has at least made you think 🙂
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