When I was senior instruction editor at GOLF Magazine, I would occasionally receive telephone calls from disgruntled golfers, complaining about not getting help at a golf school they had paid thousands of dollars to attend. More than one reader uttered this remark about instructors on our "Best Teachers in America" list: "If teachers in this country were doctors, they would be sued for malpractice."
I admit that since golf was first played 600 years ago in Scotland, golfers have not improved all that much. This is true, despite new club technology that allows golfers to hit the ball farther than ever before and video and computer equipment that allows teachers to analyze a player's swing and pinpoint faults. So what's wrong?
Some golf experts blame poor instructors and misinformation. Others believe it is simply a matter of golfers failing to practice long and hard enough. But I think the chief reason so many play so poorly is failing to harness the power of the mind. In sharp contrast to top professionals, the typical amateur lacks the confidence to bring his or her best swing and calm, clear, mindset to the course.
As I learned in researching my book, Think Like Tiger, Tiger Wood understands the power of the mind. Wood began meditating at an early age. He also visited a clinical psychologist who helped him deal with fear and use his imagination to hit creative shots and stay in the zone during the entire round. How? Tiger was hypnotized.
In Sarasota, hypnotist Donna White says she has helped golfers access their subconscious to improve their game. "When the subconscious takes control of your game, the swing feels effortless because it operates on automatic pilot," says White. "Furthermore, the golfer vividly imagines good golf shots, plays through fear owing to added confidence and focuses on fairways, greens, and the hole rather than hazards."
After working with White, says golfer Joe Renaud, "I began thinking only positive thoughts and approaching each shot with confidence-even a long carry over water which previously scared me. And I did cut strokes off my scores."
A one-hour session costs $80. Although some golfers improve after just one session, White suggests three-session treatments for most and six sessions for very serious golfers. For more information, call White at 355-0104.
If you think your fellow players are talking about a financial transaction when the word "borrow" is mentioned or the futures market when they discuss "grain," it's time to brush up on your Golfspeak.
Blade: To blade the ball is to hit it with the club's leading edge rather than the center of the clubface.
Borrow: The borrow is the degree of slope in the green that makes the ball curve left or right.
Cut: A cut shot, usually played with an iron club, curves slightly to the right in the air and lands extra softly on the green.
Grain: Grain is the direction the grass grows on the putting surface, usually toward the hole, or toward the player.
Roadie: If the player's ball hits a paved road inside the boundary of the course and then he goes on to score par, a point for a roadie is awarded.
Bradenton resident Paul Azinger, who plays locally at Sara Bay Country Club, The Bobby Jones Golf Complex and Gator Creek, was the player who kept the American team's hope alive when he holed out a bunker shot at the final hole of the recent Ryder Cup in England. He was
born on Jan. 6, 1960, under the sign of Capricorn.
Should you share the same birth sign, here's some advice on choosing your playing partners from Mark Oman, author of Golf Astrology:
"You will like the sensible and earthy nature of Taurus. Virgo's perfection will make you feel you're not alone in your quest for the perfect golf swing. Tee it up with another Capricorn and it's a 'golfaholic' mutual admiration society-and a formidable team for anyone else to beat. Just don't let your controlling mind restrict or tighten up your golf swing."
I played a round of golf recently at Stoneybrook Golf & Country Club in Sarasota, a very challenging and beautifully manicured course. But as good as the course is, the tip I received from my playing partner, Greg Hood, was even better.
Hood is the former personal assistant to Ben Hogan, the late, legendary golfer who many consider the game's all-time best swinger and ball-striker. The following tip Hood learned from Hogan will help golfers who set up with their hands well ahead of the ball stop and thus hit high, weak, slice shots.
Position your hands a couple of inches behind the ball. This new setup position will promote a low takeaway, rather than a quick pickup action, and give you a strong sweeping action instead of a chopping action through impact. The result: powerfully accurate straight shots.
Golfers who care about posting honest scores and establishing a true handicap play by the rules of golf established by the United States Golf Association. So you do the right thing on the course and avoid an on-course penalty, know when and how you are to clean your golf ball. A case in point follows.
Situation: Player A's approach shot lands on a bank guarding the front of the green. When he arrives at the spot where his ball lies, he notices so much mud on it that he is not sure it is his.
Common mistake: Player A marks the ball, lifts it to identify it, cleans off all the mud then replaces it in its original position.
Correct procedure: According to Rule 21, in this situation Player A is permitted to clean only enough mud off the ball to identify it. The penalty for this breach is one stroke in both stroke and match play.
A few issues back, I noted a new trend of off-course golf shops offering made-to-measure clubs that are inexpensive clones of name brands and are made in Taiwan or China. Now, Golf USA, a new shop on Clark Road in Sarasota, takes things to the next level. Owner Thomas Gilberti offers modestly priced state-of-the-art models, most notably the Tour Edge line, made only in the United States and designed for low or high handicap golfers. What's more, rather than fit customers by taking measurements and asking the customer questions, as is the custom at most shops, Gilberti or one of his trained staff has the golfer hit shots into a practice net and lets a computer do all the calculating. In minutes, the golfer is told exactly what golf club features relative to lie, loft, length, shaft-flex, and clubface type suit him best. A week later, the new set is ready.
I know of no country club pro shop or off-course custom-fit shop that offers this 21st century service.
Specialty of the Clubhouse
If you're on the lookout for something other than the typical 19th hole beer or scotch on the rocks, stop by the Tasting Room at Fred's and try a watermelon martini-or shake one at home according to bartender Skip's recipe.
1 1/2 oz. vodka
1 oz. Midori
1 splash Grenadine
1 splash orange juice
1 splash sour mix
When serving, put one half-ounce of Midori down the side of the glass to really give the drink the watermelon look.
Sarasota's John Andrisani, former senior editor of instruction at GOLF Magazine and the author of more than 25 books, is a six-handicap player and former winner of the World Golf Writers' Championship. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.