Golfing Magazine Online -
Tom Landers
By Tom Landers
Published on 03/10/2005

PGA Pro Tip

by Tom Shea
Blackstone National Golf Club , Sutton, MA

Most of the students I deal with are afraid to make mistakes. No wonder we learn how to walk (in almost all cases) before we learn how to talk. If it were the other way around, people could tell us how to do it “right,” and least effective of all, how not to do it “wrong.”
To compound this view of trying to avoid errors, most people want to run before they walk. They may experience a change or two during a golf lesson on hitting short pitch shots, and they immediately want to know if this is going to work with their driver. They want to buy sod instead of growing grass.

Maria Montessori, the famous educator, teaches us that “the hand teaches the mind” and she encourages us to “allow the body its own wisdom.” Most people believe if they just learn the “right” way to swing the club, then all their golf problems will be solved. They try to have the mind teach the hand, while not allowing for any wisdom of the body.

There is no “right” way to swing a golf club that works for everybody. The only thing the golf ball knows is what the club tells it when it hits it. The ball doesn’t know it you made a full shoulder turn on the backswing, if you shifted your weight, or if you finished high (whatever that means). Most people don’t pay any attention to the actual task at hand, which is to hit the ball. Their heads are too full of swing thoughts. Hardly anyone possesses any sense of what their body is doing during a golf swing, nor do they have any sense of where the clubface is when it hits the ball.

What is the alternative to all this? INTEND-ALLOW-NOTICE!
First, have a clear intention of what your actual task is. Your task is to hit the back of the ball with the clubface in order to move the ball to whatever target you have selected.
How many people even look at the back of the ball, when addressing it? Allow the body to generate whatever motion it chooses to accomplish the task you have set for it, and notice whatever happens. Don’t fix anything you notice. If you can learn to sense instead of think, certain parts of your brain will signal other parts of your brain to call for adjustments in motion on the next shot. Not every adjustment will be perfect, but the more you are able to sense as opposed to think, the more accurate the adjustments will be. You will be getting a feel for it.
The same process is at work when you drive your car. Let’s say it’s time to go to work. You simply intend to go to work and your organism starts carrying out all kinds of functions without you giving it any thought. You pull out of you driveway without hitting anything. You drive through the neighborhood, stopping for school buses or any number of other things whenever necessary. You eventually blend into heavy traffic on the highway etc.,etc.,etc.

Something I find invaluable when training people to hit golf shots (I don’t teach them how to swing--their bodies do that.) is visual feedback. I use a Swing Solutions video machine, which allows me to show them what they did right after they do it. Seeing actually helps them to feel more. I tell them not to do anything about what they saw. Simply go back to INTEND-ALLOW-NOTICE. I may, from time to time, remind students that the ball is on the ground, and that the clubface will need to go down as well as forward, in order to hit the ball. Even on tee shots, the ball is close to the ground. We continue to check the feedback from the video to see what changes, if any, are occurring.
It never ceases to amaze me when I see the changes that occur. Students would not be nearly as willing to “allow the body its own wisdom” without the immediate feedback they get from my video equipment. They can see the learning that is taking place before their very eyes.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot. There is one other piece of low-tech equipment that is giving them immediate feedback about the changes that are occurring--the golf ball.