Thursday, August 25, 2016

Book review: The Anatomy of Greatness, by Brandel Chamblee ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of 5)

Golf Channel analyst’s instruction book scores A- for content, C+ for presentation

Golf Channel analyst/commentator Brandel Chamblee knows a thing or two about the golf swing, and when he talks, or writes, about it people should take notice. A former PGA Tour player himself, Chamblee brings a tremendous amount of insight and experience, as well as a sense of history, to his on-air role, and in his recent book, The Anatomy of Greatness: Lessons from the Best Golf Swings in History, he brings the same qualities to bear in writing about the golf swing.
In his new book from Classics of Golf, Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee
breaks down the simple concepts that the great golf swings have in common. 

The Anatomy of Greatness is not just another swing instruction book, like the thousands that have been published over the decades since the first, The Golfer’s Manual, by Henry Brougham Farnie, was published in 1857. Even a cursory look through the pages of the book will show that Chamblee has taken a different approach to the matter at hand. Rather than the Golf My Way (Jack Nicklaus) or How I Play Golf (Tiger Woods) approach, telling the reader “This is how I do it”, Chamblee shows the reader the characteristics of the golf swing that are common to a panoply of the greats of the game – including, of course, Nicklaus and Woods.

Taking the basics of the golf swing – the grip, the setup, posture, and the various phases of the swing movement itself – in order, Chamblee explains the basic concepts that helped make these past champions great. With a wide variety of illustrations and photographs, he shows how the greats of the game – from Jones, Snead, Hogan, and female golf great Mickey Wright, to Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Woods and others – utilized these basics to produce their championship-winning golf swings.

Along the way Chamblee debunks some popular misconceptions, especially the widespread, but misguided, concept of loading the mid-body like a torsion spring to produce power in the downswing. Instead, the reader is shown how the great champions of the past used a few key movements to produce the fluid, free-flowing swings we have seen in newsreel footage (for the earlier players in the comparisons) and television coverage of tournaments, for years. He also explains how the looser, freer swing described in the pages of the book is easier on the body, especially the thoracic spine (lower back), which is a key element in a long-lived quality golf swing.
“The premise of this theory is so massively incorrect and its problems so numerous that for over thirty years it has almost completely divested the PGA and LPGA Tour players of their ability to build on the methods of a previous generation…”

One of the really interesting things about The Anatomy of Greatness is how Chamblee traces the common roots of these fundamental concepts back to Los Angeles-based golf instructor Alex Morrison, whose influence can be seen in the swing motions of such greats as Bob Jones, and through Morrison disciples Henry Picard and Jack Grout, in the swings of Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus, respectively. The same concepts can be seen in the swing motions of such 20th-century greats as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, who though they arrived at them independently, were themselves very influential on a great number of later players.
All that being said, there is room for improvement in the book’s presentation. The layout is clumsy and rather unprofessional looking, with frequent unwelcome blocks of blank space, and in at least a couple of places, multi-page jumps in the text to accommodate poorly arranged stretches of photos and captions. The prose is rather stilted and stiff, in general, and appears to have lacked the input of a good proofreader and a firm-handed, knowledgeable copy editor. 

The mediocre-to-poor layout of the book is the reason it missed out on a fifth star, but despite those minor complaints, this slim volume (121 pages of content, plus a two-pages-and-a-bit foreword by Tom Watson) is a book that every golfer should read, and that all golfers can take advantage of to improve their game, with a bit of reading, and a bit of practice.

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