When beginning the backswing, should we lead with the
shoulders, the hands, the left arm, the right arm, or some other way?
And should the downswing be started by shifting the hips sideways, by
rotating them, by rotating the torso, with the hands, by pulling with
the left arm, by bringing the right elbow close to the body, by pushing
with the right foot, by moving the left knee towards the target, or by
putting the left heel back on the ground…when very possibly it shouldn't
have been raised at all during the backswing?
The list could go on for several pages.
It has to be said that where golf technique is concerned
we are faced with an unusual amount of confusion. In the majority of
sporting disciplines there seems to be some kind of consensus among
experts about which techniques are actually the most effective.
Regarding the golf swing, however, not only do the experts not agree on
the choice of a single technical model, they also hold different
opinions about the very desirability of using such a model! Some think
it's desirable, and to date several theories have been put forward.
Others argue instead that since each individual is different what works
for some will not necessarily work for all. If they're right about this,
then technique should differ from one golfer to the next, so that
somehow or other each individual has to discover the swing that works
best for him or her.
As for the perfect swing, it should represent the
ultimate where technique is concerned. Not only would it be considered
the most effective technical model in existence, it would also be at the
cutting edge in its efficiency and therefore not lend itself to any
further improvement. It would be perfect, after all!
Many people consider the perfect swing to be no more
than the figment of a rather over-fertile imagination and maintain that
there is simply no such thing. On the other hand, some specialists are
convinced that it is hidden away somewhere, like buried treasure, and
have set out to find it. The most spectacular attempts in this direction
are undoubtedly those made in the 1960s. This was when a rich golfing
aficionado, Sir Aynsley Bridgland, assembled an impressive team of ten
highly qualified scientists with the declared objective of no less than
discovering this controversial perfect swing. Yet we learn from the book
Search for the Perfect Swing that after six years of hard work
their research failed to fully achieve this objective. (It is fair to
note however that basing themselves on the laws of pure science they did
construct a theoretical model of the perfect swing.)
It seems, then, that the ideal golfing technique is
wrapped in a certain mystery. Golfers seem to be endlessly seeking for
advice, hoping the truth will at last be revealed to them like a
well-guarded secret. There can be little doubt, it seems to me, that the
widespread confusion about golf technique is one of the principal
reasons why many players find it so difficult to approach their full
I began teaching golf in 1985, but it was only in 1987
that it occurred to me to become a golf professional. Actually, since I
was teaching in Europe at the time, my dream was to join the PGA
European Tour. In 1988 I officially turned professional, and the
following year, with my best friend as my caddy, I failed by a single
stroke to qualify for the Belgian Open (which is part of the European
circuit). If I'd saved just a single stroke, I'd have found myself
playing against golfers like Langer, Woosnam, Olazabal, Singh,
Montgomerie and company!
On the other hand I knew I was still far from my
objective, and that my out-of-bounds drive and triple bogey on the 16th
hole weren't the result of bad luck, even if my ball had landed on the
fairway before veering off to the right. It was quite obvious to me that
this outcome was due to my defective technique and to my usual left to
right ball flight, a trajectory that had been with me ever since my
first day as a golfer. But now I'd had enough. If I was to have any hope
of becoming competitive on a circuit like that it was imperative to
improve the mechanics of my swing.
After a discussion with my boss at the time, and by
mutual agreement, I laid out a plan of action. In the first phase I'd
devote all my energies to helping this new club build up its membership.
Then, once the club had enough members, I'd be paid a base salary.
I thought this a reasonable compromise, even if it meant
putting my dreams as a player on hold for a few years. I felt sure that
before very long I'd be able to take advantage of my greatly improved
financial situation to train the way I needed to and take part in
several competitions. In the meantime I could always use my free time to
get started on what was my major task: reconstructing my swing.
It was a splendid plan, but it didn't quite work out the
way I'd hoped. A few years later, even though the club's membership list
was full, they didn't want to grant me what I'd been promised.
Naturally, I found this unacceptable, and when my discontent began to
show, I was fired.
My 100% natural (but technically weak) swing of the past
was now beginning to look like a laboratory that had been laid waste by
failed experiments! At the time I couldn't imagine myself earning a
living by playing competitive golf, so from that point on I concentrated
exclusively on my career as a golf instructor.
I never felt myself so far from any professional circuit
than one day in the summer of 1997, when I was just finishing off
another very busy week's work. Earlier that day I confided to my fellow
professional that I believed I had witnessed a new record being set for
the first 9 holes of our course. When he inquired who had gone round
under par I clarified the fact that the record I was referring to was
actually at the other end of the scale: 157 strokes, of which 23 were
air shots that failed to make any contact with the ball (I used to count
In Europe novice golfers usually had to pass a practical
exam before being allowed to play on the course itself. In our club
members had to play 9 holes in 72 strokes or less to pass this test.
This meant that my job was to help this individual to reduce his score
by no less than 85 strokes over the 9 holes, in other words almost 10
strokes per hole! Of course, the level of my new students' game was not
always that poor. Even so, since I'd worked mainly in recently created
golf clubs that kind of situation wasn't all that unusual. (In this
particular case the pupil took almost an entire year to pass the test.)
The major problem I confronted early in my career as a
teaching professional was that the bits and pieces of technical
information I'd absorbed previously, even if they all originated with
respected figures in the field of golf, were not always compatible with
one another. This made me recognize that I'd have to use my own
experience as an instructor to help me decide which to keep and which to
Initially I thought that the most naturally gifted
pupils would be the ones most likely to point me to what worked best as
far as technique was concerned. Indeed, they were able to reproduce
whatever I asked them to do with more precision than the others, and
this made it possible for me to evaluate the efficacy of the mechanics
in question more accurately.
On the other hand I gradually came to realize that maybe
my less gifted students would provide me with the most information about
the effectiveness of a particular technique. Indeed, a golfer with a lot
of natural talent would often be able to strike the ball well in spite
of his poor technique, but the less adept ones needed all the technical
assistance they could get if they were to have any hope of achieving
Ultimately, all my pupils could teach me something. Of
course the golfer's level didn't really matter that much, for anyone
would be able to strike the ball better if they learned a more effective
technique. My objective therefore remained to discover the best possible
technique—one that would benefit all.
About ten years later, after analyzing more than a
million golf swings, I was at last able to put in place the final pieces
in the jig-saw of a technique that I knew to be highly effective. As
time went by, and as I continued my research in the literature, I
realized that the model I'd arrived at was none other than the mythical
perfect swing. Just as certain specialists suspected, the perfect swing
was indeed hidden away somewhere, and this somewhere was a secret valley a the access to which was very well protected by
what is, to say the least, an astonishing key. This master key, which
involved the right arm, had certainly foiled many an earlier attempt. It
was the final piece of the puzzle.
Since the very earliest days of the game people have
probably set out to find the ideal way to play golf. It's therefore no
mean claim to suggest that the secret of the perfect swing has been
discovered at last! Yet in the pages that follow not only will I reveal
this secret, I will also explain why this model appears to have reached
a limit beyond which any further advance is impossible.
Most books on golf technique tell the learner what to do
without elaborating on the factors that may have influenced the author's
theories. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, for the specialist is
after all better equipped than the amateur to follow a discussion of
that kind. On the other hand, once the amateur has consulted several
books on the subject and discovered that each time he is told to do
something different, it is hard for him to understand, or to arrive at
any evaluation whatsoever—hence his confusion. In this respect my book
takes a rather unusual approach. Of course it advises the reader what to
do, but it also allows him to follow each step of the process that led
me to my conclusions. I hope that in this way specialists and even
amateurs will be able to see for themselves on what a solid foundation
this model technique is based.
I am absolutely convinced that the various deductions
that allowed me to advance in my quest have always been soundly based,
whether they were the result of theoretical reflection or of practical
observation. It may be, however, that some readers—novice golfers in
particular—will find it difficult to grasp all the finer points of the
information provided here. All the same, I hope that along the way
they'll learn more about golf technique than if this book merely told
them what to do.
But before we set out on our quest for the perfect swing
I must tell the reader that a major surprise awaits him. It consists in
the fact that the treasure buried in the secret valley is actually a
much more valuable one than anyone could have suspected, for the model
technique for the perfect swing provides the ideal way not just to drive
the ball but also to putt, chip, pitch, and make almost any kind of golf
To all golfers I express my hope that you will be able
to use this book as a guide. I encourage you to set out on the path that
will take you to the secret valley, for it is really worth the trouble.
After all, what could be more legitimate and enthralling for a golfer
than trying to bring off a perfect swing?
Now it only remains for me to wish you pleasant reading—and
a pleasant trip to the secret valley!