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Tue, Oct. 15

Gunby: Learning the myths of golf
Tee It Up

Spend a few hours observing a “driving range” or what should be appropriately called a “practice area.” Just watch. You will see friends coaching friends, spouses teaching spouses, parents instructing children – and you hear the regurgitation (another name for this is vomit) of myths that have perpetrated golf for a long time. “Keep your head down,” “keep your left arm straight,” “tuck your right elbow in,” “don’t lift your heel,” “don’t move your feet,” “you’re swaying” and other such garbage is discharged.

And to compound things, when a ball is not hit to the satisfaction of the instructor or student, the emphatic cause of this shot is that one or a combination of a myriad of myths, were not dutifully performed by the student.

Thus, this negative cycle begins and never ends. The student ends up confused, deflated, disgusted, and mad – at the game of golf, their instructor and themselves (because they “don’t get it”).

When I see this, I just cringe. Because I, too, was a product of many incorrect swing thoughts as a child. My dad, who in my eyes was the greatest man on earth, taught me how to play golf. He emphasized a few swing myths, the major one being “keep your head down.”

My dad loved golf and me. He just reiterated what he was told by others, not intentionally trying to do me harm, but in sincere desire to help me.

Luckily, I had enough talent to play reasonably well, but I wish I had never been taught these swing myths. Honestly, I still try to overcome “keeping my head down”. I learned this perfectly at a young age and I must accept the resulting consequences for the rest of my life.

So, I have empathy for others that have been subjected to their friend’s, spouse’s, parent’s or even golf instructor’s or so-called expert’s regurgitated myths and well-intentioned but detrimental advice.

In school, I was diagnosed as having the “shut up and sit down” disorder, now known as ADHD. I memorized a lot of stuff. In fact, I memorized the eye chart in the nurse’s office so that I didn’t have to get glasses. I learned how to cram for a test and pass it and then forget most of it. I got good grades. I was rewarded for learning how to beat the system. Little learning was done by me on the actual subject matter, though.

The reason I shared this with you is that we must remember that we all learn in different ways and with different motivations. In most instances, we weren’t allowed to be different learners in school. The system taught us all the same way and if you didn’t conform, you were labeled an anomaly or failure.

Many of my students want me to tell them exactly how to hit a shot. If I tell them exactly how to hit a shot, I own it. When the student experiments, experiences and adjusts the fundamentals of a shot to fit their unique personality, body, mind and soul, they have learned it in their own way. They now own it.

Bobby Jones once told Jack Nicklaus that he “became a complete golfer when he didn’t have to rely on his golf teacher to correct a swing fault or shot, he could do it by himself and even during his round”. In our next column we will discuss how you can enjoy your lifelong journey of learning how to play golf, without the constant bombardment of mythical causes and effects.

John Gunby Sr. is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Reach him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.

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