Mickey Walker: Why lessons are a great idea
It is a fact that the number of lessons that golfers take in the UK is the lowest of any other European nation by far – less than 10 per cent. If I were to ask you which European nation takes the highest number of lessons you might well guess correctly – yes, it is the Germans, with some 80 per cent taking regular lessons.
There are many reasons why Britain’s golfers aren’t a nation of lesson takers. Speaking from my own experience as a club professional, I would say that the majority of male members only consider having a
lesson when they’re desperate, when their friends, all of the online help that they’ve looked at and last year’s Christmas DVD from Butch Harmon hasn’t fixed the problem, the pro is a last resort. No pressure then!
Women often tend to lack self- confidence and, although the ratio of female to male golfers in most UK clubs is something in the region of 8:1 men to women, the ratio of women taking lessons is the opposite. Women feel that they should and need to take lessons in order to improve.
When I’m teaching occasional golfers and they duff a shot, I often ask them how good they would be at their jobs if they only went to the office once a month or sometimes less, but for some reason they expect to hit the ball well all of the time! This just isn’t logical.
Because many of us think that hitting a poor shot reflects on us as people, it takes a lot of self-control not to immediately ask your playing partner what you did wrong when your ball disappears into the woods or you just duff it a few yards.
Often you’ll be told something, which may or may not help. Tips are like placebos in that if you believe that they’re going to help, they often do.
Attitude is everything in both wanting to improve, or, having had a lesson, realising that you must follow it up with some practice for it to have any long- term benefit.
Over the years my list of students range from professionals to beginners, men, women, old and young and, of course, with different abilities and different motivations as to why they play the game.
If I had a pound for every person who has had a lesson and expected immediate improvement, or who has blamed me for their poor golf, then I’d be very wealthy!
It’s strange to think that some 20 years or so ago my video camera was the size of a small suitcase, and it was likely to give me a sore shoulder if I gave too many video lessons during a week!
During my career I’ve gone to many different professionals for lessons and received lots of advice. I’ve learnt to understand what my tendencies are and so what to look for when I’m not playing well. We will each swing the club in our own unique way but when our short games are good, those are the days when we really score well.
If there is one certain way to improve your scores, with minimal time, space and energy, it would be to have short- game lessons and work on all those shots around the green.
This is true at every level of golf. Lydia Ko, the world No 1 has a superb short game and, on so many occasions, has beaten a much stronger player because of her outstanding short game.
The other part of the golf game that is also important is what goes on in your mind. With the average round of golf taking four hours plus, there is an awful lot of time to overthink things or for your mind to race ahead to a tough hole coming up, or dwell on one that you’ve played poorly.
I’m fascinated by the mental side of golf but that’s a subject for another day. Suffice to say, if you are serious about achieving your full potential I would recommend that you take regular lessons – you may surprise yourself how much you enjoy them and how much it helps!