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Commentary: You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to have a great golf swing

By Stephen Moskal, PGA   |   Feb. 11, 2013 at 2:10 PM   |   Comments

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Misuse of science is rampant in golf. Since the flight of the ball is subject to physical laws, it's natural for golfers to turn to science for help. Many swing methods have been created through different scientific approaches. In the past, we have seen methods like the Golfing Machine, Gravity Golf, ModelGolf and more. Each method has attracted much attention for a period of time, but ultimately, each failed to solve the puzzle that is the golf swing.

There is a new method teacher generating interest on the web. His name is Chuck Quinton and his method is the Rotary Swing. I have subscribed to his website because I like to see what other instructors are saying and I love to pick up new ideas. He has many interesting articles. For example, he made a point to condemn Taylor Made for fooling people into believing that they are hitting the ball farther with the new Taylor Made irons. The clubs simply have stronger lofts.

Like a person on a crusade for truth and justice for his members, Chuck exposed the Taylor Made scam.

In a similar push for truth, I feel compelled to write an article about some of the things Quinton purports about the golf swing. (You can read more about Quinton's Rotary Swing here.)

Quinton says he wants golf instruction to advance into the modern age, to use science to teach the swing. He states that every human body moves in the same predictable ways because we all have the same number of joints and muscles. That is, we're all governed by the same principles of movement. Because of this, we need to approach golf instruction in the same way we might approach other sports, especially Olympic sports, where physical performance is the key to success. He is quite adamant, for example, that if all runners have found a common, scientifically proven way to run as efficiently as possible and to avoid injury, then golfers should be able to do the same. Quinton claims to have found the model.

My first thoughts about his comments were simply that his swing technique is destined to exclude all of us who are not in Olympic shape, and definitely not for golfers who have a physical handicap or disability of some sort. Which is just fine. I know, after having taught thousands of lessons, that a select few of my students are capable of making swings like Tiger and Rory, but that most are not. Most of my students are aware that they can't swing like an Olympic athlete, and complain sometimes when I push them to become stronger and more flexible.

After reading his last article, I thought more about this idea of Olympic athletes and I started to do a little research. Having started running recently, I have been intrigued by a pair of shoes that one of my students wore one day --shoes with toes. Those shoes came out after new "scientific" research proved that we have been running "incorrectly" for the past half century.

Spurred by Quinton's assertion that all Olympic runners use the same technique, I was excited to find out exactly which technique is now being used: the old technique of planting the heel first or the new, more "scientific" method of planting the front of the foot.

I found many articles on the subject, but no one can agree on the right way.

"It’s a topic of endless debate among runners. Is there a best way to run, so that you use the least energy and go the fastest? And does it help to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes?" wrote The New York Times' Gina Kolata. "Most of the scientific research is just inadequate to answer these questions, said Iain Hunter, a biomechanics researcher at Brigham Young University."

I started looking into other sports. In high-jumping, I discovered that essentially all jumpers use the Fosbury Flop, though many would be better off using the Straddle for physiological reasons. I also discovered the myriad of angles and attack speeds that are possible based on a jumper's individual body characteristics. I even ran across a website whose goal is "applying science to the high jump approach, takeoff, and flight dynamics and to bringing high jump coaching into the 21st century." Sound familiar?

An International Business Times article explained that swimmers often differ on the most scientific approaches to their stroke technique. Michael Phelps experimented with a new stroke after the Beijing Olympics, but quickly abandoned it. A study also found that the most used technique, "sculling," wasn't the most effective.

I did not bother to research all sports to see how trends were leading technique. Imagine all tennis champions with exactly the same style of serving or all pitchers the same style of pitching. We know it will never happen despite efforts to use science to build perfect models.

Whereas science can teach us many things, it can not completely solve the mysteries of the golf swing, nor any other sporting movement. No single model can be applied to every human body. One can always argue that one way is better than another and one can always cite scientific proof to support, but at the end of the day, models never stand the test of time.

I am happy that Quinton has found a model swing that he can impose upon all of his students and I wish him much success. Models are very useful for instructors. After all, if the student can't do it, fault can't be in the instructor. The fault must be the student's because he can't match the model. Unfortunately I have not yet found the model to teach all of my students. I am left with just doing my best to help my students hit the ball a little bit better and to help them shave off a few precious strokes here and there.

My final conclusion, albeit a bit ironic, is that golf instruction should model itself on Olympic sports -- all that matters is results, no matter the technique used to get those results.

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Stephen Moskal is currently the Director of Instruction for Golf Swing Exchange, an innovative on-line coaching platform whose goal is to revolutionize the ability for people to learn golf. A former professional golfer in Europe, Moskal turned pro in 1993 as a member of the French National Circuit and also spent time on the United Kingdom Mastercard Tour and the European Challenge Tour. Following a seven-year professional career, Moskal turned to teaching full-time in 1999. A 1990 graduate of Furman University with a degree in philosophy, Moskal was a four year letter winner with the Paladins and was a member of the academic honor roll. Most recently, Stephen studied under Top 100 instructor Mitchell Spearman, best known for working with major champions Nick Faldo and Ian Baker Finch. Stephen is also the Head Golf Coach at Marymount University in Arlington, VA.

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(United Press International's Commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)

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