Ben Hogan wrote in his book, Five Principles, “The average golfer’s problem is not so much a lack of ability as it is a lack of knowing what to do.”
That’s why when we hit golf balls we need to carefully investigate what we are doing, and not seek a particular result.
Percy Boomer talks about this in his book, On Learning Golf. The number one Golf Bogey, as he calls it, is the natural urge to act in the obvious way to achieve the desired result. (his italics).
What he meant by this is concentrating on the result of the swing (the ball landing in the fairway or on the green) at the expense of the correct technique by which that end may be gained.
He borrows a term from F. Matthias Alexander and calls people who do this end gainers.
On the practice tee, this means putting a patch on a patch until the swing finally produces a straight shot. The resulting swing can’t possibly last beyond the groove that was set up during those few golden minutes, because that swing is not built on any known swing principles.
You could go practice putting for a half-hour and come back to the tee and have no idea how to re-create that swing. And that would be a good thing.
Rely instead on sound instruction and your efforts to apply that instruction. Learn the principles that make your swing work. At the same time, learn the things you do that cause your swing to fail.
Practice how to do the one and how to avoid the other.
You might at first have a list of five things you need to do. Practice them all, looking for ways to combine them so that the five become four, then three, then two, and finally you have one swing.
In another spot, Boomer lists six essential features of the golf swing. Number six reads, “It is essential to feel and control the swing as a whole and not to concentrate upon any part of it.” (his italics)
That’s it. Better golfers feel their swing as a whole. End gainers feel it as parts that lead to a result, but those parts are never the same from day to day.
That’s why, when you’re hitting poor shots, your question should not be, “What do I need to do to make the ball go straight,” but “What am I supposed to be doing that I’m not?”
It might take more than one lesson to learn what these principles are (big news flash, right?). Keep taking them until you get it.
When you hit balls, practice those principles and use the golf ball as an indicator.
Where the ball goes is irrelevant. Concentrate on what you have to do. When you do the right things, the golf ball will reward you.
My new book, The Golfing Self, is now available at www.therecreationalgolfer.com. It will change everything about the way you play.