By Dave Hill Contributing Writer, USGTF Level IV Member, Montreal, Quebec Has instruction gone full circle? As golf professionals, our golf swing instruction paradigm is often tested, and very much so of late. Some instructors whom I happen to know personally have taken a leap (I’m not so sure it was a leap of faith but rather blind faith) towards a complete paradigm shift. We can blame multi-media and the information age, we can blame society’s need for instant gratification, or we can blame ourselves. Ourselves? Yes, ourselves, the community of golf teaching professionals for succumbing to what some objective viewers see as the outrageous circus that is golf instruction. Harry Vardon and Bobby Jones were not immune to offering sage advice for the rank amateur. Jones’ formal education facilitated his ability to translate a physical act into words. No one has written more on the subject, and his works are a gift to this day. The great Percy Boomer from Scotland rewarded us with an insight into playing the game and how a club should be swung that was well ahead of its time. It was Ben Hogan, however, that provided the first “user’s guide,” if you will, the unsurpassable “bible” titled Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf for countless instructors and golfers worldwide. Then it happened. Jack Nicklaus came on the scene. The overweight, brush-cut, elbow-flying, heel-lifting, vertical-swinging bomber who not only had the gall to lay claim to Arnie’s throne, but with time and victories mounting, he changed the paradigm for how a club should be swung. What happened to Hogan’s Five Fundamentals? You know – the elbows tucked, flat swing, feet grounded, game of balance and symmetry with a combination of power and paramount precision. Hogan was the old guard; Nicklaus was the new world order. As the 1960s brought in change, so did Jack to the game of golf. There was a new way to play and a new way to swing. The paradigm shift in golf instruction had occurred, and Nicklaus created a generation of slicers. This paradigm shift left the game in a state of flux. There was Hogan’s flatter or Nicklaus’ upright technique. Oh no! But now the word “technique” was out, and even worse came – the “method.” Hello world! “My name is Jimmy Ballard and everything you know about the golf swing is wrong.” Here we go! The changing paradigm for golfers worldwide is in full-blown operation or perhaps chaos. “But wait, maybe Ballard is right! Ballard is coaching Jack’s successor Hal Sutton and look at Curtis Strange…he’s lighting it up!” Loading up and moving your center off the ball during the backswing was the proper way to swing and all the rage. You had to load up like a pitcher throwing a baseball. Curtis was winning everything, including two successive US Opens. Ballard was right. Of course, how was this possible when employing Jim McLean’s “the X factor”? Curtis wasn’t playing so well anymore and Hal Sutton was no Jack Nicklaus. Nobody can beat Faldo and he was setting his wrists early via Leadbetter’s instruction. Hmmm! Fortunately for all of us, Mac O’Grady has taken the findings of Homer Kelly’s “The Golfing Machine” to another level with his 168,000 variables of the golf swing, all of which can be learned at his academy offering M.O.R.A.D. (Mac O’Grady Research And Development). Andy Plummer’s and Mike Bennett’s “Stack & Tilt” method can trace its origins to M.O.R.A.D. My God, didn’t Vardon swing this way? Have you gone full circle as both a player and a teacher? The USGTF offered me the opportunity to write a monthly article, and it is a request I take seriously in spite of the sarcastic tone I portray here. Golf instructors are to offer insight, and in the months to come I will take you on a journey in time to not only unravel the so-called “methods” proliferating our trade today, but unveil how yesterday’s golf swing is that of today’s. DAVID HILL Is a certified examiner for the USGTF and a top-ranked instructor • 24-year golf professional • USGTF Master Teaching Professional • Class A member Canadian PGA • Over 25,000 lessons given in career • Director of instruction at Elm Ridge CC, Montreal, Quebec • Owner Montreal Golf Academy (four locations) • President/owner Marquis Golf (corporate golf/travel) • Top 50 Canadian teacher (National Post) • Top 100 WGTF teacher
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