Do You Want To Play Golf As A GAME Or As A SPORT?

mike trout top golfYou may think it’s an odd question, but it’s a question for the serious, want to learn a proper swing person to consider.

The reason I ask is because you can play golf with ANY type of golf swing, good, bad, horrific, and you can play it very well if you’re prepared to practice endlessly to develop a repeating move with all of the flaws contained in an “anything goes” swing.

Just look the professional golf tours – you have people swinging in ways that will eventually take them right out of the game with injuries and chronic pain issues due to that swing, but they’ll earn (some of them) millions of dollars before that happens.

Look at Tiger Woods – 2nd all-time in majors won and the most Tour wins ever (whatever Sam Snead’s number is, some of those wins were not real tournaments by today’s standards), who has played his entire career with a swing type (Modern, and you can lump every single type of swing he worked on with various instructors under this one umbrella) that slowly destroyed his back & knees.

Tiger Woods, if you think about it, has destroyed his body playing golf as a SPORT with a swing that should have been used to play golf as a GAME.

If you’re confused, don’t be, as it is likely many of you have never played competitive sports and have only really played golf, or haven’t played anything but golf in a long time.

In fact, speaking of athletes and sports, remember the big hubbub when Mike Trout achieved 180 mph ball speed at a Top Golf, and how he swung the club when he did:

mike trout golf swing

Even with the decades Modern Golf instruction as been around by now, how did Mr. Trout hit that ball?

With a Classic Golf Swing action, because Trout swings a baseball bat for a living and sure as Hades isn’t going to cripple himself doing it.

Was it a perfect swing? Of course not, he doesn’t play golf for a living, but if he did, he’d be hitting it even harder and faster with the same type of swing, only better – Classic.

You see, when it comes to sports, technique is King and ability is Crown Prince.  Combine the two, and you’re now an Emperor.

No matter how talented you are in running, jumping or throwing, you will never truly be the emperor of that sport without the requisite technique, because a so-so athlete with impeccable technique will sometimes and many times surpass a natural with poor training and technique discipline.

I know, because I did it my entire life. I did far better in some sports (basketball, track & field, etc) than I had any business doing with my particular athletic ability, because I obsessed about and trained technique.

The 100 metre race is pure sport.

Poker is a GAME.

Golf is actually both, as most sports combine the element of sport with game, but don’t let the success of someone with poor technique prove anything but that hard work & talent will take you a long way in a game even without the proper technique of motion that makes it also sport.

Put Tiger Woods in 1945 with the balls & equipment (and course conditions) that came in those days, and he’d still win.  Because he’d have been taught a golf swing of that era, the mechanically-sound Classic Golf Swing.

However, with his modern technique, take Tiger Woods back to 1945 and he might not even be a pro for more than a handful of years before he completely jacked his back & knees trying to keep up with players like Sam Snead or Jimmy Thomson who could drive and hit balata balls nearly as far as the longer players today, and with far inferior clubs.

The advantage Tiger Woods had over his competitors was that most of them were swinging the same way he does, which levelled the field and gave him as a hard-training athlete the edge.

And yet, even with his athletic advantage, he never matched Jack Nicklaus’ majors total and Classic Swing players in his era (Mickelson, Singh, Bubba) did very well for themselves (with far fewer injuries) against the modern swingers.

The point is, you can do very well in a game even with improper technique if you have enough talent, but when it becomes a sport, you will be at a distinct disadvantage with flawed technique.

If everyone runs backwards in a 100 metre race, someone’s going to win.  Put one runner in there who runs forward with proper technique, who do you think wins?

If they ever do get around to bifurcating golf equipment, I predict one thing only, that will be true if you check this post in later years, bet the farm on it:

The better swingers will once again rise to the top because if it takes greater effort to make a ball go a certain distance because of equipment and ball properties, a wide gulf will open up between a player who can generate 120 mph club speed with a heavier and stiffer club (like an early 90’s Big Bertha stainless steel driver) and spinnier ball and one who requires a thin, feather-light wand and a shoebox at the end of it while hitting a ProV.

Another prediction you can bank on would be a good deal more injuries to Modern swinging players, and at a younger age, trying to swing heavier or shorter-hitting clubs with this faulty technique.

When I did the interview on  Fred Greene’s Smarter Golf podcast, he remarked to me that he’s had better success swinging with restricted hip action than with a more Classic type action.

This is not impossible – if one doesn’t try to drive the ball 300 yards and can live with being a plunker (not to be construed as an insult, rather to describe the type you’ve seen who barely gets any speed off the tee, drives it 220 yards in the fairway and shoots in the 70’s or 80s without breaking a sweat) who gets whatever distances one gets with one’s swing, one can swing a golf club with just about any technique and play good golf (by their standards) and not injure oneself because they’re playing a game.

The minute one decides that they want to drive it and hit it as far and straight as they physically can however, one had better ask oneself if they want to play golf as a GAME or as a SPORT.

Because trying to treat golf as a sport with a game swing is going to lead to tears.

Bet on it.

If you think TW is happy about being on the edge of mandatory retirement due to physical issues caused by swinging a 13 oz club and not because he can’t play the game anymore, think again.

He’d do anything to still be winning majors.

Anything but learn a proper swing, apparently.  And that’s likely because he’s fallen for the canard that a Modern swing is superior to the Classic.

And don’t forget why the golf industry is still pushing the Modern Swing in its instruction and use of obedient analysts on TV – the Modern Swing is impossible to master, while the Classic is a very basic and easily taught sequence of mechanically-correct motions.

What would you want people trying to learn if you were a golf instructor charging $100/lesson or equipment seller counting on frustrated players to shell out $600 for a new driver every season?

If you know the answer, you’re ahead of the GAME.


12 thoughts on “Do You Want To Play Golf As A GAME Or As A SPORT?

  1. peterallenby2013

    Amen. Anyone now playing professionally utilizing a modern golf swing will likely NOT change their swing, or at least not willingly. After all, their talent and dedication got them to a place where finishing in the top 20 every week will get you a ticket to the Hall of Fame AND multiples of millions of f dollars in earnings and endorsements.

    It is a pact with the devil where injury will be the devil’s ally – ask Jason Day why he isn’t playing in the US Open. He did not qualify and why? Back injury. The statistical evidence backs up DJ’s point. The modern swing will, at some point, put the professional golfer on the IR.

    Who did Hogan say had the best golf swing ever? Mickey Wright. That woman was flat-out amazing. 90+ wins, majors galore, and the prettiest and most powerful swing..Classic! Thanks for all you do DJ!

    1. D Watts Post author

      It’s true Peter. They won’t change, “Look at what I’ve won so far…”

      What they don’t see is what they’ve lost or fallen short of with a faulty or problematic swing type. TW is the poster child of wild success that still falls short of his ultimate potential had he learned a mechanically sound swing. How many more majors & Tour wins would he have won from ‘08-‘20 if he’d not had the surgeries and time off or playing hurt?

      Jason Day? Same thing. Struck down by injuries in his prime, all due to the way he swings. A shame, really.

  2. Mark Cartner

    Love your concept in this post DJ.
    I had Tiger down for 26 majors, + or – , back in circa 2000. Then his body and personal life broke down. Hard to figure who left more majors on the table, Jack or Tigs?

    1. peterallenby2013

      For what it’s worth, I think Jack got more out of his swing potential than Tiger. Both Jack and Tiger possess an immense natural talent and the drive to apply that talent and win. Of that, there is no dispute. But Jack’s swing was a mechanically efficient marvel that allowed him to play without much injury for a long, long time. Tiger was clearly in the same class as Jack and together they rank in the very highest echelons of the sport for their mental strength and focus. If we put aside Tiger’s psychic demons (which he did with great success until the demons won), his swing mechanics worked for him until they broke his body. I suspect that Tiger subconsciously knew that he did not “own” his swing and this played a role in his never-ending search for a “new” swing, the “right” swing. And I also suspect that his inner unhappiness was at least in part, the reason for his constant search for “his” swing. Leaving the “old” swing may have been part of leaving all that made him unhappy in life, behind. As with anyone, we are a product of our parents and their imprinting of values and views. And like most all of us, Tiger clearly had some issues with his parents and more so his Dad. Perhaps his regular swing changes were a manifestation of his attempts to change his dynamic with his parents – My speculation…I will say that Tiger’s last major was pretty amazing. His body was held together with spit, twine, and titanium. And yet he summoned the physical necessities and for four days the mental armor needed to win and win gloriously. Both play and played this game with joy, love, success, and absolutely at a level few reach. What a joy to watch!

      1. D Watts Post author

        It borders on a sporting Shakespearean tragedy doesn’t it Peter?

        Hogan’s work ethic combined with Nicklaus’ mental edge & an athleticism that put him head & shoulders above his peers, not even sniffing Jack’s total.

        I agree with you that Jack probably got more out of his ability, however he eased off the gas for a decade when he could have scooped a bunch more, but as he said, he had no one to chase, majors weren’t as mythical as they are now treated, and he loved his fishing.

        Based on how he did much of what he did in his spare time, I’m hard pressed to say TW would have easily surpassed JN had Jack possessed the drive to keep winning majors.

    2. D Watts Post author

      That’s a great question, Mark.

      One might be tempted to say “Tiger no doubt,” but Jack spent more time fishing than playing or practicing, not to mention he had no targets or records to chase after he passed Bobby Jones’ majors total of 13.

      He even said he had no motivation to keep winning majors because at the time they didn’t have the mythical status they had when TW began to chase them.

      How many more could Good Time Jack have won with a fire in his belly?

      We’ll never know but mid-20s for both doesn’t seem a stretch.

  3. Mark Cartner

    I agree DJ. I think both could’ve been at least mid 20s. Tiger needed a better swing and private life. Jack just needed to want it more–although without changing his work ethic or desire he easily would’ve gotten there with just a handful of shots going the other way. Off the top of my head I don’t know how many majors he lost by a shot or in playoffs, but it had to have been half a dozen. And that doesn’t factor the gazillion other top 3 finishes he had. Tiger tended to win or be back in field and out of serious contention.

    And Peter I agree that Tiger had some issues with his parents that sent him down the path he chose. Earl and Kultida built a machines that eventually broke down. Jack’s mom and dad molded a pretty well-rounded man who always seemed at peace with himself.

    1. D Watts Post author

      You’ve just reminded me of a stat that I neglected to mention, Mark – along with 18 major wins, Jack Nicklaus garnered 19 runner-up finishes in majors.

      18 & 19

      37 top-2 finishes in majors.

      Compare Tiger Woods, 15-6

      21 top-2 finishes in majors.

      Jack could have won 25 if motivated, I’m positive. Perhaps more.

    2. peterallenby2013

      Nicklaus had nineteen second-place finishes in majors….amazing…he played in 164 majors in his career…Finished first or second 22.5 % of the time in majors..!!

        1. peterallenby2013

          great minds…But THE record that I hold in highest revere: Consecutive wins on Tour..Byron Nelson…11…Would you break down Nelson’s swing, please?!

          1. D Watts Post author

            I’ll see what I can do, PA – caveat however that I did this years ago on one of my previous blog iterations.

            It will very likely & suspiciously read like an MCS swing tutorial 😉

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