Best golf instructors use simple recipe for success
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Some golf instructors have the gift. They have the ability to see the golf swing as clearly as a slow-motion dance. They can tune it as a mechanic would tune an engine.
It’s as if these instructors were born to be golf teachers. They have the right stuff. They can transform a complex explanation into a clear-cut image.
Ernie Boshers has the gift.
Boshers is an enthusiastic man who has a knack for making every one of his golf students feel important.
Let me digress a moment. Phil Mickelson should be complimented for recognizing instructors Rick Smith and Dave Pelz as crucial figures in his Masters victory. Most major championship winners do not take the time to publicly thank their teachers.
Still, high-profile instructors in America receive too much attention. The sun and moon of the teaching universe do not revolve solely around a few dozen familiar faces.
It is the PGA members down in the trenches who deserve more praise and respect. Compared with elite instructors, there remains no question that some of these unknown teachers are more skilled at teaching ordinary golfers.
They have more hands-on experience and often more patience. When was the last time Butch Harmon taught a golfer with the shanks?
Boshers is not a household name, but he possesses one quality that impresses me tremendously: He is able to simplify a golf lesson.
I have watched hundreds of instructors give lessons in the past few years, and here is the No. 1 thing I have learned: The successful lesson is the simple lesson. Most golfers do not have the capacity to juggle a collection of complex swing thoughts. No matter how sensible these thoughts may seem, too many are a recipe for frustration and failure.
String together a series of simple lessons, and perhaps a golfer can develop what is euphemistically called a “new swing” (although “new attitude” may be more appropriate).
Golf is a game that is meant to be enjoyed. Every golf lesson should be a triumph of optimism. Every student should show improvement at the end of every lesson.
Too many golfers cling to the notion that consistent golf is achieved only through the kind of old-fashioned sacrifice that made America great – work, work, work.
I dispute this. A golfer should be serious, but the guidance of a gifted instructor can help maintain the proper perspective. Nose to the grindstone doesn’t mean we need to become disfigured as we polish our golf games. After all, it is possible to have fun and improve at the same time.
As I observed Boshers teaching a group of children younger than 10, I saw simplicity in a smart, effective package. The drill was 1-2-3.
“Spread your feet” was No. 1. The backswing was No. 2. “Go home” (or the followthrough) was No. 3.
“All of them can think of one thing going back and one thing going through,” Boshers said.
Most of the juniors naturally took a proper athletic stance. If they didn’t, Boshers showed them how to do it. This was his first fundamental, or building block.
Because they were beginners, Boshers paid little attention to how these children reached the backswing position. Some were not very strong and virtually dragged the club back. Just getting there was the important step.
Home was the easy part. All the students understood this: Home is a comfortable place where you want to be, where you have good balance, where you have completed your task and can see the results.
“Home is the most important thing,” Boshers said. “If they know where they’re going, they generally get there. It goes way beyond the simple word of home.”
I saw balls flying in the air. I saw happy golfers. I saw a gifted instructor.