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Percy Boomer - On Learning Golf


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So Percy Boomer's book is considered a classic in golf instruction (written in 1946 and still in print!), and yet neither Boomer or his book seems to be nearly as well known as some others like Hogan's Five Lessons, Harvey Penick, etc.

 

At any rate I just read it through for the first time and I am ready to proclaim this the BEST golf instructional book I've ever read (and I've read dozens including most of the oft-cited classics). Boomer was probably the best I've ever read at putting the concepts of a connected, lower-body-driven, passive-arms swing into easy-to-understand language. Boomer focused on feeling, more than technique... his concern is with learning how the correct swing FEELS, and not how it is mechanically accomplished. His focus on the braced setup and the "in-to-out" feeling of a proper swing are just genius and perfectly described as to "make sense". There is not a lot of specific instruction on grip, backswing etc... he mainly uses analogies to describe the proper feel and leaves it to the reader to feel it for themselves in their practice, until it becomes ingrained. If that makes the book sound too simple to be useful, don't be fooled - the simplicity hides what I would almost say is the magic of a smooth unforced golf swing.

 

I'd also add that his writing style is great, he adds a lot of humorous anecdotes from his sessions with some of his more difficult pupils, to illustrate his points. Makes it an entertaining read, unlike many golf instruction books.

 

Over 70 years later everything in here still makes perfect sense! I'd say every golfer (especially those focused on a passive-arms type swing should make a point of reading it. Probably the best 10 bucks or so you will ever spend on your golf game. I've taken his concepts to the range and ballstriking and rhythm have been fantastic.

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My favorite quote from Vardon’s book.  “ don’t play too much golf, 2 rounds a day is plenty “

The club should not be swung from in to out, but many golfers will feel like the club is swinging in to out when it is really swinging from the inside, down the line and back to the inside, as it shou

Spot on descript Duc. And yes, the "feels" he talks about are indeed altogether a different animal than the "feeling" of your senses. Thanks for posting this. I only wish I found this book years ago

Towards the end of last season I made a game changing decision to commit to Manuel De Le Torre's approach. I just finished a couple reads of Percy's book. Although both approach the swing from almost polar opposite starting points, it is amazing how both Percy and MDLT reach many of the same conclusions. I have struggled with a couple of Manuel's principles and at least for me, Percy has filled in a couple of the blanks. I have no idea why modern instruction has abandoned the feeling of swinging "in to out". As far as I am concerned, given the simplicity of both MDLT and Percy's approaches, these two books are heads and shoulders above any other instructional approaches.

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[quote name='juststeve' timestamp='1361897386' post='6506437']
The club should not be swung from in to out, but many golfers will feel like the club is swinging in to out when it is really swinging from the inside, down the line and back to the inside, as it should. Feel isn't always real.

Steve
[/quote]

If I am reading Percy correctly, I believe he agrees with you. On page 124 he yields the fact that scientific data proves your point. Your use of "swinging from the inside" is very accurate. Percy references this and feeling like you are setting up to hit inside the ball. Unless I am totally off base, he is advocating getting you to feel something that is not actually real, as you point out, in order to produce the desired result. Kind of a Jedi mind trick!

Anyway, great stuff and great discussion.

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[quote name='juststeve' timestamp='1361897386' post='6506437']
The club should not be swung from in to out, but many golfers will feel like the club is swinging in to out when it is really swinging from the inside, down the line and back to the inside, as it should. Feel isn't always real.

Steve
[/quote]

Yes Percy is focused almost exclusively on feel as he believes (correctly, I think) that feel is how we ingrain a proper swing. His main focus is on the feeling of coming at the ball from behind/inside, not from above... so that after contact you have the "feel" that the clubhead continues outward for a short distance, before traveling back around. The feel is the important thing. It really works, at least for me.

Percy also has a very interesting discussion of the lead arm. He says rather than keeping it "straight" he focuses on the feel of keeping it "down". In other words resisting the urge to lift the club up with the arms. If you focus on keeping the lead arm "down", combined with proper setup/posture/etc., it guarantees full extension and helps attack the ball from the inside at a shallower angle.

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  • 2 months later...

The Boomer book is required reading for students attending our Great Shot! golf swing fundamentals school. Hogan's favorite instruction book as well.

One chapter devoted to comic relief. His stuff on the Triangle and passive but stretched arms is genius.

Percy was golf's first mind/body connection teacher. He understood how humans best learn complex motor skills like the golf swing.

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Without a doubt a truly great, classic, sound, entertaining, inspirational, enlightening, fun, informational book on the game of golf. In my opinion one of the top 3 ever written. A must read if you are serious about the game.

I pick 14 of the following:
Ping G400
Ping G410 3, 5 and 7 wood
Ping G 400 4 hybrid
Ping G 4-U
Ping Glide 2.0 Stealth 54, 58 SS
Grips NDMC +4
Odyssey Pro #1 black
Hoofer
ProV1x-mostly
ECCO Biom Hybrid 3

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I have been thinking about buying this book for a while, ever since I went to TXAR and Geoff mentioned it. The only thing though that concerns me some is "feel". I have to disagree a little. I use "feel" often, but one thing I learned from Dan is that feels change every day. This really hit home with me because I have used different "feels" over the past 20 years and some days they are there and some days they are not. Dan is big on doing things right, regardless of feel, that way over time the right move will incorporate itself into your swing whereas feels will change daily and elude you.

Titleist TS3 10.5 Graphite Design BB 70X
Titleist TS2 15* HZRDUS X
Callaway Super Hybrid 20* Tensei Orange X

Callaway X Forged 18* UT 
Ping i210 4-U X100
Ping Glide 3.0 56* & 60* S400 Half Moon Grind
LAB Blad B2
ProV1

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  • 2 weeks later...

[quote name='Hstead' timestamp='1369149879' post='7076552']
I have been thinking about buying this book for a while, ever since I went to TXAR and Geoff mentioned it. The only thing though that concerns me some is "feel". [u]I have to disagree a little. I use "feel" often, but one thing I learned from Dan is that feels change every day. This really hit home with me because I have used different "feels" over the past 20 years and some days they are there and some days they are not. Dan is big on doing things right, regardless of feel, that way over time the right move will incorporate itself into your swing whereas feels will change daily and elude you.[/u]
[/quote]

You may discover a different idea about this after reading the book.

Boomer is all about a "one feel = same swing - repeat" concept. Most of the feels he writes about are not related to the kind of thing that "changes every day". He's writing and teaching about having the same core feeling in every swing. Primarily a deeply grooved athletic feeling that becomes instinctive. Pre-programmed. Like running or throwing. It's not focused on one part of the swing or body - although he describes different feels for each component as you learn, progress and groove your swing.

If I throw you a ball and ask you to throw it back - mostly you're just going to catch and throw without thinking about it. We call it "muscle memory". Of course the real memory is in the brain, since muscles have no neurons. Some athletic motions are hardwired (walking upright, for example). Some have to be learned (playing a piano). The golf swing is an extremely complex athletic motion to learn and execute as an instinctive action.

And from there many difficulties arise!

Anyway, my interpretation is that Boomer teaches a feel based upon the physical sensation of centripetal force - basically feeling the "weight" of the club head as it rotates in orbit around a still center - the spine. This club head weight is actually the sum of the forces acting upon the club head and not just its dead weight in grams, or whatever. Boomer uses this rotary move, or pivot, to move the club head in an ellipse through the ball and towards the target. Learning the proper swing consists of matching the same feeling of the club head in movement through your body - every time you swing. Making that feeling so instinctive and natural that your swing repeats automatically. Theoretically, there is only "one true swing" and one feel for that swing for each golfer.

It's an extraordinary book. Amazing how much it matches modern theory while allowing for the difference in writing style and use of English.
And it is very very satisfying learning his methods.

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I read, somewhere, that Ben Hogan had a copy of "On Learning Golf" that was dog-eared and underlined. I also heard that Mr. Hogan paid Percy a visit when he travelled to Great Britain to play in the Open Championship in 1953.

Whatever. I love "On Learning Golf". The golf swing has many inherent paradoxes, and Percy Boomer explains them. Paradoxes such as feelin down with the arms, while bracing up with the hips and shoulders (i recall Dustin Johnson trying to keep his right side high through impact). As a matter of fact, i can feel that i hit from the inside so long as i keep my right side high through the forward swing. More importantly, Boomer provides a roadmap of "feels" to help the reader perfect his game, while also outlining possible pitfalls along the way.

The No 1 golf bogey - trying to guide the ball - is one of the common problems we encounter.

On Learning Golf is worth reading, re-reading, taking notes, etc. it's the best golf instruction book of all time, IMHO. And, I have read nearly a hundred of them.

Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove.  P.G. Wodehouse
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  • 2 months later...

Dusted my book off last night. The thing that stood out for me was how he talks about keeping the shoulders turning level and never feel like they are moving up and down.That is opposite to what most are teaching in these forums. You would think that there would be just one move in a golf swing that everyone has always done and always will.

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  • 7 years later...

The golf swing?  A remembered feel.  Percy Boomer's best advice to me.

 

Since i did not learn this 'feel' as a kid i must somehow find it as an adult. This is one of the biggest problems faced by normal folks taking up golf. If your feel is incorrect, then remembering that feel is useless.

 

Struggle to find the correct motion, then struggle to remember how it happened. Then repeat/repeat/repeat.

 

It's a great golf read, IMO>

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This book is by far the best book ever written on golf. Depending on your level of understanding of the golf swing it contains everything you need to become a great golfer. You need to read the book multiple times to find all of the hidden gems he teaches you about the golf swing. Do not discount it if you don't understand it, read it again! Buy it before it goes out of print. Their is information in the book that instructors today still don't know about or teach about the golf swing and if you watch most PGA players slot of them do not implement except for the very elite. The best examples of boomers swing would be Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus.  Last year at least once sometimes twice every round of golf  I would hit my drives over 300 yds but couldn't duplicate it every swing. After reading boomers book and integrating his swing thoughts  into my swing I now understand what I was doing and more importantly how to achieve it everytime. A true gem!!

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45 minutes ago, Blue Danube said:

This book is by far the best book ever written on golf. Depending on your level of understanding of the golf swing it contains everything you need to become a great golfer. You need to read the book multiple times to find all of the hidden gems he teaches you about the golf swing. Do not discount it if you don't understand it, read it again! Buy it before it goes out of print. Their is information in the book that instructors today still don't know about or teach about the golf swing and if you watch most PGA players slot of them do not implement except for the very elite. The best examples of boomers swing would be Fred Couples, Ernie Els and Jack Nicklaus.  Last year at least once sometimes twice every round of golf  I would hit my drives over 300 yds but couldn't duplicate it every swing. After reading boomers book and integrating his swing thoughts  into my swing I now understand what I was doing and more importantly how to achieve it everytime. A true gem!!

Pretty sure it's been out of print for years, but you can find used copies pretty easily. 

 

Fun read. 

 

I've enjoyed reading Vardon's book as well, lots of gems in there that have survived 100 years or so.  Lloyd Mangrum has a book on breaking 90 that's got good stuff in it. Armour's books just as good, especially on strategy - tons of oldies out there worth a look!

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1 hour ago, Hawkeye77 said:

Pretty sure it's been out of print for years, but you can find used copies pretty easily. 

 

Fun read. 

 

I've enjoyed reading Vardon's book as well, lots of gems in there that have survived 100 years or so.  Lloyd Mangrum has a book on breaking 90 that's got good stuff in it. Armour's books just as good, especially on strategy - tons of oldies out there worth a look!

My favorite quote from Vardon’s book.  “ don’t play too much golf, 2 rounds a day is plenty “

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I pick 14 of the following:
Ping G400
Ping G410 3, 5 and 7 wood
Ping G 400 4 hybrid
Ping G 4-U
Ping Glide 2.0 Stealth 54, 58 SS
Grips NDMC +4
Odyssey Pro #1 black
Hoofer
ProV1x-mostly
ECCO Biom Hybrid 3

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