Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Lesson in Human Nature

As I started the book, The Big Miss today, I was lead to think of what I have learned as a teacher and from whom I learned it. Hank talks about Jim Hardy and John Jacobs early in the book and both of those men did so much for individual golfers, but also for other golf professionals. They shared their knowledge through books, seminars and training. Their genius is as much their desire to give back as it is their knowledge of the golf swing.

Here is one lesson I learned from John Jacobs, whom I worked for early in my career. He had three beginning golfers on the range. In front of them, he set up three saw horses. He asked the beginners to hit a shot over the top of the saw horses. Each of the golfers hit the ball under. Their instinct was to lift the ball up and over and in making a lifting swing, none of them hit under the ball. Then John asked them to hit a ball under the cross bar of the saw horse in front of them. Two of the beginners got their golf balls airborne. Instead of scooting under the saw horse, the balls flew over.

The beginners were trying to keep the ball low and hit down on it. That motion was what sent it airborne. John looked at the instructors he was training and made the following statement. "When you teach golf, you have to fight against instincts. Your students will generally want to do the opposite of what is right."

It was an eye opening seminar for me, because it taught me in five minutes that my communication and ability to sell the physics of the golf swing were every bit as important as my knowledge of the swing.

John Jacobs' methods were and are timeless. He understood that teaching golf is about guiding the flight of the ball and hence, guiding the student to produce it. He didn't need video, he simply needed to watch the flight of the ball to know what the club was doing. Working in his golf schools accelerated my ability to teach golf tenfold.

Another memory I have of his methodology was watching Shelby Futch, a very intelligent and talented teacher who owned and ran Jacobs American schools, argue with a very respected teacher in a PGA Teaching Summit break out session. The teacher was adamant that Jacobs' methods were "band aids". She failed to understand that changing ball flight is the essence of teaching. Instead, she wanted to believe that changing body motion was the essence.

So many young teachers are now caught up in video, slow motion, big muscles and body control. Much of what I learned from the teachers I consider my mentors was focused on club face, shaft, hands and arms. Control these and you control flight. How your arms swing will greatly control your body motion. That and Keep It Simple!

So far, I love The Big Miss. Why? Because it is written by a teacher about teaching. So much of what we do as coaches has so little to do with golf. We work hard to build confidence, focus and good mental habits as well as good swings. Hank is recapping that as well as the swing. More to come later on the book. I hope it continues to inspire me to tap away on my computer.

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