The Modern Swing is the Least Modern

Just about every week on a national broadcast of the PGA Tour, one of the standby golf gurus expounds on the modern swing, using slow-motion video, technobabble, and analysis of why the shot we just witnessed finished stiff or in someone’s back yard. But, here is a question – what is the modern golf swing and when exactly did it originate?

Is it the swing described in Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan in 1957? Don’t overlook Byron Nelson’s Shape Your Swing The Modern Way from 1976. But wait, there’s the David Leadbetter Modern Golf Swing DVD set with cutting-edge graphics. I would also be remiss if I did not mention some of the plethora of brilliance out there like the Natural Golf Swing, Rotary Swing, Stack & Tilt, and my all-time favorite, the Negotiable Golf Swing. THE modern golf swing would, in my
mind, refer to how all golfers are attacking the ball now – the one superior motion that will make us all tour-ready.

There is also a bridge for sale in Brooklyn. Has the golf swing really changed that much over the years? I think not, and let’s look at some examples.

Now if you ask me, there is only one golf swing – the individual swing. It is the way you do it, not the way the other guy does it. Your ultimate performance comes down to whether you can get the club on the ball squarely. Not much else matters. I say this because, over my life time in golf, I have seen some of the ugliest swings on a number of fabulous players and tons of God-awful golfers with beautiful swings.

The main difference in golf today and a hundred years ago is not the swing, but how the equipment allows players to go at the ball much harder without sacrificing control. The operative word is power. Hit it hard.

When Vardon played, golf was artistic, like a Ruebens painting. Today, it’s more like a Jackson Pollock: violent splashes hurled at a receptive canvas. The bottom line is that teaching the modern swing, to my way of thinking, is much ado about nothing. The club has to be on a good path, it needs to accelerate into the ball while maintaining balance, and the clubface must be delivered squarely to the ball. Teach people how to do that and you’ll be successful. Ernest Jones, one of the greatest teachers of all time, wrote, “There is only one categorical imperative in golf, and that is to hit the ball. There are no minor absolutes.” It still applies, even in modern times.

Mike Stevens is Southeast Director of the USGTF and golf teaching pro at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He was the 2005 National Hickory Champion and the 2004 US Golf Teachers Senior Champion. In 2008 he finished second in the National Hickory and teamed with Mark Harman to win the Southern Hickory Four Ball. He also owns and operates the Mike Stevens On Target Golf School in Tampa and Sarasota.

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