The golf swing is governed by a chain of controls, and when the ball is introduced, it must not destroy, weaken, or dislocate any of them.
Let us take four of the principal controls, purposely taken from points widely apart in the swing so as to represent the whole movement. Here they are:
- Bring down the left heel early in the down swing.
- Allow the wrists to break back slowly.
- Continue the stroke on, through and around the left side.
These are just a selection of possible controls. They can be replaced by others or added to. But if a you learn them thoroughly, by doing them slowly one after the other until they are linked up in your mind and muscles, you will become at least a decent golfer.
But if having got him this far, when he misses a shot I suddenly say to him, "You looked up!" the chances are that he will then look at the ball so intently, with such fixed purpose, that he will miss the next shot too!
What he has to do to get things right is to try not to look up but without interfering with his basic controls. In fact, the "not looking up" must become a new link in the chain of controls. You do not weaken a chain by adding more links to it unless the new links are weak.
As I see it, good teaching must be based upon giving the pupil a few fundamental controls that will never need to be altered but that can be added to, packed round, and supported by other controls as the pupil's game develops.
But the essentials are that the early controls shall never need to be altered and that other controls which are added later must fit in with them; never contradict them. I can assure you that one needs a very sound knowledge of golf (and an extensive one of human capacities and make-up) to teach that way.
Further, when something goes wrong and a pupil loses his game, it will not do to say what is wrong and so to emphasize this wrong point that it attains undue importance in the pupil's mind. If you do that he will so concentrate upon getting that one point right that he will throw everything else wrong.
For instance a pupil comes along for a lesson because he has gone off his game badly. I see he is ducking his right shoulder and bending his knees and showing all sorts of faults which flow from these two.
Now in my experience it is no use at all pointing out these faults to him. What I normally do, if I know him well enough, is to ask him what time he went to bed the previous night - and to suggest that he brace himself up a bit or he may fall to pieces-also that it is impossible to teach golf to a fellow who is practically down on his knees.
You would be surprised at the number of specific faults which I have cured that way! In fact it hardly ever fails. When your game goes to bits, try bracing yourself up.
Sometimes of course one has to be more specific, but even then I rarely point out the obvious fault as being an obvious fault.
Suppose a pupil comes to me and I see that his swing is too vertical; he is picking up his club head too quickly and so breaking his wrists (and even bending his left arm) too early.
Plenty of faults to point out, but I do not point them out. What I do point out is that he is losing width, and in a short time just keeping wide will straighten his arm and correct the other faults.
To get to this stage, I say to him every now and again, "That's fine, keep wide, don't stiffen, don't hurry, just keep wide." Soon he will begin to feel his swing again, and in a little it will be back to normal or maybe better than normal.
You may feel disposed to remind me that this chapter is supposed to be about keeping your eye on the ball! So it is, but these digressions on the controls have not cropped up by accident.
I have introduced them here to illustrate the point (which I keep making because it is so fundamentally important) that any one feature of the swing is of no use to a golfer and cannot even be understood unless it is linked up with all the other features.
You can set a ball on your table and sit in a chair and learn to look at it all the evening, but that will teach you nothing at all about how to look at the ball in your swing. And as a golfer that is what you want to learn to do.