I am a good golfer. I can say that with all honesty and with no embarrassment because, as Walter Brennan used to say, "No brag, just fact." The fact is that I am a good golfer because I was taught by the best golfers I could find. I took lessons and I read books by the great pros from the past and the present, all of which gave me a lot of basic information about the game of golf. Quite frankly, I may have gotten a little too much because by the end of the fourth book and the 15th video, I was on overload. So, I decided to stop and take stock of where I was in my learning process.
I'm a visual person so I knew if I was going to keep it all straight and internalize what I needed to be the best golfer I could be, I would have to get organized. So, I did what I always do when I need to "get my stuff together" - I made a list . I'm also a pack rat, so I never threw the list away. I went looking when I started writing this post and found it has most of the tips any beginner needs to get off on the right foot on the golf course. This is it - unedited:
What I Have Learned About Golf (at 14):
- Get good clubs - no, get the best.
- Be sure the clubs are the right length - don't buy longer ones and think you'll grow into them. You'll play so badly before you do that, you'll quit!
- Proper stance - feet apart a little wider than shoulders, relaxed, focused, back straight but not like a ramrod - just good posture like Mom tells me every day.
- Good grip - hold the club gently - don't squeeze it to death but hang on tight enough so it doesn't fly out of your hands.
- Correct grip - right hand slightly resting in left hand so they're both comfortable and snug. Solid grip - not death grip.
- Swing smooth - start backswing and don't stop - when your club reaches the top of your swing, change the direction smoothly - don't chop - it's a golf ball, not firewood!
- Firm and solid - hit the ball squarely and firmly - the club will send it down the fairway, not your arms. If you hit it right, it will go.
- Get Dad or pro to video swing - once you get it right, watch it over and over until you can do it without thinking.
- Practice, practice, practice - before school, after school, weekends, anytime you can. Can't hit the ball too much.
- Other shots - irons, chips, wedges, putts - later - perfect the drive first.
- Play whenever you can - alone, with friends, anytime but try and play with the best golfers you can find. Learn from them and get them to assess your play. Don't be a baby - take criticism and use it to be better. You're a beginner not a pro.
- Beginners learn, pros teach - but also they learn - you'll never know it all but keep learning!
Some Big Things I Learned:
Killing the Ball Will Kill Your Game
When I was a young golfer, I thought I knew everything about hitting the ball. I did all the things on the above list - read all the books, took lessons, got all the angles right with my hands and my feet, learned to keep my head down, and found that I have a natural ability to swing a golf club. I wasn't a big kid and I didn't pump iron or anything so I wasn't very strong or powerful; therefore, I figured I would have to compensate for that if I wanted to drive a golf ball long and straight. That is, after all, the most crucial part of the game of golf. A long, straight drive can fill you with confidence while a slice or hook into the woods can send you down in flames from the beginning.
So if you want to get the right start - hit the ball straight and long and to do that, the first order of the day is relax! I tell you that with great confidence because I have learned the best way there is - from experience. I really was a brash young know-it-all; I thought I was so smart when I figured out that in order to hit a drive as far as I could and have it go straight instead of flying all over the course, I needed to hit it as hard as I could. So I began to perfect my "killer" swing. I figured if it worked for Willie Mays and Babe Ruth, it would work for me. Little did I know that they were taught the same thing on the baseball diamond that Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead were taught on the golf course: "Don't try and kill the ball!"
The other thing I figured out in my young brain was that if I didn't hold on to the club really tightly, it could go flying out of my hands and take out my whole foursome. So I grabbed my drivers and irons with a death grip and hung on tight. Of course, this prevented me from following all the other lessons I had learned like letting the wrists move like on hinges and following through smoothly without chopping at the ball. So, here I was, hitting big power drives and thinking I was well on my way to the professional golf tour. In reality, I was poised on the edge of disaster - I was killing my golf game as surely as I would have killed any creature that ventured onto the tee near my ball. I was a "killer" golfer.
Don't let your opinions get in the way of the facts.
I really loved playing golf but it seemed that the harder I tried to hit the ball straight and long using my opinions of what constituted a good golf swing, the harder it became to hit the ball at all. One day, I was playing with the club pro and his son and on the third hole I shanked it right into the woods. I had hit it so hard that it crashed through the trees and landed out of bounds, somewhere in the deep underbrush on the far side of the course, never to be seen again. I had to take a drop - in the woods!
It was the worst drive I had ever hit and I was devastated. The pro asked, "Keith, you want to know what happened to that drive?" At first, I bristled. After all, I knew everything I needed to know - so I thought. But I listened politely and what I learned that day is that facts are way better than opinions especially when the opinions are dead wrong! Over the next few weeks, he taught me that killing the ball was indeed killing my game. He showed me how my tight grip and smashing swing were throwing me off balance so that I wasn't square with the ball when I hit it and neither was my club face. When he showed me how the angle of the club can affect the direction and flight of the ball, I thought, "No wonder I ended up in the woods; that's exactly where I hit it."
Learn the basics of a good drive first - even if you think they're dumb.
I had figured out that the success of a drive depended on the strength of the swing but he taught me that a long and accurate drive is the product of these three factors:
- Good aim . He taught be to aim the ball using this trick - stand behind the ball on the tee and pick out a spot about five to six feet in front of it and in a straight line with your ultimate goal. That way you're not tempted to look up to keep your target in sight.
- Correct ball and club placement. Stand so that the ball is just inside your left heel (if you're right-handed) and the face of the club is square to the ball; this allows you to sweep the ball off the tee with a smooth and easy swing.
- Proper stance. Standing with your feet a little further apart than your shoulders spreads your weight evenly over your feet and gives you a solid and balanced foundation for your swing.
Start young and play 'til you're old!
If you have a hankering for trudging around a golf course when you're just a little kid, go for it! Bug your parents until they buy you a good set of clubs and join a country club or golf course with a good pro and a lot of really talented players. The younger you are, the easier it is to learn so play, play, play.
This article was written by Keith Matthews. Keith is keen to share more of his golfing tips and experience so sign-up for his free weekly emails at TopGolfTipsHQ.com.