The similarities between the golf swing and fly casting

The similarities between the golf swing and fly casting

Andy Dear | Sunday, 20 January 2019

It seems like nature made it rough to be a good caster because all of the movements in (fly) casting go against what a person would normally do.
-----Jim Green

Reverse every natural instinct, and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having the perfect golf swing.
-----Ben Hogan

Back in 2010, I took a much needed hiatus from anything to do with fishing and rod building. During that time I took up several other hobbies, which included long-range shooting, custom knifemaking and a few others that had a lifespan so short they aren't even worth mentioning. The one that still holds my attention is Golf. I had played competitive junior Golf in my early teens and was quite successful at it, but abruptly lost interest and left the sport somewhere around 1985. Fast forward almost 25 years, and here I was with a substantial void left in my life and a lot of extra time on my hands. I decided it might be a good time to pick up the sticks and hit the links again.  Even though it had been almost three decades since I had last taken a swipe at a little white ball,  I had a basic understanding (or so I thought) about what constituted a golf swing. As I quickly found out after a few rounds well over par, I was wrong....very wrong. When I began to try and re-build a working golf swing, it would be no exaggeration to say that over a period of months I became fascinated with what actually makes the swing work. Like many who have a tendency to become easily obsessed, I spent every waking minute researching and reading instruction on swing theory. I watched and analyzed slow motion swing videos for hours on end from the hickory shaft era up to modern day. I spent hours dialoguing with well-known instructors and ex-tour pros. I'm almost positive that I spent as much time hitting balls on the practice tee between 2009 and 2013 as I did during the mid-1990's on the local soccer field learning to lay a yarn fly into a hula hoop at 75 feet with an 8wt.

At the time I didn't give much thought to the similarities between a proper fly cast and a proper golf swing, but to suffice it to say there are a TON of them that are worthy of further examination. In fact, many of those comparisons have been examined in detail right here on the Sexyloops board. 

One of the interesting statistics that caught my attention is that in spite of all the advancements in club design, shaft technology,  ball construction, teaching aids and vastly improved agronomy, the average weekend golfers score hasn't really dropped much if at all in the last 75 years. For the most part, good golfers are still playing good, and bad golfers are still playing bad. And even more interesting is the fact that professional golfers in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were posting scores equal to or in some cases better than what the current crop of pros are posting in the modern era. Additionally, they were doing it with what just about everyone today would consider to be archaic, substandard equipment. And they were doing it on courses that were not nearly as finely manicured and user-friendly as what's out there on the tour currently. Guys like Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Byron Nelson were striking the ball in the 1940s and '50s with absolutely stunning power and accuracy with clubs that had a sweet spot about the size of a dime. Additionally, they were playing a balata covered rubber wound ball that would literally spin and curve into the next postal code if you so much as breathed on it the wrong way. 

Regardless of the improvements in external factors like equipment and agronomy, the real question for me then became, "what is  the scratch golfer doing that the 20 handicap is not?" Or conversely, "what is the scratch golfer NOT doing that the 20 handicap is?" Both are very important questions, but neither are answered easily or succinctly because as I found out, the answer is as much mental as it is mechanical. I was extremely fortunate to come in contact with one instructor who had some very unique knowledge gained from thousands of hours of trial and error research in various disciplines outside of his expertise in golf that he was willing to share. Because of that information, I eventually came to the conclusion that irrespective of all of the technological advancements in the sport in the last century, that one of the major keys to the swing lies in what the subconscious mind perceives to be the correct athletic motion vs. what actually IS the correct athletic motion. And make no mistake about it, the fly cast just like the golf swing IS INDEED AN ATHLETIC MOTION.

When I came back to fishing in 2015, it dawned on me that perhaps it was possible that some knowledge I had gained regarding how our brain perceives and learns complex motions may actually help me become a better caster. And the impetus for this understanding were the two quotes you see at the top of the page. In my opinion, nobody touches Jimmy Green or Ben Hogan as the gold standard model for high performance and skill in their respective sports. I found it so intriguing these two men in completely different arenas, that as far as I can tell never know each other, spoke so similarly about the perception of the execution of the mechanics in their chosen disciplines. Whatever they knew, I wanted to know also, so I think this topic is worthy of much deeper exploration.  

Over the next several weeks I'm going to try put into words some of the concepts I learned about the golf swing, and how it relates casting of a flyrod. As a preview, I can tell you that very little, if any of it will be about mechanics. I'm not all that interested in comparing clubhead lag in the golf swing to late wrist rotation in a distance cast. While I think those are certainly very valid and important discussions to be had, I am much more interested in the role of preconceived patterns in the subconscious mind and how it influences our intent to perform a complex athletic motion. Even further, what role does neuroscience plays in things like targeting and distance estimation. How does the brain perceive the difference between "feel and real."  If all this sounds a bit esoteric, that's because it probably is. But I think its a discussion worth pursuing, and I hope some of you get something useful out of it. Let's have some fun and take a trip down the rabbit hole. We can go as deep as you like,  and we'll let Jimmy and Ben lead the way.