With winter blazing away here in the Burgh, I am going to discuss golf instruction today, and what I see is one of its biggest problems. Has golf instruction been proactive or reactive. In other words has golf instruction come up with new ideas to help people play the game better or does it react to an individual’s succes and incorporate it as a proper way to play the game. Let me give an example when golf teaching reacted to a players success.
As you headed into the golf season of 1962, one of the basic fundementals of the golf swing, was that the right elbow should remain fairly close to your side at the top of the backswing. It was a given, that this was the only way you were going to be a consistant ball striker. In fact, golf instructors would term this.”the flying right elbow fault” and all the problems that it would cause. Then along came Jack Nicklaus and his quote flying left elbow. Many golf gurus felt that Jack’s elbow would keep him from being a truly great player. Even after winning the 1962 U.S. Open in Arnold Palmer’s backyard and the 63 Masters, golf experts would talk about that elbow when he missed the cut at the 63 U.S. Open. Naturally, as Nicklaus’s record became even greater, his flying left elbow now became an asset. The teaching world started saying that by allowing his elbow to get further from his side that this increased Jack’s arc and helped him create so much clubhead speed. The modification from this point on, was that it was all right for a player to let his right elbow get away from his side at the top of the swing, as long as his elbow was pointing to the ground and it returned to his side at the start of the downswing. However, is this something that the average golfer should strive to do? I am not too sure.
Now I am going to switch gears, and talk about who golf instructors don’t want you to emulate. Bob Ford, the well known pro at Oakmont Country Club, the sight of many USGA tournaments, wrote an instructional book, where he writes about the Uncle Charlie syndrome. We have all known Uncle Charlies. This is a player of any age but ususally around middle age or older, who for lack of a better term, does just about everything wrong when trying to hit a golf ball. He will have a poor grip, bad address position, and has a swing that ususally ends up with his left foot coming off the ground and winding up straight across from his right foot. However, Uncle Charley hits the ball pretty well, gets about 230 out of a drive, keeps the ball in play, has a pretty good short game and shoots between 80 and 85 consistantly and even breaks 80 once in awhile. What Mr Ford’s point is, that even though Uncle Charlie can do this, he is an exception and this is not the way to play golf, if you really want to get better. But what if an “Uncle Charlie” won a tour event or even a major, and went on to a long and successful career on tour. Now I know this might seem extreme, but would golf instruction find a way to put a good spin on letting your left foot come off the ground at the end of the golf swing. Food for thought. Next week I am going to discuss some subtle things that the great players have done, that for some reason golf instruction seems to ignore.