The Real Fundamentals of Golf - Part 3
How Good Are Your Fundamentals (The Real Fundamentals)? Part 3 – Scott Hogan, PGA
It’s time for another installment of what I call The Real Fundamentals for playing the game of golf well. This one is especially important to me, because I don’t think I’m going to be introducing anything new to the game (just like in part 1 and 2), but just how I like to think about this concept we have heard about a lot.
Real Fundamental #3 – Performance vs. Mechanics – Mechanics vs. Performance
I feel this next fundamental was the number one reason I didn’t get my game to the highest level it could reach. I also believe it is why now, while playing the least amount of golf I’ve ever played, my golf swing is the best it has ever been and so is my ball striking.
In golf and golf instruction, we have typically taken the stance that good solid mechanics allow us to perform at a high level under pressure. So it was very common (and still can be) to see golfers lining ranges with training aids that forced golfers to perform certain mechanical movements in their swings. Meanwhile, during this time, the national handicap for a period of nearly 20 years, failed to decline by a single shot. So we had people working on the “correct” mechanics, but not able to shoot better scores?
Here's the thing, golf is all about performance, you are trying to perform a skill or shot, you must understand first how to produce the shot (mastering fundamental 1 and 2), and then focus on producing the shot to develop your proper mechanics. Most golfers take the mechanics first approach and they work tirelessly on their golf swings and have the mentality “I’m not worried about results, I just want to grove my swing right now.” The difficulty in this situation is if there is no worry about the performance of the shot, you will never have it, even if your mechanics are flawless. It’s a lot mental and a little bit physical. You have to show your brain, what it is trying to do, so it can have positive feedback and allow the brain to tell your body what to do to get the desired performance.
It is a very fine line, and one that I think can get very muddled, so I want to show you an example of how I set up a performance idea for a student and that resulted better mechanics.
This particular student is a very good player. I wish I still had her swings from when I first saw her, because they are quite different from now. But the first thing we decided we needed to be able to perform was understand how to control the golf ball directionally (path/face). She hit a lot of high/fades and lost a lot of distance. Now this student worked entirely indoors with me until we finally were able to get outside. I find this happens a lot when transitioning from inside to outside, the world gets a lot bigger and we need to rebuild a few things in the new environment.
So this is a screen shot of this player, and I’ve drawn some lines in for reference, not for swing plane (I don’t necessarily believe in swing plane, but that’s a whole other discussion). So this player is showing some swing mechanics of having a swing that is a little bit more vertical and swinging to the left through the ball, which produces a gentle fade shot. As I mentioned, her first swings were more vertical than this, but it wasn’t surprising to see in our first trip outside that some old tendencies would creep in. Because outside, she didn’t fully understand the performance she was looking for in her golf shots.
This swing was taken literally 3 minutes or so later. I explained to this player, that we are looking to see a shot that is starting to the right and drawing back to the left. You can also see in the footage, I put the pool noodle in front of her which is directly between her and the target. I told her to aim at the noodle, send a shot out to the right and draw it back to our target. You can see the change in mechanics that is drastic, and many would desire.
This player, I’ve never worked with her too much on any one specific mechanic such as shoulder turn, or wrist flexion or extension. We worked on the first 2 real fundamentals, and then moved to this third one. She went from shooting above 100 to winning her high school conference tournament 3 months later. We’ve taken the approach of working on performance and letting our mechanics dictate from there, and she is a very carefree and laid back player, who isn’t over analytical about her swing. Which I think is we all could use a little more of.
The idea of this is not to say you shouldn’t have good mechanics of the swing. But I want you to first analyze why and how you plan to get to your goal and figure out why you can’t perform it, and then get the mechanics you need from there. Don’t go the other way around and decide you need mechanics that will then allow you to perform. Good luck with and score low!