Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Sterile Laboratory.

The game, as with all elements of life's great beauty, is forever on the move, evolving, shaping, moulding and producing. Its changes bear the close resemblance of the process of life we all share equally, change! I mean, doesn't everything have to move with the times, make a distinct change for the future, broaden its voice and appeal for the greater good of its goal? Maybe so, but lets not forget the reason we play this great game, the reason you and I are blessed with such appealing senses of intrigue and excitement. Thats right, the ultimate goal we all share as passionate golfers is the successful navigation of a small white ball into the safety of a small round hole.


So what's changed?

Exactly, what has changed, apart from the huge amount of cash, advertising, TV ratings, endorsements, corporate entertainment and manufacturers price battles, nothing has changed. Yes thats right, we still do and always will, play the game of golf with one single goal in mind, to successfully control our golf ball around 18 holes of a golf course in as few amount of strokes as possible.

Thats the game.

Ball in hole!

If we take a trip back to the 1930's and 40's, we find ourselves apart of something much more appealing than the modern cash farm we are currently faced with today. Back in the day, when the game was still seen as a game, the element of skill was all in the hands of the most creatively expressive individual. It came down to the guy who had the most nerve, the player who had the most open mindset to enable his reflex actions to fully unfold into the ball flight demanded of the most challenging golf shots. The greatest players of our past, namely; Byron Nelson, Walter Hagen, Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Jack Nicklaus to name just a small few, each had the inner trust, the unshakable belief to execute golf shots of the highest order during the most intense, tournament pressure situations. They all had reflex actions they could depend on, a golf swing made of unique body movements, individual levels of rhythm and swing speed. They each had sole possession of their own golf swing, they knew exactly how it was going to perform in different conditions, course types and tournament situations without ever doubting the way, shape or form of its function. Mr Nelson never cared a hoot as to how his major winning swing looked, he had one goal, to win as many golf tournaments as he could. To achieve his goal he realized the great importance of ball control and accomplishing such would ultimately define him as the player we all respect and the achievements we all admire so much to this day.

The great players of the past were, without question, the most creative generation of golfers this great game has ever been blessed with. Ok, so we could argue, there are many elements of the game that have been developed and modified tremendously over the past 60 years. The golf courses have undoubtably  been lengthened considerably, but only to accommodate such extreme developments in club and ball technology. Players of today are much stronger, more physically in tune and able to compete and practice for much longer periods without showing signs of either mental or physical fatigue. They have the best of everything, the best coaches, trainers, nutritionists, psychologists and management teams, the mass involvement surrounding the modern player is quite frankly astounding.

Break it all down and see what you find, split it all into groups and employ an expert to lead and direct each element. So I ask, 'how deep did Byron, Walter, Ben and Bobby dive in their own efforts to master their unique ability to perform so skillfully at this game?' How did they adopt such awareness of their own natural ability and remain in such control of it for so long throughout such successful careers?

Without the help of a world class teacher, physical training regime or intense psychological self assessment, they all achieved their success and place in the games history through honest hard work and complete dedication. They had little knowledge of the golf swings many technical possibilities, caring for one thing, ball control. Ball control on every stroke, one after the other, the golf ball, when struck by a legend of the past was a pure and simple artistic stroke of skill. It was a combination of all things human, from physical condition, strength, speed and mental preparation, to the inner most powerful elements of touch, feel and sense of direction and distance. The very essence of such raw skill is what made the players of our past such great champions. The result of tireless dedication, each one spent his own personal turmoil of experimentation before striking upon the golden ticket. Mr Byron Nelson in particular, along with every other player of his generation, had to completely retrain his reflex actions to accommodate the introduction of the new Steel shafts of the early 1930's. Such diligent intelligence has rarely been seen or demanded since, with so many of the worlds leading players now pampered by every man and his cheque book its hard to see such a trend ever disappearing. Gone have the days when a Tournament Player heads off to the range to dig in the dirt as Hogan so profoundly expressed it, in search of his own answers regarding his golf swing. Modern players have clearly become addicts to the many damaging dealers or scientists that so regularilly frequent the tournament stage week in week out. Keen to push their own spin on playing the game and achieving their goals, the modern golf instructor, (more commonly known as the swing guru), the psychologist, nutritionist and many other hangers on have created a mass dependency on their services. The result of which has left many a talented player looking to seriously contend, now believing they must follow suit and do as the next guy does. Follow the modern trend to the great beyond, where everyone does the same thing and achieves the same goals. Facing a future with little chance of ever learning anything about their own natural reflex actions and highly acute sense of instinctive judgement. The modern day Tour Player never comes to fully own their own golf swing, never really coming to grips with the vital elements that shape and create the talent they aquired so naturally as a kid.

When following the stars of the PGA and European Tours, I find it enormously unsettling to see such a 'Sterile Laboratory' of clearly talented individuals. By this, I can see little inspiration and need for modern players to actually create great golf shots, execute highly skilled reactions to the target or develop new shots and varying ball flights. Only a select few appear to have the strength and expressive freedom in character to set about destroying this view. Taking the games emphasis back to what makes every pure strike so addictively satisfying is what lay at the heart of my own teaching. To be a SHOT MAKER is to be a Tournament Standard Player, one worthy of his or her place competing at the highest level, in search of the games most celebrated honors.

The modern game is lacking the shot makers from which it was originally born and fully embraced from the 30's through to 60's, the creative mould that gave us such boundless shot making potential is now caught between two punishing words; POSITION and POWER! In search of an easier means of achieving success on a golf course, the leading club manufacturers have expressed their own creative freedom on the grandest of scales. Left to design, develop, enhance and destroy, these money hungry monsters have all but changed the purpose of the game. Advances in technology has increased average hitting lengths from the Tee, increased the chances of a pure strike for your average player and attempted to limit the rate of spin on golf balls all in an effort to provide golfers with more control, distance and overall enjoyment of the game.

All this viewer can say is, has the stroke average of the leading players improved over the past 60 years?  

The lowest recorded stroke average in 1939 was a highly impressive Byron Nelson with 68.70.
Tiger Woods has just completed his 2009 season with a stroke average of 68.84.

So as you can see, with the largest of technological advancements and excessive instructional segmentation we have actually seen the Stroke Average of the worlds very best golfers get worse! The clear cut result of such progressive off course developments has undoubtably produced nothing more than a closing of the gap between the good and really good Tournament Players. The many advancements of all areas within the game has all been born out of one sole purpose, to make us all better golfers. On the grandest of scales, looking at the big picture, yes golfers everywhere have truely benefited, but the facts remain to be seen at the very top of the game.

Why haven't the very best progressed?

Did Byron push the boundaries of play to its absolute limit?

I don't believe for a second we have seen the very best a man can get. Yes its fair to say Tiger will be remembered as the greatest player we have ever witnessed, with his record setting year in 2000, his all time low Stroke Average of 68.17 will surely take some beating. But, I have little doubt that day will come, although, if current trends remain and modern ideals in the world of play and coaching remain so sterile and utterly lifeless in its contempt, then Im afraid the day we see a 67 point something could be at least another 60 years down a long and winding fairway.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Land of the Giants.

The greatest of them all?

Jack set the standard for which a Tiger was set to follow.

18 Major titles.

Will the Tiger surpass the Bear?

To become the greatest?

What is it to be the greatest?

Great golfer?

Great human?

True gentleman?

Tick all the boxes?

Is it to late for Tiger?

Will the world forgive and forget?

The greatest is a model for all others to follow.

Is Tiger an acceptable role model?

I guess only time will tell.

But will time allow.

Tiger Woods now faces the biggest challenge of his life.

Repairing the damage he has now caused.

In saving his marrage will the world forgive?

Will the game allow?


Monday, 14 December 2009


Whether by conscious action or nervous reaction, we all have a trigger to our swing.

A slight twitch or small adjustment to a possibly unomfortable position in the address.

Its a natural tendency that all swings are ignited on.

A search for comfort, a desire to control.

Its the trigger to that eventual bang.

This article shall aim to highlight the equally destructive and potentially powerful qualities of this essential tendancy. Two of the games greatest, both Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones each exemplified the potential power of a well rehearsed, exquisitely timed and perfectly executed movement or waggle before they proceeded to swing. Both had positive triggers. Through practice, patience, awareness and understanding, they had ultimately developed the bridge that connects the set-up with the swing.

The function of the waggle and the movement of the body preceding the actual beginning of the backswing is to avoid or destroy tension in the position from which the swing is to make its start.

Bobby Jones.

Its the tragically overlooked, most common element to all the great swings of the past.

It is, as Ben Hogan so perfectly described it. Instrumental in helping the golfer make the transition from setting up the ball to starting the swing.

Whether you realise it or not, you already have a trigger.

So have you ever asked the question; What starts your swing?

Whats your trigger?

Is it having a positive or negative impact on your golf swing?

Before you read on, take some time to digest the following train of thought regarding the essence of the golf swing and the art of shaping it to control your golf ball.

The toughest part of coaching this game is explaining and ultimately convincing a player how the commonly seen basic positions of the set-up totally influence the resulting shape of the swing. Very few players actually position themselves correctly before they make their swing, so resulting in a series of reflex actions that form to create a golf swing full of compensatory moves and resulting feelings. As a teacher of this great game one is forever moving his pupils into the correct address position to best create a reflex action of simple non compensatory movements. When correctly positioned in the address, and before they even attempt to ignite their golf swing, the pupil will typically react with a sudden twitch, shuffle or series of destructive actions that ultimately places them in a more comfortable position in which to make a swing. Ninety percent of the time this common reaction to a sound set-up can be seen in the hands or feet. More commonly in the hands its the position and pressure of the hands on the golf club that have the greatest influence over everything that occurs there after. The application of a great hold on the golf club can be a long and painful journey, but rest assured the short term pain is more than worth the long term gain. In the beginning its only natural to feel horrendously unnatural, which further highlights the great importance of the hands as the most sensitive element to the swing.

Your eyes commit your mind and body to the target, your hands feel the club, and your feet feel the ground

Bob Toski.

So when we talk about positive and negative triggers we are simply referring to the effect the trigger has on your address position and resulting swing. Ones first goal as a teacher is to identify the location of your trigger then determine whether or not it is effecting your swing with a positive or negative effect? But first we must work towards shaping ourselves into the most efficient address position for you the individual. We are not building an address position from a precise model, the entire process of teaching this game is a matter of shaping, we simply shape the individual into a position at address that will have the desired effect on the club face as it connects with the ball through impact. We are only ever concerned with the point of impact as this is the moment of absolute truth in golf.

Address the ball to produce a neutral ball flight, one free of excessive side pin in favour of the desired backspin demanded of a straight ball flight.

The art of this game is to react to a target by striking a ball towards it with a club.

Its a game of reactions.

As we react to the shot before us by first selecting the most effective ball flight.

Then we address the ball in a position that shapes the swing to create the shot desired.

The act of swinging the golf club is simply a reaction that is controlled or shaped by the positions created in the set-up.

In creating the perfect neutral set-up for the individual, at first the position will feel awkward, uncomfortable and sometimes so strange you may think, how on earth am I expected to make a swing from here. When this is the feeling at address we all resort to our trigger, in an effort to gain comfort and ignite a reaction you make a small adjustment. Sometimes this adjustment is so small, so slight, it readily goes unseen.

Spotting the trigger requires a pair of trained eyes, feel free to mail me some video footage as I would love to analyse and highlight your trigger.

As soon as your trigger has been identified, the next job is either eradicating the negative or simply turning that negative into an effective positive. This may take the shape of either a waggle of the club, a kick of the right knee, a slight turning of the head, there are a number of possibilities. The ultimate goal here is to finalise your preparation to swing without damaging the great work you have done with your address to the ball.

Ben Hogan first became aware of the crucial importance of the waggle when he observed the advantage that Johnny Revolta gained by using it for short shots around the green. Mr Hogan studied the waggle as he did every element of his swing, with exquisite detail and unmatched dedication. He was to make the waggle his own and develop a formula for applying it to his full repertoire of shot making. Not happy with one single, easily repeatable movement before every shot, Hogan believed the waggle should vary depending on the type of shot to be played. A more aggressive, low flighted shot into a stiff breeze would demand a much lower more penetrating ball flight so might require a much snappier, aggressive waggle. When faced with a much higher, soft landing shot, the waggle would possibly become much slower. More in key with the pace of swing required to creatively execute the shot before him.

The great Mr Hogan was a true perfectionist, he never left any stone unturned which is why he developed such a key function for his trigger. Whatever he did naturally, he replaced it with a positive alternative, his waggle became an integral part of every shot by injecting the desired rhythm, flair and initial speed into his target reaction.

So next time you take a golf lesson, question your teacher to look closely and see if he can identify your trigger. Im not saying every golfer has one, but sometimes these little infidelities can ruin a good address position and live on without attention. The result is a tireless effort to rectify the issue within the swing, remember, the game is about reacting to a target from a desired shot shaping position, if the ball isnt responding as desired then theres a good chance that blasted trigger is shooting you down.


Friday, 4 December 2009

Anton / Talent V's Attitude.

Talent is an immeasurable element of human nature. At the very top level of any sport its really quite irrelevant and somewhat over shouted about. I mean, to be a top flight Touring Professional its a given, they all have supreme talent. Only what separates the best from the rest is without doubt the shape, strength and force of ones mental attitude towards everything that goes with it. Not just in golf but in all walks and evolving situations in life, its all about how one perceives and ultimately reacts to this that makes them the person, man, golfer or human they are today.

Anton Haig is without question a hugely talented individual, a strong player with boundless yards off the Tee and a presence of such strength one can't help but expect to see him encounter one of the most awesome of golfing adventures. Still only 23, his first victory on the European Tour came in 2007 when he won the Johnnie Walker Classic to secure his European Tour Card. Its fair to say its been an adventure from then on, well off the golf course anyway, though I'm afraid on the course the powerful youngster has battled tirelessly with little hope of finding the form that brought him that first win in 07. Quite clearly an extremely procurable character, evident last year at the start of the 2009 season whilst playing in the Joburg Open he decided to play bare foot, that's right! NO SHOES! He's either been reading 'Sam Snead on Golf', felt he needed to be a touch more grounded, or just wanted to feel in touch with the earth on a kind of new age eco warrior kind of wave. Then again I guess his shoes probably just didn't fit him anymore, I mean he's a big guy, bigger than an Els and leaner than a Goose.

So what is it with this guy?

What gives him the right to do whatever he pleases with the talent he has to play golf?

That's just it, Talent, for as long as he can remember I would guarantee all he has ever heard is how hugely talented he is. Over the course of the first 20 years of this dudes life, everything he did with a golf club would of been the easiest thing in the world. His ability to play golf would of centered totally around the essence of SCORING, dropping that ball into the hole, CONTROLLING THE BALL around the course with ease, grace and no doubt a touch or brawn to boot! His clearly evident mass of raw talent has carried him swiftly to the top flight of the game.

So what's happening to Anton Haig?

Lets start from the top of the spiral, his massive win in the Johnnie Walker Classic in Phuket shot this sensation to the top of the potential South African greats list and with it came cash, endorsements, fame and that invincible feeling of supremacy. Life never tasted as good, though I'm afraid never been as sweet since, well, on the golf course that is. Away from the game Anton has become known more for his infamously excessive habit for partying, and boy does this dude know how to party. I recollect one story shared by a Sunshine Tour Player who claimed Mr Haig once spent three weeks at a European Tour event, arriving a week before and leaving a week after. Had this been Tiger Woods you wouldn't be surprised to read such preparation strategy, so on first reading you could be fooled into thinking Mr Haig was following suit and preparing like a pro. In the space of three weeks the total figure in question amounted to approx. 32,000 and he missed the cut! That's right his bar bill for that week in Spain was a staggering 32,000 Euros, how on earth he ever figured he would perform to any kind of level is beyond this viewer.

He, like so many hugely talented individuals appear to pay the price for their gift with a fragile state of self awareness. This trade off for talent can sometimes be to the detriment of hard work and dedication. Where by those less gifted individuals more limited in talent are forced to work much harder, more committed to pushing themselves from the word go and so continuing their careers well into their latter years. Those seemingly born with an exceptional ability to perform well at this game or any sport with less effort in their early years could argue to having greater difficulty achieving to their fullest potential. They can fall victim to their own talent, never having to work hard at ones game as a youngster can prove to be a players biggest hurdle when they are faced with a slump or loss of direction. As an effortlessly impressive junior, Master Haig no doubt cruised through the ranks of Club, Provincial and National Champion with relative ease before quickly discovering the self belief to achieve at the highest level of Professional Golf. To of achieved so much, so soon and with such ease brings its sometimes painful pitfalls. Most notably in the form of expectation, which in turn brings pressure, that vitally potent ingredient that all high achievers must love and constantly strive to taste. The problem with talent is its inconsistent nature and the level of pressure stacked with it, one mans worry can be another mans bliss. How we perceive various situations is a matter of individual self awareness and the confidence one has in his own ability to handle that situation, that's the very nature of pressure. So as you can see, ones talent has a big influence over ones ability to handle various levels of pressure. For Anton, with so much talent and so much awareness of that talent so young in his career is it possible to accept his biggest issues today are merely a matter I realizing just how much he has achieved on mere talent alone? Is it time to now start working, ignoring the hangers on, the locals, the aspiring Antons that line the ropes each week?
I would say it is.
Its time to move in favor of a more single minded approach to actually maximizing the potential of his talent before its lost to the vortex of his own emotion. Its time he, like so many of the worlds up and coming talented players of the world, realise the very essence of talent is what keeps them in the game long enough to even consider life as a professional. Talent is the equalling force that levels the playing field and completes the bubble that is Professional Golf, but what makes the best so much better than the rest from week to week is the complex tapestry of MENTAL ATTITUDE.
Tiger Woods talent is what brings him into line with every other competitor the world over, Anton Haig included, but what separates them both is Tigers level of preparation and the level of belief this creates. Talent does not separate them, it challenges them both to compete against one another, the desire to overcome, to destroy and conquer is what so few modern players actually possess.
TALENT is the seed from which potential greatness is born.
ATTITUDE is the source from which that greatness is realised.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Human after ALL!!!

Greatness is without doubt the most responsible duty of them all. A superstar performer or legendary figure so closely pursued with the utmost scrutiny of the public eye. Constantly admired for their incredible feats of skill, talent, drive, focus and unshakable commitment to being the best they can be. It goes without saying, such a gift should be cherished, respected and ultimately utilised to the greatest possible effect. Such a position is not graced upon individuals of unique character and mental discipline lightly, it is the result of tireless commitment and true dedication to their maximizing of the human form to its fullest potential.

Greatness is born within us all, only but a few are fortunate enough to ever discover the talent and passion required to fully unlock such greatness. For those that have, we must all commend and savour their achievements, lets honor the Sporting Stars of generations come and generations gone with a deep respect for the level of hard work, sweat and sacrifice exposed by everyone of them.

As a respected Golf Instructor and dedicated purist of the game I feel incredibly honored to be apart of a world sport that currently plays host to the Greatest Sportsman on the planet and arguably the Greatest Golfer the World has ever seen. There really can't of been any better time to be a golfer, though hand me a ticket and I'd chop my right arm off for a trip back to the 50's, 60's or 70's. I wouldn't want to stay there after seeing what I now have but damn would it be cool to pick up on the crisp sounding strike of a Hogan long iron. Class like that doesn't pass through all that often which is why its such a privilege sharing the golfing platform with the genius of Tiger Woods.

Exceptional intellectual or creative power or other natural ability.

The bench mark of a generation, respected and remembered by the world as a model of excellence capable of inspiring generations to come. These unique figures are basically seen as perfect human beings, sometimes so far removed from the public that support and follow them that these individuals become prisoners in their own self centered world of invincibility. Tiger Woods reached that milestone, in his pursuit of greatness and 18+ Major Championships he has sacrificed more than most people will ever fully appreciate or even care to. As a result of his achievements I'm afraid all the world has come to see is a figure of absolute superstar proportion, almost god like.

So how incredible is the Tiger?
The past two years has proved without question what lies at the heart of the great one and I can safely say its all human. Yes that's right folks, he has urges, instincts, desires and even temptations into sin like every single one of us. Know one can deny, its human nature, we all have a devil within us, a naughty little voice that thrives on the risk and excitement of breaking certain rules every now and then. Tiger is no different, he's come an awful long way on his journey through life and committed every last ounce of his life to remaining focused on the mission he first pinned to his bedroom wall as a 10 year old boy. Such a single minded pursuit doesn't come without sacrifice, giving up ones youth and the childhood intrigue that allows us all the time to fully explore not just the endless possibilities of everything around us but the unlimited fun and games on offer on the way is a more than high price to pay. A figure of sporting excellence such as Tiger has never dated girls for long, short, rocky or smooth periods of time, as he developed into the man we see today all he has ever really known is the game. Any room for experimentation, adventure and intrigue has unfortunately spread no further than a ball and stick, all he's ever known is excellence and reaching the highest standards ever known to man.

Just as Mr Woods had reached the point of dislike with this writer, he decides to get a little sloppy with his 'Sexting' and carelessly blows his mischievous manner straight into the public radar! A suspected mistress conveniently follows himself and Mother down under whilst he shows up for a rare appearance in the Australian Masters. I might add he won the event in typical Tiger fashion with a week of errant drives survived by exceptional flashes of genius into and around the greens of a half baked Sandbelt Masterpiece. All in all this week has been a good one for the Tiger Woods fan base in my mind as its just reopened for business! As much as I hate the fact his family must be experiencing a horrendous amount of pain and intrusive media attention right now, this whole episode has revealed the human side of the Tiger and brought him back down to earth with an almighty crash. But lets not worry about him, he's made his bed and now its time he laid in it!

So what of these other women?
Im really not concerned with their details, stories, encounters or tempting looks of seduction, the bottom line is our God like figure of Golfing Supremacy is not a gift from God, he's not apart of a super human race or time traveller sent back to push the course of the game on. He is in fact just another dude, he has urges and occasionally submits to temptation.

Submittable to temptation or pursuit of desire?
The most powerful trait of any top athlete is a commitment to attaining the prize, seeing something and wanting it is the spark that ignites the desire that sets these individuals on that path to attainment.

Tiger Woods is without doubt the greatest sportsman living today and should be constantly admired as a model of sporting excellence, a hero, an idol, a source of inspiration for millions of young people across the world. He should not be hounded by the media and destroyed as a man away from the game, its the game that makes Tiger Woods, without it he's just another guy fighting the human instinct of sinful temptation. Take him out of the game and you give him acceptance of the common man who acts sinful, with deception and mischief, because such is everywhere. Leave Tiger in the game and you have a man of great naievity in thinking such a public figure of such magnitude is really so immortal he could actually explore other women and encounter situations of great deception without paying any price. He has clearly lost track of his position and role as a figure head for so many concerns. His once invincible image of perfection has now been destroyed and Im afraid his now uncertain public persona lay in the balance of his now sleazy, love rat reputation.

So the genius of Tiger has finally produced signs of breaking, but what else? Could this be the beginning of something much worse? Is Tiger beginning to show the true strain of supreme athleticism, is the temptation so readily thrown before our highest earning sports stars of today proving to much? Is he losing his drive, is he slowing up through boredom, has the great one simply burnt out or is he just bored of winning?

Only time will tell.

Tiger Woods could put so much more back into the game and spread the great gift of the game to a far bigger audience than he already does. The man is a boy at heart, never fully exploring ones childhood and the youthful sense of adventure and mischief can be a regrettably sorry mistake on a persons latter life reflections and possible midlife antics.

Taking responsibility for ones unsuccessful actions and accepting it is the act of a successful man.

Anything is possible, man or machine, we are all the same, born as we shall all die, with nothing. What one does with their time is what makes one the Man.