According to a 2004 "Golf Digest" article, a research project was conducted at Torrey Pines -- a championship course in California -- with a group of better-than-average amateurs. Their average score (from the white tees) was 94, which is 22 over par. With that type of gap between pros and good amateurs, it's no wonder that many weekend golfers look for easier ways to hit the ball. This quest has led many players to look into alternative golf methods – some of which have a good pedigree, while others don't. Before committing to such a swing, be sure you understand how the alternative methods differ from your current technique. You can sort through new swing options by looking for a few key characteristics.
The best-known single-axis method is Natural Golf, based on the swing of the late Moe Norman. "Single-axis" means you hold your club in your palm rather than your fingers; this allows you to keep the club shaft in a straight line with your forearm. Single-axis swings typically feature a very wide stance with relatively little hip and shoulder rotation. These are leverage systems with numerous variations on the theme. You can usually recognize those variations because the creator of the swing method is a previous Natural Golf instructor.
Altered Pivot Points
In a conventional golf swing, you pivot around your spine's axis while maintaining a fairly consistent spine angle. The best-known alternative pivot method is Stack-and-Tilt. "Stackers" move the pivot to the base of their neck and allow the spine to tilt; many conventional teachers would call it a reverse pivot. By moving the pivot this way, you can keep the upper body positioned (or "stacked") over the ball to promote more consistent impact. This type of swing is more dependent on rhythm and timing for its effectiveness. Stack-and-Tilt is unique in one way – it's the only alternative swing to win on the PGA Tour, with Dean Wilson and Eric Axley being examples.
Metaphysical Swing Methods
At the far edge of the alternative swing universe are methods built off of martial arts, new age therapies and philosophical systems. They often seek to avoid mechanics entirely, choosing instead to focus on some sort of "guiding principle." Students may be advised to find their own mechanics through experimentation. The exact worth of these methods is difficult to determine because their effectiveness can't be easily verified. It's hard to scientifically measure the effect of an idea on a physical movement.
Not So Alternative
Ideas at the basis of alternative swings can be incorporated into a conventional swing. The palm grip so central to the single-axis methods can be used with almost any swing; it may provide more accuracy but at the cost of distance. Stack-and-Tilt swings are, in many ways, a full swing made using a short-game setup. The hip drive taught in many martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do, can be directly applied to a conventional swing. And touring pros have long applied both Zen and Christian concepts to the mental game. Before committing to an alternative swing method, try to understand how it differs from a conventional swing. You may learn that others have already found a way to incorporate those ideas into an existing conventional swing.