Recently a player on my team experienced a major breakthrough. It’s a great story that could help many golfers, so I thought I’d share.
I have a player on my team named Brett. When I arrived at Skidmore College last year and assessed the players’ talent, I found Brett to be good from tee to green. He was a solid putter, but in two areas rated very poor:
1. Brett’s golf self-esteem was non-existent. He always believed the worst would happen on the golf course, and it usually did. Rarely did I see him get any amount of joy out of playing golf. Golf was a chore. He reminded me of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.
2. Brett’s short game, in a word, stunk. And that’s saying it nicely. He was dreadful when it came to pitching and chipping.
So, we got to work. We spent a great deal of time over weeks and months working on mechanics and attitude, and we saw some progress. But even though he put in a lot of work, his confidence remained fragile. He had a deep seeded fear of chunking shots and thinning shots over the green, and if it ever actually happened, his confidence crumbled like a house of cards. We’d have to start all over again with fundamentals, drills and repairing confidence. This was the pattern all of last year and into the beginning of this fall season.
We had our first tournament a few weeks ago. Playing on the “B” team, Brett was playing well in the first round. I saw him at the turn and he told me he had hit every fairway and green; however, on the back nine, he began missing greens. His score went up quickly, and he shot a disappointing score. The next day was worse. The previous round eroded any hope of success. Needless to say, his score was really bad.
The next day at practice, Brett showed up with a “solution”: a left-handed wedge. Brett plays golf right-handed. It was clear he was a desperate man. He told me he was sick of going through this, and he was willing to try anything. I told him I respected him thinking outside the box, but I didn’t think that this was a viable solution. I suggested something that we had tried for about fifteen minutes last spring. He hadn’t been in a place mentally at that point to try something new, but now his mind was open. Here was the opportunity.
He tried it willingly. And within an hour his whole life seemingly changed. Within twenty-four hours, he was like an entirely different human being. I think that day was the first time I had ever seen Brett’s teeth at the golf course. Brett is quick with a smile off the course, but on the course you’d think his cat just died. I didn’t recognize this guy! He was having fun! There was hope! He called it, “a miracle!”
I watched him practice with amazement. Pitch shot after pitch shot floated beautifully through the air, landed softly on the green and cozied up close to the hole. Each shot was struck beautifully and effortlessly. Brett’s body language was completely different. He was relaxed and fluid–not the tense ball of doom that I had witnessed for over a year.
Over the course of the next week he challenged teammate after teammate to chipping and pitching contests (in the past he would have never done that), and won!
Why does this work? Because many times a right-handed player will carry all of his or her stress in the right hand. When that happens, the right hand squeezes the grips and stabs at the ball when under pressure and the left wrist breaks down. Reversing the hands neutralizes the right hand and allows the left hand to pull the club through the shot. Since the left side is the weak side for righties, you’ll be more prone to swing the club with the body, because you won’t be able to squeeze as much with the right hand.
I don’t recommend this for everyone. But hey, we exhausted all other options. In golf, there is no one right way to do things. The ultimate goal is be effective. I approach coaching the same way. Each player is a riddle and every riddle has a solution.
The other moral to the story is this: Desperation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Until Brett was desperate, he wasn’t brave enough to embrace something new. When someone isn’t willing to try another approach, one thing is for sure – improvement is impossible.
I really respect Brett for his bravery. It’s nice to see him happy, confident and excited to play. This could turn his entire college career around.