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  • Alistair Tait

The 12 golfers of Christmas – The Coach

Welcome to my Christmas series highlighting a few characterisations of golfers I’ve played with over the years. This game is played by a wide variety of people with a vast array of personalities. I’ve distilled them down into 12 types to entertain you over Christmas.

I obviously pre-wrote them so I didn’t have to write my daily blog over the holidays. No flies on me. In other words, I’m incommunicado enjoying time with my family, eating and drinking too much and taking Izzy for long walks. So, in true BBC style, please do not respond to these blogs; they’ve been pre-recorded.

4. The Coach

Avoid the coaches, the wannabe Butch Harmons, at all costs. The can seriously ruin your game.

Coaches just can’t help themselves. They have to try to help you cure that slice, that block, that pull, those thinned chips. Whatever the problem, the coach can cure it even though they're not fully qualified PGA professionals, just amateur hacks like you and me.

It doesn’t matter how many swing thoughts you have in your head. You might have a hundred. The coach can’t help but make it 101. Sometimes 102.

The problem with coaches is they usually give no warning they’re about to impart advice. They’ll just come straight out with whatever they think you’re doing wrong. From that moment your round is pretty much ruined. No matter how hard you try, you’ll struggle to get their instruction out of your head.

Most coaches are well meaning. They want to help. They just can’t seem to understand that your brain is already so fried from trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong the last thing you need is something else to think about.

I find it’s normally better players who want to pass on advice. A few years ago, I played with a 1 handicapper who told the other two in the four ball they needed a chipping lesson. Alarms bells went off in my head.

One of the four ball, let’s call him Player A, quickly headed the coach off by making it plain he was quite happy with his chipping. Quite right, too. He has a great, if unorthodox, short game. Player B had no chance.

Before Player B could say anything, the coach was expounding his theory on how to hit the perfect chip. It was a disaster. Player B couldn’t chip for the rest of the round. He hit no end of fat and thin shots.

Many times, the coach will pass on a tip that obviously works in his or her game, but has no chance in the putative student’s game. The coach doesn’t recognise that we’re all built differently. It works in her or his game, and therefore should work in ours too.

Perhaps oddest of all are the few times coaches have tried to give me a lesson even though I’m playing well and beating them. I once played with a club professional at Royal Cinque Ports and played about six shots better than my handicap. Myself and my partner easily took care of the club pro and his partner, only for the club pro to give me swing advice afterwards.

I’m fairly lucky as I play with a lot of good players. I’m not shy in asking certain friends to have a wee look at me, but usually only to check alignment, ball position, rhythm, etc. I’m also pretty quick to put my hand up and say, ‘not now, after the round please.’ The coaches I like are the ones who ask me first if I’d like their opinion.

It’s not always good players that are wannabe Butch Harmons. I used to frequent a local driving range. I couldn’t leave the house without my headphones and music. They came in handy when the hacker in the next bay was getting a lesson from his mate, even though said mate couldn’t hit his hat.

I remember one night listening to a conversation in the next bay between two mates. The wannabe Butch Harmon was trying to get his fellow 18-handicap friend to swing on the correct plane, and told him he had to “double extend” to do so.

I slipped my headphones on to drown out the chatter, and let the music flow through me as I started hitting balls. I never did find out what double extending was. Pretty sure the guy receiving the advice didn’t either since he didn't hit a decent shot all evening.

Coaches are well meaning. Be gentle with them. Ask them to give you advice after you’ve holed out on the 18th green. You’ve got enough going on inside your head as it is.

#JustSaying: “I have no quarrel with those who delight in analysing the successive movements of different parts of the anatomy during the course of a stroke. … Yet I am convinced that very few players indeed can explain satisfactorily just what is meant by swinging the club head.” Ernest Jones.

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