Be honest. If you’re not very good and not getting better, you know it. You don’t have to tell me, you don’t have to tell anyone else, and it’s not a judgmental thing. But if you don’t hit good shots very often, and you want to do better, what do you do? You take lessons, and practice, and play, and nothing changes, or maybe it changes a little, but not in the way you want it to.
Today I’m going to talk about how your entire approach to improving might be what is holding you back. There will be no swing tips here, no instructions on how to hit a new shot that will turn everything around, just a sit-down discussion on why starting over might be the best way to free you up to be the good golfer you believe you can be.
Last Sunday I went to visit my son for Easter dinner. He’s learning golf as an adult. He’s 37 years old right now, and has been at it for about six or seven years. This is how he started–get some clubs, go to the range, swing away. Maybe if you’re an original genius, you can get away with this. An example is our current Masters champion, Bubba Watson, who is entirely self-taught. My son is not that way. Might not be you, either.
A few years ago, after suffering through round after round of whiffs, shanks, and 10+ lost balls per round (I’m not kidding. I play with him.), my son decided to take some lessons. The lessons are going all right, but he doesn’t have them that often and I’m not sure what he’s practicing in the meantime. He does want to become a good golfer, though.
So when we were sitting in the TV room before dinner, I told him something quite plain. I said, you are playing with a weak foundation. The way you swing now still has many remnants of a swing based on a conception of movement that contributes little that is good to hitting a golf ball well or at all. What you’re doing now is putting patches on patches, trying to fix a swing that is unfixable.
I said, you have to be willing to start over again. Learn how to do it right from the ground up. Learn how to putt. Learn what a professional putting stroke is. Learn how to look like a pro, feel like a pro, and move like a pro when there’s a putter in your hands. Get a conception of movement for this little stroke that is different from the one you have now. And then when you have it, move on to chipping with the same goal. Look, feel, and move like a professional golfer with those little shots.
If you keep doing this, I went on, working your way up to a full swing, then after a year of steady effort, you will be the golfer you want to be–someone who is in control of every shot. You will be someone who knows the ball is going where he intends rather than someone who hopes the ball will maybe go there this time. You will be someone who can plan his way around the course because you know that your plans will work out more often than not.
Reader, I don’t know where you are in your game. I don’t know what kind of a foundation you have for golf and how much you’re improving, if at all. I understand that the way you play now might be all right with you and that making a serious, time-consuming commitment to golf beyond what you’re giving the sport right now would take you away from other things more important to you than golf.
If that’s not you, there is no reason why you can’t be a much better player than you are now if you are willing to devote one year to a program like I outlined above, working your way up from putting to swinging. One year is not a very long time to spend on earning a lifetime of first-class golf for yourself. This is a shorter time than it would take to learn to play a musical instrument well, or speak a foreign language well.
Start over. Instead of spending your time on correcting things that are wrong, spend your time learning only things that are right. If right things are all that you do, how can you go wrong? With a golf game built on that kind of a foundation, the way is clear to being as good as you want. Be my guest.