Swing advice is not one size fits all

by   (Senior Writer I)   |   January 28, 2013
Jim Furyk

I have written a number of instructional articles over the years, and created quite a few “how-to” videos as well. I always enjoy sharing tips with my readers and students and I am grateful when a number of them respond that I have helped with their game.

But I am here to issue a word of caution: It is very difficult to learn the game of golf from a written word or even watching instructional videos. When doing so, you have to be very careful about how you internalize the information. When instructors write these tips, we are doing so very generically, to mass audiences who we have never seen swing the club. So it is incumbent upon the readers to know which tips apply to them and, conversely, which ones do not and can actually hurt their game. This is a fine line we walk and caution is the order of the day.

If you look in the World Golf Hall of Fame, you will see every kind of swing imaginable; flat, upright, long, short, quick, slow, etc. I can think of nothing that every single great player does or has done over the years. If a flying elbow is bad, Jack Nicklaus would not be the great champion he is. If a flat swing is bad, no one would have ever heard of Lee Trevino. If the club is to be swung slowly, Tom Watson would be still playing in Kansas City. This list could go on forever.

Every time I read or watch a suggestion for a position in which a player ”should be,” I can find some great golfer who is not in that position. We see many of the greats roll their arms through impact, supinating the left hand; yet Paul Azinger finished ”knuckles up.” Freddie takes it outside, Ray Floyd took it way inside. Even if we look at the modern players, those coming up in the Launch Monitor era with coaches, videos, Motion systems, etc., we still see a wide variety of methods employed; from Fowler’s flatness to DJ’s straight up style, there is no end to the differences! What do they have in common? They all square the club face at the right time.

If anyone saw Jim Furyk’s video and didn’t know it was Furyk, they would find fault and make any number of suggestions to correct it. Unless they looked very closely at the club at impact, a fan might think: “Why is he doing that?” But the trained eye thinks: “How did he do that?”

If we look at little closer at Furyk’s move, it’s a stroke of pure genius. I have had a lot of people say, “I hate that swing!” I’m always quick to point out that I would love to have that impact position consistently. The point is simple: It’s a series of moves — a sequence of motions that works. The strange movements in Furyk’s swing don’t matter. One move complements the other. It is a compatible variation!

When I see unique swings like Fuyrk’s I’m not looking at what he does wrong, only how did he match the disparate parts? I love that singularity and want to find out all I can about how he did it. When my students arrive on the lesson tee, they have an incompatible variation, and that’s why they are there. I have to make the parts match. But I need to see it live and in-person to do that completely. I am simply amazed when criticism is offered before the ball flight is known. My very first question to a student: “What is the ball doing?” That’s all that matters. When I am sent a video to analyze, I have to know something about shot patterns, or all I’m suggesting are classic positions. What good are those?

Learning from an article is fine if it is of the “If-this-then-that” nature. If you do this, then try doing that. That’s the way I teach, and I believe it’s the only way to develop a personal style that allows you the freedom to do what comes naturally. IF the swing is wide going back, it has to narrow coming down. If it goes outside going back, it has to loop back under coming down. And the reverse works as well. I personally think Sergio has one of the purest moves in the game. How he got there, only he and his father (his teacher) really know. And the look of it matters not one bit — all that matters is that the ball reacts as he wants it to. But again, if one were sent a video of his swing, comments like laid off, too much lag, hands too low and others might be the typical responses.

“Golf is what the ball does,” the great John Jacobs reminded us, and as an instructor, I let that be my first guide. Writing articles, as I do for this site, are very general suggestions. I remind students and readers that if you want to find your personal problem and get correction for it, see your instructor. He or she will work with what you have, and try to improve on it; at least I do. Look for the “if you do this” approach when sifting through the massive volume of material on the blogosphere about learning golf. And see your teacher to bounce your new findings off — It may keep you from going down a wrong path.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction and Academy” forum.

 

About

Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional, a distinction held by less than 1 percent of all PGA Professionals. He is recognized as one of the top instructors in the country, and holds no less than seven PGA awards including "Teacher of the Year" and "Golf Professional of the Year."

Dennis holds two degrees in education and has worked with golfers of all levels for over 30 years. A native of Philadelphia, Dennis currently directs the Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: April 2014, May 2014


7 Comments

  1. Mike Leether

    January 31, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Amen to that!, a couple years back I developed a bit of a “loopy” swing with an instructor as a way of counter acting some bad swing flaws I previously had. It has some Furyk-esque qualities. I broke par for the first time six weeks later. In the years since I’ve tried to hit some balls with a more “conventional” swing and it just doesn’t work for me. People constantly tell me how “weird” i look, until I beat them….

  2. Dennis Clark

    January 30, 2013 at 9:54 pm

    The reason I advocate live, 1 on 1 lessons is obvious I think. The instructor can manage your swing as he/she sees it unfold right in front of them “Your ball did this; that’s because you did that-feel the correlation.

  3. Troy Vayanos

    January 30, 2013 at 2:17 pm

    Great advice as always Dennis,

    You’re right, it is difficult to learn off written words no question. At the very least you need to see a video of a specific instruction being performed.

    Nothing beats a live golf lesson from a qualified instructor explaining the elements of the golf swing.

    Cheer

  4. Martin

    January 29, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    We are really getting spoiled by your good articles Dennis! Big Thanks!
    Your article got my thinking. I recently saw a video instruction by Jim Mclean where he tells us how good and reliable it is to hit a power fade with the driver, and informed us that Hogan, Lietzke and Nicklaus achieved great success with this shot and nowadays we can see how Tiger is working towards finding the power fade from the tee. BUT I have never met an instructor here in Sweden (and I think swedish teachers generally have good reputation) who has tried to teach me a fade as my basic swing. It also seems like most of the instruction in magazines or in books (for example the slot swing by Jim Mclean, Hardys the plane truth) encourages a in-square-in movement in the swing which ideally would result in a straight shot or maybe a slight draw. Why? If its easier to hit a fade, why dont the pros try to teach us this, maybe a lot of us recreational golfers would benefit from it? Or would it be to difficult for us to understand? When I am driving the ball bad from tee, I set up my body to the left, and the clubface at the target, and try to get the club out in front of me in the backswing and then from the top I basically just turn and the good result is a fade, and the less good result is a push that most of the time finds the right side of the fairway or maybe the light rough. I showed this shot to a coach ones and he just said he didnt like it, that it wasnt the way he wanted me to swing… Are the majority of the pros to obsessed with giving is a traditional swing with the right setup, right angles, correct plane etc.? Are they to obsessed with the perfect swing?

    • Dennis Clark

      January 30, 2013 at 9:47 pm

      well i think the draw has always been the coveted shot for amateurs. It usually goes futher because it is launched lower and runs out more; that is, comes in at a shallower landing angle. Fades can get high and short when the attack angle gets too steep.

      • Martin

        January 31, 2013 at 6:48 am

        ok, thank you Dennis. I see your point, and I like your arguments. You have to really know what you are doing to start fading with power and maybe it mixes up alignment, posture, backswing etc to much and makes the game even harder…and who wants that:)
        Thanks a lot!

  5. Matt Newby, PGA

    January 29, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Dennis,

    Very well said. Nowadays I find more of my students are over-informed rather than under-informed. While much of the information available is good information (of course not always) most people do not understand what should/should not apply to them specifically. I often use the analogy that a cast is very good for a broken leg, but if your leg isn’t broke a cast is probably only going to hurt your performance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>