Contributed by Lee Martin
The highly respected golf instruction “thought leader” Percy Boomer said long ago, “what you need to learn are not the technical or mathematical details of a good shot but the feel of it.” If Mr. Boomer is right – and I suggest that he is – then we might also say that one particular swing style taught as an absolute may not feel right for everyone. When we perform an athletic motion that doesn’t feel good to us, our senses are scrambled and we no longer give our attention to the feel of a good shot. In fact, we struggle to feel anything at all in the less than two seconds it takes to perform a golf swing. In this way, our enjoyment and learning are limited and what we look to for recreation begins to feel like work. Is there a better way?
As a long-time golf instructor, I’ve come to appreciate that an honest assessment of a player’s physical characteristics and capabilities are truly indispensable for me to help a player learn, repeat and enjoy an effective swing motion. Given that no two players exhibit the same size, strength, flexibility, coordination, inclination towards fitness etc., there is simply no one method or swing style that everyone can perform effectively. A particular method or style of swinging may have desirable or pleasing aesthetic qualities but I have found no long-term value insisting on a swing style at the expense of other factors. If impact is the golf swing’s moment of truth – then the quickest path to a dynamic impact is really all that matters.
I’m a visual learner/teacher and as such, when I look at a student’s golf swing for the first time, I truly “paint a picture” of that player’s ideal swing. By ideal, I’m not referring to “form only” without consideration for function. Specifically, my mind sees a swing shape on the backswing that will enable an effective downswing path back to impact.
Traditional golf instruction has long been enamored with backswing style. Think of Vijay Singh’s high hands at the top of the swing compared to the low hands style of Matt Kuchar. Yes, these swings look quite different, but is this a case of appearance misleading us? Without getting into an overly complicated analysis, let me say that a vertically oriented swing plane on the backswing produces a different timing and coordination on the downswing between the arms, hands and body. This particular “style” fits some players while others might find better results with a flatter, more around the body type of swing plane.
In summary, my teaching experience tells me that some instructors and most players have come to overly rely on the promise of style over substance. This is especially problematic when a teacher overlooks the physical traits of their students. When this happens, a player can be taught a swing that may look good and work for a time, but eventually leads to physical problems and unsatisfactory results. And as Mr. Boomer taught us, we lose the feel and joy associated with a golf shot well struck.