This seems like a strange topic for a blog post, but I received a question from Chris Black that seemed worthy of not only my input, but that from all of you, too. Guys, Chris is in a funk about whether to continue playing golf or just give it up. He needs our help. Here’s a paraphrase of what he wrote:
“To golf or not to golf; that is a big question. I have been golfing for about 8 months. I have gone from a beginner to an amateur, but now I am back down the road to suckdom. I have shot a 92 before (legitimate) and now i am lucky to break 110’s. I have grown to love the game immensely but I do not think I can keep going. Please help.”
First of all, Chris, accept that this is a damn hard game. The idea of taking a ball not much more than 1-1/2” in diameter, striking it with a dizzying array of implements that are not much more than 2” wide, moving it across treacherous real estate to a 4” hole a quarter mile away . . . . well, I think you can see what we golfers challenge ourselves with.
But it all starts with a genuine understanding of what exactly it is you are trying to get your body to do. And my bet is that you have never really achieved that clear understanding. Forget all the tips, lessons and opinions of your friends, and get a copy of Ben Hogan’s “Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.” You won’t ever swing like Hogan, but you can learn a lot from his in-depth dissection and understanding of the golf swing. In my opinion, no one has ever done it better. This book will give you a solid understanding of just how the body is supposed to function in the golf swing
Then, “get small”. Forget the course and shot outcomes and teach your body to do that “golf swing thing”. Mimic those pictures and positions and learn how a fluid swing feels. Pose and move through the swing positions in front of a full length mirror. See in your mind while you feel what your body is supposed to do to execute a fundamental golf swing.
Spend time with your putter and wedges in your hands, hitting putts of all distances and all kinds of short chips and pitches. These strokes happen slower than the full swing and are easy to analyze and learn. Once you have the feel of solid impact and fluid tempo on these scoring shots, move on out to the fuller swings with the same feel.
And finally, accept that, in the words of John Madden, “you never ‘get’ golf”. It is challenging game that sees tour professionals shoot 80 on occasion, and a 59-year old Tom Watson “take it to the kids” at another. Be easy on yourself as you learn and enjoy all the aspects of the game – the score is only a small part of it. Outdoors, fascinating architecture, fresh air . . . the benefits are numerous. And of all my lifelong friends, the vast majority came from golf.
Like anything worth having, it doesn’t come easy, but it is darn well worth the journey. Chris, take the time, and give the attention to try to “get golf”, and it will reward you many times over. It is truly the game of a lifetime.