By Bob Duncan
Here’s a disturbing stat: If you’ve never taken a playing lesson, you may be missing out on 40 percent of the game. That’s right. On average, 40 percent of your shots are not played on the tee and not on the green, which means you must ‘play the ball as it lies.’ Playing lessons are the most overlooked and might be the most important lessons available.
Don’t miss out! Here are 6 reasons you need playing lessons in 2014, and trust me, your game will thank you for it.
1) Your swing works on the range, but not on the course.
Players often complain they can’t take their range performance to the golf course. “I hit it good on the range, but it falls apart on the course.” Almost every instructor agrees that there’s more to playing golf than just making a golf swing. On the course, you get the intangibles that you can’t get on the range or in a ‘studio.’ Sure, you can create a perfect lie on the range, but on the course, you simply can’t hit any shot from any lie. Plus, there aren’t any hazards on the range. And, how often do you hit a 2nd from a lie that is better than the one you just miss-hit?
Many pros say the most important shot you hit is your next one. Accelerate your learning in the same conditions under which you play: Learn by going under the gun, on the course!
2) Your instructor has never seen you play, or you’ve never had a playing lesson.
Some teachers never give playing lessons and limit their instruction to the range or studio. While that may be effective from a swing perspective, performance naturally suffers to some degree on the course. Should your playing performance be completely based and evaluated on your flat range practice performance?
Your instructor knows the golf swing and should see you apply it on the course. This is where the hat changes from instructor to coach. There is a great deal you can learn from a good coach on the course.
3) The golf course is not flat – but the range is.
It’s funny how golf is played on a course but practiced on a flat driving range. We all know the course is different! We’re faced with different slopes and conditions out there, which inevitably forces you to face many challenges..
Some instructors have actually said they didn’t want their students to think anything but their swing on the course. But, the play of the game is accomplished on a course, which is by definition and nature, uneven and inconsistent. So will that swing hold up?
How you play the game is more important than how you practice. The goal of consistency is vastly heightened on the range. What do you do on a slope? When will the ball go straight, and when should it curve? Your coach should help you with questions like these on the course.
4) Launch monitors are irrelevant on the course.
Some players use launch monitors as a crutch and strive to achieve perfect, consistent ball flight. This expectation is unrealistic on the course and can lead to frustration or worse (anger!). There will be deviations on the course because you are only in control of your lie 18 times each round – and even then there will be deviations due to wind, etc. Trying to achieve optimum ball flight by knowing conditions are different means that those that deviate are failures. The more the deviation, the more negative the evaluation.
Sometimes the ball deviates, but arrives in a positive position. Treat that as a positive rather than a negative. Many of these deviations are predictable if you know what you’re looking for, and they make a much more enjoyable game!
5) Test instruction in actual playing conditions.
Does it work on the course? This is the true evaluation – this is where the rubber meets the road. Where do you fail on the course, and what should happen in those situations? Put your instruction – and your instructor! – to the test by going on the course where it all matters the most. It’s great to be able to do it in practice on the range, but it has to work on the course.
Have a hole or two that are particularly difficult for you? Your instructor should offer several ways to play the hole to cut your losses, or even reveal exceptional performance you didn’t find on your own.
6) It’s time well spent.
You learn to swing a golf club on the range, but you learn to play the game on the course! Your instructor is going to tell you things you probably never thought of before, but that’s the whole point. As much as you need swing improvement, a good playing lesson is where you tie your swing to the game! Secrets to playing the game are becoming even more secret as launch monitors and video have dominated teaching in many circles.
A playing lesson can be as short as an hour, or as long as you would like to make it. In some circles, a playing lesson constitutes 9 or 18 holes, but you can certainly get a lot accomplished in 1 – 1 1/2 hours – there is no need to play out every hole. And certainly every lesson should have some sort of a playing reference to it.
So do yourself and your game a big favor in 2014 and take some lessons in the play of the game where you play it on the course. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you’re missing!
Bob Duncan’s Golfer Positioning System emphasizes on-course play as the primary driver of performance. The G P S Player’s Academy techniques and strategies are specifically designed for performance where the game is played. For more on G P S playing lessons, please visit www.Golfecoach.com.