With all of its academies of higher learning, golf might well be the most overly analyzed, overly taught game in all of sports. It turns out, however, that some of the classic golf adages are just plain wrong. Here are four golf "lessons" that you might want to unlearn.
Don't move your head. A golfer's head does not stay still during the swing, despite the time-honored belief that it ought to. Butch Harmon says it's okay to move your head laterally, away from the ball, on the backswing. Your head should slide slightly backward as you move your arms back and turn your shoulders.
Use a short-iron in rough around the green. When the ball is sitting in thick grass not far from the green, most of us reach for an 8- or 9-iron to chip it. Harmon advocates the 3-wood as the club of choice. It has just enough loft to get the ball to the green, where it can then run to the cup. Control the club with your arms and hands, swinging in a pendulum motion as you would when putting.
Swing hard to hit the ball farther. Harmon's thinking goes against the conventionally held wisdom. Even the pros, says Harmon, don't swing as hard as they can. Rely on good mechanics for distance.
When chipping from off the green, take the flag stick out. Not true, says Dave Pelz, despite the commonly held belief that if the ball hits the stick it will most likely bounce away from the hole. Pelz, who's compiled more research on the short game than anyone, reports that if a well-hit ball strikes the flag stick, chances are it will fall in.
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.