Remember when people thought the world was round?
It’s widely accepted in golf teaching that you align your feet parallel to the target line and follow a formula with ball position depending on the club being used. From there you train your swing to hit the ball where you want it to go. If it doesn’t go where it should and upon checking the foot alignment and ball position is ‘correct’ it must be a swing issue and out comes the video camera.
For sure this is a system, and systems help to drive repetition; which is good for scoring. However it disassociates the aiming process from the motion and stifles creativity. Moreover, has anyone really questioned why the square feet and moving ball position is supposed to work? Is there any actual reasoning, the answer as far as I can see is no.
The Golfing Machine was written by Homer Kelley in 1969, the aim of the book was to explain in scientific/engineering terms the facts around striking a golf ball. Love or hate this book, there are some absolutes it draws attention to. One is this; a perfectly struck golf shot occurs when the line from the left shoulder down to the clubhead is taught and perfect contact occurs on the line from the ground under the left armpit to the ball, the ball will travel at 90 degrees to this line straight when perfect contact is made.
Many people I grew up with had ambitions to play this game for a living and had similar experiences. For most of them this has meant finding proper jobs in their 30’s, losing their love for the game and not playing golf because the game is no fun. They have taken so much bad advice their head is so full of wrong information that there is no joy left in golf.
The game is a mystery for the world’s best players too. Tiger Woods even with 100’s of millions of dollars on the line has not been able to find a ‘swing method’ that works, even with access to supposedly golf’s greatest minds. Luke Donald, a very smart guy, just feels that he needs something a little extra in his ball striking to win majors but every time he makes a considered choice his game slumps. If these coaches cannot get results with the greatest athletes in golf how can they with average guys?
Will anyone ever start to question this culture and assess its impact on the game? Things must change for the good of golf. Its enjoyment and challenge is highly dependent on creativity. Not a set swing method and some golf psychology geared up around coping with a flawed approach to the game. It seems the goal is to create golfing robots devoid of emotion and creativity.
There is another way, it’s a human approach; which requires people to let go completely of some accepted golf wisdom and embrace a few realities about the way we are hard-wired as human beings.
The human condition in the modern life seems to lead us to thinking that if we KNOW we can make changes very quickly. It’s like the person who reads a self help book and upon finishing feels euphoric and that their life has changed forever. Yet they wake up the next day and live through the same habits they did before reading the book. The person who goes on Dragon’s Den with a great idea thinking as long as they get investment their life is changed forever. Never realizing that business is 95% execution. We seem to take the every day realities, the detail for granted.
This same mentality is what brought about the over use of video in golf coaching. As humans we think that if we see what is happening we can adjust consciously and never hit bad shots again. In the same vain golf coaches use video as a crutch to support a flawed method of modeling a golfers swing through encouraging conscious manipulation of the golf club. After countless professional careers ruined and all joy in the game removed for millions of recreational golfers, the new answer is more information about what’s just happened through club path analysis. Of course that’s it, the video didn’t tell the whole story and this is it. The teacher is indemnified against not getting results because the tech doesn’t lie.
The reality is that this game is about using the golf club, the golf club will impart forces upon us and the conscious manipulation methods taught throughout golf make no allowance for this. Moreover our brains simply cannot send messages to our limbs to manipulate during the swing.
As my good friend Martin Ayers says; ‘the greatest players know what’s coming not what just happened’. Tiger Woods is now, in my opinion, the greatest example of why this needs to be looked at very seriously. Forget Seve burying his swing in the desert or Sandy Lyle struggling to shoot good scores. Tiger has gone from one of the greatest ever to someone who can barely complete a round of golf. He hasn’t questioned deep enough, he has accepted the accepted wisdom – most do. It amazes me that Hank Haney can give interviews talking about how he couldn’t play golf for 10 years because of the yips and at no point think that he must take some responsibility for this. It amazes me that golfers take lessons from people who cannot hit a ball because their own methods have ruined their own games. It amazes me that we have pundits on Sky Sports who are known on tour for wrecking natural golfers. Who simply attach some big names they once worked with and impose their broken methodology on viewers. If the best in world weren’t good enough to implement the advice how is a recreational golfer going to get on?
There are layers of totally accepted wisdom which are flawed. The book needs to be torn up. I became a fully qualified PGA pro when I was 20, last year I resigned my membership. I teach rarely these days and when I do its to friends because I do not want them to be taught badly. I can get beginners ripping it in 20 minutes by giving them an idea of how to contain the club and locate to the ball in three dimensions. Not the 2D the PGA train people to coach in – square feet, set ball position etc. This all needs to be torn up for the good of the game.
Maybe we need a new PGA, one thing is for sure golf needs some leaders. Not ceremonial figureheads to keep the status quo going and never question the broken layers of accepted wisdom.