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Golfers tend to lean towards extremes with how they approach the game. Some players are always looking for new answers and their game is one big, continuous experiment. Others stand completely still and hold on to what they have.
I want to investigate why gravity to the center is usually a better answer for all of you. I will also give you some tangible examples of what I consider healthy tinkering with your golf game. I think you will all find elements of your own game in this discussion.
Constantly changing, committing to nothing
If I had to take a well-considered guess, my instincts tell me that most golfers fall into this extreme. Because the game can be so frustrating and challenging, many players are always looking for answers. So much so that they never really take a moment to analyze their progress.
Whether it's random advice to the driving range or cruising on YouTube and Instagram for endless swing tips – every week is a new experiment. Usually it becomes a vicious circle. There is usually a first "Eureka!" -Moment in range and the golfer declares that they have selected the game. A few weeks later, after a few shivering rounds, they continue with the following.
Making adjustments to your golf game can undoubtedly produce positive results, but there is definitely too much good. I always warn players to prevent them from becoming the golfer who always buys new equipment, constantly uses new and different swing tips and never sits still. At some point you must give the changes you make some time to develop.
On the other side of the spectrum is the golfer who does not change at all. They have been playing the same equipment for decades and have never adapted their technique or approach to the game.
Although it is a terribly overused quote right now and it appears that he may never have said it in the first place, it speaks to Einstein's definition of insanity: "Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results."
At a given moment you have to make adjustments as a golfer. It can be your strategy, mental game, equipment or swing technique. The game is constantly changing in us, and it requires adjustments from time to time. The challenge is that we never really know what the right answers are. It requires an element of risk taking that often scares players who do not want to change (sorry if this becomes a bit too philosophical).
So what should we do?
A healthy dose of experiments
I am not a person who loves extremes. This is unlikely to come as a shock to you from someone who has named their website Practical Golf. I have found very little evidence of success in my own game and of observing others that putting on a state of constant change or doing absolutely nothing will make you a better golfer. As usual, the answer to your own game is somewhere in between.
There are all kinds of small adjustments and changes that you can make to your golf game that can yield small gains over time. Golfers are usually looking for that "home run" change, but it doesn't really exist.
Also do not assume that small experiments are only limited to your golf swing (technique). In a sense, all the topics I research on this website (strategy, exercise, mental play, equipment, expectations, etc.) are areas of the game where I try to give you new ideas to experiment with.
I have been tinkering with my golf game since I started the game more than 20 years ago. Along the way there were many failures. But there were enough successes that held me and formed my current game.
Here is a list of what I consider to be functional experiments that I have done, with links to articles that explore the ideas more:
About five years ago I considerably strengthened my grip and discovered that it improved my balance. Although there is no right grip for anyone based on your swing, there are plenty of matchups that can work.
Putting was part of the game that I always struggled with. So I learned a new way to read greens, became fit for a new putter and changed the way I grabbed the putter.
My driver was the wildest club in my bag. I shortened the stem, found ways to improve my ball flight using a launch monitor, experimented with tee height and taught him to embrace more of the tee with a new strategy.
By measuring my impact location, I discovered that I tend to miss on the club's heel. Through some tests, I discovered that if I consciously tried to beat it up, my impact location would go to the sweet spot.
My rocking path is very in-out. When I'm struggling on the job, it's usually with a hook. On those days, practicing an exaggerated "slice" swing before my recordings can help neutralize an excessive rocking path.
I discovered that I have to move my ball position more forward in my posture with longer irons. If I don't do that, I will lose the distance and accuracy.
By studying the PGA Tour statistics, my own results and those of golfers in general, I have been able to make smarter strategic decisions and have a healthier mental state on the course.
None of these changes required a complete overhaul of my swing or doing anything drastically different. Don't get me wrong, sometimes you have to make important changes, especially with your golf swing. That's why I always suggest working with a qualified swing professional to guide you through that process and give you a better chance of success.
But I realize that most of you are alone. And I do think that making small adjustments and conducting experiments from time to time can make you a better golfer. The only feedback you will ever need with these changes are your results. Does that little white ball fly where you want it to go a bit more? Do you see improvements on the golf course?
Time is also a crucial element. You have to be patient and give these experiments time to play themselves out. One or two rounds is not enough proof.
The Long and Short It
Becoming a better golfer is a delicate balance of changes. If you do nothing and stand still with your game, it is difficult to expect better results. On the other hand, if you always go to the drawing board and make changes, it is a challenge to find out what works, or even give it a chance to develop. The gray area between the two is where the answers are for most of you.
If you are looking for ideas, I have hundreds on this site. But as always I warn you not to do too many things at once.