The Loop

Mass confusion

March 11, 2007

"I have seen truth and it doesn't make sense." Anonymous

We get a ton of comments about our instruction articles. After all, that's what most golfers buy the magazine for. The letters suggest to me that we are not all on the same page even when we are on the same page. Two recent letters demonstrate the challenge editors face in trying to please the accomplished player and the beginner, the instruction "geek" and the "just give it to me in plain English" guy, not to mention learners of a dozen varieties.

On the one hand, there's Charles Trip Jones of Pelham, New York, writing about the Watson Tip (Belly it with a pitching wedge) in February:

"For me the most admiring trait of Golf Digest is the precision of the written word in the numerous instruction articles you offer.....For that reason I was disappointed by the Tom Watson wedge article in the February edition. The first line was: 'If you like to play bellied wedge shots...' While I am an avid player regularly shooting in the mid to low 80s I am not familiar with the term bellied wedge shot. Because the article never defined it, an entire page of the magazine, by one of the greats, suddenly became useless.


Fair enough, Charles, we should have said that a bellied wedge shot is a shot hit with the leading edge of a wedge striking the middle or "belly" of the ball. Click on the image of Tiger here for his advice on the bellied wedge, as he put it in a Tiger Tip a couple years back.

On the other hand, there's Dr. Gary Simmons, a professor at Lehigh. Prof. Simmons takes exception to David Leadbetter's reference to "real science" in his Find Your Swing Chi article with Ron Kaspriske in March. "I do not question Mr. Leadbetter's understanding of the golf swing or the effectiveness of his teaching methods," says the professor, "but I do question his understanding of the 'real science' as put forth in this article." And then the professor goes on to explain. This is an excerpt:

"If you shift your body mass up and down while standing on the scale, the scale reading will momentarily be higher or lower, depending on the direction of your vertical motion, than the static reading. These weight changes are of course not owing to changes in your mass, but rather are caused by changes in forces applied to the scale. Force is defined as mass multiplied by acceleration, and acceleration is the rate of change in velocity (i.e., the up and down motion). Since the golfer's mass remains constant, we can conclude the that the so-called 110% weight shift measured by the sensor under the left foot of the golfer includes the increase in force on that foot by the horizontal shift of the golfer's mass to that foot as well as momentary increase in the force on that foot produced by his vertical motion. Mr. Leadbetter has overlooked a very important connection between his measurements and the golfer's motion. The golfer not only moves his mass from his right to left foot during the swing, but his mass shifts up and down as well. It is clear that this latter motion is more significant during a pro golfer's swing than during the swing of an amateur (viz., 110% versus 65%), which may be an additional factor in the greater power generated by pro golfers...."

There is more and it's very interesting (I'm not kidding about that). But consider Leadbetter's and Kaspriske's challenge of writing for both Mr. Jones and Prof. Simmons. My view is that one of the reasons David Leadbetter is David Leadbetter and that Tom Watson is Tom Watson (and for that matter, that Ron Kaspriske is Ron Kaspriske),  is that they get it right most of the time.

What do you think?

--Bob Carney