A no fuss golfer
Richard is an exceptional golfer. Sadly, most can’t see the brilliance of the way he plays the game. To many, he is quirky and a little unorthodox. To me, Richard plays almost the perfect game.
Over the last week I was lucky enough to play five times with him. Each game highlighted the power of natural learning and what happens when we can get out of our own way and really play the game.
There’s some important golf lessons for everyone here and hopefully Richard can inspire you to be the best player possible.
Don’t let Richard’s swing fool you. He hits the ball consistently and with good length. He regularly smacks the ball past the 200 metre mark – not bad considering he’s 76 years old and has only been playing the game seriously for 13 years.
In that time his handicap has only fluctuated between 10 and 13 (currently playing off 11). Many might think his improvement has remained stagnant – to me, he reached his potential early and for most of the last decade has experienced a true consistent golf game.
Richard has never taken an official golf lesson. He admits to reading the odd book but doesn’t fluff about too much with his technique – although he does tinker with his golf equipment and has a garage full of modified clubs.
His quick improvement and handy golf game comes from his passion for playing golf. His mates call him “Dizzy” because he does laps of the course, some days playing 36 holes. He doesn’t waste time on the practice fairway, his mind clear of thoughts on technique or swing. His ambition is to get the ball into the hole in the least amount of strokes – he really does play in a no fuss way.
The more I watched Richard the more impressed I became. Here are some of the most impressive things I saw him do. I should also add that he did these things more than once so there was no luck involved despite Richard telling me, “It’s all a bit of arse”.
Gear down: The 2nd hole is a tough par 3. It’s over 200 metres long with a tiny green. I’ve played this hole a few times now and have only been able to hit it once or twice. I watched Richard take out his driver, choke down on it slightly and make a “softer” swing. The ball took off to the left and faded back to the right and either finished on the green or just short. In the four times we played the hole he hit the green twice and just missed it the other times.
Work the ball: This was most impressive. The course is tight with lots of trees overhanging the fairway. Unless you’re dead straight, you’ll need to maneuver the ball both directions and I saw Richard hit all sorts of shots – fades, draws, high and lows. Not sure Richard knows exactly how he does it, but he was able to hit all sorts of wonderful shots.
Experiments: Richard just loves the game and wasn’t scared to try new shots. Because he was so consistent with his ball striking I suggested he try a driver from the fairway – this would give him some extra distance and help him reach some of the longer holes. It was awesome to watch him step up and rip a large headed driver off the deck.
Things didn’t stop here. He tried chipping with a 3 wood, putting from way off the green, chipping with a long iron and trying a lob wedge. He wasn’t scared of failure or making a mistake, to Richard, the hours on the course were for learning and having fun.
Plays quickly: I don’t think I’ve played with a faster player. The video below shows his entire process from the moment he takes the club from his bag. He looks at the target, choses a club and gets on with it. There’s no practice swing or stuffing around. It’s so damn refreshing – we played 9 holes in a little over an hour.
Doesn’t panic: This might be his greatest strength. If you’ve read this far you might think Richard some sort of golfing freak who never hits a bad shot. Far from it. He hit plenty of bad shots (don’t we all) but he chooses not to let them bother him.
On the 5th hole on day one he struck a dreadful snap hook. The ball deflected hard left off one of the trees and ended up next to the preceding green. It was an ugly spot with no apparent way back to safety. Richard spotted a gap, hit a deliberate low hook and found the fairway. From here he cut his third around the dogleg and then struck a rescue onto the green. His first putt just missed and he tapped in for a six. It was an awesome display of real golf. His last five shots as good as any player could hope for.
I saw him do this kind of thing throughout the week. It was almost like he relished the odd bad shot because it really gave him an excuse to get creative and play the game. Where many would stress and worry over a bad shot, Richard just laughed and focused on the next shot.
It was a privilege to play golf with him. His natural and “quirky” style really highlights the brilliance of our learning system. His golf swing is an afterthought – his focus is on where he wants the ball to go and he lets his body oblige. It’s the perfect way to play and is the reason he’s one of the best senior golfers in his club and regularly gives the young ones a run for their money.
I can’t claim responsibility for teaching Richard much. He is 100% self taught but has certainly adopted a natural and instinctive way of swinging the sticks. He walks my talk that’s for sure.
If your golf game isn’t working for you then I hope Richard’s modus operandi is enough to inspire you down a different path. It could just be the ideal way to kick off 2013.