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Play Golf, Not "Golf Swing"

Pat O'Brien    view bio and other blog entries by Pat O'Brien
published 29 May 2010

This is an article that I am the most proud of, as it crystallizes my teaching philosophy.  The things I have always taught in the short game are easily transferred into the long game.  Stay tuned for future blogs as I expand upon these concepts.

The methodology that is taught about the full swing, save maybe one, is correct.  I just believe that there is a more efficient way to learn and execute.  Golf is not about positions, it is about sequence and flow.  I hope you take this to heart and free up your game. - Pat O'Brien - Dallas, Texas

* * *

My intention in this article is to get you to play golf, maybe for the first time in your life, and stop playing "golf swing." If you are familiar with the way I teach putting and the short game, you know that I believe in proper fundamentals of setup and a lack of mental and physical tension. The putter is designed to swing a certain way and return square of you are neutral to it and allow it to happen.

The same thing holds true for a golf club.

This is not an article about sport psychology or playing golf in a Pollyanna world, where everything happens exactly as it should, no matter what. Playing your best golf requires effort on your part to understand and address four things: body alignment, equipment, freedom of motion and correct sequencing. When you achieve these things, the club can return to square without effort, and you can engage in the target. This is what golf should be. 

Body alignment

An abundance of information is available about ways to improve your grip,alignment, posture and ball position. While these are all important factors, I believe body structure is a key factor to playing your best golf. If you are an experienced golfer, there is a good chance that your body is out of alignment. If you spend all of your time rotating to the left with force, it is likely that you have a muscle imbalance. 

Each day, I see people with open shoulders and a right hip that is higher than the left. (Image 1 above) Usually because of this, the right leg is shorter than the left. If this is your default position, it is hard to swing the club on the correct arc around your body.  

To get back to square at setup would require tension, which inhibits motion. This is a true Catch 22.  

To improve body structure and correct muscle imbalance requires work. A wise, old chiropractor once told me if you play golf, you should counterbalance the motion by playing Frisbee right handed. You can also practice swinging left handed, but may find your muscles just do not want to move that direction.  

To help establish the correct tilt and be square, visualize the buttons on your back pockets lining up over your heels. (Image 2 above) These tips are only Band Aids that may help until you correct your structure.  

I frequently recommend a consultation with a TPI trainer or a physiotherapist for an evaluation to determine the best way to improve muscle imbalance and prevent future injury.




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About Pat O'Brien


Pat O’Brien is the teaching professional at Lakewood Country Club in Dallas. He’s the short game instructor to 2007 Masters Champion Zach Johnson, as well as PGA Tour players Vaughn Taylor, Colt Knost, Ted Purdy and numerous o More...
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