• Alistair Tait

Driven To Driving Range Distraction


Headphones were routinely packed into my golf bag whenever I visited a local driving range. I rued not packing them. It meant I had to listen to the 18 handicapper in the bay next to me giving swing advice to his fellow 18 handicapper mate.


To this day I have no idea what the term “the downswing is an 18-inch movement” actually means. Nor do I have any idea of the definition of “you’re triple extending on the backswing," or how "the right elbow is the secret to hitting it perfectly every time.”


On each of these occasions, I wanted to turn around and address the man – it was always a man, never a woman – in the bay behind me and say:

“Excuse me, what on earth are you talking about?’

Or words to that effect – sometimes I got close to the ‘WTF’ version of the above sentence. I didn’t, I reached into my golf bag, extracted my headphones, plugged it into my phone, selected my “golf practice” playlist – yes, I had a golf practice playlist for just these occasions – hit shuffle, and let the music drown out the would be Butch Harmon in the neighbouring bay.


I still have that golf practice playlist on my phone. Best addition I made to my iTunes library. Not one song contains the lyrics, “the downswing is an 18-inch movement.”


I sometimes rue drowning out those driving range gurus. Perhaps rather than using my phone to play music, I should have been recording those words of golf wisdom. They would’ve made for an interesting book. Perhaps My Wee Book of Golf Rubbish, with chapters entitled ‘The Downswing Is An 18-inch Movement,’ and ‘Beware Triple Extending During the Back Swing and ‘The Right Elbow Is The Secret To Hitting It Perfectly Every Time,” it might have outsold Harvey Penick’s Little Red Golf Book.


Is there another sport where participants are so eager to pass on their knowledge, even if they possess very little? Another pastime where many of those who play are complete sponges, ready to draw on the advice of fellow playing companions even though said companions have limited knowledge of golf’s fundamentals?


I once had a European Tour pro ask me to check his club face position at the top of his backswing. Honestly! I politely declined, telling him the last thing he wanted was an 11 handicapper giving him advice. Yes, even tour pros are prone to seek help from those who have little chance of being helpful.


I played football – soccer to North Americans – to a fairly decent level, but can’t remember a fellow player telling me how I should pass the ball, or cross it, or how many steps and where I should place my feet when taking a penalty kick.


Yet advice is thrown around in golf like shots taken in the Road Hole bunker. If I want tax advice I go to an accountant, my car fixed a mechanic, and a dentist to get my teeth seen to. I wouldn’t ring up a friend and say, “I’ve got a terrible toothache, could you just come around and have a wee look?” It almost seems redundant to say, if you want to fix your golf swing go and see a golf club professional.


I’m not averse to asking good players and friends to look at my alignment or ball position, but that’s usually as far as it goes. I played with a pal recently, a six handicapper who hits the ball extremely well. I asked him to talk me through what I feel is a unique but effective action. Turns out what he tries to embody in his swing is exactly the same motion best friend and coach Paul Anderson of The Berkshire Golf Club is trying to embody in mine.


Yet that same friend would no more have taken me aside and said you need to do this than he would have tried to sell me a plot of land in the Florida Everglades. Others, a tiny few, aren’t so circumspect. They mean well but most know by now to stay schtum. So many can’t, especially those driving range gurus.


A Twitter exchange with Netherlands based PGA professional and friend Peter Stacey has me wondering if those amateur experts are on some sort of retainer from the local pro, paid to pass on tips guaranteed to have recipients seeking major corrective surgery.

Are we driven to driving range distraction to boost the lesson fee incomes of PGA professionals?


Hmmm, I wonder…..😉


#JustSaying: “The teacher who helped me most was the one who told me the least.” John Jacobs

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