The simplest way to analyze a golf swing is to look at it from the outside. If you could go up to a person and ask, “What does your golf swing say about you?” you would probably get a long list of things that don’t match up, like “I’m in good health,” or “I’ve never been overweight.”
The truth is that we can also analyze the golf swing from the inside. To do so, we need to take an inside view of the swing. We have to watch the ball as it flies through the air. And we have to watch ourselves as we make our moves on that ball.
We can see what the shot looks like at each point along the way: how far down and where on the clubface the golfer places his hands, how he swings his arms, where he turns his eyes, where on his body he turns his head and shoulders. We can see who our opponent is at each point; what kind of target we’re aiming at; who our partner is; and what kind of angle we’re aiming for with our body or our clubface or our hands.
As a result, we see all kinds of things about ourselves that we miss if, instead of watching ourselves from outside, we watch ourselves
What do you think of when you hear the words “golf swing analyzer”? Do you think of a computer screen showing a graph that shows your swing speed, your grip pressure, and how your posture changed during your swing? Do you think about a way to test your golf swings for free?
Well, that’s not exactly what I’m talking about. Sure, I could give you some numbers from your swing, but no one is going to use those numbers to make any kind of judgment about you. In fact, I’m not going to give them to you at all. But if you go to my website, there’s more than enough information to tell a real story about who you are. And though it isn’t exactly quantitative data, it is data – information in a form that can be analyzed and summarized according to certain principles.
The golf swing is a classic example of the ease with which biomechanical data can be manipulated. The first step in analyzing the golf swing is to categorize it according to its speed, which is measured in inches per second. This corresponds to a series of movements called planes. In the early years of golf many different categories were used, but by 1960 we settled on what we now call the four standard planes: backswing, downswing, backswing, and followthrough.
The standard plane categorization system is based on the assumption that there are four fundamental movements that can be made in any golfer’s swing. That’s not true for most sports; baseball players may use their glove or their legs or their chest as the primary way to move their bodies, but they all make essentially the same movements. But for golf swings we think we’ve isolated something fundamental about each golfer that makes him different from everyone else. And since no two swings are exactly alike and since every golfer has to learn how to play by himself, every golfer is unique and different from every other golfer.
The difficulty comes when you try to turn this into a control system, because there’s no default state in which all your body parts are set up just so as to allow
The golf swing is a very complex thing, but it’s not very hard to tell if you’re doing it right. You can see whether you’ve swung the club down at the ball or up and away from it, and also whether your hips are open or closed. What you can’t see is that the way you move through space determines which direction your hands will go, so that only certain parts of the club face in the same direction as your hips and body.
What matters is not how much talent there is but how much effort you are willing to put into the process. In other words, what kind of person are you? The biggest success in golf—Jack Nicklaus—wasn’t a great golfer; he was just a good one who practiced hard. The best players on tour today have all had similar backgrounds: they started around age 8 or 9 with private instruction, got better at it and then practiced harder than anyone else on tour.
I spent some time with a golf swing analyzer. The device is an instrument that measures the speed of your swing, the rotation of your shoulders and hips, the force of your arms, the angle of your club at impact, and a number other things. After coming up with a set of numbers that looked reasonable, I plugged them into a program that showed me how my swing compared with other people’s.
It turned out I had pretty good form for an amateur golfer. So did about 80 percent of the people I saw on the range. My swings weren’t as impressive as some pro golfers’, but then again I didn’t make $130,000 winning tournaments. But to me this wasn’t really interesting—I can make a wonderful golf shot from any position on the range.
But what was interesting was that there were a surprising number of other people who had very good form. And about 5 percent of those had bad form.
What does this mean? Well, it’s hard to say without knowing more about you than does an average golf swing analyzer. But in general it seems to suggest something like: If you are 10-15 years old and have fairly average physical ability and ambition, there is no reason why you can’t be reasonably assured
The swing that wins at golf is very different from the swing you’ll use to play catch with your kids. The swing that wins at golf is short, hard-swinging, and the club head comes back to the ball fast.
The club head is swung very quickly: though it is obvious when a golfer is swinging (because of the sound), he can’t see his own movements because there’s so much going on. You might think that people who are good at golf have strong muscles and powerful arms but for some reason it doesn’t work out; that’s wrong. What good golfers have are powerful muscles and a very short, quick swing.
There are other differences as well: good golfers don’t put their weight on their left foot until they’re already moving toward the ball; they keep their weight over their right foot until they’re ready to hit the ball; they swing down on the ball with a steep angle; they take out all the air in their lungs before the backswing starts, and then release it after they’ve started down.
You can tell a lot about a golfer just by watching him play.
There’s a certain amount of arrogance in thinking you can analyze your own swing. But you can. In fact, the vast majority of golfers can do it. Golf is not just a physical game, but a mental one as well.
For example, there are some individuals who swing through the ball so softly that it seems to take an eternity for them to hit it. They are seen as timid and weak-willed, and their slow shots are thought of as a sign of weakness.
There are others who swing so hard that they strike the ball with tremendous force, but they do this so forcefully that they lose control of their club head at impact and slice the ball badly. The result is often a double-bogey or worse. These golfers seem strong and confident, but really they are just swinging too hard with unwarranted self-confidence.
The difference between these two types of golfer is not how much strength each possesses. It is how each uses his or her strength and how each uses his or her own character strengths in deciding what and when to do with every shot.