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The more we know . . . the more we don’t

It sure is funny how life works. For instance, you would think that the thing you spent a lifetime studying would be the very thing that you feel you know the best.

What really happens is that thing you spent your lifetime learning, you really absorbed. Because you know it so well, you now feel that you don’t know anything about the subject. The more you know the more you realize how much you didn’t know. For instance, as a young man I fell in love with the game of golf and how to improve it and studied hard back when I was in high school.

I knew from that young age that someday I wanted to become a professional golfer. I loved the idea of being able to practice by myself, seeing how far I could hit a ball, being out on the green grass and competing. So naturally, I began a lifetime of studying all I could about the sport.

Lucky for me, even though I knew nothing about the game, it came easy for me. After a lifetime of teaching I now realize how lucky I was to have learned so quickly.

I became a little confused since with all this new knowledge, my scores were not improving. I was now thinking about so many new things I was supposed to do with my body that I stopped playing the game and started playing body movements. So, I absorbed everything I could from fellow professionals, magazines, practicing, books and later, the Internet.

Back in the 60s, we mostly listened to the great players about how to play the game. Somewhere around the mid-70s when video became popular, we realized that the great players were not doing what they were telling us to do.

For instance, a person with strong hands didn’t feel like he was using his hands while the person with weak hands felt the opposite. Like all my professional peers, we tried everything to get better. We all hit thousands of golf balls and picked up all the tips we could get.

A new age of teachers was now blooming. It was the guy with the video camera. They studied the great players’ golf swings and started teaching us what they saw in these videos. They mostly looked at what the great players did the same and set new rules for our teaching. We taught certain things and had hard and fast rules about what was right and wrong.

The golf pros before me taught things like keep your head down, straight left arm, weight shift and swing from the inside out. All of that is now gone and I personally have never used those terms from the 40s. The golf swing and the equipment have changed dramatically from those days.

We used to teach a flat swing with a high finish and today we reversed that thinking with a more upright swing with a low around the body finish. I, of course, would change the way I taught from year to year. I am noticing now that the grip that we always considered critical is changing to a stronger grip.

The young pros of today don’t seem to care for all our antiquated rules about what is right and wrong. They are just playing the game and not caring where their clubs point at the top of the swing or how much weight is transferred to each foot. They don’t care about the plane of the swing or if you keep an eye on the ball.

It amazes me how many theories there are in taking a stick back and swinging it through a golf ball. Some people feel they do it with their feet, their legs, hips, core, hands, wrists, arms or shoulders. Some feel they should take it back slowly and some believe it should go back fast.

Some believe you should pause at the top of the swing and some feel it is all one movement. Without going into the mental side of the game, I could go on much longer with the hundreds of different things golfers believe are important in the swing.

I have been teaching golf professionally for more than 60 years and I have heard myself say “I don’t know what to teach anymore.” All my hard and fast rules have been broken with today’s young players. Today’s players are on the tour and winning tournaments much younger than when I was a boy.

My advantage, having decades full of golf knowledge, is that I now teach only the basics. That means everyone uses this method and because it is done by every golfer, my pupil cannot argue with me.

In the meantime, I still can’t beat that 18-year-old Bobby DeStefano. He knew nothing about the golf swing, but he knew that a golf swing was a circular motion directed at a target. Remember, you didn’t make a mistake when you hit a poor shot. The game is ridiculously difficult when you realize that you must swing on a line to your target and catch the ball on a precise dimple.

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