Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Golf is a Game

I think Bobby Jones touched upon something so obvious it is often overlooked when it comes to golf.  Consider what he had to say in the first chapter of his book Golf is my Game:

   "Since I have not been able to play for more than ten years, I have had that much more time to think.  Much of my thinking has been of golf and how best to teach or to learn the game.  It seems obvious to me that writing about the golf swing has become too technical and complicated, and even the most earnest teaching professional presents the game to his pupil as a far more difficult thing than it really is.  It is equally obvious to me that what the game needs most if it is to continue to grow in popularity is a simplification of teaching routines which will present a less formidable aspect to the beginner, and offer the average player a rosier prospect of improvement.

   The trouble could be, and I think it is, that golf is not taught as it is learned.  It is taught more as a science or as a prescribed set of calisthenic exercises, whereas it is learned as a game."

Bobby goes on to talk about the experience of most of the top players of his day, as well as his own.  They learned the game in the caddie yard, or as sons of members of a golf course, who as boys were given a couple of clubs and learned to make them work playing for nickels with their mates.  Hes wrote: "They learned to play golf, just as others have learned to play baseball, by playing and playing and playing because they liked the game.  In most cases it has only been after gaining considerable proficiency that thoughts of method have been of much concern."

I think Bobby hits on a very important idea here.  We need to remember that golf is, first and foremost, a game.  And it is best learned that way.  It is best learned as a game in which the goal is to get that little white ball in that little hole in as few strokes as possible.  There are no points for style.  

In this respect, I like Bob Toski's idea; that golf be taught from the putting green back to the tee.  Harvey Penick also shared that view.  Learn to get the ball in the hole.  Ben Crenshaw learned that way.  Learn to hit solid putts first; then solid chips; then short wedge shots.  Work your way back to the driver.  Golfers who learn the game this way will inevitably have the advantage over those who go first to a driving range to be taught mechanics, or to pound drivers.

If you are having trouble with the game, go to the putting green with a putter and a wedge.  That's where you'll start to find the answers.  Golf is a game.  It really is.