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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

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Instruction

Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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