Thursday, December 08, 2005

Golfing Zen #6 - The Noise of Many Teachers

About Golfing Zen: This is the sixth in a continuing series of short essays dealing with the application of Eastern spiritual philosophy to your golf game.

The surface intent is that, as you apply the ideas, your golf and your enjoyment of the game will grow. However there is also an underlying motive: as you are able to see gains on the course, you’ll then be moved to alter your approach to life as well.

Today’s Topic: The Noise of Many Teachers

In previous articles we’ve talked about Zen’s (and life’s… and golf’s) great paradox: the information we need is already known to us, but we fail to learn.

We’ve talked about some of the reasons for this: our own internal mental hang-ups (Chapter Four) and our confusion over the roles of teacher and student (Chapter Five).

In the last essay I talked about how we Westerners put too much responsibility for learning on the teacher (the failure is never within us!) and that we put our faith in the ability to convey the golf swing in words. In the East, the teacher only points, while the student is the one who learns. Moreover, Eastern learning is felt by the inner or sub-conscious mind, as opposed to being heard (in words) by our active mind.

But, all of that is compounded by the veritable avalanche of instruction — the white noise of a bazillion teachers, all talking at once.

I offer two examples:

I went to my local big-box bookstore today, checked the “Golf” section, and counted 37 pure instruction books. Of those, a few were the classics that have been on the shelves for years but most were relatively new and will be replaced in a few months by the next wave. And, most importantly, as you scan those books you’ll find wild disagreement over almost every aspect: strong or weak grips, stances, what body part leads the backswing, what triggers the downswing, etc., etc.

Also, you’ll be amused to check out www.ohpdirect.com. Click on their “Meet The Pro’s” link, and you’ll find 13 different instructors being touted. If you read the detail, each of them offers huge improvements (30-50 yards on your drives — 5-10 strokes off your handicap) that you’ll get almost instantly, with little or no practice, as they each have discovered some ‘secret’ that no one else knows. All you have to do is buy the DVD.

In either case, the books or the videos, the obvious question is how one chooses. They can’t all be right, can they?

A final example… if you made a list of the top all-time ball strikers, most would include Lee Trevino, Moe Norman, and Sam Snead on their lists. Or, consider two of today’s top stars: Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen. Could they be any more different, one from the other? Is anyone else old enough to remember Doug Sanders, who made a lot of money with a swing that would fit in a phone booth?

I would politely suggest that any thinking person can draw only one conclusion from this:

The vast majority of formal golf instruction is nothing more or less than just details — personal preferences of the teacher. And, as one attempts to follow all the minutia of precise positions, they're on a fool’s quest to be someone they are not. (I’m not Tiger Woods, and neither are you)

With that, we must also accept a second principle:

We must be our own guru… we have no other choice. It is left to us to isolate the few true fundamentals and to discover our own swing, the one that resides within our self.

Which then leads us to the next question:

Next Time: What Are The True Fundamentals?

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