Does the swing create the shot or does the shot create the swing?

This is a question I asked to conclude my last article. For those of you who read it, what was your answer? For those of you who didn’ read it, please think about that question for a minute.

I ask all the golfers I work with, regardless of their current playing ability and experience in the game that very question. More often than not, the response is “Well without a swing, there can’t be a shot.” Seems logical enough right? On the surface, yes but if we dig a little deeper, that answer doesn’t really make any sense.

When you hit your drive down the first fairway, (as you always do…) you get to your ball, use your laser, gps or if you grew up caddying like I did, you refer to your yardage book and figure out how far you have to the green and or flag. Distance measured, you then ask yourself, “What is the shot here? What does the ball need to do to reach my intended target?” You then choose a club appropriate for that particular shot.

If you are asking “What do I need to do or what does my swing have to do?, trust me, you are in for a long and difficult day. Without a very clear intention for the shot you are faced with, without a very clear intention for what you want the ball to do, how can you possibly even begin to make a swing? Can you see where I am going with this?

Now think about your current practice or playing processes. When you go to the range, are you creating shots or are you working on your swing, working on your technique? Is your focus or attention on what you need to do, what the club needs to do or what the ball needs to do?

Popular wisdom and the traditional golf coaching culture would have you believe that if you make a “good swing” you will hit a good shot. That being the case, you probably get your gadgets and training aids out and start working on the latest magic move that will change your world as a golfer.

– Make sure you are aligned square to your target.
– Check your ball position.
– Check your grip is neutral.
– Good posture.
– One piece takeaway.
– Cock your wrists.
– Turn your shoulders or thorax.
– Resist with your hips or pelvis.
– Check that your club is “in the slot” at the top of your backswing.
– Start the downswing with your hips.
– Pull down with your lead hand.
– Create lots of lag just like the Tour Pros do.
– Use the ground to create energy.
– Transfer your weight.
– Stay in balance.
– Release the club.
– Don’t lift your head.
– Follow through.
– Hold your finish.
– Damn! Sliced it again!

Sound familiar? If so, then you probably believe that the swing creates the shot. Why do you believe this? Simply because that is how the vast majority of golfers are taught. I didn’t say everyone because there are some fantastic golf coaches out there who understand that golf is about creating shots, not making golf swings.

As the late, great John Jacobs used to say, “Golf is all about what you do with the ball.”

Think about other ball sports. When we watch or play football, tennis, rugby, cricket or squash, we are paying attention to the ball. Of course we are, why wouldn’t you? So why is it that when we watch or play golf, we obsess about technique? Largely because the culture of coaching suggests we do just that.

If you want to play better golf and have more fun in the process, get creative with your shots. If you don’t practice or train shots in cross winds, shots off downhill, uphill or side hill lies, don’t be surprised if you can’t hit these shots when you encounter them on the golf course.

Is it possible you could play a variety of different shots from different lies? Absolutely, but only if you train for that inevitability.

Next time you play, use the golf course as a training ground rather than a proving ground. Forget about your score for once and focus on creating the shots that the golf course designer asks of you.

You never know, you might just enjoy the experience and play better than you ever imagined.