Is this the worst instruction book of all time?
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.