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.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

James Douglas Edgar on "The Movement"

There's a good chance you don't recognize J. Douglas Edgar's name, but his work is foundational to much modern instruction and it's likely you've heard him mentioned on some of GC's instructional shows. You can check out some of Edgar's fascinating history at his Wikipedia page; I'll just mention that he still holds the record for the largest margin of victory at a PGA Tour event -- 16 strokes at the 1919 Canadian Open.

It's also likely that you've never heard of his slender book The Gate to Golf. Fortunately for you, I have a copy and today's quote comes from it.

James Douglas Edgar

I'll tell you what "The Movement" is in a moment. But here is Edgar's rationale behind his enthusiasm for it:
The manner in which the club-head meets the ball is the essential part of the golf swing. It is in the two or three feet immediately before and after impact where the real business takes place; it is there that the master-stroke is made and the duffer's shot marred, and it is to this part of the swing that I am referring when I speak of the movement.

It is not the position of the hands, wrists, elbows, body, etc., at the top of the swing that makes the shot, nor is it a wonderful follow through. It must not be concluded, however, that the position of body and hands at the top fo the swing is of no account. On the contrary, it is a matter of considerable importance, for only an artist can be hopelessly wrong at the top and yet be able to adjust himself in time. But what I do want the reader to remember is that though the position at the top is important, far, far more essential is the movement.

However fine golf may be for the few lucky natural golfers, I think that for those who have acquired the movement -- and all can certainly do so by exercising self-control and by practice -- golf is intoxicating. It has the exhilarating effect of champagne, without the after-effects. [p18]
You probably recognized a number of things in that quote that are part of modern teaching, especially the emphasis on the impact area. Edgar goes on to say that:
While addressing the ball, the player should have the feeling of being about to throw the ball to its destination, and not to lift it there. In his backward swing he should get the feeling of throwing the club round the right hip; also, he should not be afraid of letting his body go well round also. [p21]
The following photo is taken from the book, and it will go a long way toward helping you understand why modern instruction so often seems contradictory. You see, "The Movement" simply means you hit the ball from the inside, and this photo shows two things.

The first is that while we describe Hogan as having a flat plane, Hogan is positively upright compared to Edgar. Look at how far his hands are below his shoulders at the top of his backswing! This is the swing of players like Paul Azinger and Rosie Jones, both players who -- though not the longest of players -- are incredibly accurate ballstrikers.

Edgar of top of backswing

And the second thing? Look at those dark blocks around the golf ball. They create the gate in the book's title. They are the aid that helps you learn to hit the ball from the inside. I'm sure you recognize the layout -- you see them used by almost every instructor from Martin Hall to Michael Breed.

As for his remark about throwing the ball to the target, that was his way of teaching the use of the hands and wrists at impact.

As I said, Edgar's book is foundational to modern teaching. And the basic idea is applicable to almost any swing method, whether your swing is flat or upright. But I think I'd try to get my hands higher than Edgar teaches. You can be very accurate that way but you won't hit the ball as far as you'd like.


  1. Hi Mike,

    Google Books has a free and complete copy of the book for anyone interested in reading it. A lot of detail about the "Gate" device that Edgar is using for a training aid.


    1. Thanks for the link, Jeffrey. I don't remember when I got my paperback, but I'm glad to know there's a free file out there now.