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How I Learned Golf


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I learned golf by the long way — trial and error — and I want to lead you away from that to a method which is methodical and is effective whatever your age or your handicap may be.

If you accept my method of learning you do not need a lot of practice on the course to improve; you can assimilate the principles in your armchair and put in useful practice on the hearth rug — where you need no club because you can feel your muscular movements without it.

You must learn to feel the sensations in your mind and then forget them intellectually and leave them to your muscular memory or control system.

How long does it take to "learn golf" this way? Well I was still learning after forty-five years of it! I have known students who hit the ball very well after only four lessons and others who have taken a year or more to do even moderately well, but time is apt to level things out a lot.

Golf is a curious game in being easy of comprehension but (sometimes) very long in realization. There is much darkness in the early stages, and it is only after a few years at the game that we really come out into full daylight and can assess our own possibilities.

Early difficulties are often emphasized by age or physical make-up.

While I was writing this I had just started two young ladies — one of sixteen who is still at college but weighs about one hundred and seventy pounds and another in the early twenties who weighs less than half that. Apart from the weight of their clubs the conditions will be the same for both, yet obviously their problems will work out very differently.

And we have all got our physical individuality and peculiarities in the layout of bones and development of muscles. But I have found by long experience that these things usually level themselves out in the end — I have seen many gifted and precocious beginners fail simply because they would not put in the hard work which is essential before the elementary stage is passed, and only when the elementary stage is passed can golf genius come to the surface.

On the other hand I remember one student of mine who started very young and at times could hardly get the ball off the ground; yet at eighteen she was scratch and Champion of France. And as I have already told, I started another lady at forty and though she was not gifted she was a worker and ten years later she eliminated Mme Lacoste from the French Open!

So do not despair if you are trying to learn golf, or better golf, and getting no results. It may be that you have been trying to learn too many things (like juggling with too many balls) and when you have tried to add just one more, your whole game has broken down on you.

We will simplify the things you have to learn by stringing them together into cycles of sensation because they are then easier to remember and easier to add to.

If you work in this way your golf will be progressive. You will still (being human) get bad patches, but each bad patch will tend to be less bad and each good patch will tend to be better, because you are building up your game.

The foundation upon which it must be built up is the feel of the swing; so in the first practical section of this blog book I give you an idea of the whole swing — just as I do in the first lesson when personal teaching is possible. Compare this to Joe Dante's golf instructions on how to improve your golf swing.

The following entries are what a musician might call "Variations on the Theme!" Hence the apparent repetition.

Because I believe that all golf shots should be made with the same controls, you will not find anything fundamentally different in the chapter on Putting than that which you will find in the chapter on the Full Swing.

Yet you might quite possibly get a control for your driving out of the Putting section; it depends on your make-up and on what you read into what I have written.

Some years ago I told a student, in the course of a lesson, "I drive as I putt." Three years later he said to me, "You once told me you drove as you putted — what you meant was that you putted as you drove." I let him have his own way!

The great thing was that we had got the two associated in his mind and controls and so proved my system to be teachable and workable in others. I have had plenty of confirmation of this since. In finishing this section I will return again to the need to make your learning positive.

Don't go out to find out what is wrong with your golf swing, go out to improve it.

You will be none the worse if you start with a really big idea — to learn (or re-learn) the golf swing at your first try. If that is your ambition do not tie yourself up with theories; stand up and give the ball a crack — that is the most positive thing in golf!

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