Seeing & Feeling is Believing

In the February 1988 issue of Golf Illustrated, there’s a section entitled: “The Top Teachers Talk” Q&A “An Interview With Jack Grout.” In it, writer Bill Fields discusses various golf matters with my father. One question, he raised was: “When video came in, did you use it in your teaching? Dad’s reply was, “No, it’s a waste of time. “Why,” he asked?” Dad answered, “I don’t teach from pictures, I teach from fundamentals. You don’t need pictures for that. They don’t prove anything to me.”

Some years earlier, I, too, sought out dad’s view on the subject of video. I remember him giving me this response; “Dickie, most golfers, I know, would quit the game if they saw what their swing looked like.” At the odd time, though, when the “old school” graduate wasn’t being quite so resolute, he’d acknowledge that high-speed, stop-action cameras might be of some benefit to the visual learner. Nevertheless, he cautioned video buffs against getting hung up on pictures. His vast experience taught him that it was wrong to consciously try to replicate the swing of another by placing the club into certain “positions.” Dad said, “Keep in mind, from start to finish, the entire golf swing takes less than two seconds to execute. And, besides, you find the correct place from your own sense of feel. What is a picture going to tell you about how something feels?”

My father knew that developing feel is essential in becoming a good golfer. And, that feel isacquired, in the highest degree, by learning the correct fundamental moves, then practicing them over and over again. He recognized that a golfer could learn certain things by watching great players. But, he warned against getting yourself tangled up with small details and bogged down with gimmicks.

To the best of my knowledge, my father’s only compliance with “new school” gadgetry came in the mid-1970s, when he purchased a Polaroid SX-70 Camera. He had done some research on the new-fangled contraption and figured that it might come in handy for his teaching. But, first he would have to learn how to operate it. And, during experimental times like this, it was my good fortune to be his usual test subject.

Well anyway, when dad came looking for me, I was hitting balls on the practice tee at Muirfield Village. As I remember it, he came driving up in a golf cart. Then, after showing me his new “point-and-shoot” camera, he said that he wanted to try it out on me. For the longest time, he’d been wondering about my position at impact and now, maybe, after clicking off a few, the mystery would be solved.

After fumbling around a bit with his new toy, my father declared that he was ready and, that, I should swing away. At the instant my driver made contact with the ball, a “whirling” sound emanated from the camera. I can tell you, both dad and I were anxious to see what that picture looked like. But, first, we had to wait about 30 seconds for it to develop in the sunlight. Once it did, though, dad was holding a genuine snapshot of me at the finish of my swing.

Being only slightly confused, dad said, “let’s try it again.” Once more, he took the picture at the moment of  impact and, once more, the result was a fine representation of my finish. Then, showing some insight, the sage pointed out that he would have to push the camera’s button as I reached the top of my backswing in order for us to get a picture of my position at  impact. Eureka, it worked! The next photograph was a lot closer to what he wanted and, his timing with that Polaroid did get a lot better.

To tell you the truth, my father remained true-to-form and never did make use of that magic camera when he taught. Before too long, it was back at the house and destined for family matters. A few weeks later, though, I remember finding in dad’s locker, several images of Jack Nicklaus’ swing that dad had taken with the camera. All of them were excellent depictions of Jack demonstrating incredible extension during the backswing and follow-through.

Fortunately, I was able to glance quite often at those pictures because they stayed in my father’s locker for a long time. During Nicklaus’ backswing, with the club at about waist-height, not only was his left arm straight but, his right arm appeared to be straight, too. And, on his follow-through, the pictures revealed that, at waist-height, not only was his right arm straight, but, his left arm (having had rotated correctly through impact), was straight, as well. Wow! It is my belief that nobody has ever swung the golf club with the superb extension and wide arc of Jack Nicklaus.

One thought on “Seeing & Feeling is Believing

  1. Dick,

    Great story and I agree with Dad, this is a feel game and you learn that through practice. When you need to correct something in your swing, you listen, ask questions and visualize the change needed. Then through trail and error practice, athleticism and visual comments, you correct the problem.

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