Nov 19

What is a Stance Really For?

I did the drill in my childhood days. Like most people, I was up and walking in the first couple of years. After that, I did what most of us do, develop the ability to perform upper body tasks while instinctively assuming a stance that would support the action. As most of us gained skill, we were able to begin controlling our center of gravity for more complex fare, such as golf…and skiing. Having played golf now for six decades, I have spent more time fooling with the golf stance than almost anything else. I did the Arnold Palmer knee-lock for putting, and enjoy a variation of it to this day.  I’ve played in every kind of shoe imaginable, and even went through a period of forsaking anything that truly anchored me to the ground. Can you believe it? I thought stance-enhancing shoes were confining. I actually embraced being out of control. The real point of my stance dysfunction was that I missed the point. I grew up believing that it was a way of tailoring shots. Put your left foot a little back, you can diminish a slice, or even produce a viable draw. Move it back a lot and hit a duck hook trick shot. Move it forward for a fade. I tried it wide for more power, narrow for precision – forward  for height, back for distance. I was wrong about almost all of it. It isn’t just about tailoring shots. It’s about standing up during a golf shot in a way that will keep your center of gravity in control at the center of your “pole,” instead of letting your exterior centrifugal urges  determine your fate. That’s what I got from reading my favorite instructor, Mr. Musselman. He might shake his head in dismay at the way I interpreted it, but that’s what it sounded like to me.

Musselman aptly quoted Ben Hogan, who said that “the golf swing is an inside muscle game.   “Everything promotes stability of the center” is the way I heard that, although Mr. Hogan might shake his head with the same dismay. Then Musselman made the comparison to skiing, and I made it to other actions that require control throughout the maneuver. He suggested that the best tensile work should go into the inner leg muscles, drawing the knees toward one another, and on the outside, the same thing with the elbows. Concert pianists are taught the same thing. At high speed, one centrifugal lunge outside of your core can render you helpless for the opposite action. See, it even pertains to people who sit.

But skiing? I’ve only been skiing once, and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, it had to be one of those “Gee, that was fun. Let’s never do it again” because I couldn’t afford to do break anything. I never fell through the whole day, except for stopping. I was so proud of myself, until I remembered that my brother was in front of me the whole time, skiing backward.  He’s also a very low handicapper – there must be some connection. Anyway, such stability from the inner legs gives one the firmness for the whole swing, and introverted elbows keep the club in the right track all the way up and down. I’m pretty sure at least that Musselman and Hogan said those things, and would love to have a pro explain this better.

I still can’t believe that I missed all of that somewhere in the beginning of my golf days. It’s so basic – the stance is not just for compensation or shot trimming – it’s basic, bottom line balance!

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