The Homunculus and What He Has to Do With the Golf Swing


Now here is something interesting. Go Google and have a look at a creepy grotesque looking little fellow called a homunculus. Apologies if he grosses you out a bit, but he is going to be useful to us in thinking about the golf swing and what to focus in on while learning an effective golf swing. A homunculus is a fictional character model useful to neuroscientists and biologists. The homunculus is a representation of the proportion of motor nerves distributed throughout the human body. Areas with a lot of nerves are represented as being very large, while those with less enervation are proportionally smaller. Notice how big the hands are. They are huge!

Clearly then, nature intends us to use our hands as the hands have been allocated considerable enervation. We find this to be true in everyday life. When we interact with our environment it is largely with our hands. We use a mouse and keyboard with our hands. We write. We drive. We eat. We work. We cook. All with our hands. Almost everything we physically do is executed largely with our hands.

The golf swing then should be no different. If we choose to neglect the role of the hands in the golf swing then we choose to neglect all that nature has allocated to us to use, which as indicated by our homunculus model, is a substantial allocation. And in so doing, we neglect a tremendous amount of feel and control available to us. Feel and control that can and should be being harnessed to strike the golf ball crisply, at will.

So as we can see, nature certainly did not neglect the hands. But much of golf instruction does! As indicated by the large proportion of enervation to the hands, clearly nature intended us to use the hands to a greater degree than the body. But most of golf instruction instead focuses in on the role of the body during the golf swing, to the exclusion of the hands often times almost entirely. Or even worse there exists golf instruction that is entirely antagonistic to the role of the hands in the golf swing. These swing theories would have the player merely “hold on to the club, the hands and arms doing nothing… ” But this type of instruction leaves so much on the table that is available for use.

Those who tap into all that nature has allocated find an immense source of feel and control. Once they are able to harness that which is available to them, and get it under their conscious control, they often develop into very good players. Ben Hogan himself said in a Life magazine interview that his secret was something in his hands.

Many body focused golfers do not avail themselves of all that nature has allocated to them to use. Instead they choose to try to control their golf swings strictly with body rotation. These players you can see en mass on driving ranges and at courses everywhere golf is played and practiced. They are the ones just rotating their bodies and coming over the top, getting frustrated and rotating even more, compounding their issues.

Why golf instruction focuses so much on body rotation to the exclusion of hand action is a long story in itself. There are a number of reasons. Some of it is plain old fashioned ignorance. Other times a player will have lucked into a good swing naturally from the moment he picked up the club and the hand action, while quite active, will be automatic to him. Some of it is tradition or repetition of what one has heard from golf instruction. Or sometimes you have lack of understanding of cause and effect in the golf swing, and how something amiss in the hand action can and will sabotage the entire swing.

Whatever the reasons much of golf instruction focuses in on the role of the body and how it pivots. But Nature says different. The homunculus says different. Nature has proportionally allocated much resource to the hands in comparison to the body. So is Nature wrong then? And is pivot focused golf instruction correct instead? Is Nature or Man correct in their focus? I think you know who to bet on.

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