In my 30-plus years in the teaching business, I've heard some wacky theories about how to hit a golf ball. They've included a method called Square to Square, promoted by several of the game's most famous teachers at the time. Another was Natural Golf, in which, after you spent thousands of dollars on special clubs and lessons, you too could hit the ball like Moe Norman, a unique ball striker from Canada who some marketing people got ahold of.
During its heyday, each method is followed by articles published in national magazines extolling the reasons why you should convert to the hot new swing method. In those days, there was no way to prove which ones really worked, and science was silent because it had not come to golf yet.
Today, as then, the national golf magazines are the main source of authenticity, but can you believe what you read from the experts even now? In the May issue of Golf Digest, one expert recommends a short swing and another argues for just the opposite ― a long swing. Imagine the reader trying out first a long swing then a short swing, and then going boating out of frustration.
Believing expert advice published in journals with no science to back them up is dangerous in all fields, as shown by the Sokal hoax. In 1996, Alan Sokal, a respected physics professor at New York University, was fed up with the liberal left of the academic community whose articles, based on poor reasoning and bad scholarship, were published in journals that sympathized with their ideology. In spite of the shoddy content, students believed that these texts were valuable and actionable in their lives solely because they were published.
Dr. Sokal wrote a spoof article filled with nonsense physics. The parody proposed "quantum gravity as a social and linguistic construct." Once his nonsense article was published, Sokal, much to the chagrin of the journal, went public with the caper, exposing the ersatz process and causing a hail of criticism.
The takeaway: Even today, golf could use a good Sokal hoax to smoke out the current fabricators, but until that time, take care what swing methods you embrace. You don't want to be Sokaled.