Golf: Why Is It So Hard?

It looks like the surge in golf play due to the Covid pandemic may be coming to an end. It’s too early in the year to evaluate how many people will be playing golf. However, I base my opinion on a visit to a local golf repair shop. This shop takes used clubs on consignment and sells them to the public. The last two springs have been pretty slim pickings because of many people either taking up golf for the first time or playing again after not playing for many years. During the height of the pandemic, golf was about the only thing you could do. The last two summers have seen more play than normal. There were what I called Covid foursomes. These were beginning players that had no idea how to play or what the game was all about. I visited the shop last week to get a couple of grips put on my clubs and the used club racks were filled to the brim. There were more clubs there than I have ever seen and I have been going there a long time. The fact remains that many people take up the game of golf, and after a year or two of playing, will quit the game. There are other stories of people who have played the game for years, and then after being so frustrated with their games, finally just throw in the towel and quit for good. What makes this game so difficult? I have always been hard on golf instruction, for not being very good at teaching the game and this is, indeed, a factor. There are, however, several things about golf that has nothing to do about trying to hit the golf ball, which makes the game unique, but also very difficult. Winston Churchill may have summed up golf best when he said, “Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into an ever-smaller hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the purpose”.

The first thing that makes golf so difficult is you are trying to hit a target with an object, and you are not able to look at the target. This is not lost on all of instruction. Some advocate that you look at the target and as soon as you look back at the ball you start your swing right away without delay. This sounds all well and good, but you still really have the same problem, you are not looking at the target when you are in the act of trying to hit the target. I feel this is even worse than trying to hit a target with your eyes closed. Think of any other situation where you are trying hit a target. Every time, you are looking at the target. I am a little surprised that putting while looking at the hole is not more popular. Tennis is similar, but the target is in the same place and distance every time. There are 18 times in golf that you hit the ball off the tee ground. On a golf course that has 4 par 3’s, 4 par 5’s and 10 par 4’s, that means that the other 18 full swings will most likely be totally unique shots. Not only will they have different distances to the green, but the lie of ball, the lay of the land, and the environmental conditions will all be different for all of those 18 shots. Let that one sink in for a while. In fact, I am thinking about it, and I think I will quit the game. What kind of swing are you going to groove for those kind of shots? Let me clue you in, you are not. You are going to have to make 18 adjustments for 18 shots during a round of golf. If you do not make those adjustments, you will hit the ball thin, fat, left, right, short or long of your target, depending on what adjustment you failed to make. Some shots, you may have to make 2 or 3 adjustments from your normal swing. The more slopes and hills a golf course has, the tougher all this becomes. Even if you have played some relatively good to great shots, you then have to deal with the nightmare called putting. Putting has nothing to do with the golf swing. Putting is to golf like a bowel movement is to eating. You have to do it but it is not near as enjoyable as the first part. Putting can save a hole or ruin a hole with no in between. Other than a club face coming in contact with a ball, putting has absolutely nothing in common with the process of hitting a golf ball. There are entire books just dedicated to putting. The worse part, it looks maddingly simple. Finally, there is the way that golf can just play havoc with your mind. It can get to the point where your body just simply does not function. It would be like putting a fork in your eye when you are trying to eat, or pouring something into a glass and missing the glass completely. In a nutshell, golf completely controls your being. It can be the scariest thing about golf and would make anybody quit the game.

If you continue to play the game after reading this, is there anything you can do to try and make such a powerful game more enjoyable. The short answer is no. I could go through the acceptance bullshit and that has some truth to it. Resignation may be a better word to use and cultivate when trying to play golf. What makes golf a great game is that everyone wants to help each other, even a competitor. Golfers seem to root for their fellow golfers. The game is the definition of good intentions. However, there is that little devil inside of all of us that does find some pleasure when the greatest players in the world hit some of the worst shots ever known to man. When those same players miss that 2-foot putt with a twitch of the putter that they could not possibly duplicate on the practice putting green, you shake your head and think it happens to them, too. Even those these players are millionaires, golf still makes their bodies do things that they just can’t believe and did not think was possible. This game is hard, and technique has nothing to do with it.

Golf: You Cannot Overswing.

If you look up the definition of overswing, it says trying to swing a bat or club too hard. By that definition, you can overswing in golf. However, overswinging in golf is defined as trying to take the club too far back on the backswing. Anytime the club head goes below the horizontal level at the top of the swing most instructors will call this overswinging. They use all kinds of excuses, like great hand eye co-ordination or lots of practice, to explain why some top players seem to overswing and still have had a lot of success in playing golf. The list will include John Daly, Phil Mickelson, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Nancy Lopez, Brooke Henderson, Tom Watson, and Gary Player to just name a few. Golfers of the 1920’s 30’s and 40’s had a tendency to have very long backswings. Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Lawson Little, Ted Ray, and Tommy Armour all had swings that went well below horizontal on the backswing. Because of calling overswinging a fault, it has caused many a golfer to have way too short of a backswing. Golfers have developed many ways to restrict the backswing because of this belief that you can overswing. This simply is not true. There is a much more of a tendency to not complete the backswing, due to being anxious about trying to hit the ball. In my view a nice long backswing aids in making the transition from backswing to downswing. Before we get into the benefits of realizing that you cannot overswing, let’s look at what “causes” overswinging, and how you can “correct” it. Unfortunately, I am going to have to be rather redundant in order to prove a point.

The breaking down of the left arm is not overswinging, it is the breaking down of the left arm. Over cocking the wrists is not even a fault but it certainly is not overswinging. Picking the club up with the arms is not overswinging, it is picking up the club with the arms. Loosening of the grip at the top of the swing is not overswinging, it is loosening of the grip at the top of the swing. Overturning of the hips I do not consider a fault, but it does not lead to overswinging. The collapsing of the left knee toward the ball is not overswinging but is collapsing of the left knee toward the ball. Not making a nice turn and coil on the backswing is not overswinging but is not making a turn on the backswing. If you overswing, your clubhead at the top of the swing will point to the right of the target and this will make you have a tendency to come over the top on the downswing. Watch the videos of Jack Nicklaus in, Golf My Way, and you will see his club cross the line, and points to the right of the target. I don’t think Jack came over the top on too many shots. All the things, and there are more, that I have just listed are things that “cause” overswinging. All of these things are significant faults, but they do not lead to overswinging, because overswinging does not exist, therefore is not a fault. You could correct every one of the above faults and by definition you could still easily overswing. In fact, all the pros that we mentioned had none of these faults. You could demonstrate every one of those faults and still not overswing. I think it is much more detrimental to your game by even thinking of trying to restrict your backswing in anyway. It causes the downswing to be rushed, and in order to make a shorter swing work, you must swing with a faster tempo, which is never a good thing for the average golfer. Now let’s look at the things that I do not consider faults, that really contribute to a nice long backswing that winds up being easy on the body and allows you to hit the ball powerfully and yet smoothly.

There is always going to be limitations on how far back a particular individual can take the club back on the backswing. The other thing that dictates the length of the backswing is the length of the club. The shorter the club the shorter the backswing. Swinging with different clubs is a subject for another blog. Fully cocking the wrists will help you make a much longer backswing. Sometimes this full cocking of the wrists is called the collapsing of the wrists, when trying to correct overswinging. The more you can cock your wrists the more of a snap you will get at the bottom of the swing, and this will increase you clubhead speed. To know how far you can comfortably cock your wrists, from your address position, simply pick the club straight up, using only your wrists. Get the feel for that and then simply turn your body as you would for your backswing, and you should be able to get the correct feel at the top of the swing. In order to have a nice long leisurely backswing you need to turn your hips as much as you can on the backswing. Golf instruction will say that you can overturn your hips. This is simply not true. You can turn your hips as much as you want as long as your weight stays on the right side at the top of the swing. Keep your grip nice and firm at the top and there should be no problem with a long backswing. Having a long backswing is the best way to have a nice easy tempo. It is the shorter backswing that requires a much quicker tempo. The quicker your tempo the more well time your swing must be. That is what requires more practice than anything, timing your swing. Don’t do anything that you think is going to restrict or inhibit your backswing. Just wind it up as much as you can in a nice easy fashion and then just start the backswing nice a slow with the hands coming straight down from the top. Your ball striking should improve, and your body should be able to swing the club much easier with less stress on those joints, tendons and muscles. See you on the links.

Meditation: How

How to meditate? It should be simple enough but if you google such a question, there are over 13 million results. I think even better are the related searches. These include meditation technique for beginners, meditating spiritually, ways to meditate at home, meditation how to start, and guided meditation. Then looking at images associated with meditation, they are almost all of people in various cross-legged positions with their arms in front of them and their eyes closed. Of 200 images, there were 2 lying down, 2 standing and 2 sitting in chairs, with all the rest in the cross-leg position. The videos for meditation will even go so far as to say that you can meditate wrong, which can-do damage to your mental health and wellbeing. In the videos, there is one that is called The No Bullshit Guide to Meditation. I find that amusing because many people feel that meditation is bullshit, so I don’t think it is a good idea to use the word if you are trying to get people to start. If you look under news, you will find articles and news reports on meditation, that are very recent. There is one written about 2 weeks ago for people who cannot sit still. Meditating while moving, perfect. They call this visualization meditation. Well, let’s just try and keep visualization and meditation apart, shall we. Despite what seems like an endless supply of videos, articles and books on meditating, there does seem to be some things missing and lots of PARTICULAR ways to meditate. Even for beginning meditation, there seems to be a very specific way to do it. Is there a way to meditate?

The answer to that question is simply no. Despite the list of the many benefits of meditation, there is only 3 things that meditation is designed to do. Meditation will relax the body, relax the mind, and to explore your inner self. When you begin meditation, one should concentrate on the first two, then worry about finding your inner self, once you have established a good solid routine. A meditation should last at least 20 minutes. That does not mean that when you start meditating you have to go for 20 minutes. This is what many of the beginning guides seem to leave out. They are so much into a so-called technique, that they seem to say that you have to start out doing it for 20 minutes. When you start out, meditating for 30 seconds to a minute is acceptable. This should be fine for people who cannot sit still. They should be able to handle 30 seconds and eventually work their way up to the 20-minute minimum. If you are just starting out and meditating for just 1 minute, you can do it 2 to 10 times per day. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Then just gradually stretch it, 30 to 60 seconds at a time. As far as a certain technique goes, there is none. Certainly, you can do the cross-legged style, sit on a chair or couch, or you can simply lay down on a bed or mat. The only thing about laying down is that you cannot fall asleep. I have meditated for almost 30 years sitting on a couch with my back supported by the couch in the crossed-leg position. You are just trying to relax the brain and the body, nothing else. Remember that sleep does neither. You can put your hands in front of you, to the sides, or in a prayer position, whatever is the most comfortable and logical for your meditation. There is only one other rule for meditation. You must do belly breathing. Belly breathing is simply your belly expanding on inspiration and contracting expiration. This is considered relaxation breathing, get it relax. The opposite of tension breathing, where your belly contracts on inspiration and expands on expiration. This is where laying on you back to meditate can be especially helpful, because when you are on your back you can really feel the difference between the two.

Believe or not that is it, my friends. It might seem like I have left out a few things, like the room being very quiet or dark, the time of day to do it, and using things like fragrances and music. All of these things may help, but they are not essential. Even the room being quiet is not essential when it comes to meditating. All you are trying to do is to relax, not figure out a calculus equation. You can meditate any time at all. Morning meditations are nice, but when you get the chance, meditate, especially if you are just beginning. Meditation can be a scary endeavor, but how to do it is not.

%d bloggers like this: