I begin this post by briefly stating that when discussing levels of swing performance and equipment that often accompanies that performance, I am not trying to discourage anyone from striving for perfection by pointing out unending performance imperfection. I still seek perfection when I work on these facets. Despite knowing that I will never quite get there, rarely does a day go by where I do not gain some knowledge I never had before or improve on the accuracy of something I thought I knew better than I did. I never would have learned many of these things had I not tried to be perfect, and this continues today. These seemingly opposite mentalities can “battle” one another in ways that can actually propel one toward greater success. Just one of many possible manifestations is that the further away from perfection one realizes he truly is, the more he may regularly practice.
Having now looked at performing and related equipment separately and in a light that perhaps you have never considered too closely before, I will now begin combining the two and look at some possibilities to consider. To start, I suggest making a simplistic, theoretical assumption that a golf swing ultimately can be performed perfectly by any golfer with any piece of equipment. This might be close to an attitude taken by someone who believes that a good player is a good player and that a good player can perform well with anything in hand. In giving such a player a theoretically perfect golf club, there might be little doubt as to the outcome of any swing. But how about providing a not-so-perfect golf club for the next swing, bearing in mind that I am analyzing an actual round of golf, where only one swing is commonly made with any given club before changing clubs again. The questions I put to you are, even with the golfer capable of making a theoretically perfect swing, would he be able to do so on the very first swing with a noticeably changed golf club, the only chance he generally has with it? And if not, how many swings would reasonably be required before a “perfect swing” can be performed? Three? Ten? Twenty-five? Would a single practice swing alongside the ball suffice before swinging for real? Even if you could argue this last case, it can be a somewhat troublesome practice to produce an exact swing copy while preparing to hit a golf shot, thus it is rather rare for golfers to do. Perhaps that is something that can be addressed another time. Would the number of swings required with a changed club before swing perfection is achieved be dependent on how far off from perfection the changed club is?
Because this “equation” as initially written contains part theory and part human capacity, functional answers to these questions are not likely fully obtainable. But I do want you to realize that for any activity where the same, identical piece of equipment can be practiced with over and over again until gotten used to and then also used repeatedly performance after performance, there is little reason to concern oneself with these details. In fact, this equation may be totally ignored (even if inadvertently). In golf, however, the concepts within the equation become highly relevant, and understanding these principles becomes critical with respect to accurately understanding golf swing and equipment performance.
In backing down still further from perfection, I can now begin to express some things in more human terms, and thus more realistic progress can be made in working with a golf swing and golf clubs. Since absolute perfection may be only one single point that can be reached and then sustained, it is a welcome relief to move away from this subject a little. However, such a point of reference should still be maintained in the back of one’s mind when discussing various topics. Now while golf swings and equipment cannot achieve literal perfection, they can be very good indeed in terms of what humans can accomplish. One of the first, most important human items to note is that golf swings (like equipment) can have “tolerances” or a “range” of performance parameters within which humans generally cannot detect any differences, or if they can detect any differences, a range within which the efficiency of golf swing performance is not diminished to a humanly unacceptable degree. Here is one circumstance where it is quite refreshing to be “only human.” In my case (assume a perfect golf club), I can (even if unintentional) swing a little faster or slower, swing somewhat flat-footed or with more active leg drive, release the clubhead during the downswing a bit earlier or later, change swing planes some on the downswing relative to the backswing, etc., yet recognize that I am still maintaining the crucial characteristic(s) of my swing to favor an essentially equal performance level amongst these altered swing parameters.
To give you an idea of how much a golf swing could vary from swing to swing and yet still be performed well, I return to the baseball diamond again. On any given pitched ball, a batter may need to increase his swing speed substantially, abruptly, and in mid-swing while keeping his hands very close to his body on an inside fast ball in order to get the best part of the bat out in front of himself before the ball arrives. This helps to avoid hitting the ball on the bat handle (which usually produces inferior results). Alternately on a different pitch, the same batter may need to reach far away from his body and slow down his swing after it has already begun on an off-speed pitch that is outside in order to basically avoid completing his swing before the ball even arrives. In each of these cases, home runs can be hit, even to the exact same point of the ballpark, with excellent swings. Now how about adding some noticeably varying equipment to the equation?