UNDERSTANDING GOLF

Yes, I am a golfer, as opposed to someone who plays golf. I am passionate about the game, a gift my father shared with me early in my life. I caddied as a kid to earn money and began playing in those years. With the exception of a hiatus due to military service it has been a part of my life since I was 11.

I was once asked, "Why do you play golf?" The answer has three parts:

  1. I get to walk around in a beautifully manicured Elysian field ... that I didn't mow!
  2. When I play cell phones, PDA, beepers and all the other distractions and intrusions in my life stay in the car! ...... It is my time to disengage from the everyday tensions, worries and stresses.
  3. The Challenge: Take a stick between 35 and 45 inches with a angled striking surface attached to the end, swing it at speeds approaching 100 mph and strike a round object 1.68" in diameter weighing 1.62 oz. and get it into a 4-1/2" hole in the ground nearly a quarter of a mile away in ONLY 4 strokes ... or better!


WHAT I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT THE GOLF SWING

Golf, like all other sports, is mixture of physical keys bonded to mental keys to create a performance. Over the last 50 years I have taken golf lessons, read more golf instruction books than I can number, watched hours of golf instruction on TV, watched PGA, LPGA, USGA, European and World Golf Championship and spend thousands of hours on golf courses and driving ranges trying to improve my golf game. The number and diversity of swing and game theories is both mind boggling and a testimony to the search for game improvement shared by the golfers all over the world.

A few of years ago my golf game was in tatters. I was struggling to make shots consistently and to score as well as I had as a teenager. Then I purchased the video set "AJ Reveals the Truth About Golf" by A.J. Bonar. From it I was able to resurrect my game and in fact reach new heights previously unattained. What I learned was not swing mechanics but rather to think differently.

In addition to the contribution of A.J. Bonar, I have incorporated the observations and wisdom of some of the world's legendary golfers: Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, George Knudson and others. That mass of information and my own experimentation combined with elements of 'performance psychology' I have collected, discovered and developed has led to me to the 7 Keys, 4 Physical Keys and 3 Mental Keys, to form what I have learned about the golf swing.

Two quick observations:

  1. Once you have some level of mastery over the basic mechanics of the golf swing, improvement and accomplishment are rooted in attaining some level of mastery over a few key mental aspects.
  2. All accomplished athletes, in any sport, develop their 'game performance' by learning the physical skills needed then allow themselves to do what they have learned to do, without getting in their own way, by focusing their minds on the task at hand while simultaneously letting their body do what they have worked to learn.

As Yogi Berra is alleged to have said, "Ninety percent of this game is mental, and the other half is physical".

Above all else, I have sought to do is develop a simple set of principles that are easily understood, easily remembered and easily applied by the average golfer.
At its core are the contributions of A.J. and George Knudson.



THE PHYSICAL SIDE OF THE GAME: FOUR KEYS

  1. BALANCE IS KING and TEMPO IS CROWN PRINCE

    You must maintain your balance. If you lose your balance during the swing then you are swinging TOO HARD, slow your tempo until you can maintain your balance throughout the entire swing, from start to finish.

    Finding the tempo right for you will achieve a couple of key advantages:

    • Smoothness. Reduce or eliminate all unnecessary tension. Making the move from the top of the back swing to and through the ball an accelerating move, not a snatch from the top but smoothly increasing club head speed peaking at or just beyond the ball.
    • A good consistent, well managed tempo will increase the probability you will remain in balance throughout the entire swing.

    Finding and managing my tempo

    I have adopted a tempo and tension control technique of consciously focusing on and controlling my breathing while I am over the ball in three steps:

    1. Just before I begin my take-away, a strong exhale to relax the shoulders, arms and hands.
    2. The back swing is in unison with a normal inhalation. I should reach the top of the back swing just as I finish inhaling.
    3. A strong exhale throughout the down swing all the way to a balanced finished.

    Focusing my mind on breath control has the added advantage to banishing all other thoughts from my mind thereby eliminating the presence or, at least, minimizing 'last moment second-guessing' of my shot decision. More on the importance of decision in the next section: THE MENTAL SIDE OF THE GAME.


  2. THE EYES HAVE IT or "What are you looking at?"

    You cannot hit the ball consistently UNLESS you're looking AT IT ... not towards it but AT IT!

  3. BALL POSITION

    The ball must be positioned between your feet ( there are a few very rare exceptions related to specialty shots ).

    • "Where should I position the ball between my feet?"

      Whether you're head steady over the ball or sway, your nose is aligned with the bottom point of the swing.

      * Ideally you want to hit a driver with a slight upswing so keep the ball just in front of the nose at impact ( 2-3 inches at most ).
      * All other clubs work best when the ball is reached at or just before the bottom the arc play them 0-1 inch behind your nose, wherever it is, when you reach the bottom of the swing.

      You might want to have someone video tape you swinging to find out where you nose is as your swing reaches bottom, it may not be where you think it is.

    Jack Nicklaus observed that he has NEVER seen an amateur stand TOO CLOSE to the ball at address!
    * Most amateurs are too stretched out in their setup and too tense. Relax you arms, bend from the hips (not your waist) until your arms hang straight down and clear whatever belly you have, THEN set the club behind the ball. It will look very close but you'll be surprised how solidly you will make contact.



  4. TRAJECTORY

    Primarily a function of the club, not the swing. While you can influence it to some degree you are better off trusting the club WILL launch the ball into the air successfully without any EXTRA help from you.   Your 'job' in the swing is to impart forward motion to the ball, along ground on the line you want to ball to go. NOTHING ELSE.

THE MENTAL SIDE OF THE GAME: THREE KEYS

  1. Decide where you want the ball to go and how you want it to act BEFORE you take your stance.

    If you do not EXPLICITY tell yourself where you want a shot to go and how you want it to act, either through visualization or self talk, your body will 'guess' and 'guess wrong' more often than not. This requires you to be brutally honest with yourself about what you CAN do and what you CAN'T do.   As the saying goes,"No one plans to fail, we fail to plan."   Effective decisive plans must be based on realistic thinking ... not wishful thinking.


  2. AVOID THE TWO MOST COMMON AMATEUR MISTAKES

    Jack Nicklaus he was asked what were the most common mistakes made by his amateur partners.

    1. Amateurs consistently UNDER CLUB themselves.
      * Divide the target area or green into three depths, then pick the club that will get you to the section BEHIND the target area ( that may mean off the back of the green for back pins but trust it ).

    2. Amateurs under-read the break in putts, particularly on fast greens.
      * Make your read then add 25-33% more break. If you 'see' 3 inches of break, play 4. If you see 12 inches of break, play 15-16.

  3. UNDERSTANDING 'Shot Success' and 'Shot Failure'

    While watching an instructor on the Golf Channel ( I believe it was Dean Reinmuth ), he commented on the reasons we 'miss' a golf shot and proposed it can be broken down into three causes:

    1. A 'FAILURE OF SKILL'. Trying to hit a shot shape/type that you can't physically pull off, have not practiced or are an over-estimation of your skills.
      * Be honest with yourself and know what you CAN do and what you CAN'T do.

    2. A 'FAILURE OF TECHNIQUE'. A flaw in swing mechanics.
      * This is can be overcome with competent instruction.

    3. A 'FAILURE OF TRUST'.
      * This is the GREATEST OBSTACLE TO SWING FLOW AND SHOT SUCCESS. It is the most common cause, by a huge majority, for a 'missed' shot. It is characterized by the 'last second' adjustment made in the moment before contact with the ball as we try to 'rescue' the shot by adding or doing something extra.... the lunge, the hand flip, popping up and out of the shot .... I am sure you're familiar with the feeling.

      In 2006 Dick Coop wrote an insightful article on this.



In the End Analysis:

Get setup correctly.
Focus on the back of the ball.
Stay balanced with a smooth tempo.
Trust your decision.

Can't get much simpler than that.

ONE FINAL OBSERVATION

The best players do not 'carry' the results of the last shot with them to the next shot. They may be unhappy with the shot, even mad at themselves, but they process it NOW. If you watch carefully you will see that by the third or fourth step away from where the last shot was taken they have left it behind, are relaxed and are focused on what needs to be done next.

Simply put, though it often isn't, execute the shot at hand, accept the consequences and move on.    You will be happier, less stressed, and have more fun than ever!    When joy, acceptance and relaxation are joined with golf, the results will surpass your wildest dreams!

Golf is there, waiting for anyone who wishes to test themselves, to master themselves, to strive for unachievable perfection and to revel in its infinite variation. (source unknown)



David Letterman's Top Ten Reasons Why Golf Is Better Than Sex

#10... A below par performance is considered damn good.
#9 ... You can stop in the middle and have a cheeseburger and a couple of beers.
#8 ... It's much easier to find the sweet spot.
#7 ... Foursomes are encouraged..
#6 ... You can still make money doing it as a senior.
#5 ... Three times a day is possible.
#4 ... Your partner doesn't hire a lawyer if you play with someone else.
#3 ... If you live in California, you can do it almost every day.
#2 ... You don't have to cuddle with your partner when you're finished.

And the NUMBER ONE reason why golf is better than sex.....

#1 ... When your equipment gets old you can replace it!