Uniquely Deceptive Challenges of Golf

I concluded my previous post describing how much a baseball swing can vary (even on successive swings) and yet still be performed superbly, even producing home runs to the same point.  Successful golf swing technique(s) can vary equally and even more.  When analyzing golf, however, players are always allowed to address a ball in a comfortable position for themselves, and then the ball does not move while swinging at it.  Thus, one will generally not experience some of the wide-ranging swing characteristics in golf that routinely occur in baseball.  Still, I do not think most people realize how much a golf swing actually does (and must) vary in the course of playing a typical round of golf in order to play well.  If every setup and swing of one’s round (with the various lies played from and the types of strokes attempted) were recorded and superimposed over a teed-up, level-lie circumstance, even many of the finest players in the world might be surprised at how varied certain facets of golf swing performance often are (even if only one, identical golf club were used throughout).  It may not seem that way on the course because of the many occasions of getting used to playing those different shots.

Knowing now that the “same” golf swing can and must have a wider range of positions and movements in order to play well than perhaps you previously realized, also know that any and all clubs used can alter one’s swing.  This too can result in analyzable differences under otherwise duplicated conditions, even within a “well-matched” set of golf clubs.  Because of the aforementioned range of acceptable swing performance, certain swing-changing characteristics of golf clubs (like the lengths of clubs that alter the plane and/or posture of one’s swing) can be unnoticeable or irrelevant to a player, since these swing traits can change naturally and more dramatically anyhow just due to the different lies regularly encountered on a golf course.  But such swing changes are there nonetheless.  One club might have a swingweight balance that is off just a bit, and the next club may have an installed grip slightly smaller in size and/or slightly misaligned.  No clubs in a typical set will generally have perfectly straight or round shafts, and all shafts usually have different flexes (frequencies).  Initial swing changes that can occur when switching between these golf clubs on successive swings may diminish somewhat upon repeated swinging with the identical club, but again, playing the game is not done in such manner.  This is why when working on a golf swing or clubfitting and making multiple swings with the same golf club, results can be deceiving.  When getting on an actual golf course, the experience might be nothing like the practice or fitting session.

This representative “set” of clubs really amounts to up to fourteen individually made implements for a golfer, and any differences between them are magnified due to the following, perhaps noted before but detailed again here.  Whether a golf professional or beginner, one is generally more sensitive to any equipment changes by virtue of the fact that the object in play is just sitting still while swinging at it as opposed to moving.  This should not really be hard to understand.  Change the weight on the end of a golf club and a baseball bat by half an ounce.  Now if a baseball were simply being hit off of a tee, the sensitivity results regarding the bat weight change could be expected to be similar to that of swinging a golf club.  In the normal course of playing the respective games, however, things are quite different.  Consider the example in my prior post of a batter swinging at a fast pitch close in and then a slow pitch far away.  The swinging motion itself is so vastly different between the two pitches, comprising substantially contrasting movements and associated feelings, that it is considerably more difficult to determine how much of any differences noted during each swing is a result of the equipment change or any required changes in the swing itself.  With a stationary ball to swing at, though, any changes made during swinging are less radical by nature, resulting in more consistent memorization(s) of swing positions and movements, and thus a greater awareness of and sensitivity to any equipment alterations.

These factors present some very unique challenges in golf.  When deciding to analyze and work on improving one’s swing or the fit of one’s golf clubs, consider whether you should analyze by the swing of one’s driver, 3-iron, or 9-iron.  Should you use all three, analyzing only the first swing made with each and then switching to one of the others (the way one actually plays), or should multiple practice swings be made with just one of them and then that club stuck with, and which one should it be?  All of these clubs might be swung decently, yet each will still usually provide at least a slightly different analysis at some point.  What point(s) of reference should be used?  I can begin my day swinging with jumbo golf grips on my clubs and swing well the whole day through.  Yet if and when I make a few swings with more standard-size gripped clubs during the day and then immediately return to the jumbo gripped clubs, I will normally swing horribly with the jumbo grips unless I take break for a while and lose the immediate memory of the swings made with the smaller grips on.  How shall I proceed under these circumstances?  Shall I choose by which clubs produce better launch monitor results?  Shall I use the grip-on-a-stick method of choosing which grip size to use?  How do I determine that I am swinging the smaller-gripped clubs better?  What is my frame of reference?  Should I now dismiss the jumbo-sized golf grips despite swinging them so very well at one stage?  Next time I will continue to decipher how to swing and fit clubs with maximum efficiency.