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, July 5, 2015

Nancy Lopez on Finding Your Own Swing

I found this little gem in Nancy Lopez's book The Education of a Woman Golfer, which was written back in 1979. Remember, when she came out on Tour in 1978 she won 9 tournaments... and 5 of them were consecutive wins. Everybody wanted to know how she developed that unusual swing of hers.

Here is her advice on how to develop a winning golf swing. It still rings as true 36 years later. And even though it's kinda long I'm going to quote the whole thing, especially since I'm pretty sure the book is out of print and you won't get to read it any other way. (Yeah, I know the page numbers look weird but that's because there was a two-page photo spread in the middle of this quote.)
...I never want to think too much about how I hit a golf ball when I'm actually out there hitting one because, if I do, I'm afraid I won't hit it as well as I seem to do instinctively.

But I can tell you what I concentrate upon when playing, and maybe you'll find it interesting and even helpful. It's not going to be much of the stuff you read in golf instruction books about grips, and stances, and pronation, and unleashing of the cock of the wrists, and all that. That makes me dizzy. I think golf instruction is likely to give you more complicated words and actions to think about than you can possibly swallow, and certainly more than you can digest all at the same time while you're trying to hit a golf ball. My prescription is simple, and it's the same one Dad gave me when I was eight years old. Hit the ball and keep hitting it until you find your natural swing. Then practice, practice, practice, until it's so grooved that you can do it in your sleep.

Saying "find your natural swing" goes against the idea that there's an absolutely right way and a lot of wrong ways to play golf. It seems to me that there is no sure and fixed "right way." Perhaps there is a best way for most people, but there are enough glaring examples of unorthodox players who are fine, and even great ones, for me to question whether any aspect of usual golf teaching is sacred. As an example, take Arnold Palmer. Take Judy Rankin. Take me. None of us would be a model for a film of a classic golf swing. There have been great golf players who used a baseball grip, players who prefer to fade an approach onto a green and those who prefer to draw one into it, players who always pitch right to the hole and try to hold the ball there and others who, under certain conditions, much prefer to pitch and run the shot. There may well be a best way for most people but there's no best way for everybody. (p41, 44, my emphasis)
I don't think that needs any more explanation. There are plenty of pros who aren't competitive anymore but they would be if they had simply followed Nancy Lopez's advice.

There is NO ONE RIGHT WAY to hit a golf ball. Find the one that works best for you, and become the best at doing it that you can. That's what Nancy says, and she's as good a role model as anybody.


  1. Good analysis .
    Coaching is a fine line of aiding your neural pathways . If anything is done to change them or bring them to consciousness then problems can occur.
    Tiger is the classic example . Should have stuck with swing after masters victory by a large margin.

  2. Not only that, Ian, but once you start creating "alternate pathways" you can really create frustration. An personal example: Many years ago I started learning guitar with a "folk" fingerpicking technique, using 2 fingers and thumb. At a later time I decided to convert to a more "classical" technique using 3 fingers and thumb. Before long I had trouble doing either one.

    That doesn't mean that your brain can't handle more than one method of doing things. However, it takes time to learn more than one method and, unless you're clear on the circumstances for using each, you can reach a point where you don't know which one you'll be using. In the case of a complex movement like a golf swing, that can cause a real problem!