Are the teachings of John Jacobs - and by extension all the famous golf instructors such as Butch Harmon, David Leadbetter, Hank Haney, Jim McLean and Jim Hardy who credit Jacobs as a major influence in their teachings - relevant for the 21st Century Golfer?
Before reading on, watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbAe2vgfzbA
John Jacobs was put on the map of golf instructors’ for bringing a vital perspective to teaching the golf swing. In his own words, “.....my breakthrough as a teacher. I look at what the ball’s doing, and then I ask, ‘why’?” He refers to his always having prioritized what the club was doing at impact.
So, naturally then, the video is a classic, a must-watch, full of useful information for what a golfer might do to bring the club back to the ball correctly, and, based on the Ball Flight Laws.
Jacobs mentions that many people thought him to be the teacher of a flatter swing, back in the day. He explains that Ben Hogan’s arms were very flat too, but when he set his wrists, that went away. ‘There is a relationship between the direction of the club shaft and the plane of the club’, so that Hogan’s flat and rounded arm movement with a cupped wrist at the top, changed him from being ‘closed’ and ‘flat’ at the top to ‘open’ and ‘upright’.
You could teach the body-arm marriage even to a beginner very simply, feels Jacobs, as long as the set up is right. Simply tell them take to the right (trail) shoulder back and point the clubhead to the target at the top. Then all that might be left to factor in would be giving the left (lead) arm some width, because the left (lead) arm must be wide enough on the right (trail) side of the ball, for the golfer to be able to swing through.
There is naturally nothing wrong with what John Jacobs, and those other famous teachers who succeeded him say, because otherwise how could they have produced so many great golfers? The patterns they teach are usually simple and common-sense. And, it’s easy enough for a golfer’s brain to ‘figure it out’ to some extent, and repeat the motion often, especially when the golfer is relaxed. (See Jacobs' own swing below, and the many compensations it'd require for him to arrive from the inside)
What never fails to shock me, however, is that all the very best teachers simply teach in opposites - if you’re laid off, swing more around, if you’re too shallow, steepen up your swing, if you arrive from over-the-top do something-or-the-other blah blah to arrive from the inside. If you top the ball, swing down, if you chunk the ball swing over it more and on and on.
HOW, HOW, HOW? What must the body DO to facilitate whatever you tell the golfer to do? What do the various arm and leg segments DO because, please understand, they are linked when we grip a club with both hands or have both feet planted on the ground (when the furthest part of the arms or legs is not free to move independently, we call it a ‘closed kinetic chain’, and this can make the linked joints move in peculiar, non-normal patterns).
The problem, now that Jacobs’ ‘why’ is well understood, is that no-one asks ‘how’.
How to make sure the body rotates in a horizontal plane as the arms are required to move in a more vertical one simultaneously?
How does moving the right shoulder back affect where the body’s weight moves, and, in fact, how should weight shift - move towards target, stay centered, move to the trail side?
How does setting the wrists at the top (wrists can set in varying combinations of two directions) affect the positions of the trail shoulder and elbow, and will the correct combination of shaft direction and plane (adjusted for the individual) ensure that the swing arrives at the ball from the inside and at speed?
CAN a golfer arrive at impact in a BETTER STILL manner, MORE CONSISTENTLY and with LESS SCOPE FOR INJURY? These are 21st Century questions! HOW?
The time for ‘why’ is long past, and the modern golf instructor must move beyond the club to what the body CAN/CANNOT do, so as to be able to teach the golf swing across all body sizes and shapes, because the human body only has very fixed motion capabilities.