Teaching pro Jon Tattersall Gives Us the Ugly Truth About Our Golf Game
How many of us have ever been sat down and told the bald-faced truth about ourselves? Horrible, isn’t it? If we’re lucky, it might lead to some revelations that take us to a better place where we see our reality more clearly. Still, in the beginning, it’s devastating. Normally, we think of a teacher adopting a comforting “you can do it” approach, followed by “and here’s how” – but not Mr. Tattersall. Do I ever hate it when someone who really knows what he’s talking about is ruthlessly honest, but I still don’t know whether to thank him or not.
Here are Tattersall’s eleven reasons that most of us don’t improve. Whoever asks these questions of themselves will be unable to avoid connections to their personal story. The first is, of course, that “you never practice.” Every piano student in the world has heard that one, and it’s a crusher, because in the heart of a career, you have to spend a few years at six to eight hours per day. For golf, however, we, or I, wait out the winter, go out to the range, and put it in an exhausting session for nothing more than a cardiovascular workout, because we hit them all too fast. Tattersall’s second caution is that we “practice unproductively.” Everyone in a hard physical profession hears that all the time as well. We attempt to beat the body into submission instead of shaping it to allow for what we really want. Add a dash of hysterical impatience, and you have what my mother described as “killing snakes” on the golf course. The teaching pro adds that our equipment is not “optimized.” I don’t know, my familiar clubs seem to do just as well as the new ones I try out most of the time. I realize, of course, that if I spent more time with the new ones, that theory might not hold water.
The Tattersall rule number four – we have the wrong “mix of clubs.” He says we shouldn’t even carry 2-irons. Maybe not – I can’t remember a lot of great shots with a 2-iron, but quite a few more with a 3. However, I take exception on one point. Whenever my driving went bad, which was often, I carried a 1-iron I could usually hit straight as an arrow from a low tee – so there…I think. The 5th lesson is that we don’t keep accurate track of our stats. Honestly, though, doesn’t that sound a little pedantic? Can’t we tell when something is going a little better without submitting the proof to a statistics major?
The 6th Tattersall edict is a rich one. The fact is, we’re just “not as good as we think we are.” So much for the “you can do it” style, but I think I know what he means. We try things that aren’t in the cards for us, often because we saw it on television, and I, we, want to be just like our favorite star who pulled off the “hero” shot. Tattersall follows this by saying that “we’re too hard on ourselves.” What? Didn’t you just tell me I’m not as good as I think I am?
We are taken to task for riding in a cart, and thereby running afoul of the game’s true rhythm. Amen to that – I always want to walk. However, some young 4-handicapper always roars out of the clubhouse in a cart when they see old guys walking, and complain that we’re going too slow and holding up the parade. I look backward, then forward – no one. I’m walking as fast as I can, even though it feels like the mile I typically ran in high school. Tattersall warns us that we’re into “quick fixes,” which is true. We love gimmicks, toys and new physical sensations that wrap us up into pretzels. No matter, he follows by telling us that we just don’t hit it far enough. I’m getting on, but I can still hit it 200 and a little more in a pinch. What would he say if I traded every distance shot I’ve ever hit for a middle of the fairway shot? Wouldn’t that neutralize the problem? Of course, I wouldn’t have met all those interesting cultures. Further, we don’t play 7,000 yard courses every day. Many of us still have munis where we can almost reach the par 5 in two.
Finally, Tattersall says that we focus more on words than we do “feel.” I grew up thinking of nothing but feel, only to be told by a talented sibling that such an experiential approach is too undisciplined. You have to achieve mechanical perfection symbolized by powerful catch-words like “inside-out”…or was that “outside-in?”
Well, maybe Tattersall is right, but I’m not going to wave the white flag. As I get older, I get less tense, a little smoother, and a little smarter (unless I’m not as smart as I think, either.) I have slowed down on the range, consider things I never considered before, and have grown in patience. More than that, however, I love the game more than ever, and that was really the point of the journey, wasn’t it?