ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Stan Utley on Finding the "Right" Swing Thought

For my final post of 2017 I'm turning to short game guru Stan Utley. Stan is probably as well-known as Dave Pelz but Stan offers more than just short game help. And in his book The Art of the Swing he has as much to say about the full swing as about the short game and putting.

Stan Utley

Many of my final posts this year have talked about playing by feel. In this short section from a chapter called The Book of Feels Stan has some good advice on how to choose a suitable swing thought to achieve that feel you're looking for... and why you may need to change those swing thoughts from day to day.
The full swing obviously has more moving parts -- which makes having a simple swing thought or feel both harder and more important. It's easy to get swamped with mechanical thoughts when you're on the range or out on the golf course. Head down, full turn, shift the weight, release club, full finish, balance. There are dozens of feel "code words" in golf.

Picking the right feel to go with at a given time is a two-pronged process. First, you have to uncover what swing thoughts or feels are actually productive for you. Which ones work? Second, it's not necessarily as simple as picking something from a list of perfect form elements or swing mechanics. As we've been talking about for half a book now, holding the club the right way or having it in a certain position at a certain time doesn't mean the swing holds together as a coherent whole.

The goal is to choose a swing thought or feel that gets your body (and the club) to do what you want it to do. Sometimes the feel or thought runs counter to physics -- and to what you actually do. For example, I've heard a teacher give a student a lesson and tell him to swing the driver back without letting the clubhead get behind him. That's almost physically impossible to do, of course. But the thought of it -- the feel that the teacher gave him -- caused the player to stop pulling the clubhead to the inside on the takeaway. The player's feel wasn't technically "accurate," but it got him doing what he should be doing.

How do you find a feel that works? Try a lot of them. Try to determine if you're a player who responds more to watching somebody else and copying, or to hearing a description, or to having a teacher actually put his or her hands on you to make a certain move. However you respond best, pick that train of thought and hit balls and play practice rounds while incorporating a single feel or swing thought into your pre-shot routine. All of the various swing mechanics and form elements we've been talking about are important, but your brain just can't synthesize all those thoughts at once a millisecond before you start your swing. Picking one -- one that has the most positive impact on your sequencing that day -- is the most profitable move. [p83-84]
One particular thing Stan says here is really important -- namely, that the swing thought or feel that works best for you may not be technically correct. The goal of a swing thought isn't to appeal to your logical mind. Rather, swing thoughts are a form of shorthand for movements that defy easy description. Think of it as a mnemonic device for your muscles, if you will -- a neuro-muscular anagram that condenses a lot of info down to a single nonverbal word. (You use the verbal equivalents all the time when you tweet, like lol or the more emphatic rotflmao.)

You see pros do this all the time. The cameras show up on the range and the analysts note that the pro is making a small move that makes no mechanical sense on its own. Then the pro stretches it out to a half swing and the analysts can't see anything that looks like the small move at all. That's because the pro was after a feel, not a swing mechanic.

As we move into the new year, Stan Utley's advice can help you choose better swing thoughts to take out onto the course -- and hopefully, onto your scorecard as well.

1 comment:

  1. I love watching golf and have a little experience of the game as well. It was really nice to hear his thoughts about the game and indeed his expertise in the game and the perfection in mastering the swing is brilliant.