In the first chapter, entitled You Have More Potential Than You Think You Have, Sam cuts to the chase when it comes to the average golfer's apparent inability to improve despite the advances in golf equipment, golf-course conditioning and care, and golf instruction. Sam writes:
"WHAT'S the practical challenge in golf?
To get off the tee straight.
To keep up your concentration for the second shot.
To learn to play all the around-the-green shots as well as you can.
To get the ball in the cup on each green in no more than two strokes.
That about covers the game, don't you think? Anybody who can do that for eighteen holes is bound to shoot in the 80s or better.
Yet more than half the people playing golf around the world today can't break 100!"
So, there's the rub. With all this great equipment, on well-conditioned courses, and with all the great instruction available, why does the average golfer not find himself improving to the point where breaking 100 is not even a consideration, and breaking eighty becomes more the goal? What's the problem? Sam continues:
"Something's wrong somewhere. Hard as this game is--and I'd be the first to call golf the most complex mixture of do's and don'ts in sport--there should be some way for more people to play it more enjoyably, which of course means better. I don't mean pro-tour better. I just mean better in relation to a person's natural talent.
I've spent a lot of time with all kinds of pupils, on the lesson tee in between tournaments over the years. From what I've seen, I'm inclined to believe most people do have more potential for improvement than they think they have. Most people, if they use their abilities properly and hold onto their common sense, can get around even the meanest track with a decent-looking score... my views may sound too simple and straightforward at times, but I've never been a great believer in complicating an issue unnecessarily. A lot of instructional talk today comes out of the rare air in which a couple of hundred unusually gifted and highly trained touring pros operate, and really contributes little or nothing useful to the game of the weekend golfer."
Sam goes on to relate a couple of interesting stories. In the first instance he got a chronic slicer to change his grip, curing his banana ball. A couple of weeks later he encounters this fellow, only to find that he has changed his grip back and is back to playing from the trees on the right. When Sam asked the fellow what had become of the grip he had shown him, the slicer responded by saying: "That grip was fine, Sam. But I like my old grip better. This is me!" The moral of the story being, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.
Continuing on the subject, Sam wrote:
"Learning has to come from the inside, or it won't stick, as exemplified by the time I took a woman of average strength and coordination, who'd never played golf before, and steered her around a golf course in under 100. I steered her through each and every set up and swing, and, of course, she shot the score with my feel and my knowledge, not her own. When she did go out on her own, she flopped. She had nothing inside to call on.
Something like that particular failure often seems to take place in players who are lured by all the new golfing 'methods' that happen along. Actually, the fault lies not so much in the method as in the attitude of the golfer toward the method. You can't let a new golf method 'happen' to you--in the manner that you can lie back in the barber chair and let your hair get cut--because nothing lasting will come out of the learning experience. Your faults will grow back into your golf game just as surely as your hair grows back after a clipping.
So bear in mind, in reading this book, that building or rebuilding a golf swing takes a big commitment... Improvement takes time and patience and practice and desire, and none of it ever comes as easy as it looks. But that's how a sturdy, workable, lasting personal style in golf is achieved."
So, Sam makes no guarantees. He doesn't offer a fool-proof golfing system. He encourages us to find our swing, and to develop our unique style in playing the game. His next chapter, which I will next cover, explains why technique works better than method. I hope you will enjoy this timeless advice from one of golf's greatest players and sweetest swingers.