The Three Requirements of Good Golf – Lesson 1
I think I can most readily explain the requirements of good golf by relating the case history of one of my pupils, whom I shall call “D.M.”
When D.M. joined our Bel-Air golf club his handicap was 10. After three months play over this exacting course with its narrow fairways, D.M.’s handicap went to 13. This disturbed him considerably because he had a certain pride in his game, so he approached me with this comment: “Joe> I guess I am going to have to take some lessons.” “Well,” I answered, “you don’t have to talk that way about the lessons, I am not selling castor oil on the lesson tee.”
When we got to the lesson tee, I asked D.M. to take a few practice swings, and then I had him hit a half a dozen shots.
“What do you think of it?” asked D.M.
“Not bad,” I answered, “in fact it is very good: Do you know exactly what your first move is in your swing?”
“I start the club away from the ball,” D.M. answered.
“No, there is something you do ahead of that,” I said.
Finally, after another half dozen shots I made D.M. realize that his first move, the very first move he made after he assumed his position to the ball, was a “forward press.”
For those unfamiliar with this term let me tell you that it is as old as the hills, but aptly describes exactly how every good, reliable golfer starts his swing. The forward press is a slight forward motion, a slight forward bending of the right knee. This forward kick with the right knee enables the player to do a “reverse press,” a reversing of the knee positions, whereby the player can balance himself on his right foot and right leg, so that the upswing of the club can be made with the right side of the body. And I want to say most emphatically that if there is any trick to making a good golf shot, it is exactly this trick of getting onto the right leg and right foot before the club is picked up on the back swing.
After I had demonstrated and proved to D.M. that he had this little forward press as the first move of his golf swing, I told him to never let anyone ever talk him out of that move, because with it he had developed the proper sense of footwork and balance to put himself in a fine position to swing the club. At this point I emphasized the fact that the proper way to swing a golf club was with a sense of body action, a sense of body control. This sense of using the body to swing a golf club is nothing strange or secret. The basis of all athletics is that whenever one wants to throw something, to kick something or to punch something, in fact, anytime one wants to get power into his arms or legs, he does it by getting into proper position to utilize his body to generate the force.
I pointed out to D.M. that this combination of proper footwork for balance and proper body action for power was the basis of every good golfer’s game, and that however he had acquired that little forward press, it had made it possible for him to use his body correctly and gave him the basis of a real good golf game.
After this long dissertation D.M. said, “That’s great; tell me then, why I can’t play golf.”
“You can’t play good golf for the simple reason that you do not know how to use your hands,” I answered.
“What’s wrong with my hands,” he asked.
“For one thing,” I answered, “you have a death grip on the club with your left hand. This grip, plus the fact that you raise the club on the backswing with your left hand and left arm, causes you to roll the clubface away from the ball on the backswing, and from this roll away action the club falls into an open position at the top of the swing. From here you pull sharply across the ball so that you produce high pop up shots, or you push the ball away off to the right, or you slice your shots badly.
“Now, from this same open face position of the club at the top of the swing, you might suddenly start doing the very reverse. Instead of bringing the clubhead into the ball with this dragging, cross-cut, lagging action of the club, you suddenly start lashing out with the right hand at the top of the swing. The club, with this ‘too early hit’ action of the right hand, is thrown outside the point of impact. Often this ‘too early hit’ with the right hand causes the clubface to turn over, to toe in as the ball is met and a series of topped shots, smothered hook shots or shots that go off to the left result.” (This is a common fault with beginners and is the reason why they get so many white paint marks on the top part of their wood clubs.)
So, I explained to D.M. that while his footwork and body action were good, this faulty hand action caused his shots to stray to the right or fall off to the left; in other words, they went any place but down the middle.
“You certainly hit the nail on the head,” said D.M. “That is exactly my problem. I have no trouble hitting them but I don’t know where they are going. What do we do about it?”
I then proceeded to show D.M. that after making the forward press, which was his first move, he then made move two, a reverse press (changing knee positions and thereby shifting his balance onto his right leg and right foot), that he then made move three (raised the club to the top of the swing) and then move four (brought the club down into and through the ball).
I told him that was the natural sequence of motion in a golf shot and that golf champions such as Harry Var-don, Bobby Jones, Leo Diegel, Jimmy Demaret, Jackie Burke, Paul Runyon, Lawson Little, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, George Bayer, Mike Souchak, Jay Hebert, and countless others, all had or have this one, two, three and four rhythm in their golf swing.
I pointed out to D.M. that because of the tense death grip with his left hand, he kept raising the club with his left hand and left arm and throwing or rolling the club into open position at the top of the swing.
Try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get the idea across to D.M.—that his clubhead ought to be closed on the backswing. When I asked him to keep the club closed on the backswing I was only asking him to keep the club square with the line of flight as he took it back.