The Master Fundamental
All behavior including your golf swing is about motivation. I’m not talking the kind of inspiration you get from the motivational speaker that lives "in a van down by the river." I’m talking about what motivates a golfer not to release his/her hands during a golf shot, to “scoop” a chip shot or not to turn his/her body properly during the back swing. Too often, golfers are motivated by bad fundamentals.
If I’ve learned one thing in my 35-plus years as a golf instructor, it is that good golf is all about good fundamentals. Sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s often hard to decipher in the detail-laden swing-advice magazines that arrive each month. However, if you strip away all the clutter in the myriad of techniques we’ve all been exposed to, you’ll find that the same fundamentals (or the Webster’s synonym “basics”) keep reappearing. As the word implies, the basics of the golf swing are simple and easy to learn.
Perfecting or even improving your fundamentals of grip, posture and alignment makes the game easier because it eliminates the need for in-swing motion compensations. In fact, it does more than that; it creates in-swing motivations to swing your golf club properly.
First off, a good grip is critical. Your grip is your only connection to the face of the hitting surface. Second, stance is a critical component as well, since you have to be balanced and athletic to properly do the “golf dance.” The third and most important fundamental to your long term success, though, is alignment. I call it the “master fundamental.”
This crazy game that we play is one of the only target-oriented activities in which our body faces 90 degrees from the target instead of facing it head-on. Because of this, alignment in golf is not the least bit intuitive; it is a learned skill. If your alignment is incorrect, your body is motivated to make swing contortions and hand manipulations through the hitting zone to find your target. It makes the entire experience too complicated, and complicated is hard to duplicate (unless you’re Jim Furyk).
This forum doesn’t allow the space for me to go into detail on the three fundamentals that I have listed; that’s the job of your local PGA Professional. One thing you can do yourself, however, when you are hitting practice shots is to put a club or other straight object on the ground to create a line that parallels the direction of your intended target/launch line, and then line your feet up to it. If you’re like most golfers, the first time you do this, it will probably look and feel crooked and wrong to you, even though it isn’t. Check it again, and if it is indeed lined up right, just keep hitting.
Amazingly, you’ll see that your swing will adjust to find the target just like your arm swing would change when you are throwing a dart at a target. Hitting repeatedly from the correct alignment position will motivate your swing to fix itself. I’ve seen it work hundreds of times. It’s very cool.
How Many Shots is your Rangefinder Costing you?
The invention of the range-finding yardage device combined with the subsequent USGA local rule allowing optional local golf association approval was a tremendous potential boon to the game of golf. For the first time ever, a tool that could give us exact yardage to the flagstick was at our fingertips. Time wasted looking for on-course yardage markers to calculate distance was eliminated and guessing became a thing of the past too.
Has this information improved our scoring? I don’t believe it has. It’s been my experience playing with amateur golfers that the rangefinder is costing them strokes. How? It’s actually pretty simple. Golfers of all skill levels are now playing exact flagstick yardages and trying to squeeze their golf balls into those front and back corners of greens. Even the tiniest missed shot when targeting the flagsticks on the edges results in a very challenging bunker, chip or pitch recovery shot. Unless you have the polished short game of a PGA Tour pro, you have no business risking the costly short-sided mistake. Such scenarios usually result in scoring disasters unless, of course, your last name is Mickelson or Woods.
My recommendation for all but the most accomplished players is to use one of the GPS devices that gives you middle-of-the-green yardage, and while you’re at it, play the center-line direction also. Center-line direction and center-line yardage will lower your scores by minimizing those truly awkward short-game recovery situations. I am aware of a tournament played with no flagsticks and many of the participants actually scored lower than normal by aiming each approach shot at the center of the green. Give it a try. All you have to lose is strokes!
And by the way, remember you don’t have to search for sprinkler heads any longer so let’s pick up the pace!
Why is golf so hard?