Within the past week, the long-running discussion here over the "fundamentals" of the golf swing came bubbling up again. People discussed and perhaps got frustrated with each other, but largely because both sides seemed to have different definitions in mind.
Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer kind of kicked the whole thing off when they pointed out that the old GAPS system - Grip, Alignment, Poster, Stance - were not at all consistent among the game's best players. Lee Trevino aimed way left. Paul Azinger had a super-strong grip. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus couldn't look more unlike each other in terms of setup.
They continued farther down the road by asking what the basic goal of golf was. They concluded, as you might, that the goal was to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible. Great, but how? They concluded that golf is a target game - we need to get the ball into 18 targets to play well. The targets take up a certain amount of space, and we have different tools (clubs) to hit the ball different distances, but they'll only travel reliable distances if we can hit the ball solidly each time. If the same swing with your pitching wedge goes 51 yards one time and 137 yards the next time, you're not going to play good golf. So that takes care of the "distance" to the target, but the target isn't infinitely wide, either: so they noticed that you had to control the curvature of your ball too. You have to hit it in the proper direction. Finally, they said that you have to hit the ball far enough to get around the golf course: you can't hit the ball with perfect direction and eventually the perfect distance if you're only hitting the ball 10 yards at a time.
To Mike and Andy, those are the "fundamental" elements of playing the game well. Nobody who has ever had success playing golf has ever managed to do so without those principles: solid contact for distance control, control over the direction the ball goes, and hitting the ball far "enough" to play the course.
But, is "fundamental" the best word there? Perhaps not. I understand what they meant, but they're using a different version of "fundamental" than most people would.
I prefer to think of those things as "commonalities." The great players have all of those things in common. The poor players do not. I think everyone agrees on that, and "commonalities" is perhaps a better word.
Now, as to the importance of GAPS, well, it's important. I think you'd be a fool to suggest otherwise. And it turns out, the average golfer is often doing something in their GAPS that prevents them from achieving those three commonalities.
But in all golf instruction it becomes an issue of prioritization. Is their grip the single most important thing they need to work on right now? In other words, is it the most significant cause of the commonality the golfer is failing to achieve right now? The vast majority of the time the answer to this question is "no."
Yet in the majority of our lessons I've given or seen given by Dave or Mike or Andy, we'll change someone's grip, alignment, posture, and/or stance! How? Why? Because, though they're relatively unimportant and thus farther down on the list of priorities, they also take about two minutes to explain and demonstrate and the golfer can adapt to them fairly quickly. Are they the most important thing? Nope. Are they important? Yes.
Mike and Andy suggested that, though "everyone needs a grip," the actual grip you employ is going to be different and unique to you, and thus, not necessarily something you should learn from a book. If Paul Azinger had been taught a different grip, would he have had the career he had? Maybe not. Maybe he'd have had a better one. But that's why I prefer the term "commonality" and not "fundamental." Everyone achieves the "fundamental" of having a grip, but not everyone can succeed at the game by having the fundamental skills necessary to play the game well.
And that's how Sue "C's" it.