By David Vaught, USGTF Master Teaching Professional
The common perception, and common sense, frankly, is that the players we marvel at on television each week have this golf thing all figured out. Yes, they hit the ball different than everyone else. If you stood in close proximity to the top players in the world, it looks different, sounds different and appears to be a different game than we play. When attending a tour event in person, I am often reminded of the Bobby Jones quote after observing a young Jack Nicklaus: “He plays a game for which I am not familiar.” But believe it or not, tour players struggle with the same mental issues that average golfers, new golfers and your students do.
Recently, I was fortunate to spend a couple of days listening to several instructors that can boast a long list of famous, modern-day tour players on their resumes. One of the striking points they all made was how human and normal these “gods of golf’ are.
The names herein will be protected, but every story, with names, that was relayed to the audience was funny but calming. Calming because it is a comforting feeling to know that the 25-handicap student I had 10 years ago is really not that much different mentally than these millionaire golf professionals.
Have you ever had a student or friend struggle mightily with putting during a round, (meaning several three-putts and very few made outside six feet), yet wants to go to the range right away and hit his driver? Well, according to the tour gurus, many tour players fall to that same bad temptation. The point is, they sometimes they have no clue where their strokes go. Like the rest the of us, they might be so upset about that one bad tee shot that they cannot think of anything else. The subject of this recent tale hit 13 of 14 fairways that day!
Another classic example is the tour player warming up before the fourth round of a tournament. He is leading the tournament. As he is striping great shot after great shot, he turns to his instructor with an amazing query. Believe it or not, he was worried about his swing mechanics before the round and was contemplating a change – to the shock and disbelief of his instructor. After a reassuring lecture that they should just keep doing what they had been doing the last three days, the player relented and did not follow through with a swing change that day.
A favorite student type of mine, tongue in cheek, is the “rabbit ear” student. Amazingly, many tour players suffer from the same exact syndrome. This is one of the most difficult things to grasp for me, but I have had many famous instructors over the years relay their long-eared tour player horror stories. Can you imagine your income and career relying on how this player performs, yet he is listening to everyone and their brother on what he should change in his golf game?
A frustration that all golf instructors share is that your students often get sidetracked with bad advice or bad self-advice, lose all confidence in themselves and just honestly have brain cramps that you find hard to believe. The afflictions of the mind that can derail the progress of your students are as normal and common as the sky and the sun.
Next time you get frustrated by your student’s mental pitfalls, take heed. It is the same feeling you share with the most famous of instructors working with the most famous of players.