One way to take golf instruction up a notch, according to mind coach Karl Morris, is by making a simple change of venue.
Morris – who has worked with the likes of Lee Westwood, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Graeme McDowell and former Canadian club professional champion Danny King, says he’s seeing more of what he calls a “range culture,” in which players and instructors tend to overlook the place where shots count most.
“The problem that we have in golf – and it’s such a fundamental really – is it’s the only sport, really, where coaches see the people that they teach in an environment where they don’t play the game,” said Morris.
“So, people go for a golf lesson on the range and generally, after a spell, hit the ball pretty well on the range, but then they go out on the golf course and it’s often a different story,” he added.
“A soccer coach will be on a soccer pitch, but we have this unique scenario going on with golf and I think the problem is that, because of the way that practice is set up with golf, you hit so many balls one after the other, people find the rhythm and they start hitting good shots as a result of that,” said Morris.
“The nature of the game on the course is that there’s such a long interval between shots,” he said. “I don’t think there’s enough attention paid with coaches to what people are actually doing on the course as opposed to just the golf swing.”
Of course, the playing lesson was once a common practice between golf professionals and club members, but with so many other responsibilities these days, the practice is less common today, but it may mean an enhanced reputation for instruction, according to Morris.
“I really think that a lot of people would get a massive benefit from having a playing lesson from the professional, from the coach, even if it’s just a few holes because the coach will genuinely see what that person does on the golf course,” said Morris.
“The good thing is that if people go for a lesson with the pro, they’re going to be a bit nervous, which is great because you’re actually seeing them in that state of mind that they would be in at tournaments,” he said.
“Generally, people either get very quick in what they do or they take too long. They tend to get out of their natural rhythm, so the coach could actually see them in that situation, be able to give them some ideas to work on on the course, as well as working on the swing,” he added.
The concentration on the mechanics of the golf swing can be overpowering, according to Morris, leading to a robot-like mindset within a human being.
“I think the main mental error is that what people tend to do as a result of taking golf lessons is they tend to be too conscious of the moves they’re trying to make in the golf swing, so they’re actually trying to swing literally A, B, C, D and think about the movements that they’re making.
“To me, we need to get people to understand that the best golf you’re ever going to play is where you’re playing a lot more automatically rather than just trying to place yourself into various positions,” said Morris, adding that golf professionals can offer a lot in on-course psychology even if not formally trained.
“I think some of the greatest psychologists ever have been some coaches. If you read some of things Harvey Penick talked about many, many years ago in his Little Red Book, that’s 90 per cent a psychology book,” said Morris.
“I’ve been in the company of coaches like Butch Harmon over the years and Butch Harmon is an outstanding psychologist because he understands the importance of getting people in the right frame of mind,” he said.
Morris is in the Toronto area this week, offering his knowledge at a couple of seminars Tuesday at Lionhead Golf and Country Club near Mississauga and Wednesday at Deer CreekGolf and Banquet Facility in Ajax.
“I spent about 10 years out on tour, working with various players and seeing things that work and things that definitely didn’t work,” said Morris.
“Over the last 18 months, two years, a big thing for me has been working a lot more, giving talks to club members and club golfers because I really feel as though I’ve got a few ideas that I’ve found are important for people to listen to because they do work,” he said.
“It’s come as a result of seeing good players and the mistakes I’ve made and the mistakes they’ve made,” added Morris.