KNOW THYSELF            

By Tom Abts







Have you been to a restaurant that has everything on the menu? Italian, Chinese, Mexican, ribs, seafood, French, burgers, sushi, wraps… you know what I mean. They probably once had an identity, but started to lose money and then thought they could be successful by being everything to everyone. Or, maybe they never had a clear vision and just kept adding to their menu in the hope that something might work.

More, seldom means better. Better is better. Focus usually leads to better.

Panic seldom leads to good decision making. Usually when you’re in panic mode your mind is racing. Did you see Jon Rahm hit it into the water on #11 at The Player’s Championship? You know that his head was spinning. Years ago, Tom Weiskopf said that one sign of choking is making bad decisions.

Panic leads to poor decisions in everything – not just sports. A restaurant that’s losing money and in panic mode is not helping things by overly expanding their menu. A golf course that is losing money and trying to be everything to everyone will end up like Jon Rahm hitting it in the water. Golf has a lot of niches and the secret to success is to know your niche.

Does that mean being different just to be different? Not at all – it means knowing who you are. Remember when Coca-Cola abandoned Coke Classic? They almost folded. There will always be a market for classic things – especially if what made them classic is continued. Too often, what made a product classic was cheapened because the company thought that the name was enough to fool the public.

I’m all for options. But, I’m also for integrity and quality. And I think most people are too. They may not want the same things, but they don’t want junk.

That famous saying, “Know thyself” also applies to business.

“Know thyself” is being honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Our time is limited, so it’s difficult to turn our weaknesses into strengths. I love seeing it when it happens… however, we always have to weigh how much time and energy we have. Usually, it’s wisest to improve strengths and minimize weaknesses.

Jack Nicklaus was great because he was an incredible driver of the ball and a marvelous putter. He was never a very good wedge player and a mediocre chipper. Later in his career, he spent time on his wedge and chipping, but, it was more to minimize the weakness than turn it into a strength. He couldn’t risk losing the focus on his driving and putting – those were the strengths of his game that made him great.

Most of the recreational players that I see don’t have much control of the ball. Obviously, some recreational players can hit it really far, and some have very little distance. However, the real reason that neither one scores very well is that they just aren’t in control of the ball.

So, let’s talk about controlling the golf ball. What does that mean and how can we do it? Basically, it means understanding spin. Control comes from controlling the spin. Most people are so concerned about their golf swing, that they aren’t even aware of the spin of their shots. And/or they think spin is too advanced for their level of play. Wrong. Understanding spin is basic to hitting a golf ball. It is for everyone… not just experts.

We all understand how spin works in ping-pong. It’s the same concept in golf. Think of your golf clubs as big ping-pong paddles. Actually, with a smaller paddle and a loooong handle. That’s what makes golf more difficult than ping-pong. Most golfers are too obsessed with the body during the swing. What really matters is controlling the golf club. You need a motion and movement to swing the club, but if you can’t control the club with your hands… you can’t control your shots. Then, shots are just random and good shots are just good luck.

Let’s start with the putter. The putter has basically a flat face so you can roll the ball. Most golf clubs have loft so you can hit it up in the air. Don’t laugh. Most people don’t understand this and don’t understand why clubs are designed how they are, and how they should be used. The other flat-faced club is the driver. It is designed that way because it should be used with a tee. The lack of loft makes it very difficult to hit off of the fairway.

Back to the putter. Practice spinning the ball with your putter. You don’t have to go to the course – do this at home on a rug or carpet. Try to top the ball with your putter to put top-spin roll on the ball. Then, put slice spin on the ball… open the putter face and swing it from right-to-left as you hit the ball… that should make the ball spin left-to-right. Then, put hook spin on the ball… close the face and swing the putter from right-to-left as you hit the ball… it should spin from right-to left.

When you can do these spins with your putter… do the same spins using your driver as a putter. You can actually putt pretty well with your driver. And, you can make it spin on a putt, or with a full driver swing off a tee… it’s the same technique.

And it’s the same technique with every club in your bag. Obviously, it becomes more difficult to add sidespin to the clubs that have a lot of loft – such as a wedge. But you can still do it, and should learn how to do it… especially for chip shots.

Many players slice with their driver but not with other clubs. They think it’s because they make a different swing with their driver. Not so. Because the driver has so little loft… sidespin is exaggerated. The loft on short irons and hybrids minimizes side spin.

After you’ve learned how to spin the golf ball… you need to figure what works best for you. You’re probably not Chi Chi Rodriguez who enjoy spinning every shot all kind of crazy ways.

To go back to the opening paragraph, you’re now like the chef who’s learned how to prepare all types of food, but needs to find his specialty or specialties. Same with you and the golf swing. You’ll be more comfortable either drawing the ball or fading the ball… hitting it high or hitting low. You need to have the understanding of how it works so that you can do it. Just making random swings and hoping you get lucky… is like the chef just throwing together ingredients and hoping it tastes good.

No one is perfect – at golf or cooking. But, that’s no excuse not to know what you’re doing.

Dive in. The process is almost as much fun as playing the game. Just like everything in life.