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Wed, Oct. 16

Gunby: Learning how to play golf
Tee it Up

The way we make sense (or non-sense) of incoming data is through our senses. Those five senses are: Visual (seeing); Auditory (hearing); Kinesthetic (tactile touch); Smell and Taste. In the realm of golf, the first three are of concern.

Please note that there is no such person that is all of one sense. The sense that is in their consciousness most of the time is their preferred system of learning and should be utilized for quick, permanent learning.

Visual learners are by far the most popular. Instruction is most effective when the student can see the model. This person responds well to video instruction. The more pictures or photos, the better for this learner. Their golf motion tends to be that of levers and leverage. They can see a line when putting. When playing, they must have a clear and precise picture of the ball’s travel, roll and completion. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Dustin Johnson are just a few of these types of golfers.

Auditory learners are the second most popular type of golfer. They probably have played a musical instrument and listen to music a lot. They respond well to descriptive terms. They have a distinct golf swing rhythm and beat. Trying to hold dead still will prove to be disastrous. Ernie Els, Peter Jacobsen, and Fred Couples represent these types of golfers.

Kinesthetic golfers are all but history. Sensory preferences are a matter of “use it of lose it” and our culture is very visually and auditorily oriented. The few kinesthetic golfers remaining usually talk slow, move slow, and dress purely for comfort. They have never “seen” a line to putt on in their life. This golfer generates motion by whole body turning. Notah Begay and Byron Nelson are good examples.

We must accept that everyone is unique. Their personalities, physical builds and/or limitations, intellect, emotions, motivations, and goals, must be considered when learning how to play golf. The professional instructor will take into consideration the uniqueness of a student, as gained through rapport, trust and observations.

The process for learning is (and achieved in this order): Imprint of the proper model; Repetition of the model; Habituation of the model; Personalization of the model created by the idiosyncratic factors of the individual. The use of video has proved to be very valuable, but only if the model and analysis is not complicated or confusing.

If a person desires high level performance and is motivated to this end, they should learn the physical skills relating to pre-swing fundamentals first, which are proper hold (grip), stance, posture, aim and alignment. These are learned before the swing is introduced. Using guide rods such as Acculine Golf Pucks can accelerate this learning process.

Once the pre-swing mechanics are incorporated as habits, the proper swing can be introduced, without the ball. Clipping tees or leaves is recommended to build swing habituation. Only when the swing is imprinted, repeated and habituated, should the ball can be introduced. And once centeredness of contact and desired ball flight is mastered, target orientation can begin with full swings. Please note: the word “proper” refers to functionality given the golfer’s uniqueness as well as their sensory preferences.

What is great about golf is that it is a flat-surface-round-ball game, just like tennis, ping pong, racquet ball, etc. The physics are the same. In golf, what makes it different is that the ball is sitting there, stationary, waiting for you to hit it. What is great about golf is that the flight of the golf ball always tells the golfer what happened and what to do next, if we keep our intellect in check.

Putting and the short game must be at least as inviting, engaging, fun and absorbing as the full shots. After all, sixty-three percent of our strokes are from less-than-full swings.

After the habituation of the proper golf shot fundamentals are learned, the golfer will continually experience and adjust, with the best and most valuable learning occurring on the golf course.

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

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