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50 Years of Golfing Wisdom
By John Jacobs
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 John Jacobs
All right reserved.
Understanding Golf's Fundamentals
On reading golf
One reason, I have always thought, why golf can become such a difficult game is simply because there are so many different ways of playing it correctly; and that one secret, for any golfer striving to improve, is to decide first which is his or her own correct way. It is my sincere hope that this book will help any reader to do just that.
The correct way, I'm firmly convinced, is invariably the simplest. What may prove simple to one, though, may not necessarily be simple to another. One of the difficulties in studying golf in books lies in learning to select from other people's experiences, ideas and theories, and adapt them to your own personal needs. I think I have found truth in almost every book or article I have read on golf! Yet, in spite of that fact, there is often one thing or another in any particular book which, read by the wrong person, could cause a real setback in his or her game.
As an illustration of this I remember two ladies, both good performers around 8-handicap, who arrived for tuition. Both were accustomed to playing together. One lady hooked her shots, the other sliced. Here were two ladies with faults that I must tell each other to copy! I wanted each to try to do precisely what was wrong in the other! In other words, my instruction was of a completelycontradictory nature.
It had to go even further than that, though. Needing contrasting advice, it followed that since they were both avid readers on golf, they also needed different advice on what to read. I told Lady No. 1 with her too-flat swing and hook, to read Byron Nelson's book, because he was an upright swinger; and Lady No.2, with her too-upright swing and slice, to read Ben Hogan's, because he was a rounded swinger. This was 50 years ago, of course. Today, I might replace these two role models with, say, Colin Montgomerie (upright) and Ian Woosnam (rounded).
The point I'm trying to make is that it is as well to appreciate what we are doing wrong before we seek remedies by reading, from no matter how impeccable a source. The golfing public has been saturated with golf books, most of which have been very good, in many ways. I feel, however, that the titles have been wrong. Most of them should have been called How I Play Golf--and how the writer of each book plays golf may not be the easiest way to teach each of his readers.
I sincerely hope that this book will make it easier for you to decide which is your own best way of playing. As with every lesson I've given, I hope to teach people not just to hit the ball better but to understand why they're hitting it better.
Swing, or move from position to position?
Should you really swing the club? Or should you merely move through a series of contrived postures, a pattern of carefully thought-out conscious movements, a set of deliberate muscle contortions? The question may seem silly but it is of prime importance, especially if you are new to the game or have never achieved the golfing prowess of which you feel yourself potentially capable.
A Rolls Royce without an engine might look impressive, but it's never going to get out of the garage. In exactly the same way, a golf swing without an engine, however beautifully contoured each part might be, is never going to move the ball very far out of your shadow. To do that, your swing, whatever else it lacks, must have power, motivation. It must be a swing. In the simplest of golfing terms, you must 'hit the ball'.
Am I stating the obvious? I think not. Most of the great golfers up to the early 1960s learned the game as caddies. They watched the people they carried for and tried to copy those who played well. They were copying an action, a fluid movement. It would never have occurred to them, even if they had known how, to break the swing down into parts and study it segment by segment in static form. Golf was action, and was learned as such.
Now the camera plays an increasingly large part in the exploration of golf technique, with the result that today a great many people tend to learn golf as a 'static' game rather than as a game of movement. Instead of watching good players in the flesh, and trying to emulate the action of a good golf swing, they study static pictures and try to copy the positions in which the camera has frozen the players. They are learning positions which, in themselves, without the essential motivating force of swinging, are almost useless.
This does not mean to say that the very excellent action photographs published in golf magazines and books are of no value in learning the game. But undoubtedly the biggest danger in static golf, in learning from still pictures, is that body action becomes overemphasized. Photographs cannot show motion, but they show very well how the body changes position during the golf swing. It is these positional impressions that the beginner and the poor golfer is apt to copy and frequently overdo.
Body action is important in golf, but is complementary to the swinging of the clubhead, not the dominating factor of the swing. The body movement must be in sympathy with the clubhead as controlled by the hands, not try to take over from the clubhead as the function of striking the ball. For the club to swing down and forward at over 100 mph, the arms must swing. Arm and hand action also promote feel, and this too can only be learned by swinging.
Excerpted from 50 Years of Golfing Wisdom by John Jacobs Copyright © 2006 by John Jacobs. Excerpted by permission.
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