The Best Way To Swing the Clubhead

Ernest Jones knew he was in trouble. When he was hired in 1905 as the 18-year-old assistant pro at Chislehurst Golf Club, Kent, England, he didn’t realize he had to teach golf as part of his responsibilities. He thought he was being hired just for his playing and clubmaking skills only. But then he was informed that he also was expected to give golf lessons. So he set about learning everything he could about teaching golf.

Eventually, Jones developed a simple theory on the golf swing, explained in his two golf instruction books. Swing the Clubhead debuted in 1937. It embodies all Jones’ thinking on the golf swing. He published his second book, Swinging into Golf, in 1957. But it’s so similar in content to his first book you only need to read the first to understand all the key principles of Jones’ theory. The simple unvarnished theory Jones espoused provides much food for thought.

Swinging and Levering Jones’ theory on the golf swing is embodied in two concepts, swinging and levering. According to Jones, swinging and levering are two diametrically opposed methods of applying power. In swinging, the connecting medium between the power and the object swung has both ends moving in the same direction. In “levering” the two ends move in opposite directions. It’s impossible to join up the two in one unified application of power, regardless of what you do.

Moving a weight back and forth at the end of a string is probably the simplest and best way of demonstrating what Jones meant by swing the clubhead. A pocketknife attached to the end of a handkerchief does the same thing. Since the handkerchief is flexible, like the shaft on a golf club, it transfers power not through levering but through swinging with your hands and fingers. And the concept of swing, Jones believed, is what really powers a golf swing.

The Art of Golf Jones took much of his theory from Sir Walter Simpson’s golf instruction book, The Art of Golf, published in 1887. Although Jones differed with Simpson on the idea of “hitting” a golf ball, Ernest agreed with Simpson that golf was not an arcane science requiring different moves and positions. Nor did Jones believe that you could learn golf by trying to eliminate mistakes. There are simply too many to correct. And he didn’t believe in imitating other players. You tend to see the results before you recognize the fundamentals that caused them.

Instead, Simpson led Jones to see the golf swing as a simple but elusive art-the art of swinging the clubhead with the hands and fingers and feeling the swing therein. For Jones the swing was everything. If you wanted to generate power, you needed to move the clubhead faster through impact. Unfortunately, you can’t move the clubhead faster than you can swing, says Jones. So if your grip was throttling the club, you were bound to slow the clubhead down.

“The golf swing can be readily taught and consistently performed,” writes Jones, “but only if it is conceived as one, overall movement. The body and all its parts should be treated as disastrous leaders but wholly admirable followers of the actions of the hands and fingers.”

The mechanics that many teachers preach in golf lessons and golf tips, which included the movement of body parts and different positions, were not part of Jones’ theory. Instead, the movements of the hands and fingers more than anything else produced the golf swing results. In other words, his theory that everything follows from the movement of the hands and fingers makes him an advocate of the “tail wags the dog” theory of the swing.

His Own Best Example Jones was his own best example of his theory. Slight of build at 5 feet 5 1/2 -inches, he won the Kent Cup in 1914. He lost a leg in France in World War I in 1916. But four months later, on the day he left the hospital, he shot an 83 at the Royal Norwich Links, swing on one leg. He eventually went on to a highly successful 60-year career in teaching the ideas contained in Swing the Clubhead.

Jones’ theory on the golf swing has survived through the years. Among legendary golf teachers, Bob Toski, Jim Flick, and Davis Love, Jr., all espoused his ideas. Besides containing some serious food for discussion, Jones’ theory reminds us that there is more that one way to hit a golf ball, and that the best approach to the golf swing is to find a theory that fits your personality and your game. Once you do that, you’ll be able to lower that golf handicap by faithful practice of the approach’s principles.

Copyright (c) 2007 Jack Moorehouse