The single most common physical cause of error in golf, and perhaps other sports, is over tightness. It is generally understood by golfers even with little experience that the over tightening of muscles in an effort to produce power is responsible for many poor drives. "Don't try to hit the ball so hard, dummy" is a familiar sound around the course.
But it is equally true,
though less recognized, that tightened muscles cause most slices, hooks, topped balls and fat shots. Over tightening of the shoulders prevents a full backswing and follow through and over tightening of the hands turns the putter blade closed or keeps it open at contact, sending the ball off course. Involuntary tightening lies behind the dreaded yips in both putting and chipping.
Commonly, the observation of a beginning golfer watching the pros is, "Wow, they make it look so easy." They don't seem to be swinging hard at all. On almost any driving range the muscled jerkiness of the average golfer's swing is in obvious contrast to the pro's powerful fluidity.
Actually, over tightness is an inaccurate word when applied to muscles, since no individual unit can be under or over contracted. It is either relaxed or flexed. When the muscle fiber is relaxed, it is soft and pliable.
When it is contracted, it folds in upon itself and becomes rigid enough to support many times its own weight. Strength is measured in the amount of weight that can be supported by contracted muscles. This is not the same as power. Power is the ability to use strength and requires a cooperative effort between contracting muscles. Some muscles pull, while opposing muscles remain relaxed and pliant so as to allow the movement to take place. There must be no sudden tightening of any muscle in the swing.
Here are some ways to over come this: 1. Concentrate on the grip pressure of your hands. Start with the putter, then chipping and so on. See if your grip pressure changes throughout the stroke or swing. 2. Try humming when hitting balls. I've mentioned this before, but is an excellent way to get feedback if you suddenly tighten any muscle as the pitch in your hum will change. 3. While standing, tighten all the muscles in your body to maximum rigidness, then let go. Do that several times and you will begin to get the feeling.
In match play both players hit their balls into a water hazard. The balls were in shallow water, so at the direction of the player, one of their caddies retrieved both balls. However, when the caddie gave the players their balls, the were mistakenly exchanged. They both took relief from the hazard and played out the hole. Ruling?
Answer to last column's teaser:
May a player that has not yet teed off ask advice from another player as to what clubs he used on certain holes?
Ruling: Yes, no penalty.
John Lucas is the professional at Sky Ridge Golf course and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.