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Published: February 16, 2014
When most golfers look at the players in this image, they see great eras of golf, great ball strikers, players who are exceptional at all aspects of the game.
These certainly are some of our greatest players; Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman, and Tiger Woods. But we can see more there than five great ball strikers. We can also see five distinct eras of golf instruction and a more scientific approach to improving the golf swing.
The Fashion of the Day
A golf instructor might look at Bobby Jones' golf swing and then consider what changed when Ben Hogan came on the scene.
Hogan published his book and suddenly everybody wanted to copy his golf swing. He was the premier ball striker of his day, so everybody tried to swing the way he did; a lot more around, inside, a little bit flatter than before.
Then eventually another superstar came out and changed the face of golf instruction. Jack Nicklaus appeared and Hogan was no longer in vogue. Now everybody wanted to swing like Nicklaus; more upright, getting their arms way above their heads and with this big lateral leg drive.
There was a whole period of golfers, like Johnny Miller and others, who came out after Jack and all had that big leg drive. They did a lot of damage to their hips, unfortunately; most of them eventually had to undergo hip replacement.
When Greg Norman came out, his swing was a little bit more compact and more round, slightly shallower arms at the top, and everybody tried to change again.
Then more recently when Tiger came out, everybody looked at Tiger's swing and said, "Well, this must be the way to swing the golf club. He's phenomenal, he's the best player we've ever seen, we need to copy Tiger."
Think about this. We've looked at a span of less than 100 years of golf, and golf instruction has just gone from one star to another, following them around like a lost puppy. Is there no science of golf?
Where's the Science in Golf?
Nobody looked for the facts, the fundamentals, the science, the absolutes of how the golf club should be swung, how the body should move, and so on. Golf instructors have based their golf instruction on those star players, copying the top ball strikers in the professional ranks, as well as the instructors' own friends and colleagues, and teaching techniques that worked in their personal golf swing.
Looking at it objectively, that's a little crazy. That's just following a fad.
The golf instruction world is the absolute king of infomercials and fads. New golf swing theories pop up and disappear all the time because never once has anybody taken a look at the golf swing objectively and said, "Look, here's how the body is designed to move. Here's how the joints are designed to be aligned for safety, for power, for efficiency, for stability. These are the muscles you use to create these movements."
Looking at the science of golf, it's really black and white.
The Rotary Swing is Different - Golf Science
That's where the Rotary Swing stands out. Most golf instructors have very little understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, so their teaching is based on their personal preferences, what has worked for them and, of course, which top player of that era they admire most.
Some golf instructors are big fans of Ernie Els, and think everybody should swing like Ernie. Well, is Ernie swinging correctly? Is his golf swing fundamentally sound? Is he swinging based on how the body is designed to move, or is he at risk for injury? Is he moving inefficiently? How does his golf swing look when viewed scientifically and objectively?
Those types of questions are key to understanding. You can't just copy the way a top player swings. It doesn't work that way.
The underlying laws of anatomy are black and white. The way your body is designed to move is black and white. The muscles you use to create certain movements, such as rotation around your spine, are black and white. You don't have some other set of muscles to fall back on for this.
It is critical, then, for golfers to understand the need to look at the swing objectively, because there is so much misinformation, and there's no need for it. There are simple, black and white, fundamental answers to the anatomy of the golf swing, and that's exactly what we're here to talk about - simple golf science.
Too Many Tips, Not Enough Science in Golf
At some point, most golfers and golf instructors get frustrated by all the different "tips." They grow tired of having random swing tips thrown at them by golf instructors, golf magazines, golf videos, etc. They don't know how to tell what's right and what's wrong.
And of course there is a right and wrong, but how can you tell what's what? If one golf instructor says you should move the golf club this way or the body that way, and another one says, "No, no, no, you've got to do it this way," how do you decide who is right?
Look at the Fundamentals
Presumably, that determination should be based on the fundamental truths of how the body is designed to move.
With so many different perspectives out there, a lot of golfers end up with a bucket of random swing tips from different sources. Trying to discuss swing fundamentals can lead to endless circular arguments that leave golfers more confused than ever.
Unfortunately, this situation also creates a rift within the golf instruction industry. A line is drawn in the sand, and you have to either follow this swing theory or that one. Nobody wins, because nobody has established a set of fundamentals governing how golfers should move that's based on facts, medical science of golf and anatomy, rather than preference.
Most golfers pick a side and say, "I am this type of golfer," or "I believe in this type of golf swing," and practice that swing without the benefit of any facts or tools to indicate whether or not that's really the best way to swing, or even whether swinging that way could cause physical injury later in life.
Hazardous to Your Health
The possibility of injury is very real fact for golfers. Over 80 percent of the players on the PGA tour will end up missing six to eight weeks sometime in their careers due to a golf swing-related injury.
Think about that. Four out of every five players you watch on TV each week on the PGA Tour will miss about two months of competitive play - what they get paid to do - because of a golf swing-related injury.
Their golf swings are 10 times more efficient than the average amateur, so at some point the golf instruction world needs to wake up and say, "There has to be a right way and a wrong way. We don't know what it is, and we need to figure it out."
That's what the Rotary Swing did. We looked at the swing objectively and said, "Look, all these guys are getting hurt. There has to be a reason for it, and there has to be a way around it," and of course there is. It's just understanding basic anatomy 101 and biomechanics, how the body is designed to move, and how the brain learns new movement patterns. Hence, the Rotary Swing Tour was born out of a desire to explore the science of golf swing mechanics.
The Final Piece
The biological process of learning is the other fundamental piece. When you go and get a golf lesson, you are typically given a tip or a couple tips, and then you're left on your own to determine what, exactly, that tip means to you. You're left to form your own interpretation.
Imagine that a golf instructor tells you, "For your takeaway, I want you to turn your shoulders."
OK, how do I do that? How do I turn my shoulders? Do you want me to push from the left side? Do you want me to pull from the right? Do you want me to use my obliques? Do you want me to use the old cliché of, "Put your left shoulder under your chin?" How, exactly, should I move?
In 100 different lessons, you could end up with 100 different interpretations of what it feels like to "turn your shoulders."
That ends up creating more problems, because now students are interpreting the instructions to the best of their ability and even if it's good information - which often it's not - some of them may interpret it in such a way that it's going to get them hurt. Shoulder impingements happen. Back injuries happen. Other golf-related injuries happen.
The brain learns in a very specific way, and you need to be very, very explicit when you tell the brain what it is that you're asking it to do.
Do It Right to Learn It Right
For instance, on the takeaway when we want the golfers to create rotation, we get very specific and explain how the shoulder blade moves and how the oblique muscles engage because those are the only muscles you have that are designed to rotate your torso.
If you're going to play golf, you need to know what those muscles feel like so you know how to move them and engage them. Our science based golf instruction is extremely specific so there's no gray area that you could misinterpret and do it incorrectly.
The brain doesn't know right or wrong. It simply learns the movement patterns that you repeat. The more you repeat the movement, the better your brain gets at reproducing that exact movement; so you'd better be sure you're teaching it the correct patterns.
If your golf instructor tells you simply, "turn your shoulders" and you interpret that to mean push when in fact you need to pull, you're going to end up with an inefficient golf swing, and possibly an injury as well.
There are fundamentals and science of the golf swing that are absolute, and that's what the Rotary Swing is all about.
Checkpoints for Practice
- Copying the current golf superstars is not an effective way to teach or learn
- By studying basic human anatomy, we can create a swing that is efficient, powerful, and safe
- Understanding how the brain learns new movement patterns is key to learning effectively
- These fundamental truths are black and white - there is a right way to do it!