What my Dad taught me about playing golf
My Old Man is a terrible golfer and not someone who should be let near a golf course – he’s only played a handful of games and there’s nothing there that would suggest he’d trouble the scorers in a good way.
In his professional life he was a system’s analyst – a really smart person who’s responsible for making sure computer programs work correctly. And this is where he excelled.
He’s old-school. He learned the “proper” way and this was by trial and error. He wrote his first computer program at night (while we all slept) and tested each line of code so he knew it would work. His method was pretty simple, basically making the thing easy to use – he was never a fan of all the bells and whistles that many younger programmers like to use today. If a 12 year old couldn’t figure it out it was too complicated and he’d start over. Despite the crude computers back in the 70’s a form of his program is still in existence today. No small achievement.
Dad is also a straight-shooter and tells it how it is. He’s not a huge fan of golf, saying, “they take themselves too seriously” and “it’s full of old fuddy duddies”. He once was forbidden to watch me play in a Pennant final because he had on the wrong style of trousers. This pleased him none and was last heard leaving the course muttering, “bunch of wankers”.
His resentment aside, he has taught me a lot about playing better golf and getting the most from my ability. Here are three of his best lessons.
Keep it simple: My first serious golf lesson was a debacle. The coach gave me about 84 things to think about and my little brain went into overdrive. Before the end of that session I had developed a wicked slice, and that was when I didn’t have an air swing. My dad was quick to see the problem and stressed the importance of simplicity, “this coach is ruining your game – you can’t remember all these things and still hit the ball. Keep it simple will you!”.
Dad was applying his computer logic to my golf game. When someone is using a computer the easiest way to confuse them is give them more than a few choices – the very best systems allow for an easy progression from start to finish. It’s seamless. Same rules should apply to golf.
Hit the ball into the hole: This seems like an obvious thing to say, but how often do we get sidetracked? Like a lot of young kids I ignored my dad for a long time – always thought that everyone else knew more than he did. I once missed a three-foot putt to win the deciding match for my team. It seemed like the entire club was watching and I felt like a complete disaster case. After letting my opponent off the hook, he birdied the next hole to win the match.
I was horrified, embarrassed and depressed for awhile after that miss. I also received lots of advice from the older members in my club,
– take your time
– keep your putter low to the ground
– hit those shorter putts hard
– hit ’em soft
– leave yourself with an uphill putt
I still remember on the way home Dad said, “you’ve just gotta hit that ball into the hole!”. I was annoyed at him for telling me the obvious – but years later I can now appreciate what he was saying.
Instead of worrying about all the other crap, your focus needs to be on what it is you want to achieve. There’s no doubt that missed putt was caused by lots of distractions. I let the moment get to me and I forgot about the key objective. I must say, all these years later, my best strength is being able to keep my mind focused on the important stuff.
Swing your way: The old boy is a sports fan and knows a lot about all sorts of different sports. He could tell you Melbourne Cup winners, League and AFL winners and Wimbledon Champions. He has also seen enough golf to be a semi expert. And the thing that never ever sat well with him, and this came after I had my game ruined by over-coaching, is why the golf coaching fraternity is so obsessed with “pretty” swings when many of the great champions have “ugly” golf swings.
Dad loves Arnold Palmer because he reckons he swings like a weekend hacker. The short arm jab and helicopter follow-through gives all golfers hope. And he sees the same (only to a lesser degree) with Nicklaus, Player and Seve. “Why would you be spending all this time trying to swing perfectly when these guys all did it their own way?”.
It’s a question that’s hard to ignore. I was definitely brainwashed into thinking that golf swing was the game and nothing else mattered.
At my lowest point, when I was close to quitting golf and walking away from the game (despite years of dedication and hard work) his words made all the difference,
“Why don’t you forget all this crap and just go out and play the game. Get rid of the coaches … you know how to hit the ball, you’ve been practicing to do it for years now. Go out and play golf your way and let’s see what happens”.
It’s bloody good advice and I’m not sure I’ve received better. My only regret is I didn’t listen to him earlier but it’s better late than never. Sometimes the best lessons only come when we’re ready to receive them.
I also think that some of the best golf coaching can come from those that aren’t directly involved in the sport. They offer a different and unbiased opinion. The hard part for us golfers is learning to listen to them. What do you think?