By: Dave Hill, WGCA contributing writer
During a recent lesson with a gentleman who’s been playing for over 55 years, I was able to reaffirm my belief about how golf swing instruction took a wrong turn a few decades ago. Soon to follow is the movement toward specialized fitness for golf. I’m fully aware of the controversy of such statements, but it is imperative as golf instructors and coaches that we have a solid grasp as to why so many continue to struggle with the game.
This will be a multiple-part series, and for many readers, very little may be groundbreaking information. After all, the golf swing has never truly changed throughout the years. However, our knowledge of how it can/should be performed is always improving due to research into kinesiology and technology. Interpretation, or maybe more in the case of teaching professionals, “observation” of golf swing technique, determines the approach to instruction adopted by both individuals and as a collective group.
I’d like to preface the series with the notion that restricting hip rotation and weight transfer during the backswing are two instructional elements to which I don’t subscribe. The restriction of hip rotation in order to achieve more “torque” between the upper body (shoulders if you will) and lower body (hips) in order to maximize distance need go the way of the dodo bird. It should never have been part of the instructional equation to begin with. Yet, to this day it remains pervasive throughout the golf teaching industry, so my apologies if I have insulted any readers who continue with this practice, but I implore you to cease and desist immediately or stop reading now.
Returning to my lesson, the gentleman who was somewhere in the vicinity of 65 years of age plays to about a 6 handicap but was once a scratch. Naturally complaining about distance, he was under the “torque” spell, as I prefer to call it, yet he admitted he had difficulty turning. I asked him a leading question along the lines of, “There must have been a time when it was easy to turn?” He then referred to when he was a teenager caddying at a nearby club that had hosted the Canadian Open during his tenure. The head pro was a fine player who competed during the week alongside Palmer, Player, a young Jack Nicklaus, and other greats of that generation. When the tournament was over, he asked his head pro how he could hit the ball further based on the prodigious distances all the pros could hit the ball. The answer was short and sweet: “ Keep your weight on your left foot (front foot) on the backswing.”
Fast forward a couple of decades and the tune changed. We had to load on the rear foot, followed by pushing from the rear foot in order to transfer back to the front foot. Easy stuff! My goodness, whatever happened to Sam Snead’s “turn inside the barrel” advice? In returning to the lesson, it was summed up with the fact there is a difference between weight transfer and distribution of pressure on the feet. There is no need to move the COM (center of mass) laterally during the backswing in order to feel weight on the rear foot. By virtue of moving the arms, club and body rotation away from the target, pressure, rather than weight, into the rear foot can occur. In this instance, one key was implemented where the new movement quieted a former movement. Rather than stabilizing hip rotation, we increased it. How? By straightening the rear leg during the backswing. This is commonplace within most, if not all good golf swings to some degree. If I may digress, our observations, or buying into the observations, of some created a culture of misconception amongst golf instructors over decades.
Next article (Part 2) – The rear leg, weight distribution, how the spine turns