The great Bob Torrance, father of European Tour legend Sam Torrance, was once asked by Ernie Els to have a look at his swing. Els had been struggling with his game and had recently missed several cuts. He was certain there was some flaw in his backswing. Bob Torrance had been walking the driving range, a common sight back then at many European Tour events. Mr. Torrance didn’t say a word. He looked at Els’ swing from several different teaching positions. This went on for about 10 minutes. Not a word. Then he said directly and in his stylistic way, “There is nothing wrong with your swing. Now go play golf!” Ernie Els won the British Open the following week.
In my opinion, there is a disturbing trend in modern golf instruction. Many golf instructors today complicate the golf swing. I have a profound respect for fellow golf professionals; however, some of the concepts and verbiage I hear coming out of their mouths are pure folly! I know several “Top Teachers” named by famous magazines and TV channels (many who are personal friends of mine) who teach and discuss the golf swing as if they are sending a rocket to Mars. Some of the invented terms, phrases, and concepts are truly atrocious. If it wasn’t so sad, it would be laughable. I have yet to figure out if these instructors are ego driven or just poor communicators, or a combination of both. To boot, they continuously cite the ball flight numbers from their launch monitors to further prove their theories.
Don’t get me wrong; I am certainly not anti-science or technology. I have a degree in science and love the mechanics of how things work. I can sit for hours and discuss the physics of the golf swing with any golf instructor. However, in my own teaching, you will rarely hear me mention to a student any complicated instruction. There is no need for an explanation to the student about the D-plane or “going normal” or all of the other terms these instructors invent. These terms might have a place in a biomechanical discussion of the golf swing, but in general, they have no business being presented on the lesson tee. The average student, or for that matter, many tour pros, couldn’t care less about any of these terms. They just want to see results that are easily duplicated. Certainly, there are times when some students could benefit from some science. But the reality is, simple instruction leading to an acceptable and repeatable result for that player is the best form of teaching. My goal as a golf instructor is to use as few words as possible to convey a message and get results. That is why I so often use image and feel to get my point across.
I want to be clear: As a golf instructor, it is important to understand and continue to educate yourself on biomechanics and technology. Having this knowledge can be important to the instructor to diagnose certain problems in a golf swing. However, it is not necessary to give a student all of this knowledge or science. This will mostly lead to more confusion. I once heard a great musician say that he didn’t become a truly great musician until he learned to be mature enough to conserve notes and leave some space in the music.
The golf swing is simple: take a club and hit the ball. Remember how a child learns most psychomotor skills, by doing the action. We certainly can refine motions by simple thoughts. But remember, the golf swing is under 1.5 seconds from the move away to impact. The more you guide or force the movements, the more complex the action becomes. Many students’ problems in their golf swing stem from a flaw in their grip, stance, and setup position. This leads to compensations during the swinging action.
To have a successful impact with a golf ball, physics dictates that one needs five things to be correct: center of contact, speed, angle of approach, clubface position at impact, and club path position at impact. But these impact positions can’t be forced. Impact is a direct result of setup fundamentals and the swinging action. How a student achieves this can take on many forms. However, the moment of truth is impact. In other words, just hit the ball! Then learn to get the ball in the hole in the fewest shots possible, like Ernie Els.