We’re currently at the helm of possibly the most individual sporting endeavour on the planet, only why does one see a sport seemingly starved of genuine individuals. Ok so we have a few fancy dress men, bold colours, silky cuts, a slight sense of imagination. Creative fashion icons yes, highly creative shot makers? Im not convinced! Don't get me wrong, to perform at the highest level of any sport requires a certain level of creative imagination, but how imaginatively creative are the modern players of today? And how are we as coaches adopting the skill to fully engage in this truly fascinating and highly powerful area of the modern golfers make-up?
Are we as creative today as the golfers of yesterday?
In embracing new technology where do we draw the line?
Creative, natural, human instincts?
Or mechanical (positional) movements?
Long and straight or short and shaped?
Where’s the tipping point, when man becomes machine?
Have we become obsessed with position and power to the extent of destroying creative instinct?
When viewing modern players of today one sees a vast array of seemingly scrambled robots each wondering aimlessly across some of the most beautiful pastures on this green earth without a care in the world for creative expression. All but a select few appear to be following the same machine like mentality, with many talented players falling into the same grey hole of analysis, each in search of a deeper understanding of positions and power moves. The video camera, while providing us with an unparalleled understanding of biomechanics and trendy in vogue swing positions, appears to be drowning human instinct in its quest to destroy any element of natural flair and individuality. While I can fully respect new technology and embrace it at any opportunity I can also see the great danger it presents. Especially to a sporting public that continually searches to control and master every element of what makes life so real and exciting. To truly live is to embrace chance, anxiety, hope and fear. The game of golf should be no different, these are just some of the elements that combine to make it what it is.
In trying to control and understand every element of physical motion and human emotion will we create the ultimate human golfing machine? I think not, for sure we may have success but at what cost?
Its been said, “a true genius makes complex things simple”, so why are we seeing and hearing so much complexity?
“Life is really simple, but men insist on making it complicated.” - Confucius
Technology is a great thing, don't get me wrong, but lets think logically, why does man create new technology? To make complex things simple and challenging things less of a challenge, right? But what if complex things aren't that relevant and the challenge holds the key to the real heart of success? What if certain complex movements within the golf swing aren't that vital to the success of the individual? And what if these complex moves could be looked after and trusted as reliable if totally left to the control of the basic fundamentals in the set-up? Surely the more complex we look the more complex we are, and the more complex we are the more dependant we become and ultimately rely. Reliance on something so complex can only mean danger.
I have seen and experienced first hand the great danger in temptation technology such as the video camera brings. A personal quest to improve leads to a great desire to perfect, perfection in one area can easily overlook another more vital one. As I personally discovered myself, in seeing to much of a complex movement one becomes obsessed with perfecting to please the eye. Before long the quest becomes an obsession, a tiresome, lonely obsession. Totally obsessed with a look rather than a unique, individuaL and reliable reaction to what's important, the target. From a great set-up (application of the fundamentals) all one needs to nurture is an instinctive reaction to the target, the shot, a shape in the sky, its this vision of the mind that paves the way for the resulting golf swing.
TARGET + NEUTRAL FUNDAMENTALS + REACTION = SWING = BALL FLIGHT
As my boss keeps saying, “BULL$[-]|t baffles brains”, and it seems to sell, especially to a golfing audience still searching for the elusive secret. The great Ben Hogan not only controlled the golf ball better than anyone, but in his discovery of his secret he was able to control the naive golfing public as well as his fellow competitors by fooling them into believing it was as simple as adopting a few key swing moves. What he chose not to fully reveal and never really sell was the true secret, the element to which all success is based both in life and golf. His secret lay in his respect and understanding for sound fundamentals, the foundations from which great things flower, without the perfect application of sound fundamentals nothing will truly flourish with any lasting effect. From a solid foundation you can trust human instinct to perform naturally and develop into something long lasting, reliable and completely natural to itself, the individual. Combine this as Hogan did with an extraordinarily disciplined brain and an undeniable will power to achieve and you have the true makings of the human golfing machine.
As a coach, may I ask?
How many modern coaches are truly educating their pupils in the basic understanding of ball flight laws, swing path and clubface alignment with the intention of ingraining a total respect for the fundamentals of the set-up?
How many are preparing their pupils with the knowledge to self teach and self analyse without the use of high tech video?
And how many are simply creating a dependancy on the coach?
Maybe this is the role of a modern day coach? To feed and nurture the better players appetite for a complex technical understanding, forming a reliance or dependancy on the team element?
“Bobby Jones once told me he used to run back to Stewart Maiden during those seven lean
years of his career for lessons. He said that when he learned to be able to correct himself on
the golf course, control his own game and do it himself, that's when he became a good player.
Now, if your going to continue to rely on somebody every time, you never end up doing it
-Jack Nicklaus 1991
As a coach and student of the game I can see the basic relevance of such technology as the video camera when reassuring and relating certain feelings within a swing, but this is the line. Beyond the positions of the set-up and the feelings in the swing I see no other place for such vision, certainly not when transmitting in swing positions back to our pupil. Could it be said the video is nothing more than a clever selling tool or smoke screen for the weaker less instinctively capable coach?
Most scientists, due to such an intense drive to understand more, will always struggle to communicate effectively without the use of technology. A true golfing artist will only ever go as deep as thought safe for the individual. As a result he communicates through his knowledge, respect and great depth of passion for what's truly vital to golfing success, the art of natural instinct, human flow and creative expression. All totally unique to the individual and so only truly controlled naturally when influenced by the basic fundamentals of the set-up. Surely, as the great coach looks he feels, he sees and understands the language of the golf ball, its telling him what's happening, what's there and what's not, all things lead him from the ball flight to the set-up. The swinging of the golf club should always be an individual, natural reaction, the shape and function of certain key elements within this movement are totally under the control of the fundamentals in the set-up. Combined with factors such as mental state (determined by an understanding of one’s self and subject), tension (a result of mental state) and physical condition, we have the controlling powers of the natural swing. How we influence the resulting factors of the natural swing will depend totally on our application and communication of the fundamentals. How we lead the pupil to perceive and respect this crucial area of the art will depend solely on our ability to communicate, with the aim of providing the pupil with the knowledge and skill to self analyse and self coach when away from the practice area. The greatest skill of any coach, beyond his knowledge of the fundamentals and their influence on the ball flight lay with the art of his communication, knowledge is nothing without the skill to communicate.
The video camera; help or hindrance?
Sign of a great coach or poor communicator?
As a coach and dedicated lover of the game I consider myself open minded and able to embrace the use of new technology and appreciate its place in the modern world of sport. What I just can’t accept is its potentially negative impact on the future of such a creatively rewarding one. Golf, for myself is a hugely rewarding and dynamically creative sport, it allows and rewards freedom of both mind and body on many levels. I see a modern game appearing to be falling into a dark grey hole of technology, coated with an appetite for power, ease of use with an all out diversion of good old hard work, we seem to be missing the true essence of the game. Individuality and creativity, two of mans most cherished and human qualities are constantly over shadowed by Power, distance, length and yardage. These terms now dominate the golfing press, physical profiling, dynamic power, strength conditioning, all things long, all in the interest of one thing, distance!
Is it fair to say that with distance we have a perceived view of entertainment?
And with entertainment revolves money?
At what point do we lose the true essence of the term skill?
How tough is the attainment of power?
Compared with the attainment of instinctive creativity?
Longer lasting; Strength and power/ Machine movements or Creative/ Instinctive imagination?
Which is real entertainment?
Which is golf?
What's the secret?
Lets look at the heart of the game, how it evolved, the creative shot making, the flair, the artistry and respect, the skilful qualities only found through a long and lasting desire to master, understand and acknowledge the unique challenge it brings. The secret lay in the realisation, that there is no secret! To master the game is to understand the challenge it is, one of a life time. The secret will never be found in the latest piece of new technology, latest 5 point swing positions or fancy new teaching method, it always has and always will be a life long quest. In this quest as in life’s long quest one will only truly prosper through good practice of the absolute basics. A sound understanding of the fundamentals is all one really needs to fully prosper at this great game, this and a single minded desire to play, create, express and ultimately improve.
So I conclude with one final thought, how much longer can we go on analysing, perfecting, looking to understand and control the natural elements that simply should not be controlled, but left to the respect of the fundamentals.
Is it a life sentence?
A black hole to deep to retreat, or will it as most things usually do, go full circle and make that welcomed return to simple human instincts, reactions to a target. A ball in a hole.
Golf; ‘A platform for self expression.’
For a slightly more creative angle hit: www.myspace.com/autogenicgolf
paUL Creasey 2007