What is functionality in golf? It’s a term often used in the sphere of golf instruction, yet few take the time to understand what it means and the significance it has to the decisions an instructor makes on the lesson tee. It is important to clearly define and distinguish between function and form.
A functional swing is simply one that successfully produces intention. A golfer's intention is identifying
1) Where the ball will go
2) How it will get there
So what affects the golfer's ability to successfully produce intention? The answer is golf's moment of truth: impact. The golf ball will always communicate the information given to it at the moment of impact - not address, takeaway, backswing, downswing or follow through. Often golfers work through swing changes they have self-diagnosed without properly understanding how these changes will affect/improve their impact conditions.
When attempted changes do not produce better impact, it is likely the golfer is chasing improvements in form rather than improvements in function. Often, the golfer wants more than anything to see his swing mimic that of the latest Masters Champion with little to no regard for the resulting ball flight.
The principle of function over form can be seen most clearly on the practice tee at PGA tour events. Take some time to watch players warm up and notice similarities in form versus similarities in function. What you will likely find is the shape and style of golf swings (form) vary greatly from player to player. Conversely, listen to the quality of impact (functionality). You will not likely find such glaring differences from player to player.
Changes in form must be properly matched to the desired improvement in functionality. Be sure to seek assistance in understanding what form changes in your swing will produce better impact.