The Swing the Clubhead Method

By M.L. Rose

The “swing the club head method,” a simplified strategy for teaching the golf swing, originated with Ernest Jones of Great Britain in the early 20th century. Jones’s philosophy was based on his belief that a golf swing involves one motion -- a unified whole rather than a series of parts. He said the golfer must feel the swinging motion through the hands; hence his mantra: “swing the club head.”

History

Jones was an avid amateur golfer who came up with his golfing philosophy before serving in Great Britain’s armed forces in World War I. Despite losing a leg in the war, he returned to the game and was soon shooting par. He then turned to teaching and eventually moved to the United States, where he became a highly sought-after instructor. Jones, who died in 1965, was one of the original four golf instructors inducted into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame in 1998.

Movement

The swing-the-club-head method is based on “universal laws of science and simple logic,” according to the Frankel Golf Academy website. Jones believed that a golf swing should involve the club head moving in a simple back-and-forth manner, similar to a clock’s pendulum or a child moving on a swing. In a 1949 article, Jones compared a golf swing to a circle, saying the shape is “simply one line, perfectly round. And it is just the same with a swing. A swing is one continuous motion, to and fro, backward and forward.” He often demonstrated the motion to students by swinging a penknife tied to a handkerchief. His 21st century disciple, PGA instructor Arnie Frankel, uses a similar tool, a medallion tied to a 3-foot string.

Pros and Cons

Frankel says that the swing-the-club-head method teaches players to feel -- through their hands -- when their swing is right, rather than breaking a swing down into a series of mechanical parts. Frankel’s philosophy emphasizes balance, rhythm and timing to teach a simple, repeatable swing that develops maximum velocity at the bottom of the arc. All-time golfing great Bobby Jones -- no relation to Ernest -- approved of the technique, saying, “We in the PGA picture tend to take a swing apart and divided into parts, but we know you can't teach it that way." Critics of the swing-the-club-head method tend to argue that a golf swing isn’t as simple as Ernest Jones and his successors believe.

Post-Ernest Jones

Despite the popularity of Ernest Jones, his instructional methods weren’t adopted by many teaching pros. Frankel learned the swing-the-club-head method from Nick Martino, one of two teaching pros who learned the method directly from Jones. As of 2012, Frankel and his brother Ron bill themselves as the only instructors who teach the method.

About the Author

M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.

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