Book Review: Understanding the Golf Swing

Manuel de la Torre, born in Spain and located professionally in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was a teacher of the Ernst Jones method, with a worldwide reputation. His book, Understanding the Golf Swing, reduces that method to its simplicity.

The fundamental concept of this approach is that it is the movement of the club that is important, not the movement of the body. Once the movement of the club is understood, the body will respond in a way that allows that movement to occur.

We don’t learn technique to make the club move in a certain way. We learn how the club should move in order for us to learn how to move our body. The method is simple, because there is less to learn, and hence think about, and hence get confused about.

The method also has the benefit of taking our mind outside ourself, which is the external focus that Gabrielle Wulf has shown to be much more effective than thinking about what the body is supposed to do (internal focus). Jones wasn’t, and de la Torre likely wasn’t aware of Wulf’s work, but it confirms of their conception of the golf swing.

Because the Jones method does not emphasize technique, this book reads differently than almost every other instruction book you have read. It takes a few readings to discern the depth of the message and understand exactly how to do what de la Torre is suggesting.

For example, he says that the club is to be taken back with the hands, but swung forward by the arms. By arms he means the anatomical arm, the upper limb from the shoulder to the elbow. The forearm, from the elbow to the wrist, is not involved.

There are chapters on correcting swing faults, short game, putting, playing from special lies, and a chapter on power, which starts off this way:

“If golfers could play the game of golf without concern for this word power, everyone could improve his or her game at least 50%. For so many individuals power is the destroyer of the swing and thus their golf game.”

Other quotes I like are,

“You should always take the grip while looking at your hands to see how you’re placing them on the club.” (Slight variations in the grip from shot to shot are the major cause of inconsistent ball-striking)

“Everyone has a tendency to try to help the club as it reaches the golf ball—The swing will never accept this help.” (See the quote on power, above.)

“When observing a good player, study not what the player does with his or her body, but the player does with the golf club, and the latter is what the observer should attempt to duplicate.”

“If you miss a shot it simply means that you did not do what you were supposed to do. It does not mean that you did something wrong. So get back what you should do.”

(On putting) “Roll the ball on the line you select, as far as the hole.” (Focus on your task, not its outcome.)

In addition to this book, there is a series of YouTube videos in which de la Torre teaches a clinic to a group of young golfers. They are all fairly long (30-45 minutes) but I strongly encourage you to watch them nonetheless. Start with this one: Intro to Concept

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