Recently, one of my students said this to me:
“I have a friend who is a pretty good golfer and he said I shouldn’t lift my heel on the backswing. His daughter plays college golf, and her coach told her it’s a bad idea.”
This random tip-taking is the epitome of foolishness in golf instruction, and says more about the gullibility of the one taking the tip as it does about the one giving it.
Why? Because the advisor never saw the person swing!
This is something every teaching pro in the world has encountered at one time or another; well-meaning friends or family members pass on things they’ve heard in hopes it will help. It’s said that golf is the only game in the world with more teachers than players, and despite their good intentions, golf-tip givers generally do more harm than good.
Another frequent comment I get from my students: “I heard Johnny Miller say…” I’m always quick to ask: “Did Johnny Miller ever see your swing?
You’ve heard me say this before: A golf swing is an equation; it has to balance. By randomly tossing this and that into the mix, you may very well be upsetting the balance, and, in many cases, making things worse.
Furthermore, when you are trying something new, how can you be sure you are really accomplishing what you’ve set out to do? Answer: Without the aid of video or a trained eye, you cannot tell if you’ve changed anything at all.
I can’t begin to tell you how many golfers are shocked when they see themselves on video. “Is that me?” is a pretty common reaction. Or, “I’m still doing that?”
And I don’t mean just average golfers; some very accomplished players react the same way. You need to see the new attempt to be sure it is what you’re trying to do — if in fact what you’re trying is the right thing, of course.
Next, you also have to consider what I call “leftover behavior” in the downswing. Take a golfer who used to transition very steeply, for example. To make that move functional, the golfer raised the handle of the club into impact. This is certainly not optimal, but it may be somewhat functional. Now let’s say that golfer tries shallowing out the the transition and this one time the golfer actually accomplishes it. The handle-raise motion is so habitual, however, that it’s still there and with the new flatter arc coming down, voila… the golfer can’t find the bottom of the golf ball on a bet!
The golfer in this case might think the new move (if they have really made a “new” move) is totally wrong, but what really caused the problem is leftover behavior from the old swing.
Note: Your “old swing” is not old if you’re still making it.
The bottom line is that golfers need to consider a few things when incorporating a golf tip:
- Take advice from someone who is actually watching you hit balls, and who understands the whole dynamic. Did the person writing the magazine article ever see you swing? Does he/she know your tendencies and/or swing faults? If not, you’re on shaky ground at best with that advice.
- You need to see (video, for example) if you’re actually executing a new move.
- Finally, remember that there may be leftover behavior from your “old” swing causing some unwanted outcomes.
May I suggest a trained professional who sees the big picture, and not simply some isolated move or position you are “supposed” to be in. And believe me, this is not an ad for business; I’ve got more than I can handle!
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