Why Golf Lessons Fail
The 17th Secret
Often a person with a golfing flaw will consult his pro and is straightened out. Later, when he tries his new
stroke on the course, it doesn't seem to work. There are a number of reasons why golf lessons fail.
1. The player is concentrating so hard on the new form that he neglects to do the usual golf
thinking that has to accompany the stroke. For instance, he may not consider the usual factors of the condition of
the green, the putting problem, the distance to the green, or golf management. The answer to this is that the new
golf stroke should be practiced until it has been "over-learned." When this has come about, the mind will not be
siphoned away from problems of over-all thinking. In the meantime, if you recognize the danger, it is possible to
finesse the problem by attacking it serially. First work out the decisions of management, then tackle the execution
of the shot.
2. The form is correct, but he has not learned the idiosyncracies of that particular
stroke. It may be that his ball rolls further or stops more quickly than before. He must acquire a new scale of
touch. Incidentally, this is one phase of golf that has not received much treatment in instruction. The present
attitude is that this is simply a matter of muscle memory, and learners are left to their own devices. In putting,
chipping, trap shots, and approaches, "touch" is of the essence in golf. Since this touch varies with different
methods of hitting shots, it should be practiced. And, since it is seldom that two shots are of the same length,
golf practice without constant change in the
length of the shot is inefficient. Such practice violates our rule that practice should duplicate playing
3. Poor luck is operating. He may be stroking better but scoring worse. He needs to
average more scores.
4. He has waited too long to try the stroke on the course, and has forgotten some of the
5. He tried the stroke without first warming up. When he learned the new form, he no doubt
hit many shots. When he went on the course, the advantage of the warm-up was missing.
6. There was a loss of confidence when applying the shot. It would have been different if
the pro had been along to give him assurance.
7. Something has occurred to create confusion in the golfer. Confusion generally comes
about when instruction has not been completely absorbed, when some bit of instruction has emotional overtones, and
particularly if a decision is hanging fire. The longer the indecision, the more confusion (and
anxiety) is generated.
8. The golfer does not realize the vast number of shots required to put into effect a new
method that a professional can teach in five minutes. Even Hogan would practice for months using a minor
improvement in grip before he would dare try this change in important play.
9. While the golfer was under the professional's tutelage, small mistakes were corrected
continuously, but now the golfer tends to stray from the instructional beam. The learner should keep returning to
the professional for further instruction as fast as he relapses, until all the remedial instruction has become part
of the over-all pattern of the stroke. There is also the problem of the "groove." Remember my golfing friend who,
when correcting his putting, occasionally made many consecutive good shots when his golfing environment was
standardized. The same thing often occurs during a practice session. After hitting a number of balls toward a
caddy, the problem of aiming disappears. The stance has only slight modifications. Often our feet sink slightly
into the ground. The pro directly modifies other features of our swing. Altogether there is some apparent
improvement which will not necessarily transfer to the course. One of our practice fairways has a slope, so that,
in taking stances, the feet are slightly higher than the position of the ball. Learn to hit a straight drive on
this fairway and it becomes a hook when you play from level tees.
10. The golfer has been fooled by "feel." If a person has developed a slice, for instance,
his pro corrects it by advising him to hit inside out. When he first begins to make the correction, the new stroke
"feels funny." It seems exaggerated and unnatural, but since the shot finally comes off well, he accepts the
method. The new stroke feels less and less awkward as time goes on, until it seems perfectly natural. This is the
danger point. He is so accustomed to the need for the "feel" of swinging inside out that he tries to recapture this
sensation by further accentuating the inside-out arc. Lo and behold, an in-out feel that once changed a slice into
a straight ball is turning the straight ball into a ducking hook. Similar overcompensation occurs in putting.
Beware of being tricked by a "feel" after the shot is grooved.
11. The new stroke is working well, but some other depart¬ment of his game may be off, or the
improvement may not reveal itself in scores except over a longer period of time.