We have now established the parameters that we stay within…a starting position and a finishing position. Connecting these two moments of space and time requires some organization, understanding of physics, logic, a keen proprioceptive sense… and, of course, is done through a loading motion and an unloading motion. During my 50 years in the game, I have heard of and tried many ways and methods of moving the club through the load and unload to achieve my desired result. Many were too naively simple while other were too outlandishly complicated. Some ideas worked better than others, some ideas latest longer than others, some just didn’t work at all…and a few of them lead to career ending injuries.
As a competitive player, sometimes, I just wanted to be able to get the ball in play on that particular shot and at that particular time…and would do just about anything to make that happen. But almost all of the time, I wanted to know the truth, the holistic reality of how to motivate the club to repeat the movement 100% of the time. Could it be done? There sure were a bunch of guys that consistently beat me, but each of them had his own issues with making the ball go as he wished.
Snead, Palmer, Player, Nicklaus and Woods certainly played the game fantastically well, but there were still lots of errant shots.
Hogan’s Ball Striking
I knew that Hogan had mastered ball striking to the highest degree that any human being had ever accomplished. I had seen his mastery with my own eyes. He must know…right? I read and embraced the Five Lessons. I did exactly what he said to do. I practiced and evaluated and assessed. I improved at first, but then the improvement stopped. But, I was doing everything he said to do. How can that be?
I must be misunderstanding something…back to work…must dig deeper, try harder.
Finally, I had to come to the conclusion that all of the answers were not in that book. In fact, every teacher I had taken lessons from, every player that I had talked to and every book that I had read had gaps in their methods and theories. Each just explained away my or your lack of execution by saying it just takes talent or you have to concentrate harder or that it is unknowable so stop trying to figure it out anyway. I wondered deeply, did anybody really know what was going on and could explain the hows, whys and whens of it? Was there a way to have perfect repetition of the swing motion, could it be understood? It didn’t matter that a human being might not be able to repeat it perfectly because of his own humanity, but if the man was perfect, then could it be done?
My Mind Becomes Clear at Casa de Campo
In 1989, I was teaching at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic. It was a good gig. During the busy periods, I would teach half hour and one hour lessons to a wide range of students from 7 am to 7 pm for 40 straight days. A good player that was working at the facility noticed my passion and efforts. He knew my background and we became friendly. He gave me a book by the most accomplished Canadian player of all time, George Knudson. His book, The Natural Golf Swing, changed my life. It filled in every gap of understanding that I had been struggling with in the golf swing. It utilized physics, through the laws of motion, to explain repetition, consistency and power. It explained naturalness through biomechanics and physiology. It lead me down a road of discovery that was no longer circuitous, but mostly straight and easily defined. George had even filmed a video tape to show his expression of what the words meant. I absolutely loved it. I had worked it out in my mind. I had done the thought experiments. Perfection was achievable. What a relief!
George Knudson was not a super athlete like Hogan, Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus and Woods. He was an above average athlete with a keen mind, a great desire to understand his craft and had the advantage to know and learn from the greatest ball striker of all time. But the game doesn’t give up its secrets easily.
He hit the balls. He did the work. He wanted to know.
He wanted to know the perfection of it. His thoughts, concepts and theories have become critical to the holistic understanding of the swing motion. He became one of the top five ball strikers of all time. In his prime, he stated that he had his long game on track 99% of the time…an astounding statement. (No one is even close to doing that today!) His athletic talent level should not have indicated his ascension to the top. He has given hope to anyone who would work for a highly accomplished game. Perfection was attainable. His contributions to golf and the understanding of the swing motion have been monumental.
Along with my own study, experiences and work, Knudson’s concepts allowed me to fill in all the black areas…all the gaps in the swing that used to confuse me. Yes, even as a top 25 player in the world, there was still confusion and insecurity. It allowed for a complete understanding of what happened at every moment in time and space for absolutely perfect repetitions of a swing motion.
Here Are the 10 Main Ideas That Brought It All Together:
- There are two pivot points in the golf swing. The head is not one of them. The head has no purpose in the swing motion. It does not stay still. In fact, the idea of keeping your head still is the number one worst piece of advice in the history of the game. This very popular idea, even espoused by some of the greatest players who ever played the game, guarantees that a golfer will never, can never optimize his talents.
- Balance is the key. You must never do anything that compromises balance. I later added beat…the beat of the swing. Any naturalness and mechanical soundness in the swing is only possible by that individual player expressing it within his own idiosyncratic beat or rhythm of the swing motion.
- You must have a working knowledge of 11th grade Physics. Centrifugal force and inertia are the key forces in the swing motion for repetition, consistency and power. These laws of motion are there for you to take advantage of 100% of the time.
- You must have a working knowledge of Biomechanics and Physiology. Agonistic and antagonistic muscles work together to naturally allow muscles that have been stretched to contract and muscles that have been contracted to stretch back from where they came. There is an appropriate muscle tone that allows for this to happen involuntarily.
- You must have a working knowledge of Neuroplasticity. Activity and thought produce neuron trees of growth inside the brain. The more these thoughts or activities are repeated the more those particular neuro and neuromuscular pathways are reinforced, grow and get stronger. Additionally, new repetitively used pathways can diminish and in effect negate other previously used pathways.
- Learning is an art. You must be a great learner, evaluator and assessor to master anything. You must be willing to take the time and effort to master a set of basic skills or fundamentals. To master anything you must become, for a significant period of time, an apprentice to that particular endeavor.
- Key concepts to bathe all of your efforts and thoughts are: let physics win, have an attitude of noninterference, encourage an uninterrupted flow, give up control to gain control. The golf swing motion is a physical pleasure.
- The body is the engine. The inside controls the outside. The movement of the shoulder sockets, arms, hands and club is motivated by the movement of the body. It is not a golf swing, but a swing motion.\
- The most basic voluntary swing thoughts, i.e.…the things that you make happen are: Rotate to load, transfer your body weight to the finishing position to unload.
- The unloading motion can be no better than the loading motion, which can be no better than the starting position, which is dictated by the quality of your grip. All things in the swing are interrelated.
To be sure, there are many ways to play good golf, and occasionally, even play great golf with a variety of methods and use of concepts. But, there ends up being only one way to optimize your talents and gifts for long lasting proficiency in ball striking. This is what I have spent my life pursuing. This is what I offer anyone who wishes to know and learn.
Embrace these thoughts and incorporate them into your game. Next time we’ll discuss the loading motion in detail. May all your swings be free!