Golf Tip of the Week – Keeping it Real

Jim Flick passed away in November of 2012. He was one of golf’s most respected and honored teachers.  Flick thought that the majority of amateurs should be simply trying to swing the club with their arms and hands and allow the body to support that simple motion.  Ernest Jones (Google him) thought much the same way.  He also thought that being more engaged with the target than the ball was a better way for most of us to play the game. Sadly, this thinking is not very popular today and the reasons why can’t be addressed in today’s post. I will however, present an expanded article in the next few weeks on this subject. In the meantime, please give careful consideration to Jim Flick’s article below.  I’m not certain, but I believe it was his last posting for Golf Digest.  I’ve highlighted the points that are the most interesting.

Practice To Play

Stop thinking mechanically and become more confident on the course 

Jim Flick
Illustration by Dan Page
November 2012

I hear this all the time from average golfers and even struggling tour players: “I hit the ball great on the range, but I’m a different golfer on the course. I don’t have the confidence to make the same swing when I know a bad shot will get me in trouble.

Confidence comes from controlling the ball, but how do you go from hitting solid and accurate shots on the range to producing those same shots on the course? It’s helpful to understand the four stages of becoming a confident player:

  • First, you are unconsciously incompetent. You have no idea what to do in your swing or how to get there. This is the stage in which you learn the basics of the swing.
  • Second, you are consciously incompetent. You know what you want to do with your swing, but you can’t do it. You use drills prescribed by your teacher. It’s helpful to place rods or clubs on the ground to set up a “learning station” to check your alignment.
  • Third, you are consciously competent. On the range, you hit balls to perfect your swing, but you have to think mechanically to make the shot happen. Because you’re using verbal cues and thinking of positions, you often lose your tempo and rhythm.
  • Fourth, you are unconsciously competent. The best golfers compete in this stage. On the course they think about the conditions, select the right club, and play shots from point A to point B by focusing on the target. They no longer think about positions but feel how to use the club to create shots.

So how do you get from the first stage to the fourth? As Jack Nicklaus once told me, “I practice mechanics and play by feel.” Remember that practicing and warming up are two different things. When good players practice, they break the swing down into mechanical parts and then put those parts together to control the clubhead–and the ball. This is the only time these players think about swing mechanics. When they warm up before a round, they forget mechanics and rehearse hitting shots to various targets, creating playing situations. Seve Ballesteros would “play” entire holes before his round: Replicating a par 5, he’d hit a driver, then a 4-iron layup then a wedge approach. When he got to the first tee, he felt he’d already played a few holes and was in the rhythm of the round.

A strong picture can override a flaw in your swing to produce a playable shotOn the range, practice visualizing the entire shot, the ball curving in the direction you want, then landing where you intend and rolling to your target.Use the same visual technique when you hit real shots on the course. You’ll be on your way to playing your best golf ever.

FLICK, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at the TaylorMade Learning Center, in Carlsbad, Calif.

Dan’s additional comment: In the end, trying to make a golf ball go where you want is a physical activity not a mental exercise. There is a visual-neurological process happening that is more biological than it is in-swing processed mechanics. A common name for all of this?  Hand-eye coordination.  Swinging a club and striking a round piece of plastic can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I think simple as possible is best but I see most golfers making it as difficult as possible. What do you think?


One thought on “Golf Tip of the Week – Keeping it Real

  1. Great article, modern golf instruction has taken us miles away from our body in response to a swinging club. Flick’s method worked beautifully and produces an unhurried perfectly timed rhythm without any wasted body movement.


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