The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today, I am going to discussed three aspects of the golf swing with various viewpoints.  The take away, the top of the swing, and the start of the downswing. The last one will just be fun because how to start the downswing is pretty much endless, but we will list the main ones. Most of what I am going to post today will involve some of Jack Nicklaus’s opinions on the golf swing.  I am not saying I agree  with everything that Jack says about the swing, but I don’t think you can go wrong by adopting many of his swing suggestions. However, in the main stream of golf instruction most of the things that Jack advocates is pretty much dismissed, as not the way to play golf.   I am not going into great detail, here but I think the reason for this is Jack made conventional golf instruction look pretty silly with his so called flying right elbow.  He took a lot of flak for that early in his career, to the point that many said he would never be a great golfer. Talk about being very wrong. Let’s begin.

The take away should be low and slow, or is that the worse thing that you can do?  Nicklaus was a low and slow advocate and his own backswing did seem to start in a very deliberate manner. Today most instruction says to start the backswing smoothly in a more rhythmic manner and do not start the swing in a jerky manner. Instruction today feels that you can start the backswing too slowly, which robs you of any rhythm and timing, and makes you rush the rest of your swing. Try either method you may find you like one over the other.

At the top of the swing, should you make a conscious pause, or is this something that you do not have to think about. Trying to pause at the top will cause more problems with your swing.  Nicklaus summed up his feelings on the subject with an instructional chapter titled”There is no pause that refreshes in the golf swing,” taking a slogan from a popular soft drink. In order for the club to change direction in the golf swing it has to stop or pause or whatever you want to say, whether you think about it or not. There is no question that you can see differences in this pause at the top. Some Tour players have a very distinct pause at the top of their backswing, and others with very fast swings, it is very hard to detect. There are players everywhere between these two extremes.  Pick your poison, you may find something your like.

Now for the fun part, How do you start the downswing. OMG are you kidding me. The first one is the Nicklaus method. Obviously you have to lift your heel on the backswing. The rest are just listed but these are all from legitimate instructors.

Plant your left heel on the ground, turn your right knee to the ball, drop your right elbow slowly into your side, bump your left hip toward the target, shift your weight to the outside of the left heel(this is for the heel that stays on the ground during the backswing), raise your left shoulder from under your chin, drive the left hip back and begin straightening your left leg, pull down with the last three fingers of the left hand like you would be ringing a church bell, drive the left knee toward the target, while remaining the flex in the knee, and only allowing it to straighten well after the ball is struck, and finally slowly dropping the arms while allowing the hips to unwind. This list has 10 ways to start the  downswing, and people say that golf instruction is confusing, you have got to be kidding, what could be more clear then that. The list is not even complete but I think the point is made. So what’s a mother to do?  My suggestion for now is try em all, you may find one that really fits your swing and can help you hit the ball better.  It looks like we are going to have winter in March, so another blog on the swing won’t be far behind, as we are getting close to the end of conflicting ideas on how to hit a golf ball.

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post will be slightly different, in that I am going to cover three aspects of the golf swing, that have conflicting viewpoints, plus I am going to put in my two cents worth on the subject.  I am going to look at hip turn, shoulder turn, and the backswing, which are so interconnected that it would be difficult to discuss one without getting involved with the other. First, the various viewpoints on each aspect.  You should restrict your hip turn or you should not restrict your hip turn.   You should turn your shoulders at least 90 degrees or you do not have to turn the shoulders 90 degrees.  You should keep your backswing compact and avoid over swinging, or you should make a nice long backswing, which will give you plenty of time to accelerate the club and keep your swing very smooth.

So in order to start the discussion, one has to start out with the famous X factor of Jim Mclean’s, which started this whole mess.  The X factor states that the more you can turn your shoulders, without turning your hips, the farther you will hit the ball, plain and simple.  The standard difference between you hip and shoulder turn is about 50%  You turn your shoulders 90 degrees, your hips should turn about 45 degrees.   According to the X factor,  if you could make that 90 degree shoulder turn with only 35 degree hip turn, then you would increase your distance.  If you can make a greater than 90 degree shoulder turn, with less than 45 degree hip turn you would  hit the ball even further. Is this true? It is absolutely true. Should you swing a golf club like this? Absolutely not is the correct answer. If you want to play golf past your 50th birthday then this is not the way to swing a golf club. Watch Greg Norman’s swing  in the late 80’s and the early to mid nineties. He had minimal hip turn and maximum shoulder turn. Played very little golf after age 45. Same thing can be said about Tiger.This swing is so hard on your body you will see more and more of the modern player fall by the way side.So many of todays players swing this way, that you can bet not many of them will be playing on the senior tour.     It is no coincidence that Phil and V.J. who have larger hip turns have played great golf well past their 45th birthday.

Now let’s move to the shoulders where there is another swing method call the limited shoulder turn golf swing by Don Trahan. This swing is easy on your body and depends more on a vertical lift of the arms with the shoulders probably turning about 70 degrees. I don’t have a lot of problem with the theory here but this swing is harder to time than what Mr Trahan would lead you to believe. It is way too specific in making certain moves in the golf swing. At least this swing won’t put you in traction.

Finally, should your backswing be compact or should it be longer and no worry about “over swinging”.  I think this is a personal preference, but which ever way you decide to go there is one key factor. .If you decide to take a more compact swing then your tempo should be rather quick. If you are going to take a longer backswing then you should have a slower more languid tempo.  A slower short swing and a fast long swing just will not work.

My take on all of  this is very simple.  At the top of the backswing, the top part of your back or shoulder blades if you prefer, should be facing the target. I don’t care how you get there to do it. The thing that makes your swing compact or long is the arms, and how much the wrists cock.  The golf swing is a turn and the only thing that should limit the turn, is your physical capabilities. So if you have to turn those hips to get that back to face the target,  go right ahead. Do you think  Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus did all right with a big hip turn? Next post will be should you start the swing low and slow or is low and slow the worst thing you can do?

The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

Today’s post is about where your weight should be distributed at the address position of the golf swing.  We are not talking about between the right and left foot, but where on the bottom of your feet.  Again, there is more than one theory  in golf instruction. There are three ways that are advocated: 1. The weight should be on the balls of your feet at address. 2. The weight should feel like it is over the arches of the foot or just in front of the ankles. 3. The weight should be on the heels or towards the heels of your feet.  There is only one thing that everyone is in agreement. Your weight should not be on your toes.  One thing that you should be able to do at address is wiggle your toes.  So now look at each one.

The proponents of having your weight on the balls of your feet like to say that this gets you into an athletic position and gets you ready to move and gives  your body a lively feel. This is by far the most popular instruction. The big negative here is that the balls of your feet are not that far away from your toes. This instruction also likes you to shift your weight into the heels to try and prevent you from going on your toes during the swing.  The inside of your right heel on the backswing and the outside of your left heel on the downswing.

Now lets go to having your weight toward the heels at the address position. You hear about this recommendation the least, but none other than Ken Venturi wrote this as one of the  key fundamentals of the address position.  With your weight on the heels, Mr. Venturi felt that this kept you from standing too far away from the ball, and allowed the body to make a turn a lot easier. The biggest negative of having the weight favoring the heels is sometimes keeping your balance during the swing could be a problem. It is by far the least given advice but obviously has it’s advocates.

Finally having your weight over the arches of your feet or just in front of the ankles, is real popular on the golf channel instruction.  This, you could say is the compromise between the first two.  Your arch is farther away from the toes and getting closer to the heels but you don’t put the weight on the heels. The big positive here is that you should have no problem keeping your balance during the swing.  How much this frees your body up to turn is debatable but again shifting your weight into heels during the swing may help that.

Well hear are some rhetorical questions and you can give your own answers or just food for thought.  Do we really need to be in an athletic position to make a golf swing if we really are not moving off the spot where we are starting?  Do the heels really give us enough of a base to make a golf swing?  Can you really feel pressure in your arch to feel that this is where you are putting most of your weight at address? Something to think about and we will cross that bridge later.  Next up hip turn, do you or don’t you.

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