Friday, June 26, 2009

What We Can Learn from David Duval and Seve

Often times I hear golfers say that you really shouldn't get into learning the swing or learning about your putting because it will provide 'information overload.' I've never really agreed with that assertion and I think that philosophy is something that can get most golfers in trouble.

This past week when I was watching the US Open and seeing a rejuvenated David Duval, NBC later on went to interview Duval about his improvement. Duval stated that one of his problems was that before when he was hitting it great, he didn't have any idea of what he was doing and he would just hit it long and straight. That's great when it's working, but when it wasn't working for David, he had no idea what the problem was much less coming up with a way to solve it. He said that now he knows much more about what he's doing.

I recently came across this post from Geoff Mangum over at his forum on the subject of 'not knowing' and why it's so hazardous.

I saw this recently about Seve Ballesteros. He appears to be the model of the fabulous talent who doesn't know why and how he plays well, and so stands to lose everything in one fell swoop:

"What I recall most from one-on-one interviews with Ballesteros are his mindfulness of the growing toll of his obsession, and his acute sense that the clock was running out. Even in English, he had a knack for a good sound bite"I was Tiger Woods before Tiger Woods"but his considerable insight was best expressed in quiet moments. He could admit that where Woods had made good career decisions, he had made bad ones. The one he rued the most was the first: turning pro "too young, too young" at 16. He recognized himself as a prisoner of arrested development. Biggest thing, he never learned how to lose...Yeah, the game made him. And the game destroyed him. - Lee Trevino

It most stunted his ability to improve. Ballesteros treated his gift as a fixed entity, magically formed on the sands of Pedrena, not to be tampered with. When it finally stopped being enoughhis crooked driver betraying him at the U.S. Open in particularhe worked furiously to change his swing, but with the impatience of someone unable to find a diamond he had dropped. Just as he distrusted the specialists who tried to help him with his troublesome back, he distrusted swing coachesand saw dozens of both. Once, asked to put his flawed impact conditions under the scrutiny of a launch monitor, he countered with bravado: "My hands are my computer." The truth is, Ballesteros didn't really know how to get better, and was essentially finished at age 35."

Jaime Diaz, "The Sadness of Seve: Haunting memories linger long after his game faded", Golf Digest, Jan. 2009.

This echoes my basic point: talent without know-how is not a reliable way to get thru the years of professional golf competition. Ian Baker-Finch, Johnny Miller, even Arnold Palmer all reached a point where the winning ground to a halt and couldn't be fixed. Certain supposed top putters have lost it and haven't yet gotten it back: Chris Riley, Nick Faldo, ... others. Mike Weir lost his putting for about five years -- exactly the wrong five years, too. He seems to be doing better, but you never know whether he has real know-how or he's just on a streak. We'll see.

Bottom line: learn about the body, rather than rust grooving a move and thinking you're talented.

This happened to me as well, of course not nearly as the same level. I was one of the better junior golfers in New York state, but when I hit college I started to struggle and couldn't figure out why. Things like 'you're taking it back too fast' or 'move the ball up further in your stance' really didn't work. Had I knew a little more and had better coaching in high school, I think it could have saved me some agony in college and thereafter.

Here's a Geoff Mangum video that I think you may enjoy. BTW, one of Geoff's students, Mike Goodes, recently shot a 57 at a course in Greensboro, NC.



Anonymous said...

I think you are right on.

Some lucky people must stumble into a great game of golf. Yes, they are probably very gifted with coordination.....but some may be very clueless as to what they are doing or how....and cannot fix themselves when the wheels come off......and the wheels do come off.

Rich H. said...

I wish I still had a video of my old swing back in my jr. and sr. years of high school. It was really really good. Problem was that after an operation in the hospital I lost the swing and had no idea how to get it back. The teaching pros I went to at the time were usually using band-aids, position golf, and methods. The people I golfed with thought it should just happen naturally. No matter how much I told them that it wasn't naturally happening anymore, they didn't seem to believe me. Lots of blood, sweat and tears....literally went into range sessions. I had to survive in college by grinding things out, becoming an excellent putter and short game artist and using my experience to get me by, but even that only took me so far.