Learning The Game
I have to start today’s column with a commentary on the Masters. That one tournament always promises to boil down to the back nine on Sunday, but I don’t ever remember that many players having a chance to win the last two hours or so of the tournament. Wow. What drama and great viewing entertainment.
It was hard to watch Rory’s collapse, but the kid handled it with class and grace, and I’m sure he’ll be a star. There’s just something to be said for character. Same kudos to Luke Donald and others who came close but didn’t quite get there, but showed grace and character in coming up short. Can’t say the same for the former #1 player in the world. He needs his mouth washed out with soap, and an intense study of the grace, class and character of champions who’ve come before him. And until then, I’d just as soon he not be on the TV, or even the tour. Just my $.02 worth.
Now on to what Tuesdays’ columns are all about – helping you play better golf and giving away an EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge. And today’s topic is about learning (or re-learning) the game. It was stimulated by a question from Gary M., who asked:
“I’ve been playing most of my adult life, but have been stuck in the 90s-100s for most of it. I am fed up, and willing to “start over” if I have to, but should I? How can this game be so hard?” Help!”Well, Gary, don’t give up . . . but your idea of starting over isn’t really a bad one. It’s like remodeling an old house. As you start to tear into it, sometimes you find that just starting over is the easier and faster/cheaper route to what you want.
I’m a firm believer that starting to learn golf, or starting over, should be done from the hole backwards. Learn to roll the ball on the green with sound, fundamentally solid stroke mechanics – good grip, light touch, slow pace, minimal hand action, rotation of the shoulders . . .
Once you get the feel for how the club interacts with the ball and how the body makes it function reliably, you can advance to the edge of the green, exchange the putter for an 8- or 9-iron and expand the putting stroke to a chipping mini-swing. This evolution will allow a little hinging of the wrists and movement in the lower body, in addition to the shoulder/torso rotation. Because the chipping swing is short and slow, it gives you the ability to study your own swing and be precise in its movements. You can learn how the left side leads, the path of the hands through impact and other basic fundamentals much easier when you are only making mini-swings at slow speeds.
From the chipping swing, it’s just another small step to lengthen that into a half-way-back and through pitching swing – use your gap wedge to start. Same mechanics, same slow tempo/rhythm, increasing the engagement of the torso and legs and keeping the hands low and quiet through the impact area. The benefit of learning basic impact fundamentals on these shorter shots is that they are slower and more deliberate. This allows the slow-motion learning process of analysis and review, action and correction. And this part of the game can be learned anywhere – it doesn’t require a driving range.
Once you have learned a sound putting stroke, increased that to a solid chipping mini-swing, then expanded that to a half-wedge pitching swing, you have the foundation for continuing the growth to a full wedge shot, irons, etc. And the slow, deliberate tempo and rhythm you learned in the short game will make your long game powerful and accurate.
That’s a lot to get into in one article, but I really believe that if we taught golf to beginners from the hole backward, the dang game wouldn’t prove so hard, and anyone could be an 80s shooter in short order.
What’s your take, guys and gals?
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Hello Wedge Guy,
I am totally there with Gary M and I think you have captured a great outlook on the game. I got lost in the mechanics of the swing last season and really got no improvement but I picked up the Ben Hogan book and just worked on the wedge half swing tempo and feel. Sure it's good to know the mechanics but you can't have it in your mind on the course. Tempo and feel for all shots, and the starting point for this is the most important club, your putter. I am trying a pre round routine ... putting, chipping, pitching, (irons,driver not needed) ... always end with putting !!! Standing on the first tee the mind is in tempo and feel land. Once there you will feel your outlook change on how you play and perhaps your score will follow this. I hope mine will this season. Hey even the great struggle with this, Rory Mc, but he showed us his character to take it with grace and live to play another day. Just like the rest of us every weekend. Ha! Cheers
Agreed. In addition, being most experienced at putting takes pressure of your chipping and pitching because you know how to get the ball in the hole once it is on the green. A good short game takes pressure off your iron play because you know if you miss the green, you can get up and down. Having confidence with your irons and wedges takes pressure off of you when on the tee. Learning it backwards is the only way to go, and if I ever have kids who are interested in golf, I will buy them a putter and a ball to start with.
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