Why golf can be such a difficult game to play

Golf can seem impossible some days. And the harder we try the more difficult it becomes. It’s really no wonder why some people start playing and then give up after a short while.

I received the below email from Ian. It’s one of the best emails I’ve received and does such a good job of explaining the golf learning journey that I had to share it with you (with Ian’s permission of course).

Please read it and offer your thoughts below. I’ll also include my comments.

Hi Cameron,
 
I have not emailed you before although I have been a long time subscriber to your teaching and material.
 
Over that time I made several desultory attempts to embrace automatic golf without any real success. I suspect that having spent all my working life as an academic specialist with an almost devout belief in evidence based medicine I found it very hard to let go of the analytical part of my brain when I was playing golf. I have spent many, many hours analysing my swing and all the things that are associated with that since I took up golf seriously 8 years ago (I am now 58). I got my handicap down to 16 fairly easily and had several rounds where I played to 8 over off the stick so I was reasonably happy with my game.
 
Unfortunately over the last 3 months I have drifted (or rushed) out to 21 and have been incredibly frustrated with my golf. Something needed to change so I watched your Simplest Golf Lesson and decided that I would absolutely concentrate on committing to automatic golf. As you probably know it has been extremely wet on the east coast so it was impossible to play golf for several weeks so my first chance to play was two days ago.
 
In short, I had 30 points. Not a good result off 21 you might think. However, in that game I hit two of my three best ever three woods. Absolutely perfect contact, with a ball that flew exactly on the line I had aimed and landed within a metre of my target for a 180+ metre shot (0.5% error). Also, I had 4 x 9 iron shots that were easily the best 9 irons I have hit in my golfing career. All went exactly where I aimed and  exactly as far as I expected (< 0.5 m error in 110 m or < 0.5% error). Now these might have been flukes, however, this experience reminded me of something I had not remembered for many years (over 40 in fact).   When I was a teenager, I had a few rounds of golf using my father’s golf clubs which were a set of Jim Ferrier steel shafted irons (painted to look like hickory shafts so players would not be shocked by the new-fangled shafts) and persimmon headed driver and woods. Without any lessons, my 3rd or 4th round was a 74 off the stick on the par 72 Indooroopilly golf course. At the time, I didn’t think this was anything special (thus no memory of it until now) and I never went on with the golf as I was too busy being a medical student.   However, in retrospect, it does suggest that my native swing is pretty good and that I have the ability to play a lot better than 21 (something that my fellow golfers frequently comment on).   Why did the other shots not work as well as the three wood and nine iron shots? At least for some, I remember that I was still focused on the target rather than the ball at the time of hitting whereas for the really good shots, the target had become irrelevant.   With the driver in particular I had major difficulty in ignoring the target and the expected trajectory and so, while I still hit about 2/3 of fairways, they did not end up in good position. As a result, I hit less than 20% of greens so that even with 31 putts in the round I struggled.   Nevertheless, I was impressed enough to try the technique for at least another two rounds and expect to see a really positive benefit for me.   At the very least, not worrying about whether my swing is too upright, too flat, too handsy etc is such a relief that I would be keen to continue regardless.   Ian

My thoughts: Firstly, I wish I could give Ian’s email to every “accountant type” golfer. Even though we think we can control each part of our golf swing/game it really is not possible. And it doesn’t matter how clever and smart we are. We can’t beat our learning system.

The other point is when we leave things alone our game doesn’t fall apart. If anything it gets better. Further, learning takes place and the experience is so much more meaningful and enjoyable.

I like Ian’s email because it’s real. He’s not writing because he had his best score or had a hole in one. He experienced something new and remarkable and just maybe that was better than a long drive or a birdie. There’s so much more I could say, but I think I’ll leave it for a while and wait for some comments.

Resources: The World’s Simplest Golf Lesson – if you haven’t seen this then you’re missing out.

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8 Comments

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply July 31, 2011

    Great story and great comments. This is encouragement for all of us who are committed to “getting out of our own way”. Thanks for telling us about it Ian. Really good stuff. I especially like Cameron’s comment that “when we leave things alone our game doesn’t fall apart”. Thats the great fear that BLOCKS us from truly going automatic. Ian has experienced that the opposite in fact happens as Cam says. Inspiring story. Bit of a worry though Ian that you’re still calculating the mathematical margin of error on your shots (!) I’ll bet you WOULDN’T have been doing that when you shot your 74 as a teenager!

  • Ian

    Reply Reply July 31, 2011

    Good point Grayden. Just shows you how much I am still mired in the left side of my brain! I have since played two more rounds, trying as best I can to play on automatic. Still didn’t set the world on fire with my score (33 and 31 points) but as both you and Cameron pointed out I didn’t play any worse than I had been playing and in each of the three rounds had at least 3 or 4 remarkable shots that had my playing partners at various times saying “That was the shot of the round”.

    I have enjoyed the freedom of playing like this so much that I am going to keep going regardless of my score because in those three rounds I could begin to see that the shots that I messed up on were the ones where I was still trying to analyse and adjust instead of just hitting the ball. For example I pulled a few drives to the left and instead of ingoring that and continuing to just hit the ball I could feel myself trying to work out why the ball was going left and trying to adjust my swing – result two wide slices followed by a vicious duck hook! Next drive I managed to forget about what had happened before, just hit the ball and lo and behold straight down the middle.

    Unfortunately, it has not been at all easy most of the time and I am finding it very hard to last a whole round without my analytic side intruding. Nevertheless, there is certainly enough reward there to make me continue to try.

    Ian

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply August 1, 2011

    Ian: You are battling years of doing things one way versus a new way. There will be some resistance as your brain fights for you to go back to your old way. This is a sign you’re on the right path and you’re doing a good job.

    Never easy this silly game we call golf!!

    Keep up the good work,

    Cameron

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply August 1, 2011

    Ian said: “I have enjoyed the freedom of playing like this so much that I am going to keep going regardless of my score…”

    Yes! And the irony is that when you don’t care about score it usually improves (!)

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply August 3, 2011

      Exactly! It has probably become cliched but it’s true.

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