Visiting John Marshall & My Full Swing

Before I flew back to DC from Atlanta, I decided to stay an extra day to see my old friend John Marshall.

Jaacob Bowden and John Marshall pose for a photo

I know John back from my days in long drive and with Mike Austin and Dan Shauger. John played golf in college and is a 5-time World Long Drive Championship Finalist and was the 2005 and 2006 ALDA Super Senior National Champion. Now-a-days he is teaching golf part-time at Steel Canyon Golf Course and is considered one of the best teachers in the state of Georgia.

While we were at the range and lunch and before he dropped me off at the airport, we chatted for hours about golf and life…and John also took a look at my golf swing. I was curious to know his thoughts as a teacher, but also as a former long driver and someone who worked with Mike Austin and Dan Shauger.

One of the problems I've had over the years is that I was a little too concerned with how my swing looked. In talking with my mental coach, I think it in part had to do with me wanting to be liked. Growing up and early in my golf career, like many people, I admired the powerful yet effortless looking swings of guys like Fred Couples or Ernie Els. I also took a lot of influence from golfers like Ben Hogan, Count Yogi, Sam Snead, Mike Austin, and John Daly.

I think subconsciously I had something operating internally that was saying if I can have an optimal and beautiful swing, then I will get attention and people will like me. This plagued me a bit back when I played high school and college basketball too. I had a good vertical leap and sometimes I would rather jump high for the ooh's and aah's versus actually getting the rebound.

Jaacob Bowden dunks a basketball at age 26

I even went so far as to map out a swing blue print on paper, the ideal way in my mind for me to swing.

The problem was that, although I liked how this "ideal" swing looked on video, it was never as consistent as was needed to play what I felt was my best golf. With that swing, I hadn't posted a round in the 60s and I could just as easily shoot in the 70s as the 80s.

However, if I stopped thinking about making it look optimal and instead focused on hitting as consistently as I could and making my dispersion circles tight, I scored much better. All my rounds in the 60s that I recall were with so-called "imperfect" swings.

Last year, I played 9 holes this way in New Mexico at Black Mesa Golf Course from the black tees 7,307 yards…and I recall hitting every fairway and every green, shooting par. And when I played with this swing on the back 9 of the 8,191 Ross Bridge Course on the Robert Trent Jones Trail, I also played well and I remember hitting every fairway there too. I was +1 on the 9 but it translated to a +6 handicap because of the course difficulty…and perhaps even better considering the soft conditions. That's good enough to play the PGA TOUR.

But when I look at this swing on video, I never liked how it looked and I was always averse to it being filmed.

In the backswing, my head drifts away from the target and I raise up. At the top, I'm really laid off, I don't get my lead shoulder down enough, my hands are really flat, and my trail leg doesn't quite straighten. At impact, my lead leg isn't straight enough, my hips don't turn enough, I'm not off my trail foot enough, and I'm holding off my hands and not free-wheeling the club enough. I give up quite a bit of potential power and I could pick apart these swings endlessly.

That being said, more or less I hit it where I want. In fact, I'm not sure I really missed a shot during our range session.

After seeing my shots and watching the corresponding videos, John said he loved my move and wouldn't change a thing. This was good for me to hear.

Between what I've been working on with my mental coach about self-love and John's reinforcement of how I was swinging at the range and the dispersion/consistency results it was producing, I think going forward I just need to quit worrying so much about what others think and embrace my "imperfect" swing and all of the little idiosyncrasies about it.

My scores will thank me…and who knows, perhaps it gets me out on the PGA TOUR.