|The Forget-About-It Guide To The Worst Golf Tips
How many times have you heard someone say “keep your head down” or “you gotta slow down your swing?” Spend an hour on a busy driving range and you’ll get an earful of those golf tips, and it’s always difficult to tune them out. But if you try to incorporate even one-tenth of the tips you hear, you’ll go nuts. And your game will surely go south.
Most golf tips are misguided, misunderstood and misused because they’re taken out of context. It doesn’t matter if you get a tip from a magazine article, a network telecast, or your uncle Duff, it’s almost impossible to know if a specific tip actually applies to your unique swing. Don’t be fooled. Many tips are designed to eliminate your slice, but they’re not all going to work for you. And you might just be trading one minor fix for a host of other problems.
The fact is, even the most fundamentally sound advice can be detrimental if you don’t know how to apply it to your particular swing. It’s all too easy to start practicing something that’s designed to fix a problem that you don’t even have.
So here’s a tip. Forget about all those unsolicited tips you see, hear and read. Because the more of them you try, the more confused you’ll get. Instead, Read The Forget-About-It Guide To Better Golf and then seek out the advice of your local PGA professional. He can weed out the tips that will hurt you and keep you focused on the stuff that really matters.
“Head down, eye on the ball.”
Good posture is the foundation of a sound golf swing. It’s your posture that dictates your swing plane and if you’re head is “down” you’ll never have good posture. Forget about it.
The only time you want to keep your head “down” is when you’re putting. Otherwise, you should be looking out at the ball with your chin up slightly. You won’t slouch with your chin up.
And what about the common myth of keeping your eye on the ball? Sure, as you start your swing you should be focused on the ball, but don’t get into a staring contest with it. After impact your head will naturally come up and your eyes should follow the ball to the intended target. Remember, the ball is not the target, and hitting the ball is not the objective. The goal is to get the ball to the hole.
Many people misinterpret this tip and end up keeping their eyes on the tee instead of the ball. Many students get so focused on keeping their head “down” they can’t possible follow through to a nice, athletic finish.
So don’t be afraid to look up after impact. If you get your eyes moving toward the target, your body — and the ball — will respond quite nicely.
“Keep your left arm straight.”
Forget About It! If you tell a student to keep his left arm straight and he’ll almost always translate that into “stiff.” Next thing you know, the entire effort turns into a series of stiff, robotic manipulations instead of a free-flowing swing.
Muscle tension — especially in the arms — kills the golf swing and robs you of power. So forget about the idea of a straight left arm. Even if your left elbow bends a bit at the top, it doesn’t matter. If your arms are relaxed, both arms will extend naturally through impact, and your left arm will fold, or bend at the elbow, shortly thereafter.
Relaxed arms will become straight by the pull of centrifugal force. If you let your arms hang like loose ropes from your shoulders, centrifugal force will do the work. You don’t have to force it.
So leave the stiff-arm on the football field. You can’t generate any clubhead speed (i.e. distance) if you’re stiff and tight. What you need is free and relaxed. To borrow a phrase, “effortless force, not forceful effort.”
“Take the putter straight back and straight through.”
The underlying message of this tip is that there’s one “right” way to putt. Wrong. There are just as many good putting methods as there are putters on the market, so do whatever feels natural to you.
There are many great golfers who have used this straight-back and
straight-through method successfully. Jack Nicklaus often putted that way. If that’s your natural tendency, and if you’re fairly successful, then stick with it. But if you’re struggling on the greens you should forget about keeping things straight and square, and just swing the clubhead.
A natural, flowing putting stroke does have an arc to it, and if you try to fight it you’ll cause all sorts of problems. The fact is, if you’re consciously trying to keep the putter square and on line, you’re going to manipulate the stroke somewhere, somehow.
Forget About It! Instead of worrying about the path of the putterhead, try focusing on your routine. If you keep your routine consistent every time, it’ll produce good rhythm. And if you have good, consistent rhythm your stroke will take care of itself.
Have you ever seen Tiger Woods swing slow? No. He goes after it with more gusto than most of us could ever muster.
Fred Couples, on the other hand, looks like he’s swinging easy. But if you’re watching up close you see, feel and hear the tremendous clubhead speed he generates through the ball.
Instruct a student to swing slow and you’ll mess up his rhythm every time. Usually they go too easy and fail to generate the clubhead speed they need. The term “swing easy” is just a lousy use of the English language. Likewise, “slow it down” and “You’re swinging too fast” are just as bad.
The key is to swing fast through impact, while maintaining your natural rhythm. For some people, a natural rhythm is relatively slow and easy, like Ernie Els. For others, including myself, it’s quick like Nick. (Price)
Unfortunately, most people don’t know what their natural rhythm feels like because it varies so dramatically depending on the club. The pitching wedge rhythm is clockwork compared to the rhythm of the swing with the big, new driver. Or vice versa.
If you have that problem, hire an instructor who will help you find your natural rhythm. Remember, even though you change clubs, the rhythm stays the same. And slow rhythm should never equal slow clubhead speed.
“Turn in a barrel.”
This is an oldie, but a goodie. The idea is to turn your shoulders, make your weight transfer, and finish the swing while standing in a big pickle barrel. It’s an image that’s been passed down for generations, and was designed to keep the player steady and centered over the ball. Good idea, bad tip.
The problem is, turning in a barrel is very restricting. It’s almost physically impossible to make a good, athletic swing without some lateral movement. And the fact is, all great players move “off” the ball a little bit. That is, there’s some linear movement away from the ball during the back swing.
This image of turning in a barrel is closely related to the idea of keeping your head perfectly still, which Jack Nicklaus advocated. But don’t be fooled. You can’t get your weight on your right foot if your head is perfectly still.
If you want to get technical about it, look at the stop-action sequences of a top tour pro and draw a line from the center of his stance to his head. You’ll see the head moves an average of 15 degrees from the center. Not up and down, just back and forth.
So forget about the pickle barrel idea, and forget about keeping your head perfectly still. A little lateral motion is quite all right. If you get fixated on staying still, you’re almost certain to develop the dreaded reverse pivot, which usually results in a slice. But that’s another story.
About The Author
John M. Furgurson is the author of The Forget-About-It Guide To Better Golf - How to lower your scores by limiting what you learn. He has 20 years of experience in marketing and advertising, mostly for golf-related clients. His writing credits include Links Magazine, Gourmet Magazine, Architectural Digest and numerous trade publications. Read more of his work at www.forgetaboutitgolf.com