Professional golf these days is so heavily influenced by coaching and mechanics that we often view the golf swing as a series of positions rather than a fluid action defined by the genetic x-factor that is hand-eye coordination. Televised golf sells us the myth of mechical perfection, but the players we’re watching every week were gifted long before David Leadbetter or Butch Harmon began standing behind them on the range.
Good coaching makes a difference, of course, but it’s like architecture: its possibilities are limited by the breadth and strength of the foundations you’re given with. Rooting around on YouTube over the weekend, I found few videos that illustrate the point very nicely.
We’re used to seeing Pat Perez, Paddy, Ernie and Phil swing the club in a much more controlled and orthodox way today, but while orthodoxy may offer major-winning consistency, it was sheer talent that carried them to the elite level in the first place.
Unbelievably, Pat Perez (above) played with a back-swing longer than John Daly’s all the way through his illustrious junior career.
If this was the swing that greeted you on the first tee of the club matchplay, you’d seriously fancy you chances, and yet Paddy was one of the most successful Irish amateurs of his day, eclipsed only by Darren Clarke.
The rhythm might be the same, but little else remains today of Ernie’s early career move through the ball. It’s long, willowy and elegant in way that seems somehow antithetical to the modern philosophy.
Phil’s weird mouthing of appreciative comments to the crowd is still in place, but his 1991 action has largely gone the way of his frat boy collar.