Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bad Golf? Blame the Clubs.

I gave my first professional golf advice 30 years ago this past summer. I was an assistant at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club and Lodge and in charge of club repair. One of our members was considering a change in her golf clubs. She was suffering from arthritis in her hands and hoped the switch to graphite would be beneficial. “It is one thing to play poorly,” she said, “but I don’t want to play bad and hurt too.” I suggested to be better informed I should watch her hit a few balls with her clubs. Her problem was obvious as she basically collapsed at the top of her backswing, the club head dipped, her elbows bent, and she lost her grip on the club. This loss of balance and control made it difficult for her to recover. When I mentioned these observations to her she said emphatically, “Bruce I have heard all that before! I try to stop but I can’t. You sound just like my husband.” I understood clearly that she did not offer that as a compliment and if I didn’t think of something fast my first opportunity to help someone professionally might be my last.

I suggested that maybe the swing issues weren’t her fault. Her clubs were too heavy for her to support at the top of the swing and not only would the change to graphite help the pain in her hands but the lighter weight could help her improve her swing as well. I went to the repair shop to see what I could find to help prove my point. The only thing that was lighter were shafts with grips but no club heads. I took the headless golf club back out to the range and told her to swing the shaft for me. She laughed, but did as I asked. The change in her golf swing was incredible. She was balanced perfectly, no hint of collapse of any kind. I instantly knew we had to build her a set of clubs as light as I possibly could. She gave me the ok and I will end this by telling you based on her success, I rebuilt many sets of golf clubs that winter.

Since that time I have never looked at a golf swing without asking myself, “Is the problem the swing or the clubs they are trying to swing?” You would be surprised to know how often the perceived golf swing problem is simply a reaction to the clubs the player uses. So how can find out if it is your swing or the clubs? The red flag for me is if the player has a favorite club. 99 times out of 100 this club will be of a different specification and weight than the other clubs. It is unlikely you would make a good swing with just one club, unless you change your swing to adapt to the poorly fit club.

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