There is no possible doubt of the rooted nature of this false idea. The greatest writers and players emphasize it over and over again. James Braid is particularly emphatic about it. In How to Play Golf he says: "When the swing is well started, that is to say, when the club has been taken a matter of about a couple of feet from the ball, it will become impossible, or at least inconvenient and uncomfortable to keep the feet so firmly planted on the ground as they were when the address was made. It is the left one that wants to move, and consequently at this stage you must allow it to pivot. By this is meant that the heel is raised slightly, and the foot turns over until only the ball of it rests on the ground. Many players pivot on the toe, but I think this is not so safe, and does not preserve the balance so well. When this pivoting begins, the weight is being taken off the left leg and transferred almost entirely to the right, and at the same moment the left knee turns in towards the right toe. The right leg then stiffens a little and the right heel is more firmly than ever planted on the ground."
This matter is vital to the playing of the swing. I am charging plainly that all the current teaching about it is false and misleading and calculated to injure, instead of to improve, one's game; therefore I must be most specific and analytical in condemning fundamental teaching so strongly re-enforced as this is.
I may say, however, that it seems to me that the famous golfers and writers, for I have not quoted the half of those who preach this doctrine, have a fairly stiff mechanical problem to deal with in the exposition I have already given. I shall however try to make it a little stronger.
Even those with a very slight knowledge of golf are aware that swaying is a bad fault. Swaying means drawing the body away from the hole in making the stroke. Vardon is most emphatic about this. He says: "In the upward movement of the club the body must pivot from the waist alone and there must be no swaying, not even to the extent of an inch. "
We are all familiar with the instructions given by nearly every man who has put his name to a golf book, namely, to make the spine the "axis" of the twisting movement. One writer (I am almost sure that it is J. H. Taylor) explains that the twisting takes place on an imaginary axis consisting of a rod of iron coinciding with the spine and continuing until it buries itself in the ground. We thus get a very vivid idea of the importance attached to there being no movement away from the hole during the swing, but if we start with our weight equally distributed and twist round on our iron spine how can we possibly get all, or indeed any more of it than was originally there, on to the right foot? I must leave some one else to answer this question. As a matter of fact it cannot be done. The instructions given are quite faulty. It might -I say it might-be good golf to have all one's weight on the right foot at the top of the swing, but there is nothing more certain on earth than that it cannot be put there by the means described in nearly every book on golf.
We have settled fairly conclusively that the weight at the top of the swing cannot go on to the right leg. We must now inquire where it does go. The answer to this is simple, natural and practical as everything in good golf should be. For all practical purposes we may say that the weight at the top of the swing is equally divided between the legs. That is the best, the simplest, and the most natural idea for the golfer to get into his mind. He must at the top of his swing keep himself so that his weight remains distributed as it was at the address.
This is the idea, the practical idea, that entails no thought, no special attention, after one has properly absorbed it, yet it will carry one farther than the equal distribution of weight, as it should do. It will in fact put slightly more weight on the left foot than on the right, but the player will not have to cumber his mind with this operation. It comes about naturally of itself when once the fundamentals have sunk into one's mind.
My readers must remember that we have arrived at the top of the swing, my lay figure merely a leaden body with two iron legs, placed as in the address at golf. All told the figure weighs say one hundred pounds. The legs are resting on two separate scales each of which shows a weight of fifty pounds. Let us now take a hammer and knock in the left "knee" so that it bends in toward the ball, and then see what has happened. Naturally the figure has tilted over a little to the left, that is toward the hole. Naturally also there is now more weight on the left "leg" for the shortening of the prop under the weight by bending it has brought more of the weight forward, and the left leg is shortened by being bent, despite the fact of the left heel being raised.
From all of which it will be seen that in a well-executed drive at golf, instead of drawing weight away from the hole at the top of the swing, the player either keeps it as it was, or advances it slightly toward the hole. It must be remembered, however, that advancing one's weight towards the hole does not necessarily mean moving one's body forward. One's head may have been kept perfectly still and yet heavier portions of the body may have been twisted just over the dividing line.
At the top of the swing the left foot should undoubtedly carry a little more of the weight than the right. This was proved at the historic demonstration that I gave to the Golfers and the Press of the World at the West End School of Golf, Piccadilly, London.
I had made to my order two scales, each weighing up to two hundred pounds. These were placed close together. The golfer took his stance with his weight equally divided. A lever which operated a pointer on a measure graduated to quarter inches was put within a fraction of an inch of his hip. One also curved in and came up close to his neck so that it did not interfere with his drive. We now had him with his weight equally distributed and he had to play his stroke so that it all got on to his right leg without disturbing either of the levers. I offered Braid, Taylor and Vardon two hundred and fifty dollars each if they could prove their theories to be practical golf. By this time, however, they had come to see the mistaken idea in the prevalent teaching.
James Sherlock and other famous golfers tried the machine. I offered Sherlock a hundred and twenty-five dollars on the spot if he could do what we are combating as false teaching. He got on the machine and tried in every possible way to get that money. Finally he got down and, "It's no use; it can't be done." To which I replied, "You may be fairly sure I knew that before I offered you a hundred and twenty-five dollars."
This machine is regarded as such a valuable means of instruction that the West End School of Golf would not sell it to a friend of mine who wanted one for New York so he had to get a duplicate made. If there is any lingering doubt in any one's mind now as to whether the teaching of the new golf is sound or not in this vital point I shall be glad to arrange for a demonstration in New York similar to that given in London.
In Great Golfers, speaking of his stance and address, Vardon says: "I stand firmly with the weight rather on the right leg." Later on speaking of the top of the swing he says: " There is distinct pressure of the left toe and very little more weight should be felt on the right leg than there was when the ball was addressed."
Unfortunately this was published long before the statements of Vardon which I have already quoted. Personally I believe that if it were put up to him to-day he would abide by the last quoted statement, but we cannot of course decide that. We merely have to take his written word as we find it and deal with that.
We have now got to the top of our swing, minus our head and our arms. So far we have been able to do very well without them for they would only have been in our way. We have been considering things that were nearer to the foundation of the swing - things which literally are the foundation. Take, for instance, this question of resting squarely across the full width of the left foot. I have brought you now to see that more weight should be on the left foot than there is on the right at the top of the swing. Does it not then follow that you must have a firm and solid base for the foot which takes such an important part in the drive ?
Never in the bibliography of golf has the importance of this point been adequately impressed on golfers and learners. I had written Modern Golf and The Soul of Golf before I came to realize that it is primarily from this that Harry Vardon gets his rhythm.