There is of course no limit to the number of different ways in which people swing a golf club – I would never say that there is only “one swing model,” because you see people playing golf and winning millions of dollars with varying degrees of difference in their swings.
You’ll recall some of you the posting I wrote from last December about how one can play golf as a game or as a sport, and this is the point I’m making about the golf swing and modeling.
You can play golf with any type of golf swing, you can play great golf with any type of golf swing – but if there is an optimal golf swing motion, you can hardly play worse with this motion than you would have with any other type of swing.
Let’s look at Jack Nicklaus – one might say, “well, if Jack’s swing was so close to optimal, why didn’t he win every time he teed it up?”
The answer to that would be, the game of golf involves more than just a swing action, but if one wants to get picky about it, I would answer, “Well, he may not have won every time he teed it up, but he’s No. 3 on the all-time Tour wins list and not only did he win the most majors ever (18 to runner-up Tiger’s 15 wins), he finished – get this – in the Top 2 in majors an astounding 37 times.”
37 Top 2 major finishes, with 18 wins and 19 runner-ups.
And that was when he had no one to chase after passing Bobby Jones’ total of 13 and really, was a part-time player on the Tour after the 1960s.
He’d much rather have gone fishing, so imagine his wins and majors total if he’d had Tiger Woods’ or Ben Hogan’s obsession with winning.
Jack’s Real Love
And here is where things get strange in the world of golf, as I’ve been involved in athletic pursuits virtually since the age of 6 – every other sport or game that involves some form of physical action, from bowling to horseshoes, has what is termed “proper form,” let’s just call it what it is, “optimal technique.”
You won’t find another sport where technique is not only not discussed obsessively but where unorthodox technique is not criticized and only really (grudgingly) accepted if it produces amazing results – and even then, it’ll be a matter of “well, it seems to work for him!” with a rueful laugh and shrug.
Even then, you won’t find anyone recommending that unorthodox technique because the whole name of the game is to develop and refine one’s technique until it is as close to perfect as one can get.
There is only one Jim Furyk – and I bet there are hundreds of thousands of golfers who insist that their own funky technique is OK because of Jim Furyk – and who will never win a golf tournament, not even their club championship, because of that technique.
There is a saying in golf that “the only thing that really matters in the swing is how the club face meets the ball, and nothing else matters.”
That is of course true, but tell me who is more likely to deliver the club face to the ball best and most consistently, someone swinging with excellent to optimal technique or one who struggles to groove their swing day after day because they have decided that technique doesn’t matter?
We all know the answer to that.
So, if you think that golf swing technique either doesn’t matter or that humans are built so differently that you can’t have a standard model, then I have to say that either:
- you have only ever played golf and haven’t experienced other sports,
- you gave up on building a mechanically-sound golf swing because you couldn’t figure it out,
- the same reason as the 2nd but because no one could teach you that proper swing even if you’d wanted it,
- you insist on not changing certain things that feel comfortable to you, such as your grip, or where you place your ball in relation to your feet, or stance width or posture, and therefore declare that “there’s no one swing,” or
- you’ve been told this and simply have accepted it, either by other golfers or clueless/cynical instructors who enjoy your need for weekly lessons while never improving.
How do I know that?
Because I am not built like anyone else, either – I have short legs and fingers, a long torso, I have a severe spinal deformity (scoliosis), I am a left-handed person who plays sports right-handed, and I have a bad left S.I. joint which makes it painful to walk or play sports without a supportive belt now, at my stage in life.
And with all of that, isn’t it interesting that I share no physical traits with Jack Nicklaus (he is much shorter and stockier built than I am, or at least he was before I discovered beer), and yet the closer I get to what I say is optimal, the closer my setup gets to his (in the face-on, Jack has a wider stance but I’ve narrowed it to show how he’d have been virtually optimal in setup, because we are talking optimal):
Both face-on and down the line:
If you object to my narrowing 1963 Jack’s stance and wish to accuse me of manipulating, then just look at Jack’s setup in his book “Golf My Way” where his stance width is optimal, but now he has a stronger grip than optimal:
Now, Jack’s and my setups and swings will never look exactly the same due to our physical differences and because Jack never actually got around to optimal, which is where I’m trying to go – but the setups look so close one to the other because there are principles to follow in building a setup to perform one’s best or even optimal swing motion.
There is a proper stance width for everyone (it just won’t be the same to the millimeter for everyone), and there is a proper ball placement, there is a proper grip, there is a proper posture… and on and on.
So, a swing model is not something to shoe-horn one person into another person’s silhouette, but you will see a pattern of stance and motion from people who do the proper things.
Just as with the Fosbury Flop – if you’re going to quibble with the fact that every high jumper has a different number of steps in their run-up, different speed, a different angle of arm lift going over the bar, they’re jumping from the right leg from the opposite direction of someone jumping from the left leg, then you’re missing the point.
All you’re pointing out are how each high jumper has found their optimal technique using the Fosbury method. I would also bet you that they and their coaches study biomechanics endlessly in the quest to optimize their technique if it isn’t already there.
So, I am not a Bitcoin salesman pushing crypto, nor am I a preacher trying to convert people to a religion – I am a researcher conducting my research, and when that is concluded, I will present my findings.
I am not going to beg and plead with people to do anything – well, I will beg and plead with people not to swing in the Modern Golf Swing style, because it is not mechanically-sound, and I feel I bear a responsibility to point that out whenever I can.
It is far too late for Tiger Woods to learn this lesson, but I hope to prevent future golfers from suffering the madness of this whole “anything goes” attitude with the golf swing.
So, you can believe there is an optimal golf swing (perhaps even two, depending on how well you swing with a classic rotary pivot or shift-and-post pivot based on your own personality and athleticism), or you can believe that golf is the one unique sport in the universe where “there is no one swing.”
That statement is actually a straw-man, because what I’m saying is that there is an optimal swing setup and action for the golf swing, be it rotary or shift-and-post.
And based upon which swing action you prefer, pivot-wise, there will be only one way that is optimal based on how the body is constructed to move.
It is that way with every other sports discipline.