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Your Golf Swing: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

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There is a general belief that swinging a golf club is like riding a bike; once you’ve got it, you’ve got it. The truth is that the swing is elusive, and while it might seem on occasion that you’ve found “the secret,” you can be assured it will disappear within a matter of time.

This is the vexing part of the game. As Gary Player once said, “The swing is a puzzle which will never be solved.”

Constant State of Change

The reality is that your golf swing is in a constant state of change, moving in one direction or another. The key to high-level performance is being aware that these changes occur and calmly accepting that they are both natural and inevitable.

And so, when it happens, you have to understand that you haven’t “lost” your swing, but what has been lost is the way in which your senses interpret the feeling of your swing. You must then redefine the feeling of your swing through practice, working toward discovering a parallel feel that produces the desired outcome. This process goes on forever.

A Change In Feel

The feeling of your swing changes because the chemistry of your body is constantly changing. These changes are so subtle that you are largely unaware that they are even occurring. But in the process, they are redefining the feel of your swing through the seven senses.

There is some debate as to the total number of human senses with the numbers ranging from five to 21. That said, the accepted number in most learned circles is a total of seven. They are touch, sight, sound, smell, taste, balance, and spacial awareness.

The role of the seven senses is to monitor the systems of your body in relationship to your immediate environment. The information that your senses gather is then integrated and sent through the central nervous system to the brain. The system then awaits orders as to how to proceed. The new information is then consolidated on a second-to-second basis, making whatever changes may be necessary given the state of the body at any one moment.

You might be wondering, “What would be required for there to be NO CHANGE in the way my swing feels?” The answer is that each of the seven senses would have to remain exactly the same for some period of time, which is an impossibility. The problem being that when even one of your senses change, it has the potential to change the way your entire swing feels.

Seven Lions, Seven Senses

You might picture a lion-tamer in the circus. He is alone with seven tigers in a cage, equipped with only a whip and a four-legged stool. There are seven pedestals lined up in a row, each one positioned next to the other. The lion-tamer’s goal is to have each one of the seven lions, at the same time, remain sitting on top of their designated pedestal.

The challenge is that the lions are not inclined to stay in one place for any period of time. They would rather pace around the ring than stay in any one spot. And so, just as the imaginary lion-tamer is a able to get the seven lions into position, one of them jumps off the pedestal and begins pacing back and forth.

And then just as the lion-tamer is able to direct that first lion back into position again, a second lion jumps down and starts pacing back and forth in the same manner as the first.

The Canary In The Coal Mine

The flight of the ball is the first to be affected by sensory changes in your swing, serving as “the canary in the coal mine.” Assuming solid contact, the ball’s flight is a direct reflection of your mechanics, and the degree in which they may have been altered by the seven senses. For example, you may have been hitting the ball straight, but then at some point the seven senses interceded, causing your swing to move in one direction or another. These changes can be plotted on a scale.

You might imagine a 12-inch ruler. The 1-inch point represents a hook with the 4-inch point representing a draw. At the opposite end of the ruler, the 12-inch point represents a slice with the 8-inch point representing a fade. A straight ball would lie in the middle at 6 inches. The challenge is keeping your ball flight within acceptable perimeters, understanding that your swing is not going to feel the same each day even though it may be identical.

Balancing Out The Swing

What does this mean if you’re competing? Assuming you’re an advanced player, your goal when practicing the full swing should be to constantly balance out your ball flight. This means when you practice, rather than trying to hit the perfect shot each time, you devote a portion of each session to working the ball in the opposite direction against your immediate tendency.

The reasoning is, of course, that if you have a sense of the two extremes that lie on either end of the spectrum, you are better equipped to find the middle. For example, assuming you fade the ball, you should practice hitting a few draws or hooks to balance out your swing. On the other hand, if you draw the ball, you should practice hitting a few fades or slices for the same purpose.

This type of practice is referred to as “bracketing,” which is far superior to “block practice,” an attempt to hit shots repetitively to a single target. The act of bracketing will increase your ability to “find” the central target as you become more familiar with the boundaries on each side. Sam Snead understood this principle at an intuitive level. During his career, he played left-to-right and right-to left depending on where his swing was on the scale. He would fade the ball until it became a slice, and then he would draw the ball until it became a hook. And then he would reverse the process. He did this throughout his entire career.

Mastery

At a higher level, when you have a physical grasp of these three feels, you can curve the ball simply through visualization because you have repeated the shot over and over again in practice. And when you have reached this point in your game, you are approaching a level of mastery that will allow you to challenge the golf course and play whatever shot is required in any given situation.

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As a teacher, Rod Lidenberg reached the pinnacle of his career when he was named to GOLF Magazine's "Top 100" Teachers in America. The PGA Master Professional and three-time Minnesota PGA "Teacher of the Year" has over his forty-five year career, worked with a variety of players from beginners to tour professionals. He especially enjoys training elite junior players, many who have gone on to earn scholarships at top colleges around the country, in addition to winning several national amateur championships. Lidenberg maintains an active schedule teaching at Bluff Creek Golf Course Chanhassen, Minnesota, in the summer and The Golf Zone, Chaska, Minnesota, in the winter months. As a player, he competed in two USGA Public Links Championships; the first in Dallas, Texas, and the second in Phoenix, Arizona, where he finished among the top 40. He also entertained thousands of fans playing in a series of three exhibition matches beginning in 1972, at his home course, Edgewood G.C. in Fargo, North Dakota, where he played consecutive years with Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino and Laura Baugh. As an author, he has a number of books in various stages of development, the first of which will be published this fall entitled "I Knew Patty Berg." In Fall 2017, he will be launching a new Phoenix-based instruction business that will feature first-time-ever TREATMENT OF THE YIPS.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Pedro

    Aug 30, 2017 at 7:09 am

    How come I can go from the 1 inch point to the 12 inch point in the space of two shots?

  2. Rano

    Aug 28, 2017 at 5:40 am

    Interesting. I guess this is why I was told to attempt hook shots in a lesson about my driver slice.

  3. cgasucks

    Aug 26, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    You don’t own your swing…you just rent it…

  4. Steve Wozeniak

    Aug 26, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    Love the picture of Snead…….

    He talked about feeling like the shaft was a gun sight going straight at the target through impact!!!

  5. Philip

    Aug 26, 2017 at 9:43 am

    Realizing this I’ve begun focusing more on what creates the results and controlling the input to the ball (club face at impact, path and knowing where the bottom of the swing arc is) – watching older videos of some majors I realize why it is said that pro’s create shots, as it is quite clear that they do not repeat swings in similar situations … they appear to go with what feels correct at that moment in time – doesn’t always work, but they commit to it. I’m currently working on bracketing my woods. Great article

  6. Marc Oreille

    Aug 26, 2017 at 3:13 am

    That is so true! excellent article!

  7. Dr. Freud

    Aug 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    Rod L:– “…the accepted number in most learned circles is a total of seven. They are touch, sight, sound, smell, taste, balance, and spacial[sic] awareness.”
    When my swing is grooved I can taste and smell it!
    (btw…it’s ‘spatial’ not ‘spacial’… you must have been phonics educated.)

  8. chinchbugs

    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Instant like just because it is the truest article title in the history of WRX…

  9. JEC

    Aug 25, 2017 at 11:41 am

    This is why chasing perfection in the golf swing instead learning to play golf holds so many back and ruins so swings.

  10. Scott

    Aug 25, 2017 at 10:52 am

    Thanks. That helps having an excuse for my inconsistent play. I love the idea of practicing working the ball more, especially when things feel out of sync.

  11. Paul

    Aug 25, 2017 at 8:20 am

    FORE!!!

  12. AceW7Iron

    Aug 25, 2017 at 8:05 am

    So THATS why I always feel like Im chasing my tail out there from round – round.

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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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