Book Review George Knudson "Natural Golf Swing"

I just finished re reading Knudson’s book… took lots of notes and really tried to get into his head from where he was coming from.
George was dying as this book was being written, often with Lorne using a tape recorder on the days he was feeling good enough to get ideas flowing. From that perspective, the book makes perfect sense. George was long past his playing career, and had been teaching for many years, so I feel his book was geared toward helping typical golfers, the kind that would most likely visit him on the range for a lesson, or series of lessons. I don’t think George intentionally tried to water it down, but simply was communicating that golf should be an enjoyable experience, not just on the course, but within the body itself… something I am sure he was incredibly in touch with being in the depressed state he was in at the time of it’s writing. It had to have a great effect upon the overall tone and feel of the book… It’s message is loud and clear to me at least.

Chapter 1 (About this Book)

George talks about practicing hitting balls and hitting to the flagpole near the clubhouse in the distance. This is very symbolic of what George was trying to put forth, that the focus of the golf swing must be something other than the golf ball. I think in our class here… we use the impact bag as a mental distraction from becoming ball bound. George’s flagpole was 500 yards away but kept his mind in the target and not the ball. He repeats many times that golf is a target game, and not a ball game. The focus must not be on the ball. The ball is only incidental, or in the way. I think as we move through our modules, the same kind of experience George talks about here will be ingrained into us through bag work as we take focus off the ball and put it on our motion. George talked about the swing being a motion toward the target.

“I exchanged the idea of hitting the ball for swinging through it toward the target.”

“The flagpole helped me think of the swing as a pure, uninterrupted, and uninhibited move in which I would have no sensation of a hit. It was as if I were studying KARATE and I wanted to move THROUGH the target. Why should I let the ball stop the motion? The ball simply gets in the way of the motion. We swing as a unit, our hands, arms and club through the ball toward our target while focusing on the target. The ball will sit in the path of the clubhead if the ball is in the right location”

This is certainly a nod toward our high idealism of accelerating through impact with the ball feeling incidental. Also George is clearly acknowledging the importance of striking the ball off what we at Advanced Ball Striking call true lowpoint.

We ignore the ball. As I say, it simply gets in the way of the motion we make. The motion connects the starting position to the finishing position

This is one of the reasons our module work always has a starting and finishing position.

“You cannot change effectively unless you have a clear image of what you are trying to do”

And this is why we have our module videos.

We do nothing in the natural swing that is at the expense of balance.

Chapter 2 Learning Process

George talks about how he first saw Hogan at Cypress Point, and how Cypress was George’s favorite course. He said if he had one round left in life it would be at Cypress Point at 7:15 am with the fog coming in off the Monterey Bay. He describes how playing the first hole in the fog is magical with knowing that the Cypress Tree 240 yards down the right side can’t be seen but you know its’ there, then as you get near the green, the green appears through the fog in the morning sunlight through the fog. He describes this as heavenly. It’s with these words that he leads into his first sighting of Ben Hogan at Cypress.

It’s no mystery that George was a huge Hogan fan.His swing was in many ways a carbon copy of Hogan. My friend Al Barkow who knew them both well and walked the fairways with both Hogan and Knudson said George had the most Hogan like swing of any player ever.

George says a very insightful thing about swing intentions.

"I noticed every player who struck the ball well maintained the same firmness in the left wrist at the completion of the swing as was established in the Starting Position. The wrists don’t break down, as Tommy Bolt called flippy-wristed kids stuff.

We focus on this in module #3 with our PV5 conviction.

George then acknowledges that “I had no idea that to maintain firm wrists was to properly use my legs. I ignored footwork also because I was stuck on golf’s number one misconception … keep the head still. I later learned that the head has to go where the body carries it. The head has nothing to do with the golf swing, the head has no purpose in the swing”

We cover this in module #2 as we learn about vertical and horizontal ground forces, and how to maximize their use to our benefit. Proper intentions at PV5 will insure us of George’s objectives here.

“It didn’t take me long to realize that it was far better to let my legs lead the downswing. The only way to maintain the formation of the hands is the start the downswing with the legs. To keep the hands passive you must get the legs moving”

This is really the key to us using our module #5 work to properly deliver the golf club from transition into out P3 4:30 line.

“When we walk, we transfer weight from foot to foot. In the golf swing, same thing, we move away from the ball as weight transfers to our right side, then we move through the ball to our target transfering to out left side.”

“If we swing with our hands and arms alone, we swing with less than a full deck”.

George clearly understood the importance of the golf swing being inner pivot driven here. We focus on this concept in our connection module.

“Footwork is so important, if we move our legs, the rest of our body moves. Harvey Penick told me, Son, if you are going to play this game for a living, you’d better learn how to use your legs.”

This is why we waste little time getting to business in our module #2 work.

“Hogan was dead solid flat on his left foot at finish. How he achieved this was quite elementary, he took a very wide stance”

We find through our module work that a wider stance is often necessary because of the advanced forces and pressures we are applying and how they need to be supported properly by a wider foundation. Moe Norman used to tell me that his legs were like “The Great Pyramids of Egypt” I can hear him saying “They are still standing, still standing”

George talks about how achieving Hogan’s flat left foot at finish took him 18 months to master. I think this is a great lesson for all of us in the art of patience as we work though our core modules.

In module #5, we learn about how to use the legs to properly initiate the downswing.

George gives us an insight into how he would control his distances.

“I learned that distance comes from the pace at which we transfer weight from the back foot to the front foot. The faster I do this the more clubhead speed I will generate.”

I think we use the term rotational speed here, but the effect is the same, as the torso rotates our ground pressures move so the faster we rotate the more pressures we feel in the feet, and the opposing force if of course the golf club.

“I alter the plane to change curvature or ball flight by moving the feet. I realized an important factor concerning Hogan’s placement of his left foot. He used the left foot to establish a stopping point in the swing. It set up a resistance in the left knee and hip that would stop him directly on target. This was a superb way of ensuring direction.”

There is a lot being said here in these couple of sentences. As we work through our core modules, we are always keeping a keen eye on our ground forces and footwork. Keeping our feet on the ground keeps our ground forces pressuring and creates the resistance in the legs I think George is talking about here. We get into moving our ball position altering our plane line once we have established a proper swing path through our module work. Our low point module clears up a lot of things about ball position and plane line altering. When you watch George play, you can see how he would shape shots with his body positioning just as he is talking about.

Chapter’s 3 and 4 coming soon…

Chapter #3

“We move the mass, which is the hands the arms and club, by moving the body. Power is transmitted through the body to teh clubhead. We move the mass through weight transfer and rotation”

This is really at the core literally of what we are all striving for. A pivot driven golf swing.

“The central point in the swing motion is the trunk of a golfer’s body, specifically a point around his navel. The golf swing rotates around this central point as we move our weight from the center to the right foot or first pivot point in the motion, and then onto the left foot, or the second pivot point.”

We discuss this in several of our modules, about what martial arts calls the chi center or dantien. It is very much a reality in the golfswing, as golf is very much like other martial arts where something is being slung around the body as a weapon creating great force to wield upon an opponent. There are great and very viable parallels here.
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“Centrifugal force is powerful. It pulls the golf club outward and downward as the player moves toward the target. CF generates a feeling… we control the club by controlling the center. The inner controls the center.”

George was very aware of these concepts and it is not surprising to me as he was one of the games purest ball strikers.

“The swing motion is a means of connecting a starting position to a finishing position. The key word is connecting. The weight is transfered while rotating the club AROUND the trunk of your body. The golf swing is a rotary motion”

In our modules, we always have a starting position, and a very specific finishing position. The golf swing is about connecting these two positions. I think George’s idea of rotating the club AROUND the body is absolutely the correct feeling we should all strive for. The idea of the golf club moving up too abruptly does not lend itself to a pivot driven golf swing, which is consistent with the greatest ball strikers in golf’s history.

“Balance governs the swing motion. The better our balance, the better our chances are at producing a fluid swing motion. The essence of the natural golf swing, then, entails connecting a starting position to finishing position. Seen as a total motion, the swing is not complicated. There is no need to break the swing down into 1001 components. The swing is better understood as a sequence of movements.”

It’s a very typical statement for fine players to say things like the golf swing is simple, easy, not complicated, and they are correct. Everything is easy once you know how to do it. I do think that golf is complicated… but I think George is making the point that our best way to get there is to feel motions rather than positions.

Chapter #4

“Athletic Champions are in balance, it is the characteristics of elite athletes. When I speak of balance, I speak of complete balance of mind, body and emotion as well. A golf swing that is in balance must incorporate this comprehensive idea. A golfer who knows what he is trying to do will have mental balance. It isn’t so much what we do, as what we attempt to do that counts.”

Along with George’s observation of great athletes being in balance, I think he makes a very important observation that being in a more comprehensive balance is very key to success in any athletic endeavor, not just the physical realm.

George’s acknowledgment of intention is very much at the cornerstone of our “Advanced Ball Striking Class”

“The golfer who has a clear conception of the swing motion will be able to ward off the insults the game brings. The golfer who has procedures to follow won’t be buffeted by emotion. Anxiety is due to lack of awareness. Knowledge breed confidence and calmness. The relaxed golfer can play the game and accept it’s ups and downs”

Some great words of wisdom from George.

“My goal is to find a way to avoid forcing myself to do anything in the golf swing. I don’t want to make my left arm straight, nor do I want to lock my head into a rigid position. I don’t want to make things happen. I want to let things happen. I want things to happen naturally from a starting position to a finishing position.”

I would find this consistent with our module work. Over time we train ourselves to move from “make to let”. I do believe we must first learn, so that we can then, let go.

George goes on to nicely define static and dynamic balance…

“Static balance is proper posture, proper weight distribution, proper grip, and correct alignment.”

"Dynamic Balanced golfer is centered and balanced while in motion. “A dynamic balance golfer moves efficiently as one aspect of the motion flows smoothly into the next”

[b]Chapter 5

The Starting Position.[/b]

“There is a feeling of being ready, and impression of strength, like a boxer or tae-kwon-do expert. It seems you couldn’t budge them, the are so stable. Like a cat ready to pounce, you can sense the energy coursing through their bodies. With the starting position we are setting you up to make an aggressive move, an athletic move, one full of purpose and direction.”

I think George is quite clear here that there must be a great sense of cohesion, connection, with the body full of proper tensions. George’s very wide stance like fellow countryman Moe Norman, Hogan and Trevino also believed in a very stable and rooted stance. I get sense of George preparing for his great module #2 foot action. Active tensions from address to finish.

“The more vividly we can imagine the target, the more intensely will we react to it. The more clearly you can fix your destination in your mind, the more easily will you reach your objective. The target awareness takes your mind off the ball and puts it where it belongs, out there in space”

I think it’s wonderful when a great player like George gives you really deep meaningful insight into the pre shot thought process. There is a lot to chew on here, and these couple of sentences are worth the price of the book right there. Once you have good solid mechanics down as we are working on here… golf becomes very much a game of mind, design, feeling a connection to your environment, and I think a much more interesting and fascinating game.

“We must find a position for the left foot so that we will be standing on it at finish. We practice positioning the left foot so that it sets up a resistance in the left knee and hip.”

Again this reminds me of what we will be feeling in module #2 #3 and especially #4. Establishing the proper ground pressures and intentions at address come more naturally once we develop true awareness of them in the swing.

“You must place the left foot outside the left shoulder so you will finish with your weight upon your left foot. Balance is the reason I advocate a wide stance. It allows you also to finish flat on the left foot. The idea made sense to me after I saw Ben Hogan, and I worked to achieve that position.”


“I had the habit of rolling over to the outside of my left foot. That habit was so ingrained that it took me a year and a half of practice until I could finish solidly on my left foot everytime”

This is a very insightful statement from not only a great striker, but a real student of the game. George knew that to attain the highest levels of ball striking that change would have to happen. Taking a year or a year and a half is not out of the question for us to make biomechanical changes to our golf swing. If you don’t get instant results, remember what George says here. I particularly like what George said …“EVERY TIME” I’m sure he could do it the first week or even the first day he worked on this… but he is clearly saying that to really own the move… it took much much longer. From my own experience flattening my irons out, it took six months before my divots agreed everytime.

“We must accept one important factor. Every person had his own alignment that hits the ball straight… for them. It won’t vary much from standard, but it will deviate from geometric perfection.”

This of course is another brilliant observation by George. The physics we create in the golf swing will create our geometry.
We simply cannot impose geometry upon ourselves in and of itself. This is one of the biggest black holes golfers fall into, worrying too much about their address and backswing. Once we have solid fundamentals working in our golf swing, our physics will show us where we are aiming and where the ball will be going… from there we adjust accordingly. I could not agree more with George.

“I never get out of bed feeling the same from day to day. There is a physical variation in the human structure from day to day”

This probably will hit home most with my pro “On Tour” students. Certainly for me. If this isn’t the best argument for the hitting protocol over swinging I don’t know what is. We need to golf to feel easy… simple. Having a tough, road durable golf swing was the first thing I noticed when I started flying across oceans to play professional golf. That’s what you need.

“How many times have you seen a well meaning golfer jam a club across his friend’s forearm and then try to shove it underneath his left elbow? It’s an outrageous contortion that creates imbalance. Each individual finds what’s square for him and plays from there.”

Do take notice to this statement particularly TGM converts. The on plane right forearm happens and will always happen during impact for us doing our bag work. But to suggest that this position needs to be forced at address is simply incorrect.
The position of the right forearm at address is for the backswing motion not the downswing motion. Backswing paths for both the hands and the clubhead are different, and so will the forearm position.

“Each individual finds what is square for them, and plays from there. Square to the target for most golfers is slightly open. Let’s not fight it.”

George knew that the tendency for good golf would be to feel what we call the 4:30 line. The more comfortable we get with our 4:30 line, the more a slightly left alignment feeling at address becomes a comfortable feeling.

“Ball Position, it stands to reason that we should find a location for the ball that will not vary from shot to shot.”

George’s thought on this are the same as Hogan’s.

Chapter 6

“The golf swing is one unified motion. Although it is convenient to divide it into backswing and downswing, I differ with the idea that these are two separate actions. They aren’t, the unloading motion begins while we are still in the loading motion.”

I completely agree with George here, and as we work through our modules, we always work on a back and forth motion between a starting and finishing position. Either into a point of resistance (bag) or into PV5 (finish) One of the reasons I don’t spend a lot of time right away on the backswing is I believe the backswing is very much a product of what our downswing intentions are. In our module 1 drill, most students find their takeaway to be more inside than in the past because it makes sense to do it that way to most quickly and efficiently return to the 4:30 line. Getting the club coming from more behind and around us engages the pivot much more directly. George’s takeaway was very much an inside sweep keeping the right elbow pinned closely to his side, similar if not exactly like Hogan did.

'The purpose of the loading motion is to gather energy. We do so by transferring weight to the right foot, while rotating the body around the trunk. The feet carry the body. We keep the weight to the inside of the right foot while rotating"

George understood the purpose of the backswing was to load our power sources. He doesn’t talk about swing plane or how flashlights… he knew this was of little importance. I think his choice of words here “rotating around the trunk” is very spot on. It really should feel around and not up… the more around the better because it really embraces our pivot.

“We have completed the loading motion when approximately seventy five percent of our weight is on our right side. I say 75 percent because transferring 100 percent we would lose balance. Loading we rotate 90 degrees, unloading we rotate 180 degrees.”

By simply moving the weight of our arms and the club to our right on the backswing, weight is being shifted. We do create CF in our backswing so the combination of both weight and CF should give us both the sensation and reality the George talks about here. The rotation George talks about being our torso 90 degrees is telling is to make a big turn… and the 180 degree turn to finish is a big nod to a very pivot driven golf swing. Combining that with the club moving around the body and you have something very much along the lines of what we have all been working on.

“Centrifugal force will carry the club a good distance as far as it needs to go. You don’t have to worry about reaching parallel. The loading motion is generally circular in shape. We simply rotate around our trunk”

Putting these two concepts together, we have a huge torso turn, with the feeling of minimal hand travel… excellent stuff here. This then allows the torso to turn at transition and move and load into the arms giving us true pivot lag and delay.
Wonderful stuff here.

“All parts are moving together, everything is moving in unison.”

And of course we would hear this from a great ball striker… the concept of connection or what I call cohesive body tension.

“Passive hands is not meant to mean inactive hands. Our hands will be as active as we need them to be if we let them move along with the rest of our body”

This is really at the core of our module #1. We work our hands actively in unison with the rotation of or body… from the 4:30 line into impact.

“A golfer can do marvelous things with his feet. I believe in playing golf through your feet. Footwork is the VOLUNTARY action that initiates the motion.”

I don’t think George would make a comment like this if he didn’t really feel a lot of pressures going on in his feet during the swing. I believe that George did motivate his swing through his footwork as we do in our module #2 work.

“On the backswing, feel the ground under your feet, as we shift weight under the governance of balance, our hands remain passive. The right elbow folds on the backswing as long as the hands are passive, with the head moving as it will.”

George clearly understood that the backswing is felt in the feet, and that the important thing that must happen is the proper folding of the right arm. The hands will go where they need to when this is done correctly. The head moves as it will because as George said before, the head goes where it goes and is not the center of the golf swing.

Chapter 7


“We begin unloading the power we have developed while we are still completing the loading motion of the backswing. Your right arm straightens during unloading from it’s folded position”.

I like the idea George has and repeats thoughout these chapters that transition is in fact that… a transition. a fluid motion. Not a stop and start motion. The right arm straightening on the downswing also keeps the shaft low and on or under plane so we can turn our torso flat and level… just like George did when he was winning all those tour events.

Chapter 8

“The left elbow folds midway toward the finishing position, as the heaviness in the mass pulls you along and around to face the target”.

I was nice to read this from George as this is really at the core of our module #3 work. This screams the heavy “orbit pull” sensation I teach students to work towards. The folding arm is clearly in pulling mode against the mass and the outward pull of CF. A pull and a pull that feels around…

“I want to stress the importance of evaluating your finishing form. Many Golfers pay some attention to their starting form but few have a good look at the finishing form. They think that because the ball has been struck, the swing is over.”

I know I often sound like a broken record, but this is George talking about the holy grail of ball striking. The swing is not over at impact.

“It’s not what you do that counts, it’s what you attempt to do that counts.”

Again as I alway say… intentions, intentions, intentions…

“Every golf swing you evaluate is an opportunity gained, every swing you don’t is an opportunity lost”.

This is exactly why I encourage students to take stock in looking at their divots. The divot leaves a great vapor trail for us to examine the path of our club, how it descended into impact, how it exited, and the lie of our club as it moved through the impact arena.

Chapter 9

“Golf is full of misconceptions. This is the result of the majority of golf instruction ignores the aspect of motion”

One of the things I love most about George’s approach is that he was completely living in the truth that the golf swing is
a dynamic flowing motion. He rarely talks about positions, and keeps everthing moving as it should. I don’t know how many times he talks about a starting position and a finishing position. Always what we are doing in our module work, either into the bag or into PV5.

"Gene Sarazen once told me that when he swings, his thought is “I ride through the ball”

So again another great player talking about through, beyond and of course screams post impact acceleration.

“The head goes where the body takes it. The head moves as we displace weight while loading and unloading during the swing.
Back and forth, up and down, wherever it wants. Also, the idea of straight back straight through is not geometrically possible because of the pitch of the plane, the club most travel on a circular route. By all means swing longer, but with your body and not your hands. A golfer reaching parallel at the top is not necessarily making an effective motion”

George was really big on these concepts we have covered here before… working the club flatter than most would ever imagine possible, and the head moving around as we activate ground pressures and forces, that George demonstrated so masterfully. The nod toward maximum body torso rotation on the backswing with minimum hand travel. This is certainly ideal intentions and good science.

“Concentrate on activating the lower body and power will surge from the legs through the hips, trunk, upper chest, shoulders, arms and out to the clubhead. This is the natural sequence you set into motion via footwork.”

This is exactly right… as we improve our module #2 work, so will we improve our golf swing.

Chapter 9 continued

“By all means swing longer, but with your body not your hands. The golfer who has reached parallel at the top of the backswing has not necessarily made an effective swing motion”.

I talk a lot about maximum rotation with minimal hand travel… this allows for true pivot lag or for the body to load into the arms at transition rather than the arms trying to catch up to the body on the downswing which leads to disaster with capital D.

To finish off this review, Lorne Rubenstein had this to say in his final tribute to George.

“George’s objective was to help people ENJOY golf”

I think this is a very important point about this work because there certainly is a lot of talk about relax, freedom, ease of motion, let it happen and so on.

George’s swing in his prime and even beyond was an extremely pivot driven golf swing that was full of fantastic dynamic motions, not in any way a lazy short cut to flopping a lazy club onto the ball. However, I think George gives us some tremendous insight into what was going on inside his golf swing at various times in this book. I hope I have captured some of these things looking at it from a fellow pro’s perspective, and through my own feelings about what I see in his archived films and sequences along with what I also feel in my own swing particularly regarding traits that we would share.

George was a devout Hogan disciple and it was well know that he was more than obsessed with very high end details of technique and advanced concepts. It’s quite clear to me George was not after a detailed nuts and bolts mechanical description of the golf swing.

In closing,

Lee Trevino said this about George…

“George was one of the greatest ball strikers I had ever seen. If George had been the putter that Tom Watson was or I was, George would have won every tournament he played in. George was fantastic when it came to striking golf balls.”

let’s take one last look at George…

youtube.com/watch?v=6toafC7Um5k

I read the book many years ago, but my memory is that Knudson suggested having both thumbs on top of the handle. When I hit the bag, my left hand wants to move over to the right when I hold it.

I watched Knudson practicing during at a tournament in Massachussets in the mid 70’s. The next day I had a great ball striking round, the maple-syrup rhythm got into my bones. (It didn’t last).

Gulf was my favorite sports but it seems that gulf doesn’t like me. Until my friend recommend me this book of George Knudson’s Natural Golf Swing. It helps me improve my knowledge on the sport gulf. So now, I buy it as a gift for other golfers who ask me how I improved.

I am a budding golfer. Cricket has always been my passion and recently I retired from cricket and switched to golf. I am of the view that golf is the only game which mixes exercise and enjoyment. In cricket or football there is a lot of tension. But I have never felt any sort of tension when I am playing golf. I have also noted that most of the golf players maintain a cool attitude. I think “Natural Golf Swing” by George Knudson is a must read for every golf enthusiast.

I just received and quickly read my copy of this book. I was intrigued by all the positive reviews at Amazon and many web forums.

Now this is a perspective from a high handicapper, but I just cannot understand the hype for this book and basically found it worthless as an instruction book (Makes me wonder about some of the reviews at Amazon). Other than the idea of becoming more target aware, everything else is what I felt “golf swing 101” but little mention of HOW. Mostly on and on regarding BALANCE and weight shift, using the legs as the motor.

Read more like a small biography from Knudson with some quick basic instruction thrown in. Lag’s breakdown above is more valuable than the book itself.

Not bad things to be going on and on about, to be honest, particularly the last bit. Though I do get the feeling Knudson would’ve written a different book earlier in his career. His swing changed a lot over the years, and he became much more of a ‘swinger’ as it’s known, and that book speaks to that imo. It’s definitely a simplified version of things written from the perspective of someone who could do a lot of things without thinking, because they’d been well trained. Lag fills in the gaps quite rightly.

Interested in selling it?

I would but I picked it up at Garage sale for $.75. It was heavily highlighted and missing three pages so after my disappointing read I just threw it into Recycle bin. Didn’t even think anyone would buy it in its condition.

John,

Any comment about the Drills in the back of the book? I remember reading this book over 10 years ago and of course like many of us, my interpretation at the time was WAAAAY different than what it is now because of this course.

My thoughts on the drills at the time, were that they all seemed the same and that they were all pretty benign. My thoughts now though, would be that they all emphasize post impact intentions and especially emphasize and encourage us to use our torso actively rather than stalling and having the pencil/our navel point out to right field.

Cheers, Chris