It's easier said than done! I caddied US Kids golf tournaments for years for my younger son. It was, for the most part, a thankless and frustrating job with just enough sparks of magic to keep me in the loop for as long as I did it. No doubt many parents can relate. He would blade one chip after another over the green. Slam drives left and right into thicket, woods and water - regardless of my earnest and well meaning advice. He would probably change that wording to 'incessant and annoying nagging'.
- Whatever you do you've got to get it on the green. It's not a pitching wedge, it's a 9 iron ......... I told you to use a 9 iron.
- You're pushing everything right, square up the putter. It's downhill, bear that in mind. I said it was a downhill putt.
- Eating a Snickers bar will not help you drive the ball properly. You've got to swing through the ball.
- It's just a little chip. Land it on the edge of the green and let it run gently up to the hole.
- I told you to let it run gently up to the hole not launch it 10 feet past it.
Yes I said this stuff and lots more. Out loud. To him. And to the world actually - our rounds are all blogged in Mom On The Bag.
I recently signed up for something I suggest all non-golf playing parents, who see some sort of golfing future for their young child (high school, college, pro-circuit), do. Golf lessons! Now I'm not a complete beginner but I don't, for want of a better word, actually 'play'.
Intellectually I understand the mechanics of the golf swing on a fundamental level. On the range I can slam that driver 150 yards straight 6 out of 10 times on a good day. Chipping? It's a beautiful thing - from my nice, flat, grassy spot next to the practice green I can fly them one after the other with a perfect arc and just enough back spin. Putting - I'm not great but can leave the ball reasonably close on the practice green.
With my range infused confidence and enthusiasm I have joined a ladies group that plays Tuesday evenings. Most recently I set up on the first tee, swing and top the ball so badly it piddles 10 yards into the rough below the tee box. Over the whole 9 holes, I probably hit 2 good(ish) drives. I blade chips left and right. One of my putts actually goes completely off the green into a green-side sand-trap. I realize I have very little finesse around the green, yet I look capable enough on the practice range.
Golf is a difficult game. I understand that so much more playing it myself. We spend thousands of dollars on clubs and lessons. We watch our junior players on the practice range and they look solid and confident. Why? We ask with tears in our eyes - can things go so horribly haywire on the course? Then I came across the book: Easier Said Than Done: The Undeniable Tour-Tested Truths You Must Know (and Apply) to Finally Play to Your Potential on the Golf Course by Dr Rick Jensen(sometimes expensive on Amazon, check the price on eBay).
Dr. Jensen delves into his 12 Truths of Golf and explains with stories, wit and psychology why you can't take it from the range to the course, why you don't play up to your expectations and why you don't play more consistently. The Truths that stand out the most for me are:
- Truth 1: Golf is a game of skill, it is not about the swing. More important than your swing mechanics are ball control, decision-making, and self-management.
- Truth 2: All skills are not created equal. Stop working on that which you enjoy (blasting drives down the range for example) and start working on what skills cost you the most shots (my dismal putting).
- Truth 4: You must stick to something long enough to master it. There are no short cuts. Find a coach you like and stick with him/her. Get fitted for your equipment and stick with it long enough to be comfortable with all its nuances.
- Truth 8: To transfer it to the course, practice like you play. Wherever possible, take your training on the course. On the practice range create simulation games and drills and put yourself under some mental pressure. Play nine holes on the range (at least drive and approach shots) and keep score.
- Truth 10: Under competition, your brain reverts to the familiar. Have a 'go-to' shot that is predictable and reliable under competition. Rely on what you know you can do in pressure situations.
When all is said and done we, as parents, need to remember - burn it into our tortured minds as we walk around the course after our junior player, whether on the bag or not - it's easier said than done.
Never truer words spoken!
Now go get a lesson, get on the course and prove it to yourself.
Now that I play, we like to play a competitive family team scramble on a free weekend afternoon. I know (or at least I think I know) he's just doing it in jest - but when I blade a chip over the green then back again - I feel my junior could be just a little more empathetic when he rolls his eyes my way.