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Weekly Update – June 17th, 2020 (HDCP 9.1)

No data update this week.

The break over the weekend was unplanned but not unwelcomed.  Despite my game becoming hot, it was good to just be home and work on some stuff around the house.  Not to mention finally watch some golf on TV.

During my practice, I visited my video feedback to check progress and hit some bumps in the road.  My backswing is definitely getting longer and crossing the line at the top is less of an issue.  There is still this twitch at the top, that I believe is contributing to an early release and reroutes my club to begin the downswing.  Although there are very different motor patterns from my earlier days, this bug is going to take some serious relearning.

Luckily education is the name of the game, so today I wanted to share with you some insightful readings that might be unknown to you.

Pursuing a deeper understanding of the golf swing has been a transformative experience so far.  For starters, the sheer amount of source material would take a lifetime to read and another lifetime to apply.

Where do you even start to look for credible readings on the golf swing?

Popular golf books are often written by instructors or golfers we would love to emulate.  The issue becomes the validity of the information presented.

Now I’m not making an accusation that these books are built on false information while cashing in on name recognition.  What I am saying is that there is a distinct difference between hunches presented as fact and verifiable measurements.  The water gets muddier when those hunches turn out to be accurate and readers start to extend an umbrella of truth to the rest of the lessons.

My bookshelf is full of instructional books from the early works of Bobby Jones and Ben Hogan to present day instructors like Hank Haney and David Leadbetter.

But without a doubt the most interesting books are from authors you’ve probably never heard of in the golf world:  Cochran, Stobbs, Mann, and Dewhurst.

When I decided to truly follow the information, I found it essential to seek the voices that were founded on scientific research.  Immediately I was afraid of the language barrier and how the information was going to translate into fundamental golf understanding.

The thought occurred to me that these researchers have to have some interest in making the game easier and presentable to readers, otherwise the value of the time spent would have been better allocated to a more useful topic.  Golf is a game after all, so why waste scientific resources?

A couple years back I wanted to collect the most prominent instructional books in hopes of finding the similarities and differences of teaching the golf swing.  The thought was that the similarities of every swing style have to outweigh the variations in order to have some sort of success in the methods of instruction.  Simply put: even if found by accident, there have to be universal truths regarding a successful swing.  The more teachers/players/authors that share in a fact, the more likely it is to be universal.

Swing Like A Pro (1998) by Dr. Ralph Mann and Fred Griffin provided my first window into collective agreement.  Dr. Mann’s method was a computational generation based on professional swing data painstakingly collected into a single model swing.  From there, it was this model that they built the information and instruction around.

In the introduction Dr. Mann writes, “What many people don’t understand is that research is not concerned with the exception, but rather the typical.  Our goal is to find out what the majority are doing because that’s where the true success story lies.”

That was the first time I felt I was onto something different.

I’ve read the book several times and my only disappointments are that there are some details that are lacking (that I’ve only unsurfaced after relentless rereading) and that it ends with the straight, full swing.  I would love to see the research expanded to curving the ball and short game.  Regardless, the well of the information seems to have dried to an outdated website and some ambiguous “teacher finder” with expired credentials.

Someday I hope to correspond with Dr. Mann or Fred Griffin about the fate of Swing Like A Pro.

Curious as I am, the authors mention one other book regarding scientific research of the golf swing:  Search for the Perfect Swing (1968) by Alastair Cochran and John Stobbs.  The breadcrumbs for studying golf start with a deep dive by the Golf Society or Great Britain from yesteryear.

For this book, I ended up purchasing a used copy with someone else’s highlights throughout the first chapter.  It seems either they didn’t get too far into the dense material or were so enthralled by the advanced understanding that they turned their game around and never looked back.  I’m hoping for the latter because it has been incredibly influential in my recent progress.

As dated as the book may be, the information is worth its weight in gold.  The authors even take jabs at the cavalier understanding of amateurs that, with no exaggeration, still apply to present-day duffers.  The clubs and garb may have changed but understanding the game sure hasn’t .  Also I learned the word “sclaff”.  Look it up.

Around that same time on another continent, Homer Kelley released The Golfing Machine (1971).  More textbook than instructional, it’s one book for the ages.  I read it several years ago and plan to revisit it here in a few months.  There will be some serious changes in my perspective this time, and I look forward to how it reads now that I’ve already furthered my education.

To round out my descent into madness, I’ve recently picked up The Science of the Perfect Swing (2015).  The title an homage to Cochran and Stobbs, Peter Dewhurst explores the collective scientific literature on the swing.  Even denser than the last, this one is not for the faint of mind.  My instincts tell me to circle back to this one in a few months to try to pick up a deeper understanding.

Don’t worry, I also read for fun (though that implies I’m not thoroughly enjoying golf science books).  My nighttime read is A Course Called Scotland by Tom Coyne.  If you haven’t picked up any of his hilariously heartfelt journeys, you can’t go wrong with any from his collection.  They’re not instructional but offer a genuine affection for the game that can remind us why we play.

Happy reading and stay safe.

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