October 14, 2005
For all but a very rare few, golf is a remarkably difficult game for beginners.
You stand sideways, holding a long rod that you’re supposed to swing around your body in order to hit a tiny ball sitting there in front of your feet. If you do it right, the result is a thing of beauty. If you don’t, it’s some kind of wretched squiffy bouncer–and that’s if you hit the ball, instead of whiffing entirely.
Frankly, it’s a wonder that more folks don’t quit the game after their first ten swings or so.
On the other hand, the difficulty of the sport may also be why it’s so compelling, and what convinces beginners to keep trying. The first few tries that actually take off provide a tremendous amount of positive feedback.
Many golf instruction books aimed at the novice golfer focus on the elements of the golf swing, which is perfectly understandable in one sense. Why discuss strategy when you don’t even know how to hold the club? Nonetheless, those who’ve taught and played the game know that there’s so much more to playing golf than the basic swing.
Tom Patri is one of those folks. He’s among the Top 100 Teachers in America, according to Golf Magazine.
Patri is convinced that beginners should learn how to integrate the basic swing into all of the other parts of the game, which he’s divided into six segments—The body, the mind, analysis, time management, equipment, and technique. Together they form the subject of his new book, The Six-Spoke Approach to Golf, (Lyons Press; $17.95 SRP).
The first section attempts to convince the reader that golf is an athletic endeavor, with potentially significant physical impacts. The swing speeds that even raw beginners can generate put a sizeable strain on muscles that may not have seen much of a workout since middle-school gym class. It makes sense to teach golfers how to prepare and maintain their body for the actual rigors of the sport, with a combination of stretching and strengthening exercises.
The second spoke emphasizes the mind’s effect on the golfer. Experienced players know from bitter familiarity that the last thing the brain hears when one thinks “Don’t hit it there” is “Hit it there.” It’s just amazing how accommodating our muscles are to those last-second directives. Petri discusses how to combat this and other problems of bringing the proper mental focus to the tasks at hand.
The analysis spoke is for golfers who’ve been playing a while and who want to improve. Petri explains how careful review of actual playing results, with the helpful intervention of computer software designed for this purpose, helps golfers understand which parts of their game really need to be addressed.
In some respects the time management spoke is a test of your commitment to improvement. Playing better golf usually requires an investment of time that many folks just don’t make. Fortunately, Petri shows how to use the time made available to your best advantage.
The equipment segment dovetails matches the advice in Tom Wishon’s Search for the Perfect Golf Club. Petri agrees that beginners should be among the first folks lined up to be fitted, instead of just buying the clubs appearing in the most TV commercials. His suggestions are well worth adopting for your first set.
The final segment, technique, reminds golfers that the short game is where the most improvement can be made the fastest. It’s also the least physically demanding element of the game. Petri takes his readers from putting to chipping to pitching first, and only then addresses the full-swing elements of the longer clubs. That’s not a lesson in patience—it’s really a reminder to put first things first.
Golfers who hear their non-golfing friends talk about taking up the sport could do their buddies a real favor by giving them this book. It will help keep them on the right path to learning and improving their new game.
Purple Medalist in College Tournament
John Purple, Jr., a former Cape Henlopen golf captain, is having fun in his first season playing for Wilmington College. He recently won medalist honors at an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shooting a 75 under very windy conditions at Island Green Country Club.