Is this the worst in­struc­tion book of all time?

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents - By Bob Car­ney

BE­FORE FACE­BOOK, be­fore Snapchat, be­fore the In­ter­net even, it went viral. It was “the se­cret” to bet­ter golf. Ho­gan’s Five Lessons had noth­ing on Square-to-Square.And then, al­most as quickly, it was the game’s great cau­tion­ary tale. The Square-to-Square swing ar­rived in the late 1960s when Jim Flick, a young teach­ing pro, gave a talk heard by Dick Ault­man, edi­tor of Golf Di­gest. Ault­man was en­thralled by Flick’s swing con­cept and, in 1970, au­thored and pub­lished The Square-to-Square Golf Swing. Both have since died, Ault­man in 1997 and Flick in 2012.

The books promised a swing de­signed for mod­ern equip­ment; less handsy because the stiffer shafts didn’t re­quire it. It was a swing eas­ier for reg­u­lar golfers to re­peat,Ault­man and Flick said, because it didn’t re­quire them to “fan” the club­face open on the back­swing, then re­turn it to square by im­pact.The pop­u­lar swing of the era re­lied too much on tim­ing, they said. Av­er­age play­ers needed some­thing sim­pler.

And what was sim­pler than set­ting the club­face in a square po­si­tion at the start of the swing and leav­ing it there, the au­thors asked.“Putting the hands and club­face into the im­pact po­si­tion dur­ing the take­away, when the swing is slow-mov­ing, is in­tended to elim­i­nate the need to ma­nip­u­late them into the im­pact po­si­tion ei­ther at the start of, or dur­ing, the faster­mov­ing down­swing, when such ma­nip­u­la­tion re­quires split-sec­ond tim­ing,” they wrote. It was a swing that em­pha­sised pulling of the left side on the down­swing, and us­ing the big mus­cles of the back and legs, rather than the small mus­cles of the hands and arms, for club­face con­trol.

To clar­ify, Square-to-Square meant the club stayed square to the tar­get line, not the path. In fact, it mostly cre­ated a closed face rel­a­tive to path.

Sim­ple as it sounded, the con­cept caught on like the Kardashians.“Never in 20 years has Golf Di­gest pub­lished any­thing that has cre­ated such a com­mo­tion,” said pub­lisher Howard Gill. Young stars such as Bert Yancey, who de­vel­oped one of the game’s most fluid swings, swore by the method. From 1970 to ’74, he fin­ished top-five in ma­jors three times and won twice on the PGA Tour.“I am sold on the method as being the most ef­fi­cient way to swing,” he said back then.

Teach­ers also were in­trigued.“I can re­mem­ber Flick do­ing a lot of PGA of Amer­ica sem­i­nars.Word got around,” says Gary Wiren, then the as­so­ci­a­tion’s ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor.“It in­volved a ‘backward-K’ look to the golfer at setup, and the curl of the right hand un­der the left on the back­swing.At the top the face is shut, not un­like some of the big­ger hit­ters to­day; then comes a drive with the legs. Not a lot of club ro­ta­tion in that swing.”

Can you do that? A lot of peo­ple couldn’t. Oth­ers could, but not con­sis­tently. The au­thors said it took “ded­i­ca­tion.”That was an un­der­state­ment. Hall of Fame teacher John Ja­cobs said it was a swing that “should not have been given to the golf­ing pop­u­la­tion at large.”

Bob Toski, who later would es­tab­lish the Golf Di­gest Schools with Flick, saw the dan­gers from the be­gin­ning and said so:“I told Dick Ault­man to burn the book.” Not only was it un­nat­u­ral, Toski says, it lacked power. “You couldn’t cre­ate any speed, because there’s no hing­ing.Think of throw­ing a ball.Your hand works open and then towards the tar­get and then closes.Think about a door.You open the door. You walk through.You close the door.You can’t shut a shut door.They were trying to sim­plify things, but they com­pli­cated them.”

In 1971, Flick joined Toski.Their phi­los­o­phy: Small mus­cles in the hands and arms, not large ones in the legs and back, con­trol a swing’s mo­tion.“When he joined Toski,” says David Lead­bet­ter,“what they taught was about as far from Squareto-Square as you can get.”

One stu­dent who saw Flick years later in Ari­zona posted this note on the Web:“He told me Square-to-Square was the worst thing he ever taught.”That’s im­pos­si­ble to con­firm, but for­mer Golf Di­gest edi­tors ac­knowl­edge that the sub­ject em­bar­rassed Flick, and they steered clear

of it. For Flick, it was both a per­sonal and pro­fes­sional shock.

Nev­er­the­less, that method en­dures, thanks in large part to Flick’s re­la­tion­ship with Cham­pi­ons Tour player Doug Tewell, whom the teacher men­tored in the early 2000s us­ing some of the Square-toSquare prin­ci­ples.Tewell won eight times and swears by a some­what mod­i­fied Squareto-Square tech­nique that he teaches through his web­site, Square­tosquaremethod.com. He has sold 350 000 videos on it, he says.“It’s re­ally an eas­ier method for most play­ers than the mod­ern ro­ta­tional swing,”Tewell says.“Fewer mov­ing parts. Keep­ing the club in front of you; not trying to ex­ag­ger­ate the shoul­der turn, which av­er­age golfers, es­pe­cially ag­ing, in­flex­i­ble ones, can’t do .”

The book was pop­u­lar when it de­buted in 1970, but crit­ics panned it.

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