As I am sitting here watching the Senior PGA Tour event, I am fascinated by the swing of the leader, Allen Doyle. If there is ever a player who illustrates why you DO NOT need to have a parallel club shaft at the top of your swing, it is Allen. It's amazing. The guy barely takes it past waist high and is beating up on some of the all time legends of the game.
Of all the overrated things in the golf swing, "length of swing" is right up near the top. I continually get confused when I see all the instruction about getting the club in that perfectly parallel slot at the top of the swing. It seems that there are so many good players in the world who do not achieve this position.
It's not just the short swings like Mr. Doyle's either. I was watching Shigeki Maruyama in the World match play championship earlier this week. He has quite a long swing. He goes way past parallel, and is one of the best players in the world.
Swing length is also brought up quite a bit when talking about distance. This is when the average players start to worry. They think they need to have a long swing in order to hit it far. That's not the case at all!
Look no further than Tommy Armour III and Tiger Woods, two of the longest hitters in the game. One barely gets the club past waist high, and the other stops short of parallel. Myth dispelled.
The important thing to note about your swing length is that it can be as short or as long as you want, as long as it's not done recklessly. For instance, if you have a long swing, but achieve this position because you collapsed your arms or made an extreme reverse pivot, then that is something you want to correct. However, if you achieve your long swing because you simply have a huge shoulder turn, then leave it as is.
By the same token, if you have a very short, abrupt swing, but do so because you are super rigid and have no wrist or lower body motion, then you need to address those problems. If you look at the good players who have very short swings, they always have tremendous lower body motion, as well as some good wrist action, which allows for them to generate club head speed with such a short swing.
One of my biggest outcries to golfers throughout the world, especially the higher handicappers, is to focus on the essentials of the swing. The problem with "swing length" is that it is not an essential. It is drastically different for many great players. Thus, if your length of swing is not "reckless", then don't worry about it. Worry about other things.
Oh yeah! In case you are wondering what you need to worry about, and what is the most essential part of the swing, it's a steep then shallow path and plane structure, which happens to be the direct opposite of what an over the top slicer does.
Columns ©1999 Joseph K. Sullivan and GolfLink Inc. All rights reserved.