Ian Hardie is Club Professional at Omanu Golf Club in Mount Maunganui. Ian’s time is split between the pro shop at the club and helping people to improve, while enjoying their golf more as a result of his golf coaching. Readers are invited to submit questions to Ian Hardie at email@example.com.
I took up golf about 18 months ago, at a slightly older age than most people do and although I do enjoy the odd good shot that I have and being out in the fresh air – I’m finding it really frustrating that I seem to be taking so long to ‘pick the game up’, even though I have been reasonably good at other sports over the years.
Do you have any suggestions?
Beverly D, from Taupo
Thanks for your question Beverly, unfortunately you are certainly not the first person to find the game of golf a frustrating one to take up, but the good news is that I do have some advice that can help you.
Firstly, even though you have been going for 18 months, I’d still consider you a new golfer and like most new golfers, I expect you will be thinking that you suffer from a lack of ability and in a way you do, but not for the reasons you think.
As a new golfer, you will see images of golf in lots of places: the PGA Tour on television, glossy magazines that show how top players do their thing and books with titles that are all designed to inspire you to buy them to help your golf game, generally from those accomplished players with many years of golf under their belts.
Most of those golfers will have hit millions of golf shots and played thousands of golf holes over many years to get that good.
As a new golfer, your skill level and performance will be far from that.
Subconsciously, you will be thinking that you don’t measure up to that standard and you’d be right because you’re still new to the game.
You haven’t had enough time to develop the skills you need yet.
To compound this problem, you will also more than likely have been introduced to the game by an existing player or two.
Those golfers may well have a reasonable skill level at the game, which is another influence that gets stored away in your brain as “I’m not good enough compared to them”.
Over time, depending on your personal expectations, it all adds up and one fateful day after yet another poor round you start to think that you probably will never get this game worked out – maybe I should just give up!
So, how do you combat this problem?
I think there are two things you can do right now, to help suspend that frustration and move through this difficult patch.
A patch that all golfers have gone through before.
The first is to understand where you are on the scale of learning this game.
Golf has to be one of (if not the) hardest sports to pick up and learn – irrespective of age.
To hit the ball, we are rotating our entire body one way and then turning it back the other way while accelerating a club we are holding back to a position within a fraction of where it started, while it is moving at 60 – 120mph in order to strike a golf ball that is 1.68 inches in diameter.
To do this we require the controlled and sequential use of 96% of the muscles and bones in the body.
Once we have hit it (if we did), we expect it to fly straight in the direction we think we are aiming to hit it, but it seldom does.
Not to mention that after figuring all that out, we then have all the subtleties to work out such as in between distances, trees and rough, different types of shots, sand traps and other hazards.
Then once finally at the green, we need to figure out how to read the green, and get the speed and direction of the putts correct.
What about the weather, other players and all the rest of the things we have going on in our lives that will be swimming around in our head at the same time?
Gee, now even I’m wondering how I can manage to play!
The best analogy I use when I’m coaching new golfers is to liken learning golf to a baby learning to walk and then developing through life.
At first the baby starts to pull themselves up, then after a while they can stand then a tentative step or two, then the first wobbly steps, then sort of walking.
As all this is happening, there is a lot of falling down, a few tears and a lot of failing but instinctively as humans we don’t try and correct the baby’s technique, give an analysis of their step pattern or suggest they try to do it another way.
We simply keep encouraging the baby to keep trying until they get it.
And when they walk, we praise them flat out.
Is that how you are trying to learn golf or are you getting tied up in the adult mentality of analysing stuff, trying different techniques and theories?
Once the baby learns to walk, then over the course of time the child will move onto walking on different surfaces, start to run and eventually, if they are an athlete, after many years of dedicated training, focus and hard work, they may run extremely fast or long distances.
Which in this analogy is the level of the PGA Tour pro.
As a new golfer, your level is more that of the baby just learning to stand.
So give yourself a break Beverly, you are probably doing much better at the game of golf than you realise.
It’s just a learning curve that every golfer has to go through, to become a regular and competent golfer.