Golf Fans Working on Game Should Turn on the Tube and Watch in Wonder

Will LeivenbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 10, 2009

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 22:  A fan waves U.S. and Presidents Cup flags during the opening ceremony of The Presidents Cup at Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Prince William County, Virginia on September 22, 2005.  (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

What does it take to knock it stiff to a tucked back right pin with the pressure on, fierce winds blowing your collar up, bunkers surrounding the green, and thousands of people holding their breath in anticipation?

Don't look at me for an answer, just turn on the tube.

I can't help but clench my stomach, get the chills, and detect that tangible feeling of anxiety wash over me when I think of how much I could have learned from watching PGA Tour pros when I was a serious golfer. I am only 19, so I'm not totally out of the game, but, WOW "these guys are good" (as the PGA commercial goes).

When I competed in high school and in local and national events, my achilles heal was sticking it close to the pin. I had length off the tee and was very comfortable on the greens, but whether it was my hands getting clammy, over-thinking the approach; or underestimating things like wind, distance, the lie of the ball, or undulation of the green, I, like many golfers, could not hit the ball inside ten feet on a regular basis.

Though I may have had the potential to thrive like the pros, it never quite translated when I hit the links.

And while I am under the impression my golf career ended far too early, I find myself in a state of fury, disbelief, and inspired revelation when I consider how much I have learned about this game as an observer.

I watched the Presidents Cup for three hours today (I know I need to find a hobby) and found myself in absolute awe.  It was like the first time I heard the Beatles.

Today’s round may not have been the best showing for Anthony Kim or Adam Scott, but the majority of players in the field simply made a mockery of Harding Golf Course.  Chip-ins, draining 30-footers, nearly holing out from hundreds of yards away, reaching the green on a dogleg par-four that requires shaping the shot.

I know this is typical of the pros, but I have never been this impressed by the PGA Tour. Maybe I am dazzled because I haven’t seen such a talented, competitive, ambitious, and tightly concentrated group of golfers in this format for a long time. Without delving into every player in the event, hopefully golf fans realize they are participating in history with the archetypes of the sport.

Think about it—Retief Goosen and Ernie Els have two of the smoothest swings in the history of the game; if their golf balls could speak, they would thank each of these players for letting them be part of their artwork. 

Tim Clark and Mike Weir; maybe two of the shortest hitters on tour, but their iron control and unparalleled touch on the greens creates a tangible intimidation factor.  What about two of the fastest rising stars in golf right now—Hunter Mahan and Sean O’Hair, even Ray Allen agrees "they got game". 

And is it even necessary to express the momentous, incomparable genius of golf’s phenom—Tiger Woods?

Their brilliance appears effortless: Hitting more-than-300-yard drives, turning balls from one side of the fairway to the other (on purpose), sinking putts on greens as fast as a table-top. 

Golf statisticians and analysts constantly explain how, and in what order, amateur golfers struggle most. It usually goes something like this: They have no touch around the greens, they ‘underclub’ (because they once hit a pitching wedge 125 yards on the driving range and think that transfers to the course), they aren't aggressive enough with their irons when they should be, and finally they lack accuracy off the tee essentially ruining approach shots.

While these people provide valid points, they should remind golfers to utilize visual learning in addition to their own personal practice. As new media becomes an ubiquitous part of our daily lives, go on YouTube and watch some of these guys’ swings; it may be the recipe for success, or at least an epiphany. 

Personally, I am a visual learner and by religiously watching Tiger Woods’ takeaway, parallel position at the top, and explosion into the ball I found a fresh sense of clarity as I worked on my own game. I had gained a sense of mechanics, but was forced to incorporate my personal sense of touch, creating my own authentic swing.

God this game is great.

So if you are like me and used to work tirelessly on the range trying to hit punch shots to exactly 108 yards or try to replicate the low fading three-wood shot five times before moving on to another club, don't completely stop, just redesign your regimen. Let the pros guide you.

These professional golfers are 'professional' for a reason. 

I have always believed you learn most from people that are better than you, so lets these guys inspire and instill you with knowledge. The President’s Cup is not just a rivalry for the International and US teams. It’s also a free, worthwhile opportunity to absorb the knowledge and skills that these players are in the perpetual process of mastering. 

Work on six-foot putts. Work on the kinks of your driver. Work on shots inside 100-yards. But most importantly—don’t forget to stop working and simply turn on the tube and watch in wonder.