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More Lessons From Teaching Golf


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Before I discuss the practical side of learning to play golf, I want to say a few things about teaching golf before I discuss the practical side of learning to play golf.

I'd like to think that I know something about golf, as I have been learning it for forty-five years — and teaching it as well for the last thirty of them.

Now I claim that the right way of learning golf has almost nothing in common with the "learning" we did at school; it is an entirely different process.

Memorizing the capitals of Europe or a Latin declension, or 'learning" chemistry or mathematics, are purely mental feats and depend exclusively upon mental memory, whereas I contend that to learn to play good and consistent golf you need muscular memory.

What you need to learn (or memorize) are not the technical or mathematical details of a good shot but the feel of it. If you and every component muscle in you can remember the feel of a good shot, you can make it — and you have become what I term a reflex golfer.

That is to say, the good shot has become your "reflex," or automatic response to the sight of the ball. But please remember that this golf memory is a memory of a cycle of sensations which follow and blend into one another quite smoothly. Each sensation must be connected up with those which precede and follow it; it cannot be considered independently.

The truth is that it cannot even be felt independently. You cannot, to take a crude example, feel the top of your swing as such; you can only feel a sensation between the sensations of the back swing and those of the down swing.

For that reason you must never in golf say, "I've got it!" when you think you have found the secret of some shot that has been evading you — unless what you have "got" fits into your cycle of sensations or, as we shall now call them, controls. Because, unless it does so fit in, it cannot become a reliable part of your game.

And why do I call sensations controls? Simply because I want you to control your golf by these sensations instead of by thought.

There is another reason why your memory of a golf shot must be a memory of a cycle of sensations, not of a number of separate sensations.

It takes an exceedingly skilful juggler to juggle with six glass balls at once, but if the six balls were threaded onto a string most of us could manage them — and the memorizing of sensations as a cycle (instead of as independent items) does thread them up for us very much in this way.

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