Is what we see really what we get?

Do you love watching the world’s best players on TV most weekends?

What do you enjoy most, watching their swings or the shots they create?

Historically, we have been encouraged to watch players swings by commentators as dissecting a swing and exposing why the ball went long, short, left or right, gave the men with the microphones something to talk about.

When the ball finishes in the left hand rough off the tee, we are told that the player “came over the top of that one.” The swing is then replayed in slow motion and the commentator or analyst will start to go into the technical details of what happened to cause the ball to miss the fairway by 5 yards.

This is pretty much how the analysis, coaching industry and golf culture works, which is largely unhelpful. Think about some of the golf lessons you have had. You meet the Pro, have a quick chat and are then asked to hit a few shots with your 7 iron to a flag on the range.

You hit 4 or 5 shots a 7 iron. Good bad or indifferent,  you ask the Pro “what is wrong with my swing?” He will then form an opinion based on his knowledge and tell you what you need to do to in order to swing the club better. If you make a good swing, you’ll hit a good shot right? If that way of thinking is working wonders for you, then we suggest you continue just as you are.

The big problem with that “system” is that if we always ask what went wrong with the swing, we will automatically start to tinker with it, changing this, that and the next thing. You want to become more consistent, so in a bid to achieve that goal, you are constantly making changes. Whether that is a change to your grip, stance, posture, backswing or whatever, do you honestly think that you can achieve consistency through constant swing changes?

Rather than ask “what is wrong with my swing or my putting stroke?”, would it not make more sense to ask “what is wrong with my shots or putts?”

If you miss a six foot putt two inches to the left of the hole and it finishes two feet past the hole, would you ask what was wrong with your stroke or what was wrong with the putt? If you start to question your stroke, there are any number of conclusions and solutions you could come up with. Trying to decipher how much of that information is useful and applicable could take some time and even then, you would probably be guessing.

If you question what was wrong with your putt, you would soon figure out that you got the line and pace slightly wrong. End of story. The journey from two inches left and two feet past the hole is a whole lot shorter and less complex than the journey of trying to figure out what went wrong with your stroke, alignment, eye position, tempo, path, length of backstroke or follow through, never mind did you keep your head down! Trying to figure that on when you still have 15 holes to play could lead to all sorts of ever changing and conflicting thoughts and ideas.

We have said it before and will say it again, what really matters is it what the ball does or indeed needs to do in order to go in the hole. It needs to travel on the right line at the right pace and as pace determines line, if you’re smart, you’ll pay particular attention to the pace. Without the right pace, how can you possibly get the right line?

When you are glued to The Masters this week, you will see a number of different putting “styles” but each and every player will have the same intention on the greens, to get the ball in the hole in as few shots as they possibly can.