Golf is a legendary sport; hence, it is full of half-truths. From long drives to course management, these golf myths are passed down from generation to generation, some in the form of golf tips on swing mechanics, while others are general advice on how to do things. Unfortunately, many of these tall tales are just plain wrong.
Here are three popular golf myths that should just be debunked for once and for all. Like spinning a yarn, some of them may have an element of truth. Regardless, all of them embody ideas that can elevate scores and boost golf handicaps- plain advice best avoided.
Golf Myths: Aim at the Target
We have all heard this statement before: perhaps you have even mistakenly uttered it yourself. The statement is not so much mythic as it is confusing. The question is, aim what at the target? The clubface? Your shoulders? Your body? The statement is just not specific enough.
The problem with this myth is that it can cause people to misalign themselves in one of two ways, hurting their golf handicap. One is the aiming of the feet, hips, knees, and shoulders directly at the target, leaving the clubface following a line well right of the target. Another is aiming to compensate for ball flight errors, like when you aim left to compensate for the ball flight error of a slice (for right handers).
When aimed correctly, the leading edge of the clubface sits at a right angle to the target line while your body aligns parallel-left of the target line. This set up establishes perfect parallel alignment. This position does not come naturally; you will need a visit or two to the driving range to recognize when you are aiming correctly on the course.
Then how does one “aim for the target”? Here is a great practice drill for the range: first, pick a target and lay one club down on the ground a few feet in front of the ball, but on the target line. Then, take a second club and lay it down parallel to the first but along your toe line to indicate body alignment. Make adjustments as necessary. Finally, hit a few balls and see what happens. After awhile your body and eyes will have trained to accept this new alignment.
Golf Myths: As the swing gets longer, it gets faster
Like most golfers, you likely swing the driver faster than the 7 or 8-iron. Most of us invariably ramp up swing speed with longer clubs because we envision hitting the ball harder and driving it farther. Unfortunately, when you ramp up your swing speed, it destroys the natural swing tempo—the total amount of time it takes to create a swing from beginning to end. When you start varying your swing’s tempo from club to club, you interrupt the timing required to hit consistent golf shots. This could be one reason why you feel that you can hit with your irons better on one day but not with your woods, and vice versa.
All of us have our own swing tempo. Either fast or slow is fine, as long as you keep the same tempo for each club in the bag. This is not something you control easily, however; again, a trip to the driving range is in order. If it takes two seconds to hit the pitching wedge, it should take two seconds to hit with the driver. Practice consistent tempo with all your clubs and you will be hitting consistent shots.
Golf Myths: Play the ball back with shorter clubs
Most players vary ball position as a change of clubs is due. The shorter the club, the farther back most golfers will position the ball. But incorrect ball positioning can create major problems. With the ball positioned too far forward, your shoulders tend to align too far left of forward. If your club swings where your shoulders point, you will slice. If the ball is positioned too far back, your shoulders will tend to close, creating a push or a hook shot.
You should position the ball in a more forward position for the driver than the pitching wedge. However, never place the ball farther back than center for any normal shot with a level lie, regardless of the club being used. For normal shots on level lies, there are just three basic ball positions:
• Short iron: one inch left of center;
• Mid-irons: two inches left of center;
• Long irons & woods: three inches left of center.
Remember to always relate ball position to your upper body, not your feet. Using your toes creates the illusion that the ball is positioned correctly even when it is not. For example, if you use your toes to position the ball with your foot flared out but then close up your foot, the ball seems to move forward in your stance. You are not an illusionist: the ball has not moved.
If you can learn something valuable about the game of golf, definitely learn the game for gamesmanship’s sake. However, do not be afraid to challenge popular golf myths going around the green. Most are too vague or just plain wrong to be spread as golf gospel.