Golf is a craft

Golf is a craft when it is played at a higher level. I don't just mean at the professional level. What I mean is that when the golfer can play golf with no or at least very little mechanical process golf becomes a craft.

The pianist plays with no thought of the mechanics, the dancer doesn't have to stop and do a pre leap she just leaps. What allows the best to become the best is their ability to intrinsically know their craft.

Mark Twain quipped "golf is a good walk spoiled." What if a round of golf could be just as easy as a good walk? No thought about how to walk, just thoughts about where to go and how to get there.  All the while enjoying the process, the scenery and the company.

So how does one become a golf craftsman? I imagine it's the same as becoming any other kind of craftsman.  I have been watching and enjoying the Foo Fighters HBO documentary "Sonic Streets" about how musicians in 6 different cities honed their musical crafts. They saw what was going on musically around the world, payed closer attention to what was happening locally then personalized it to make it their own. Drummers knew the mechanics of drumming but it became a craft when they did it their way.

Baking a cake doesn't make you a baker.

I would like to believe that the craftsman golfer would outshine the mechanical golfer every time. I think most of the golfers on TV are mechanical golfers. Not Bubba Watson, not Fred Couples and certainly not Jim Furyk.  I also believe that any artist or athlete that has the rare moment of inspired performance is not mechanical. Watching any of the top golfers when they are at their best is watching a craftsman. 

So to become a craftsman you first must truly know your craft and yourself. Know how it's done by the masters, know how the golfers you play alongside get the job done. Practice your swing, your golf decision making, get the right tools and learn how to use them.   Then answer the question, "how do I make this swing my own?"

A case for a single plane setup

Traditionally the golfer at setup is a 2 plane machine. The arms hang from the shoulders on a fairly vertical plane and the club hangs from the hands on a flatter plane.

A recent popular training aid is the "tour angle 144". This device places the hinge angle of the club shaft to the forearms at 144 degrees. So the grip end of the shaft points to the belt line and the forearms point to the arm pit.

The greatest ball striker to ever play golf, Moe Norman, felt there was a better way. Put the shaft and the arms on the same plane. One straight line from the ground to the shoulders. The golf shaft running parallel to the bottom of the forearms.

From this position he moved the club with his arms,  not with a complicated one piece rotary takeaway lead by the body.

Conventional golf is a body generated arm movement....The body moves the arms. Single plane is an arm generated body movement...The arms swing and the body follows. The following link to a youtube video gives a great view of the difference between a conventional swing and the single plane swing. Let me know what you think.

BTW I am a single plane golfer.

Four Truths

In golf, once the club is selected there are only 4 factors that the golfer has control of that determines ball flight.
1. Path.
2. Face.
3. Bottom.
4. Pace.
Learn to manage these four factors and you will be a better golfer.

The first two factors work together to determine initial ball direction and any curve the ball may exhibit. Physics tells us the ball will start on a path 90 degrees to the face of the club at impact. Any curve the ball may take will be in the opposite direction of the path of the swing through impact.

Add bottom to the equation and we get solid contact... or fat....or thin. If the bottom of the swing is anywhere but just after contact with the ball we have a problem. (Except for the driver and certain other teed up shots.)

Pace of the club head determines distance and height. The faster the pace the higher and further the flight.

Face starts the initial ball flight.
Face and path determines curve.
Face and path and bottom delivers solid contact.
Face and path and bottom and pace create distance.

Focus on the four physical truths to be a better golfer.

Infomercials and Golf Magazines

Two recent golf magazine covers had these tantalizing headlines.

Add 15 yards in three seconds.
Rip it like Rory.
197 ways to save strokes now.
Hit every fairway.
Pure every iron.
Knock down the flag with my square face secret.
My 5 fixes to launch it higher, longer & straighter.

These lies sell magazines. These lies create frustrated golfers. And you pay to read them.

Car nuts would never buy a magazine that claims a simple adjustment made to a Formula One Grand Prix car can make your minivan a super car.

If you want to be better I do believe you can learn from the best.  Work out like they do. Focus like they do. Practice like they do. Watch your diet like they do. And start playing golf competitively at 6 like they did.

Moe Norman, the greatest ball striker of all time, did hundreds of clinics showing people how to do what he did. And at every clinic he repeated the same thing,  "Only I can do this. Only I have the feeling of greatness." He knew that to be true because only Moe put in the required time, effort and money required to achieve the feeling of greatness.

There are no shortcuts.


Most of my students come to me with lofty goals. "I want to be more consistent", is the most common. But there are several others,  "get the ball in the air, be a better putter, just hit the ball" ...... all kinds of results focused goals.

Rarely have I had a student that looked for more personal consistency. Like, "I would like to develop a better setup or pre shot or practice schedule." Or, "I want to learn to apply my energy at the right time and place in my swing instead of feeling like I am just trying to kill it."

I think the dream student for any coach would be the one asking for something like, "I want to learn how to apply my efforts in a way that will produce the kind of scores I believe I am capable of shooting."

So now we can look at effort across a much larger and more colorful palate.  What is the mental effort needed? Not just on the practice tee or the golf course, but all day everyday. And of course it's not merely mental but physical, emotional and maybe even a bit spiritual.

How can you practice being calm and focused? How can you learn to visualize the shape, tempo, and grace of a golf swing, your golf swing? How can you practice all day everyday having positive expectancy? Why wouldn't you want to practice those things all the time?

So this brings us to your next practice session. Pick some very specific things to apply your effort towards. For 15 minutes apply all your effort towards maintaining club lag or owning a pre shot routine. 10 minutes of perfect effort on rhythm. 10 minutes learning to hit the sweet spot of your putter.

All your effort; physical, mental and emotional is aimed at that one goal. If your effort is focused on rhythm do you need to know where the ball went? Do you need a ball at all? All that should fill your senses at the end of the swing is a clear understanding of your rhythm.

Try it. It's much harder and significantly more powerful than you think.

Feel is not real

Over dozens of years teaching, consulting, mentoring or coaching I am always amazed at how different the feeling is from the actual behavior.

"Gee coach, I am really trying my hardest."  Says the 15 year old shortstop.

"I really feel like I know my employees." Whines the manager.

"I feel like the backswing and the downswing are at the same speed." Ben Hogan states emphatically.

None are true.

Science has gone to great lengths to show us that what we feel is quite often not real. The world is flat, well it feels flat.

What you feel is happening in your golf swing is probably as far from the truth as the previous quotes.

Using science and technology we can learn to feel for real. Find a golf coach that has these three things.

1. A video camera to show you the truth.
2. A launch monitor to measure the truth.
3. The courage to tell you the truth.