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Don’t Leave Your Common Sense in Escrow Outside the Golf Course Parking Lot

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Disclaimer: Much of what follows is going to come off as elitist, harsh and downright mean spirited — a pro looking down from his ivory tower at all the worthless hacks and judging them. It is the opposite. The intent is to show how foolish WE golfers are, chasing around a white ball with a crooked stick and suspending all of the common sense we use in our every day lives.

Much of what follows is not just the bane of average golfers, but also low handicappers, tour players and even a former long-drive champion during his quest for the PGA Tour… and now, the Champions Tour. In other words, if WE take ourselves a bit less seriously and use a bit more common sense, we are going to have more fun and actually hit better golf shots. We will shoot lower scores.

FYI: All of the examples of nutbaggery to come are things I have actually witnessed. They’re not exaggerated for the sake of laughs.

It’s winter time and most of you poor souls are not enjoying the 70-degree temperatures I am in Southern California right now (see, you all hate me already… and it’s going to get worse). That gives us all time to assess our approach to golf. I am not talking course management or better focus; I am talking how WE golfers approach our successes and failures, which for many is more important than the aforementioned issues or the quality of our technique.

Why is it that golf turns normal, intelligent, successful and SANE people into deviant, ignorant failures that exhibit all of the tell-tale signs of insanity? I also forgot profane, whiny, hostile, weak-minded, weak-willed and childish. Not to mention stupid. Why do we seem to leave our common sense and sanity in escrow in a cloud outside the golf course parking lot… only to have it magically return the moment our car leaves the property after imposing extreme mental anguish on ourselves that Gunnery Sergeant Hartman (don’t feel bad if you have to google this) would find extreme?

Smarter people than I have written books on this, but I think they missed a key factor. Clubs, balls, shoes, bags, gloves, tees, the grasses, especially the sand in the bunkers, the Gatorade they sell at the snack bar, hats, visors, over-logoed clothing, golf carts, etc., are all made with human kryptonite. Not enough to kill us, but just enough to make us act like children who didn’t get the latest fad toy for Christmas and react by throwing a hissy fit.

Bob Rotella has said golf is not a game of perfect, and although religious texts say man was made in God’s image, thinking we are perfect is blasphemous. We all play golf like we think there is an equivalent of a bowling 300. We expect to hit every drive 300 yards (the bowling perfect) with a three-yard draw… in the middle of the face… in the dead center of the fairway. All iron shots must be worked from the middle of the green toward the pin and compressed properly with shaft lean, ball-first contact and the perfect dollar-bill sized divot (and not too deep). Shots within 100 yards from any lie should be hit within gimme range, and all putts inside 20 feet must be holed.

We get these ideas from watching the best players in the world late on Sunday, where all of the above seem commonplace. We pay no attention to the fact that we are significantly worse than the guys who shot 76-76 and missed the cut. We still hold ourselves to that ridiculous standard.

  • Group 1: “Monte, you’re exaggerating. No one has those expectations.”
  • Group 2: ”Monte, I’m a type-A personality. I’m very competitive and hard on myself.”

To the first group, the following examples say different. And to the second group, I am one of you. It’s OK for me to want to shoot over 80 percent from the free throw line, but at 50 years old and 40 pounds over weight, what would you say to me if I said, “I’m type-A and competitive and I want to dunk like Lebron James!” Oh yeah, and I want to copy Michael Jordan’s dunking style, Steph Curry’s shooting stroke and Pistol Pete’s passing and dribbling style.” That seems ridiculous, but switch those names to all-time greats in golf and WE have all been guilty of those aspirations.

I don’t know how to answer 18-handicaps who ask me if they should switch to blades so they can work the ball better and in both directions. The blunt a-hole in me wants to tell them, “Dude, just learn to hit the ball on the face somewhere,” but that’s what they read in the golf magazines. You’re supposed to work the ball from the middle of the green toward the pin, like Nicklaus. Well, the ball doesn’t curve as much now as it did in Nicklaus’ prime and most tour players only work the ball one way unless the circumstances don’t allow it. “And you’re not Jack Nicklaus.” Some joke about Jesus and Moses playing golf has that punch line.

Wouldn’t it be easier to get as proficient as possible at one shot when you have limited practice time, versus being less than mediocre on several different shots? This also applies to hitting shots around the greens 27 different ways, but don’t get me started…just buy my short game video. Hyperbole and shameless plug aside, this is a huge mistake average golfers make. They never settle on one way of doing things.

The day the first white TaylorMade adjustable driver was released, I played 9 holes behind a very nice elderly couple. He went to Harvard and she went to Stanford. He gets on the first tee and hits a big push. He walks to the cart, grabs his wrench and closes the club face. She tops her tee shot, gets the wrench and adds some loft. Out of morbid curiosity, I stayed behind them the entire front 9 and watched them adjust their clubs for every mishit shot. It took over 3 hours for a two-some. These are extremely nice, smart and successful people and look what golf did to them. Anyone calling this a rules violation, have a cocktail; you’re talking yourself even more seriously than they were. Old married couple out fooling around, big deal if they broke a rule. No tournament, not playing for money, they’re having fun. They had gimmies, mulligans and winter rules. Good for them.

This is an extreme example of a huge mistake that nearly 100 percent of golfers make; they believe the need for an adjustment after every bad shot… or worse, after every non-perfect shot. How many of you have done this both on the range and on the course?

”(Expletive), pushed that one, need to close the face. (Expletive), hit that one thin, need to hit down more on this one. (Expletive), hooked that one, need to hold off the release.”

I’ll ask people why they do this and the answer is often, “I’m trying to build a repeatable swing.”

Nice. Building repeatable swing by making 40 different swings during a range session or round of golf. That is insane and stupid, but WE have all done it. The lesson learned here is to just try and do better on the next one. You don’t want to make adjustments until you have the same miss several times in a row. As a secondary issue, what are the odds that you do all of the following?

  1.  Diagnose the exact swing fault that caused the bad shot
  2.  Come up with the proper fix
  3.  Implement that fix correctly in the middle of a round of golf with OB, two lakes, eight bunkers and three elephants buried in the green staring you in the face.

Another factor in this same vein, and again, WE have all been guilty of this: “I just had my worst round in three weeks. What I was doing to shoot my career low three times in row isn’t working any more. Where is my Golf Digest? I need a new tip.”

Don’t lie… everyone reading this article has done that. EVERYONE! Improvement in golf is as far from linear as is mathematically possible. I have never heard a golfer chalk a high score up to a “bad day.” It’s always a technique problem, so there is a visceral need to try something different. “It’s not working anymore. I think I need to do the Dustin Johnson left wrist, the Sergio pull-down lag, the Justin Thomas downswing hip turn, the Brooks Koepka restricted-backswing hip turn and the Jordan Spieth and Jamie Sadllowski bent left elbow… with a little Tiger Woods 2000 left-knee snap when I need some extra power.” OK, maybe it’s a small bit of exaggeration that someone would try all of these, but I have heard multiple people regale of putting 2-3 of those moves in after a bad round that didn’t mesh with their downtrending index.

An 8-handicap comes to me for his first lesson. He had shot in the 70’s four of his last five rounds and shot a career best in the last of the five. All of the sudden, those friendly slight mishits that rhyme with the place where we keep our money show up. First a few here and there and then literally every shot. He shows up and shanks 10 wedges in a row and is literally ready to cry. I said, “Go home, take this week off and come back… and what’s your favorite beer?”

He comes back the next week, pulls a club and goes to hit one. I tell him to have a seat. I hand him a beer and we talk football for 15 minutes. Then I pull out my iPad and show him exactly why he is hitting shanks. I tell him one setup issue and one intent change and ask him to go hit one. It was slightly on the heel, but not a shank and very thin. I said to do both changes a bit more. The second one — perfect divot, small draw and on target. I walk over, put my hand up for a high five and say, “Awesome job! Great shot!”

He leaves me hanging and says, ”Yeah, but I hit it in the toe.”

Don’t judge him. Every day I have people with 50-yard slices toned down to 15-20 yards saying the ball is still slicing. These are people who won’t accept a fade, but slam their club when it over draws 15 feet left of the target… and so on. I can’t judge or be angry; I used to be these guys, too. During a one-hour lesson, I often hear people get frustrated with themselves for thin and fat, left and right, heel and toe. Apparently, anything not hunting flags or hit out of a dime-sized area is an epic fail. I also get emails the next day saying the fault and miss is still there.

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

My big miss has always been a big block, often in the heel. Instead, I now often hit a pull in the left fairway bunker out of the toe. I celebrate like I’m Kool & the Gang and it’s 1999… and I get strange looks from everyone. I can manage a 10-15 yard low, slightly drawn pull. I cannot not manage a 40-50 yard in the atmosphere block… that cuts.

So, now that I have described all of US as pathetic, let’s see what we can do.

  1. Be hard on yourself, be competitive and set lofty goals all you want… but you need to accept at least a one-side miss. If you hate hitting thin, weak fades, you need to allow yourself a slightly heavy over draw. Not allowing yourself any miss will make you miss every shot.
  2. Generally, the better the player, the larger the pool of results that are used to judge success. Pros judge themselves over months and years. High-handicappers judge themselves on their previous shot. Do you think pros make a swing change after 10 good shots and one minor miss? We all seem to think that course of action is astute. Bad shot, must have done something wrong… HULK MUST FIX!
  3. Don’t judge your shots on a pass/fail grade. Grade yourself A-F. Are you going to feel better after 10 A’s, 25 B’s, 15 C’s, 4 D’s and 1 F… or 10 passes and 40 fails? If every non-perfect shot is seen as a failure, your subconscious will do something different in order to please you. Again, 40 different swings.
  4. Improving your swing and scores is a lot like losing weight. No one expects to make changes in a diet and exercise routine and lose 20 pounds in one day, yet golfers expect a complete overhaul in a small bucket. Give yourself realistic time frames for improvement. “I’m a 12. By the end of next year, I want to be an 8.”  That’s your goal, not whether or not your last range session was the worst in a month. It’s a bad day; that is allowed. Major champions miss cuts and all of them not named Tiger Woods don’t change their swings. They try and do better next week… and they nearly always do.
  5. DO NOT measure yourself either on the mechanics of your swing or your scoring results according to some arbitrary standard of perfection… and especially not against tour players. Measure yourself against yourself. Think Ty Webb. Is your swing better than it was 6 months ago? Do you hit it better than 6 months ago? Are you scoring better than 6 months ago? If you can say yes to at least two of those questions, your swing looking like Adam Scott is less relevant than the color of golf tee you use.

That is a winning formula, and just like bad habits in your swing, you can’t wake up one morning and tell yourself you’re no longer into self flagellation. It takes effort and practice to improve your approach and get out of your own way… but more importantly, have some fun.

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Monte Scheinblum is a former World Long Drive Champion and Web.com Tour player. For more insights and details on this article, as well as further instruction from Monte go to rebelliongolf.com

31 Comments

31 Comments

  1. Greg

    Feb 21, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    So, what your saying is since I use to be a pretty good sprinter in high school (35 years ago) with a some hard work and competitive fire there is no reason I can’t take gold from U. Bolt next Olympics? After that I’ll parlay my skills into playing cornerback in the NFL, at worst maybe the Canadian league? SOLD!

  2. Jennifer

    Feb 20, 2018 at 9:26 am

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  3. Bruce Aderhold

    Feb 20, 2018 at 6:18 am

    I had always promised myself that when I retired I was going to work on my game and take lessons.
    Well I retired and yes lots more time for golf and the range. Went to a 3 day golf school and found out that unless you see the teacher 4 or 5 times a week it’s not going to change me from a 18 to a scratch. So now I look forward to each round with good friends and as many good shots as possible.
    I also get to, as my wife would say, infect my grandson with the golf disease. I had already infected my 2 sons.
    Great article going to forward to my golf buddies.

  4. Tom54

    Feb 19, 2018 at 5:13 pm

    Excellent article. The point I best took was where he says if a pro hits 10 great shots and misses the next , does he feel the need to overhaul his swing? Of course not. Consistency is the most fleeting part of the game. I too wonder what is wrong when I have good holes then seem to lose the swing altogether. That is why this game despite all the frustrations is the most rewarding game I have ever played. Nothing beats the feeling after a good round. On the other hand you can’t wait to try again even after a lousy one too. Let’s face it out of all the lousy shots we amateurs have hit we still can’t wait for the next time out.

  5. Peter Borchers

    Feb 19, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    I’ve had just about enough of your common sense around here, Mr. Scheinblum!

  6. Jack

    Feb 19, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Great article Monte. We all need to read this.

    • jim

      Feb 19, 2018 at 2:56 pm

      …. also to learn and confront ourselves in our golf-deluded existence…. particularly gearhesds in our midst.

  7. david

    Feb 19, 2018 at 11:37 am

    Excellent article Monte, (from one luntzman to another) like your writing style, similar to my own. A good article to read is Butch Harmons 10 rules for making a swing change. Expectations are silly; I love watching tour pros miss 15 foot putts as if it should have gone it. 85% luck if it did.

  8. John B

    Feb 19, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Great Piece! I’m 56 and a 5-6 handicapper. I learned along time ago that every season I am going to have 5-6 great rounds and 5-6 horrible rounds and the rest are going to fall somewhere in between in a 6-7 shot range. AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHEN ANY OF THOSE ROUNDS ARE GOING TO HAPPEN EACH SEASON!

    A couple of years ago I asked my pro how I could get better – like a scratch golfer. He looked me in the eye and told me there is a reason there is a senior tour and I should just try and keep and enjoy the game I have for as long as I can.

    I just play…

  9. Nada Billboard

    Feb 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm

    About that over-logoed clothing. . .Everyone I know seems to agree that it looks so cheap and it is so tired. So is there any chance in the foreseeable future that we will once again be able to purchase decent high quality golfing apparel from a manufacturer that has the good taste to keep their stinking logos and labels on the inside of their garments? Or will that not be possible until someone invents a time machine?

    • jim

      Feb 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm

      You are what you own and wear.
      Declaring you wear or play a certain brand give you an identity…. otherwise you are empty and insignificant.
      This applies to all products in our materialistic hedonistic patriotic idiotic existences.

  10. Acemandrake

    Feb 18, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    DON’T OVERANALYZE & HAVE FUN

    Golfers need to enjoy the process/journey. Otherwise they will be miserable and bad company.

    I caught myself being overly grim after bad shots/scores and realized this was no way to be if i wanted to continue playing for a long time.

    “Why do I play?”…for FUN.

  11. The dude

    Feb 18, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    IMO….best article ever…….

    …..now everyone….go work on Snead’s squat move……

    • rod

      Feb 18, 2018 at 7:11 pm

      ….. and The Truth huuuuurts!!! Maybe a new set of PXG’s…. ya think? 🙁

  12. Dadman

    Feb 18, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    Spot on. Simply spot on, at least for all us 18 handicappers* who love the game, play fast by the rules, play as often as we can (living up north, that gets interesting), practice whenever we get the chance cuz life and business gets in the way, take lessons at our local publinks from the same poor PGA Pro who keeps finding new ways to help us find the same damn thing and keep tinkering with clubs because it’s fun.

    *I’m a 20. But I’m 66 and I was a 17 once. And I feel like an 18. So I got that going for me. And if I just get the putter going….

    • rod

      Feb 18, 2018 at 7:10 pm

      Soooo… what you are telling us is that you are a “bogey putter”? 😮

  13. Sean Foster-Nolan

    Feb 18, 2018 at 4:27 pm

    Great article Monte. Spot on.

    ps: My Sergeant Hartman’s were named Keyes, Watson, and Kalbantner. After almost 45 years I still remember their names. lol

  14. OB

    Feb 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    95% of all “golfers” worldwide are non-athletic dregs… and the rest are wannabees… except for the 0.5% who can play decently. The problem is that expectations are greater than production.

    • rod

      Feb 18, 2018 at 7:13 pm

      Sounds a tad optimistic ….. maybe 0.25% ….?

    • James T

      Feb 19, 2018 at 11:58 am

      Scratch the surface of any low handicap golfer and you’ll find an athlete who can swish a 3 pointer, cleanly field a grounder or throw a tight spiral. The golf swing is an “athletic move” and if you didn’t grow up playing other sports you’re behind the proverbial 8 ball. And billiards is not an athletic endeavor.

      • David

        Feb 27, 2018 at 10:41 pm

        Yep. Been preaching this for years. I literally don’t know a single plus handicap golfer (although I’m sure there are some) who isn’t very good to excellent at multiple other sports from baseball to football and everything in between….

  15. Alex

    Feb 18, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    The people who disliked this article are clearly illiterate.

  16. mostly nunya

    Feb 18, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    Like…Monte seems like a mensch.
    Lower body does lead though, dude.

    • MonteScheinblum

      Feb 18, 2018 at 5:57 pm

      I know it does, but it leading too much is often taught and that’s a problem.

    • rygroves

      Feb 18, 2018 at 6:13 pm

      Yes and I was one of Monte’s “68 Ballerina” converts. Started golf in ‘96 with the drivel that was the golf publications at the time. All of us are guilty of the article’s premise, and that following intents or positions without asking, “what’s that going to do to ballflight.” Follow Monte’s advise, “some” is the word needed in more instruction.

  17. Russ

    Feb 18, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    This is one of the greatest articles written on Golfwrx since my review of the Powebuilt Nitro driver 15 years ago… It only took me 35 years to learn how to play this way, and I’m one of those type A single digit, thought I should be scratch with little practice, players. Now I enjoy the game much more and laugh (well except for yesterday) about my 3 or 4 blowup holes each round. Well written, and well played sir.

    • rod

      Feb 18, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      …. and kudos to the fine folks at GolfWRX for posting this brutally controversial article. The Truth that must not be spoken on a gearheaded website.

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