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The Rotary Swing Book

by Chuck Quinton

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Stop Trying to Improve Your Golf Swing - Start Trying to Maintain
by Chuck Quinton


Golf is a very unique sport in many ways. Some days the game seems so easy you begin making plans to quit your day job and join the Tour. Other days you wonder why you even play the game. Consistently inconsistent would be an accurate description of the majority of golfers today. How many times have you hit a perfect tee shot only to step up on the next tee and slice one off the planet? What the hell just happened? It's amazing how inconsistent golf can be at every level of the game. How many tee shots did we see Tiger Woods hit in 2004 that missed the fairway by 40 yards or more after hitting the one on the previous hole right down the middle? How often did we hear TV announcers say something like "I really expect Tiger to play well today, he was hitting the ball beautifully on the range this morning" only to watch him spray the ball all over the place off the tee? It can be a maddening game, even for the best of the best.


While no one will ever be perfectly consistent all of the time, striving for consistency should be the number one priority of any golfer. But few golfers understand what consistency really consists of in the golf swing and even fewer understand how to achieve it. My golf instructor and I were discussing my swing a few months back and he said something that struck me as both incredibly profound and profoundly simple. He said that "Golf is the only sport where you don't want to try and improve once you reach a certain level, your goal should be simply to maintain." We determined that once you can competently strike a golf ball your only job is to maintain that swing (I'll define competently shortly). In all other sports, the goal is always to achieve more. To run a little faster, score a few more points or to hit a few more homeruns. While this is a good goal for your score, this is not the case in the swing.

For some reason, most golfers always want to hit the ball a little better each shot. That gorgeous 180 yard 6 iron they just hit right at the target was apparently not good enough because on the next shot they swing harder and try to hit it 185 yards. As a result of this, they hit it 175 yards and 15 yards offline. Most golfers are never satisfied, always striving for the mythical "better". They always seem to try and improve on the next shot and as a result get in their own way and produce less than desirable results.


If the yardage that you can best control your 7 iron is 150 yards, then why would you ever swing harder and try to hit 160 yards? I am amazed at some of the clubs some people pull when I play with them. The proverbial "what are you hitting" comes out on the tee influencing their decision and they always end up pulling a club that they can't consistently hit that far. What all amateur golfers have to realize is that the yardage that you can consistently and accurately hit to is the number you should be using everytime you pull that club. Just because you once hit a 6 iron 200 yards and saw Tiger hit one 215 last weekend doesn't mean you should be trying to duplicate that on every shot. If you do, you'll do NOTHING but introduce inconsistency to your game. No human can swing the club at 100% everytime and be consistent. I think TV has done a great job at misleading the average golfer on how far Tour pros hit the ball today. Everytime you watch a tournament you see someone hitting a 5 iron 225, but what you don't realize is that 90% of the time 90% of the golfers on tour are taking that same five iron and hitting it 190 yards because that is the yardage where they are the most consistent. Golf Digest published a little blurb in the March 2005 issue about the distances that ShotLink measured the Tour pros were actually hitting their irons on average for the year. The average 7 iron was not the 180 yards you occasionally see Tiger and Vijay hit it. The PGA Tour professional hits his seven iron around 160 yards on average for a year. That's not to say they can't hit it further, but they're playing to their best yardage for that club.


Last year I was playing number 18 at Brown Deer in Milwaukee where the Tour plays the Greater Milwaukee Open. I had hit my drive about 285 at the trap on the left side and was left with 272 yards to the pin. If you've watched the tournament, you know that 18 plays quite uphill and is guarded by bunkers on the right. I didn't want to try and go for the green with a 3 wood as it was a low percentage play for me and put me at risk to hit into one of the deep fairway bunkers if I missed. I was sitting at +1 for the round and was really wanting birdie to finish event so I decided to just smooth a 2 iron up the left side and leave myself a little lob wedge into the green that I knew I could stick close. Knowing that I didn't need to try and do anything special with my 2 iron and force a shot, I relaxed and made an effortless pass at the ball. The ball came off the clubface so well and on such a perfect trajectory that it felt like time stood still as I watched it climb into the air. I had never hit a shot quite like that. My smoothed 2 iron flew into the distance and out of site as it landed on top of the hill. I knew I had just hit a perfect golf shot and was pumped up to wedge it close with my next shot and make birdie to finish even for the round. When I got up to where I thought the ball should be in the fairway, my euphoria soon turned to despair. I couldn't find the ball anywhere and was murmurring to the golf gods, thinking it must have plugged in one of the fairway bunkers, the very same ones that had caused me to decide to hit a 2 iron so that I could AVOID them. After searching everywhere in the waning daylight, I was getting desperate. I decided to check the green, just out of curiosity. A grounds keeper and two other gentlemen were standing behind the green in the parking lot behind the green and waved me up. The sun was going down and they were closing up shop, I figured they wanted me to get the off the course so they could go home. Much to my surprise, I saw a ball on the green pin high about 10 feet past a pitch mark. One of the guys said "Nice shot, what'd ya hit?" I told him I hit a 2 iron and they just stared at me with a blank response. Trust me, I was more surprised than they were. My normal 2 iron is 235 yards, 240 if I max it. This shot had to carry about 265 yards uphill to land on the green. Having hit such an incredible shot in front of my new very impressed fans, it was only fitting that I three putt from 40 feet for par to finish 1 over. Golf gives a little and it also taketh away.


What's the moral of this story? Simple - Don't go chasing unicorns. I will likely never hit a shot like that again and know that I definitely couldn't do it if I actually tried to. It was a unicorn, something beautiful, elusive, and unexplainable. It's not meant to be repeated nor understood, only experienced and enjoyed. It would be foolish for me to go out and try and play my 2 iron at 270 yards now just because I did it once. It's just as foolish as the yardages most golfers try to play to. If you competently hit your 7 iron 140 yards, then play your seven iron at 140 yards. Consistency is the name of the game - not how far you can hit your irons. You likely already have yardages for your irons that you are fairly competent with, they're probably just not the yardages you usually try and hit to.

Dramatic improvements in your golf game will be had by consistently playing to what I call your "competent yardages." Your competent yardage is the yardage that you can consistently hit a golf ball at a target on line to within +-3 yards on 75% of your shots with that club. If you can hit accurately hit a 7 iron 160 yards every 3 out 4 shots, then that is your competent yardage for that club. There is no need to try and hit a 7 iron 170 or 160 yards if you can't do it atleast 75% of the time. It seems that almost all average golfers are trying to play to someone else's comptent yardages because they certainly don't hit their target distance or line anywhere near 75% of the time. By determining and playing to your competent yardages you will dramatically increase your chances of improving your scores and enjoyment of the game.


Overswinging has long been a problem in learning how to swing a golf club. To combat this urge, most golf instructors use phrases like "swing within yourself", "swing at 80%" or "swing smooth." Most male golfers don't take to these terms very well because it puts a dent in their ego, it makes them feel weaker, like they can't do something the way they think they should be able to or the way they see the "pros" do it. I understand the ego is a delicate thing, so I go about it a little bit different when I teach. I won't ask you to swing "smoother" or "easier". I'll just ask you to play to your competent yardages. Now the ball is in your court. You already have a yardage in your swing DNA that you can consistently and accurately hit each club in your bag at a target. The problem is most of the time you either choose to ignore it because of your ego or you never determined what your competent yardage really is. To determine your competent yardage is simple. Go to a driving range that has good target greens to hit to where you can see where the ball lands. Take any club and put 20 balls in a pile. Pick a target that you know the exact yardage to, using a laser range finder is the best way to do this. When you can hit 15 out of every 20 balls on line to this target within +-3 yards, you have found your competent yardage for that club. Do this with each and every club in the bag and write down your yardages on a 3 X 5 index card. Laminate it and stick it in your golf bag. Until you have these yardages memorized, pull out this card on each and every shot to determine what club to hit. There should be no more "guessing" or "hoping" that that ball gets there, there should only be "knowing." You'll be amazed at how your golf game will improve when you know with absolute certainty that the ball is going to go the right distance and be online the vast majority of the time on each shot.


Golf at the highest level is a numbers game. Tour players determine the exact distance they want to hit the ball and then pull the club that will do the job the majority of the time. It's a game of percentages and yardages, not a game of guessing how far the ball will go and hoping that you catch it flush. PGA Tour pros play to their competent yardages on each and every shot, not to their maximum yardages. When you don't have to worry about whether or not the ball is going to "get there" you will begin to understand the game of golf on another level. You no longer have to hope that you catch the ball perfectly to reach your target, you can make controlled swings that produce controlled golf shots. Consistent golf is simply picking the right tool for the job, everything else is a foregone conclusion when you are playing to yardages that you are competent with.


copyright 2006 Quinton Holdings, LLC


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