Ok, so some of you golf geeks out there will have heard this quote before from the legend that is Mr John Jacobs. A true legend of the game who played to a high standard, coached to a (very) high standard, a founder of the European Tour and was captain of the European Ryder Cup teams in 1979 and 1981. Many a coach hangs by his every word, and rightfully so.
For me, his most famous quote is the one in the headline though. It is quite possibly the most important phrase in golfing folklore. It is the difference between scratch golfers and tour players. It's the difference between high handicaps and low handicaps..... it Is that vital! For you to reach your potential, you HAVE to know how your ball flight is created. It's that simple. You CANNOT reach your potential by simply trying to contort your body into the various positions you think it has to be. You cannot reach your potential by simply adhering to every piece of advice your playing partners tell you to improve your swing. They might indeed help you swing it more like Ernie Els, but will it improve YOUR BALL FLIGHT.
This is what this game is all about. It is not a game of who swings the club the sexiest (although can be admired in many a golfing circle), it is not a game of who can keep their head down the longest (we will come to this in a minute), and its not a game of who can hit the ball the furthest (although, again, admired by many a player).
It is all about what your ball does. The ball has no clue whether you're 10 years old or 90 years old. It doesn't know what your handicap is or whether you're a beginner or not. Your game is wholly influenced by where your golf ball travels.
Now, lets come onto the famous phrase I mentioned earlier that a lot swear by to aid their golfing improvement and send them into elite stardom on the golf course...... keep your head down (or another version is keep your eye on the ball)! It is quite possibly the WORST phrase ever to be used and has hindered far more golfers than it has helped (cue the gasps from readers who have given this advice out to all and sundry to help them play better). I taught nearly 2000 lessons last year, all golfers of various abilities, ages, physical abilities who came to me with a range of issues such as topping the ball, shanking, fatting, thinning and more. As you can see, many differing array of shots here. And can you guess how many of these bad shots were caused by their head lifting up or taking their eyes off the ball? NONE! None at all. Zero. Not one bad shot was caused by taking their eye off the ball. They were all caused by various other issues, commonly the club being out of position at impact but not due to their original theory of their head potentially looking away from the ball.
For some reason it seems that this phrase has grown like a fungus. Everyone has got hold of it and taken it for gospel as though it is the most important aspect to better golf. It couldn't be further from the truth. In my opinion, this phrase originated and taken very much out of context when a lot of golf instruction books from decades ago encouraged you to keep your head still. As still as can be! This, again, has been proven to be a (slight) falsification as there has to be a little movement of the head during the swing. Not many people have the ability to rotate their body and keep their head in the same place. Still, this is very different from attempting to keep your eye on the ball. Even in other sports you hear it. Footballs a classic. 'He hit it in row z because he didn't keep his eye on the ball'. Nonsense......... he's hit it into row z because his centre of gravity was way behind the ball, striking the ball on the upswing, increasing launch angle and therefore height on the ball.
Please do not tell anyone you are trying to improve (especially beginners) to keep their head down or eye on the ball. It is extremely destructive and will lead to more bad things than good.
Anyway, back to the original post and it's importance.
Whenever I ask a golfer how they are doing and how they feel their golf is going to try and get some feedback into their thoughts and processes they go through, the large majority I would say talk about their golf as to what they are doing in their swing. 'I'm not keeping left arm straight' or 'I'm not turning enough' are very common responses. But the fact is, how do we KNOW we aren't doing these things we think we are meant to be doing? We can't see ourselves swing and maybe get the odd piece of feedback from playing partners to back up our theories. But feel and real are two very different things and therefore it is extremely difficult (but not impossible) to feel exactly what is hindering our best golf in our swings.
So how on earth are we meant to know how to correct our bad shots when we are out on the course if we aren't entirely sure what is happening in our golf swing? 'THE FLIGHT OF THE BALL TELLS IT ALL'. The flight of the ball will tell us exactly what the CLUB is doing. Please note I did say what the 'club' is doing and not the swing. Golfers tend to bypass what the club does and delve straight into the swing. Let me ask you this..................... how do you change a lightbulb? Do you think about simply screwing the bulb in place or do you think about your wrist/forearm rotation and pressure you're holding the bulb with to get it in? If your answer is the latter one, please reassess how you change a lightbulb!
My point to this article................... To improve your golf you need to learn and understand what your bad shot ball flight is, whether it starts right of target and curves further right, starts at the target and curves left, starts left and curves to the right of target and so on, because these can give you the feedback you need to discover what's happening.
My dad always told me when I first started to play the game that 'the ball doesn't lie'. When you were 7 years old you didn't always believe what your dad told you so at the time I was a non-believer in that phrase. How wrong was I!
The club has the biggest influence as stated at the beginning of this article. No two ways about it. But I can hear what you're shouting at your phone or laptop reading this now........ 'the club is influenced by the swing and what YOU tell the club to do'!
And yes, you would be absolutely right. But let me ask you this........... how many things can go wrong in the swing when a bad shot occurs? A LOT! How many things can go wrong with the club when a bad shot occurs? 4.......... clubface open, clubface closed, path of club is out to in too much, path of club is in to out too much. How much easier is it to diagnose a club flaw as opposed to a biomechanical/technical swing flaw? Answer..... A LOT EASIER!
I will leave you with this diagram below. It is a diagram of what the club is doing to influence what the ball does. This should be the holy grail and told to every golfer on the planet because golf is a heck of a lot easier when you are thinking more about what the golf club is doing as opposed to what the body is doing.
Please promise me one thing when you next go to the range or go for a round on course....... when you hit a poor shot (which is inevitable in this game), think about what your golf club did to influence the ball flight and not what your body did to influence it. You will be a lot less frustrated.... trust me!