Golf Swing as a Dance

I believe that the golf swing is very similar to dancing….

“The golfer who can sense his swing as dance, will focus on his body and a swing instead of seeing the ball and a hit” – George Knudsen from The Natural Golf Swing.

In the same way that everyone has their own swing on the golf course, everyone also -for better or worse- has their own moves on the dance floor. A couple of stories to illustrate my point:

I have always loved to dance, and being a showoff, have often taken up more than my fair share of the dance floor with wild and bodacious dancing. In college, when Ann and I were in rare form, the other dancers would often form a circle around us and watch. I was once asked by a particularly awkward and inept dancer if I could teach him to dance like me. His issues included thinking too much, trying way too hard, and not really even wanting to be on the floor in the first place. His dancing consisted of the basic ‘white man nod’– arms bent at 90 degree angles and held up like a goal post, nodding and jerking his whole body forward. But I basically told him, you can’t tell someone how to dance, you have to feel the music and dance in your own way. Start dancing, and watch the people on the dance floor that seem to have a freedom of movement and a rhythm with music, and you’ll learn.

Just like you have to dance with your own body, one could argue that swinging a golf club is just the same. There’s a story about my golfing mentor and master professional Claude Harmon, for whom I worked at the Winged Foot Golf Club in Westchester County, NY, that illustrates this point. A man came into the golf shop and asked Mr. Harmon (aka, ‘The Boss’), “Can I have a golf lesson? I’d like to learn to swing like Sam Snead!”

To which The Boss said, “meet me on the putting green in 20 minutes.” The man then said, “Oh, I’m a fine putter I just want to hit some”. The Boss, always taking control of such situations said, “If you want a lesson meet me in 20.” The man decided to show up on the putting green, and Mr. Harmon told him to come to the hole he was standing at, stand flat-footed, and without bending his knees, to pick the ball out of the hole. Of course he couldn’t come close to performing this task, to which The Boss said, “Sam Snead can do this in his sleep, so of course I cant teach you how to swing like Sam. What I can do is teach you how to swing like a better version of yourself.”

The best way to learn to swing a golf club is to watch golfers who have balanced swings full of freedom. Just a few days ago, I was marveling at the effortless, powerful and relaxed swing of Rory McIlroy. I’ve included a link here of his swing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ieu9zi43iW4).

Unlike Rory, many golfers often don’t select a specific target at all. They’re impatient, and want to move on to the hitting. This is most often seen on the practice range where you’ll see golfers raking one ball after the next, and aimlessly hitting them with rapid fire.

“Target awareness takes your minds eye off the ball and puts it where it belongs: out there in space.” – George Knudsen

Claude Harmon used to tell his associates the challenge in the golf swing is to coordinate and sequence all the parts of the body involved. He used to say, the way to remember it, “think of your breakfast, ‘HASH’ – in the backswing, the order of the movement is hands, arms, shoulders, and hips. Golfers often move their hips first in a premature jump back to the right foot. If you don’t get the sequence right on the backswing, you won’t get the sequence right on the downswing, which is the part where you actually connect with the ball.”

The other thing that both dancing and swinging a club have in common, would be balance, freedom, and lack of tension or anxiety. Here’s one of my favorite videos of the legendary dancer, Fred Astaire, hitting some golf balls. Notice the rhythm and lack of tension as he dances himself through a number of balls on the driving range: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=34viwApgPyE).

I once watched Billy Harmon, Claude Harmon’s youngest son, give a golf lesson, and he was attempting to get his student to get the sequence right, and he told the student, “the swing is a dance between the faster hands and arms, and the slower hips and body. You can either have Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, or Michael Jackson and Tina Turner, but you can’t have Michael Jackson and Ginger Rogers, or Fred Astaire and Tina Turner- it just won’t work!”

And a beauty to the wisdom of the Harmon family…

 

 

 

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