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Golf is not a game of consistent

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“Golf is a game whose aim is to hit a very small ball into a small hole, with weapons singularly ill-designed for the task.” -Winston S. Churchill

In general terms, the golf club is covering perhaps a 30-degree arc, traveling at maybe 90 mph, attempting to hit a ball lying on the ground that is 1.68″ in diameter in less than two seconds. If that isn’t enough, we are expected to strike it with a golf club that is three-feet or longer, and we have to hit precisely in the middle of the face of that club, an area comprising maybe one square inch. To boot, we stand well above the ball, to the side of it and in a variety of lies and an even wider variety of weather conditions. In that light, Churchill’s comment seems pretty spot on.

And yet, the number one comment I have heard over my 35-plus years of teaching is: “I just want to be consistent.”

Now when we come right down to it, getting consistent results in golf is pretty much mission impossible.  Yes, there are degrees of consistent, but when the great Jack Nicklaus says that in his best days, he hit maybe three or four “perfect” shots in a round, where does that leave the rest of us?

Yet we still long for “consistency,” knowing full well that if the strike is just one inch (or less) from the center, the shot will go awry.  Or if the swing direction does not match the attack angle or the face does not complement the path, we hit some degree of a foul ball.  What is consistent is the sequence of motions, but not the strike of the golf ball.  During the .0004 seconds of impact a whole lot can, and usually does, go awry.

The bottom line is this:  Golf is not a game of consistent (results). and to expect it of ourselves is unfair, damaging to our learning process and our level of enjoyment.  Expect and accept the unexpected and you will not be disappointed.  We see the greatest players in the world every weekend hit foul balls.  Of course, they are more consistent than average golfers, but ask them how many times they execute the actual shot they are trying to hit, and you might be shocked by the answer.  The best we can say is that their bad shots, the shots that come off with less than desired results, are still very playable.  And therein lies the key: improving at golf for anyone is simply hitting “better bad shots” yet aware that a poor one will come sometimes.  Accept it, learn from it (the darkest hour is just before dawn) and play your next shot.

Anticipating  some unreasonable level of consistency is unrealistic at best, and down-right frustrating at worst.  The unknown is what makes our game so wonderful.  Heck, even really well-hit shots do not always have the desired outcome, let alone the misses.  For more perspective on it, consider that the best in the world miss five or six greens every round, and miss more putts than they make from eight feet! I have always loved the unexpected, the “where did that come from moment”…it is what gives golf its mystery, its lure, and above all the pure joy of excitement we all get when the occasional great shot does come off.

Golf cannot be won, only played” Bagger Vance told us, and so we keep playing.  So we keep trying to master a game no one will ever master, and we have our brief glimpses of brilliance followed by hours of mediocrity and inconsistency, and we accept the whole game, not just the success we have at it. Let the foul balls be a teacher, not a frustrator.  Learn to love mystique and the wonder of the game.  It is, after all, the greatest of games because of that magic.

The next time you hit a foul ball, don’t look away in disgust, and think, “that’s not me.” Instead, think “that’s golf, and I love it.”

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Feb 13, 2019 at 11:20 am

    once your swing path is the same you will be consistent like Moe Norman was and as long as Mike Austin was.
    Yes coming a how to

  2. hal

    Feb 11, 2019 at 12:37 pm

    As Tiger Woods said; Golf is a game of misses, he who has the smallest misses usually wins!!

    • Peter McGill

      Feb 12, 2019 at 6:45 am

      Good misses usually make for a good round.

  3. Juststeve

    Feb 11, 2019 at 8:31 am

    Dennis:

    I’ve read your previous posts with interest and usually find them spot on. With this one however I think you are way off target. You have conflated perfection, which is unattainable, with consistency which has been attained, to a greater or lesser degree, by every good player. Were it not for consistency we wouldn’t know how far our next 7 iron would fly. We do know because we have attained enough consistency to know at least roughly what to expect when we hit the club. Consistency is how we know that club to pull. I would venture to say that in almost ever case the better player is the one who hits the ball more consistently. When people come to-you looking for consistency they are looking fir the right thing, the thing that will make them better.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 11, 2019 at 11:27 am

      I agree. Better players are more consistent, almost by definition. But it’s still a game that the “out of nowhere”shot is never far away. I played some years ago with a very good player (I’ll not say name) who hit me in the back of the leg with a SHANK! He shot 67 that day! Thx for reading and the comment.

    • Mel

      Feb 11, 2019 at 1:38 pm

      I agree, Juststeve. In most cases (within the article) if “perfect” replaced “consistent” it would have been more helpful to me. And less incongruous too. The author/instructor mentions how few perfect shots touring pros hit while almost in the same breath admits they’re more consistent golfers than amateurs. We’ve all achieved some level of consistency and our time on the driving range, in my opinion anyway, is to increase that consistency and not necessarily to increase the number of perfect shots. Although we love those! Anyway, I won’t let this article dissuade me from trying to improve my consistency. To be fair, there were several helpful concepts which I appreciated.

  4. Mike Duranko - GolfToons

    Feb 11, 2019 at 5:22 am

    Fantastic. Thank you
    I do get inspiration watching the pro mistakes during tournaments, not to see them fail but for the encouragement. 1/2 the 8 footers are missed by pros!!!
    My game is not so bad.

  5. John

    Feb 9, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Best article I have read on here in a long time. Spot on. Thank you, Dennis.

  6. Nack Jicklaus

    Feb 9, 2019 at 6:59 pm

    If only I could remember this article next time I flail a tee ball over the trees and into the next fairway… Golf really is a lot more enjoyable when I don’t beat myself up over bad shots.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 9, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      And…it detracts from your ability to correct the foul balls.

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