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Learning To Control Your Swing To Improve Your Golf Handicap

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The most difficult thing about learning golf is to learn to distract your mind from everything except the feeling of what you are about to perform.

Now no teacher can tell you in exact words how it feels when you make a certain movement correctly. You will have to use your imagination to interpret what he says, and if he is wise he will encourage you to use it.

Let me give you an example. I want to teach you to pivot from the hips. Now I can show you how it is done and issue the usual mass of detailed instruction, but that does not call up your imagination and it gives you no conception of how it feels to pivot correctly.

From the shoulders our power travels down through the arms, and as to arm action also I believe the common conception to be erroneous. Most people think they lift their arms to get them to the top of the back swing. With a modern controlled swing they do not lift them . . . the arms work absolutely subjectively to the shoulders, that is why they are controlled.

So far so good; we can learn to feel the body turn to the right and round to the left, beautifully fixed in space by the hips. Now carry the image a stage further: first, as you pivot sink down from the knees—you will feel that if you sink down, even ever so little, you will become stuck in the barrel. This will not do, so you must feel that you keep your hips up on a level with the top of the barrel. Do this and you will develop the feel of keeping your hips up as you pivot—a thing which unfortunately for our golf very few of us do.

Now do not think that we use imagination in teaching golf in order to evolve new theories. Oh no—there are too many theories already! What we use imagination for is to translate theory into feeling, and to keep our minds awake and our circle of golfing sensations expanding. Every new golfing sensation (if it is to be deliberately induced and not left to happen by accident) may need an introduction through the imagination in this way—but once the image has done its work of introduction it can be put on one side and the feel that it has made known can be relied on. But put your images on one side—do not abandon them, because if you do lose the feel, the image through which you learned it will bring it back.

Now the golf swing is a connected series of sensations or feels and when you get all these feels right and rightly connected you will swing perfectly. I have just given you the feel of the pivot—the movement on which the modern swing is based.

Now to that one basic feel, the pivot, we will add other feels, and every new feel gives you a new control until your whole game is controlled and you can play it as you will. But do not think you cannot play until you have this whole series of controls established. Lots of players go through their golfing lives and get a lot of fun out of the game without building up any controls at all! But the more controls you can build up and link together, the better for your game, the finer the conception of the swing you will evolve.

Let us get back to the visualizing of our swing. We have laid our foundation by getting the feel of the pivot from the hips. This movement goes up through the body to the next control point—the shoulders. And here I believe that wrong imagination does a great deal of damage to many people's swings.

We think that in the fine swing we see the left shoulder come down as we come back and the right shoulder come down as we come forward; so we feel that this shoulder movement is right and tend to encourage it— to the detriment of our swings because it is wrong. And I say it is wrong, cheerfully certain that it is wrong in spite of its almost universal acceptance. How much the shoulders actually dip depends upon how erect we stand when addressing the ball. We should stand as erect as possible and I contend that we should not feel our shoulders go down but should feel that we are keeping them fully up.

As we address the ball we look at it a little sideways —we peep at it. The head is fixed (because you "keep your eye on the ball), and the movement of the shoulders is not an independent movement of the shoulders at all, but is due to the shoulders being moved around from the pivot.

We can only keep the shoulder movement in a fixed groove and make it repeatable time after time, by keeping the shoulders at the limit of upness in whatever position the turn from the hips may have placed them. Any excess of upness (that is, actual shoulder lift) will result in the ball being lost sight of. In short, the fixed head determines the limit of lift and dip of the shoulders.

You will see that this is why you must feel you keep the shoulders up to the same degree with, say, a driver and a full swing and a mashie niblick (a more upright club) and a half swing. The closer you stand to your ball the more upright the swing and the more directly downward your sight of the ball . . . also, the less extensive the swing you can make without losing sight of the ball.

Now try this conception of the shoulder action without a club, and link it to your feel of the pivot from the hips. Feel how the two become connected. This is the first connection in our building up of a controlled swing—and a very important one. You cannot take too much trouble in understanding it and building it up.

So, instead of explaining all the mechanical and anatomical details of the pivot to you, I show you how to pivot and then tell you to do it yourself imagining that you are standing in a barrel hip high and big enough to be just free of each hip but a close enough fit to allow no movement except the pivot. At once you get the feeling of the pivot. Incidentally nine out of ten golfers would improve their games if they would use this image to the fullest degree in practice.

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