This post was written almost a month ago by a golfer I met on Twitter. He started a blog to discuss his journey in learning the game. This post from his “Lessons from the Links” series is titled Conviction. I believe it is an absolute must read for all beginners or near beginners. Great job Allan!
“Not the type that follows a “guilty” verdict, but instead the virtue. Having the courage of one’s convictions is indeed laudable, but perhaps not something a casual observer would identify as a core requirement for a golfer who intends to improve.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as I’m starting to discover. It manifests in so many ways, and even if you’re a confident, determined and positive person, you have to be on guard at all times as the fear and negativity of others can be both pervasive and persuasive.
I recently completed a round with a new playing partner, there had been a space on the board, and we both took advantage. I admire this player- he plays off 13, despite being of senior age, and despite a swing that could be charitably described as idiosyncratic, and a resultant ball flight that, remaining in charitable vein, was a bit of a slice. He golfed his ball in excellent fashion around the course, and had at least 7 up & downs throughout the round. I learned a lot, not least that whatever I think about my swing, it’s not what is currently limiting my scoring. Short game, putting and strategy (I’ve been working on my putting, so this is the correct order of descending importance at time of writing), and forgetting about trying to think technically on the course. I’ve also realised that, while a good looking golf swing would be nice, an effective, repeating and above all predictable swing would be nicer.
The last few sentences are all very well, but what do they have to do with conviction? Not a lot, in themselves. But this player, who sets up with all clubs like he’s about to play a forward defensive stroke to an in-swinging yorker and before starting his swing rotates his left hand through 70 degrees to a much “stronger” position, saw fit to critique my swing all of the way around the course. I must admit it amused rather than irked me, as although I started a bit disappointingly I settled into my rhythm and felt happy with my swing. It’s a funny situation after all- one might think that a player with such an individual style might have enough experience of unsolicited swing critique by “Expertise-less Experts”- but no. And he’s by no means the only one, the most voluble or the highest handicapper doing this. Marc Solomon, the uncompromising New Jersey pro behind Golf Made Simple, frequently disparages this, and divides golfers into “players” & “monkeys” ( the former reserved those who have a plan, the others following latest fad or magazine craze like the “Tilt into the Xfactor Stack Square to Toe up”) An amusingly vitriolic rant of his can be found here , with many more here. It takes a strong person to withstand this constant barrage of well intentioned mostly unhelpful advice, and even if we were to stumble across that which we need to improve consistency, we wouldn’t have the requisite faith or conviction and we would be likely to discard it when we’re offered still more advice at the first signs of struggling.
It’s also difficult to maintain the requisite conviction in one’s long-term plan. Golf clubs are full of those who have been at the same level for years, and they don’t want to acknowledge that improvement is possible, as this then reflects poorly on them for not having managed to do it themselves. This is their own judgement; I’m well aware that my interest in golf borders on obsession, and others may not be so driven, or have so many commitments that their weekly round and beer afterward is all the time they can spare. The idea of players they can beat comfortably beating them interferes with their sense of self, and they react with negativity to try to dissuade you from your lofty ambitions.
Conviction is also necessary in practice and preparation. I’ve read a lot about golf, and particularly on how to practice (the answer to this is to practice deep and deliberate practice- see The Game Before the Game and Neil Plimmer’s Open Mind Golf blog and in particular his ideas on driving range practice for long game), but it’s very difficult to do this when everyone around you is doing very different things, and when you’re unconvinced, it affects your motivation & you’re therefore much less likelyto practice. This happened to me when I first started stretching, I wasn’t convinced it was helping until I saw Karen Young. As soon as I had faith, I regained my motivation.
Conviction is therefore necessary, and can be difficult to come by and easy to misplace. I’m countering this by making sure my coaches and mentors are people I hold in high regard who are happy to be consulted, and by resolving never to follow blindly unsolicited advice. In fact, I’m going to pretend Mrs Geek is talking about wall coverings & soft furnishings, which ought to ensure absolutely none of this information will make it into my brain.
I’m hopefully playing again on Saturday, so normal service should be resumed! Let me know if you enjoyed this, and whether more like this to supplemnent my round reports would interest you.”
You can follow Allan here to stay up to date with his informative blog posts.
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