The Current State Of Golf Instruction

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How could it be that we have known the fundamentals of how to hit a baseball for over 100
years and the current state of golf instruction is mired in so many disparate swing theories?
When I finally made the commitment to change my swing a few years back I didn’t know where
to turn. I read a lot about the Modern Swing, Stack & Tilt, and many others. Swing fads have
come and they have gone. But, the foundations of the Classic Swing as they existed before
video and computer analysis became prevalent in recent decades are still the ultimate rules of
the swing that players of all levels can rely on to improve their swings and their games.

When I first learned the game in the 1970’s as a child the fundamentals were clearly
established. Anyone could use those fundamentals to create their own unique swing. It was
amazing how different the pros swings looked! There were the long ball hitters like Jack
Nicklaus and Dan Pohl. There were the highly accurate players like Calvin Peete and Mike
Reid. They all managed to play amazing golf with a ball that spun like a top, and tiny wooden
drivers.

The thing that I find truly remarkable was the accuracy of the players from back in the day. We
know Calvin Peete topped out at 84.6% of fairways hit in 1983. Currently in 2016, Colt Knost is
leading the pack with 73.32%, which is a very fine number but lagging far behind Mr. Peete. In
1980, the first year the tour implemented the Total Driving stat, Jack Nicklaus was the head of
the pack ranking tenth in distance, while maintaining thirteenth place in accuracy. Now that is
outstanding driving.

Hitting fairways used to be so normal, I was told by Doug Sanders the only time he left the
fairway was to get a girl’s phone number! He’d go weeks without missing a fairway. During one
round I saw him miss only one fairway (at the age of 80), and it was only a foot into the first cut
which gave him a good look at the pin. And, I recently read that Ben Hogan did not miss a
single fairway in the only Open Championship he competed in at Carnoustie. Unbelievable.

So what were these Classic Swing fundamentals that were so reliable? To me the main
difference between the swing teachers of today and yesterday is the emphasis on the lower
body versus the upper body. The old timers knew the legs and the hips drove the swing. When
I began learning the Modern Swing, my shoulders became the emphasis rather than the hips.
I’ve even heard current pros make derogatory remarks about about the hips. I was told to keep
my lower body “quiet”. Less moving parts means less mistakes. Well, I know that you get out
of something what you put into it, and I spent years powering my shoulders and ignoring my
lower body. Well, my returns were abysmal! I saw my game go down the toilet and I swirled
around down there for many, many years.

Once YouTube came out I realized what a great tool it was for studying golf swings, and I began
to realize a lot of things about golf mechanics. Golf, like any other endeavor, can be overtaken
by fads. In the world of martial arts we all became victims of this when all the great karate
movies came out in the 70’s and 80’s. I loved the beauty of a well timed kick. Bruce Lee and
Chuck Norris put on ballets of sheer destruction. (Curiously, Bruce Lee made it clear that the
way he fought in movies bore little resemblance to actual street fighting.) By the 1990’s
everyone was obsessed with being as flexible as Gumby so they could kick straight up in the air.
Meanwhile, the Gracie family of Brazil was waiting in the wings, preparing to take the martial
arts world by storm. When the first UFC was held, every high kicking striker was humiliated by
a thin Brazilian fighter named Royce Gracie who summarily grabbed each of them, drug them to
the ground, and choked them out.

Today there are many pro golfers who play great golf with the Modern Swing. They minimize
their lower body movement, restrict their hips, and still hit the ball a ton. As much as I like to
watch Jason Day and Adam Scott pound the golf ball, their youth and superb flexibility make it
possible for them to swing this way. I simply cannot get enough rotation into my swing if I
restrict my hips. Meanwhile Bubba Watson, the longest player on tour, looks much more like the
classic swings of old. Curiously, he also works the ball more than anyone else on tour.

There are many ways to hit a golf ball. That’s for sure. But, for the majority of golfers I would
say that the Classic Swing is the best bet for a golfer who wants to have a surefire way to
improve their action. Take a neutral grip, keep your head behind the ball, and begin the
downswing with the lower body – belt buckle to the target. That’s it. It’s so easy, it’s easy to
forget.