Forget method teaching: Swing your swing
Over the course of the 50 years, 30 of which I’ve spent teaching golf, I have seen many methods come and go.
From “Square to Square” to “Stack and Tilt,” from Alex Morrison’s left-handed game to Tommy Armour’s right-handed, many people have advocated different ways of swinging the golf club.
I’m here to tell you this: If you follow or teach a method, you are doing a disservice to your game or to your students. As proof of this, I offer the World Golf Hall of Fame. Look at the swings of the great players enshrined there. I’m willing to bet none of them are the same. The ONLY thing they have in common is IMPACT — good, solid contact of golf ball and club.
Here’s a few examples:
- Should you stay centered over the golf ball with more weight remaining on the left side?
Curtis Strange, Walter Hagen, Hal Sutton and a slew of other great players don’t think so.
- Should the right elbow be pointed down or close to the right side in the backswing?
Jack Nicklaus and Miller Barber are just two examples of great players who never got anywhere near that position.
- Set up square to the target?
Paleeeese. Lee “Buck” Trevino and Fred Couples are 15 handicaps if we aspire to that “fundamental.”
- Left arm extended into impact?
Lee Westwood and Calvin Peete have made a nice living with a bent left arm into impact. Ed Furgol, 1954 U.S. Open Champion, had a permanently bent left arm and won the national Open.
- Neutral grip?
Don’t even go down that road.
- Turn you hips through the ball?
An entire generation known as the “Reverse C Gang” played pretty well with a lot of “slide” of the lower body, with added axis tilt into the golf ball.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. And this is not just at the Tour level. I have played in state opens and regional events with guys who had the funkiest moves you could imagine and who could break par regularly. And they had much more than a good short game.
John Jacobs said it best:
“The purpose of the golf swing is to apply the club correctly to the ball; the method employed is of no consequence as long as it can be repeated.”
I had four players in my school this weekend and gave every one a different type of lesson. The reason? One was ahead of the ball and over it, one was swayed way off the ball and under it and another was up and over with a super early release. The other was what I call “rocked flat, with a very shallow angle into impact.”
They all came to school with one purpose: to hit the ball better — not to get “prettier” or “stacked” or “lagged” or anything other than BETTER. Golfers have to square the face, get the attack angle right and get the golf club travelling in the direction of the target. Do those three things and you have a good swing. Period.
Can you get to good impact from your right side? Yes. Can you get to good impact from your left side? Yes. Can you get to good impact from 5 degrees inside out? Yes. Can you get to good impact from 7 degrees down? You bet your clubs you can.
But you need COMPATIBLE variations in your swing to get there.
- Seven degrees down needs some serious left aim or swing to COMPLEMENT that much down.
- High hands and a vertical backswing need some lateral hip motion to “drop the club in the slot” BEFORE they turn through the ball.
- Low hands, flat takeaway need an early and agressive turn- NOT slide” to deliver the club.
Do the math, pay attention to the impact and understand what YOU have to do get there. Method? If I taught every student the same thing, first I’d be bored out of my mind, and second, I would not have lasted 30 years in this craft. Every hour I get a different puzzle to solve. That’s what keep it alive and fun for me.
I have darn near every instruction book and video that was ever written or produced. And at night I sit in front of the computer and watch swings of my students and of the great players too. It does not take great insight to realize that there an infinite variety of way to swing and play.
One student left this weekend trying to stay as centered and on the ball as possible in his backswing; another left trying to get as far to his right side as he can. The goal of both is the same, but the pattern and swing thoughts to get there were as different as night and day.
How do I know this style works? I correct swings. Come see me for an hour. If you’re not hitting the ball better when you leave, the lesson is completely FREE. And I won’t give you a whole new swing to get there either.
“Swing YOUR swing,” as Mr. Palmer says.