This should never happen

Golf can sometimes get us down. But it’s too good a game for the desperation to last for more than a day or so. It’s just not that serious.

Bad stuff happens. I can remember being upset when I stuffed up in one of my first tournaments. On this occasion I shot some stupid score in the practice round (I think 5 under) and had grand designs on winning the thing. In the tournament proper I was a disgrace – shot 86 and 85 and missed the cut by a mile.

This sort of thing is part of the learning curve – it happens and builds character. What’s not acceptable is golf instruction bringing a kid to tears.

I received an email from a concerned father. His son has been taking lots of lessons and has reached a breaking point. He pulled out of his golf team for want of spending time on the fairway (to work on his swing) and then over the weekend broke down because of confusion over what he should be working on. He feels he doesn’t know how to hit the ball.

… after half an hour he was in tears and said he was that confused as he didn’t know how to hit a ball anymore

The father wanted to know my thoughts.

My reply: This kind of thing makes me really mad. Your son will do just fine if he is encouraged to play the game. Does it really matter about his swing right now? What has his swing plane, stance, backswing, or hip rotation etc got to do with golf if he stops enjoying the game? It’s almost bordering on professional negligence.

Let him play. Ask him to swing in a way that feels good to him. Get him to hit his favourite shot. Let him have some fun. And please do this before it’s too late. I could tell you some horror stories of young kids who have completely lost their natural flair and talent. It really is sad.

I promise you if he can play “his” way for a month or two he will get his game back on track. And just maybe, he will never need another lesson again.

The Dad got back with this comment;

last half an hour I just told him to walk up and hit it – he started to hit natural again – not great but 1000% better

There is no quick fix or miracle cure here. But a more natural and automatic approach will get the young man some sort of feel back. He’ll be able to have some fun. And I’m hoping he’ll start playing the game instead of working on his golf swing. Kids are learning machines and will do far better if we get out of their way. There’s nothing more to it than that.

This story whacked me between the eyes. In a way it’s close to my story and I hope my words can make a change. I’d hate to see this kid give up the game and walk away from the passion that he once had. And this is exactly why I’m getting back into coaching again. I feel there’s too much of this thing going on and not enough accountability – I know I can make a difference. Golf is fun and tears have no place – it shouldn’t happen.

Note to parents: Let them play. Some coaching is fine but “playing” has to be a considerable factor. So does fun. See this story for a perfect example of great coaching.

Note to coaches: It’s not about you. You’re not the most important part of the relationship. Coaching is not a competition to see how much information you can pass on. You are there to guide and mentor – not blabber on in every instant. Here’s another article that all coaches should read.

What are your thoughts? Have you ever been unsettled by over coaching?

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  • Mike Divot

    Reply Reply November 27, 2012

    Now, what would have happened if the father had not heard about you?

    The boy would have eventually found some “name” pro and gone through the “rebuild your swing” sausage factory, taking “years” and 8 billion “reps”, and Christ knows what would have happened to him. (But I think we can all take a fair guess.)

    That, or he gives up in disgust.

    Anyone who cares about the above story owes it to the golf world to spread the word about this web site. Maybe we can save another life!

    It’s clear that your standard issue golf pro might be able to play up a storm; he might be able to blow your mind with all his knowledge of P3 and supination and elbow plane; but he does not know how to TEACH. Or more precisely, how to let the student LEARN.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 27, 2012

      Mike: the Mum and Dad were starting to question what was going on here. I think they knew something was wrong – and finding this site helped things a long a little. But the old technical routine can be a hard ship to jump from and can definitely ruin a player.

      You’re as passionate about this as I am. Thanks for the encouragement and sharing your thoughts Mike.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply November 27, 2012

    “Note to coaches: Its not about you”.

    The end.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 27, 2012

      LOL. Thanks GP 🙂

  • Andrew Hinchliffe

    Reply Reply November 27, 2012

    Great article Cam,

    Playing for the love of the game is far more important than driving yourself mad in the useless search for perfection, both in in score and swing. On reading your articles i’ve gotten back to playing more than hitting the range and it’s made the world of difference to my enjoyment!

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 27, 2012

      Big Guy: Thanks for dropping by. Glad this concept has been of help and I’m sure you’ve only just scratched the surface of what’s possible. Good stuff.


  • James Smith

    Reply Reply November 27, 2012

    Well put, Cam. Look how many folks have studied (and are still studying) Ben Hogan’s swing, and yet how many Ben Hogans has all that effort produced? None. No one is even close! There is only one Ben Hogan and that’s the way it will always be. Same with Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, etc. No one even comes close to swinging like these greats. Classical golf instruction just doesn’t work. Think where Lee Trevino, Jim Furyk, and Hubert Green would be if they had wasted their time trying to emulate the swing of Ben Hogan?

  • Troy Vayanos

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    I think you made a great point Cameron, they are just kids!

    They want to have fun and if golf is not fun they will have no reason to play it. Too many instructions and technical advice can be overwhelming for a young golfer.

    At the most I would give them maybe 1 or 2 key thoughts so that their mind is not clouded with too much to think about.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 28, 2012

      Troy: Same rules apply to adults. If we can all be a bit more childlike then we’d definitely play better. “Play” or “hit the ball” are pretty much all one needs to make progress – anything more can lead to overthinking.

  • Cam280

    Reply Reply November 28, 2012

    Back in my hay day when I was reading all the latest coaching tips, I thought I could coach my son. Within an hour he gave up, after probably at least 10 positions I was instructing for him to get into. Instead I should of just suggested to use one club and to walk the course once a week, to build his strength.

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply November 28, 2012

      Cam280: this reminds me of a time I destroyed my brother with some coaching. Think I’ll do a post about it soon. Bottom line? Most parents shouldn’t be coaching their kids 🙂

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply December 7, 2012

    Holdini: Great to hear from you. Almost all of us play instinctively/naturally as kids. Then we grow up and think we know everything. Your son might not listen but he needs to somehow avoid golfing dementia. It’s hard. His mates will be going down the same path and the last person he’ll want to listen to is his dad. Let’s hope we can free him and help him avoid all the frustration.

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