One of the many beauties of golf is that you never stop learning. No matter whether you’ve played our great game for 50 years or 50 days, your thirst for knowledge about the mechanics and the precision should never be quenched.
I was reminded of that twice recently, both in tips I received and one I handed out.
For the second time this year, I was given what amounted to a putting lesson. I got fitted for a new putter yesterday, and part of the process was discussing technique – and what needed to change to more consistently get the ball rolling properly.
Once we started talking, I quickly realized that I had forgotten one very important aspect of what I had been told earlier this year – stand more upright – and was missing everything to the right because I was too hunched over.
What a privilege! Here I was with two very smart people examining everything I was doing and making minute adjustments. The difference between where I started and where I finished was night and day.
But I also realized something else: Many of us have a tendency to resist advice, even when it’s smart and on point.
We think we know a lot about our swing. We want to believe that we know what we’re doing out there every step of the way.
It can be so valuable, however, to have someone else watch you and, as long as they’re competent, make a suggestion or two. You just have to be willing to listen.
And it goes both ways.
The other day, I played with a friend who has a wonderfully smooth swing but sometimes loses drives to the right with a slicing action.
I took a closer look and spotted something: He was picking up the club on his takeaway rather than pushing back with his left arm. It’s the classic cause for a slice: When you pick it up, the tendency is to be wide open at impact and cut across the ball rather than drive it straight.
I suggested that he concentrate on his takeaway, and the results were amazing. Just like that, almost every drive was hit hard and straight and with a lot more firepower.
I hit the ball pretty well that day, but it was a lot more fun to watch him hit it so well. It meant something to him. It meant just as much to me. Helping other golfers succeed is such a great feeling – unless, of course, you’re playing a match against them.
There’s a fine line to this, of course.
I don’t want to try to be a know-it-all out there. No one wants to listen to swing tips on every hole. You have to pick your spots.
Which brings to mind another beautiful aspect of golf: There’s time to help each other.
You can’t stop in the middle of a basketball game and give your teammate a shooting lesson.
Football players talk all the time about the team aspect of the game, and strategy certainly is discussed constantly. But a lineman doesn’t practice blocking between plays. That’s for the middle of the week, not the weekend.
Golf has a pace all its own. You can stand on the tee or green, walk down the fairway together or cruise in the cart and talk as much as you want about the endlessly fascinating challenge of getting that little ball in that little hole.
But we have to be willing to listen … and to help. Be open to it. It can make your day – even if you’re the one sharing your knowledge.