Dooley’s bar stool lesson

Ivan Morris
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Professional John Dooley oversees a lesson. Photo by Jamie Gibson

Some of you will already know that the Cork golf professional, John Dooley is quite an entertainer on and off the golf course. For all of the fun and banter he generates, Dooley takes his teaching duties at Riverstown House extremely seriously and he is in constant demand as a swing guru, mentor and golf coach.

Like all good coaches, John is open minded and not set on teaching a single method. He treats his clients as individuals and is always on the lookout for new ways to transmit instructions on how to propel a golf ball from A to B efficiently.

“Helping golfers is mostly a matter of communication,” he says. “I am passionate about finding images that will strike the right note and are easily remembered. It is no use hitting the ball beautifully under supervision on the practice ground if one cannot transfer it to the golf course when there is nobody to guide you. There are no prizes for being a world-beater on the P.G.

“At the risk of sounding conceited, I enjoy being regarded as a good teacher because I have always loved studying the game and searching for new tricks to help golfers improve.”

One recent lesson stands out as an example of how down to earth and innovative John can be. He was conducting a typical, standard lesson with an enthusiastic beginner, but it was not going well. Poor posture was at the heart of the trouble. It was then that John’s idea – ‘The Pub Stool Effect’ – brought about a ‘Eureka! moment.’

Not being a frequenter of pubs myself, it took me several minutes to grasp the significance, so it is probably best that I allow the pro to conduct the lesson in his own words:

“Starting from the ground up, a good posture has a number of key aspects. 1)-The weight must be on the balls of the feet. 2)-The knees must be slightly flexed. 3)-The back must be straight but at an angle. 4)-The arms must hang comfortably from the shoulders. 5)-The chin must be ‘out’ from the chest.

“This is more or less the whole package when it comes to the ‘perfect posture’ before making a swing. However, the difficulty on this occasion was that as soon as the golfer in question flexed his knees – his back immediately straightened into a bolt upright position.

“Time after time, this involuntary action would occur no matter how hard I tried to explain what I wanted him to do. Having used up every descriptive phrase I could think of without getting the message across, I felt beaten and exhausted! It might have been the lowest point in my entire teaching career.

“Then, like divine intervention, a moment of Zen clarity descended upon me. I asked my student if he could visualize sitting on a bar stool, but his drink was on the counter and barely out of reach to be able to pick it up comfortably. There you are, says I, your mouth feeling like cotton wool and you wanting to grasp your glass, but your backside is glued solid to the chair with absolutely no interest in shifting, show me how you would do it?

“Without a moment’s thought, he leaned forward gently as if to pick up the imaginary glass. The penny had dropped and just like sinking a long putt when you least expect it, my teaching career and self-respect were back on an even keel once more. My previously ‘struggling’ student settled into the proper position and with his newfound perfect posture, was allowed to release full force into the swing. Shot after shot went soaring into the far-off distance. My teaching career was saved. Who says nothing good ever came from sitting on bar stools?”

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