Focused Minn. golfers narrow ideas on the swing

With endless tips on the swing, Minnesota’s golfers sort through the good and bad.

Austin Cumblad

Golf legend Ben Hogan is regarded almost unanimously as the greatest ball striker of all time.

Tiger Woods, currently No. 1 in the world and arguably the best golfer of all time, was quoted in Golf Digest as saying he hopes to someday “own his swing” the way Hogan did.

Anyone who’s seen Hogan swing a club has probably noticed how easy he made the game of golf look.

So it seems odd that Hogan would say this: “Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing.”

Not exactly a comforting statement for anyone looking to pick up the game.

There are certain fundamentals that most agree are paramount to a proper swing, but so many variables appear after one moves beyond the basics that a person’s golf swing becomes almost like his or her DNA.

“Everyone’s going to have their own swing,” Minnesota associate head coach Andrew Tank said. “It’s like your signature or your fingerprints; each is going to be a little different.”

Indeed, there really aren’t universal laws for constructing a golf swing, but that rarely stops players from trying to swing like Tiger.

In fact, a swing that is pigeon-holed to match a golfer on the PGA Tour can prove disastrous for a player with a body type dissimilar to the pro, or, as Gophers senior Patrick Datz points out, even a different personality.

“Your swing is pretty much you,” he said. “If you look at different personalities, guys who talk fast usually swing fast. You have to let your swing be you.”

Problem is, a swing that’s just “you” may not produce desirable results.

Hands down, the most common problem for recreational golfers is a slice. Slicers usually become familiar with the woods, the water and ever-mounting frustration.

But for every golfer who’s struggling with one, there’s a tip or trick to cure a slice.

Solutions range from something as simple as flaring the right foot at setup to something as abstract as PGA Tour pro Tom Watson’s suggestion to imagine a pig standing a few feet in front of you and then try to hit it on the nose with the toe of your club.

Of course, if that’s not enough, pick up the November 2007 issue of Golf Magazine and find four articles related to straightening out the banana ball.

For anyone in need of other advice, there are 10 more instructional columns on different topics, all by renowned teachers. And not to be outdone, Golf Digest’s November 2007 issue has 13 of its own.

With 27 different pieces of wisdom about the swing to take in at one time, it’s common for golfers to become so inundated with information that their swings deteriorate rather than improve.

Datz and fellow senior Clayton Rask both said they focus on technical aspects of the swing during practice, and groove each move so they don’t have to think about them while on the course.

Still, a grooved swing on the range doesn’t always translate to a grooved swing in pressure situations.

Rask referred to another Hogan quote that claims “golf is not a game of good shots. It’s a game of bad shots.”

In other words, it’s not about how good good shots are – it’s about how good bad shots are.

“You can hit the ball perfect all day long, but when it comes to that one hole and you make a bad swing, your miss better be a good one instead of 20 yards right and out of bounds or in the water,” Rask said.

And again it comes down to the imperfection inherent to the game of golf. Rask and the rest of the Gophers may still strive for perfection, but they know not to expect it.

“This game is not a game of perfect, that’s for sure,” he said. “If you think you can become perfect at this game, you’re going to drive yourself nuts.”