The nonchalance of perfection
May I talk to you a moment about transition? I know the PGA like to promote the acronym G.A.S.P as its default starting point (that’s grip, aim, stance and posture), but for me it’s all about transition. That’s the real secret to success when trying to move a golf ball forward in the desired direction at pace.
All the great golfers get into very similar delivery positions which is why they all hit powerful, penetrative shots - even Jim Furyk, who was once described by David Feherty as having a swing that looked like an octopus falling out of a tree.
It’s amazing how technical the golf swing can be. People say sweet swingers make it look simple, but that’s a cop out isn’t it? No golf swing is ‘simple’. All that means is they get the combination of moves ideally sequenced without looking like they think too much about it. You might say that they display a ‘nonchalance of perfection!’ And are all the more annoying for it. David Adams is one.
Me? Well, I haven’t been allowed to remain nonchalant, mainly because I’ve had to listen to the theories of so many golf swing experts over the years that the part of my brain marked ‘Golf Swing’ contains a blackboard that looks like it was in Einstein’s private study.
Magazine instruction delves into the deepest recesses of the subject in such a way that isn’t good for your mental health. Nonchalant? I’m about as nonchalant as Colin Hammond when someone’s drunk the last of the red wine.
Anyway, back to transition. This is the bit where the backswing becomes the downswing. It’s the bit where all the potential mistakes stored up in a disappointing move away from the ball are translated into hook, slice, top and duff on the way back down again.
My point, though, is that even if you iron out most of the ‘errors’ on the way up and reach the top with a degree of polished elegance, it can all go wrong if the transition is a mess.
It’s called a transition because there is no defined moment when the backswing ends and the downswing starts. One starts at a point when the other is still finishing, which in terms of mapping out the correct technique in your head, is dashed inconvenient.
But we can be a tad more specific here. Generally speaking, the bit that’s left behind in the process is the upper half, while the lower half (the legs), bored with waiting, are already triggering the strike of the golf ball.
David Leadbetter points out that the first thing to move towards the target is the left knee. Even as your arms are climbing to their fully set position at the top of the backswing, that dastardly left knee has pulled the trigger to the whole downswing process. This is why teachers like to talk about top halves and bottom halves. The legs initiate the downswing, creating a moment of mass resistance, which then forces the top half to come back down and deliver the club with the arms.
I’d now like to introduce the word plane. There are basically two planes in the golf swing, the one going up and the one coming down. You want these to be matched quite closely and in good players, you often see a flattening of the plane on the downswing. When the plane is steeper coming back into the ball, then there is a danger that you’ve ‘gone over the top’, which, just like in 1918, is not a good thing.
I’ve been going over the top for just over 40 years and in all that time it’s been a source of constant irritation. It delivers me quite a safe fade which, as most experts will tell you, is easier to work with than a draw. But it’s not as pretty!
I said to Roger Williams, our club pro, last summer (after booking an hour long lesson) that I never start the ball to the right of the target.
He delivered a lesson that I felt was ground breaking in terms of my own personal understanding of what was going on… or rather what wasn’t happening that should be.
He completely and fundamentally changed my address position.
But this is what’s so peculiar about the golf swing. Quite often a problem starts even before you’ve even made your first move!
All right, there’s so much more to say, but maybe for another time. You’ve done well to get this far!
I’ll leave you with this wonderful clip off the internet which captures the real secret of golf in a way that no one else I know can.