I'm not a Zen Master, but I'd be really happy if you called me one. Let's get straight to the point, there are a lot of golf coaches that are confusing their students, leaving their stamp on them. Stack and tilt, the "A swing", pivot and turn, and so on. No thank you! These one size fits all types of instruction are pitfalls to be avoided. It's not golf, it's driving range snake oil. Here's a distinction for you; golfer vs. swinger. If you're doing any of these moves on the range, you look way more concerned with how to hit the ball than where to hit it.
Golfers are addicts. Believe me, I know. Let me guess, you had an epiphany? Did you get another swing fix today? I know what that's about. My brother got sick of me saying it when we were junior golfers. Now that I'm out of the professional game, I can tell you the longest lasting epiphanies. For example, I'm not Tiger Woods. I'd better learn to like my swing and get to work on my short game and mental game. That makes sense, because it makes dollars, and I'm Tom, not Tiger Woods.
For every great athlete that has accomplished things, there are tens of thousands that came up short. A huge number over analyzed, went away from what got them there, strayed from the fundamentals, forgot the objective, stopped having fun while playing a game. This is an epidemic. I'd like to be the coach who didn't wreck talent. If you're down in a hole, stop digging.
Ponder this. Less is more.
I teach at Golden Gate Park Golf Course, a par three golf course in San Francisco, Ca. I mainly teach beginners. The facility isn't intimidating for them. My students don't know much, if anything at all. They are coachable. Tabula rasa, if you will. Junior golfer's are blank slates, as well. It's perfect! They are empty cups, not overflowing with information. When I go to the Olympic Club, walking down a bustling driving range with fancy bags and thousands of dollars in clubs, alignment sticks on the ground, I see the squirrels running in golfer's heads. They barely have time to look up and say hello, or to enjoy their incredible surroundings. I'd be happy to teach these people, but I know I'd be untangling a web of ideas and trying to refocus them on hitting an actual target.
I could go on, but I'm going to leave it at this. Good luck if you are binge watching The Golf Channel, or subscribing to Golf Digest's "all access." Your cup shall runneth over.
Let's get back to the Zen thing (that’s what the masters call it).
Would you like to know the secret to golf? Me too. Here's an educated guess. The person who wins each week says it, literally every, single, time.
"I just tried to play one shot at a time the best that I could." -winning golfer
When I think of Zen, I think of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Phil Jackson, the Art of Mindfulness, balancing rocks on top of each other, raking a sand trap like a zen garden. One shot at a time is a mindset of presence. My former mentor, Coach Jim Sochor (look him up) told me to "just be." That's how he summed up Taoism. Sounds simple, if it weren't for those darn squirrels!
The next time you play golf, quit thinking about how to swing and focus on where you are going to hit your ball. Get your head out of the clouds and your feet back on the ground. How? Take a couple of mindful breaths. Inhale through your nose, count to four. Exhale as if out of a straw, count to four. Re-focus on your target with great intent, then let your natural swing flow. One swing thought. Balanced finish.
Next lesson. The Grip.