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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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