Taking Golf Instruction Too Far … a case study

Dear golfer,

I took a trip away over the weekend to play with a regular client. John is from Thurgoona, near Albury on NSW and Victorian border.

I hadn’t played at Thurgoona before and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the golf course. It is long, measuring over 6,300 metres. Although there seems to be plenty of room off the tee, it is quite deceptive. The rough and trees creep in at the right places; with the large greens providing ample challenge.

If you’re ever in the area it’s worth a look- make sure you play from the back tees 🙂

John has been a client and friend for some time. He has reduced his handicap from 14 down to eight in the last few years. He is doing well and has lots of talent – playing rugby, cricket and league at a high level. He can give the ball a real rip…hitting a long and high ball.

It didn’t take me long to see that John had taken some of my golf instruction too far. The automatic process is crucial for playing to your full level. It allows you to take your game from a non pressure environment, like the practice fairway, and perform well out on the golf course.

John had taken some of my teachings a little too far. This is easy to do and is one reason why a regular catch up with a coach or mentor is important. John was playing too quickly. Upon reaching his ball he would have a quick look at the target and then rush into the ball and hit it. He was giving his system no chance to ‘get centered’, relax and prepare for the upcoming shot.

Playing quickly is often regarded as the ‘secret’ to playing automatically. This is not the case. Aaron Baddeley’s ‘look and shoot’ putting method works not because he plays quickly, but because he performs the skill automatically. I will say that playing automatically and instinctively usually results in a faster pace of play…but it is not the key ingredient. So be careful!

After our game (I never teach out on the golf course – not the right environment) I spoke to John about refining his routine slightly. These are the key points;

  • Think, analyse and rehearse behind the ball. This is where you work out what you want to do.
  • Get centered. Relax and recharge before the shot.
  • Play golf. You hit the ball automatically. No technical thoughts.

Sidebar: The full process is outlined in my books GolfInstruction2.0 and Play Golf Your Way click either link for more info.

To the untrained eye John’s new routine would not appear different. The change is subtle but significant. By playing too quickly he was placing undue stress on his system. He was out of control…a little like a racing car with no brake. He now has a method of regaining control and playing more consistently for the duration of the round.

Golfers can pick up on a few points of any golf instruction and then exaggerate those principles. So be careful. It can be difficult learning from the written word. One reason that learning in person can be more beneficial. Always try and have a lesson with your coach, swing guru or mentor on a regular basis. Sometimes you can be doing little things that can be hurting your game without even knowing.

In my next blog I’m going to be doing a piece on the short game and how you can learn to tidy up your game. This will be a must read for any golfer wanting to drop a few shots from their handicap.

Until then good golfing,

Cameron Strachan


P.S. In case you were wondering I managed to shoot 69 off the stick at Thurgoona. I was very pleased. My conservative strategy was used for most of the day. I hit my three iron from the tee more than my driver and ensured I followed the automatic process fully. Success!

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