The Over Thinkers

“I’ve got enough to think about without having to think about all that stuff… while trying not to think about anything.” 

You know who you are… but do you really? There are a lot of “over-thinkers” out there. Influential people that totally overthink this golf swing debate. It seems like everyone these days has an opinion on this. Well, here is mine.

First of all, let’s start at the top. Swing changes seem to be what I hear about the most on the PGA Tour. One of the oldest sayings among the best players in the world is “Dance with who brung ya”, which loosely translates to “let your body do what it’s doing”. I can see if you’re 156th on the money list. If all you have is a draw, I can see why you may want to work on a swing change in order to become a more complete player. Fair enough, your pay check depends on it… but then we must remember Tiger Woods.

TIGER WOODS went through a swing change…an overhaul. Now I agree, at this time, every year, his body is getting older. He has had to tighten things up and while he has, it has taken a little bit of time. However, he made it happen because he is an exceptional athlete. And then he did it again, and managed to do it again, and again…always using something he already had. Tiger was years ahead and the new generations of golfers had to catch up with him, rather than the other way around. When you start messing with what you naturally have, especially at that level, you’re taking a step backwards. In my opinion Tiger set the bar for others to meet, and would have continued to surprise these guys with a few “Tigeresque” outings, and win his share.

Setting a new standard in golf often requires the physicality of a younger body, in my opinion. To my knowledge, Jack Nicklaus didn’t change much about his game during his career but he set the bar that Tiger was after. I personally think Tiger can still continually win tournaments. He just has to be himself and naturally own it the way he has for decades instead of overthinking it and searching for new ways to win. As far as I know, Wayne Gretzky did not go through a skate change during his career. Instead, he set a bar through his entire career for others to follow the same way in which Tiger did in his early years. Gordie Howe also played well past his “prime” in the NHL without undergoing an overhaul in his game…so what’s the difference when it comes to golf? And why is it happening now?

I also think about how nobody tried to change Lee Trevino’s swing or his approach to the game. In fact, his approach was honed through thousands of hours that left him with blistered hands. It wasn’t done on a launch monitor in a lab. The same goes for Chi Chi, Calvin, Thorpe and many others. I feel like this whole process is getting too scientific and is less artful as a result. I’m not trying to say that all PGA stars overthink their golf swing. Notable golfers like Bubba Watson, John Daly, Jim Furyk among others have unique swings people talk about in the golf world but do not emulate.

Everybody’s swing is unique…and I mean everybody’s. It’s not the differences we should be talking about but the similarities. The similarities are what need to be applied when teaching the masses about how to achieve the right golf swing. It’s done by working on an organic skill set and not by a swing change or calculated tips.

In a previous article, I wrote about Arnold Palmer and how he was talking to a golf channel host about what players at different stages of the game should be working on. His answer for all four levels of player from a beginner to a professional was to understand and work on the basics. This is what you should be looking at when all else fails.

I get it. I have clients that believe that simple isn’t enough; even though it demonstrates that it works every time. These golfers believe that there must be more. Of course there is more! There is much more, but you just have to get there to find out. As you become more skillful from mastering the fundamentals, you will see your game improve to a point of consistency when you play. You then have the choice to devote the time and the effort to see how far you can take that – and that’s a whole other conversation. As long as you master the fundamental skills and their sequence, you can do a lot of things with the golf ball. It never happens the other way around.

I think the mainstream message today is based on the personal differences between the greatest players in the world. The only reason they have become the greatest players in the world is because of the tremendous effort that has been put into mastering the basic fundamentals of golf. They then took it from that point to create their own masterpiece – an artful way of swinging the club and playing that has set standards for the new generation.

This is what I believe: Teach the fundamentals well,  and let the student create their own game with this very sound base. I believe we as teachers have an obligation to take a look at the education model. I believe, and have also witnessed, that with increased attention to fundamentals, confidence levels rise and scores start to move in the right direction quickly.

I’m not saying that there is no need for the complicated scientific approach when it comes to changing a golf swing. I find it  interesting to see how there is a whole swing geek culture client base that has been built around this concept. Sorry, I just can’t get excited about it… I’ve got enough to think about without having to think about all that stuff… while trying not to think about anything.

The type of golfer I’m talking about needs to know how to stay still during the golf swing motion while repeating a sequence of 3 moves. That is all that needs to be accomplished in the golf swing. The rest is how your body puts it together as naturally and consistently as possible.

Then there’s Justin, and Jordan, and Sergio, and Ricky, and Rory – golfers who all possess monumentally beautiful golf swings that are extremely powerful and graceful at the same time. I’m really happy I got to witness this era in my life. I believe the golf swing has gotten as efficient as it can get and it’s becoming more athletic and precise…seemingly all in the quest for distance. They hit ridiculous distances, something the 95% of us will never see in our golfing lifetimes.

If you want to see how an efficient golf swing really works, watch the LPGA. These ladies put together technically perfect golf swings to produce incredible power and accuracy. It’s both impressive… and attainable. These ladies are incredible players that hit 7 irons from a reasonable distance and can shoot 26 under par over 4 rounds, of Championship golf… It’s truly impressive.

I have to close this discussion but the bottom line is: there will always be over-thinkers, there will always be someone with more technical data, but all of it is fruitless without sound fundamental skills as the base.

Let’s talk about that for awhile.