Tom Jackson is director of instruction at the Core Golf Junior Academy in Orlando, Fla., and general manager of OslerBrook Golf and Country Club in Collingwood, Ont.
Many young golfers grow up thinking that if they can learn to swing the golf club as well as possible, then they will shoot lower scores automatically. They spend hours on the range hitting shots, quite often without purpose and without an end result in mind.
Last week, I spoke about the 10,000-hour rule and how important it was for a student to put time in, but that time needs structure and purpose, leading to the ability to transfer this effort to the golf course.
Here at the Core Golf Junior Academy in Orlando, we talk frequently to our students about the importance of understanding how to play and not just hit it.
I recently went with eight of our students to a Future Collegiate World Tour, which is a junior tour our kids play on.
While watching them play, it was very apparent that our students were very good ball-strikers, but when it came to playing, they really put themselves at a disadvantage.
The choice of shots and decisions made on the golf course showed that they didn’t understand or were unable to see forward and determine at what point any particular student would like to hit the next shot.
You hear all the clichés, such as “golf is not a game of perfect,” or “it’s how many, not how,” but the difference in shooting low scores is how to take good ball-striking and make it work for a student.
How do you choose a shot that fits the pin location, that takes into account your shot movement tendencies and weather conditions such as the wind etc.?
Then, if it doesn’t come off as planned, do you leave yourself with as easy position to either two-putt or get up and down from if you miss the green?
It takes awareness of your surroundings and, more importantly, your “flaws,” which are often difficult to identify because of our egos.
I think, sometimes, as players, we think we are going to hit it perfectly every time and, therefore, are too arrogant to plan for anything else but perfection. There’s the problem.
Golf is an extremely difficult game to play at a high level on a consistent basis, so we need to find a mental compromise, not only on a daily basis, but even on a hole-by-hole basis as momentum and confidence changes with one missed putt or one errant swing. We need to constantly adjust.
Our students are being schooled on how to pick the right shot that fits the situation and among those considerations already mentioned above, the foundation is how we feel about ourselves at that particular moment mentally.
Does the student need to “circle the wagons” and play conservatively, or is the player still confident and able to choose a more challenging option?
A lot goes into each shot and these decisions need to be made in 60 seconds.
It’s amazing how good the brain can become if trained properly.