Golf Swing Fundamentals
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Given the complexity of the movements of the golf swing and the precision required for success, it would seem evident the need for a clearly defined and established set of golf swing fundamentals from which to learn. Most everything else we’ve learned in life was based on some industry-wide accepted set of fundamentals. When learning to play a musical instrument, we never feared that if we took a lesson from someone other than our normal instructor that he or she might teach us something completely different or even opposite from our previous instructor. When learning to drive a car, there were a common set of fundamentals. If you learned how to drive a stick shift, you were taught to slowly ease out the clutch while gently pressing in the accelerator. I doubt that anyone tried to teach you to slowly let out the gas while gently pushing in the clutch! However, you can take ten different golf lessons from ten different instructors and be taught ten different things. How on earth could anyone learn this way? Certainly, golf instruction is in need of a change.
Well, history has proven that golfers can't learn like this. It’s a well known fact that golfers’ handicaps haven’t changed much over the last 50 years, and I believe that golf instruction is at the root of this trend. The most significant problem with golf instruction since its inception is the fact that it has never been taught on a common set of fundamentals for the simple reason that no one seems to be able to agree on any. This is to be expected given how each instructor has come up with his own set of “golf swing fundamentals” that he or she teaches. Most golf instruction material published in the past has been based on how the top player of that era swings the golf club. That’s it. No underlying explanation for why or how, just “this works for me so you should do it to.” When Bobby Jones was the greatest golfer in the world, everyone wanted to learn to swing like Jones. When Ben Hogan became the next world beater, he became the most sought after golf swing guru and published a book that is still a favorite amongst golfers today. But then a young kid named Jack Nicklaus came along and swung the golf club and arms in a much more upright fashion with a massive leg drive. All of a sudden, Hogan’s more flattish swing plane was no longer in vogue. Today, of course, like lost puppy dogs trying to find someone to feed them, countless golf instructors will put your swing up next to Tiger Woods and say “Here’s what Tiger does, and here’s what you do. Now do what Tiger does.” They do this all while having little to no understanding of the biomechanics of Tiger’s swing, including the faulty movement and setup patterns that have caused him injury in the past. It won’t be long before Tiger’s golf swing is overtaken by someone else who hits it longer and straighter, and that golfer’s movements form the basis for the next “model swing” and will be all the rage in golf instruction.
If this seems insane to you--changing the core of what golf instructors teach based on who’s the top dog at the moment--that's because it is. At some point, it just makes sense to ignore how all the golfers on the PGA Tour swing and take a completely objective look at human anatomy, physics and human physiology and say “How is the body designed to accomplish the task of striking the golf ball safely, powerfully and efficiently, and how can the brain learn this new movement pattern?” If that makes sense to you, then the Rotary Swing Tour will make sense to you because that’s exactly what I did. Rather than define a set of fundamentals based on my own biases or preferences of golfer’s swings that I liked or instructional advice I felt made “good tips”, I decided to put together a set of golf swing fundamentals based on the very definition of the word. According to Webster’s Dictionary, a fundamental is:
a: serving as an original or generating source
b : serving as a basis supporting existence or determining essential structure or function
c: of central importance
d: of or relating to essential structure, function
When determining what a fundamental of the RST golf swing is, it must first meet these criteria. To make things simple, below is a list of synonyms and antonyms to memorize:
Synonyms of “Fundamental”
Antonyms of “Fundamental”
So, from this point forward, anything that is truly a fundamental of the golf swing should stand the test of being primary, origin, central and absolute. If it does not, then by its very definition, it can’t be a golf swing fundamental.
List 5 fundamentals of the golf swing that meet the above criteria.
It’s likely that you’ll find it difficult to do so, especially if someone challenges you to defend your answers. For instance, let’s take golf swing plane. To many instructors swing plane is all the matters. They are unconcerned with how the body moves, focusing only on the arms and hands and how they create a golf swing plane. However, swing plane can NOT be a fundamental of the golf swing according to the definition of the word because it is completely DEPENDENT on the movements of the body, arms and hands. It is SECONDARY to these movements and DEPENDENT on how the muscles in the body fire and happens in the PERIPHARY of what is central to the golf swing – the movements of the body. If you’ll notice, swing plane fits perfectly with all the antonyms of what a golf swing fundamental is. We’re not saying golf swing plane is not important, but it cannot, by definition, be a fundamental and must be looked at as a RESULT of proper body movements.
In your quest to understand the truths about the fundamentals of the golf swing, defining what a fundamental is and is not will take you a very long way toward finding what truly is important in the golf swing. If we revisit our golf swing plane example above, you will find that understanding how to correctly rotate the torso, perform shoulder elevation and right elbow flexion will create a swing plane. The club, by itself can do nothing, the muscles of the body moving the bones at their respective joints are what create the appearance of a swing plane, and therefore, each movement individually can be looked at as a fundamental as they are the ORIGIN of movement.
For some, the swing plane example may be too complex to understand at first, so let’s take an easier one: stance width. Think to yourself what you have been told regarding stance width or perhaps what you have even taught your students if you're a golf instructor. The most common advice is that the feet should be shoulder width apart. When I hear this, the first thing I do is ask that instructor, "Where are my legs attached, my shoulders or my hips?" Of course, they answer the hips. So my next question is, "What does the width of my shoulders have to do with the width of my stance?" There is NO direct correlation between the two.
Some golfers have very broad shoulders and very narrow hips and vice versa. This useless piece of advice is not only vague but not based on anything central or absolute. And worse yet, the instructor can’t provide an answer as to “why” he wants you to setup to the golf ball that way, and that is unacceptable. Everything you do in the golf swing should have a very clear answer as to WHY it needs to be done that way and HOW to go about doing it. With RST, there is a very clear answer as to why, either based on anatomy, swing mechanics, physics or the physiology of the learning process and a very clear pathway on how to go about doing it.
For RST Instructors, the width of the stance is a fundamental that abides by the laws of “why” and “how.” First, it is determined by the width of the pelvis since that is what determines neutral joint alignment (NJA), which is vital for power and injury prevention. Second, it is determined by the fundamental in the golf swing of weight transfer, which is inherent in all throwing and hitting athletic movements as it creates momentum that is again, necessary for maximum power. Third, while transferring the weight, we need the head to stay centered to make clean contact more consistently. A clean strike becomes increasingly difficult with our head moving all over the place. Finally, it is based on the need to have the left hip in neutral at impact for safe and efficient rotation. Because of these golf swing requirements, the stance width for RST is 2 inches outside of neutral. This is the type of analytical thought process that goes into understanding each piece of the RST swing system.