The trouble with tips

Ivan Morris

Europe Ryder Cup player Padraig Harrington is watched by coach Bob Torrance during a practice session at Celtic Manor golf course in Newport, Wales on September 28, 2010. (Photo credit: GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s an old story: three amateurs were playing in a pro am with a curmudgeonly pro. One guy was plagued with a quick hook. Halfway through the round, he asked the pro what he was doing wrong? “Loft” was the sharply delivered response.

Player No. 2 sliced every other shot to the right of the target. When he, too, sought advice he was told exactly the same – “Loft!” The third golfer couldn’t stop ‘skulling’ his chip shots. When he tentatively sought assistance the same diagnosis (Loft!) was brusquely delivered without further elaboration. Afterwards, the three got together to compare notes and try to interpret what precisely the pro meant? It never dawned on them that it stood for “Lack of F—ing Talent.”

Maybe, the pro should have said that tips mid-round should be ignored. At best, they are ‘quick cures’ that never last long. In a different era, I may have learnt most of what I know about golf technique from reading instructional articles in magazines but I’d have learnt ‘quicker and better’ if I could have had the advantages of studying the best players in person or on film.


I did not understand back then that a golf swing is firmly based on ‘fundamentals’ that are applied in a movement that largely relies on sequence, timing, grace and rhythm? Good golf is not founded on copying another player’s static positions. It’s so much easier to improve your golf by watching a good player in the flesh or a filmed demonstration than reading a book or magazine article.

These days, the Internet is awash with golf instruction. This may be bad for the golf magazine business, which for decades was the biggest (by far) purveyor of golf tips – but is it good for golfers? There are so many tips, demo lessons and swing analyses available online—most of them free – it’s a shame not to take advantage of them but, you do need to know what to look for! Internet access could be one of the reasons why young golfers learn so quickly nowadays. For good and evil, they seem to know how to exploit what is available.

There is a big problem with tips – even the best ones do not always work. To cure a slice, one piece of advice will be to close the stance; another will say keep the stance open but strengthen the grip. They’re both right, but it’s confusing. Another problem with tips is their abundance. It’s hard to stick with one instruction long enough to fully integrate it into your game before one becomes impatient or bored and begin to try out something else. One thing is for sure there is never a shortage of contrary advice on line and the best way to improve your game is take lessons from a qualified PGA Teaching Professional in person.

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2 responses to “The trouble with tips”

  1. Brendan Whyte avatar
    Brendan Whyte

    How right you are. I have watched so many golf “help” tips during the lockdown my head is a mess. God knows what will happen when I finally get to tee it up

  2. John Nolan avatar
    John Nolan

    I can still remember Harvey Penick in his Little Red Book saying if there is a Magic Move it is the downswing move of bring the right elbow into your body as you get your weight onto the left side.As tips go it was one of the better ones Ivan

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