• Alistair Tait

Rebooting the golfing brain


This blog is being written on a brand-new laptop. After 11 years, my faithful old MacBook Pro has been consigned to that great computer graveyard along with the old Amstrad, the Tandy and previous heavier, clunkier, slower Apple laptops.


I’ve resisted the urge to transfer all my old files from my previous laptop onto my new MacBook Air. It’s refreshing to start with a clean slate, a technical tabula rasa.


If only we could drag the detritus of former golf swing theories to waste baskets and click empty bin, then another click when we’re prompted with the message

“Are you sure you want to permanently erase the items in the bin?”

Yes, yes, yes!


I’ve often thought it would be great to clear our heads of swing theories, tips, accumulated thoughts over many years. Reboot our golfing brains, clear out the cache and start anew.


I think I’ve tried every swing technique ever invented: from square to square to stack and tilt. Swing thoughts? I’ve had a few. How I’d love on the 29th March when golf restarts in England to step onto the first tee of Woburn Golf Club’s delightful Dukes course with a clear head. No swing thoughts other than gasp: grip, aim, stance and posture. Then just simply make two turns and a swish and send the ball down the fairway.


It can work you know.


Back in February 1995, Mac O’Grady came up with a unique idea to try to get Seve Ballesteros back to his best. O’Grady, the eccentric player turned coach who, like Seve, was almost as good left handed as he was right handed, drove Seve out to the desert near Palm Springs, California. They carried a box full of old pictures and articles on Seve’s swing. There was also shovel in the back of the car.


They dug a hole and buried the box in the sand. Seve said:

“It was a very happy funeral. … We put all the pictures taken over the years showing my bad swing habits in the box, then we drove into the desert and buried it. Then we prayed for two minutes and I asked that I should keep all my good habits and get a second wind.”

It worked. Seve won the Spanish Open a few months later after a run of good golf.


It didn’t last, of course; the 1995 Spanish Open was Seve’s last victory. He was back to struggling to find fairways by the end of the season. His appearance in that year’s Ryder Cup was his last.


Still, Seve proved clearing the head of rubbish can work, if only for brief periods. A simpler approach often equates to less really adding up to more.


Former Muswell Hill club professional Iain Roberts once discovered there was nothing more complicated to achieving long drives than simply giving the ball an almighty tonk. It’s what made up Robert’s mind he might have a better career teaching the game than playing it.


The Englishman, who spent a lot of years after Muswell Hill as club pro at Hong Kong Golf Club, played a handful of European Tour events during the early 1980s as he considered life as a tour pro. A practice round with Sandy Lyle answered that question.


Iain was feeling pretty good about himself midway through the back nine because he was level pegging with Sandy off the tee. Maybe, just maybe, he could cut it on tour.


They came to a par-5 hole and Sandy said they needed big drives to get round the corner of the dogleg to have a chance of getting home in two.


Roberts said the drive he hit was one of his best. He was smiling inside as his ball found the centre of the fairway. He was crestfallen when Sandy told him he hadn’t hit it far enough to get round the corner. Sandy then stood up and smashed a drive 60 yards past Iain’s ball.


When Roberts asked Sandy what he’d done differently to his previous drives, he didn’t exactly discover the secret to the universe. Sandy simply replied:

“I just hit it harder.”

Thus ended Iain’s dream of winning the Open Championship, or even run of the mill European Tour events.


Many have surmised that had Lyle continued with the less is more approach, he might have won more than just the two majors. Like Seve, and many more, he got caught up in a myriad of swing theories to the point where he seemed to be trying every practice aid going.


Let’s make 29 March reboot time. An opportunity to clear the cache from our golfing brains.


Wonder how long that will last?


#JustSaying: “I think too much advice can be dangerous.” Fred Couples

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