Are practice swings unnecessary?

It’s amazing how I keep learning so much at the practice range.  Today I had another mind blowing experience.

I always thought that the reason I came over the top was because I was trying to hit the ball hard.  Which, intellectually, makes sense.  Practice swings feel loose and easy, the goal being to feel what you want to do.  Put the ball in front of me and I want to hit it as hard as I can.  Right?  So an OTT move is caused by overswinging.

I don’t believe that is the cause for me.  I believe the cause is somewhat more elusive.

I did an experiment and recorded three practice swings with the driver, a slow one, a medium speed one, and a 100%, pedal to the metal swing.  The results shocked me.

Before watching the video I  imagined that the first swing would have none to maybe a slight over the top move, the middle one might have a noticable move, and the fast one, with the highest clubhead speed would have a very visible over the top move.

May I have the envelop please?…

There was no noticeable over the top move in those swings at all.  No matter how hard I swung, if I wasn’t hitting a ball, I had no over the top move.

Let this sink in for a second.  No matter how hard I swung my practice swing (i.e. trying to get the club moving as fast as possible) there was no over the top move.

I did another little experiment.  This time I would take a very short and slow practice swing, and then tried to do the exact same slow practice swing but actually hit a ball.  Time after time, the practice swing was beautiful, but as soon as the ball was there, there would be an over the top move.

It’s the ball.

Well, actually, it is my reaction to the ball.  When I’m hitting an actual ball, the feeling in my body is different (although it shouldn’t be), and the swing is different (although it shouldn’t be).  I think the change happens even before I hit the ball.  As I steup up to the ball, and set my club behind it, there’s a different sensation.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but I’m not feeling as loose.  I’m a little more deliberate in my movements.  I’m not trying to do that but it happens, and I noticed it.

I know that I shouldn’t be hitting at the ball, but that the ball should just get in the way of my swing.  But it doesn’t feel that way.  Whenever I see my swing on video hitting a ball, I am just shocked and amazed that I can hit as well as I can, because the swing on video looks so flawed to me.

So, I have discovered I have two completely different swings.  A practice swing, and a hit the ball swing.  They feel different, they have different goals, and this could be part of the problem.  My practice swing does not end up being a rehearsal of my actual swing, it just ends up being a repetition of my practice swing.  Are practice swings unnecessary?

Dr. Joseph parent in Zen Golf talks about getting ready for a shot.  He says that you should do a programming swing.  This is not a full  swing, it is done slowly, and allows you to program in a specific movement that you want to have happen.  He says it should be done slowly so that you feel your muscles do the movement that you want to happen in your full swing.  Then you trust that you’re programming move will be incorporated in you swing, and you swing.  I think this is worth practicing with.

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