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The realities of the game

If the goal is learning, enjoyment and improved performance, there is no harm in having a reality check every now and then. Re-setting expectations will preserve your enjoyment in the face of errors, and having clarity of what the game demands helps focus your efforts accordingly.

So here are five factors that capture the particular challenge posed by golf.

#1 Open environment

Unlike the fixed and relatively predictable layout of a tennis court or football pitch, a golf course is what is termed an open environment. Not only is every hole design unique, but there are multiple variables to contend with like wind, temperature, slope, lie, hazards, playing partners etc.

Obviously this ups the challenge somewhat, and explains why porting your range game isn't straightforward. The question is, whether the way in which you approach your improvement matches this reality of the game.

#2 Small head, small ball

Making a decent connection between club and ball offers very small margin for error. The bat to ball ratio is one of the the hardest of any sport. Let's say to hit the green you needed to make contact within a cm or so of dead centre. This 50 pence coin area of the face travels over 20 feet in the swing, moving faster than the national speed limit. If the face arrives at impact more than a couple of degrees out, or a cm too high, the green is missed.

Delivering the club well is a high stakes, 3 dimensional challenge. This reality should both inform your expectations, and also your sense of priorities in practice.

#3 14 different clubs

Again unlike other bat and ball sports, we have up to 14 differently designed tools we use to get the ball around the course. Whilst the core skills required to use them are broadly the same, the task changes and subtle adjustments are required.

#4 Unintuitive design

As we will discuss later, the human brain and body are excellent at learning physical tasks. However, if the task itself is a bit obscured by odd design elements, the subconscious struggles. Whereas cricket bats, tennis rackets and hammers have flat edges, the task of hitting seems a little more intuitive, golf clubs are anything but.

The lie angle and the distance we stand from the ball doesn't help, but it is loft that appears to keep golf out of the realm of intuition for multitudes of golfers. Flat edged tools, make sense, but loft (and 14 different versions) not so much.

This confusion about what forces need to be applied to the club are why golfers, more than any other sport, want to be told how to move.

In the swing section we try to solve this problem by presenting the task of golf in the most intuitive way possible.

#5 Stationary ball

On one hand the ball not moving when we hit is an advantage. However, the non-reactive nature of the game, regularly invites over-thinking and disorganised movement.

I'm sure you can think of others, but the summary is this:

Golf is played in an open environment with many variables to contend with. The shots and the tools we play with offer a small margin for error, are an unintuitive design, and require adaptation from one hole to another. Our approach to improvement needs to prepare us for this.

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