John, a successful entrepreneur started playing golf at a company outing. He soon got hooked on the game and decided he wanted to become a good player. He had plenty of money to spend on golf lessons and ended up going to see some of the best known teachers in the game, they were all on Golf Digest’s top 100 Teachers.
His game didn’t improve. Each teacher he saw contradicted the previous one. First he stood up too tall, then his posture was too upright. After seeing those teachers, going to their 4 day workshops, he ended up more confused than ever. He would make incremental gains, then lose them as quickly as they came. He was in golf overload, and he still couldn’t break 90.
Larry, a successful feel player when he was young, was now turning 60 and decided he needed more distance to play better. After seeing a number of teachers, his head was filled with tips and swing thoughts. The new distance did not materialize, and now his body was confused. He used to be able to self diagnose and make changes on the course, but he had so much going on in his head that he couldn’t play the way he used to. It took him years to get back to playing golf the way he used to, from feel.
Although I’ve changed the names to protect the innocent, these are not unusual stories. There is more information than ever on the golf swing. There are so many websites advertising their tips. Golf magazines are filled with instruction. But is the average golfer getting any better?
Sadly the answer is no. Average golf scores have not changed in the past 20 years, even with the improvements in technology and equipment, the care of the courses, and the huge amount of information available to your average golfer.
So what is happening? Is golf just a really hard game, or are there other reasons the average score has not dropped?
A new player to the game certainly faces some challenges to begin. Where and who should I take lessons from? What equipment do I need? Should I use Stack and Tilt, One Plane or Two Plane, X Factor? Should I use Phil Mickelson’s short game technique or Stan Utley’s? Should I learn the golfing machine? Should I buy an ebook? Should I just figure it out myself with tip from magazines and the internet? Should I just use a video camera and some swing analysis? What about Leadbetter, Butch, or Haney?
In the old days golf was simpler to learn. You were a member at a golf club (the only way it was possible to even play the game) and you learned from the teaching staff at the club, which was led by a Head Pro. If you wanted to get better, you took lessons from him, and you played. You might mention something you saw Ben Hogan do, and the pro would determine whether you should incorporate it or not. There was no video analysis and it was about feel.
I think the expansion of the game, making it available for anyone, has been phenomenal. I think it’s great there are so many public courses. Because the golf equipment sector is so competitive, a new player can actually get good equipment fairly cheaply if they get last year’s model. There are so many resources to learn about the golf swing and I think all of that is good.
One problem that this wealth of information creates, interestingly enough, is uncertainty. A golfer can quickly be overloaded with choices and information. It’s no wonder the average golfer hardly improves. Too much information leads to either paralysis by analysis or making choices that end up working against each other. Hopping from swing theory to swing theory is a simple way to confuse your body. But it’s understandable why this happens. Golfers don’t see improvement, so they ditch what they are doing, for the next thing they see that promises to solve their problems.
In the next few articles from this series we will look at the different methods available, the impact of technology and equipment and what it takes to make real improvement.