PurePlayGolf — Instructional Golf Philosophy
Since golf is one of the few games where a player doesn’t routinely practice on the field of play, it is easy to see the difficulty learning how to play. Plus the field of play is forever changing; the dimensions of the field are not uniform. Combined with the fact swing improvement regimens are relegated to a practice area/driving range, most players are “swing” rather than “play” oriented. In fact most beginners feel they have to swing “correctly” before venturing onto the course, a thought process that may slow their progress. They often overlook the fact that golf is a game. It is meant to be played. Anyone can hit balls. Learning how to maneuver the ball around the course is the essence of playing golf.
This is the focus of PurePlayGolf. It works with any swing method. It will improve a player’s golf experience regardless of the number of holes played. It does not require the use of gadgets or gimmicks. It does not rely on technology.
PurePlayGolf consists of the following principles:
**CoursePlay – The process of playing the course. Discovering options and strategies.
**MindPlay – Breaking through conventional thought allowing a player to see new ways of playing the game.
**PracticePlay – Introducing and evaluating proper practice techniques in order to understand their relevance to playing golf.
**VisualFeelPlay — Developing the ability to see the shot and having it fall into your hands. The situation offers the process rather than the process being forced on the situation.
**FitPlay – Equipment evaluation and set make up that fits one’s game.
**RulesPlay – Understanding the basic rules of golf in order to properly play the game.
**ComradePlay – Interaction/competition with others during the course of play.
Once learned, these six principles bring the player to the apex of PurePlayGolf. The result is a deeper understanding and appreciation of how to play the game — its challenges, its benefits plus the potential for elevating performance. By learning through the process of playing the game, rather than standing on the practice tee grasping at swing thoughts, the player’s mind is free to experience new perspectives never before considered.
The secret to golf is there is no secret. Rather, the secret involves gaining an awareness of what playing golf involves. That awareness includes some basic swing fundamentals. It also includes several intangibles where a club is not required. Meaningful awareness and learning to play result more from play on the course, not the practice tee.
Let’s look at some considerations. First of all, golf is a game, nothing more. How the game impacts the lives of those who play it is another issue. A select few play golf for a living. The majority of players seek it as a recreational outlet. Although some will dramatize their playing experience to extraordinary levels, with all of its exhilarations and frustrations, golf is merely a game.
The second aspect of golf is it is difficult to learn how to play. Perhaps that is the allure of golf. Its challenges are endless. They are always changing. If a player were to pick up the game and determine he wanted to play professionally, the path to achieving that goal would be unique for that specific person. His trials would touch upon emotions and experiences every player has encountered. Several players would be able to offer advice. It would be an extremely demanding road. There is no one direct way to reach this goal. What is the proper allocation of play versus practice? It is an individual endeavor that has broken many who have attempted reaching the pinnacle. Yet, we see it is achievable for a special few. Do those with great golf swings automatically make it? You be the judge.
Another consideration of golf is it is played on a layout that constantly changes. Every golf course is unique. Conditions vary. Grasses are different. Some courses have trees. Others are open. Hazards are placed strategically through the routing of holes. Greens differ in size, shape, undulation, and speed. Considering this is where the hole is placed can you imagine the challenges involved with just the putting surface? Throw in weather conditions, the playing field can change in a matter of minutes. This is perhaps one of the most pertinent fundamentals for being aware of what golf is. It is a difficult game that is ever changing, never played in the same conditions day to day. Players need to be adaptable.
Taking into account players and their methods vary, you begin to see the game’s mystery. There is not just one approach to getting the ball in the hole – there are millions! Swings, ball flight, shot shape and equipment options introduce so many deviations how does a player find their path to improved play?
There you have it. Golf is merely a game. It is difficult. It is played under a variety of conditions. Players and swings are as disparate as the outfits they wear. There are an infinite number of ways to make a score.
Once we have an awareness of these considerations only then can we begin to proceed and discover the path to improvement.
Even if a player develops a consistent swing, how effective will it be for arriving at a level of improvement in play as well as a satisfying appreciation for his personal game? Finding the answer to these questions will lead us to one of the key premises of PurePlayGolf.
A crucial aspect the player has to understand is there are two different environments in golf to utilize when seeking improvement – RANGE ENVIRONMENT and COURSE ENVIRONMENT.
The majority of golf instruction occurs on the practice range. Think about that for a minute. Is this the best place to teach a person how to play golf on a course?
Players need to understand the aspects of the COURSE ENVIRONMENT as well as a RANGE ENVIRONMENT to maximize their play. They need to see the differences and benefits of each. Both have a place in golf yet one is much more pertinent to developing a complete game. PurePlayGolf helps define these differences and what approach is more conducive to game improvement
Let’s look at these observations:
+ You are more likely to recall playing experiences on the course as opposed to ball striking sessions on the practice range.
+ You are more likely to walk away from a practice range session dissatisfied and thinking about the things you did wrong. This is because on the practice range you are more focused on hitting perfect shots. Golf is not about hitting perfect shots.
+Hitting a shot with purpose and seeing the immediate results on the course will create an indelible “mind picture” that can be recalled later.
Consider this scenario:
You’re playing a 400-yard, par four hole. Your drive is pushed to the right in the rough amongst some trees. The next shot is a chunky 7 iron managing to get your ball back on the fairway 100 yards from the green. Selecting a wedge for the third stroke, your semi-bladed shot finds the green but sits on a tier 40 feet from the hole.
Separately these three shots would not leave positive images in a player’s mind if he were on the practice range. They would be considered poor shots. After each shot the mind would attempt to find a solution for such poor efforts. The mind would obsess about mechanics, swing thoughts and perhaps the RANGE ENVIRONMENT.
Back on the green the player, now in a state of “I don’t care any more” lines up a long putt that ultimately finds the bottom of the hole. What thoughts fill a player’s mind now? Success? Par? I got away with one? There certainly isn’t a rush of negative thoughts. That is because for one brief moment the player has become immersed in the PROCESS of playing the game. The successful putt has jarred him from mechanics. He has reawakened to an awareness of being on the course and playing golf. This example is an integral part of CoursePlay and MindPlay principles.
If you ask players what they were thinking about during a good round most likely their reply might be “nothing”. They were absorbed in the process of playing rather than attempting to figure out the mechanics. I often tell my students some of the best rounds I have played have been when I was sick or hung over. In both cases my thoughts were only about getting off the course so I could relax. I had played plenty of golf before. I understood there were several ways to get the ball in the hole. More importantly I really didn’t care a great deal about the outcome of the round. Sure, it would be a bonus to play well but I wasn’t going to let the round ruin my day, week, month, or outlook. I was merely playing golf perhaps looking for fresh air. I was playing a game.
COURSE ENVIRONMENTS and RANGE ENVIRONMENTS offer different experiences and perspectives. Awareness on the range usually involves the swing/mechanics. It focuses on the feeling of different movements required to swing the club. While most ranges employ targets, it is the repetition of hitting shot after shot that sucks in most players. They believe the following:
By repetition habits are formed. These swing habits will be easily transferrable to the golf course. This is often how golf is learned. Is it the proper way to teach the game? Does repetition on the range guarantee success on the course? Does A+B=C? I believe it is just a part of the process. Would repetition under varying course conditions develop a player’s game more fully?
Here are more examples of how the RANGE and COURSE ENVIRONMENTS differ. How many times do you remember great shots you’ve hit on the practice range? Do you not instead recall great shots hit on the course? Don’t they stick in your mind a bit longer? Can you visualize them when you revisit that place? I remember shots I hit from thirty years ago on courses across the country. I remember some quality range sessions when I thought I had it going only to shoot a poor round after. Yet rounds played on the course are always more memorable and more visual.
Recognizing these differences helps players start on a new path towards improving their playing experience. It is key to understanding PurePlayGolf and its principles. When players come to me for instruction they often want to learn how to play the game or learn how to improve on their level of play. Yet there have been several instances where I have taught people how to swing before I taught them how to play the game. Looking back I feel I may have misguided those players. In fact I would say the first thing to do with any player is to take them on the course. This exercise will help me understand what they already know about playing the game. I don’t care how they play instead I want to see how they respond to the COURSE ENVIRONMENT. Only then can a plan be formulated to introduce them to learning the game through PurePlayGolf.
At today’s tournaments you’re probably going to see a vast array of preparations, many of which you won’t understand.
This is the pinnacle of golf. These individuals are talented in so many ways you may have a hard time trying to figure out why a specific player hasn’t won. On the practice range they hit the ball like machines. Their ball flight and distance control are spot on. The majority are physical specimens possessing “gumbi-like” flexibility. So why are some cleaning out their lockers on a Friday afternoon? Remember, golf is a very hard game.
Even with swing coaches, mind gurus, managers attending to every detail, and sponsorship dollars flowing like wine, these gifted players still find it difficult to perform consistently. Every aspect of their lives is guided by carefully planned parameters but they still don’t win as often as they would like. Some rise to the top but a few years later find themselves mired in the depths of the Tour Rankings. It’s hard to win. It’s even harder to win over a period of time. There are players who stay out for a period of time cashing checks as needed, yet they don’t win. What is going on here? I think the answer is that many of today’s professionals have forgotten how to play golf and instead are obsessed with the attainment of the perfect game.
As I stated before there are an infinite number of ways to make a score. There isn’t room for pictures on the scorecard, just numbers. One good shot can compensate for three poor ones. Face it — you aren’t going to hit perfect shots every time. Walter Hagen said he expected to hit seven bad shots during a round. A bad shot will have an impact on a player’s psyche. How will it be processed — analysis, anger, defeat, acceptance, disapproval, ineptness? Each emotion can and probably will affect the next shot and potentially those that follow. If a player reacts negatively and questions what they did wrong (mechanics), they’re bound to get stuck in their mind and forget how to continue playing the game. An artist on the other hand will draw on creative thoughts to tackle the awaiting challenge, quickly dismiss the past, and move forward.
The best analogy I can make of METHOD vs ART occurred at the 2013 Open Championship won by Phil Mickelson. Coming into the week Tiger Woods was ranked #1 in the world. Phil had just won the Scottish Open the week prior. Naturally the media looked for a showdown. At the completion of three rounds, it appeared there would not be one between Phil and Tiger although both were in the mix.
Tiger attempted to conjure his solid form that led to four Tour victories earlier in the year. His new swing, compliments of Sean Foley, had not been particularly effective in the Majors but perhaps something would change at Muirfield. Woods started poorly, ballooning a wedge to the first hole leaving him sixty feet from the cup. His ensuing three-putt signaled how the next seventeen holes would play out. Looking to “connect-the-dots” of his new swing, Tiger finished back in the pack with another Major disappointment.
Mickelson on the other hand began slowly but once he stepped on the tenth tee his game responded. Phil birdied four of his last six holes, made a terrific up and down on 16 and went on to win his first Open Championship. If you watched the final round, the contrast between Woods and Mickelson was glaring. Indeed it was a display of METHOD vs ART. The victor painted an indelible picture of how to play the game. On the fast, firm turf of Muirfield Golf Club, Phil played golf at the highest level. He felt the course’s demands and executed the required shots. After, he remarked it may have been the finest round he ever played. That Sunday in Gullane, Scotland, Phil became properly engaged in CoursePlay.
Every player has the ability to play the game in this manner. Simply, we must remove all the clutter obscuring the art of playing the game. All of us remember a certain day, a stretch of holes or perhaps a front or back nine where we seemed to have conquered the game. Yet the next time we played the euphoria we experienced slipped away on the wind. Perhaps we wanted to “make it happen” like the previous day. This approach is not uncommon, but it doesn’t incorporate the proper MindPlay we need to achieve our best level of play.
Great artists (players) approach the canvas differently. When the work is finished it will reflect their intentions. It denotes their individual style – a style that is malleable. Having the ability to draw on a creative reserve of memories, experience and confidence is found in all the great players. Indeed great play is akin to painting a score across a canvas of eighteen holes.
Playing the game is often an artistic experience. When desirable results are achieved, the round was played (painted) according to the player’s (artist’s) own learned interpretation. Limiting players through method teaching merely method stifles the necessary creativity to play golf in different conditions on a vast array of different venues.
I often tell a story to my students about the times I’ve witnessed other playing partners play well. Some walk with an air of confidence. Others play without distraction. Some get into a frame of mind called “the zone”. The point is when the mind has shifted from “how to play” to just “playing the game”, the result is different. It isn’t just related to score; rather it involves several factors found in the total experience of a four-hour round of golf.
Some players describe this focus as “the quiet mind”. There are gurus and sports psychologists working with players trying to create the proper mindset necessary to play well. There seems to be a constant search for the perfect state of mind versus the common state of confusion. MindPlay introduces fundamental ways of playing the game that allows the player to simplify the process between the ears. In reality for most players, they could increase their enjoyment of the game by simply practicing MindPlay rather than focusing an inordinate amount of time on their swing mechanics.
While some teachers insist repetition of shots on the practice tee will carry over to the course, I am reluctant to totally agree. Let’s look at the following scenario.
A forty-something businessman ends his day at 3:30 in the afternoon and heads to find relaxation and refuge at his country club. He plans to work on his consistency with his iron game. Last week in a Member-Guest Tournament he hit several poor irons leading to a less than stellar playing experience for he and his best friend. On the way to the club he receives a call from one of his clients who is demanding to see him in the morning about a questions on a business deal. The businessman arrives at the club, changes his shoes and heads to the practice tee expecting to hit two large buckets of balls. During the course of the next two hours he shanks a few shots, makes a phone call to his secretary, discovers his son has a little league game he forgot, grabs a beer from the bev cart and talks to one of his regular playing partners for fifteen minutes. He rushes through his remaining balls to head off to the baseball diamond. On his way there he attempts to recall what he learned from his range session. Oh yeah, he mentions to himself, Joe told me I was taking the club back too far on the inside.
What do you expect will happen the next time the businessman tees it up? Will the repetition from the previous practice session help his play? Maybe, maybe not. Most likely he’ll struggle on his quest to find that perfect swing. In this instance MindPlay and PracticePlay have entered the picture. Instead of “clearing the mechanism” it got overloaded. This happens all too often. PurePlayGolf can address these circumstances so players actually use their time wisely when they head to the course.
In addition, this overview only scratches the surface of discovering a better golf experience by incorporating PurePlayGolf. It demonstrates how a few of the PurePlayGolf Principles, employed properly, can improve the overall game.
PurePlayGolf doesn’t conflict with any method, style or instruction you have previously undertaken. It doesn’t change swings. It doesn’t detract, it adds. It enhances how a player approaches playing the game. It works regardless of age or ability. It will benefit your total game experience if you give it the opportunity.