Okham’s Razor: Or how the simplest solution to my game could prove to be the best
William of Okham, an English Franciscan theologian, died in 1347. Historians date golf’s beginnings to 15th century Scotland. So it’s unlikely that Ol’ Bill ever waggled a niblick. But if he had, he’d likely have made one heck of a teaching pro.
After all, he’s known today for Okham’s Razor, the premise that—all other things being equal—the simplest explanation for a given phenomenon is most likely the best explanation. In this context, “razor” is a philosophical term that refers to the elimination or “shaving off” of unlikely theories. In other words, cut the baloney and hone in on what’s real.
That’s exactly what transpired during my annual week of golf and camaraderie with more than 20 of my UK and US friends at Old Tom Morris’ Machrihanish Golf Club on the Kintyre Peninsula. I entered what would turn out to be 10 rounds of golf in eight days with a range of complex if not convoluted remedies for my ailing game. I exited it with one simple solution. Only time and more links action will tell if it’s the right one. But if my local Ladbrokes would be willing to take the action, my money is on Friar Okham.
Before I delve deeper, if you read my previous post, I am happy to report that—over the course of the week—my fragile physical state gradually downgraded from worrisome pain to manageable discomfort. The more I moved my cranky right shoulder, the better it felt. So other than losing a bit of sleep at night and needing some extra time each morning to get the muscles moving, I was good to go. No problemo.
My inconsistent ballstriking, however, persisted. At times, repeating Ernest Jones’ “swing the clubhead” mantra proved helpful. At other times, not so much. I got around the golf course in the early going, but not in a consistently predictable manner that allowed for the building up any sort of meaningful confidence. In short, I continued to spin my wheels.
A Friendly Suggestion
Then, during the walk from Machrihanish’s 18th green to its clubhouse after the completion of my fourth round of the trip, one of my playing partners—who at one point in his life coached a college golf team—asked a rhetorical question: “How would like another 20 yards on your drives?”
“I’m all ears,” I responded.
“Ball position,” he said.
“You’ve got the ball too far back in your stance, so you can’t release the club. You’re getting stuck through impact. You’re just bunting the ball.”
“Really!? I figured the problem was in my swing path. That I was coming into the ball either square or outside the line, rather than from the inside.”
“Nope. Just move it forward. You’ll need to experiment to find what works best. But try playing it opposite the big toe of your forward foot. The key is to position the ball at the bottom of your swing.”
He said a bit more, something about vectors—a word I hadn’t heard since I foolishly took a physics class in my freshman year in college. But it was a slight shift in ball position—a change of no more than an inche or two in my static setup—that immediately grabbed my attention. Could it really be as simple as that?
Putting it to the Test
I had an afternoon round booked for the following day, so I spent the morning on Marchrihanish’s no frills practice range that requires you to bring and shag your own balls, determined to put his theory to the test. And once I became comfortable with the altered position at address, the feeling of the resulting motion was a revelation. For the first time in seemingly forever, I could actually get the clubhead through the ball. Where, previously, I often found myself up on my toes through impact, now both feet remained quietly well balanced and solidly on the ground. My hands, which had learned to hold off the release in fear of unleashing a snap hook, gradually broke through the years of scar tissue and let ‘er rip. And the ball, in reaction to this full and free action, took flight.
That promise of 20 more yards on my drives? Perhaps, for the first time in the game’s history, it was no mere sales hype.
Now, I’d loved to say that I went out that afternoon and enjoyed the round of my life. But, of course, success in golf is rarely as straightforward as all that. But what I can say with certainty is that by the end of the week, this seemingly small change at address was making a huge impact on my frame of mind. I was hitting quality golf shots with increasing frequency. And, after introducing a variation of this change to my chipping and putting, my short game also began to show signs of life.
I’ll need a lot more reps before I’ll know for certain if I’m on the right path and if it leads to lower scores. But it sure as heck feels right. And in golf, as in life, if you believe something works for you, there’s a reasonable chance that it will. The corollary—doubt begets disaster—is most certainly true.
An Action-Packed Summer
So we shall see. Immediately after Mach, I caught a flight back to the States to attend my youngest daughter’s college graduation ceremony and, as I write this, I am still here. As such, further testing will have to wait until I’m back in Scotland post Memorial Day. But I’m intrigued by the possibilities, especially as I head into a summer loaded up with open competitions at such venues as Cruden Bay, Murcar, Southerness, Royal Aberdeen and Royal Dornoch.
Maybe, just maybe, the fun has just begun!