The homunculus and what it has to do with the golf swing

Now here’s something interesting. Go to Google and take a look at a grotesque looking creepy little guy called a homunculus. Excuse me if it disgusts you a bit, but it will help us think about the golf swing and what to focus on while learning an effective golf swing. A homunculus is a fictional character model useful for neuroscientists and biologists. The homunculus is a representation of the proportion of motor nerves distributed throughout the human body. Areas with many nerves are represented as very large, while those with less enervation are proportionally smaller. See how big the hands are. They are huge!

Clearly, then, nature intends for us to use our hands, since considerable enervation has been assigned to the hands. We found this to be true in everyday life. When we interact with our environment, it is largely with our hands. We use a mouse and keyboard with our hands. We wrote. We drive. We eat. We work. We cook. Everything with our hands. Almost everything we do physically is largely done with our hands.

The golf swing then should be no different. If we choose to neglect the role of the hands in the golf swing, we choose to neglect everything that nature has assigned us to use, which, as our homunculus model indicates, is a substantial assignment. And in doing so, we neglect a tremendous amount of sensation and control that we have at our disposal. Feel and control what can and should be used to hit the golf ball hard, at will.

So, as we can see, nature certainly did not neglect its hands. But much of the golf instruction does! As indicated by the large proportion of enervation of the hands, it is evident that nature intended that we use the hands to a greater degree than the body. But most golf instruction, instead, focuses on the role of the body during the golf swing, often excluding the hands almost entirely. Or worse yet, there is a golf instruction that is completely antagonistic to the role of the hands in the golf swing. These swing theories would have the player simply “hold onto the club, hands, and arms without doing anything …” But this type of instruction leaves a lot on the table that is available for use.

Those who take advantage of all that nature has assigned them find an immense source of sensation and control. Once they are able to take advantage of what is available to them and have it under their conscious control, they often become very good players. Ben Hogan himself said in an interview with Life magazine that his secret was in his hands.

Many body-focused golfers do not take advantage of all that nature has assigned them to use. Instead, they choose to try to control their golf shots strictly with body rotation. These players can be seen in droves on the driving ranges and on the courses everywhere golf is played and practiced. They are the ones who are simply rotating their bodies and reaching the top, frustrated and rotating even more, compounding their problems.

Why golf instruction focuses so much on body rotation to the exclusion of hand action is a long story in itself. There are a number of reasons. Some of this is just plain old-fashioned ignorance. Other times, a player will have been lucky enough to swing naturally from the moment he lifted the club and the hand action, while quite active, will be automatic for him. Some of this is tradition or repetition of what one has heard of golf instruction. Or sometimes you don’t understand cause and effect on the golf swing, and how something wrong with the action of the hand can and will sabotage the entire swing.

Whatever the reasons, much of golf instruction focuses on the role of the body and how it pivots. But nature says differently. The homunculus says differently. Nature has proportionally allocated many resources to the hands compared to the body. So is nature wrong? And is the pivot-centered golf instruction correct? Is nature or man right in their approach? I think you know who to bet on.

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