"I could harp on this subject for a long time, because I am thoroughly convinced that thousands of golfers today have had their game hopelessly ruined by neglecting simple first principles." - Andra Kirkaldy
If there is one common problem I see among amateur golfers and high-handicappers, it is that they tend to overanalyze the game—every aspect of it. They've read books and watched videos describing the "perfect" swing, and they desperately want to achieve it. They hold in their mind a detailed mental checklist of every movement necessary to hitting the ideal shot and go through that list before and during each swing. Without exception, this does little more than send them away confused and frustrated.
I see so many players approach the first tee with a sense of fear and anxiety. You can see it in their eyes. They look out over the vast array of green, lush grass in front of them, with traps and trees lining the fairway, and then their eyes focus on a tiny flag in the distance, barely visible to the naked eye. Three hundred and fifty yards lie between them and the hole, and they've got four shots to get it into the cup. The mere thought of it seems overwhelming to a frustrated golfer.
Almost without fail, the first-hole jitters get to these players. They swing too hard and slice the ball into the woods, or they duff the club into the ground and send the ball trickling toward the cart path. Their second shot isn't much better, and once again they've set themselves up for another round of high scores and shattered expectations.
The truth is, golf doesn't have to be complicated to be played effectively. At its core, the game is really rather simple. You progress the ball forward with each shot until you get to the green, where you softly stroke the ball into the hole. It takes years of work and practice to shoot par, and no one expects the average golfer to do so. Bogie golf is a fine target for most weekend players and can easily be attained when we relax and keep it simple.
Begin with the swing. Forget trying to find the perfect swing and work instead on creating the simplest one. Swing with ease and freedom. Practice letting the club flow in a simple, circular pattern around your body. The goal is to swing the clubhead in a circular arch around the body, letting the ball get caught in its path. Don't try—or expect—to hit the ball three hundred yards down the middle on your drive. Just focus on a smooth and complete swing that sends the ball toward the green with each shot. And don't worry about carrying the green in regulation. Most golfers are doing well to be within thirty yards of the target after two strokes, and there's no reason that even an average golfer shouldn't be able to get up and down from there in three strokes.
After a lesson with a student, I always encourage him or her to take the principles we've been working on to the first tee and to commit to them throughout the round. Most students find that if they'll just relax and take the game one shot at a time, what had seemed complicated and overwhelming is actually not that difficult.