May 29, 2020 | By: Daniel Schindler, Master Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap and Wingshooting Instructor
It was a Saturday years ago and I had a quiet weekend to myself. So–knowing the critical role of swing precision (gun management) in our sport–off I went to the golf driving range to confirm my theory that slowing my golf swing down by a substantial margin would keep my ball on the fairway.
Fix your swing by applying the brakes.
Candidly, here’s how my session went.
After buying a man-size bucket of balls, I didn’t have any clubs so the manager looked under his mower in the gardening shed and found a 7 iron, a 3-wood and a driver. The woods were typical driving range clubs, both bent, but, what the hey, I hadn’t hit a golf ball since forever. Lifting the bucket off the counter I walked to the driving range with a confident, easy stride. To warm-up, I did a push up to impress the young dudes watching.
The too-short 7 iron club nearly crippled me after a few swings. With my lower back on fire and in spasms, I was consoled by knowing even the pros take divots. Mine were the size of your Subaru but hey, I got to walk out and pick up my ball each time so I got better value from my bucket than those other guys.
Waiting for the Charlie-horse in both legs to subside, I laid the 7 iron down and picked up the Driver, which, as you know, is the big-dawg MAN’s club. Only sissies use 3 woods. With death-grip determination, I reminded myself slow, slow, slow. Be graceful. Think smoooooth. Winding up slowwwwly, I CUT IT LOOSE–missing the ball completely. My follow thru had me facing the parking lot. OK Dan, casually now, turn around and re-adjust the ball on your tee. Strike one. Old baseball swing habits die hard. Hard as it was to admit it, I had to confess, it did seem ever-so-slightly possible that maybe, just maybe I could use a tiny bit of improvement here? And, as a preacher of positive thinking, let’s all not forget that my bucket was still full.
OK Dano, tempo. Slow down. Pace yourself. EEEEEssssssy now – up nice and slow, RRRRiippppp. My left hip outran the downswing by just a tad as I went for the left field bleachers. Except that the ball went hard right across the driving range, over the trees and rolled under the neighbor’s dog box, it WAS a spectacular shot. Yiiiiiikes but that hurt. I guess it was because I was lying face down in the grass that the guy behind me asked if I was OK? Told him, “Of course. Just looking for my tee.” Damn. Every swing so far at warp speed. Nothing like staying within myself.
OK, muscle spasms suggested another approach. Up nice and smooth and down it went in slowwwwww motion. No kidding, it lasered down the middle, bouncing off the 250-yard sign with a dead range ball that had been dredged up out of a swamp somewhere. Wanting to appear nonchalant I only did two fist-pumping celebration laps around the practice area to sounds of admiration. I think. They did get a little obnoxious when I walked out to find that ball though. You’d think they could be a little more respectful!!!
And so it went. 3 rocket downswings for every slow one. Each time I got it right–swing speed reduced a mere 80%–I sent it dead down the middle. Hey, I’m on to something here. SLOWER GIVES YOU BETTER CONTROL IN GOLF. What a novel concept! I wondered if anybody else knew about this?
Waiting for darkness to fall so I could limp off the range, I decided not to put a notice in the paper about when I’d be back on the links to play in front of my fan-packed gallery.
Like it or not–we men being hardwired–it’s our nature to be the biggest, strongest, toughest bull in the pasture. Be it a shotgun, Tiger’s autographed driver, or Barry Bond’s bat, when it’s our turn, everybody better step back and give us some room to swing. We know, the more we put into this the more we’ll get out, right? It seems many of us live vicariously on watching bone-crushing tackles and long ball drives. Looking over our popcorn at the wide-screen, our hero takes out twelve heavily armed terrorists with his .22 derringer. For a split second we think, “yeah, that’s how I’d do it.” This fever-pitched propensity for power, winning, and “who’s your daddy” masculinity fuels this excitement. Without this adrenaline rush, sports would be as exciting as watching corn grow.
So where’s the surprise when we’re asked to hit a clay target with an Acme Thunder 12 gauge throwing flames and lead at 1,400 fps? Muscles tense, eyebrows furrowed and a vice grip on the gun, move over NASCAR, bring it on! Two shots later, yonder targets glide into the pond unbroken. How can that be? Repeated missing only confuses and frustrates.
Slow is smooth; smooth is fast.
To really understand why all this machismo doesn’t work, I can’t think of a better visual example than to visit an LPGA golf tournament and watch the women on the practice tee. Gone is the Herculean effort to launch the ball into the next county. With supple grace and agility, she drives the ball 250 yards down the middle of the fairway. She does this using sublime effort and a totally relaxed swing that defies the impressive result. She knows. She understands. It’s more about control than power. This is where Sporting Clays shooters trade control for a “power swing,” a common mistake costing us on our score sheet.
Blazing barrels only give you one thing…
a disappointing score card.
It’s your cadence…the smooth, correctly timed swing
and trigger pull that assures XX XX XX.
Those who use control–who use smooth precision to develop their sight pictures with the least amount of random movement–will break the most targets. This requires a gun speed where the eyes can guide the muzzle. Though many blame their equipment, weather, the target setter or their next-door neighbor, the number one cause of loss of control is incorrect swing speed, typically going too fast, wrecking necessary precision. 24/7/365,in the clay target disciplines, it’s that level of swing precision that decides XXXXXX or OXOOXO.
Which is to say, consider dumping the testosterone. Controlling your shotgun is arguably the single most important component in breaking the target—on time—dependably. Ever wonder why the top shooters look so smooth? It’s all about gun speed or more appropriately, their being purposely frugal with it. You can easily get out of the speed trap by deliberately slowing down and being more precise with your swing. Your score card will thank you for it. The Truth here is, less is definitely more.
Dan Schindler is one of only 50 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses, and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes! Dan teaches locally at River Bend Sportsmans Resort in Inman, SC.
Shooters from around the world read Dan's books 2, 3, 4, or more times and refer back to them often. These three EXCELLENT books - Take Your Best Shot, To The Target, and Beyond The Target take the MYSTERY out of missing targets so you can shoot more CONSISTENTLY! Order Books!
Newest Release...Take Your Best Shot (Book I), 3rd Edition isTHE Gold Standard Primer for shooters of ALL skill levels...
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To The Target (Book II) Builds on the steps outlined in Book I. Emphasises Gun Management skills when the trap fires, creating a consistent, reliable, trustworthy swing.
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"Take Your Best Shot is the best clay and wingshooting shooting primer on the market that I have ever seen. The brilliance of its simplicity aids in getting across the correct messages for successful shooting for ANY clay/wingshooting shooter, let alone a new shooter. As a master instructor, founder/Head Coach of the Jacksonville University Shooting Team (a national championship program), and JU faculty member, Take Your Best Shot is standard reading for ALL of our varsity shooters. Dan has managed to capture the basics beautifully, and he has placed them in an easy, simple-to-follow, witty presentation. My students love the book and read it time and again. Highly recommend, no matter what your level of shooting experience and expertise."
Mark Engen, DVMThese three books are a must-read for all clay target shooters. They are clear, concise, logical instructions on how to shoot clay targets and how to improve your scores. Taking a lesson from Dan would be very advantageous & help hasten the learning process. He has been my instructor for 15 years. With each lesson, I always come away amazed at how much I have learned & how my scores improve. He also emphasizes how important it is to practice regularly & stay with his advice & recommendations to really learn new skills to improve your scores. He has helped me tremendously & I highly recommend him.