The Teacher Becomes The Student
One of the most interesting things about golf to me is that you never learn it all, and in fact, you never stop having to “re-learn” what you already know.
I had a great “refresher course” a few days ago in our regular Sunday afternoon game. Even though I write about playing better golf weekly, and do my podcast on GolfSmarterTips.com, I, like you, go astray more often than I’d like.
The best player at our club is a dentist, Mark Spivey. Mark is a scratch player, and has one of the best short games I’ve ever seen in an amateur. And he makes everything with the putter. He reads our difficult greens perfectly, it seems, so anytime he is over a putt of any length, he has no doubt in his mind at all that he knows exactly where to start his ball, and what pace it needs to have on it to take the roll he envisions. And he makes lots of putts of all lengths.
Mark is also very tall – 6’4”, I think – so he always has his arms nice and relaxed, hanging naturally and extended from his shoulders.
Well, I’ve been struggling with putting lately, and have apparently not been reading my own stuff. But once you get in these struggles, sometimes it takes an “ah ha moment” to register what you are doing. As I watched Mark knock in another clutch six footer on the last hole, it hit me – he is so naturally “extended” and relaxed over the ball, making a simple and clean back-and-through stroke is almost automatic.
I had already putted out, but walked over and hit some putts after we finished, just focusing on allowing my arms to hang naturally – emulating Mark as best I could.
It was like a magical transformation.
What I had apparently allowed to happen over the past few rounds, when I wasn’t putting all that well, was to begin bending over more and more at the waist/hips, causing me to have to “bunch up” my arms and lose that natural swinging stroke that is so easy to repeat from hole to hole. After noticing this with Mark’s last-hole putt, I straightened up a bit, allowed my arms to hang naturally from my shoulders and just began rolling putts right where I was looking again.
I share this with you for two main reasons. First, in the words of John Madden, “you never ‘get’ golf”. It’s a constant pattern of being “on” and being “off”.
When you are on, enjoy it, but when you are off, get reflective in your own game and try to determine what you are doing differently than when you were playing better.
Secondly, when you are playing, closely watch those other players who are “on”, and see if you can determine things they're doing right.
Watch their tempo, their demeanor and how they are approaching and executing their shots. Whether you play with low handicap players or buddies of your own skill level, someone will be playing well, and you can learn by observing what they are doing right that day.
As always, please chime in with your thoughts on this subject.
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Letting the arms hang naturally is a key to good putting. For me, my left arm feels more natural if I putt cross handed. I still have some trouble starting the ball on the line that I see. Maybe this is an alignment problem....
Thanks and keep up the good work ! !
I think you make a great point, so often when I go out with the guys I focus to much on what I'm doing and not enough on somebody else who may be having a better run. It's often the case that the best way to pull out of a slump is by watching those that are playing all around you and translate that into your own game.
Great post Terry. Absolutly correct about letting the arms hang. That is in many ways an attempt to reduce tension which leads to better feel. I find my long puts are much better when I am not as tense. Do you think the same principles work for chipping?
I absolutely believe the same principles apply to chipping, pitching and actually, every full swing. Watch the best players on TV and you'll see none of them are "extended" with the arms at address on the short shots. To a player, their arms are relaxed and hanging naturally from their shoulders.
Michael Ehmke says:
I am a big believer in keeping the game simple. Use what God gave you. Don't do anything that is not natural. Any extra effort you put in to the swing is hurtful. Think about it. Even down to how you stand. I like the article. Would like to know your thoughts on what I call effortless golf. I see so many golfers get into such contorted positions it makes my back hurt just looking at them. And most of the time they are not enjoying the game and come off the course tired and miserable. We pay to enjoy the game. Why make it harder than it has to be.
I like your term "effortless golf". What I like to do is keep it as "natural" as possible. I'll be writing about this idea of "natural" in the coming weeks, but thanks for reminding me. And I hope all of you have a very Merry Christmas.
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