A simple swing? But with all the moving parts involved, how could a golf swing be simple? How about the precise sequence of movements? How about the perfect timing required? How about E=mc squared? How about the centrifugal forces of physics involved? After all, didn’t physics major Bryson DeChambeau win seven times factoring in all that data? Yet, even with all those things considered, I am proposing that a golf swing can be both simple and effective, possible to learn by anyone of any age, race, gender, physical condition, or socio-economic status, and have an increasing chance at success depending on their motivation. And it may not require hours of “digging it out of the dirt” as Hogan advised. For when Mr. Hogan, an obsessive practicer, advised Byron Nelson, who didn’t practice much at all, that if he wanted to win more, he should practice more, Byron replied, via a mutual friend who relayed the advice, “Tell Ben I already know how to swing a golf club.”
That’s not to say you shouldn’t practice, but you may not need to pound out range balls until Hell freezes over and your back cries Uncle. For once you learn to swing simply and effectively, there may be no need to extend your practice session any further than a dozen balls or so (unless you really love to practice which some golfers, including myself, do love). Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, and Gene Sarazen may have stretched some before playing, but they rarely went to a practice range before a tournament, mainly because there weren’t any! In fact Hagen’s pre-round warmup likely consisted of screwing the cap off his whiskey flask!
To make a long blog short, the golf swing is principally a turning of the chest and hips away from the target on the backswing, and a turning of the chest and hips towards the target on the downswing. The old image of turning in a barrel, without touching the sides, is as relevant today as it was when I first learned the game in 1960. Sure, a number of other elements come into play, but if you understand and apply that basic fundamental, you’re off to an excellent start. The upper body, hips, and knees turn in a slightly different sequence but roughly at the same time. Don’t overthink it. Experiment.
My belief is that the upper body, aka the core, leads that sequence, which is the source of power and consistency in a golf swing. The arms, being directly connected to the core, follow its lead, with a straight lead arm measuring the swing and insuring it returns closely to the position at address at impact. The follow through should take care of itself after swinging freely through the ball. The core should be pointing in the direction of the target at the end of the swing. A lazy core/hip turn is a common fault for amateurs.
The pace will vary, and, as I’ve said before in this blog, should be adjusted so as to make sure you strike the sweet spot consistently. Don’t worry about distance. Modern clubs are designed to deliver it when the sweet spot is struck, as you hit the ball on the upswing with the driver, and down and through with irons and hybrids. Getting that core moving increases distance, and accuracy, for woods and irons.
That’s all you really need to know for this simple swing. The rest is trial and error around pace, rhythm, and timing. Any grip that unifies the hands will do, with a bit more pressure applied to the last three fingers of the top hand. Proper weight shift to the forward leg/foot on the downswing for irons should happen naturally with the turning of the core towards the target.
The goal is to hear that certain click at impact, and solid feel in your hands that tells you the sweet spot has been contacted and the ball is flying towards the target. Scoring is a whole other challenge that affects your goals. Distance is another challenge as well that comes with increasing pure contact of ball with club.
I played with two women the other day, both relative beginners, who struggled some with their games. But the smiles that came to their faces when they occasionally heard that magic click were great to see. That’s what brings players back to this game, and provides a great sense of joy and satisfaction. We made arrangements to meet again this week and continue to enjoy the game together.
My great-nephew Matthew, who attends the University of Pennsylvania, scored his first hole-in-one this week while playing with a friend in New York state. He baby-faded (yes, Matt knows how to do that!) a 6-iron at the 181 yard 16th at Sprain Lake Golf Course, heard it hit the stick, and saw it drop in the hole. Matt was a fine young golfer, often breaking 80, until he got interested in track and 175 lb. football. He left the game, but must have retained the feeling and sound of that magic click. Now, he’s back and as obsessed as ever with the game, as I once was at his age. Welcome back to golf, young man! And, of course, congratulations on your hole-in-one. But you’ve got work to do to top your old Unc Steve: He’s had three of those gems, one in front of your Grandpop!