As you probably know, golf has been around for a while. Several hundred years, in fact. It’s only natural that certain myths would take root over the centuries.
The major myths about the golf swing are based in truth. Perhaps that’s why they’ve survived so long. The problem is, they’re easily misinterpreted. To this day, the big myths are still repeated on courses and driving ranges everywhere, every day – often with the best of intentions, but doing more harm than good.
Let’s examine three golf swing myths that refuse to die:
“Keep your head down”: Whenever a golfer tops the ball, someone in his group will invariably remark, “You looked up.” While it’s true that turning the head away from the ball before contact can cause mishits, the concept of keeping the head down dangerously oversimplifies things.
Problems occur when golfers, especially beginners, take the phrase too literally. Intent on keep the head still and the eyes locked onto the ball throughout the swing, they tense up through the neck and shoulders, inhibiting their ability to make a full backswing turn. On the downswing, this tension prevents them from turning fluidly through the shot, stiffening the arms and creating all kinds of ugly results.
Fact is, the head should be allowed to swivel a little bit, naturally, on the backswing and downswing. Stay focused on the ball, but let the head come up (turn toward the target) with the right shoulder after impact. Make sure your neck and shoulders are nice and loose before you swing.
“Keep your left arm straight”: Or translated for lefties, “Keep your right arm straight.”
If taken too literally, the left-arm-straight mantra introduces our old friend tension to the swing – and that’s never good. A more helpful wording would be, “Don’t allow too much bend in your left elbow.”
Beginners get into big trouble when they try to lengthen the backswing by bending the arm. Instead, length should be created by a complete shoulder turn – ideally, the shoulders should be perpendicular to the target line at the top of the backswing on a full shot. If you’re flexible enough to reach this point, maintaining a straight (but not rigid) left arm should be fairly easy.
“Swing slowly”: Yet another piece of well-meaning advice that doesn’t work so well if practiced literally.
Golfers who concentrate on swinging slowly usually fail to accelerate the club into the ball. The lack of clubhead speed kills their distance, and the decelerating movement causes wayward, poorly struck shots.
While some famous professional golfers appear to swing slowly – Ernie Els and Fred Couples come to mind – others like Nick Price have very quick swings. What you’re seeing is called tempo, which is akin to rhythm, and it varies for every player.
Every golfer has a natural tempo (follow the link to learn how to find yours). What’s important is developing a swing based on this tempo, be it slow, fast or in between.