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The first lesson I teach in Golf...maybe you can relate.
I've taught golf for a long time now.
As you might imagine, I'm somewhat unusual, a little different than your average pro.
I do things my way, like the first lesson I give.
Let me relate a true story, although not that unusual for me.
A lady came to take a series of lessons. She wanted to join her husband in their retirement and golf around the country.
The first thing I did was toss a ball on the ground and hand her a club, a five iron.
Then I told her:
"hit the ball"
She looked at me. Puzzled.
She smiled and replied, "I don't know how, that is what I'm paying you to teach me."
"OK, I said, but first, hit the ball."
She stood over the ball like she had seen her husband do, and put the club behind the ball.
Then she looked up and said;
"I don't know what to do."
I said in a firmer tone, "Hit the ball."
She looked back at the ball and she started trembling. Her hands had a death grip on the club. Her knees were buckling.
She looked back at me and with a very pained look, with tears almost in her eyes she said,
"I can't. I don't know how."
I said, "You mean you won't. Just hit the ball."
After about 5 minutes of staring at the ball she took a mighty swipe at it, almost fell down, missed the ball by a mile, and threw the club down.
She YELLED at me, "See, I told you I couldn't do it."
I replied, "Hit the ball."
She picked up the club and for a moment, I thought she was going to hit me, she looked pretty confident about being able to do that.
She took another mighty swipe and missed the ball by another mile.
I said, "That didn't work, hit the ball."
She tried again and again and again, her total frustration and her humiliation (or so she thought) soon gave way to laughter.
It started as a giggle. Then as she kept swinging and swinging the club, it increased to an almost belly laugh.
Finally, she put the club about two inches behind the ball, and kind of rolled the club and hit the ball about 6 inches.
I applauded and said, "Finally you are willing to listen to me, there is hope for you yet. Now hit the ball AGAIN."
She grinned and hit another ball about six inches, and once again I was applauding her.
Then I tossed a ball about 3 feet in front of her, and told her to hit the ball to the one I tossed. She did it the first try.
Then I increased the balls about one foot at a time.
By the end of the first lesson, she was hitting a golf ball about 50 yards, straight as an arrow.
My only instruction to her was, "Hit the ball."
At the end of the lesson, I congratualted her, told her how proud I was of her, and told how close she came to being 'FIRED' as a student.
See, I explained to her I gave her a simple thing to do. Hit the ball.
It was what she brought with her that caused the consternation. Her frustration had nothing to do with me, I just wanted her to hit the ball.
I had no expectations. If it went one inch, that was great, she followed directions.
But she thought something else, she had her own idea of what hitting the ball meant.
Within a month she was on the course playing golf with her husband, hitting straight, but not very far shots, but HITTING THE BALL every time she would swing the club.
Within a year she was playing the game almost as well as her husband.
I've had this scene repeated. I tell them to hit the ball, and I've heard it all.
I can't. I don't know how. That is what I'm paying you to teach me. HOW?
It is amazing to me that people require so much direction, because when I do this with a 2 or 3 year old, they don't ask any questions, they stand there and swing until they hit the ball.
If they can't do it with a big fast swing, they slow down, or they BEGIN with putting the little club right behind the ball and pushing it.
They FOLLOWED DIRECTIONS. I can get any 3 year old in the world to hit a golf ball.
Something I couldn't get adults to do because of their own baggage.
This has to do with what Dien was talking about, getting STARTED.
I know many people who have taken the game up with a STATICS professional, that is a pro who teaches the "statics" or basics..
The Stance (or Set-Up)
And people who begin golf with these basics can't play the game for 3-5 years if ever.
Because they think there is a "proper" way to do it.
I tell my students to HIT THE BALL. Do that and we'll go from there.
"What about my grip?" they ask. I respond, "Hold onto the club."
"What about my stance?" I say, "Don't fall down."
"HIT THE BALL."
I know that it is far easier to adjust things than to get things PERFECT right from the start.
I want my students to be hitting the ball. To understand the game is about hitting the ball, again, and again and again.
That NO one hits it perfect every time. That you have to make adjustments as you go along. That it is a game of imperfection, but the object is to always hit the ball.
Once they KNOW that, we'll work on the details of how THEY can best accomplish their goals of hitting the ball a little bit less every time they play, until they plateau and can enjoy the game.
So, when someone engages me in a business activity or solicits my advice or even wants my opinion, I usually tell them,
hit the ball.
It doesn't always go down well. It sometimes produces frustration, and I hear all the same excuses.
I don't have the time.
I don't know how.
I don't know where to begin.
I'm too busy.
I'm too short.
Or whatever. And their answers tell me all I need to know, and whether or not they are teachable.
So, if you ever take a golf lesson from me, be prepared, the first thing I'm going to tell you is
HIT THE BALL.
And we'll make some adjustments from there.
How is your project coming along? When are going to get started?
And note that even before I tell my students to HIT THE BALL,
I ask them why they want to hit it.
What is the purpose of hitting it, WHY do they want to learn the game?
Because that tells me how much effort they will make in hitting the golf ball.
Thanks for your time and attention.
Gordon Jay Alexander
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