A les­son from Silent Dave.

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 2/ 15 - by david fay

I played in a char­ity event where a player in my group hap­pened to be my golf in­struc­tor, Dave Mar­cotte. The for­mat was in­di­vid­ual stroke play, which meant that ab­so­lutely no ad­vice from Dave was al­lowed.

The va­ri­ety of shots I ex­e­cuted in front of “silent Dave” had to make him won­der who the hell he was look­ing at. Surely, it couldn’t be the at­ten­tive stu­dent who could hit de­cent shots on the les­son tee. My on-course strat­egy must have been a rev­e­la­tion to Dave, too.

He’d once taken me out for a nine-hole play­ing les­son. At no time dur­ing that les­son had Dave sug­gested that at­tempt­ing to hit a 4-wood out of rough over a pond was a wise play. But there’s only so much an in­struc­tor can do when deal­ing with a pupil whose idea of prac­tice con­sists of rush­ing to hit four to five balls on the range be­fore head­ing to the first tee. I’m proof that os­mo­sis is a myth when it comes to build­ing a re­peat­ing golf swing.

A few weeks after the tour­na­ment, I called Dave in a panic, ask­ing for a les­son. His re­ply: “You don’t need a les­son. Your swing in the tour­na­ment bore lit­tle re­sem­blance to the solid swings you make on the range. Just think about keep­ing your spine an­gle as level as pos­si­ble through the full swing. You do it fine on the prac­tice range; you can do it on the course, too. Oh, yeah, and try to re­sist the Phil Mick­el­son wannabe shots out of the rough. Be re­al­is­tic.”

Ten­den­cies are a per­for­mance key in all sports at all lev­els. Ask any pro­fes­sional what they’re look­ing for when watch­ing match videos, ei­ther of their per­for­mance or that of an op­po­nent. An­swer: ten­den­cies. The same holds true for LPGA and PGA Tour play­ers. Our game’s greats, through skill and rep­e­ti­tion, ex­cel in be­ing able to take their prac­tice per­for­mance to the course. But even they fight the oc­ca­sional neg­a­tive ten­dency. Even Jack Nick­laus, as Lee Trevino said, “has a habit of peek­ing” on short putts and “slides ’em off to the right.” Tiger Woods hit­ting a way­ward tee shot on the open­ing hole of a round? And speak­ing of Tiger, is it any won­der that just about all golfers can re­late to his “Ranger Rick” com­ment – the frus­tra­tion of not be­ing able to hit ev­ery shot as well dur­ing a round as he can on the range?

My round with Dave Mar­cotte was an eye-opener. Though there’s no sub­sti­tute for tak­ing lessons from a PGA pro­fes­sional, there’s a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween play­ing a round ver­sus hit­ting ball after ball from a nice lie on the prac­tice tee where, to para­phrase Sam Snead, “You don’t have to go hit your foul balls.”

Think­ing back to my round with Dave, the key was that no in­struc­tion of any kind was of­fered. Just go play. And it doesn’t have to be 18 holes. Nine’s not only fine, it’s prefer­able for the san­ity of the pro. Have a match of some kind. Bet­ter yet, en­list two pals who also take lessons from your pro to fill out the four­ball.

Your pro will get to see how you han­dle “game-day” pres­sure, and that will as­sist him/ her in pin­point­ing re­cur­ring swing and judg­ment flaws to work on. And the fun of play­ing un­der pres­sure works both ways: You get to see how the pro per­forms in front of his stu­dents.

The cost for a nine-hole round? As a rule, a PGA pro­fes­sional will charge each player the equiv­a­lent of two one-hour range lessons for the no-les­son golf game. That’s a bar­gain. And it’s a great way to get to know your pro­fes­sional bet­ter.

What if you don’t take lessons? That’s easy: Find your­self a PGA golf pro­fes­sional, and do so ASAP. And don’t worry if you’re not a mem­ber of the course where the pro works. It’s very rare for a PGA in­struc­tor (even those listed in the var­i­ous “best of” lists) to have a mem­bers-only re­stric­tion.

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