If there is one common problem I see among amateur golfers and high-handicappers, it is that they tend to overanalyze the game—every aspect of it. They’ve read books and watched videos describing the “perfect” swing, and they desperately want to achieve it. They hold in their mind a detailed mental checklist of every movement necessary to hitting the ideal shot and go through that list before and during each swing. Without exception, this does little more than send them away confused and frustrated.
I see so many players approach the first tee with a sense of fear and anxiety. You can see it in their eyes. They look out over the vast array of green, lush grass in front of them, with traps and trees lining the fairway, and then their eyes focus on a tiny flag in the distance, barely visible to the naked eye. Three hundred and fifty yards lie between them and the hole, and they’ve got four shots to get it into the cup. The mere thought of it seems overwhelming to a frustrated golfer.
“I could harp on this subject for a long time, because I am thoroughly convinced that thousands of golfers today have had their game hopelessly ruined by neglecting simple first principles.”
Almost without fail, the first-hole jitters get to these players. They swing too hard and slice the ball into the woods. Or they duff the club into the ground and send the ball trickling toward the cart path. Their second shot isn’t much better, and once again they’ve set themselves up for another round of high scores and shattered expectations.
The truth is, golf doesn’t have to be complicated to be played effectively. At its core, the game is really rather simple. You progress the ball forward with each shot until you get to the green, where you softly stroke the ball into the hole. It takes years of work and practice to shoot par, and no one expects the average golfer to do so. Bogie golf is a fine target for most weekend players and can easily be attained when we relax and keep it simple.
Don’t hit the ball. Swing at it. Develop a nice, graceful swing.
—Babe Didrikson Zaharias
Begin with the swing. Forget trying to find the perfect swing and work instead on creating the simplest one. Swing with ease and freedom. Practice letting the club flow in a simple, circular pattern around your body. The goal is to swing the clubhead in a circular arch around the body, letting the ball get caught in its path. Don’t try—or expect—to hit the ball three hundred yards down the middle on your drive. Just focus on a smooth and complete swing that sends the ball toward the green with each shot. And don’t worry about carrying the green in regulation. Most golfers are doing well to be within thirty yards of the target after two strokes, and there’s no reason that even an average golfer shouldn’t be able to get up and down from there in three strokes.
After a lesson with a student, I always encourage him or her to take the principles we’ve been working on to the first tee and to commit to them throughout the round. Most students find that if they’ll just relax and take the game one shot at a time, what had seemed complicated and overwhelming is actually not that difficult.
Creating a Simple Swing Pattern
Professional golf instructor Arnie Frankel[AQ1] wrote the following about the swing motion: “The ideal golf swing is a very relaxed motion. If you can just be relaxed, letting the clubhead go back and forward, on a plane like a pendulum, you will have the best effective swing.
“When I am hitting the ball at my best I feel like I’m gripping the club about as loosely as I possibly can. The club almost falls out of my hands. In practicing remember to practice small swings until the feeling comes back. Small swings until you can feel the clubhead swinging. Little to big is the way to go.”
Remember, when it comes to the golf swing, simple is always better.
Sharing Your Faith
Most of us have at one time been given a project at work or school that seemed daunting. We wondered if and how we could ever get it accomplished. But as we began, taking it one step at a time, the task seemed to get easier by the day. We went from feeling overwhelmed to feeling confident. And once finished, we felt a sense of pride and accomplishment, ready to take on even a larger project.
“God wants to use you. He has a place for you, a part for you to play, a seed for you to sow, a call for you to answer.… Leading people to Christ is the most joyful experience I know of next to having met him myself.”
This same principle holds true when trying to share our faith with others. For many new followers of Christ, or even for inexperienced veteran believers, the mere thought of sharing their faith causes their palms to sweat and their throats to constrict.
The first time I was asked to share my testimony about my relationship with Christ, I was terrified. Conrad Rehling, my professor and golf coach from the University of Florida, was a godly man and a committed follower of Christ. And when he discovered I was a believer, he asked me to go with him to a small country school outside of Gainesville, Florida, where he had been asked to speak. I had not been a follower of Christ for very long and had little knowledge of the Bible, but Conrad somehow talked me into getting up and telling my story. “Simply open your mouth and God will give you the words to say,” he told me. Then he shared with me from the Book of Exodus. Moses was being commissioned by God to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, and Moses was afraid he wouldn’t know what to say. God told him, “I will help you speak and will teach you what to say” (Ex. 4:12).
As I stood in front of those two hundred kids, kindergarten through twelfth grade, I was petrified, but I did as Conrad suggested. I opened my mouth, and God took over. The words flowed. I simply told them how I had come to Christ and what he had done in my life. Ten minutes later I walked off the stage, not even remembering much of what I had said.
Speaking to the children that day was an invaluable experience for me, because it taught me that sharing your faith doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. The best and most effective approach is to keep it straight and simple, just like the golf swing.
When trying to lead people to Christ, telling your personal story is always the best place to start. It’s real and authentic because it comes from the heart. And, most important, it’s something almost everyone can relate to. When someone doesn’t know Christ, they’re seldom interested in hearing about the Godhead Trinity or end-times theology. What they want to know is why someone like you would choose to follow Jesus and make him Lord and Master of your life. They want to know what Jesus offered that you couldn’t find anywhere else.
When you want to share your faith with someone and you feel overwhelmed, just remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:19–20: “Do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
If you want to touch someone’s heart, keep it simple. Tell them your story. Tell them about Jesus. It’s not as frightening as you might think.