The Tool

Before the invention of the video camera and seeing that very first beautiful swing of Bobby Jones in 1930s golf was taught differently, focusing on using the golf club as a tool not trying to mimic a visual golf swing.  Like golf instruction today… I gave up fighting golf instruction.

 Since the early 1920s golf instruction has been overwhelmed by the idea that there is a true “golf swing” model. Virtually all instruction centers on the idea that if one learns to do this swing model perfectly they will hit perfect shots. If they hit imperfect shots then they are making imperfect swing so they now have a swing “flaw” that must be attentively excised or repaired.

 The next conclusion is that they have to find out which swing part was the culprit, for if they can’t find which part was at fault, then they can’t possibly make the proper swing correction.

 Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is no “swing”. There is a ball, a stick, and hand eye coordination. To learn golf well, all one need do is to understand that the club is a tool and the golfers task is to hit the ball with the club in such a way as to exploit the mechanical advantage inherent in its design. Everything else is secondary. When you take a club that fits you and understand how to use it, the journey becomes intuitive and liberating.

 Take stick, hit ball, here is how stick is used. So this golf club is a tool and as such it has mechanical advantage. All that one has to do to become a good golfer is to become a good tool user, which is something that humans are uniquely designed to be. The basis of the system that has just been introduced to centers around the idea that to become a good golfer it is not necessary to develop a good swing, but instead to become a good user of the “tool” known as a golf club. Humans are built to be marvelous tool users. Thus, club mechanics are more important than swing mechanics.

 Actually, you don’t have to be alert to the swing in any way. You don’t have to make any kind of swing, perfect or otherwise, to hit great golf shots. The “swing” does not cause good or bad shots to happen. Your hand eye coordination system is all you need to learn to hit great repeatable golf shots.

To further understand this, a background in how human motor learning needs to take place. There is Gross motor development (which is your “big” muscle groups) that begins at birth and generally ends at five years of age. If you are not Michael Jordan by age six you are not going to be, but you can be Larry Bird. From age five to the end of life, the fine motor system (finger tips to elbows) develops.

Also, once the gross motor system has completed its development, it always and forever gets its instructions from the fine motor system. If you were to give your hands the task of pounding a nail in to a baseboard they would go to work to complete the task and the hands would enlist just the right amount of gross motor function they need no more or less. You gave instructions to your hands and they told the rest of your body how to move and in what proportions necessary to complete the task. At no time was it necessary to know or be aware of what your shoulders, knees, hips or feet were doing.

When someone is given a golf “swing” lesson these rules of everyday motor function are violated. “Swing” lessons disrupt these rules of motor activity by having you try to use your brain to communicate directly with the gross motor system. However, only your fine motor system is capable of speaking fluently with your gross. One thing startling to students who start to learn through the fine motor system is the ease and balance of the body that result. This is because they are using their body the way it was designed to be used, a unique way that has served them well throughout their life. You don’t need to perform someone’s perception of a perfect swing. Your swing, the one that results from learning through the fine motor system is the only one that can give you consistent top performance. Deliver the club correctly with your hands and your swing will always be correct.

Basically Golf is a fine motor skill of the hands using the tool to shape the flight of the ball. This performance based learning process is not beyond the ability of anyone. It is easy to understand and execute.

So when watch touring pros you will see a variety of swing styles. The so called fundamentals such as swing plane, neutral grip, parallel shaft at top and other current styles, are violated every day by the best players on the planet at the highest levels of competition. That begs the question “How fundamental can they be?” The answer is that they aren’t fundamental to hitting a golf ball well.

What is fundamental is to understand four basic things. What part of the ball you must hit, how the club is designed to be used, how the club head is oriented to your hand when you hold the grip of club, and the fact that you don’t hit the ball with a golf swing you hit it with a golf club.