Why it is impossible to learn to golf well as an adult

DGS49

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There are a couple things worth mentioning here, because there are a lot of people who decide as adults that they want to learn golf. They invariably find that they suck, and they continue to suck no matter how much they play or practice. Why? I'll tell you...

If you are a typical American male adult, you learned a major part of your hand-eye coordination by learning to hit a baseball with a bat. You swing the bat and align the centerline of the bat with the center of the object-sphere. The same coordination/skill is also useful in tennis, racquetball, ping-pong, and other sports. In EVERY ONE OF THOSE sports, you strike the ball along the centerline of the implement you are using. You hit a baseball or softball by aligning the centerline of the circular bat with the center of a spherical ball. Same with a tennis racquet and so on. This is a tremendous skill which, when perfected after thousands of repetitions, becomes a part of your "muscle memory."

But with a golf club, you do not hit the ball along the centerline of the instrument. You must hit the ball with a portion of the implement that sticks out from the centerline, visually a couple inches above the centerline. Your own muscle memory has taught you to align the centerline of the implement with the ball you are trying to hit. But if you do that in golf, you will strike the ball with the "hosel" of the club, which will cause the ball to carom off to the side, completely out of control.

When you are first learning to golf (as an adult who has played baseball) you are not aware that striking the ball with what is in effect an appendage on the club goes totally against the skill you learned as a kid. It looks like a simple adjustment, but you are LEARNING something new that goes against your already-learned skill.

Imagine a baseball player trying to hit a ball with small extension that sticks out above the center of the bat. Forget about it. He would have to "erase" the muscle memory that has been trained to strike the ball along the centerline of the bat. And this is why it is almost impossible to reach the point where your body is comfortable striking a golf ball. The swing will never become intuitive because it goes against your muscle memory - which cannot be changed as an adult. You will ALWAYS have to think about the swing, when you should be thinking about where you want the ball to go.

If you learn the golf swing as a child or a young teen, then it becomes intuitive and you can learn to "shape" your shots, controlling where it goes, and not worrying about whether you will hit it properly in the sweet spot of the club face. But this is not an option when you take up the game as an adult.

It also doesn't help that basic elements of golf instruction are nonsense.

tour pro ball striking tips


Note the description of the arms, hanging straight down from the shoulder, then you can see that the club IS ON A DIFFERENT LINE to the ball. You are instructed to swing the club back (details are not important), then swing back through, striking the ball. And by the way, keep your head perfectly still. NOW, if you look at pictures of the ball being struck, that line from the shoulder to the ball is STRAIGHT. The arms are IN LINE WITH the club, thus increasing the length of that line (crooked line vs. straight line). The distance between the shoulders and the ball INCREASES by a couple inches as the swing is being executed.

1593874097666.png


If you keep your head still, the only possible result is that you will strike the ground behind the ball because the distance from your shoulders to the ball is LONGER. What is actually happening is that good golfers rise up a couple inches to compensate for the extension of the club during the swing, but if pro-instructors admitted that, they would not be able to tell you how much to lift up, or how to do it consistently every time. That only comes when you learn to swing as a kid and it's instinctive.

Parenthetically I will mention that this phenomenon has been recognized in recent years and a few pro golfers (e.g., Bryson Dechambeau) are starting to set up with the arms fully-extended, in line with the club, so that you actually CAN keep your head steady and strike the ball squarely. This is referred to as "single-plane golf".

So, bottom line, you can still enjoy golf if you learn as an adult. Just don't expect to be very good at it. Don't beat yourself up. It's you father's fault for not teaching you to play when you were still a kid.
 

rightwinger

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Good theory but I can’t hit a baseball for shit either
 

MarathonMike

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I agree with the baseball swing being the biggest wrecker of the adult golf swing. When I taught my son who played a lot of baseball it took months to 'un baseball' his swing. He plays pretty well now. I also think it's just a complicated motion with a very small margin for error and your impact point is farther away from you than baseball, tennis, racquetball etc. That makes the person think they have to grip the club harder to control the club which is the opposite of what you need to do. Most of the people I see on the range go right to the driver and start wailing away. They would be better off hitting little wedges until they learn to hit the middle of the clubface.
 

ReinyDays

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It seems you're using the word "centerline" in the spacial sense, rather than by mass ... we most definitly hit a golf ball correctly with the center of mass of the golf club ... and that's a very natural way to swing the club or your momentum vectors will be off and, as you point out, we introduce torque off to the right, the slice ... more experienced golfers tend to over compensate and introduce torque to the left, the hook ...

Everything is easier to learn as children ... not just golf but languages, chess, digging holes, tossing newspapers ... I can't think of anything that is learned better as adults than as children ... the habits we learn flying an airplane as teenagers stick with us until the day we die, like rotating too soon, ha ha ha ...

The mistake is that golf is difficult to learn in any case ... Lord knows how hard I tried to learn to use fairway woods ... I used my spoon off the tee just to keep the fool ball out of the woods, yeah, on the right ... my 1-iron was cantankerous but she kept me in-bounds ... pitching would put me on the green in three ... three putt for double bogie was about average ...

Golf is a stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid game ... and not just because I never broke 100 in 18 ...
 

Oddball

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There are a couple things worth mentioning here, because there are a lot of people who decide as adults that they want to learn golf. They invariably find that they suck, and they continue to suck no matter how much they play or practice. Why? I'll tell you...

If you are a typical American male adult, you learned a major part of your hand-eye coordination by learning to hit a baseball with a bat. You swing the bat and align the centerline of the bat with the center of the object-sphere. The same coordination/skill is also useful in tennis, racquetball, ping-pong, and other sports. In EVERY ONE OF THOSE sports, you strike the ball along the centerline of the implement you are using. You hit a baseball or softball by aligning the centerline of the circular bat with the center of a spherical ball. Same with a tennis racquet and so on. This is a tremendous skill which, when perfected after thousands of repetitions, becomes a part of your "muscle memory."

But with a golf club, you do not hit the ball along the centerline of the instrument. You must hit the ball with a portion of the implement that sticks out from the centerline, visually a couple inches above the centerline. Your own muscle memory has taught you to align the centerline of the implement with the ball you are trying to hit. But if you do that in golf, you will strike the ball with the "hosel" of the club, which will cause the ball to carom off to the side, completely out of control.

When you are first learning to golf (as an adult who has played baseball) you are not aware that striking the ball with what is in effect an appendage on the club goes totally against the skill you learned as a kid. It looks like a simple adjustment, but you are LEARNING something new that goes against your already-learned skill.

Imagine a baseball player trying to hit a ball with small extension that sticks out above the center of the bat. Forget about it. He would have to "erase" the muscle memory that has been trained to strike the ball along the centerline of the bat. And this is why it is almost impossible to reach the point where your body is comfortable striking a golf ball. The swing will never become intuitive because it goes against your muscle memory - which cannot be changed as an adult. You will ALWAYS have to think about the swing, when you should be thinking about where you want the ball to go.

If you learn the golf swing as a child or a young teen, then it becomes intuitive and you can learn to "shape" your shots, controlling where it goes, and not worrying about whether you will hit it properly in the sweet spot of the club face. But this is not an option when you take up the game as an adult.

It also doesn't help that basic elements of golf instruction are nonsense.

tour pro ball striking tips


Note the description of the arms, hanging straight down from the shoulder, then you can see that the club IS ON A DIFFERENT LINE to the ball. You are instructed to swing the club back (details are not important), then swing back through, striking the ball. And by the way, keep your head perfectly still. NOW, if you look at pictures of the ball being struck, that line from the shoulder to the ball is STRAIGHT. The arms are IN LINE WITH the club, thus increasing the length of that line (crooked line vs. straight line). The distance between the shoulders and the ball INCREASES by a couple inches as the swing is being executed.

View attachment 359163

If you keep your head still, the only possible result is that you will strike the ground behind the ball because the distance from your shoulders to the ball is LONGER. What is actually happening is that good golfers rise up a couple inches to compensate for the extension of the club during the swing, but if pro-instructors admitted that, they would not be able to tell you how much to lift up, or how to do it consistently every time. That only comes when you learn to swing as a kid and it's instinctive.

Parenthetically I will mention that this phenomenon has been recognized in recent years and a few pro golfers (e.g., Bryson Dechambeau) are starting to set up with the arms fully-extended, in line with the club, so that you actually CAN keep your head steady and strike the ball squarely. This is referred to as "single-plane golf".

So, bottom line, you can still enjoy golf if you learn as an adult. Just don't expect to be very good at it. Don't beat yourself up. It's you father's fault for not teaching you to play when you were still a kid.
It's nearly impossible to learn the traditional swing at any age....So many moving parts and the traditionally taught weight shift moves the center of mass back and forth, to the point that it's a miracle that anyone can consistently hit the ball....And don't even get me started on the loopy, hands-up-high arm swing that is taught by most pros.

But there is a better and easier way....


 

Oddball

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I agree with the baseball swing being the biggest wrecker of the adult golf swing. When I taught my son who played a lot of baseball it took months to 'un baseball' his swing. He plays pretty well now. I also think it's just a complicated motion with a very small margin for error and your impact point is farther away from you than baseball, tennis, racquetball etc. That makes the person think they have to grip the club harder to control the club which is the opposite of what you need to do. Most of the people I see on the range go right to the driver and start wailing away. They would be better off hitting little wedges until they learn to hit the middle of the clubface.
How the trail arm in the baseball swing works is almost identical to golf...Keep the elbow tucked in tight.
 

Oddball

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Imagine a baseball player trying to hit a ball with small extension that sticks out above the center of the bat. Forget about it. He would have to "erase" the muscle memory that has been trained to strike the ball along the centerline of the bat. And this is why it is almost impossible to reach the point where your body is comfortable striking a golf ball. The swing will never become intuitive because it goes against your muscle memory - which cannot be changed as an adult. You will ALWAYS have to think about the swing, when you should be thinking about where you want the ball to go.
Imagine a golfer trying to hit a moving ball, that he can only guess as to the speed and/or break that it has.
 

Natural Citizen

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My son is pretty good baseball player. He's got a World series ring, so. But I always took him golfing with me at an early age, too, quite a bit. He always hit it straight. And well.

With all things, the more you think into it, the more you set yourself up to mess up, I think.
 

ReinyDays

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Imagine a golfer trying to hit a moving ball, that he can only guess as to the speed and/or break that it has.
It's said that hitting a baseball with a bat is the single hardest thing to do in any sport ... getting a base hit 30% of the time is superstar performance ... imagine a quarterback only completeing 30% of their pass attempts, a bowler only marking 3 of ten frames, a tennis player only getting 30% of their serves in ... or a golfer only hitting the fairways 30% of their tee shots ... or a hockey player only landing 30% of their punches ...

For everybody else ... not me ... I trip and bloody my nose tossing horseshoes ...
 

Darkwind

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You may be on to something, though I managed to get a lot better over time.

When I was a kid, I had a monster bat.

I could hit the ball pretty far too! *chuckling*
 

Darkwind

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Imagine a golfer trying to hit a moving ball, that he can only guess as to the speed and/or break that it has.
It's said that hitting a baseball with a bat is the single hardest thing to do in any sport ... getting a base hit 30% of the time is superstar performance ... imagine a quarterback only completeing 30% of their pass attempts, a bowler only marking 3 of ten frames, a tennis player only getting 30% of their serves in ... or a golfer only hitting the fairways 30% of their tee shots ... or a hockey player only landing 30% of their punches ...

For everybody else ... not me ... I trip and bloody my nose tossing horseshoes ...
LOL Loved the hockey remark.
 

Oddball

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Imagine a golfer trying to hit a moving ball, that he can only guess as to the speed and/or break that it has.
It's said that hitting a baseball with a bat is the single hardest thing to do in any sport ... getting a base hit 30% of the time is superstar performance ... imagine a quarterback only completeing 30% of their pass attempts, a bowler only marking 3 of ten frames, a tennis player only getting 30% of their serves in ... or a golfer only hitting the fairways 30% of their tee shots ... or a hockey player only landing 30% of their punches ...

For everybody else ... not me ... I trip and bloody my nose tossing horseshoes ...
It's not sad....Baseball is a defensive game to begin with....What pissed me off worse than anything was smoking one right at someone.
 

ReinyDays

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It's not sad....Baseball is a defensive game to begin with....What pissed me off worse than anything was smoking one right at someone.
In Ice Hockey, you're supposed to smoke one right at someone ... baseball is a girl's sport, they'd wear dresses out there except for sliding ... look at the way pitchers touch up their make-up between pitches ... if it wasn't for the fist-fights in the stands there'd be no point in going to see the games ...
 
OP
DGS49

DGS49

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Oddball, I have also discovered that Saguto guy on YouTube, and I very much like some of his tips.

My overall point is that when you are trying to learn to play golf as an adult, you cannot be successful if you follow the "orthodox" formula for developing a swing. You have to "cheat" by employing a single-plane swing, keeping your weight forward throughout the swing, locking your left elbow, and doing a few other things that are "wrong" according to PGA guidelines.

Point #2 is that in golf, practice does not help you unless it is carefully monitored, either by a knowledgeable pro or on video. Otherwise, you are doing nothing more than internalizing all of the flaws in your swing. Note that golfers do not get better as they age, despite hitting hundreds of thousands of practice balls every year throughout their careers. They are doing all that practicing just to prevent their games from deteriorating.
 

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