At the age of forty six Bobby Jones was stricken by a crippling disease. He could no longer play the game he so loved. In his book Golf is my Game, Bobby produced what I think is the best book ever written about golf. In the first chapter, entitled Learn by Playing, Bobby addresses the subject of how golf should be learned, and/or taught. Bobby wrote:
"Since I have been unable 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 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.
Most of our successful tournament players have come up as caddy boys, like Sarazen, Hogan, and Nelson; or, like myself, as sons of members of golf clubs, turned out to pasture with a club or two and a few balls. They have 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."
Bobby Jones wrote--and they are the Master's own words--a classic book on golf in Golf is my Game. It contains the crystalized wisdom of one of golf's greatest personalities and champions. If it isn't part of your golf library, I can only suggest that you acquire a copy. In the introduction Bobby described what he had attempted to do in writing the book. He wrote:
"What I have attempted in this book, although less ambitious, I believe will appeal to the vast majority of people who play golf. I have suggested ways of making a mental approach to the game, of thinking through the playing of shots and of managing one's resources so as more often to enable the player to approximate the highest level of performance to which he has a right to aspire."
Bobby Jones understood that golf is a game that involves striking a ball with a club and trying to get the ball in the hole in fewer whacks than your opponent. He realized that golf was not about pretty swings, or even pretty shots, it was about the score. Bobby Jones reminds those of us who might have forgotten that golf is a game and it is best learned by playing it. It's just a shame that it generally isn't taught that way.
So, if you are just learning the game; or just looking to improve; by all means try to gain sufficient knowledge about the golf swing in general and yours in particular. Then try to find pleasant companions to play with and throw yourself whole-heartedly into playing the game. Rather than worrying about your swing, focus instead on making the lowest score you possibly can with the swing you possess that day. That's what golf is really all about and, according to Bobby Jones, that's how it should be learned.