I have the current Golf Digest issue. Jason Dufner is on the cover. As usual with a golf magazine, I hesitate as I open it up. More of the same, I say to myself. That sounds pretty darned negative, I realise even more now as I type. Reset. There has to be some good stuff in here.
The first bit of golf instruction is from Ryo Ishikawa, a great professional player who is from Japan. The sub-heading advises, "Hit the ball on the green." I imagine Ryo would not have said that, as it seems obvious. He states that he aims for the "safety space" of the green, not the "narrow space." He does not take a big risk, remains calm and, therefore, makes a good swing.
Next, he talks about is rhythm. He tends to get too fast, so he works on a slow take-away, trying not to be in a hurry with his swing. Let speed build gradually. Good stuff.
Reading the next page, though, causes me to say out loud, "Oh no." His father, who is his coach, tells him to maintain the angle of his right wrist when he swings down. The accompanying photo shows that good ol' "lag position" that is so popular in the golf instruction world. A tip goes along with the photo: "Golfers who have active hands rely on timing to square the face. With quiet hands, you'll increase your chances of hitting it solid."
"Oh no," I say again, and think My students will set themselves back if they read this.
I have a student who recently came for his sixth lesson. We had been making good headway, as he is extremely dedicated to practicing. This time, however, he was hitting crazy-bad shots. Since we had progressed already to woods and driver, he was of course using them, but with great effort on this day. After about ten minutes, of only bad shots, I asked him if he had been reading anything or watching the Golf Channel. He said he had reading about the swing. This was no surprise, as there was loss of power, off centre contact with the ball, effort, and a lot of *thinking time (It is obvious when we are thinking vs. doing during the swing.). I asked if what he read had something having to do with "lag" or “holding the angle of the right wrist and club shaft” down to the ball. He said yes.
The problem with trying to "hold the angle" for as long as possible during the downswing or to "get more lag" is that, it is actually an effect, it is not cause.
In this same feature, Ryo also talks about my second least favourite swing tip- leading his downswing with his waist and hips. (Oh no.) Fortunately he does say "Delaying the rotation of the upper body on the downswing helps prevent and out-to-in swing, which is a major cause of slicing."
Through teaching for 15 years, I have a pretty good system of showing people how to swing a golf club. And I do know that what doesn't work is giving a student too much information at once. Thinking of too many mechanical things while trying to hit a golf ball really makes the game difficult.
So, back to the downswing: The problem with making the hips go, but holding the upper body back is not many people, including myself, can pull this off. I know that for me, and for many people I've talked to about their instructional journey, when we were taught to unwind the hips first, it caused massive problems: Power loss, an outside-in/over-the-top swing, shanks, flipped left wrists and misery. If we learn it and teach it in a different way, or work up to it, we can get the coordination of the entire body. But most of the recreational golfers I teach, cannot do this. It is a move that tour players work on, but only after years of working on a general repeating swing, coordinating the hands and arms with the body. It should not be given as a tip for someone who is just beginning or someone who shoots 100. Most people have no time to practice properly. Instructors would be better off to give us things that work right now, things that are tangible and that make sense. Recreational golfers don't need complicated and technical things that they have to practice for five years. They are not going to stick with something that is too difficult or unhelpful. They will end up frustrated and quit the game. It is supposed to be fun.
"Golf is a simple game that has been made complicated."
Fortunately, later in the magazine, a spread by PGA Instructor Mike Bender talks about the things that are easy to do, firing the clubhead, throwing it. "Snap Speed," he calls it. Quiet body. He says, "Your body has to brake on the downswing so the energy you're creating moves out to the club." Da daaaaaa! Next blog.