Golf Fundamentals and Lower Golf Scores

Any time we embark on the journey to learn something new, we always start in the same place. We start with understanding the fundamental skills required to become proficient at what we are learning. As a long time coach, teaching fundamentals was the corner stone of my philosophy in order to build a foundation for skill advancement. I believe that without creating the conditions of success through fundamentals will have detrimental affect when it is time to move forward with advanced skill development. And then I came across something that started me thinking that part of my philosophy of coaching was flawed.

Before moving forward, my view on learning fundamentals first and foremost has not changed. Without proper fundamentals, a player can only achieve a moderate amount of success. It is the advanced skills where things become a bit fuzzy and here is why:

This just might be an euphony for my approach to golf! (unknown source)

When I read this statement above (I lost the source in my social media feed, will attribute if I ever find it again), I literally stopped and read it three more times. As a coach and athlete, I was always taught that there are advance skills every person should learn after they develop the fundamentals for any specific sport or activity. But now, I can see the wisdom in the idea that advanced skills are just stronger fundamentals. And in golf, I can see how this view could change how many players approach the game.

If I use my driver for example, hitting the ball straight would be the first fundamental I would teach any beginner. As they mastered that skill, shaping the ball a bit left or right would be the next step. If I really think about it, shaping the ball a bit left or right is really a fundamental skill that many golfers have mastered. I guess doing some crazy Bubba Watson type shots would be considered advanced skills, but this is not something I bet players practice. They improvise on the spot to make a crazy shot happen because they understand the fundamentals of making a shaped shot. They just take it to a greater degree. Hence, is the Watsonesk type shot really an advance skill or a application of a fundamental for any golf swing?

Chipping would be the same thing. Phil Mickelson is arguably one of the greatest wedge player of all time and the things he can do with the ball is amazing. However, if you listen to him describe his short game, he talks about the fundamentals of each shot. It appears that he does not considered what he does with his wedges to be advanced skill, just a player who practice the fundamentals in a varied of situations. If it is good enough for Phil, then who am I to dispute him.

All sports have a cadre of fundamental skills required to enjoy the time devoted to playing it. These fundamentals, in varying degrees, are the same for every player. The more refined the fundamentals, likely the lower golf scores. It does not appear to be rocket science, just being devoted to honing the fundamentals needed to play well.

So, I revert back to the meme. It offers a different way of looking at skill development. It is something I will continue to ponder for a bit. Where do you fall with respect of advanced skills? Are they real or just really good fundamentals applied in tough situations?

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!

4 thoughts on “Golf Fundamentals and Lower Golf Scores

  1. Jim, a couple thoughts. There are advanced skills to be learned after the fundamentals are mastered, especially in the short game. Would you teach a beginner to hit a flop shot before a bump and run? Of course not. Weakening grip, opening the blade, adjusting ball position forward are all advanced skills that need to be learned after basic skills and touch are developed. Also, I would disagree on how to teach the long game and believe distance should be taught before accuracy. It’s MUCH easier to learn accuracy after learning to hit it long and far more difficult vise versa (as you and I probably know). Learning accuracy first allows the golfer to play the game more quickly, but if you’re looking at long term success, you gotta learn to bust it first.

    Thanks,

    Brian

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    • Brian

      Great points. I realize that hitting more challenging shots with adjustments to your grip, stance, or ball position would appear to be advanced skills. One could argue that they are just a variation of the basic fundamentals of hitting a ball on to the green. Ref the new approach of teaching new players to hit the long ball first, is a philosophy and not necessarily an advanced skill.

      I think you and I would eventually convince each other that both sides of the discussion could be correct. Does refining a fundamental = an advanced skill? I would concede that we are agreeing to the same thing, just calling it differently. Regardless, I like the discussion and am open to changing my mind at any time. I appreciate your thoughts.

      Cheers Jim

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      • “Does refining a fundamental = an advanced skill?” Yes.

        You can teach the fundamentals. Your students can learn them. But they may never developed the fine motor control to play really good golf. Those are advanced skills. Things that come only with practice and experience. You certainly can teach a newbie to hit a flop shot. What you can’t teach them is how much speed he/she needs to make that flop shot go the needed distance every time they need to use it. You can help them along that path by making them practice the clock drill but you can’t “teach” it. They have to absorb it for themselves.

        As for Brian’s, “teach distance first”, I can only argue that I think that that’s not really possible. The fundamentals are required for distance and not just for accuracy. I would include that not only things like grip and posture, but a proper turn, producing lag, using the ground to get all the power possible out of our swing to be fundamentals, not advanced skills. It’s just that most of us (myself included for far too long) skipped that class and went straight to trying it our way and decided beating our friends must make it right. It doesn’t really, though it may be good enough to get by at our level of play.

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      • Kevin,

        You take on what an advanced skill is interesting. It really sounds like a case of ‘degree’ for skill development. It would interesting to see how Butch Harmon classifies basic and advanced fundamentals.

        Cheers Jim

        Like

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