Golf is Fun…When You Know What You Are Doing
By Luke Benoit, PGA Professional
Not that long ago I was teaching a beginner golfer. He told me right away about a big work tournament he had coming up in a couple months. Like most golfers new to the sport he thought it was important to get the ball into the air with some regularity. He was right about this, but his insistence that this turn of events happen now was misplaced. He had been playing for about a year and had a terrible golf swing with a tempo so quick it looked like or maybe caused a seizure. We were 5 minutes into our first lesson and I hadn’t even given him any tips yet when he turned to me after another topped shot and blurted out, “I need to stop thinking so much”. At that moment, I knew exactly what he meant. His brain was so overloaded with swing thoughts that he couldn’t actually make solid contact with the golf ball. He spewed out his thoughts like a guilty Catholic at his first penance. Out came a word salad only a type “A” golf channel addict could come up with. Head down, left wrist extended, weak grip, attack angle down, swing path rigth, swing plane flat. He even finished with some brilliant, but grossly inappropriate comment about D plane. It was highlight real material I wish I had on tape. I said “Wow. That’s a lot of stuff. Now clear your head and hit one without thinking”. He tried. It was still garbage. He topped it so badly it actually got some air from the rebound off the mat.
At that moment, I showed him the carnage on video. It was painful, but he took it like a champ. There were about 98 things wrong, but I stopped at 19. Then I turned off the projector and it all went dark for him. No more numbers to look at, no more ball flight. He could freely top the ball, but Trackman would not know where it went and neither would we once the ball hit the screen. Just a man with a ball, a club, and a dream — to not suck at golf. At that moment a new golf swing began to emerge. Over the next 45 minutes, we put together a swing with a molasses backswing that went up to his waist. Then he paused for 3 seconds to bow his left wrist and shallow his plane. Next, he hammered his left heel into the ground and swung to a full finish. We did the first 40 shots with a pitching wedge and a ¼ inch tee. Pretty soon he was consistently banging high draws out there 125 yards and I took the tee away. He struggled a bit more without the tee, but I could tell he was finally getting it. He had never hit the ball so solid, yet his swing felt comically short and his wrist was sore. He could not believe that the ball actually went further without a backswing and that it didn’t slice anymore. I told him his old swing was so bad at storing energy that literally everything that happened above his bellybutton was a waste, which is why the new swing worked so well.
Over the next few weeks, we continued to grind. The molasses backswing turned into a rhythmical waltz followed by a bump of the hips and a swivel of the left knee. Soon he was posing for each shot like he expected it to go in. After a couple of months, I asked him what he had learned from the process. He said that thinking isn’t bad, it’s necessary. The problem arises when you think you know what you’re doing but actually have no clue. The man went on to play well in the tournament. He continued to struggle at times, as we all do, but the mental breakthroughs he made stuck and within a year he was breaking 80. Every once in the while we still turn off the projector and dig deep, but the tension is gone, as are the seizures. Golf is fun when you know what you’re doing.