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Tuesday, May 19
Q&A: David Leadbetter on ‘The A Swing’
GOLF INSTRUCTOR DAVID LEADBETTER has released his first book in a decade. It’s called The A Swing: The Alternative Approach to Great Golf, published by St. Martin’s Press and available in all the usual places where books are sold.
Recently, David answered my questions about the new swing approach outlined in the book. Special thanks to John Nicholas at St. Martin’s Press and David’s team for coordinating this Q&A (including transcribing the answers).
Q: You are a renowned golf instructor who has written many books and taught the golf swing to all levels of players for decades. What’s different about this approach?
DAVID LEADBETTER: The A Swing is an evolution of my years of instructing, and with all our studies and research, we have found an easier way, essentially, to make a backswing. This is the most troublesome part of the golf swing for most golfers. The “A” in A Swing, stands for “Alternative” and relates to the backswing. It is different from the standard approach that has been taught for years. With all the test students we have used for the past two years in getting the A Swing ready to bring to the golfing public, the two words that are bandied about are “simple” and “natural.”
Q: What are the most common swing problems for amateur golfers?
DAVID LEADBETTER: The most common swing faults are: a poor grip, lack of proper body motion, and poor movement with the arms and club on the backswing. This creates all sorts of problems down the line, whereby the club never comes into the ball consistently, resulting in loss of distance and accuracy.
Q: How about tour professionals?
DAVID LEADBETTER: The most common problems with tour professionals are all based around synchronization, whereby the arms, hands and club do not harmonize consistently with the rotary winding and unwinding motion of the body. Because they are such good athletes, have great hand-eye coordination and practice for hours, they are able to compensate and get the clubface squarely on the ball. However, this lack of sync can cause consistency issues at times and the A Swing is designed primarily to keep this sync issue under control.
Q: Please briefly describe the seven-minute practice plan in the book.
DAVID LEADBETTER: We know how in this day and age people do not have enough time to work on their golf games. Any time they have, they would rather spend playing than practicing or taking lessons. If you are going to improve, however, it is crucial to develop a feel for the mechanics. I’ve always believed that you can develop this feel and muscle-memory through repetition of the movement, without even hitting a ball. Therefore, we have designed six little swing exercises which, once one is used to them, take approximately seven minutes to complete. It is a case of doing these exercises in a series of 10 reps, and then moving on to the next one. These exercises cover the whole A Swing, and if done two to three times a week, will really develop the feel and awareness of the motion, whereby when you go out to play, you do not have to over think the swing, an important ingredient in playing good golf. We even offer a short training club that can be used indoors, can fit in a suitcase, and there’s no question, if used on a regular basis, a golfer will see a big difference. The A Swing will come fairly easy. Our ethos is “minimal practice, maximum benefit.”
Q: What would you say to someone who is skeptical about a seven-minute practice session without hitting a ball?
DAVID LEADBETTER: Obviously, there is a benefit to hitting golf balls to get feedback. But in many instances, hitting golf balls can be detrimental when changing one’s technique from the standpoint of golfers assume good shot — good swing, bad shot — bad swing. Now we know this is not always the case. The ideal combination is to do the seven-minute program, and then to see the benefits of this practice, to hit balls to see the improvement in the strike and consistency of direction. Bottom line, it will be true to say that in any event some practice on a limited scale is better than none at all. We have tested this program with our volunteer students and without a shadow of a doubt, they have all benefited from it.
Q: Please give specific examples of the kind of improvement golfers can expect to see from using your methods.
DAVID LEADBETTER: Firstly, I’d like to say it’s not a pure method, it’s an approach, which means that although there is a model A Swing, whether you achieve the model or not, there will be great benefits as you work towards it. Therefore, there are various degrees of the A Swing, meaning the steepness of the backswing. i liken it to ordering spicy foods; the model is an extra hot version, but even if you get the mild version, there will be great improvement.
The A Swing is all about efficiency and cutting out wasted motion on the backswing in order to make a more simple, repetitive downswing, which, after all, is where we should focus most of our attention.
Most people’s backswings are far too complex to make the downswing powerful and consistent in any repetitive form. What we see from golfers using the methods, no question there is more distance as a result of not only increased clubhead speed, but just as importantly, the ball being struck out of the middle of the clubface and achieving an increase in the all-important ball speed.
But more than this, there has been a distinct improvement in accuracy because of the way, firstly, the arms sync up with the body, and secondly — which affects the masses of players who swing over-the-top and across the ball, resulting in slices and pulls, etc. — they are able to get the club on the proper plane coming down, the common denominator that all good ball strikers have in common.
If you look halfway down the downswing with a good player, the shaft lies on an angle that is parallel to the club as it lay at address. The masses of golfers at this halfway down point, have the club on a very steep angle, which is almost impossible to make good, solid contact with. The A Swing, very much like a batter in baseball, who has the ball up in air as he’s waiting for the pitch, the bat then shallows onto the plane that the pitch is coming on. This concept is what the A Swing utilizes and we call it the V Plane — steep going back, shallow coming down. The A Swing produces basically a gentle draw, which is what most of the world’s golfers are seeking.
David Leadbetter is a well-known swing guru and author of The A Swing and other books. To learn more, visit The A Swing blog.
Postscript: “As you can probably tell, I am very excited about the A Swing,” David also said. That was evident, and since his answers to my few questions were lengthy, I’m saving his final thoughts for later. Look for them in the near future.