Easy does it
The less you try and more relaxed you are, the better you'll play
I’m 13 years old and starting to learn how to make pars. I don’t know if I love golf yet and, at that point, didn’t realize the three things I know now: If you like golf, you can be good at it. If you love golf, you can be pretty good at it. If you’re in love with golf, you can be great at part of it.
Back then I didn’t love it as much as I loved other things, such as surfing, football or girls (not necessarily in that order). My dad worked for Rockwell International on NASA’s Apollo program and later got stationed in Palmdale to work on the space shuttle program. So I was taken out of a beach town and brought to the Antelope Valley.
The good news was that we became members at Apple Valley Country Club. I’d never been a club member and had played all my previous rounds at public courses in Long Beach. The bad news is that I was playing golf every afternoon with my mom instead of surfing or playing football with my friends or watching girls in bikinis.
But my game started to get better, and having Apple Valley head professional Steve Applegate as someone to watch and admire helped a lot. One day I was practicing shots out of a bunker and decided to bury some balls in the sand. I buried one as deep as possible and swung hard. Nothing happened, forcing me to wonder why I was trying so hard to hit the buried ball. What if I barely tried to hit it?
Aha! The less I tried to extract the ball from the buried lie and let the club do the work the more successful I was. That theory led to what my dad called “the effort quotient,” which is using the least amount of effort to do what you need to do for maximum results. That’s the matrix of golf. The opposite of that is the harder the shot the harder you try, which is not the best way to go about it.
After years of teaching tour pros I’ve learned that the fast greens and occasional tough lies they encounter is perfect for my effort quotient. It works because their adrenaline is already up if the shot feels tough, and they have the ability to swing the club the right way and with no extraneous effort. The less they try the more the club does the work, which leads to a harmonious relationship with the effort quotient.
For many of the amateurs I watch, their golf is the opposite of that. The harder the situation the harder they try, which leads to increased frustration. So go with this when it comes to your golf game: Less is more.
I stress that with my coaching and have discovered that my students get more out of the game with that mantra, which enables them to experience the same relationship I had with golf 40 years ago. Thanks, Mom and Dad.