Most golfers play the game for the camaraderie and socializing; the stress relieving qualities of a few hours of gentle exercise and fresh air. Golf serves many purposes and enjoyment of the game is not necessarily related to your score. As author A.A. Milne (of Winnie the Pooh fame) was heard to quip: “Golf is so popular simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad”. So even though technology has made getting better at golf easier than ever before, improving remains largely a question of desire and diligence.
Of course, making improvements that stick goes beyond simply “wanting it”. “Desire” is the quality that drives us to overcome the day-to-day obstacles standing in the way of making golf a priority in our lives. “Diligence” is what drives us to create and execute a balanced improvement plan that encompasses all aspects of the game. To help golfers create that plan, I call upon what I call “The Six Dimensions of Golf”. Each one represents a piece of the golf improvement puzzle. Put them all together and you have a comprehensive golf improvement strategy – but even if you lack the desire to commit to such an intensive improvement regimen, there are lessons from each dimension that any golfer can apply to their games.
1) The Technical Dimension
The Technical Dimension of golf is the study of what happens when club meets ball. The golfer of the future will use diagnostic tools like TrackMan to develop a greater understanding and awareness of what is happening in this critical moment. With objective data available to provide benchmarks, instruction will shift away from “command” style directives toward coaching methodology that employs a process of “guided discovery” to help each golfer find the swing motion that best suits them.
2) The Tactical Dimension
The tactical dimension involves “reading” the golf course and learning to play strategically. Thinking ahead. Choosing the right shots and clubs for given situations. While much of this aspect of the game becomes second nature with experience, it begins with observation and making it a habit to “inventory” the challenges, hazards and opportunities that each hole presents. Renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr. wrote a book called Golf by Design that is one of the most insightful golf improvement resources available. Well worth adding to your winter reading list… yes, you can improve your game while sitting in the proverbial armchair by the fire!
3) The Physical Dimension
The athleticism of golf is often under-rated. While it is true that golf can be enjoyed by almost anyone, to play it at a high level requires a high-degree of fitness. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule (see: John Daly) and better fitness does not automatically mean better golf – but it absolutely cannot hurt.
4) The Mental Dimension
Golf is a game of strategy where success is measured by the quality of your decisions – and one’s mental state governs their ability to make decisions. It is a study in patience, perseverence and managing emotions. While it is easy to blame poor shots on weak technical and/or physical skills, as often as not, “poor” shots are the result of irrational, careless decisions.
5) The Mechanical Dimension
Every piece of equipment and every accessory that a golfer carries should be a positive contributor to their success. Are you playing with clubs that have the right design characteristics and specifications for you? Are there clubs in your bag that you never hit; or ones that always leave you in trouble? Are you playing the right balls? Does your glove fit properly? Do you have an umbrella? Rain wear? Sunscreen? Lip balm… It’s not always the “best” golfer that wins – the title usually goes to the best-prepared golfer.
The sixth dimension of golf occupies a very small piece of the fringe in most golfer’s minds. It is the Spiritual Dimension. As you might guess, it is broad in scope and highly subject to individual interpretation. Corny as it might sound, to me, golf is much like yoga – an endless journey of self-discovery in pursuit of continuous progression. Maybe Arnold Palmer’s description is better:
“What other people may find in poetry or art museums, I find in the flight of a good drive.”
Until next time, Happy Golfing!