So the PGA announced that their Championship will move from August to May, beginning in 2019. From May 16-19, 2019, Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York, will host the 101st PGA Championship, which will be the first conducted in May since Sam Snead’s triumph in 1949.
Since its inception in 1916, the PGA Championship has been played in 9 different months. As the final major of the year from 1959-1970, and then again from 1972-2017.
Chapter 2 from, "Golf is dying: Is modern golf instruction the cure, or the culprit?"
-Ron Sisson @ Learn the Real Swing
If you really think about it, the task of hitting a golf ball hundreds of yards in a relatively accurate direction has some requirements that are quite insane. From its starting position at address to its settling at the swing's conclusion, the clubhead will have travelled some 30 or more feet. Depending on who is swinging the club, it will have reached a peak of speed at impact somewhere between 70 and over 120 miles per hour.
Relative to the straight target line, the sweet spot of the clubface will have moved in a curving arc, either curving toward the target line on the downswing or away from it after impact, only briefly touching the target line for a brief millisecond at impact. During the forward swing, the clubface will have gone from facing 90 or more degrees open to the intended target to 90 or more degrees closed after impact in about 6 tenths of a second.
Impact with the ball has three phases: Initial impact (the exact nano second when the clubface just barely touches the outer surface of the golf ball), Compression (the ball flattening against the club face due to the force of the impact) and separation (the exact nano second when the ball leaves the club face). These phases of impact occur over a distance of 6/10th of an inch – which means that the ball and the club face are in contact with each other for just more than 1/2 an inch. For the shot to be directionally accurate, at initial impact the clubface would have to have been fractionally open, then rotate to perfectly square or very close to it at the height of the compression phase of impact – just 1 degree open or closed will send the ball some 20 yards wide of the intended target. Then, the club face will begin closing as the impact phase concludes with the ball separating from the club face. And the 'pièce de résistance' of insaneness:
While all of the above is happening, at impact the ball must be struck to within 1/16th of an inch accurate of the the center of the clubface or better – presuming you want those nice shots that make golf fun. [For a “real world” perspective of what a 16th of an inch is, take a nickel, turn it sideways and look at the thin edge of it. That’s a 16th of an inch.] If you do strike the ball off the center of the clubface, you are just 1/4 of an inch away from "sort of okay" shots, 1/2 an inch away from "bad" shots, and a mere 3/4ths of an inch away from "terrible" shots.
A tiny percentage of the golfing population – the tour and club pros and high level amateurs – can accomplish the above with a remarkable degree of skill and consistency. In stark contrast, the vast majority* of golfers and would-be golfers flail away, with the satisfying 'click' of solid contact and precise, penetrating ball flight occurring only once or twice in a round of golf, usually on the last hole to lure them back for more torture! [*According to National Golf Foundation statistics, the average golf score is currently 100 and has been for decades, with only 22 percent of golfers ever able to score below 90.]
The million dollar question is, "How do they do it? – How do those elite golfers hit the ball so accurately and consistently in the middle of the clubface, with relatively consistent control of the direction of their shots as well?" How does the golf swing really work and what do those striving to learn the game have to do to develop the skills that elite players display with such ease and grace?
Since the game's very beginning, golfers and golf teachers have attempted to answer these questions. The result has been literally millions of written words and tens of thousands of hours of video and television instruction. In golf's modern era, and especially in the last 10 years, advances in technology have enabled us to look even more closely at what elite golfers are doing when they swing.
Our knowledge of the physics of what really happens when a golf club meets a golf ball has taken a quantum leap forward due to super slow motion videography and radar ball tracking technology such as the TrackMan. [For example, "new" ball flight laws – where the major role for the ball’s initial starting direction on curving shots has shifted from the swing path to the clubface's angle relative to the swing path at impact – are gradually being adopted into modern golf teaching. But that's a completely different topic that others have covered in detail. For those who are interested, google “new ball flight laws Trackman.”]
As a result of these technological advances, teaching the golf swing has taken on more of a "scientific" approach, delving deeply into the bio-mechanics of the golf swing in great detail using super slow motion video and 3D 'Terminator-' styled computer modeling. With these technologies, we can pinpoint and then show golfers their swing flaws from every possible angle and in much greater detail than ever before. And yet, as noted above, average scoring in golf has seen little or no improvement for decades.
So, why are golfers as a whole not improving? And why is there such a huge difference between the skills of elite golfers in comparison to average golfers? I believe the answer to these questions lies in the answer to another question: Does what we currently believe about how a human being becomes highly skilled at striking a golf ball – and the teaching methods that have developed around these beliefs – match up with scientifically verifiable reality? In other words, does the paradigm of modern golf swing instructional theory stand up to scientific scrutiny, as well as common sense logical deductive reasoning?
Let's take a closer look at the concept of a paradigm and how it applies in the context of modern golf instruction:
So how does a paradigm develop? Any observable action or phenomenon will have an underlying explanation that corresponds with reality, meaning the actual cause of the action or phenomenon. The scientific hypotheses developed to explain a particular phenomenon give rise to theories that are purported to be an accurate explanation of that phenomenon. If the theory seems to make the most sense based on our current understanding of available evidence and is widely accepted as correct, it becomes the accepted worldview or paradigm for that phenomenon.
It should be noted that the acceptance of a paradigm – even overwhelming, universal acceptance – does not necessarily make it scientifically correct: Ultimately, something either is correct or it isn't. For example, the earth was once thought to be flat. Over time, a new theory – that the earth was not flat but spherical – began to challenge the accepted paradigm. Both paradigms were just theories – albeit one more plausible than the other – until humankind was able to observe the earth from a distance in space. Then, with new concrete evidence, the 'flat earth' theory was proven to be incorrect and the 'spherical earth' theory changed from 'theory' to 'undeniable fact.'
With regard to the phenomenon of a human being striking a golf ball with a full swing motion, there is a widely accepted paradigm consisting of a series of underlying theories and assumptions that exists in the minds of virtually all golfers, and especially in the minds of those who teach golf professionally. This paradigm could be outlined as follows:
"The bio-mechanical movements and positions of the body during the act of striking a golf ball cause the movements of the club. The movements and positions of the bodies of elite golfers (touring and club professionals and high level amateurs) are so similar as to be almost identical and universal – i.e. the bio-mechanically correct swing.
Therefore, their skill of consistently striking powerful and accurate golf shots is a result of their ability to move their bodies through these series of correct positions and movements with a high degree of accuracy and repeatability. Hence, for beginning and average golfers to strike powerful and accurate golf shots like elite golfers do, they must make sure that their pre-swing fundamentals; grip, posture, ball position, etc. – and in- swing "fundamentals" – too many rules regarding the "correct" in-swing bio-mechanics to list here without writing a very large book – resemble, as closely as possible, those of elite golfers. Poorly struck and/or misdirected shots are the result of bio-mechanical flaws or mistakes in pre-swing and/or in-swing mechanics. And, unless they spend countless hours retraining their bodies and "muscle memory" to set up and swing in a "bio-mechanically correct" fashion like elite golfers do, beginning and average golfers are doomed to golfing mediocrity."
This paradigm – that the body moves the club and 'correct' body movements and positions will create "good" shots and 'incorrect' body movements and positions will cause "bad" shots – is so pervasive, so universally accepted as being true, that no one ever questions it and virtually all of modern golf instruction is based on it.
On its surface, the paradigm seems to make good "common sense" based on the observable evidence of modern slow motion video. But is the paradigm actually true? Is it in reality scientifically valid? Or, is it possible that, like the true nature of the earth's shape, the reality of things may not be as they appear to be?
For any scientific theory and the paradigms that form around it to be valid from a scientific viewpoint, the observable evidence of the theory must consistently support it with very few anomalies or contradictory evidence. If there are significant anomalies and an abundance of evidence that contradicts the paradigm, then the theories underlying the paradigm must be revised or rejected and new theories must be explored that may lead to a new and better understanding and, ultimately, a new paradigm.
So one of our favorite golf related websites, Revolution Golf was just acquired by Golf Channel! We highly respect this widely popular site and "subscription" based business model created by its founder Justin Tupper. From mailing golf instruction DVDs in 2009 to offering live streaming videos to members, Revolution Golf started a bit of a, well revolution...
They say "content is King", and when it comes to the millions of struggling amateur golfers, nothing could be more compelling than the content Revolution Golf offers. Not to say that the PGA or USGA ignored the evidence that golf was in trouble, what with their attempts to lure more golfers to "Tee it forward", as well as the "While we're young", marketing campaign. But the fact remains that regardless of the economy, the cost or the time it may take to play the game, what if something else was to blame?
See as one of those 20-30 million that play for "fun", or the occasional skins game for $5, I've tried them all since 1991. All meaning the methods promoted by the "gurus" of the game. I've actually seen opposing opinions between golf instructors or "proponents" come close to blows regarding near religious beliefs as to how the club was to to swung...
Hats off to Revolution Golf for providing visitors and members alike the opportunity to view various ways to "skin a cat", as one great golf pro told me years ago. Regardless of the debates, the contradictions and confusion, we all strive to care for and grow the game. I love Golf Channel, and only wish the constant narrative from one analyst to the other would at least provide some consistency. Opinion is one thing, but fact and science is yet another.
Lets all try and grow the game, as the "rising tide lifts all ships", and many golfers need a life jacket just to get through the round!
Congrats to Justin and his online golf portal for such success! We at Reactionary golf hope to follow the trail he blazed!
The following guest blog post is from CPGA Golf Coach Ron Sisson, based in Calgary, Alberta. Ron founded an instructional method he calls "Real Swing Golf - The Science of Simplicity". As well he's authored an introspective piece on the game titled, "Golf is dying: Is modern golf instruction the cure, or the culprit?" The following is an excerpt from his enlightening perspective on why golf is in decline, chapter 1.. We will publish additional chapters soon. We thank Ron for his contribution to the great game of golf and please visit his excellent YouTube Channel for more information @ Learn the Real Swing ...
Golf is in trouble. The number of golfers leaving the game has outpaced the number of golfers coming into the game for more than a decade now and that trend has accelerated since the economic crash of 07/08. Varying factors have been cited – 1) golf is expensive, 2) it takes too much time to play, and 3) it is a difficult game to learn for new golfers getting into the sport and for golfers who are already in the game, improvements in skill and score are painfully slow in coming. And these improvements usually only come with the expenditure of prodigious amounts of time and money (see reasons 1 and 2).
But there may be another factor that should be of great concern to those of us who teach the game. In an interview in August of 2010, the late and legendary Jim Flick, the man Jack Nicklaus entrusted with his game after the passing of his life long teacher Jack Grout, voiced his opinion regarding the current state of the game and its steady decline in popularity: "I think there’s lots of contributing factors driving people away from the game. Obviously, time and expense. But the way [the game is being taught today] is so scientific that it turns people off." [emphasis added]
I believe that Jim is partially correct: He is correct that people are being turned off by the convoluted and complicated manner in which the act of striking a golf ball is presented by the modern golf instruction industry – we will explore this idea in Chapter 1. However, I believe Jim is not correct in his implication that the game is being taught "scientifically:" In reality, golf is currently being taught with a pseudo-scientific veneer that upon close examination, is scientifically invalid. A bold claim I know – hence the bold letters – but if you will join me for the remaining chapters of this work on the current state of golf instruction and its future, I will endeavor to support my assertion.
I believe that Mr. Flick's assertion deserves serious consideration: Could the way the game is currently being taught be another factor that is, ironically, contributing to golf's slow and steady demise, instead of helping to reverse it? Without question, I believe that time and cost and busier lives and the economy are all having an effect on people getting into and/or staying in the game. However, like Jim, I also believe that the game is slowly dying in large measure because of the way it is taught – filled with jargon and endlessly complicated bio-mechanics that the vast majority of average and beginning golfers have no interest in, or patience for.
For example, I recently taught a husband and wife, both brand new beginners. They really enjoyed it and were glad that they came for golf lessons instead of trying to learn from friends. I said to them that if they had gone for lessons elsewhere, instead of the simple concepts and principles that comprise the Real Swing Golf Method®** that I teach, they most likely would have received instructions in a long list of bio-mechanical body part "do's and don'ts." She said "If other golf instruction is like that, I know would have gotten frustrated and quit." I wonder how many beginning and average golfers have this exact sentiment but aren't expressing it out loud?
When I start with new students and interview them to find out what their goals are and what they want to accomplish with their golf swing and their overall golf game, over and over again I hear the following statement: "I have no aspirations of becoming a pro. I just want to hit the ball better and have more consistency." Translation: "Can you work with what I've got? I don't need or want to make my swing bio-mechanically, 'Tour Pro perfect.' I just want to hit the ball in the middle of the clubface more often with the clubface square or a least close to it so I can hit it straighter more often and enjoy the game at a recreational level."
I'm presuming that most teaching pros get this same statement from their students at the start of a lesson series. Then what do they do? They video their student's swing from 3 or 4 different angles, upload it to their computer, and then use the side by side split screen to compare him to Tiger or Louis Oosthuizen or some other tour pro with a bio-mechanically "correct" swing! His bad shots and general inconsistency are then blamed on the fact that his body moves differently than Tiger or Louis. Then, the pro tries to get this student to move and position his body during the course of his swing to more closely resemble Tiger or Louis, even if that person's body isn't even remotely physically capable of doing so. The shots are invariably worse and the pro then says something like, "You'll probably get a little worse before you get better... But keep at it! The better results will be there in the long haul!"
Here is a YouTube comment from my Golf Channel Instructor Search audition video that beautifully captures the frustration that most average golfers feel due to modern instruction and the elation they feel when I reveal to them that striking a golf ball is a relatively simple act of human hand-eye coordination – that of striking a small ball sitting motionless on the ground with a funny looking stick: "You sir you, you sir, you're good. 5 years thinking in golf 20 hours a day. I really was obsessed about the swing. I broke more than 10 clubs in frustration. Some days I couldn't even lift the ball off the ground because I had 'paralysis by analysis.'
"Your first video was the answer (10 year old kid mentality). I love it. Now I going to play with my 16 handicap and I enjoy my game like a 10 year old kid. And when I hit a bad shot I now give it the same value as a 10 year old kid would give it. I don't know how to thank you."
The following question should be of grave concern to all of us who love the game and are stewards of its growth and popularity: Is this person's experience with endless bio- mechanical swing analysis and the resulting frustration the 'exception' or the 'rule'? If it is the rule – and a very high percentage of average golfers are experiencing more frustration than fun – is it any wonder people are leaving the game in droves with not enough new golfers getting into the game to replace them, thereby contributing to golf's slow and steady decline?
You would think that golf instruction would be part of the solution – logic would dictate that this should be the case. But what if, in its current form, golf instruction is in reality, a major part of the problem, as the late Jim Flick asserts? What if the very thing that promises to help average golfers improve and enjoy the game more – modern golf instruction with all its "scientific" wizardry – is actually "turning people off" and driving them out of the game in frustration?
And what of non golfers on the outside thinking about joining the fold? When their golfing friends moan about their frustration with the game and tell them how hard it is to learn and how complex the mechanics of the swing are, will they jump in with both feet, excited about learning to play golf?
Perhaps an even more important question is this: We have seen modern technological advances in equipment and golf balls. We have advanced high speed video cameras that have enabled us to see in much greater detail the bio-mechanics of the swing. We can show golfers their swing flaws from every possible angle rendered in 3D
'Terminator'-styled imagery. And still the average golf handicap has shown little or no improvement for decades. Why?
I believe that exploring the answer to these questions is critically important if the game of golf is to shift from regression, with more and more players quitting the game each year, to consistent growth year in and year out with current golfers enthusiastic about their game and new golfers excited to embark on the life long journey of learning the game. I hope to answer these questions in the remaining chapters in this series entitled Golf is Dying: Is Modern Golf Instruction the Cure... or the Culprit?
[ ** NOTE: I use the term 'method' to mean "a concise set of principles and skills relating to the use of the golf club – specifically the clubhead – that are common to all golfers of every skill level, regardless of what their swing looks like bio-mechanically speaking." I do NOT mean "making the bio-mechanics of the swing the same for each and every golfer," which, in golf instruction, is the unfortunate connotation that has come to be attached to the term "method."