Apologies for the absence from the blog, the preparations for the return to golf have well and truly begun. Over the winter period I found myself writing more and more about PGA & European Tour golf but as we come out of this lockdown I anticipate posts to trend towards instruction. If there are any aspects of the game that you would like me to write about in particular please do get in touch. I wanted to kick off the conversation about technique with a little discussion about form vs functionality, and with this, I hope to get you starting off on the right foot with your journey to better golf this season. As mentioned in my previous post we are coming off the back of a rather large hiatus and I think it is important to come out of the blocks firing from a mentality, process and motivation perspective.
Technique is a topic that is talked about plenty, it is very rarely agreed on and its importance is widely questionable. The fundamentals are important, ensuring the club is being presented to the ball as the shot in question requires, but how the club gets to that point is entirely personal, just like your DNA. Using this DNA analogy helps to explain why over the last few months I have found myself watching pro golf swings thinking ‘how on earth did they make it on tour!?’. The proof is in the pudding with golf, the only way to really judge a player is based on their scores and statistics, yet we are always quick to judge how their swing looks. The same can be said when judging our own games, I see a lot of people filming their swings on driving ranges, spending plenty of time analysing how it looks yet spending little to no time analysing their scores, strategy and statistics!!
Functionality should always come before form. Find a swing that is functional and then you can make it look pretty. By the time you have built a functional swing your scores are probably getting so good that you really don’t care how it looks! This is how the likes of Jim Furyk became one of the highest earners ever on tour. An analogy I use a lot in my coaching is that Jim Furyk & Tiger Woods’ swings look pretty similar on Trackman (bar speed & distance numbers) yet they are unbelievably different to the naked eye. Technology such as Trackman gives us reference points and the opportunity to measure functionality to an extent, we just need to go and find it again and again. A good drive for example, requires the club path & face angles to match up to the desired shot, strike location needs to be central, with the angle of attack and dynamic loft matched up to the desired ball flight, and the club and ball speed correct for the intended distance. Trackman really doesn’t care how you got it there it just has to get the job done. What the job is, again, is very personal. The question to be asked after every shot is “did the motion of the club present the required positions to the ball to produce the desired shot?” The next time you mention to an instructor that you want to find consistency, what you are really looking for is the ability to consistently find the correct impact conditions for the shot you want to hit. Unless you are made of robotics you will never be able to make the club and ball do exactly the same thing over and over again and golf isn’t a sport that requires that either. What it does require is getting the ball to do something close to what you are trying to do most of the time.
In order of priority, start by making sure you always have an intention, especially when practicing. What is the intended target and what do I intend for the ball to do in order to get there? Next, don’t panic what it looks like, if you’re hitting the ball close to your intention every time then you are having a good round or practice session, no matter how you do it. And finally, make sure you practice a wide variety of shots, especially on the driving range. Vary the club, flight, target and time between shots just like you would in a round, golf is not a sport where you hit 7iron over and over again, try to avoid it on the range unless working on something.
It is important to have a counter-argument to this and give a bit of support to technique and the ‘looks’ of someone’s swing, after-all there are a large number of very good swings on tour. When trying to build a golf swing there are obviously easier ways of finding the correct impact positions than others, hence why coaches teach a lot of things in unison. The research and testing that has gone on over the years leads us to a certain number of pre and in-swing principles that need to take place in order for the motion to work, but each coach or player will have their own preferences on how they achieve them. The reason why particular methods become popular, such as the overlap grip or the club face parallel to lead arm at the top, is simply because these are the easiest ways of getting the face matched up to hit a straight shot…for most of us.
Ask yourself what makes a good golf swing? Repeatability, efficiency, power, adaptability, control, balance…the list is endless. When you next film your swing and contemplate making a change, ask how will it get you closer to achieving items on the list above? If the answer is ‘it won’t’, don’t bother. Work on functionality and leave the aesthetic changes to the coach. We are adapting swings to each players body, mobility and ability and I promise you the more functional the swing becomes, the better it will look. Form follows function.