With Finality, Is it the Golfer or the Golf Clubs?

In my last entry, I presented statistics showing there is a very small range indeed between the minimum and maximum values of golf club specifications when analyzing the preferences of the entire spectrum of golfers, legitimizing the slightly true statement that good golfers can often play with “anything.”  On the other hand, it has also been proven over a really long period of time that golfers are quite capable of distinguishing between successive values of any given golf club specification that at first might seem unbelievable due to such tiny differences.  It is, however, positively true, and not just by better players I assure you.  Consider the design of the Official Golf Club Scale by Kenneth Smith, one of the pioneers in golf club fitting technique.  That scale, a descendant of the original Lorythmic Swinging Weight Scale, was created for more “average” golfers and its theory of design is still extremely relevant today.  At the time of its development in the 1940’s, it was established that successive values on the Official Scale would be in tenth-ounce increments.  This is in fact more sensitive than the eighth-ounce deviations used on the standard swingweight scale employed by “professionals” back then and still today.  Less-developed swings are not the same as inconsistent swings, and the belief that less-developed players are not capable of noting such minute differences in golf club parameters is erroneous.

Pointed out in earlier posts but very applicable again here, the phenomenon of apparent extreme sensitivity in evaluating golf club specifications has less to do with individual swing talent (there are some pretty uncoordinated golf swings earning nice livings as touring professionals) and more to do with just the nature of the game of golf.  When swinging at an object that is in motion, as is more typical in athletic competition, it is routinely necessary to swing very close to one’s body (or even on the other side of it), followed next by swinging far away from the body, while at the same time regularly needing to speed up or slow down the swing in mid-motion based on the perceived travel of the approaching object that needs to be hit.  Because a golf ball is completely stationary when swinging at it, however, a golf swing requires comparatively no “in-swing alterations” from beginning to end.  Thus, more consistent swing memorizations and sensations are able to be developed in the course of a golf swing.  Consequently, when experiencing the minimum and maximum values commonly utilized for golf club specifications, although apparently comprising little change, they can truly feel astoundingly different in the case of golf clubs.  Comparable alterations to equipment in most other sports are not nearly as noticeable, since in those cases the swing itself can change much more dramatically from swing to swing.  The various conditions encountered and swings used in golf are rather irrelevant with respect to this highly transparent point, as many such adjustments are made at address to the golf ball before a swing even starts.  Thereafter, golf swing modifications are relatively minor compared to object-in-motion-chasing athletic activities.  This results in more acute discernments between golf club parameter values for everybody.

Again, this is just an inherent characteristic of the variable nature of each game when analyzed.  Another is that golf is normally played with various, different clubs on successive swings whereas every other athletic swinging action I can think of offhand is performed with the same piece of equipment time after time.  Even if that single piece of equipment does not fit a player well, at least he or she gets to still stay with the same implement swing after swing, potentially allowing a better chance of adjusting one’s swing to the ill-fitting equipment.  So while the advantage of swing ease goes to golf without question, the advantage of equipment clearly goes to other sports over golf.  The bottom line is that changes in golf club parameters, changes that often are quite small, can have a profound impact on the performance of a golfer.  Accordingly, golf clubs are an extremely important, influential, and game-changing factor in the course of playing golf, especially regarding long-haul consistency of play from day to day, week to week, month to month, etc.

The most well-advised way of putting all of this information together is that when considered as separate entities, it is absolutely true that the golfer and not the golf clubs is the one and only one that possess the ability to perform at golf, whereas the task is not accomplishable by an inanimate object alone.  When a golf club is subsequently situated into a golfer’s hands, though, what were two separate entities now become one, with no distinction that should be made between the golfer and his club.  The club in essence becomes a part of the golfer as much as his fingers are part of his hand.  The golf club becomes an extension of the golfer’s physical body and mental knowledge.  As a single being and force now, perhaps a new word should be introduced to specifically represent such an entity and help alleviate some of the confusion in this area of golfing debate.  I choose “golfition(er)” (a golfer’s temporary alliance [coalition] between himself and his golf clubs).  The choices of all specifications that comprise a golfitioner can have a dramatic impact on his achievement.  I cannot predict at this time whether I will ever refer to that term again outside of this post, as golf clubs often do need to be extracted from a golfitioner in order to best analyze club design details and how those details relate to and interact with the performance of a golfer.  Defining the expression here, however, does at least put to rest with finality the much-debated question of whether it is the golfer or the golf clubs that determine the level of success achieved at playing golf.  The most correct and definitive answer is both, or neither if you prefer.