(Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Golf, Naked: The Bare Essentials Revealed. Posted with permission of Pick It Up Publishing. Copyright 2009.)
By Greg Rowley, PGA
Special to ARMCHAIR GOLF
MOST OF THIS BOOK teaches you about the 99 percent of golf that has nothing to do with technique. On the other hand, a graceful swing can do wonders for your confidence. Understanding the swing will give you confidence. Build the right swing, and you’re ready to take on the world.
During the countless hours of hard work I’ve put into my own game, I’ve made some surprising discoveries. Although at first glance the golf swing seems very complex, its essentials are few and well within your reach.
Another note: I believe self-discovery is the most important component to understanding the swing and improving your game. Analyzing golf on TV and reading complicated self-help books will only take you so far. It’s up to you to do the rest.
Story Time: I was a terrible player at the beginning of my career. Frankly, no one was more surprised than me when I passed the P.A.T. However, I’ve come a long way since then, and I’ve been fortunate enough to celebrate some real successes. I even set the course record at Black Rock (65). It was subsequently broken by the unstoppable Troy, and then again by PGA Tour star Rich Beem, but my name was on the board for a few months – something I’m very proud of. It’s nothing short of a miracle when you consider the first swing advice I ever got from my Dad. He told me, “Imagine the ball is a snake sticking its head out of a hole, and whack it.”
The Pre-Swing Basics
You don’t need to understand every muscle contraction, sphincter squeeze and anatomical micro-movement of the golf swing to build a proficient motion. What you do need is a grasp of the basic pre-swing principles. This is the stuff your teacher will be talking about when you go take a lesson. Knowing the vocabulary, or better yet, understanding the fundamentals, will help you communicate more clearly and quicken the pace of your improvement.
It’s good to have lofty goals – but get real. Keep your expectations realistic. Understand the length of the improvement process, enjoy the challenge, and learn to laugh at yourself – because you will make lots of mistakes.
When taking your stance, let gravity dictate where your arms hang – which should be straight down from your shoulder sockets. Most people tend to reach out and get their hands too far from their body. This causes many swing flaws and compensations. If your swing looks or feels like you’re pulling a dead cat out of a rose bush, it might be a posture problem.
Get a Grip
The grip is the most important aspect of the pre-swing fundamentals. After all, your grip is the only thing that attaches you to the club. Here are the two most common mistakes:
Very few amateur golfers position their hands strong enough on the club. This means for a right-handed player the crease made between the right forefinger and thumb must point to the right shoulder, not to the chin. This is critical because it keeps the radius and ulna bones of your forearms – and hence your clubface – from immediately over-rotating as you begin your swing.
The other common grip flaw is a left hand that isn’t anchored properly. With irons and woods, the thick meaty pad (the hypothenar eminence) at the base of the pinky side of the palm must rest on the top of the club. This creates leverage and an important angle between the club shaft and your arms.
The frustrating thing about golf is that sometimes understanding doesn’t translate to execution. When that happens, and all of your best efforts fail, just remember to rear back and whack the snake.