Feeling the Center of Gravity

Over the past several weeks, I've argued in some depth that the only really effective path forward in learning sports is in learning to feel, that feeling is something of a missing link in instruction and learning.

A few weeks ago, I was playing around swinging a club in the backyard. I was thinking, if what I'm saying about feeling is accurate, we're only going to get anywhere with the golf swing if we learn to feel the position of the club in the hands, feel the plane of the swing, and feel the contact between the clubhead and the ball. As I was playing with the club, it occurred to me that it's very hard to feel the striking face of the club, that I didn't really feel its connection to my hands. In what might have been a moment of insight, I tried to find the point on the shaft where the club balanced, that is, the club's center of gravity. I was surprised to discover that the center of gravity isn't somewhere in the clubhead, nor at the point where the shaft joins the head (which would have been my guess), nor even particularly close to the clubhead. On this particular club (an eight-iron), it was a good six inches or so up the shaft of the club. Wouldn't it be easier to swing a club properly, I thought, if the part of the club that naturally should be our focus--the head--was where the club's center of mass, and hence its feel, was?

After a little research, the reason clubs are engineered this way made a bit more sense. Because of the physics of leverage, the closer to the hands that the club's center of gravity is, the easier it will be to accelerate the club, which will make for a faster clubhead speed, which leads to longer shots.

So it makes sense, but I nevertheless remain convinced that less experienced golfers like myself are naturally going to put our focus on the clubhead--it's what hits the ball, after all--and we're likely to imagine we feel the weight of the clubhead where it actually is in space, but that's not where we feel the club's weight. We feel the center of gravity. What we think we feel isn't what we feel, which is going to lead to a certain kinesthetic confusion,

After a bit of practice, I found I could feel the center of mass swinging from my hands, which had to be an improvement. This led to an idea: I found the point of balance along the shaft of each of my clubs and wrapped a bit of electrical tape at that point. (The longer the club, the further up the shaft the center of gravity is.) That way I'd have a visual cue for the club's center of gravity whenever I picked up a given club.

As I've practiced with it since, I've found that this visual cue has helped me feel the swing of the club much more accurately. It's led to an increased smoothness. Throughout my swing, I have the sensation of the club's weight at the club's actual center of gravity. I rely on my eyes to guide the clubface back to the ball (as most of us should), but because the club's weight pulls from a spot several inches up the shaft, the clubhead kind of floats in space.

I recommend finding the balance point of your clubs as well. A visual indicator at the center of gravity will help you connect with the feel of the club. Working on learning to truly feel the club as you practice your swing can lead only to positive results.

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