June 27th, 2017

Thinking Outside the (Golf-Swing) Box – Why it Matters

Thinking Outside the (Golf-Swing) Box - Why it Matters

Why think outside the box in golf - whatever for? The whole world has played the game quite successfully for Centuries, after all. Read on for a reasonably-well-presented case in favor of the idea. The golf swing has been passed down basically unchanged, from the times of the shepherds of Scotland, who were merely young lads whiling away their days trying to hit pebbles on the ground with their shepherd’s crooks.

“Basically unchanged?” you gasp in shock. Why there's the classic swing and there’s the modern swing and so many others besides, how can you say the swing remains basically unchanged? Mainly because while they look superficially different, at the most elemental level they are all the same - they all have too much movement. They all have rotation of the body and a rocking up and down of the shoulders and most also have weight-shift. And why less movement is better is because of some important scientific facts:

  • The golf downswing lasts 0.3 seconds
  • It takes a few milliseconds for messages to pass from the brain to the muscles (depending on the conduction velocity of nerves) and a few milliseconds for the muscles to start contracting (electro-mechanical delay)
  • The brain is capable of self-organization but in conditions of fatigue/injury/anxiety the movement gets changed to adapt to what the brain is able to make the body do in the circumstances

From a motor control perspective too, it is important to reduce movement. Modern motor control theory tells us that while some variability is good, it should be at a minimum at the time the club connects the ball. In other words, there should be some level of consistency in club-ball contact. Although motor control theorists believe that the brain can self-organize a movement, however complex, quite adequately, given enough practice, we know that not to always be the case. Recent interviews with several PGA TOUR players revealed what the best players in the world have to say about consistency. One player said, “I’m consistently inconsistent -  that’s what’s beautiful about my game.” Another said, “Consistency varies with your thoughts - when thoughts can be consistent, the game can be consistent.” So what stopped him from having the same thoughts every time? “Sometimes that one thought won’t work so one starts changing it up thinking one needs something else…” In short, no-one from recreational golfers to the best golfers in the world is able to be consistent, and in fact one could say that while some of us “suck” all of the time, all of us suck some of the time!

So, what outside the box thinking might help improve consistency for all golfers? A reduction of backswing movement will surely be beneficial, as less joints will have to be unbent and untwisted to return the club the the ground within the 1/3rd second the downswing lasts. Which movement can one reduce? Let’s start by asking what skilled golfers can do, and less skilled golfers cannot. Less-skilled golfers cannot lift the lead shoulder as high, cannot shift as much weight forward, cannot rotate through as great a range, and cannot come from the inside as regularly as skilled golfers do. So, how about we:

  1. Reduce how far the lead shoulder has to lift to be at its highest at impact
  2. Reduce the distance weight has to shift forward
  3. Create some backswing rotational stretch in the important core muscles of rotation so downswing rotation is assured even for less-skilled golfers.
  4. Get rid of the positions that cause over-the-top OR use a movement that allows a “from the inside” path

The first and second are easily accomplished. Simply keep the back more upright and the lead shoulder higher from address to impact, and keep slightly more weight on the forward leg for the entire backswing. Next, a pre-swing rotation of the trunk, when combined with the way the arms move during the backswing gives a golfer more stretched muscles which can effortlessly contract (even for less-strong individuals) for greater power at impact. The side benefit of the pre-swing rotation is that it rules out the left side of the fairway (for a right-handed golfer) making it very difficult to make any of the “pull” group (pull slice, pull, pull hook) of shots, and thus increasing consistency. Finally, if the entire trail shoulder-arm complex is kept lower than the lead one, throughout the backswing, for many reasons, the trail shoulder is less likely to make an over-the-top downswing.

Face it folks, it all comes back to the same thing - you need to think outside the box and move to a golf swing (ie the Minimalist Golf Swing) that’s been researched and studied for decades and can instantly give any skill level of golfer not just more consistency but better ball-striking as well as less scope for injury.

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