Having a Ball with Golf


Golf is a simple game. You've got a bunch of clubs, and you've got a ball. You've got to hit the ball with a club into a series of holes laid out in the middle of a large grassy field. After you reach the 18th hole, you may want to go to the bar and tell lies to anyone you didn't play with that day about your on-course feats. If you are like most of us, you play golf for relaxation and a chance to see the great outdoors. If you are like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Greg Norman, you do this and make a bazillion dollars on top of seeing the great outdoors.

Of course, there are some obstacles. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, who called golf "a silly game played with implements ill-suited for the purpose," the game isn't always so straightforward.

Golf Education
Suppose that you just started to play golf by hitting some balls at the driving range. Your friends took you to the range at lunch, you launched a couple of balls into the sunshine and thought you might want to learn the game. Where do you go?

How to Get the Most from Your Lesson
Okay, so you're on the lesson tee with your pro. What's the drill? The first thing you need to be is completely honest. Tell your instructor your problems (your golf problems), your goals, the shots you find difficult. Tell him what style of learning-visual, auditorial, or kinesthetic-you find easiest. For example, do you like to be shown how to do something and then copy it? Or do you prefer to have that same something explained in detail so that you understand it?
No matter what technique you prefer, the instructor needs to know what it is. How else can the instructor be effective in teaching you something new?

Listen to Feedback
Now that you've done some talking, make sure that you let the pro reciprocate. After the pro has evaluated both you and your swing, he or she will be able to give you feedback on where you should go from there. So keep listening. In fact, take notes if you have to.
Don't rate the success or failure of a session on how many balls you hit. You can hit very few shots and have a very productive lesson. An instructor may have you repeat a certain swing in an attempt to develop a swing thought, or feel. You will notice when the suggested change is becoming more effective. Let the professional tell you when to hit and what club to use.
Don't do what a lot of people do; don't swing or hit while the pro is talking. Imagine that you are a smart chicken crossing the road-stop, look, and listen!

Overcome Your Doubts
Take it from me: Five minutes into every lesson, you're going to have doubts. The pro will change something in your swing, grip, or stance, and you'll feel weird. What you've been doing wrong has become ingrained into your method so that it feels comfortable. Change what's wrong for the better, and of course it'll feel strange at first. Don't panic. You'll probably get worse before you get better. You're changing things to improve them, not just for the heck of it. So give what you're told to do a proper chance. Give them a couple of weeks to take effect. More than two weeks is too long; go back for another lesson.

Ask Questions
Ask questions during your lesson. The pro is an expert, and you're paying them good money, so take advantage of their knowledge while they "belongs" to you. Don't be afraid of sounding stupid. Your question won't be anything the pro hasn't heard a million times before.

Stay Calm
Finally, stay calm. Anxious people don't make good pupils. Look on the lesson as the learning experience it is, and don't get too wrapped up in where the balls are going. Again, the pro will be aware of your nervousness. Ask him or her for tips on swinging smoothly. Nervous golfers tend to swing too quickly, so keep your swing smooth. Give yourself "time" during your swing to make the changes. What's important at this stage is that you make the proper moves in the correct sequence. Get those moves right, understand the order, and good shots are a given.

Ten Timeless Tips for All Skill Levels

Ten Rules to Follow When Learning

1. Find a good teacher and stick with him or her.
2. Follow a timetable. Discipline yourself to work on what you've been told.
3. Concentrate.
4. Learn from your mistakes. You'll make them, so you might as well make them work for you.
5. Relax. Take your time, and you'll learn and play better.
6. Practice shots you find most difficult.
7. Have goals. Remember, golf is a target game.
8. Stay positive. Golf is hard enough. A bad attitude only hurts you.
9. Stop practicing when you get tired. That's how sloppy habits begin.
10. Evaluate yourself after each lesson: Are you making progress?

Ten Things to Say When You Make a Bad Shot

1. I wasn't loose.
2. I looked up.
3. I just had a lesson, and the pro screwed me up.
4. I borrowed these clubs.
5. These new shoes are hurting my feet.
6. This new glove doesn't fit.
7. I had a bad lie.
8. The club slipped.
9. I can't play well when the dew point is this high.
10. The sun was in my eyes.

From Golf For Dummies, by Gary McCord with John Huggan. 1996 by IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. Excerpted by arrangement with IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. $19.99. Available in local bookstores, or call 800-762-2974., or visit their website at http://www.dummies.com