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How To Develop A Brilliant Golf Swing

For a good golf swing we have not only to bring the club head down through the same line time after time; we must bring it down so that the club face is square with the ball at the instant of impact—and because the path of the club head is a curve, this means that impact must be timed correctly to an infinitesimal fraction of a second in the sweep of the swing. Also the club head must be accelerating at the moment of impact. So we have not only to set up the mechanism to make a good swing, which we can all soon do if we only swing at the daisies, but we have to time this swing to the fraction of a second. Now I think that most of us overrate the value of good mechanics in golf and underrate the value of accurate timing. I was once watching, with a pupil of mine who had a most perfect swing, a fellow whose action was not pretty—to put it kindly. But he kept hitting nice long shots down the middle.

"Not much to look at," I remarked to my pupil. "I would not care a damn what I looked like if I could repeat like that chap!" he replied. The awkward one could repeat his best shots time after time. His mechanics were ungainly but his timing was near perfect. Well, you may say, if that is so, why should you go to so much trouble to give us a good mechanical swing? The answer is that good timing plus a good swing is better than good timing plus an awkward swing.

The best swing, mechanically, is the one that pulls the ball a little and then makes it turn a bit to the left at the end of its flight, but if you get your maximum golf happiness out of a swing which slices the ball all around the course, there is no reason to alter your mechanics! If you do want to make an alteration, it may not be an extensive one. I remember one day at St. Cloud an someone came and begged me to give him even fifteen minutes—which I did out of my lunch time as he seemed so insistent. His trouble was that every now and then his iron shots to the green would finish in the bunker to the left of the green. For three years he had failed to find a permanent cure. So on the advice of a friend he came to me. It did not take me long to see what was wrong and to explain to him that now and again his foot-and-leg work was sluggish, and in consequence the club head came in too soon—to put his ball a little to the left. After that brief lesson I never saw him again, as he was on his way back to the States from Paris. But he left me a note of thanks and a handsome present, and when I inquired of the caddy who had been out with him in the afternoon learned he had broken 70. Some time later I saw his photograph in the American Golfer with the news that he had won the West Coast championship.

Too much thought about the mechanics is a bad thing for anyone's game. Now the reason why golf is so difficult is that you have to learn it and play it through your senses. You must be mindful but not thoughtful as you swing. You must not think or reflect; you must feel what you have to do. Part of the difficulty arises because, apart from simple things like riding a bicycle, we have never learned to do things in this way. The beginning of the swing movement is in the feet; the movement passes progressively up through the body, through the arms, and out at the club head. What we try to do is to make the club head come down in the same path time and time again—in such a way that the face of the club comes squarely into the back of the ball every time. We have one fixed point (the feet) and one moving point (the club head) which we desire to move along the same line time after time. So the golf swing might be compared to the drawing of arcs with a pair of compasses. The reasons why we cannot be so precise in our stroking as the compass can, are that we are supported on two legs instead of one and we are full of flections and joints!.


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