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Golf is not a game of consistent

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a small hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the task.” -Winston S. Churchill

In general terms, the golf club is covering perhaps a 30-degree arc, traveling at maybe 90 mph, attempting to hit a ball lying on the ground that is 1.68″ in diameter in less than two seconds. If that isn’t enough, we are expected to strike it with a golf club that is three-feet or longer, and we have to hit precisely in the middle of the face of that club, an area comprising maybe one square inch. To boot, we stand well above the ball, to the side of it and in a variety of lies and an even wider variety of weather conditions. In that light, Churchill’s comment seems pretty spot on.

And yet, the number one comment I have heard over my 35-plus years of teaching is: “I just want to be consistent.”

Now when we come right down to it, getting consistent results in golf is pretty much mission impossible.  Yes, there are degrees of consistent, but when the great Jack Nicklaus says that in his best days, he hit maybe three or four “perfect” shots in a round, where does that leave the rest of us?

Yet we still long for “consistency,” knowing full well that if the strike is just one inch (or less) from the center, the shot will go awry.  Or if the swing direction does not match the attack angle or the face does not complement the path, we hit some degree of a foul ball.  What is consistent is the sequence of motions, but not the strike of the golf ball.  During the .0004 seconds of impact a whole lot can, and usually does, go awry.

The bottom line is this:  Golf is not a game of consistent (results). and to expect it of ourselves is unfair, damaging to our learning process and our level of enjoyment.  Expect and accept the unexpected and you will not be disappointed.  We see the greatest players in the world every weekend hit foul balls.  Of course, they are more consistent than average golfers, but ask them how many times they execute the actual shot they are trying to hit, and you might be shocked by the answer.  The best we can say is that their bad shots, the shots that come off with less than desired results, are still very playable.  And therein lies the key: improving at golf for anyone is simply hitting “better bad shots” yet aware that a poor one will come sometimes.  Accept it, learn from it (the darkest hour is just before dawn) and play your next shot.

Anticipating  some unreasonable level of consistency is unrealistic at best, and down-right frustrating at worst.  The unknown is what makes our game so wonderful.  Heck, even really well-hit shots do not always have the desired outcome, let alone the misses.  For more perspective on it, consider that the best in the world miss five or six greens every round, and miss more putts than they make from eight feet! I have always loved the unexpected, the “where did that come from moment”…it is what gives golf its mystery, its lure, and above all the pure joy of excitement we all get when the occasional great shot does come off.

Golf cannot be won, only played” Bagger Vance told us, and so we keep playing.  So we keep trying to master a game no one will ever master, and we have our brief glimpses of brilliance followed by hours of mediocrity and inconsistency, and we accept the whole game, not just the success we have at it. Let the foul balls be a teacher, not a frustrator.  Learn to love mystique and the wonder of the game.  It is, after all, the greatest of games because of that magic.

The next time you hit a foul ball, don’t look away in disgust, and think, “that’s not me.” Instead, think “that’s golf, and I love it.”

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Feb 13, 2019 at 11:20 am

    once your swing path is the same you will be consistent like Moe Norman was and as long as Mike Austin was.
    Yes coming a how to

  2. hal

    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    As Tiger Woods said; Golf is a game of misses, he who has the smallest misses usually wins!!

    • Peter McGill

      Feb 12, 2019 at 6:45 am

      Good misses usually make for a good round.

  3. Juststeve

    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Dennis:

    I’ve read your previous posts with interest and usually find them spot on. With this one however I think you are way off target. You have conflated perfection, which is unattainable, with consistency which has been attained, to a greater or lesser degree, by every good player. Were it not for consistency we wouldn’t know how far our next 7 iron would fly. We do know because we have attained enough consistency to know at least roughly what to expect when we hit the club. Consistency is how we know that club to pull. I would venture to say that in almost ever case the better player is the one who hits the ball more consistently. When people come to-you looking for consistency they are looking fir the right thing, the thing that will make them better.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 11, 2019 at 11:27 am

      I agree. Better players are more consistent, almost by definition. But it’s still a game that the “out of nowhere”shot is never far away. I played some years ago with a very good player (I’ll not say name) who hit me in the back of the leg with a SHANK! He shot 67 that day! Thx for reading and the comment.

    • Mel

      Feb 11, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      I agree, Juststeve. In most cases (within the article) if “perfect” replaced “consistent” it would have been more helpful to me. And less incongruous too. The author/instructor mentions how few perfect shots touring pros hit while almost in the same breath admits they’re more consistent golfers than amateurs. We’ve all achieved some level of consistency and our time on the driving range, in my opinion anyway, is to increase that consistency and not necessarily to increase the number of perfect shots. Although we love those! Anyway, I won’t let this article dissuade me from trying to improve my consistency. To be fair, there were several helpful concepts which I appreciated.

  4. Mike Duranko - GolfToons

    Feb 11, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Fantastic. Thank you
    I do get inspiration watching the pro mistakes during tournaments, not to see them fail but for the encouragement. 1/2 the 8 footers are missed by pros!!!
    My game is not so bad.

  5. John

    Feb 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Best article I have read on here in a long time. Spot on. Thank you, Dennis.

  6. Nack Jicklaus

    Feb 9, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    If only I could remember this article next time I flail a tee ball over the trees and into the next fairway… Golf really is a lot more enjoyable when I don’t beat myself up over bad shots.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 9, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      And…it detracts from your ability to correct the foul balls.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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