POWERS OF OBSERVATION
By Michael Hebron, PGA Master Professional, CI
The world's finest golf instructors are on either side of your nose!
Many skills learned as children, (riding bikes, swinging bats, throwing and
catching balls, etc.) were learned by watching others perform them, and not
because someone taught them to us.
The Power of Observation, as we all know from past experience, is a very
effective way of learning how to move and perform. My suggestion to
readers who want to improve their golf: USE YOUR POWERS OF
OBSERVATION. Watching L.P.G.A., P.G.A. tour professi onals , local club
professionals , and outstanding amateurs play can, helps your own game.
But be forewarned! Each one is going to look different. Different body
styles, swing shapes, tempo and rhythm, will change from one player to the
next. So what can we possibly learn? If we know what to look for there is lots
to be learned.
When we begin to gather information and analyze some of the basics all
good golfers share, good golfers gradually look more and more alike. Here
are some suggestions on where to use the Powers of Observation:
Notice that the posture of a world class player does not change very much
from club to club. The arms hang down from the shoulders, and lay on the
chest from the elbows up with every club. The shoulders do not change
either, the ri ght is lower than the left. With all clubs there is a small bend
from the hip joints, with the buttocks out a few inches past the players
heels. There is also a slight flex in both knees. Most of all there is no
discernible tension. But as the club gets l onger the player will stand farther
away from the ball with their feet wider apart.
Notice how good players place their head back in their stance. If you draw
an imaginary vertical line up from the ball you will see the player's head is in
back of the ball, especially with tee shots. In sound swings the head is ba ck
and only flows forward after impact. Also notice how a good player has the
face looking down. The old saying of keep your head up, does not really
hold true for many world class players who have their face looking down at
It is useful to have your concept of holding the club go beyond the hands.
When we look at professionals we can see they do not give the appearance
of hanging on for dear life. To achieve this same look, expand your concept
of grip to include wrist, shoulder, and elbow joints, all free of tension.
Notice how the left thumb is right of center and right thumb left of center,
with palms of the hands facing each other. One element of a sound grip
that cannot be noticed by looking would be to have the last 3 fingers of the
upper hand and the midd le two of the lower hand much firmer than the
thumb and forefingers. This approach will give you the needed grip
pressure to compress the ball, but it also keep your wrist joints free during
Exception: With shots that you would like your wrists to be firm (I.e. putting,
chipping), be firm with your thumb and forefinger when holding the club.
(For firm wrists)
When watching a superior player, you will notice they have the same
(preshot routine) movements before each and every swing. These are
learned motions and the first step to consistent golf. Good golfers know by
starting with a cons istent preshot routine they increase their chances of
repeating their swing and ball flight. Every player's routine is somewhat
different, but whatever the pattern is, it is the same time after time.
If you do not have a preshot routine, here is one you may want to try.
• Stand behind the ball, look at the target, gather information,
(distance, wind, lie, desired ball flight.)
• Pick your club, taking only a left hand grip, stand with body somewhat
open (facing target) as you place clubface behind ball, with feet together.
(The swing radius - ball to left shoulder, has now been established.)
• Next place right hand on club, separate feet on a line parallel to
target line, all while you are looking at the target (not at the ball.)
• Now look back at ball, picture the ball flight, one more look at target
now, back to ball, then swing.
Top players have leg motion that has the same rhythm and tempo as their
body turn and arm swing. Often club golfers have leg motion that out races
their swing. When looking at good players you see graceful motion, not
jumpy, quick, out of rhythm action. An important element of the overall
graceful motion in a sound swing is leg motion that blends in, not out races
When observing good golfers we see a complete shoulder turn during the
backswing. This is often not the case with recreational golfers. An
incomplete backswing is one of the main causes of a lack of rhythm, tempo,
power and consist ency. Visualizing the left shoulder reaching the right foot
will help complete the backswing turn, (an essential for consistent golf.)
-Change of direction-
Many players start their downswing with a quick motion lacking any of the
rhythm and grace which is present in a world class swing. This may be
caused by the belief that power comes from a sudden acceleration, a burst
of power, or an application of effort.
Of course there are no sudden motions in any world class swing, and this
includes the change of direction. Notice the rhythm at the start of a
professional swing is constant from start to finish, with no apparent effort
during the change of directi on. Whatever swing mechanics you use to start
your downswing with, also use the same rhythm and tempo that you use to
start your swing, for better results.
The finish of a professional swing is often different than a lesser player's.
Notice the right shoulder closer to the target then the left. Notice how the
thighs of the legs come together. Notice how the entire body is on balance
w ithout any wobbling at the finish.
This is what I call the I.D.C. look at the finish (I don't care.) Sound swings
are a free motion that gives the appearance of running out of gas smoothly.
They do not come to a sudden stop. Sound swings have an I.D.C. look to
them (I don't care whe re the ball goes) when performing at its highest level.
The next time you have the opportunity to use your Powers of Observation
to study an expert golfer, look past the different overall styles to see lots of
important common basics that can help any golfer improve their game.
They are all yours for the watching.
Copyright Michael Hebron, 2008, all rights reserved