For you parents with little golfers ages 3 to 5 and maybe even beyond those ages, we need to talk about parent aggravation and frustration. There is going to come a time when your little golfer is going to give less than the effort he or she should. It’s not a matter of if, it’s going to be a matter of when. Every single one of us will encounter this at some point and time. My time came last week during my daughter’s golf class.
Our daughter is enrolled into a kids golf clinic called “Little Tigers” which is held on Saturdays. It’s a golf clinic designed for kids ages 3-5, and the curriculum is very basic. There are no complicated instructions — it’s basically designed to have kids involved in golf and to be around other kids their age. The class is 45 minutes long and is usually broken into two halves. The first half of the class is geared around hitting irons and drivers. The second half is focused on putting.
Friday night we had snow fall, with about 3 inches of accumulation in Indiana. When she woke up and saw the snow she did what all kids do when they see the fluffy white stuff everywhere: She jumped up and down and asked if she could go out and play in it. My wife said to our daughter that we can play in the snow after golf school. My daughter and I arrived to class today, paid our registration fee and headed out to the heated tees.
Now, I am not a big fan of having these young kids hit outside during the winter even if the tee’s are heated. So I had sympathy when my daughter said to me:
“Daddy I don’t want to hit outside, I want to stay in here.” I replied with, “Sweetheart we won’t be out there very long and look the rest of your class is already walking out.” So we headed to the heated tees.
Normally, we share a mat with another student and the kids hit four balls and rotate. Last week, we had our own mat and didn’t need to rotate. I thought to myself that this was better because she can get antsy waiting for her turn. I could tell early on that she wasn’t into hitting balls that. She had what I call “wondering eyes” — she was more concerned about everything else around her except the ball we were hitting. Her swings were half-hearted and there wasn’t any effort in trying to hit the ball.
My daughter was able to finish her bucket of balls (which is about 20 balls total) and during those 20 swings, she asked if she could go onto the range and touch the snow. She used her driver as a microphone and was singing into it and was dancing. All typical acts of a normal 3 year old. The only problem was that we were on a driving range and not at home in the family room where she likes to entertain the audience.
Well, since we had our own mat, we finished before the rest of the kids. My daughter was sitting on my lap trying to stay warm and she looks at me and said, “Daddy I want to go home now.” I said, “Honey, we are getting ready to go inside and play the putting game.” I thought that might make her change her mind since that’s what she wanted to do in the first place. She then says again “No Daddy, I just want to leave now.”
So I was in that uncomfortable place that all parents visit from time to time. I wanted to say, “Class is not over and we need to wait until we are finished before we leave,” and at the same time I didn’t want to force her into doing something she didn’t want to do. So we grabbed her bag and headed to the car.
As I loaded up the car, I could feel the aggravation building inside of me. My daughter has never walked out of anything midway through. She takes gymnastics, and never once left in the middle of a session. At this point, I was in complete shock that we were leaving. So on the way home, we made our stop at Dunkin’ Donuts (we do this after class each time — in the summer we get ice cream and in the winter we get hot chocolate and munchkins). I didn’t want her to think she was being punished for not finishing class. On the way to Dunkin’ Donuts she asked me if she did good.
Now, this is where I make my biggest mistake during this whole incident, I replied “You were doing great until you quit and wanted to leave.” Not even realizing the negativity of the word “quit.” I was so aggravated and frustrated about having to leave in the middle of class that it slipped right out.
She said: “I didn’t quit Daddy.” I replied: “We left before class was over, that’s quitting,” and she replied, “I’m not a quitter.”
I can’t begin to tell you how embarrassed I am to be telling you that those words came out of my mouth. Shame on me! I know better than to use a negative word like “quit.” What I should have said was “You did great, you hit all the balls in the bucket” and followed up with “I wish we could have stayed longer and gone inside to play the putting games with the rest of the class, maybe next week we can stay longer.” So when we get home my wife asked our daughter how golf went and my daughter says “I quit Mommy.” My wife said, “What do you mean you quit? We don’t quit sweetheart” My daughter then said, “No Mommy, I quit and came home.” My wife gives me the what-did-you-say-to-our-daughter-on-the-way-home look. So I had to explain to her what I said and how it slipped out.
I am sharing this story with you because I want you to understand how one negative word can affect your child. She finished her bucket of balls and instead of staying positive, I expressed a negative feeling because of my aggravation. Now my daughter viewed herself as a quitter and not having a feeling of accomplishment for doing so. I can tell you this, it feels horrible inside to hear your daughter say she’s a quitter when asked how golf class went. She now associated today’s class as a failure rather than a sense of accomplishment. So now instead of class being fun (which is what I have been pushing this whole time, to keep it fun) I now took the fun out of it with one word.
I had all day to think about why my daughter didn’t want to finish class and there are several factors that play a role in this.
1. She expressed immediately that she didn’t want to hit outside.
2. Because we didn’t have to share a mat, she was hitting ball after ball after ball. She didn’t get her break while the other child hit his four balls. The activity became monotonous for her.
3. She had playing in the snow on her mind all day and couldn’t wait to get back home so she could go out and play in it. That explains why there wasn’t an effort to hit balls.
4. When we putt inside, there is a bell that rings when you sink a putt (like a reward for making a putt go in). Outside on the range, there’s no sense of accomplishment when you hit the ball well. There are no targets or flags set up close enough for these little kids to strive for. That makes hitting outside not fun for her.
You add up numbers one through four and what do you get? Not fun, and what’s the No. 1 factor that has to remain for kids to be interested in golf? FUN!! We have to keep it fun for them to stay active in this sport. I failed today in keeping it fun. I ignored the fact that she said she didn’t want to go outside and hit. Golf already lost the battle from the start. She had no desire to even want to be there in the first place. She said she wanted to stay inside and putt — I should have asked if she could skip hitting outside and see if it was OK to hit into the one of the indoor nets and then moved onto putting.
I hope my experience from this event helps you understand that what we say to our children can really affect how they feel about golf or anything else in life. We need to concentrate on what we say and even though frustration and aggravation is getting the best of us, we have to remain positive. There were plenty of positives from the 20 balls that she hit and I let frustration get the better of me and left a negative impression on my daughter.
As I tucked her into bed for the night I whispered in her ear, “I had fun today watching you hit balls,” and she gave me a kiss and a hug and said, “I had fun with you too, Daddy.” Hopefully she forgives me.
The difference between “ugly” and “unorthodox” golf swings
I’d like you pretend for a moment that you were asked to name the five ugliest golf swings by players who had won a major championship. Who would you select, and what criteria would you use to make that judgment? You might say you’re not sure, but you would have no difficulty identifying an ugly swing if you were to see one, right? The question is, what factors would move you toward that decision?
I struggled with this exact question when it was posed to me and others who were members of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100” panel at the time. In making my decision, I was concerned that I did not confuse UNORTHODOX with UGLY. The fact is that some of the greatest golfers throughout history have been considered to have had unorthodox swings.
- The word “unorthodox” is defined as that which is contrary to what is usual, traditional or generally accepted.
- The word “ugly” is defined as that which is unpleasant or repulsive in appearance.
In comparing the two definitions, they are clearly quite different. The word “unorthodox” suggests something that is different from the norm, while the word “ugly” relates to the appearance of an object regardless of its status. The problem with labeling any golf swing as unorthodox is that the definition of that condition varies with time. What was once considered to be unorthodox may later be considered perfectly acceptable, and we’ve seen this happen over and over again in golf instruction.
Case No. 1
It was considered unorthodox when Harry Vardon moved his thumbs toward the top of the shaft and placed the little finger of his right hand over his left forefinger knuckle. The standard grip in his era featured both thumbs to the sides of the shaft. The club was held more in the palms of both hands and with all ten fingers, rather than more diagonally through the palm as in Vardon’s Grip. As Vardon began to win, however, his competitors copied his grip. What once was considered unorthodox became orthodox.
Case No. 2
Hogan and Nicklaus were paired together in the final round of the 1957 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. The dichotomy between their backswings couldn’t have been more evident. This was due to the way in which they utilized their right elbows in the backswing. Nicklaus allowed his right elbow to work up and away, pointing more outward at the top. Hogan’s right elbow was closer to his body and pointed more downward.
At the time, Hogan’s backswing was considered orthodox while Nicklaus’ swing was considered unorthodox. As Hogan faded from the winner’s circle and Nicklaus began to emerge, what was once thought to be unorthodox later came to be considered orthodox.
There are some swings that most observers would agree are both unorthodox and ugly. For example, most observers would say that Jim Furyk’s swing is not pretty — they might even go so far as to categorize it as ugly. This is despite the face that Furyk has had an outstanding career and has a U.S. Open victory to his credit. What is it that observers find so offense in his swing? The answer is the differential in planes between the backswing and the downswing, or what might be referred to as a “loop” in his swing.
In Furyk’s case, the club is taken well outside what might be considered the traditional backswing plane. Then it is looped well to the inside and back into position on the downswing. This is is a perfectly acceptable way to play golf, which is evidenced by the size of his bank account and the number of trophies on his mantle. As you might surmise, because of his golf swing, Furyk has not been asked to write any full-swing instruction books.
The problem is that, in the eyes of the observer, the combination of the two distinctly different planes gives a disjoined appearance to the swing. Does it follow then that the variance in the backswing and downswing is the primary factor in determining if a swing qualifies as being ugly? The problem with reaching that conclusion is that it doesn’t hold up to comparison with other players who employ a similar pattern… beginning with Freddy Couples. He begins his swing by lifting his arms well outside the traditional plane line. With a delayed turn of his torso, he then brings the club back into a more traditional plane at the top.
In the case of both Couples and Furyk, their backswings operate well outside the traditional plane line with both players “looping” the club back into position prior to impact. And yet Couples’ swing is universally admired, while Furyk’s swing is in some quarters ridiculed. This begs the question of why Couples’ “looping” swing motion is considered more acceptable than Furyk’s. The answer to that question is two-fold.
- Furyk’s loop is created ostensibly by a change in plane with the arms and the hands, giving the swing a frenetic appearance.
- Couples’ loop is created with a graceful turn of his body with the arms following in perfect harmony.
And so, when taking the swings of Couples and other “loopers” into consideration, it would seem that the dramatic change in plane between the backswing and the downswing in and of itself does not warrant the classification of ugly.
Author Footnote: A point worth considering as part of this discussion is that there have been other accomplished players throughout the history of the game whose backswings have operated on the same principles as Couples. This would include perennial Champion’s Tour winners Kenny Perry, and earlier Jay Haas, whose swings were generally admired despite their unorthodox approach to the backswing.
What does this all mean? First, while a loop in the golf swing may be unorthodox, is not necessary considered ugly provided that the club is routed into plane with the turn of the body rather than just the arms and the hands. Second, as stated earlier, the definition of unorthodox can and does change depending on the era. And third, an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly. The two classifications are very different.
As you evaluate golf swings, remember this adage; an unorthodox swing is not necessarily ugly, but an ugly swing is always unorthodox.
TG2: Should Tiger Woods play in The Masters without a driver?
Tiger Woods’ No. 1 concern heading into the Masters is the driver, according to Notah Begay. Equipment expert Brian Knudson and Editor Andrew Tursky argue whether Tiger should even use a driver during the Masters. Also, they discuss Rory’s new prototype putter and how it was made, and they talk about a new shaft company called “LA Golf Shafts.”
Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!
For more info on the topics, check out the links below.
- Rory’s putter: www.golfwrx.com/503976/rory-mcilr…rmade-soto-proto/
- Tiger’s driver: www.golfwrx.com/503940/tiger-wood…irms-notah-begay/
- LA Golf Shafts: www.golfwrx.com/503818/la-golf-pa…s-la-golf-shafts/
Book Review: The Life and Times of Donald Ross
The Life and Times of Donald Ross is a successful golf history, in that it holds one’s attention, regardless of one’s level of enthusiasm or interest for the subject. It can hardly avoid doing so, as it traces the life of a man who lived through both world wars, emigrated from the old country to the new, and championed a sport that grew from infancy to maturity in the USA, during his earthly run. The loss of two wives to uncontrollable circumstances, the raising of a child essentially on his own, and the commitment to the growth of golf as an industry add to the complexity of the life of Donald J. Ross Jr. Within the cover of this tome, through words and images, the life and times of the man are communicated in fine fashion.
The book was published in 2016, by Chris Buie of Southern Pines, North Carolina. Buie is not a professional writer in the traditional sense. He does not solicit contracts for books, but instead, writes from a place of passion and enthusiasm. This is not to say that he is not a writer of professional quality. Instead, it isolates him among those who turn out high-level prose, scholarly research, with attention-holding results.
Before I opened the book, it was the cover that held my attention for much longer than a single, fleeting moment. The solitary figure, staring out across the ocean. Was he gazing toward the Americas, or toward his birthplace, in Scotland? And that blend of blue shades, like something out of Picasso’s 1901-1904 period of monochromatic azures, proved to be equal parts calming and evocative. Those years, by the way, correlate with the 29th to the 32nd years of Ross’ life. During that period, Ross lost a brother (John) to injuries suffered in the Boer War, and married his first wife, Janet. With care like that for the cover art, what marvelous research awaited within the binding?
After a number of readings, I’m uncertain as to the greater value of the words or the pictures. Perhaps it’s the codependency of one on the other that leads to the success of the effort. The book is the culmination of 5 months of exhaustive research, followed by 7 months of intense writing, on Buie’s part. The author made up his mind to match as many images as possible with his descriptors, so as to create both visual and lexical collections to stand time’s test. Maps, paintings, photos, newspaper clippings, postcards, etchings and course routes were collected and reproduced within the covers. Throughout the process, so much of Ross’s life and craft, previously unrecognized in publication, were revealed to Buie. Ross’s ability to make the unnatural look natural when necessary, is hardly equaled in the annals of golf course architecture. According to Buie,
Growing up all I’d heard was natural. Certainly he incorporated as much of the existing terrain and environment as possible. But given how much other work went into the courses, it would be more accurate to say his courses were naturalistic.
Buie also scrapes away at the misplaced notion that Ross was a one-dimensional golf course architect. After all, what else did Shakespeare do besides write plays and sonnets? Well, Ross did so much more, in addition to building some of the world’s great member and tournament golf courses, shaping the Pinehurst Resort experience, and running an in-town hotel in the process. Again, Buie comments,
His greatest contribution was the role he played in the overall establishment of the game in the United States. He was involved in every aspect (caddymaster, greenkeeper, teacher, player, mentor, tournaments, clubmaking, management, etc). The theme that went through his efforts was that he was adamant all be done “the right way”. Given the breadth and enduring nature of his efforts I don’t think anyone else did more to establish the game in America. That makes him the “Grand Old Man of the American Game” – not just a prolific architect.
What was it about Ross, that separated him from the many compatriots who journeyed from Scotland to the USA? They were content to compete and run golf clubs, but Ross sought so much more. His early years involved much successful competition, including top-10 finishes in the US Open. He was also a competent instructor, manifested in the ability of his students to learn both the swing and its competitive execution. And yet, Pinehurst is so different from any other place in the Americas. And so much of what it is, is due to the influence of Donald Ross.
In a nod to the accepted round of golf across the planet, the book contains 18 chapters, including the appendices. At locomotive pace, the mode of transportation utilized by Ross to traverse the lower 48 of the USA and Canada, the reader gathers a proper awareness of the great man’s living arc. Beginning with the hike from the train station in Boston to the Oakley Country Club, the emigration of the Scotsman from the highlands of Caledonia to the next hemisphere was a fairly simple affair, with unexpected, poignant, and far-reaching consequences. Donald J. Ross, jr., would complete the shaping of american golf that was assisted (but never controlled) by architectural peers. Men like Walter Travis, Albert Tillinghast, Charles Blair Macdonald, Alister MacKenzie and Tom Bendelow would build courses of eternal worth, but none would shape in the far-reaching manner of Ross.
It’s tempting to make a larger portion of this story about Buie, but he wouldn’t have it so. A Pinehurst native, Buie’s blend of reverence and understanding of his home region are evident and undeniable. One almost thinks that a similar history might have been written about any number of characters charged with the stewardship of the Sandhills region of North Carolina. Fortunately for aficionados of golf and its course architecture, Buie is a golfer, and so we have this tome.
Donald J. Ross, jr. was a man of principle, a man of faith, a man of belief. When those beliefs came into conflict with each other, which they seldom did, he had an instinct for elevating one over the other. No other place is this more evident that in his routing of the Sagamore course in Lake George, in the Adirondack mountains of New York state. Faced with the conundrum of how to begin the course, his daughter remembers the sage words of the father. Despite contradicting his belief that a course should never begin in the direction of the rising sun, Ross commented I can’t start it anywhere but looking out at that lake and those mountains. Indeed, Sagamore would be a poorer place for an alternate opening, and this review would have less of a way to reach its end.
My recommendation: read the book.
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