Where were we? Yes. That’s right. Golf is a game of opposites. Try to move the ball right, it goes left; try to move the ball left, it goes right; hit down on the ball, it goes up; hit up on the ball, you skull it across the green; aim farther left, the ball slices more right; and so on… Opposites.
Our first illustration of this principle involved, as it will again, and again, Newton’s third law of motion. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If we accelerate into a brick wall, either the wall will fall down or our car will lunge back, or both. (Don’t try that at home; trust us on the physics.) If we push forward and swing our club into the ball, there has to be an equal and opposite reaction – the earth has to move backwards; part of our body has to move backward; or our muscles must counteract the forward force of our body to prevent part of our body from going backward — which leads to a lot of energy expended in two directions at one time.
The apparent solution, as Sir Nick Faldo, is to stay anchored to the ground. In that way, we can push off the ground — because while, in a strict Newtonian sense, we do push the earth back as we push forward, it doesn’t like to move much – weighing so much and all – and it therefore acts as a good springboard. The more firmly we are rooted to it – literally “rooted” to the earth – the better we can spring forward and ultimately impart that energy into the ball.
Of course there are many things going on at once, but this is clearly one of them.
Not so fast my friend . . . you say. Stay rooted to the ground for as long as possible? Well, almost. Actually we want to stay rooted to the ground for as long as it will benefit our swing.
The fact is – and this is one of those opposites – that at some point being anchored to the ground becomes counter-productive. We might spin around our central axis too quickly, causing a strong inside-out swing path – leading to a hook or duck hook. Or we might not get our body in slightly in front of the ball at impact, and if our weight shift fails to get far enough forward, our club face will have the tendency to come into the ball facing up and to the right. That is, there’s a good chance we’ll hit a weak slice.
At some point, then, it doesn’t make sense to stay anchored to the ground, but we actually do want to “spring” off of it, into the ball. While we lose our ability to push forward, we gain some things – better balance, a better arc into the ball, and if we actually stop our forward (linear) motion by posting up just before impact, the club will release better into the ball.
Once again, stay anchored … except when you shouldn’t.
This, by the way, is one aspect of what is loosely referred to in golf as “timing.” There are several aspects of timing. One is that we want to push off the ground, until we don’t any more. And when we want to move from being anchored to “lifting off” is key to determining whether we hit the ball solidly and straight, or it goes either left or right and perhaps not so far (depending on a some other factors).
What to take away?
Take away from this part of this lesson the notion that when someone tells you to do something in golf, don’t take them too literally. Unless you are with a very very good teaching professional, it is likely the case that there is a limiting principle – that at some point what they wanted you to do becomes counter-productive. At some point you want to do the opposite. Usually there is a golden mean. Knowing that golden mean is what makes the difference between an average and very good golfer, between a mechanical, bad swing, and a seemingly effortless powerful one.
Here, you want to follow Sir Nick’s advice, to a point; that point being where continuing to be anchored will impede other beneficial aspects of a good swing.
It’s a game of opposites.