Let?s face it. Golf is hard.
Golf is not a reactionary sport. By that I mean that we are not reacting to a moving ball. Instead, we are playing a target sport where we hit a ball from a stationary position. We set up to the ball in an unnatural and uncomfortable position and contort or our bodies through awkward movements to try to hit a small white ball with an implement that is made up of a stick with a blob of material on the end of it.
I am reminded of this daily as I coach and instruct, and I am struck with this concept not only as I work this week with a group of high school kids in Portland, Oregon, but every day when I hear my students and my friends talk about playing one hole great and losing it completely on the next. Or feeling one day like the hole is a bushel basket and the next a pin hole.
Teenage kids taking up the game and playing on their high school teams and who play other sports are pretty quick studies when it comes to nailing down the basics. However, much like their novice counterparts who take up the game in retirement, they find many aspects of the game of golf almost impossible.
We see it on TV and it looks so easy. Fluid golf swings and smooth putting strokes with wonderful results. We see the occasional missed shot or mishap in scoring but what we can?t fathom is what contact feels like, what swinging the club the way Lexi Thompson or Rory McIlroy does feels like, or how many hours and repetitions are needed to get to that level.
Most people wonder ?How do the pros make it so easy?? as they stand over the ball and stare at it. So how do we make the game easier for the average Joe? Well here are a few tips:
Use your eyes. The more we bring our focus to our target while we prepare for and set up to our shot, the more we become reactionary to that target and less focused on the ball. Try this. Stand behind the ball and pick your target, then pick something on the ground in front of the ball to line your clubhead up to. As you move to set up, get both hands on the club and set the club behind the ball, being sure it is aligned to that spot you picked.
Before you move your feet into your stance, look at your target and keep looking at it while you move your feet into your stance. Don?t worry, the ball will still be there when you look back down.
By using your eyes more, your brain will actually help you align naturally and correctly to wherever you have aimed your clubhead. And as a gentle reminder, it is the clubface that aligns or points to the target, not your body! Your feet, knees, hips and shoulders should be set up on a parallel line to that target line. Capeche?
In putting, look at the line of your putt and the hole as you take your rehearsal strokes. Allow your eyes to see the line, your brain to interpret and feel the distance, and direct your arms and shoulders to make a stroke with a length and fluidity that is appropriate for the distance. This also keeps you from staring at the ball and focusing on the technical aspects of the stroke itself.
Make sure that your clubface is square when you take your grip. If you start by gripping the club with the clubface too open or closed, you are putting the success of your shot in jeopardy. The brain has an uncanny knack for correcting things for us, like when we are walking on a flat surface and suddenly have to step up onto a curb ? our eyes see it, our brains interpret and deliver instruction for us to lift and bend the knee and set the foot down on the higher surface.
So, if your clubface is open or closed at address, your brain will tell your body to make compensations in the swing to try to get the clubface square at impact.
Swing to the finish. When you see players on TV hit a shot, pay attention to what they look like when the swing is complete. With a full swing, their body will be turned so it is facing the target, with the majority of their weight on the forward foot, knees fairly close together and with the back foot turned up on to the toe.
By completing the swing to this balanced position, the player knows that all of his or her energy has swung the club through impact to the target and not just to where the ball had been sitting. When you do this, the clubhead follows a path that if you imagine smoke coming from it, would draw a shape that is somewhat circular. A swing that stops its momentum at the ball often looks jagged, creating a more V-like look.
Be patient. Visit an instructor and get the fundamentals nailed down and something to work on. And then work on it! Golf is a repetitive game and you cannot build a swing that becomes repeatable if you don?t build repetitions. A smart instructor will only give you a small number (like maybe one or two) things to work on in the actual swing. Don?t feel like you are not getting enough to work on, but rather that learning the game is a never-ending process and that you need to build your quality repetitions in order to improve.