Read an Excerpt
"How did you hit the ball today?"
That's one of the most common questions you'll hear golfers ask one another after a day of play. But it's also one of the most misguided for anybody who wants to execute a great swing.
In baseball or tennis, where the ball is moving often very fast your object is to "hit the ball." In both of these sports there's a lot of emphasis on proper hand-eye coordination.
But in golf, where the ball is stationary, trying to "hit the ball" is the underlying cause of many a faulty golf swing. In golf, your object should be to move your club and body through space in a consistent, repeatable way. If you can learn to do that while holding a club, you'll be able to move a golf ball around the course with power and precision.
But it all starts with swing motion with how your body moves through space, even when you are not holding a club. It's much more like dancing than like baseball or tennis, which explains one of the joys of mastering golf. It's a sport that really involves your entire body in a coordinated effort, combining grace and power.
The key factor for a correct swing is developing a feel for how yourentire body moves from the beginning, through an intermediate point, to the end of the swing.
Of course all those pieces are involved, and indeed lots of golf instruction teaches you how to move one of them separately, thenanother, then another. But the piecemeal approach actually works against what you ultimately must learn and feel: having all the parts working effortlessly together. I've found that it's actually easier for students to get all their body parts movingtogether right from the start than to learn how to integrate them later.
To develop that feel, try the Swing Motion drill:
1. Stand tall.
2. Simply turn your body and shift your weight.
3. Next, bend forward from the hips into more of a golf posture, and make the same motion.
4. Finally, repeat the same motion with a golf club and ball.
You may be surprised how natural and graceful your swing suddenly feels! Especially at the onset, the simple act of feeling the general Swing Motion is the singularly most important element, the cornerstone of your development.
As time passes, you will share my conviction that the Swing Motion is the "lifeblood" of your swing. Its benefits include:
A clear perspective. Knowing how your body moves and "swings the club" puts you way ahead of those trying to "hit the ball." You are seeing the big picture before focusing on any individual element. Even if you are an experienced player, this powerful exercise can help you override an inefficient swing motion.
A conditioned move. Your top priority is developing a conditioned and consistent movement that takes the club through space. When you've repeated this exercise a few hundred times, as your muscle memory increases, your swing will begin to assume its ideal shape. You may also try this exercise with your eyes closed. When you eliminate the visual component, you experience a heightened physical sensation and further develop your "proprioceptive" abilities.
Power. The Swing Motion exercise engages the larger, stronger core muscles, thereby generating the most powerful and efficient motion. Athletic posture, pivot, and rotation become the blueprint for all powerful athletic motions. By learning these positions, you will automatically rotate your body and shift your weight. Rotation and weight shift underlie the biomechanics of many sports, including tennis, skiing, baseball, and basketball.
I recently brought this point up with Jay Feely, place kicker for the New York Giants, and perhaps the best golfer in the NFL (a scratch player "in season"). He told me emphatically that the mechanics of his golf swing and kicking motion have fundamental similarities. As you progress through this book, you may start to recognize this truth and apply what you have learned in other sports you play.
YOUR UNIQUE SWING
How should my swing look? Should I model it after the swing of a tour pro whose physique is similar to mine?
The look of your swing will be determined by your individual physical traits: your body's geometry, proportions, flexibility, and muscularity. Each person has an individual swing. Thus each person has his or her unique swing look. What you want to developis an effective swing, not a swing look.
The Swing Motion exercise builds your individual swing without forcing you into a mold. It allows for the natural variation across bodies, since no two people are exactly alike. It requires the right mechanics, but is not a straitjacket. Allow your unique swing to take shape within the framework of sound fundamentals. While a particular tour professional's swing may appeal to you aesthetically, it may relate only remotely to your physicality.
In Clifford Odets's play Awake and Sing, the character Jake, a barber, has the right idea. Complimented on his craft, he responds, "Not one haircut for all...I make the haircut to fit the face."
Likewise, your unique swing will reflect your individuality.
Taking It on the Golf Course: Trusting the Swing
Whether you are a beginner facing your first round or an improving experienced golfer, you should always visualize the motion and keep it in the forefront of your mind. When playing, it is easy to get nervous and go back to your comfort zone, even if it means returningto bad habits. Once the ball and target is before you, you will beinclined to "direct the ball" instead of trusting your new, repeatable full-bodied swing. You must learn to distinguish between conscious execution (directing the ball) and involuntary response (trusting your body). Building that trust is a day-to-day process.
A trick that seems to work very well, particularly for those blessed with a vivid imagination, is to invert reality. On your practice swing, imagine the ball is actually there. On your actual swing, imagine the ball is not there and just swing through as you did on your practice swing.
Andrew Arkin, a golf student of mine turned friend and mentor in life, put this idea in beautiful perspective. After a morning's tuition on the practice range, we were ready to tee off on the first hole at Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, New York, when he leaned over and said quietly, "Roberto, the number for today is twenty-five." "Twenty-five?" I asked him. "That's right twenty-five good swings. I'm playing for swing today, not score!"
On the fifteenth hole, Andrew hit a brilliant shot from an impossibly deep bunker that hit the pin and stopped inches from the hole. Not hesitating, he said, "Well, I reached my quota." By the time we holed out on the eighteenth, Andrew had surpassed his quota by five.
I suggest you try this so that soon your actual swings will be as good as or better than your practice swings!
Copyright © 2007 by Roberto Borgatti