On a recent trip to Barnes & Noble (one of my favorite hangouts), I came across a book by author, Brandel Chamblee. He wrote about the common traits of some of the best players from the 1930-1980’s including players such as Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Tom Watson. He concluded that the swings back then were better compared to the “new” era swings of today. He referenced Tiger Woods, Jason Day, Rory McElroy, Adam Scott and many others and how golf instructors today have it wrong.
Before we dive in, I respect Brandel Chamblee as a commentator on Golf Channel and as a golfer. I enjoy hearing the controversial conversations that he brings to a show, but I think he swung and missed at the real issue.
Comparing 1930-1980’s golfers to 1990- 2016’s golfers is extremely difficult to do because of the evolution of human performance, equipment, and golf courses. In addition to this, there has been extensive research into understanding how to perform at higher levels under stressful environments. As much as I would like to get into the details of his book (not really), I will leave this topic by saying this – Brandel, if you think that golfers played better in the past, you are wrong. If you think how golfers swung back then is better than now, you are even more wrong!
I do not agree with comparing any athlete with another athlete. Our culture and belief at GPC is “Function Dictates Form.” The notion that there is one perfect way to swing the club doesn’t make a lot of sense unless we all have the same physiological and neurological functionality. Anatomically we are similar at birth, however after that, we are exposed to different environments that will positively and negatively form our development.
For example, a sprained ankle can be considered a minor injury, but can still play a huge role in the development of compensatory movements that affect range of motion and stability. A sprained ankle causes the foot to react differently to force. Joints above the ankle then have to absorb the force the ankle typically would, which can then be a detractor in their own function. Without the proper diagnosis and treatment plan, a sprained ankle can be a major contributor to why your golf swing is not yielding your desired results.
In addition to the physical attributes, I believe that human behavior and personalities are not biology. Two golf athletes may be similar physiologically, but do not have the same psychological profile and therefore have drastically different results. One may make it on the LPGA/PGA Tour, and the other may never play college golf. With all the information we have about human performance, there is one thing I know: we do not know much at all. To say there is a “right” or “wrong” way to swing a club is ridiculous. However, there are lots of PGA Professionals and golf coaches with diverse opinions on this subject.
There are certainly common denominators among all good players, but it may not lie in swing technique. If you are searching for an answer as to how to do the seemingly “impossible” task of making a living playing golf or becoming the #1 player in the world, there is a process to do the “impossible”. This takes many years, lots of hard work, maybe even some tears of frustration and a thirst for knowledge, and the courage to overcome your human urge to fight for something you love or want dearly.
In conclusion, the players of yesteryear swung the way they did because of their own compensatory movements, the equipment that was drastically different, and the information about how the neurology connected to physiology was not thought out. The enormous amounts of research that has gone into human performance advancement is helping all of us (willing) to understand that what one athlete does to be successful does not apply to every other athlete. Stop viewing an athlete that has good form as “perfect”. It may be “perfect” for them, but it may not be “perfect” for you. Remember, YOUR Function Dictates YOUR Form.
Dream + Process + Hard Work + Time = The Impossible
Enjoy Your Journey!