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.
As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.
TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?
Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”
Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
For more info on the topics, check out the links below.
- Rory’s putter: www.golfwrx.com/503976/rory-mcilr…rmade-soto-proto/
- Tiger’s driver: www.golfwrx.com/503940/tiger-wood…irms-notah-begay/
- LA Golf Shafts: www.golfwrx.com/503818/la-golf-pa…s-la-golf-shafts/
Book Review: The Life and Times of Donald Ross
The Life and Times of Donald Ross is a successful golf history, in that it holds one’s attention, regardless of one’s level of enthusiasm or interest for the subject. It can hardly avoid doing so, as it traces the life of a man who lived through both world wars, emigrated from the old country to the new, and championed a sport that grew from infancy to maturity in the USA, during his earthly run. The loss of two wives to uncontrollable circumstances, the raising of a child essentially on his own, and the commitment to the growth of golf as an industry add to the complexity of the life of Donald J. Ross Jr. Within the cover of this tome, through words and images, the life and times of the man are communicated in fine fashion.
The book was published in 2016, by Chris Buie of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Buie is not a professional writer in the traditional sense. He does not solicit contracts for books, but instead, writes from a place of passion and enthusiasm. This is not to say that he is not a writer of professional quality. Instead, it isolates him among those who turn out high-level prose, scholarly research, with attention-holding results.
Before I opened the book, it was the cover that held my attention for much longer than a single, fleeting moment. The solitary figure, staring out across the ocean. Was he gazing toward the Americas, or toward his birthplace, in Scotland? And that blend of blue shades, like something out of Picasso’s 1901-1904 period of monochromatic azures, proved to be equal parts calming and evocative. Those years, by the way, correlate with the 29th to the 32nd years of Ross’ life. During that period, Ross lost a brother (John) to injuries suffered in the Boer War, and married his first wife, Janet. With care like that for the cover art, what marvelous research awaited within the binding?
After a number of readings, I’m uncertain as to the greater value of the words or the pictures. Perhaps it’s the codependency of one on the other that leads to the success of the effort. The book is the culmination of 5 months of exhaustive research, followed by 7 months of intense writing, on Buie’s part. The author made up his mind to match as many images as possible with his descriptors, so as to create both visual and lexical collections to stand time’s test. Maps, paintings, photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, etchings and course routes were collected and reproduced within the covers. Throughout the process, so much of Ross’s life and craft, previously unrecognized in publication, were revealed to Buie. Ross’s ability to make the unnatural look natural when necessary, is hardly equaled in the annals of golf course architecture. According to Buie,
Growing up all I’d heard was natural. Certainly he incorporated as much of the existing terrain and environment as possible. But given how much other work went into the courses, it would be more accurate to say his courses were naturalistic.
Buie also scrapes away at the misplaced notion that Ross was a one-dimensional golf course architect. After all, what else did Shakespeare do besides write plays and sonnets? Well, Ross did so much more, in addition to building some of the world’s great member and tournament golf courses, shaping the Pinehurst Resort experience, and running an in-town hotel in the process. Again, Buie comments,
His greatest contribution was the role he played in the overall establishment of the game in the United States. He was involved in every aspect (caddymaster, greenkeeper, teacher, player, mentor, tournaments, clubmaking, management, etc). The theme that went through his efforts was that he was adamant all be done “the right way”. Given the breadth and enduring nature of his efforts I don’t think anyone else did more to establish the game in America. That makes him the “Grand Old Man of the American Game” – not just a prolific architect.
What was it about Ross, that separated him from the many compatriots who journeyed from Scotland to the USA? They were content to compete and run golf clubs, but Ross sought so much more. His early years involved much successful competition, including top-10 finishes in the US Open. He was also a competent instructor, manifested in the ability of his students to learn both the swing and its competitive execution. And yet, Pinehurst is so different from any other place in the Americas. And so much of what it is, is due to the influence of Donald Ross.
In a nod to the accepted round of golf across the planet, the book contains 18 chapters, including the appendices. At locomotive pace, the mode of transportation utilized by Ross to traverse the lower 48 of the USA and Canada, the reader gathers a proper awareness of the great man’s living arc. Beginning with the hike from the train station in Boston to the Oakley Country Club, the emigration of the Scotsman from the highlands of Caledonia to the next hemisphere was a fairly simple affair, with unexpected, poignant, and far-reaching consequences. Donald J. Ross, jr., would complete the shaping of american golf that was assisted (but never controlled) by architectural peers. Men like Walter Travis, Albert Tillinghast, Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Tom Bendelow would build courses of eternal worth, but none would shape in the far-reaching manner of Ross.
It’s tempting to make a larger portion of this story about Buie, but he wouldn’t have it so. A Pinehurst native, Buie’s blend of reverence and understanding of his home region are evident and undeniable. One almost thinks that a similar history might have been written about any number of characters charged with the stewardship of the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Fortunately for aficionados of golf and its course architecture, Buie is a golfer, and so we have this tome.
Donald J. Ross, jr. was a man of principle, a man of faith, a man of belief. When those beliefs came into conflict with each other, which they seldom did, he had an instinct for elevating one over the other. No other place is this more evident that in his routing of the Sagamore course in Lake George, in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. Faced with the conundrum of how to begin the course, his daughter remembers the sage words of the father. Despite contradicting his belief that a course should never begin in the direction of the rising sun, Ross commented I can’t start it anywhere but looking out at that lake and those mountains. Indeed, Sagamore would be a poorer place for an alternate opening, and this review would have less of a way to reach its end.
My recommendation: read the book.
Kingston Heath: The Hype is Real
We touched ground late in the afternoon at Melbourne Airport and checked in very, very late at hotel Grand Hyatt. Don’t ask about our driving and navigating skills. It shouldn’t have taken us as long as we did. Even with GPS we failed miserably, but our dear friend had been so kind to arrange a room with a magnificent view on the 32nd floor for us.
The skyline in Melbourne was amazing, and what a vibrant, multicultural city Melbourne turned out to be when we later visited the streets to catch a late dinner. The next morning, we headed out to one of the finest golf courses that you can find Down Under: Kingston Heath. We had heard so many great things about this course, and to be honest we were a bit worried it almost was too hyped up. Luckily, there were no disappointments.
Here’s the thing about Kingston Heath. You’re driving in the middle of a suburb in Melbourne and then suddenly you see the sign, “Kingston Heath.” Very shortly after the turn, you’re at the club. This is very different than the other golf courses we’ve visited on this trip Down Under, where we’ve had to drive for several miles to get from the front gates to the club house.
Nevertheless, this course and its wonderful turf danced in front of us from the very first minute of our arrival. With a perfect sunrise and a very picture friendly magic morning mist, we walked out on the course and captured a few photos. Well, hundreds to be honest. The shapes and details are so pure and well defined.
Kingston Heath was designed by Dan Soutar back in 1925 with help and guidance from the legendary golf architect Dr. Alister MacKenzie, who added to its excellent bunkering system. Dr. MacKenzie’s only design suggestion was to change Soutar’s 15th hole from a 222-yard par-4 (with a blind tee shot) to a par-3. Today, this hole is considered to be one the best par-3 holes Down Under, and I can understand why.
I am normally not a big fan of flat courses, but I will make a rare exception for Kingston Heath. It’s a course that’s both fun and puts your strategic skills to a serious test. Our experience is that you need to plan your shots carefully, and never forget to stay out of its deep bunkers. They’re not easy.
Kingston Heath is not super long in distance, but it will still give you a tough test. You definitely need to be straight to earn a good score. If you are in Melbourne, this is the golf course I would recommend above all others.
Next up: Metropolitan. Stay tuned!
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