Patience is a Virtue

Game Improvement is a Long-Term Investment

October 5, 2004

In a world of fast food, DSL, and guaranteed overnight deliveries, improving the golf game can seem like a long and difficult process; especially when a golfer wants to turn his chunky pull-slice into a power draw with a one-hour lesson.

As a teaching professional, I have had the pleasure of working with golfers from many places around the world, and the one word I try to learn in other languages is patience. I’ve learned it in German and Korean, and even in Irish slang.

quote-patienceThe problem that leads to frustration is that most golfers have little understanding of how the many parts of the golf swing fit together (which is my job after all, not theirs). If a player has been aiming to the right and pulling the ball in an effort to get it back to the target, we cannot fix just the alignment and then expect to see perfect shots; we also have to eliminate the compensation, in this case a pull.

I had a golfer at the driving range today whose grip caused the ball to go to the right, but his clubface alignment told the ball to go left. He took the clubhead too far inside during the backswing, which promotes a rightward ball flight, then slammed his arms through the hitting area trying to make it go back to the left. He lunged toward the target-ball goes right; flipped his wrists sideways-ball goes left.

Basically, this golfer’s swing was like a roll of the dice. He had three parts of the setup and swing telling the ball to go right, three parts telling it to go left. When he got them all lined up and timed them perfectly the ball would go straight. But there were too many competing factors for him to see consistent results.

After working on his grip, we would both have been thrilled to see immediate results – a high, straight, and long shot. But all we had done to that point was change the odds, when he rolls the dice, in favor of the three parts that still encourage a leftward ball flight. This is why I spend half of my workday saying things like, “Don’t worry about the ball yet,” which is like telling a stock market junkie not to watch the ticker tape. We all want the quick return, but in the game of golf we usually have to approach improvement like a long-term investment.

To get the consistency he wants, my client will have to work on several variables in his swing, which is more than we can do in one session. Fortunately this golfer is patient, willing to practice, and ready to take multiple lessons.

This process reminds me of a sign I saw in a pro shop once: it said that the fee for a single lesson is $1,000, but a series of five lessons costs $100. At the bottom it said, “If you want a miracle, you’ve got to pay for it.”

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