I Robot? An Approach to Learning Golf

Golf is not an easy game although some people just "get it" as soon as they lift a club. For the rest of us it is quite possible to learn how to enjoy. not only the walk, bird watching and the 100 metre dash away from the snake we awoke looking for our ball, but the game itself. We can learn the game at our own pace and take it to whatever level we wish to achieve. The level of motivation here is how precise we wish our game to become. Time and inbuilt talent will be our only restrictions in reality. What follows below is an attempt at allowing you to consider yourself as a machine, and in thinking in these mechanical terms, the golf swing starts to be stripped of its downswing blackout feel.

In the first two articles we discovered the design basics of our body and the club, as well as the overhead view of a clubhead swing motion to the low point of the arc of our swing. We have placed our bodies, which will be working somewhat like a biomechanical machine, to the ball and have seen if we maintain some basic alignments, the club will react in a set motion. From the correspondence I received on the first two articles readers grasped these concepts quickly. In this article we will dissect the learning construct the first two were based upon so that future articles will be even more easily understood.

Repeatable Swing

I frequently hear from students that they wish to have a repeatable swing. They have, for instance, hit slices all day long for years. Guess what? They do have a repeatable swing already, it just is not the right one for what they wish to achieve. That ball knows everything you have just executed with your particular clubhead and shaft. So whether learning, rebuilding your game or progressing to the next level we can cut ourselves a little slack by finding a new way to process what is involved in a swing. There is nothing "new" in this article, just a thought process that will make life on the golf course much easier to contemplate.

The advantage of thinking about our golf swing as mechanical in nature is that we can get rid of a lot of superfluous "seems as if" feelings. This can rid us of the enigmas of the swing. This world of ours has many constants, for instance, drop something and it will fall and the laws of force and motion. We cannot fight any of these laws and we certainly could not get the politicians to change them. We have to live within their boundaries as best we can. However by understanding how these laws function within a golf swing we can utilize them to the best of our abilities.

Robotic machines like Iron Byron, its descendents Mia 5 and cousins like Max Headspeed have been built to duplicate much of the golf swing. They have been developed for shaft and head testing and hit the ball with precision each time. These machines do not have the same balance problems as we humans do.

Imagine your body like this. Your left shoulder is a hinge arrangement. The right arm and hand is a piston. Hands become adjustable clamps which can move in either vertical or rotational planes. The left wrist is a hinge pin that allows wrist cock. The machine has to control the clubshaft, the clubhead and the clubface. Everything we execute in a golf swing is to control these functions. Our body parts can therefore duplicate what a machine does. It helps to simplify these concepts to see what can be done and how it can be done. Figure 3 (above) shows a sketch of a very simple Golfing Machine.

Our individual structure is important. Each of us is built differently in terms of height, weight, physical power and subtlety, therefore each of us will be able to do only so much. A house built of sticks is fine as long as it is not a block of flats. Likewise we cannot overload our own superstructure by swinging too far (over swinging) or too fast (loss of rhythm) for all the parts to keep up. No matter what our structure is like, we can build something that will work to its maximum efficiency.

Push or Pull?

To move the ball do I push the club or pull the club at it? A pin-ball machine has you pulling a spring which when it's released pushes the ball. When you fire up a gyroscope the acceleration generates centrifugal force. Playing golf we can either pull the club (centrifugal force ñ left arm swings with passive right arm thrust) or push it (active right arm muscular thrust). This is the difference between swinging and hitting at the ball. Swinging has more of an arc motion than hitting which has more of a straight line delivery path. Article two showed the swinging action. We will look at hitting motions later on.

Dexterity

What do my hands do in the swing? Manual dexterity is required in this game. But it is also required to tie a shoe lace, drive a car, get dressed and so on. Educated hands are an absolute must to be able to control the balls flight, via the clubhead and clubshaft during the swing. The movements are not that complex in comparison to tying a shoe lace but remember how hard it was to teach your kids how to do that? Once understood it is a complex task completed by an acquired skill.

The advantage of thinking in mechanical terms is that once we start moving the club and our bodies around, the movements will produce feelings. Often a student will stop while learning a movement and say "that feels funny or different". If you can feel something you can reproduce the feel. Let mechanics produce feel and feel reproduce mechanics. Feelings of what is occurring in our swing is the only way we can monitor our swings on the course as there are no mirrors or video cameras for us to look at.

Anyone can get the ball from tee to green and into the hole no matter how athletic they are or are not. Getting the ball there with fewer strokes means we have to think about how to propel the ball more efficiently.

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