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Friday, January 9, 2015

What Bobby Jones Said About Slow-Motion Video

Yes, believe it or not, Bobby Jones actually wrote some things about slow-motion video!

Sidney Matthew, who has written several books about Bobby Jones, did a small collection of Jones newspaper columns called Bobby Jones Golf Tips: Secrets of the Master. And one of those columns, called On Making the Warner Brothers Films, references some earlier slo-mo film shot in 1930 by the Jenkins Laboratories in Washington for the PGA and its teaching professionals.

In case you're interested, here is a YouTube video of that footage. Note that it includes not only Jones but Miss Joyce Weathered (another top amateur at the time, who played a lot with Jones) and the great Harry Vardon. I know this is the footage because Jones mentions Weathered and Vardon in the article.

Jones made some interesting observations about viewing and learning from "slow-motion pictures" that every golfer should hear, given how easy it is to tape your own swing these days -- one observation in particular:
I think, now that we have had years of slow-motion study, almost every first-class golfer knows well enough how he hits the ball. The guess has been removed. But even slow-motion pictures need interpretation. The one great difficulty from the standpoint of the average golfer has been in separating the consciously controlled movements from those that are purely instinctive. (p117, my emphasis)
That's a remarkably wise observation that even TV analysts don't recognize. There are a great many things in your golf swing that you do without even thinking about them, the same as in other area of your life. And if you don't know the difference, you can actually screw up your golf swing because you end up interfering with things you shouldn't try to control.

For example, that's part of the reason why analysts are so confused by Bubba Watson's swing. They can analyze it and figure out what he's doing, but they can't figure out how to duplicate it. That's because they want to control things that Bubba isn't controlling. For example, they want to figure out how Bubba times that little jumping move of his... but that's the wrong question.

Bubba isn't thinking about the jump; he's just thinking about how he wants the club face to contact the ball. When he swings the club, his mind subconsciously sequences his body moves -- including that jump -- so that his hands can get the club into that position.

In other words, they want to consciously control what is actually an instinctive move. And that's just not going to happen!

That's part of the reason my posts -- and my books, I admit it -- sometimes seem to approach things from a strange perspective. I want you to learn how to control the things you need to control but just let the other things happen instinctively, the way they're meant to happen.

Next time you start struggling with your golf swing, it might be a good idea to spend some time on the range just trying to swing the club without so many "I need to..." thoughts in your head. Instead, think about hitting the ball to the target. Focus your attention on the target. You might be surprised just how much of your golf swing is supposed to be instinctive.

At least, that's what Bobby Jones believed... and he didn't do too badly at the game. ;-)

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