Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. The importance of sitting up straight is one of those things. Grade school instructors knew that establishing proper posture had many benefits and would serve you well for life. If you’re in the military its one of the first – if not THE first thing – drill sergeants teach you. If you don’t sit right at the office you’ll warp and stress your back with ensuing negative consequences. Posture matters for ballerinas and baseball players – and go figure?… it matters when playing golf.
I’m tweaked at my golf instructor. I was hoping he would give me strict instruction about some of the basics like posture and proper set up because I believe these are core to why I play and strike so inconsistently. I even told him as much. I know every golfer must find “his own swing,” but I wanted someone to bark the basics at me about what I need to think about when placing my feet, how far I should or should not lean forward, figuring out if I should place the ball inside my left heel or not (some people do, some people don’t), how to hold my head – stuff like that. He’s a nice guy and he knows a lot but all I got was a lot of talk – smart conceptual talk but talk that I wasn’t ready for – about thinking about where the ball was going to land, and being in the box versus out of the box, etc. Maybe the one useful thing I took away was his comparing golfing to bowling. I’d been searching for the right analogy and that one makes more sense than baseball or tennis or any other sport.
Paul Azinger, in one of those Golf Academy sessions, said if you don’t learn or improve something right away you need to change instructors and find someone who works for you. It’s up to you to tell them what you need but after that the fundamentals should improve if the instructor is worth his salt. I purchased a set of lessons last year – yes a whole year ago – and then got disillusioned after no improvement came… only to sign up for more with the same instructor. I’m upset with myself.
Anyway. I’m sitting on the remaining 2 lessons working on my short game before I see him again. But in the hiatus I started just watching YouTube and thinking about posture and how you often hear commentators talk about a golfers standing or remaining “tall” as if they are keeping the rope of their swing taut to ensure a smooth perimeter for the swing. And I began to realize that my posture was terrible. Good posture is the foundation for Hogan’s five fundamentals so I revisited instructions on how to achieve it. I think I understand now why golfers like Jason Day do that mechanical practice barrel-like roll swing – as if to re-groove the posture of leaning forward while sitting in a chair with a straight back feeling.
I started playing around, trying to find a stance where I wasn’t too straight or too bent – and where I ensured I bent at the hip not my waist making sure not to bend forward too much (i have a tendency to do that) and keeping my arms straight out – not by forcing them with muscle exertion but as if I was desperately straining/trying to reach the ball and it was just out of reach.
It’s helping!! In fact, I’ve been back to the range and struck the ball more consistently and with a sweeter spot than ever. Knuckling the ball decreased considerably. So I think I’m onto something.
I’ve been away from the sport for a long time. I need to readjust my expectations – this will be an exercise in years of patience not months … especially as I hold onto my Silicon Valley job with all of its travel and ‘always on’ demands.’ But thankfully we do get auto-adjusting sit/stand desks with location memory at work as standard issue (no medical note required) and I’ve started standing at work to negate the negative effects of sitting all day. They also introduced mini-massages the other day and I’ve started to take advantage of them. My back is one big wiry knot.
Posture and grip are my two main focus points for now along with trying to internalize the concept that I’m swinging my club more like I’m spinning a little child by the hands around and around to make us both dizzy like I used to back in the day. I’m not trying to pull or tug an ax at the ball. Speaking of kids – getting my daughter off to college last year was another major life stage that just seemed to put everything else on hold – so I’m not beating my self up for being away from the game for so long. She’s there and doing well and we’re proud.
But I am committed now to just tackling one thing at a time. I have a mini chipping net and mat set up in her now empty room (easily stored when she comes home on vacation) and I’m using those golf wiffle balls and yellow sponge balls to practice. I think I’m onto something. I can feel the difference. And it all starts with establishing a good replicable posture.
Once I get that down I’ll move onto another basic like “Do one thing at a time!” or “Focus” and “Don’t Let Your Mind Wander!”
I should have paid more attention in grade school I guess.
Photos provided by UnSplash photographers, Kelly Miller “Chair” & Feliphe Schiaroli “Classroom”