Golf column: The Greatest Teacher

By Ron Parish, PGA Director of Golf, Lone Tree Golf Course

Who is it? Hank Haney? One of the Harmon brothers? Jim McClean? Michael Breed? David Leadbetter? Martin Hall? Or should we go Old School? Bob Toski? Jim Flick? Tommy Jacobs? I could keep going. It would be nice to spend time with one of these guys wouldn’t it? But then you might have to look at the finances and see if you can afford such and engagement. Several of these instructors command a four digit fee. I propose that you already meet regularly with one if not the greatest teachers of all time. Do you realize that? Each one of you. Who? The golf ball. Really Coach Ron? Really? Yes, really. The question is, are you listening?

Granted, there are things that a qualified PGA instructor can and will help a student improve in their game. There are times when we don’t realize some things are going on and we need to have someone shed some insight, and getting lessons and an understanding of fundamentals is vital. But the golf ball is constantly teaching us and I don’t believe enough golfers are listening. I try and stress this to my students but I have to be honest, I get frustrated because they aren’t listening. So I will pose a few questions to help you get where I am coming from and hopefully help the golf ball teach you.

What does the golf ball know? Only the club head, and the golf ball is trying to tell you the message the club head is sending. By the way, the message it is sending is coming from the shaft, which is held by you and your body, and so you are ultimately telling the club head what to do and again it is the only thing the ball knows. So how does the golf ball teach us? Here are some of my top experiences with students and hopefully this will help:

Full swing

  • The bladed ball. This one is pretty darn common with beginners. There is something innate for a beginner here. I think it comes from an uncertainty or doubt because they know they are new to the game, or because a fear to disturb the grass when hitting down on the ball, and so what happens? Blade after blade, singed night crawlers and nervous gophers. What’s the ball telling you? You are hitting the ball on the leading edge not the clubface. What do you do? Check your ball position, possibly move it back in your stance and then keep your eye on the back of the ball and hit down and brush the grass after you hit the ball. A little divot is good for a beginner. If you hit it fat, don’t beat yourself up, just keep at it and you will learn to hit the ball first.

  • Slices. The golf ball is telling you the clubface is open in relation to the path of the club head. Remedy? Start with the grip. Rotate hands towards the back foot (stronger) when gripping the club and move the ball back in your stance until you start to hit it straight or with a draw.

  • Driver that flies low and shoots offline. The ball is telling you the path of the club head is coming in too steep and not sweeping enough. Tee the ball high, keep the ball position forward and really sweep the take away low to the ground. On the way through, pretend there is a small nail sticking in the back of the ball just below the equator and the club head is going to sweep through and drive the ball squarely through the golf ball. A good drive should launch at about 45 degrees.

  • Putts that don’t feel solid and come up short. If everything is square and the path is good, the ball is telling you it needs to hit the sweet spot of the putter. Tape two band-aids just outside of your sweet spot, leaving a small opening to hit the ball, and then practice hitting putts right on it. I bet you will find the ball rolling your intended distance soon.

  • Chips that are chunky. The ball is telling you to hit the little ball before the big one. Move the golf ball back in your stance. Keep stance open. Keep your weight favoring the forward foot and keep your hands ahead throughout the motion. These things will help you meet the golf ball first. Still not getting it? Push yourself. Practice chipping and see how far you can move the ball back in your stance. 2”. 4’, 6’ behind your back foot? Try it and watch what happens, I bet you will start making good contact with the golf ball and you will figure things out.

These are just a few examples, there are many more, but my point is mainly made so to help yourself learn. Watch and listen to what the golf ball does instead of getting frustrated at a missed shot and you will be more easily able to make change and improve your game.

I hope this helps. Thanks to all the golfers that frequent Lone Tree and for all you do for our course and golf in the area. Please try to bring someone new to the game soon or let them know about a golf program offered here or elsewhere. Someone else is out there who would like to have the fun that you are having with this great game.

If you are interested in reviewing other articles from Coach Ron go to under “The Course” tab.

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