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Golf and Patience


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My golf students continually tell me how much they admire my patience. However, my family (who know me better) will tell you that I am one of the most impatient people imaginable with an almost objectionably insistent temperament.

So when a student tells me that I am very patient, I say, "You think so! But what you take for patience is simply the result of ripe experience.

I am trying to build up good golfing habits in you, and I know that habits - good or bad, in golf or outside it - need time to consolidate.

Indeed, I remember one of my students who brought a Professor of Philosophy along to survey my lesson.

Having watched me for some time he said to my pupil, "He is creating instincts."

I said nothing to that, but thought a lot! I had visualized my work as the creating of habits, but if he was right and it went back a further stage to the creation of instincts - then I would need all the patience I could muster, if it was patience which enabled me to keep my good humor when a pupil misses the ball ten or twenty times in succession.

Of course, I do not get out of patience when this happens.

I simply say, "Carry on-don't worry, you will hit a good one soon." The point being that the golf student is doing as well as he can with the experience at his disposal. When he/she has had more experience, he/she will do better, but meanwhile neither my impatience nor his own will help him.

Now I want to describe a lesson which I once gave to a man and his wife.

She was an Englishwoman and he a Japanese diplomat.

The interesting point it illustrates is the completely different approach of two people, sympathetically akin, both wishing to learn to play a decent game of golf, yet completely opposite in inherent gifts and with absolutely different conceptions of the golf swing.

They were both playing enough bad golf shots to convince them that they were wrong somewhere; so they came to me for advice.

Though both were temporary members of St. Cloud, I fortunately took them in my Indoor School - fortunately, because the big mirrors which I have before each driving net there happened to be the very thing necessary for one of them.

I gave each of them a couple of half-hour lessons.

She was English and so should have understood me much better than he did. As a matter of fact he hardly understood a word I said and never answered more than an unconvinced and muttered, "Yes" or "No"

Yet look at this very odd sequel. After the lessons I did not see either of them for some weeks, except to wave them good-day on the course once or twice. Then she came back to the school alone to see me.

"Do you know," she said, "my husband has made remarkable progress since those two lessons, but I have not. In fact I am worse than ever. It beats me; you did nothing for my husband but tell him to keep his balance and not dip his shoulders - and even that you had to do by signs, yet hey presto! - he is a reformed golfer. And I, who had the full benefit of all your eloquence, am worse not better. I think I shall have to give the game up."

Then we came to it. Would I please tell her frankly if she was too fat (though I don't think she used that word) to ever play good golf.

She could not resist a glance at me and a queried, "You are not thin for a golfer are you?"

I will not say that I felt flattered by the comparison, but anyway I told her to count the question of size out.

A very highly placed student of mine told me once that the lightest partner he had ever danced with was a woman who weighed over two hundred pounds.

I told her this, and, from the quizzical way she looked at me, I knew I had scored a point. So I went all out for game and set!

"May I be permitted to tell you what your real trouble is, Madam?" She nodded assent. "It is nothing to do with your figure," I said. "It is that you cannot see, neither can you listen."

There was a slightly painful silence, which I waited for her to break-which she did by stammering that she did not understand.

"Don't you?" said I. "Well, I mean that, so far as learning goes, you are deaf and blind. Is that clear?"

"Yes," she said, "that is too brutal to be misunderstood. You might have put it in another way."

"Impossible," I said. "That is just the literal truth. You did not listen to what I told you or see what I demonstrated. Had you done so, you would not have got your game into its present mess.

"So far as your husband is concerned, he is deaf and dumb - so far as conversation with me is concerned - but he is not blind. He can see, and his eyes enabled him to pick out the essentials of my lesson."

"And what were they?"

"Well he had seen that all good golfers turn away from the ball, so he did so too. He did it wrongly because someone had told him to keep his eyes on the ball (probably you told him; it is an English idiom), and he dipped his shoulders in consequence.

All he had to pick up from me was that to see the ball you need not dip the shoulders. He used his sense of sight and being naturally intelligent got his pivot right."

"But do you mean to suggest that he sees more or sees differently from the way I see?" she asked.

"Of course he does."

"But being able to understand what you say should more than counterbalance that?"

"Maybe!" said I. "But don't forget that you have not only two chances of being right, you have also two chances of being wrong and you took them both] He got an extraordinarily pure conception of the movement by sight alone - and as he has probably more brains than the two of us put together, he seems to me to have all the advantages!"

"Well," she said quietly, "I think you may be right."

"Of course I am right. Nothing verbal can replace an intelligent visual conception of the swing. You have never seen a swing as your husband has seen it, because it is obvious from your own swing that you think the golfer's arms produce the power, like the arms of the windmill. This is not so; the golfer's powerhouse is below the waist. If he is a good golfer, he never hits with his arms. He gets his power by twist or spin."

I took up a wooden tee between thumb and first finger and spun it, like a top. "That is golf mechanics in its purest form," I said.
"But you don't expect a stout old lady like me to spin?"

"Why not! You do in the ballroom; why not on the golf course? And you need not worry about the slim flapper; she doesn't spin too well! You can turn on the pivot, and if you do, you will play good golf. But so long as you slide you are doomed."

"You suggest I slide?"

"Yes, you do," I said. "You don't turn because you are afraid of missing the ball. So you stand close to the ball and try to make up for the restriction which this puts on your power by sliding over the ball. It is a hopeless style.

And on that note, I must break here... I will continue this story in my next entry.

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