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Thomas Bjorn – Big Feel and another Peanut Gallery

Like the delirious followers of Brain in Monty Pythons ‘The Life of Brian’, it can sometimes only take one ill thought out palaver from an individual with certain degree of celebrity to have the bootlickers queuing behind him holding their burning torches.

This was certainly the reaction when I sent this tweet out:

‘The trouble with most golf swings is they sit on a fence in a ‘is you is or is you isn’t’ state of balance. Sometimes its better to craft a one dimensional ball flight rather than posses the whole palette. Sadly the ball and technology have nullified the latter.’

To which ex Ryder Cup Captain Thomas Bjorn responded:

‘WHAT????????????????????’

I think I counted the question marks correctly.

The trouble with Twitter, is that while some can squeeze out as much meaning from the 140 allotted characters as they can, others, like Mr. Bjorn, use a one syllable word as a somewhat juvenile inquiry of which there has still been no follow up.

The world is full of emotional knee jerkers not interested in explanation; I hope this doesn’t apply to him.

Thank god I didn’t tweet about the benefits of Cryotherapy.

Anyway, allow me to clarify further on the tweet that sent Mr. Bjorn and his tribe into aberration.

To play golf at its best, it’s wise to seek a technique with probability and predictability on your side.

Am I right?

I hope we can agree on that statement?   

Also, I think it’s safe to say that to have probability and predictability on your side, you would need a technique that would constantly repeat.

Am I right?

I hope we can agree on this statement too?

From those two statements, you’d have to conclude that a major factor to increase probability and predictability would be the reduction of variability.

Makes sense yes? Am I right?

Would it not be obvious, to say that it’s easier to listen to one conversation than it is to listen to four at the same time?

So bearing those truths in mind, the ones you have just agreed with, wouldn’t you want a golf swing that was low in maintenance, predictable, probably reliant most days and conceptually coherent?

Unless you habour a secret fetish to constantly rant at caddies and intimidate coaches, again, I am suspecting your answer is yes.

In 2016, twelve year old table tennis protégé Tomokazu Harimoto gave a insightful interview in which he described his somewhat unorthodox idiosyncratic gripping and re gripping style when he was winning against international adult players. His commentators also noted that he had a distinguished idiosyncratic technique.

Tomokazu possess one of the most explosive backhands in the world, so much so, that he considers using his forehand a weakness. Time and time again he reverts to this predictable and probable winning technique en route to completely destroying his opponents. His technique could not be described as balanced; on the contrary, it seems to be heavily predicated on a fairly one dimensional pattern which has become the bedrock of his playing philosophy.

Friend Butch Harmon, who wrote the forward for my second best-selling book Kinetic Golf, had student Dustin Johnson say this in light of his first teaching session:

‘Butch said we were not going to change my bowed left wrist at the top because if we do…..nobody will ever hear from me again’.

Now this is interesting. Many years ago I gave a seminar in London in which I opened the workshop with a question:

‘If a sixteen year old Lee Buck Trevino came to you for a lesson, how many of you would NOT have changed his grip and thus his bowed left wrist?’

Almost every hand in the room went up in light of the players stella career.

They were all liars. Most all of them would have swiveled his hands more to the left on the handle of the club, cupped him at the top and in turn, destroy the very beacons of feel that made / make him great.

Butch, who I consider to be the most effective golf instructor / mentor this century, brilliantly recognized the truth that when you have a repeatable pattern, characterized by a strong idiosyncratic feeling for that pattern, you never ever substitute it for a diluted, wishy washy neutral on the fence technique.          

Am I right? Is Butch right?

Danny was a fairly typical school boy. He did however have a talent for math’s while his aptitude for English was at best, dismal.

In a fairly typical fashion, teachers and parents did their best to persuade Danny to plough more effort and time into English than Math’s.

Understandable eh? But ridiculously stupid.     

Sure enough, Danny capitulated and started to assign more energy and time to his failing English skills.

What happened to Danny is fairly typical of a tour player who wants a more neutral technique at the price of a definite signature move.

Danny’s English indeed rose from useless to barely average, and his math’s, his strongest subject no less, was relegated to the mediocre league.

What are we left with? A student with no strengths, reduced to a disappointing nothingness.

Following me?

How many players have replaced a defined feeling, a rock steady constant, in favour of chasing a swing which is built around undefined neutrality? Sit on the fence with your technique and you can fall off one way or the other.

Feel a strong face………… and be a fader.

Use a weaker face……….and be a drawer.

Do something for crying out loud, because if your technique isn’t deigned for something, it will likely do anything.

With his strong grip, David Duval knew he had to rotate hard through the ball, create a left path and puck release (The 7 Laws of the Golf Swing) the face through impact.

With his strong grip, Paul Azinger knew he had to steepen the shaft back and swipe left.

Scott Hoch, who statistically possessed one of the most repeatable swings in the late 80’s and 90’s, felt his open faced lifted backswing motion was a chunk of feel he could cling onto every time he played.

More recently……..who among you have the blind faith, the intellectual property or the idiocy to tell Ho Sung Choi or young Matthew Wolff to stop moving, dancing, rhythmizing and patterning in favour of a calming more benign country club technique?

Would you describe Bubba Watsons swing as kaliedescope of movement or passively normal and dead from the hosel upwards?

Would you describe Monty’s swing as uniform or one that lives and breaths with big, wholesome, wide shut slow backswing feelings?

Do you think Alex Noran is going for a tickle of a feeling when he rehearses, or do you think he’s swigging a whole bottle labelled feel?

Are you following me?

Do Graeme McDowell and Brooks Koepka have similar swing profiles?

You bet they do, both shut to open players. If you sterilized them, fixing their grips, having the face hang at 45 degree’s and zeroing out their paths, they wouldn’t know if it was New York or New Year. Why? Because they have:

‘A huge feeling with might be called a ‘fault’ in their backswings and yet they have………..

what might be called a ‘fault’ compensating in their downswings’.

Normalize the first………and you completely fuck up the second.

These ‘faults’ are the very beacons of feel and compensation these players repeat time and time again.

Pacify these…..and you immediately exorcise feel and render the swing empty.

My tweet was not one dimensional. I did caveat the whole message by saying ‘sometimes its better….’

Technically neutral swings can indeed work well and can indeed be trained to hit one of the famous nine ball flights at will, but I will tell you, that’s a lot of work especially in the maintenance and trust department.

Why?

Because the degrees of interaction between the path / face / angle in a passive swing are finite due to its nature and the fact it is based around neutrality……..there are no big WOW numbers and thus no big FEELS for the kinesthetic intelligence to recognize.

To end, I want to lean on the great and dearly missed John Jacobs who paid me kind compliments about the work I’d done with French Open Champion Philip Golding and Justin Rose. I loved John and remember several sessions with him at Wentworth far too many years ago.

Read any John Jacobs book and it will tell you that the ball will initially start where the divot or the swing path pointed. The ball will eventually fall to where the clubface was at impact. In other words:

The path started it – The face bent it.

In 2019, we know that this is largely incorrect. The clubface influences the starting direction of the ball far more than the path ever will. Technology has provided us with irrefutable evidence.

The question begs though………why was this the train of thought?

Why was it accepted, like a flat Earth, that the path that was the gun barrel of the ball flight?

The answer is relatively simple, but not altogether obvious.

When we deal with clubface orientation, we are dealing with eighths of inches at vast speeds.

When we deal with swing paths, we deal with inches/ feet at vast speeds.

The truth of this, is that we can more readily feel PATH far easier than we will ever feel FACE.

This reason and this reason alone, was the defining logic of the day which said the ‘path sends it, the face bends it’.

It stands to reason that although the club face takes pole position in any swing hierarchy……it is indeed the path that is far more manageable from a repetitive feel / management point of view.

Give me a Dustin Johnson every day……a big big feeling with his face…..and a big big feeling with his path.

I wouldn’t be interested in pretty.

Would you?

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