Attaining Perfection

Searching for it; working on it; dialing it in; figuring it out.  I do it, you do it.  It’s never-ending isn’t it? Looking for a way to make the magic continue is our quest.  “I want to be more consistent”  is what I’ve heard most from students when I ask them what they want to accomplish – except for maybe,  “If I could hit my driver farther I know I’d have a lower score”  (my tongue is in my cheek on that one.)

There are players who believe that mastering a certain thing – or group of things – will lead them to perfection.  What a load of hooey!  In its most severe scenarios, perfectionism and golf will create a downward spiral so vicious that a player becomes totally lost in the black abyss and can’t find their way back – ever.  Some players even quit the game because they just can’t accept realistic success percentages.  Depending on your outlook, playing golf is a nightmare waiting to happen or an immersive experience that brings together an exciting series of emotional and physical delights.

Only golfers who truly understand how the game works can be called players of the game.  True players of the game enjoy everything about it – the ebb and flow of the game and the ups and downs of physical/mechanical performance.  True players of the game exist at every skill level.  I know some 15 handicaps who are players and I know some professional golfers who are not.  The real difference is being able to accept how the game works and enjoy EVERYTHING the game offers – including going back to basics in order to sort out problems.

No player in history has understood this better than Jack Nicklaus.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction of his book,  “Play Better Golf”   Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowden, Pocket Books, New York, N.Y. 1983.  Highlighted text is mine and for your consideration.

“One of the most frustrating – and fascinating – things about golf is its impermanence.  One day you “have it” and the next you don’t. This is true of every element of the game from driving the ball to holing it out.  The number one reason why no golfer can stay at his or her peak indefinitely is that human beings aren’t machines. Our ability to exactly repeat a certain set of actions is limited, and thus our abilities as shot-makers are bound to fluctuate, This is compounded by the tendency, present in all of us, to eventually overdo or exaggerate whatever we have found to be successful. In terms of the golf swing this tendency often creeps up on us subconsciously, but it is none the less destructive for that. And, when it has done its dirty work, reality has to be faced: if we want once more to play up to our maximum potential, the rebuilding or returning process must begin all over again.

Jack Nicklaus was clearly a true player. He knew what was possible and fully accepted the terms and conditions of the game.  He was humble in his approach and understanding.  He truly enjoyed EVERYTHING  the game had to offer.

Searching for it; working on it; dialing it in; figuring it out.  We all do it and it’s OK to work on stuff.  But, along the way we have to know that perfection is unattainable. We have to know when we’ve over-cooked something and lost our way.  And we have to know how to get back home.

Attaining Perfection

Putt Better Today. But Be Prepared for Ridicule!

If putting is driving you crazy maybe all you need to do is see better.   When you are behind the ball looking for the line and assessing speed your brain is doing that “hand-eye” coordination thing.  Then you set up to the ball and everything changes. You go from looking at your line with binocular vision (both eyes) to monocular vision (one eye).   Isn’t looking with both eyes better than using just one eye?  Isn’t the idea of putting about rolling the ball on your intended line? If these two points are indeed true, why is everybody standing parallel to the intended line?  Wouldn’t it be better to stand open to the line so you can see with both eyes?  Makes sense to me.

All of this begs the question:  If being open to the line – even as much as 90 degrees, makes sense, how come nobody in professional golf uses that style?  Well, K.J. Choi does, or at least he was in 2010.

Dan Hernandez PGA - Choi Putting

Dan Hernandez-Sam SneadActually, the seven-time Tour winner from South Korea is well aware his croquet-like, face-the-ball, left-hand-high, right-hand-low putting style is not quite new. He is fully versed on the history.  “First time since Sam Snead in 1968,” he said “After that, nobody did it on the PGA or the world.”

Why more players don’t putt this way is as common a rabbit-hole dialogue as anything else in golf.  I think it mostly has to do with conformity.  Committed non-conformity requires a massive amount of confidence.  You can’t care what people think or be worried about what will be said about you.  For professional golfers it is not possible to avoid the spotlight when they do something  “different.”    It is the rare player indeed who can pull off something  they know is effective but considered radical.

I’m not suggesting that everyone use this technique but I am suggesting that you open yourself to the line so you can see better and use your right arm and palm more effectively.  How much open that is will be a matter of preference.  You can usually figure it simply by opening until see better and go from there.  It has always made sense to me that using your right arm and palm to push the ball onto your intended line is the best way to putt.  If you are a right handed  player, it is illogical to circumvent your natural handedness by focusing on your left wrist and making it the guiding principle that produces control.

Rule 16-1e is there for a reason.  It’s just to easy to roll the ball on the intended line if you straddle the line!

Putt Better Today. But Be Prepared for Ridicule!

Golf Tip for June 3rd

Weather you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, golf is hard to play, let alone understand. No one will ever know all there is to know about the game – and there lies the beauty and magic of the game!  Golf is elusive. Golf is confounding. Golf is demoralizing and exhilarating at the same time. Golf is even really stupid sometimes.

Most understanding about how to play golf begins with the swing.  There are about a million ways to do it but most players are always looking for the magic bullet – that one thing that will bring about great golf shots every time.  As you might guess, there is no such thing. But, you can know this to be true:

  • Golf is really hard so it’s best to make everything as simple as possible
  • You can’t know what to do with your swing until you can freely swing the club.  What that means is:  “Swings”  are usually learned via a mind-numbing series of things to do instead of learning what the whole swing feels like first then turning your attention to a couple of very fundamental parts – but never forgetting how the whole thing goes.  Most players don’t know what a swing actually feels like.
  • A golf swing is a physical event not a mental exercise.

Stop by my campsite on the driving range and I’ll give you a quick overview of  whole vs. part leraning.  Don’t worry, it won’t be a lesson so you needn’t be concerned about messing up your game.

too many thoughts


Tip of the Week

Before I direct you to the tip here is a little background:

“Jack Nicklause’s Playing Lessons” is my all time favorite book. I used it extensively and it helped me understand how to play tournament golf.  I even went back to the lessons when I was struggling to pass my PGA Playing Ability Test (PAT).

There is nothing mechanical in the book, just lessons on how to play, how to think, and how to stay in the game.  In researching this week’s tip I somehow stumbled across Jack’s book on Amazon. Turns out that the book is now a collector’s item with a top price of $160!  Darn……my copy disappeared long ago – loaned to someone or lost in a move.  Especially troubling because my copy had Jack’s autograph in it – which I got because I took the thing to the L. A. Open one year – probably 1982 – and asked him to sign it for me.

I bring all this up this week because I found a wonderful site that reminded me so much of Jack’s book – Greg Norman’s Golf Tips.   On Greg’s site he has combined an excellent set of mechanical and non-mechanical tips – much like in Jack’s book. There are 100 “Instant Lessons” with drawings and a very brief description of each lesson.  There is additional content there as well from Norman’s golf manual called “Shark Attack!”

I wasn’t able to review all of the lessons but I did look at quite a number of them and didn’t find anything objectionable.  I was even pleased to see one about aiming the club-face first and another having to do with high targets. Both of these are common points during my own lessons that I have been teaching for a very long time.  OK, finally – click on the link below and I hope you find the information useful! Let me know if you have questions or comments.


Golf Tip of the Week

There are a few ways to hold a golf club.  When you click on the link below you’ll be taked to a really simple presentation on how to place your hands on the club.  I particularly like the 6th tab probably because I want almost all beginners to hold the club that way.  Naturally I see a few things in the article that I don’t completely agree with but  anyone following the general presentation will do fine.

There is no perfect grip for everyone and the way you end up holding it will eventually become a style preference. That said, the most critical component is:

1.  The hands work best when the palms are generally facing each other. In my first book I referred to this idea as a “NON-FIGHTING”  position.

2. Look for “gaps and spaces” in your grip during all phases of your swing – of course you can only do this in slow motion or in real time using a high speed camera.

If you have any questions about any part of your game, come and visit me at the Valencia Country Club driving range.

BBC SPORT | Golf | Skills | Need some help with your grip?


Tip of the Week

I was stunned recently when a junior golfer I was with didn’t know who Jack Nicklaus is. I did, in a loving and professional way, slightly admonish his Dad who was standing nearby. So, this weeks golf tip is for the youngsters who need to know and for everybody else who wants to hear some really great tips.

Jack Nicklaus – Golf Channel 12 Days of Instruction 2010 – YouTube.