Years ago, I took a lesson from a respected club professional. I was really excited about it, but my enthusiasm waned soon after it started.
“You’ve got to shorten your swing,” was the first thing he told me.
Being young and foolish, I resisted.
“But I won’t be able to hit it as far!” was my first thought.
I might have even told him something like that. I wasn’t pleased. The lesson didn’t go well, I never went back to him and I quickly discarded his idea.
Four decades later, my swing has been shortened naturally by Father Time, and I certainly don’t hit the ball as far as before. I think often of how different my results might have been if I hadn’t been so egotistical about distance and had taken more than one lesson from him to try to fully employ what he was suggesting – no, urging me to do.
I also think about it every time I watch Jon Rahm and Tony Finau swing the golf club.
Both have short swings but still hit it a long way. It’s a testament to the fact that the more you keep the swing simple, the less that can go wrong.
I can’t help but notice the swings of other people on the driving range. It’s one of the fascinations of being out there.
Within two or three swings, I can tell if someone can play or not.
Do they have good tempo? Do they look fluid or mechanical? Do they have any basic flaws?
And the most important one of all: Can I learn anything from them?
The search for a swing is a forever component of our great game.
It’s why you see people absent-mindedly make a swing motion with one hand when they’re nowhere near a golf course.
It’s why driving ranges are often so crowded. Surely, this bucket of balls is going to solve everything.
It’s why new and old golfers alike struggle from time to time – or every time. Swinging a golf club well is one of the hardest things in sports to accomplish consistently. That’s why the pros are in a different stratosphere from us.
And when your swing goes awry, it’s absolutely frightening.
I think of the times when I suddenly started shanking or duck hooking or just being unable to make any kind of solid contact.
I’m usually pretty good at self-correcting, but when I don’t know what to do – when my swing is that far off – it’s a helpless feeling.
And the mystery surrounding this whole concept is that it can happen anytime and then feed off itself.
One shank most definitely can lead to another, no matter what steps you take to correct it.
If the driver isn’t cooperating, there are times where you just have to leave it in the bag. It’s having a bad day, and it’s not going to get better.
And when a wedge to the green feels like worse than a 50-50 proposition, you feel defeated before you even take the club back.
But if someone – and especially a teaching pro – tells you to shorten your swing, don’t do what I did.
Listen. Learn. Apply it. See what kind of results you get.
You’ll never miss that extra distance if shorter and straighter and more under control means a lower score.