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Learning in the Dirt (A Blog for Golf Beginners)

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Understanding Power

Tim Lincecum - 170lb Power Pitcher - Video Link Here

 

The Physics of Lincecum

 

As a beginning golfer, it astounded me that smaller, "weaker" people than me could hit the ball crisper, higher, and farther than I could.  We see players who have been playing all their lives do things on the course and we think "I can never do that.  I didn't grow up playing."  You can do what they do because what they're doing is swinging powerfully and anybody can swing powerfully enough to hit the ball beautifully.  A powerful golf shot has the highest clubhead speed and the best contact between the clubhead and the ball.  End of story.  The question is how do we swing powerfully and accurately every single time?

 

You might be wondering what this has to do with baseball pitcher Tim Lincecum.  I consider him to be the most Hoganesque performer in the big leagues.  This guy is strong, supremely flexible, but he is small.  You'd expect a bigger man with long arms to throw harder than somebody who's 5'11 and 170.  Lincecum understands how to throw the ball powerfully just as Hogan understood how to swing powerfully.

 

There is no magical technique. Lincecum very simply loads his legs and torso with tremendous amounts of torque during his windup and powerfully releases that torque by executing two critical principals I have been struggling to understand for a long time:

1.  The last thing to move towards the target is his hand.

2. His arm muscles add nothing to the power of his pitch.  The only function of his arm muscles are to keep his hand attached to his body.

 

To translate this to golf, Lincecum's arm is the shaft of the club.  His hand is the clubhead.  He uses his body to swing his hand faster than he ever could flex his arm and wrist.  The concept of a powerful throw/swing is simple:  Store energy, then release that energy in the proper sequence. Learning the execution of that concept, however, is not as simple because it involves training our brain to do something it's afraid to do.  Our brain is afraid to let our hand move without our control.

 

In golf people say things like, "Let the club do the work," and "Don't put yourself in the swing."  What this means is "Do not, under any circumstances try to guide the club with your hands and arms as you move to deliver the club to the ball." Any muscular function in the hands outside of hanging on to the club will disrupt the powerful sequence your body is capable of producing no matter what physical condition you are in.  Hogan survived a horrific car accident and was able to recover and perform a powerful golf swing.  His body was damaged and "weaker" than ever but he was still able to play great golf and swing powerfully.

 

A truly powerful swing results in a beautiful swing.  It results in a balanced swing.  It results in a repeatable swing.  The power of the energy of that clubhead swinging around your body results in hitting all of the positions we see great players hit. Your body is a slave to the force you build and unleash.  It involuntarily takes your hands and arms and legs and hips and feet into the positions we see and study and strive for.  We can predict where the clubhead will be better than we could ever accomplish by "guiding" the club with our hands and arms.

 

Correctly setting up that release of energy, however, is crucial.  The brain is responsible for getting the body in position to let the powerful swing happen.  It takes dedicated practice to understand how to set up the body.  You must dig deep and buy in and work hard to train your brain to do the right things.

 

It takes courage to believe your body can win tournaments after surviving a car crash.  It takes courage to stand 90 feet away from the best hitters in the world and throw so powerfully you end up defenseless with your back exposed to a line drive.  Nothing great has ever been accomplished without courage.  Always keep digging and learning and believe that your body, no matter how flawed, can develop a powerful, repeating golf swing.

 

I hope you can use my perspective to understand more fully the things you are learning from the instructors and videos on this site and others.  Any and all positions achieved on the downswing are a direct result of the grip, setup, posture, backswing, transition, and intent of the arms/hands/shoulders.  The best intent for the arms/hands/shoulders is demonstrated by Lincecum and Hogan and all great golfers.  There is no intent other than to prevent the club from flying out of your hands.

 

Golf teachers know how to explain the way to prepare your body to properly execute a powerful swing.  Buy into their teaching.  Do not hold yourself back by halfheartedly following their instruction. I have learned so much but I have not learned as easily as I could because I didn't fully follow the directions being given to me.  Listen hard and then listen harder.  Then go and do what your instructor tells you to.

 

Always remember that your body is capable of achieving beautiful, powerful, repeatable swings.  You just need to learn to set it up and let it go.

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