The Golf Book Green Cathedral Dreams
0 11 mins 2 yrs

We were all beginners at one time or another. Golf for the beginner can be a tough ask. I was putting my clubs away in my car and happened to strike up a conversation with a new convert to the game of golf. She shared with me what it is like for her standing over the golf ball with so many instructions from her PGA professional teacher running through her head. I remembered those days when my own instincts in regard to the golf swing were so far off the mark. It was tough but exciting too. The ball could and would go anywhere. I met a lot of new friends out on the course, often, in the most embarrassing situations. Developing a thick skin is pretty important as a golfing newbie too. Learning to laugh at yourself is de rigueur on the golfing journey.

The 3 Most Important Steps Toward Playing Good Golf

After decades of playing golf and attempting to develop a better swing what are the 3 most important things, I would share with the golf beginner? Firstly, I would say that coming to terms with the fact that golf clubs are tools is the number one thing the golfer needs to grasp. We live in a largely theoretical/conceptual age, where much of the practical stuff is done for us. Devices and machines do almost everything on our behalf. There are, however, no buttons you can push in golf to swing that golf club. A golf club is a tool on the end of a stick. Get to know the feel of that iron cutting its way through the grass. Start with a wedge and practice cutting the grass. Understand how the shape and angles of the bounce and leading edge interact with the turf. Chipping and pitching with the wedge will give you a feel of how club, ball, and turf interact. Golf is not a theoretical game it is real, and you need to know your tools intimately.

Beginner to Good Golfer

Many new golfers stand over the golf ball with all these thoughts running through their head. Thoughts about becoming a good golfer. Thoughts about things their teaching pro might have imparted to them. Thoughts about targets ahead. Not enough consideration, however, of the lie in which their golf ball sits and an understanding of how each club face/head will interact with that lie. Golf clubs are tools and like a good tradesperson an understanding of how those tools work is essential. An example of this is the huge number of experienced golfers who have next to no idea about the gear effect on the face of the driver.

This is why the face of the one wood or driver is convex and not just a flat surface. You may have noticed that it bulges out in the middle and tapers away to the toe and heel. Hitting the golf ball out of the toe will see it start right and then go left. A heel strike will promote a left then right journey. A centre sweet spot strike aligns the mass of the driver behind the middle of the golf ball to produce much greater distance. Golfers need to comprehend the tools they are using and not just assume stuff conceptually. Spend some time with your golf clubs not just on the odd occasion you play a round. Practice sessions on the range are the obvious steps here but you could take the late great comedienne Bob Hope’s example. Mister Hope carried his 2 wood with him at all times he was not on stage or filming.

Bob Hope with his trusty 2 wood!

14 clubs are probably too many for the game of golf, but that discussion is for another time. I would advise you really get to know your putter first and foremost. It is this club that the average golfer uses more than any other during a round – count up the number of putts over 18 holes. Walk around the house with your putter and gaze lovingly upon its visage and form. Really see the angles and how this tool is put together. People wonder why they struggle at golf, and they only have a fleeting relationship with the tools they use to play the game with. Folks talk about the game being a mental one but that is the problem the modern human lives in his or her head. Golf is about hitting a small ball with a stick; it is not rocket science. Get to know your sticks. Feel the heads and get some tactile data. Engage with your golf clubs and how they work. Too many beginners are so caught up with their swings and being told what to do that they neglect the basics. Golf professionals last century had to use the tradesman’s entrance at golf courses and were not allowed in the club house. This is because they worked with their hands and real gentlemen did not sully themselves with manual work. The key here is that golf is an artisan trade involving tools. Get to know your tools if you want to play good golf!

What is the second essential to grasp about playing golf?

Robert Sudha Hamilton

The golf swing is all about timing. When I am swinging sweetly everything is unhurried and effortless. Timing is all about coming back to yourself and feeling your own tempo. You cannot have a bunch of foreign thoughts bouncing around inside your head and expect to hit good shots. You must own your own swing. You need to find your own moves and what works and what doesn’t. I am all for getting professional help from a PGA teaching professional, but you must integrate this into your own sense and feels. It is a process of bringing movements into a sequence of events under your particular tempo. The teacher or coach can direct you and point you in the right direction but you must climb the mountain yourself to put it all together into your own swing. Golf for the beginner starts here!

People who have an expectation that they can sashay out onto the golf course every now and then to play competent golf are kidding themselves. This not a push button game. Golf is akin to an art form. Zen and the art of golf. It is an opportunity to gain greater self-awareness about what your body is doing. The physical mechanics in the golf swing are not natural moves. It takes time and application to master the correct sequence of moves with the necessary tempo. Once you are out on the course under the gun of competitive play it is easy to lose your tempo and rhythm.

As a beginner you feel that everyone is watching you and waiting for you to make a terrible mistake. This is, of course, ridiculous, as golfers are only interested in themselves. We are all obsessed with our own swings and nobody elses.

The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams

You must learn to block out your anxieties about other people’s expectations. In reality they don’t exist anyway. The newbie golfer must journey into her or his own private Idaho. A club champion golfer once said to me to imagine that I am swinging inside a telephone box when I am competing out on the course. This creates a sense of privacy and a compactness of swing. It is all about timing and you have to be able to relax into your golf swing whatever the circumstance. Professional golfers are able to focus on their own game and not concern themselves with fans watching or whatever.

The third thing to grasp is taking the space. I have observed within myself and in other golfers that beginners do not own the space when playing golf. This can especially be seen on the green. The new to the game golfer seems to be embarrassed about taking too much time whilst putting. This is one of the big reasons why they often miss makeable putts. They do not own the space when it comes to playing shots. If you lack self-esteem as a golfer, you will unconsciously exhibit behaviour consistent with feeling like you do not belong out there on the links. Therefore, you will not take the proper amount of time to get set at address. The golf swing in all its forms demands a proper address. If you rush things from an unsound foundation, you seriously reduce the percentage likelihood of striking a good shot or putt. Putting particularly demands a solid base if you are to strike that putt squarely off the face into the hole. If you feel like a pretender out on the course you will play like one. Fake it until you make it. Take the space and suck up that discomfit. The more you do it the sooner you will genuinely feel that you belong.

Golf for the beginner is not easy but if you take on board some of this advice you may accelerate the process toward playing good golf. Find more instructional gold in The Golf Book: Green Cathedral Dreams by Robert Sudha Hamilton


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