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Gravity Golf: The Review

by Taylor Spalding

The latest package of golf information has finally emerged, or rather matured, into the infomercial arena. It's called "Gravity Golf" and it's being marketed as a series of instructional video tapes along with the original printed book by the same name. The originator and author David Lee claims that the concepts which serve as the basis of the system were endorsed in writing by the Golden Bear himself back in 1977. The book was published in 1994 and is touted to be both the evolution and revolution in golf instruction.(Oh  #%@%#, I thought I came up with that line!). According to the foreword, written by physics instructor George Butterworth, Gravity Golf is the "holy grail" of golf instruction. Well not so fast!

Yes, Mr. Lee makes many valid and accurate assessments about the problems in golf instruction and his folksy delivery and down to earth tenor makes this book hard to dislike. His tongue and cheek sarcasm toward the techno-buzz of the PGA merchandise show alone made me like this guy.

But before you go out and purchase the system realize that this book is mostly a "drill golf" system. He uses a series of "one arm-two foot," "two arm-one foot," and the baseball style "no reference drill," which is the "Baseball Putting Technique" extended, to confirm his method. He uses these drills to reduce what he calls the "safety envelope." His theory, which has a good deal of merit, proposes that by forcing the body into a state of greater balance sensitivity the swing will be reigned as a result of the self preservation instinct. In other words, by swinging while standing on one leg you will stop over-swinging and force the motion to be more efficient. And over swinging is a large part of the problem, is it not?

This is really nothing new. Heck, Ernest Jones was swinging completely on his left leg a whole generation ago. And I don't think the term "counterfall," which is Lee's confusing coinage, ever entered into Jones' vocabulary. He was overcoming an amputation of his right leg after a devastating World War I injury. But this is not to say that these drills have no merit. Most any golfer with the hint of an inquisitive mind has probably tried some of these out of pure experimentation. The drills as he outlines them will help build leg strength and balance, if nothing else.

What I find amusing is that Lee cannot refrain from explaining why he isn't on tour and why his name does not jog one's memory of David Lee PGA tour victories. I don't begrudge him for not cleaning up on tour; I just find it funny that one has to try to harness a bit of respectability before commencing to teach a game that is only learnable in the first place. I do admire that he urges the student to aspire to be a self-taught golfer. Yet in a moment of contradiction, in a section called "A PLAN," the first thing he recommends is to find an instructor in whom you have faith. It seems that Lee is still a bit susceptible to the Authority Illusion. See Comments on the Professional.

Lee comes close to duplicating the Spalding Method in a section called THE ORIGIN OF THE TAKEAWAY.(see #4 below) He says " ... a rhythmical rocking motion from foot to foot during address will facilitate an easier start to the takeaway." In the Spalding Method this is called "Walking." See A Piece on Walking. He also describes something called the HEAVE as being the initial burst away from the ball. He admits that his students don't like the term and neither does he and that he has yet to come up with a better descriptive term. Well I have already come up with a better term. In the Spalding Method this is known as the "Whening" moment. He then identifies something called "The Critical First Realease." This, of all the terms he comes up with, is probably my favorite. But Lee is a bit confused on the nature of the first release. Let me clarify this for you.

Points of Contention

1. Lee states that the Vardon grip leaves too much of the right hand off the club. He then adds that the baseball grip leaves the hands too far apart. Therefore he recommends the interlocking grip. My disagreement comes not with his favored grip but with his belief that the baseball grip will tend to cause a "flipping action" in the impact zone. This is completely false. See "Bursting The Vardon Bubble."  My advice is that you should employ the style that is least likely to jolt your conscious brain into asking the question "how is my grip?" (Oh, but that doesn't fill up a lot of blank pages.) Of course I like to use the Spalding Grip, which is not so much concerned with style as it is with the proper distentional relationships of the hands. Look for that article soon!

2. Lee wants to evoke Newton's first and third laws but conveniently skips over the second law of motion. Though I'm not a physics fanatic, it seems that the second law, which evokes the formula
F = ma, has more to do with gravity than do the first and third laws. And at no time does he speculate on Michael Murphy's reference to "True Gravity." Nor does he talk about the swing in terms of the orbital relationships of mass in motion. See "Waking to the Orbit of Swing."

3. The term "counterfall," though painfully dualistic, is a fairly decent coinage. The way Lee explains it though is sure to confuse the reader. Lee says, "The counterfall should begin on a vector approximately 70 degrees left of the intended flightline." Whoa! I had to turn the book upside down just to make sense of the accompanying diagram. I know David, it's all in the drills! Whoever tries following this advice (which would mean the inevitable over-following of this advice) is likely to fall off the ball and top it or fall off the ball and pull it. What Lee doesn't realize is that most beginners will attempt to determine the proper time to execute the "counterfall" and in turn destroy the timeliness of the swing. It would be much easier to say that "at the commencement of welting the movement is called back to the True Center."

4. Lee offers that the origin of the takeaway is the back and shoulders. Well...that's close..sort of. The origin of the takeaway is everywhere at once(Whening). Yes the back and shoulders constitute most of the upper body mass and not including them would horrific, but the most timely swing occurs when the Vital Metacenter and the True Center are in perfect harmony. It's at this juncture that David Lee could never be confused with Bruce Lee. And the only Chi he knows is Chi Chi Rodriguez. I'm sorry, I couldn't help the conveniences of the pun ;~] It is the chi that is the vital energy and which forms the basis of the aesthetical realease. The ancients of the East describe it as a belt around the navel which extends around the mid-section and connects to the kidneys. It's referred to as the "chi belt." This is the true power source of the swing.

5. It is also interesting that in the introduction to the book Lee says there are four fundamental ways to power a golf swing. Yet later on he only identifies three power sources for the swing:

1) Hands and Forearms

2) Shoulders and Arms

3) Legs

That's three quarters right. The one I recommend constitutes the fourth type. It's called:

4) The perfectly centered swing...powered by the True Center

He then goes on to classify the "Gravity Swing" as a lower body swing and proceeds to politely tear up Ben Hogan. Now I don't mind him tearing up Hogan but the drawings in Hogan's book are so much more exquisite than anything in this modern media era; it's one of those books that you just gotta have on the shelf. However, the historical perspective on Hogan and how Nicklaus changed things does make for interesting reading.

Through the course of the book Lee talks of many different players and how their various swings were powered. But there is one thing that really bugs me about Lee's approach. While he explains to a degree why such swings work, he only examines the differences between them and not one and only thing that makes them all work. Obviously there is one common thread. Make note of the following:

What makes a swing work is the undeniable and harmonious connection of all the disparate parts to the True Center.

With the drills Lee recommends that's exactly what the body is accomplishing. The funny thing is that Lee doesn't even realize it. So if you decide to read the book and work the drills, here's a piece of advice:

Stay connected with your navel and all will be well.

Conclusion

The most interesting parts of the book are the foreword and chapter seven, neither of which were written by David Lee. But the swing drills do have some merit and therefore I must give a lukewarm recommendation to the book. But before you fall victim to the romanticism of the infomercial, I recommend that you borrow the book from the library first. If the reading gets you all fired up then you should start throwing your money at the TV set. A better way would be to try my training product.

order the book

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