In my game, I have adopted the simplest possible swing and have insisted that as many shots as possible should be played with fundamentally the same movements. Now that I have outlined the idea of teaching by feel, you will better understand why I attach such importance to this point.
Now these four points together make up the top of the swing, and I was talking about the waggle—which is the bottom of an imaginary swing! But, do not think I was digressing. I was not, the two are linked together. And why? Because unless you feel the whole of the swing in your waggle, your waggle is failing in its purpose.
This controlling feel is built up through the constant repetition of the correct movements. We do not know just where in the system it resides, but whether it is muscular memory, or the wearing of certain grooves or channels in the mind, or—as is probable—a combination of the two, it is obvious that the more often the same succession of movements can be repeated the clearer the memory will be. Also, and this is most important, it is highly desirable that the memory should not be confused by the frequent or even occasional introduction of other and different movements—as happens when the swing is fundamentally changed for certain shots.
It is mainly for this reason that I teach and preach and practice that every shot from the full drive to the putt should be played with the same movement. Of course in the drive, the movement is both more extensive and bolder than for the shorter shots, but fundamentally it is the same. The result must be a feeling of “in-to-out” stroking across the face of the ball—played not at the ball, but through it. The “in-to-out” refers to the relation of the feel of the path of the club head to the desired line of flight of the ball.
The only shots in golf which I have been unable to play or to teach as sections of the fundamental “in-to-out” swing are certain shots which call for cut pulled under and across the ball.
But for ninety-nine out of every hundred shots a golfer must play, the swing is the movement necessary. So to clear the ground I will list what I consider to be the essentials of the swing:
1. It is essential to turn the body round to the right and then back and round to the left, without moving either way. In other words, this turning movement must be from a fixed pivot.
2. It is essential to keep the arms at full stretch throughout the swing—through the back swing, the down swing, and the follow through.
3. It is essential to allow the wrists to break fully back at the top of the swing.
4. It is essential to delay the actual hitting of the ball until as late in the swing as possible.
5. It is essential not to tighten any muscle concerned in the reactive part of the swing (movement above the waist).
6. It is essential to feel and control the swing as a whole and not to concentrate upon any part of it.
In a sense, this last point is the most vital. The swing must be considered and felt as a single unity, not as a succession of positions or even a succession of movements. The swing is one and indivisible.
Now I consider that our golf is liable to go wrong if we lose sight of any of these essentials. There are of course innumerable incidentals that could be added that are important enough to have a considerable influence on one’s game, but I will go so far as to say that if you have these six essentials well embedded in your system and if you have developed some conscious control of your swing by getting the feel of the right movements—your game will rarely or never desert you.
Of course, the comfortable, reliable, right feel is not a thing that comes all at once. For instance, it takes years—though not if your teacher teaches by feel—to feel nicely set and comfortable before the ball; weight between the feet, perfectly free and active and yet firmly planted.
Then the waggle. About the waggle, a whole book could be written. Every movement, we make when we waggle is a miniature of the swing we intend to make. The club head moves in response to the body and the body opposes the club head. It is a flow and counter flow of forces with no static period, no check.
There is no check anywhere in a good swing. There is no such thing as the “dead top” of a swing—there are four points each one of which might be so considered if it were not for the other three! They are: (1) When the pivot (feet to shoulders) has reached its top, the arms are still going up. (2) When the arms have reached their top, the body is on its day down. (3) When the arms begin to come down, the wrists have still to break back, and (4) When the wrists break.
To put the lesson of the concept of control by feel as briefly as possible, we must give up thinking about our shots. In place of thinking ,there must be conscious control, obtained by building up (by constant repetition of the correct action) a comfortable and reliable feel, a feel that will tell you infallibly through appeal to your muscular memory, what is the right movement —and which will remain with you and control your shots whatever your mental state may be. Not being a matter of thought, this control stands outside the mental state.