Find what works best for you

By BETSY LAREY – Gazette Columnist

I recently read Hank Haney’s book, "The Big Miss." It was a pretty scathing account of Tiger Woods as a golfer, and as a person. I have to say I thought it was tacky, even though I was fascinated and couldn’t put it down.

There was a lot of stuff written that is common knowledge in the teaching world, but it was interesting to hear his version of why Tiger did what he did. What surprised me the most was Tiger’s obsession with distance off the tee. He was seriously long when he was younger, but the new guys coming up were able to match and then some as the years progressed.

The short version goes like this. Tiger had a bad habit of dropping his head down and away from the target, which he felt gave him more distance. He did this as a kid, because he was a pretty skinny teenager who wanted to hit it long. That worked for him when his timing was impeccable but was a disaster if the timing wasn’t perfect.

The miss was a block to the right unless his hands were too quick through the hitting area, in which case it would be a nasty hook, which was his most feared result. What he ended up doing was taking the left side of the fairway out of play. It’s pretty hard to be consistent off the tee if you are only playing half of a fairway.

According to Hank, he tried to work with Tiger and get him to hit what he called a stinger – a low flying shot that would be more accurate. But Tiger never wanted to put this shot into play in a round. It seemed to me like he was more concerned about not hitting what he called "a wuss" shot. Hank, as most good golf pro’s would agree, was more concerned about accuracy.

The reason I am bringing this up is because I believe the average golfer would be better served by playing within their capabilities and finding a consistent shot. I always ask people do you care about what your swing looks like or do you want to have a swing you can depend on? I would venture to say the average golfers swing bears little resemblance to a professional golfer’s swing. If you spend your time trying to emulate that swing (which is all I ever see in Golf Digest and Golf Magazine) you could be doing more harm than good.

Far and away the biggest mistake I see is someone trying to get the club parallel to the ground and the top of their backswing. If you do not have the flexibility (hips, shoulders and arms) the strength and good balance, I guarantee you will make a number of compensations in your swing. I’ve written about this previously (standing up, bent left arm, reverse pivot or a number of others).

So how do you decide what would work best for you? First, you need to determine if you have flexibility, strength or balance issues. As the human body ages, we start to lose muscle mass as early as our 20’s. Balance and flexibility issues tend to appear in many individuals in their 30’s. If you do have own one or more of these problems, you either need to find a good personal trainer that has experience with golf or a good golf professional that can help you build a golf swing that fits your body.

Second, you need to accept the fact that your swing is not going to look like the guys (and I say guys because there’s rarely pictures of LPGA players) in Golf Digest. You will have to decide if it’s more important what your swing looks like or how effective it is.

In the next few weeks I’ll offer tips on how to build an effective golf swing that you can count on.

Betsy Larey is an LPGA Teaching Professional who enjoys writing, researching and playing golf. You can reach her directly at [email protected].