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Oh NO! Why didn’t I see that! I believe in God and what a wonderful functioning body he created for us. Yet there are few things we do not use as often as we should on the golf course and that is our five senses, hearing, touch, sight, smell and taste. If we are playing or teaching, understanding the use of our senses can be a good 3 to 4 strokes around less on the scorecard per round. That is a lot of strokes! So, yes, I am about to write another 15th club article. Using our brains (that is scary) to play better golf!
We all know how to teach the swing, yet through my articles the swing is only part of the equation and the mental aspect is just as important. Now, I want to spend some time talking the senses and how we use them even though at times we do it subconsciously. I want to open up our minds about our senses so that we can articulate that to our students. I will keep this short because I could almost write one article per sense. Each of you are smart enough to expand on this short article. I am just throwing some “nuggets” out to assist you in your teaching.
Let’s start off with one basic sense, sight. We use it all through the round in both obvious and subtle manners. But the question is: “Do our students understand that?” Standing on a par 3 with a pond we see the pond and we know to read the ripples on the pond to determine wind. Now on some par threes they may be surrounded by pines where we do not see or (another sense) feel a breeze. What do we do then? I live in a retirement community and there a lot of homes and USA Flags flying. I look in all directions to see what they are doing. Because on one of the par threes on the Lopez course, once that 7 iron gets above the pines it is going to move but on the tee box you cannot feel the wind or see the pines move much! As I mentioned I have learned to look in all directions to see what the wind is doing. So we use our sight to read the subtle signs of our surrounding. We know how to use our sight on the greens to read the breaks and again subtleties of the breaks. Is there a sand bunker nearby? Why, well after a few years of getting sand thrown out of the bunker onto the green that will impact break. I can see the break but the subtle nature of the excess sand over the years will create some additional break to the putt. So we look around and view the obvious but do we teach the subtle? Quickly, I have provided you some nuggets to expand on with your students and sight.
Let’s spend a few words on touch or feel. We all feel the wind but here is one aspect I want to touch on. Our feet, yes our feet, and using the sense of touch (feel) on the putting green. WHAT you say? Whenever I am getting ready to putt or chip, I quite often walk the general line and FEEL what are my feet doing or what am I feeling in my legs as I walk it. I know we see the putt is up or down hill but feeling the putt is important. I just did a drill the other day with a student. I had him hit couple putts using sight to a hole (what did the slope look like). I then took a similar approach by only letting him walk the putt to get the touch or feel of the slope. He did much better putting after feeling the putt vs. just seeing the putt. He could not believe the improvement of “feeling the putt.” We use our touch is so many ways we do not realize we are using touch at times. But we are using it. Walking into a bunker we feel is the sand fluffy or tight. We cannot touch the sand per the rule book but we use our feet to feel the texture of the sand. Our grip is mainly touch and we feel the correct tension or moisture and some many other things. We feel “a lot” on the golf course in many unconventional ways. Feeling the denseness of the rough, how wet is the fairway or how dry. We do not bend over and touch and feel things. We let our feet and muscles compute the data. Again, now you can expand on a few nuggets of feel to help your students understand the game.
Those are the two primary senses we use. We do use sound yet not in the manner or to the same degree we use sight and touch. Yet the sounds, I process the most are what is happening around by my team mates or the guy I have a few dollars on the line with. What are they saying about course in general, what are they saying about the putts. Yes we watch their shots or their putts but also process the sounds they are making. It may assist your next putt or shot and in some cases by making you reexamine what you are seeing or feeling. Here is a quick example. You playing partner or competitor just hit a shot into a light breeze and that shot comes up short. You have been playing with him for a few holes and you have sense of his game. You heard the club make sweet contact and he says, I should have went one extra club. Well to me that is data, I feel the breeze, see breeze and heard solid contact. Hmmm, now I can make a choice what how I processed that data. So I go up a club. Now the result is I am putting and he has an awkward bunkers shot. I let information process my selection over what my ego tells me and I just won the hole. You probably now have some thoughts on how it expand this to your students. Again I do not want to bore you with a long drawn out article.
In the end what we really do is combine all of that into “multi-modal perception.” Multi-modal perception is nothing more than a scientific term that describes how humans form coherent, valid, and robust perception by processing sensory process into train data our mind uses to interpolate our surroundings. That is about as technical as I will ever get.
That just leaves smell and taste. That is simple we have used our sight, touch and hearing to play better and now we SMELL BLOOD in the water and we conquer! And finally, nothing, beats the TASTE of that cold VICTORY beer you just won! As you can see we use our senses a lot. We do not think about our senses as much because we use them so frequently. Yet how often do we teach them? Probably not often enough. If you save a student 3 to 4 shots around just by teaching them to use their God given senses and they will appreciate it. The 15th club at times is just as important as the other 14. When teach a lesson that lesson needs to consist of more than just the swing. They are taking a golf lesson which includes the 15th club.
Joe Blanc, NPGIA
2012 National Golf School “Teacher of the Year”