Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thoughts On Learning To Develop Your Swing...

In my opinion, the greatest attribute of Homer Kelley’s book, ‘The Golfing Machine’ was how Homer Kelley laid out *how* a golfer can best learn to develop an effective and efficient golf swing.

Certainly, The Golfing Machine is not infallible. However, it really does not make a difference whatever scientific study on the swing is infallible or is more infallible than TGM if there’s no real path for the golfer to learn that study.

THAT is really what TGM is about for me. Remember, Homer Kelley wrote guides and manuals for Boeing for years. Imagine him writing a manual for some type of machinery and just discussing the inner parts of the machine. Nobody would care. Instead, he had to set forth a way for the reader to apply what he’s written.

Unfortunately, too many TGM critics completely overlook this and get bogged down into the jargon and format of the book along of whether the science is right or wrong. Let me be clear, I think ‘getting the science right’ is important…but it’s useless if we can’t figure out a way to apply it and learn from it.

For my money, Kelley’s most brilliant concept in the book was ‘learning feel from mechanics.’ Why? Because pretty much every athletic endeavor teaches ‘learning mechanics from feel’ and Mr. Kelley figured out that ‘hey, these feels everybody talks about are subjective.’ So whether it’s baseball, basketball, hockey, football, etc…they also teach ‘mechanics from feel’ and have done so for over 100 years and continue to do so today.

But nowhere is ‘learning mechanics from feel’ more prevalent in golf. Just take a look at the most recent Golf Digest instructional tip by Steve Stricker called ‘Steal my Feel.’

I try to feel as if I'm returning my left hand at impact so it faces the target again – Steve Stricker
That’s basic ‘learning mechanics from feel.’ Essentially it’s a ‘if you feel this, that will put you in the correct mechanics’ type of instruction.

And like I’ve said, a feel that may work for Stricker may very well not work for me. And I think most people would agree with me that these feels tend to ‘wear off’ after awhile. A feel that was working well for me in June may stop working for me in August.

It’s not that feels are unimportant. Far from that. The feel will allow the golfer to repeat the mechanics they want time after time. It’s just that a golfer needs to really understand *how* to feel and how to learn the swing in order to get that feel that will work best for them.


Compensations are more or less moves the golfer attempts to make in order to get the swing ‘back on track.’ For instance, if a golfer gets their backswing off plane, then they will have to make a compensation or a series of compensations in order to get their downswing back on plane.

Not all compensations are bad.

For instance, take a look at Jim Furyk’s compensation filled golf swing.

According to Trackman, Furyk is the golfer whose clubpath and clubface are the most consistently closest to 0* to the target on the PGA Tour of everybody they have measured. Thus, not all compensations are bad.

But where compensations are troubling is that they require the golfer to be able to use their timing and their hand-eye coordination to ‘get back on track.’ Some golfers like Furyk and Miller Barber can make those major compensations and hit it great, time after time. But most cannot.

The good instructors figure out what compensations are causing problems and what compensations are not an issue. The ‘method teachers’ will just tell you to change every compensation because it doesn’t fit into their method.

The pitfall that some golfers fall into is that they will start believing that because somebody like Furyk can make a ton of compensations and hit it well, then they should be able to make a ton of compensations and hit it well because those compensations are part of their ‘natural golf swing.’ I find this notion to be horribly flawed because I would think our ‘natural golf swing’ would be the one we have the first day we ever swing a golf club. But over time we started to figure some things out, took some lessons and hopefully got better.

Again, the key is to assess the compensations and figure which ones are ‘okay’ and which ones need to be eliminated.


Often times compensations occur when a golfer ‘gets off track’, makes a compensation to get back on track and then is rewarded with a good shot for that compensation. Again, that’s fine if the golfer can do that over and over again. However, if the golfer cannot make that compensation time after time or it runs the risk of hitting a bad shot that will kill you, particularly on crucial swings, it’s probably time to eliminate that compensation from your swing.

For example, let’s say on the backswing you have a very open clubface. In order to ‘get back on track’, you try to really ‘turn the hands over’ thru impact in order to square up the clubface at impact. That would be the compensation.

After years of swinging the club this way, you start to get pretty good at making this compensation for the open clubface at the top of the golf swing. But, every once in awhile you hit some dreaded snap hooks, particularly when the shot becomes more important.

When you first started playing with that open clubface in the backswing, you probably hit blocks and slices. But once you started to actively turn your wrists over thru impact, you started to get rewarded with good golf shots more often.

What good golf instructors do is they take away that reward when the golfer ‘gets off track’ and then tries to get back on track with a compensatory move. In the case of the golfer who has a very open clubface going back and then compensates by turning the wrists over thru impact…a good instructor may change something like the grip or the takeaway to get the clubface more square or closed in the back swing. Then they will discuss the mechanics of the downswing and essentially tell the golfer ‘here’s the compensation you make, here’s what I want you to do.’

Now if the golfer makes that compensation they will not be ‘rewarded’ with a good shot. That’s because the face should be square or closed in the backswing, so if the golfer compensates by turning the wrists over, they’ll have a closed clubface and hit a smothered hook.

And because they won’t be rewarded for making the compensation, they’ll gradually stop making that compensation. And if the golfer has enough awareness, they’ll start to understand the feedback they are getting and they should start to understand something like ‘if I blocked it, my face got too open in the backswing and I made the correct downswing. If I smothered it, my face was fine in the backswing and then I went back to the old compensation.’


As I’ve discussed many times before, I consider the video camera as the ‘15th Club.’ For the most part, we usually get new golf clubs with the thought that the new equipment will make us better. Well, a camera will cost less than a new driver, a new set of irons and less than a lot of new putters. Yet, I firmly believe that a camera will help your game more than these clubs and will allow the golfer to use these clubs more towards their potential.

I currently own a Casio EX-FH20, which cost me $240 for everything brand new. I haven’t drawn a line on a software program with my swing in over 2 years. I really don’t need to. Instead, I used the camera for checkups on my swing, making sure nothing gets out of hand because I’d rather fix problems right away instead of neglecting them only to have to make a major overhaul down the road.

From there, I can utilize the camera as my ‘teacher’ to get me into the right mechanics and I can then ‘learn feel from mechanics.’ Then it just becomes a game of using that feel which will allow me to correct those mechanics.


Learn feel from mechanics, not mechanics from feel

-Understand your compensations
-Understand the compensations that work for you and that don’t work for you
-Take away the reward for the flaws and compensations you don’t want in your swing
-Use the 15th club in the bag to effectively practice when your instructor is not there



Unknown said...

Can you share where I might be able to find the camera for about the same price that you paid? Is it's value in good quality slow motion replay?


Rich H. said...

go on eBay. Plenty of them there, brand new, for that price.


Unknown said...

Rich, is there a remote for this camera? does it come with it?

Rich H. said...

I don't think there's a remote.