It took me 2 full years from the second I picked up The Golfing Machine to fully understand the cryptic golf text. You might ask why I went to the trouble? Well, I had heard many prominent instructors and even PGA Tour players like Bryson Dechambeau talk about it like it was the Holy Bible of Golf. I got curious and decided to put myself through months of pain to grasp what Homer Kelley was saying in that book.
Now that I finally understand the value of this book, I want to share some strategies for getting through it on your own. Below is my recommended method of reading The Golfing Machine followed by some instructions on how to apply it directly to your golf game. Enjoy!
Recommended Reading Method
Although Mr. Kelley lays out a recommended guide to reading his complex work, I believe that there is a slightly better way of doing things with all the additional resources available to the modern reader. Below is Homer's recommendation:
I followed this exact plan, and felt like I was losing my mind. Instead, I am about to outline a method for reading TGM that will reduce the time you spend in utter confusion, and maximize the time you spend applying the concepts to your own golf game.
Step 1: Read this entire post, which will give you a better empirical understanding of the book. Once you understand the purpose of each chapter (explained in this post), you will have a better time understanding the minute details that Homer Kelley loves to include.
Step 2: Purchase the book itself, and read in the following order (Do not skip to step 3 yet, because the act of reading the actual text will prove useful later when you review the concepts via additional resources!):
- All of Chapter 1
- All of Chapter 14
- 2-0, 2-R, 2-S, and my posts on the inclined plane and ball-flight laws (which explains much of the unnecessary jargon that exists in chapter 2 of the book).
- All of chapter 3
- All of chapter 6 (with many digressions)
- Read "Step One," and then supplement this with my post about the power accumulators, and when you reach 6-B-3-0-1, read my post on the flying wedges, followed by the all of chapter 4 (which further explains the wrist glossary from my post).
- Read the remainder of Chapter 6
- Glaze over Chapter 8 and Chapter 9, without looking too far into them. They are simply a way that Homer attempted to "classify" the golf swing, and are no more than more effective ways to communicate. Personally, I find that my swing position glossary is sufficient for communicating about the golf swing, which I have used throughout my instructional content.
- Read Chapter 7 and Chapter 10 simultaneously
- For example, read 7-1, and then immediately read 10-1. Essentially, chapter 10 corresponds exactly with chapter 7, but gets more detailed with the different variations you can have with each of the 24 components introduced in chapter 7.
- Do not worry if none of this makes sense when you first read it. The goal of reading these chapters is to be able to recognize the 24 components, but not necessarily understand them all. As Homer states, "there is more information in this book than any golfer can use in many lifetimes. But it is not difficult to know everything in this book if the chart shown in Chapter 11 is utilized and its unity, continuity and completeness is recognized."
- Skim over Chapter 11, 12, and 13
- You will come back to these frequently, but are not particularly useful until you understand everything previously written.
- Chapter 11 is basically a "catalog" of all 24 components and their 144 variations.
- Chapter 12 is the "assembly instructions" for putting together your golf swing
- Chapter 13 is rather useless in my opinion, but essentially explains that you must not include "components" which don't fit into your stroke pattern (if this sounds confusing, please don't stress about it)
- I like to think of chapter 11 and 12 in terms of the Dell Computer company. As many know, when you order a computer from Dell, they put all the parts together according to an assembly manual, and ship it out to the customer. The customer can choose different components like how much RAM memory they want, the size of the screen, hard drive memory, what type and year of model they want, whether they want a CD drive, whether they want "core i-5 or core i-7," etc. etc. Chapter 11 is the list of "parts" that a golfer can choose from, while chapter 12 is the assembly manual for putting those parts together, which lists which parts are compatible with each other (for example, you aren't going to put a massive hard drive into a tiny computer).
Step 3: Re-read the book straight through as many times as you need, supplementing it with the following resources for each particular part of the book (thanks Jeffrey Mann, Lynn Blake, and The Swing Engineer for many of these explanations). Please note that I have omitted a few of the chapters and cross-references, mainly because they are simple enough to understand without additional guidance (note: many of the links below are cross-referenced numbers, which you will be able to quickly navigate to once you have purchased the book):
- Understanding Chapter 2
- 2-A through 2-C-0, 2-D, 2-E
- 2-C-1 through 2-C-3, and 2-G (Lynn talks about "lay back" of the clubface at 3:17 in video)
- 2-H and 2-J
- Understanding Chapter 6
- Understanding Chapters 7 and 10 (The links below are numbered 1-24, and correspond to both chapter 7 and 10. For example, #10 represents the explanation of chapter 7-10 AND 10-10).
- #3 - This is simply explaining all the different types of golf strokes you can make. For example, Phil Mickelson's chipping style is representative of the "peck" from 10-3-f, while Jason Day chips/pitches with more of a "pitch" per 10-3-B.
- #5 - this is essentially the concept of setting up for various ball-flights. If I wanted to hit a fade, I am going to use the "open-open" setup (10-5-D). If I wanted to hit a short pitch shot, I would use the "square-open" setup (10-5-B)
- #7 - This simply states all of the different plane shifts that can happen during the golf swing. For example, Bryson Dechambeau uses a "zero" shift (10-7-A), while Jim Furyk uses the "reverse loop" shift (10-7-G).
- #8-9 - fairly intuitive - no explanation needed
- #10 - Watch this, then this, and then read this. (in that order for greatest clarity)
- #11 - this topic is closely associated with the power accumulators (see "understanding chapter 6" above)
- #12 - explains the various amounts of pivot a golfer should use with corresponding setups as described in #5
- #13-17 - The various body movements (fairly intuitive)
- #18 - closely associated with the hinge actions described in #10
- #19 - also closely associated with power accumulators (see "understanding chapter 6" above), and the "Basic Motion." Also see Jeffrey Mann's analysis of this topic.
- #20-24 - closely associated with the power accumulators (see "understanding chapter 6" above)
- Understanding Chapter 12
- The Basic Motion (12-5-1) (part 1 and part 2)
- The Acquired Motion (12-5-2)
- The Total Motion (12-5-3)
- The Full Swing
Step 4: Get working on your basic motion!!! From what I've noticed in my many years of playing golf, 99% of golfers have a faulty basic motion, therefore, I am suggesting this as a starting point. After you have mastered the basic motion, you can move on to building the rest of your golf swing!
Applying The Golfing Machine to your Game
With a book so complex by nature, it often begs the question as to how one can make this knowledge useful for their own game? Homer specifically states in the book that there is far too much information in the book for one golfer to apply across his/her entire game, so where do we even start?
After personally experimenting around with many of the concepts, I have come up with a basic framework for understanding and implementing the knowledge in this book to my own game. Below is a quick summary that will hopefully aid you in your process:
Swinging vs. Hitting
Now, if you go online and read about The Golfing Machine long enough, you'll realize that swinging and hitting is not quite as black and white as Homer Kelley first stated. That being said, we must give some credence to the idea, and decide which type of golf swing more closely resembles our own games.
The reason I find it useful to determine which type of golf you are is primarily for the one-arm drill that I do around the chipping green. Since I would classify myself under the "swinging" category, I will hit 10 yard pitch shots with only my left arm several times a week. If you were a "hitter," I would recommend hitting pitch shots with only your right hand, maintaining the flying wedges through impact.
Additionally, once you know which type of golfer you are, you can then pair this with backswing types and release actions.
Release (hinge) Actions
The second thing that I recommend doing is working on all three hinge actions:
Teach your body the differences between them. After you have become comfortable with all three, you will be amazed at how many possibilities open up for you on the golf course; especially around the greens.
For example, if I want to hit a cut shot, I will use angled hinging (since I use a "swinging" motion with a neutral grip, this produces a cut spin on the ball with a normal setup). Another application would be the use of vertical hinging when I want to hit a high, soft pitch shot to a short-sided pin.
**Distinction: One thing that I must note is that Homer Kelley recommends that the "swinger" use horizontal hinging, while the "hitter" use angled hinging, as these are "natural" given these swing types. Although these are helpful guidelines, they are not absolute rules to follow. Get creative and experiment with different combinations on your own!
Work on your "optimal plane"
I have written a post on the optimal plane which explains this in more detail.
Experiment with Power Accumulators around the greens
Another useful application from the book can be found around the greens. By eliminating (or "zeroing out" as Homer calls it) certain power accumulators, you can add a layer of finesse to your short game.
For example, when hitting bump and runs, I will completely eliminate the third power accumulator, which tightens the dispersion on my shots significantly. Per 6-B-3-B in the text, zeroing out this accumulator simply means using a "low power" grip as I explain in this post.
I couldn't possibly cover everything that I wanted to in this short booklet, but I hope that it has been helpful to anyone looking to understand The Golfing Machine in greater detail. By no means will the read be "easy," but at least with the resources listed herein, you will be better equipped to decipher Homer's esoteric vernacular throughout the book.
As always, drop me a line with any questions!