Recently someone I generally like in the golf business sent a tweet about achieving "compression." I replied back, with a smiley to indicate that I wasn't being too serious, that he truly meant deformation, as the golf ball doesn't actually "compress" against the clubface very much. It was an attempt at joking around a bit that failed miserably. I may have needed more than a smiley to indicate that I wasn't being super serious.
At any rate, a golf ball doesn't truly get any denser when it hits the clubface. It doesn't really "compress" much, but it does deform. It's a little bit pedantic, but I have a reason beyond "it's more correct" in preferring "deformation" over "compression." I'll get into that shortly.
Because, though the discussion that followed was not quite what I'd anticipated, it did spur this little article. For that I'm thankful.
A few years ago @david_wedzik, myself, and others decided that we were tired of telling people to hit draws that finish at the target with an "open" face. The commonly used words "open" and "closed" don't make sense to people in the context of curves. It confused people. Not everyone - not even the majority - but enough that we felt it mattered. When someone says "open" it often seems to imply that the face is open to the path, so we started to use the words "right" and "left" to relate things to the target, and "open" and "closed" only when talking about face-to-path relationships. Thus, good draws became shots played with a clubface that points right of the target with a path farther to the right or a right-pointing face that's also closed to the path. (We prefer the former, typically, though sometimes we'll use the words "inward" and "outward" as in "with a path that's more outward [to the right] than the face".)
The terminology we use is important. Though "compression" is relatively low on my list of misused words, I have taken 20 seconds to explain to students that I prefer the word "deformation" and why. Almost all of those conversations take place outside of a lesson, when a student is just asking a question about what "spin loft" is or how to read a FlightScope report or something. In the context of a lesson, where my goal is to get them to DO something, I don't mess with tangentially related "knowledge. In a lesson, I'll often just say something like "you hit that one more solidly," bypassing the potential for misunderstanding "compression" and skipping the 15-20 seconds it might take to explain why I just said "deformation" and why that's the more correct term.
Is there really that big of a difference between the words "compression" and "deformation"? Don't most golfers know what you mean by "compression"? What's my problem with the word "compression"?
My problem is that "compression" remains a word students misunderstand more than I like. More students than I prefer seem to believe compression is not just "squeezing the ball against the clubface" but also "squeezing the ball against the ground" as well. It seems to be too similar to "trap the ball" against the ground, or "pinch it against the ground" for some golfers. I've rarely heard of someone talking about "compressing" their drivers better. Whether it has to do with the sound or the fact that golfers know they should be hitting down with their irons and taking a divot, or a combination of the two or other concepts, golfers seem to relate "compression" to "hitting down" more than I like. With a driver, for example, you can often increase deformation by hitting up! The same is true of an iron - you can often increase deformation by hitting down less!
During the conversation, I was called a hypocrite (by a third party) because I mentioned that the main point of communication is to be understood, and to that end, I'll use the words "side spin" during a lesson if the student knows what it means and it moves the lesson forward.
It's not hypocritical at all, though, as there are two modes of communication. During a lesson, anything goes. My purpose is to get the student to DO something. I'll use the word "perflugenkop" if that makes sense to the student and gets them doing or feeling the proper things. Outside of a lesson, I often have time to explain what a word means, and you can engage in the pursuit of pure "knowledge" with a student. Inside the lesson, it's about performance. Who cares if they learn during the lesson that a ball isn't really "compressed" but actually "deformed"? That's a waste of time during a lesson, and likely distracts from what you're trying to get the student to DO. "Side spin" makes sense to people during the context of a lesson, so I'm not going to pause a lesson, force their brain to switch modes (task switching is costly), and explain how golf balls only have one spin and it's oriented around an axis and that's what actually makes a ball curve… Outside of a lesson, if a student wants to know, that might be fine. And with students that know, we'll talk about how their spin axis was 2° too much on that last swing… Inside the lesson, if "that ball had too much side spin because you didn't do whatever" makes sense, I go with it.
There are other examples of words we prefer to use over other, lesser words. For example: "straighten the rear knee." We used to say this, but "straight" is a binary state - something is either "straight" or it's not, kind of like being pregnant - you either are or you aren't. As we don't often want golfers to truly have straight legs during their backswing, we switched up to saying "decrease flex" or "extend" (or "stretch").
At the end of the day, I want to use words that mean the correct thing - I want to communicate effectively - and I want to use the best words when possible. During a lesson, sometimes the best words are the ones the student understands and which moves the lesson along. Outside of a lesson, sometimes the best words are the more accurate words, as you have time to explain them and talk about them a bit.
Does Twitter afford the option to talk about "deformation" versus "compression?" Perhaps not. Am I always perfect on Twitter, or when talking with students? Definitely not. But I strive to be, and Twitter is definitely outside the context of a lesson, the "better" words are, IMO, the words that are most accurate and which cause the least confusion. I'd rather someone have to look up what I mean (or ask me) than to take what I mean incorrectly.
There are no solid lines here, just a big grey area. If everyone strives to make the way we communicate more clear, we're headed in the right direction.
And that's how Sue C's it.