Don’t Watch YouTube, Go Hit Balls
At the Nexus Cup at Liberty National Tiger Woods was asked what his number one advice would be for amateur golfers. “Don’t watch f—— YouTube,” he said, “go hit balls.” “Just beat balls?” Someone asked, “Beat balls,” Tiger replied.
“Don’t Watch YouTube”
These two tips are extremely relevant for people trying to get better at golf today. As a coach, many of my students will randomly start working on something in their swing that they saw on YouTube, and nearly every time that thing is contributing to their big miss. A student who hooks the ball will be trying to lower their hands in transition, or have a more bowed wrist at the top of the swing because of something they saw on YouTube or Instagram, two things that will directly influence the ball to go further left. A different student will be trying to use their legs and “use the ground,” only they don’t know exactly what they’re doing and end up dipping down and it’s leading to them chunking every shot.
I’m not sure how much time Tiger spends on the lesson tee with amateur golfers, but I can relate to his frustration with learning golf through YouTube. I wouldn’t be as dismissive of it as he sounded, as the people who are learning on YouTube are usually eager learners who love golf and want to learn as much about it as possible. The problem is that YouTube is often not the best tool for this as the most popular videos are often selling the quickest and easiest fixes for problems that are more complicated than that.
Everyone is looking for the quick fix, or the swing thought that will finally unlock their game for them. Unfortunately they are searching for something that doesn’t exist. So rather than “Don’t watch f—— YouTube,” I wonder if “Stop looking for quick fixes,” is a more helpful tip.
“Go Hit Balls”
Tiger’s second tip, “Go hit balls,” is my favorite, but it definitely needs further explanation. Every day I’m able to observe the average golfers on the driving range hitting balls, and it is not a pretty sight, and it does not lead to very much improvement. The most common way people hit balls is a rapid fire approach where they keep hitting and hoping until they hit a good shot, and then eventually they get in a groove and start hitting it better. They’re not getting better at golf, they’re getting better at hitting a good 7 iron on their 50th try, which I suppose if that’s what you’re going for, who am I to stand in your way.
If you’ve ever watched Tiger warm up before a tournament, or read about his practice sessions, you’ll know that this is not how Tiger hits balls. He goes slow in between shots. He’ll often take a break to think about something, hit one shot, then take another break. There is no rapid fire. He’s learning, listening, searching, and becoming more aware of what’s going on.
There’s a common refrain among instructors that the students just don’t know how to practice, and don’t use their time well. This leads us to create drills, training aids, or detailed practice plans, that will hopefully help the average golfer when they are left to their own devices. Most instructors would agree that doing specific drills is a better use of your time than “beating balls.” That’s why I love Tiger’s answer, it goes against the grain of what most instructors agree on.
How To Figure Things Out On Your Own
Reading between the lines, I think Tiger’s responses go hand in hand. “Don’t watch f—– YouTube, go hit balls,” could be translated as “Stop looking for quick fixes, try to figure some things out on your own.” This is great advice, as it puts ownership back on the student, and empowers them to find their own answers. As a coach I am very intentional in avoiding giving quick fixes, and instead leading the student in a way where they are developing more awareness and understanding about themselves and the club, so they can solve problems and be able to coach themselves.
Next time you hit balls, use it as a time to try to figure some things out on your own. Here are three things that everyone could work on:
Figuring Out Direction
As you hit balls, notice which way the ball is missing. If it’s missing right, then simply try to hit a ball left. Tee the ball up if you have to so you can just focus on controlling the ball’s direction. You can aim your feet, use your wrists, mess around with how you’re turning, it doesn’t matter. Try to figure out how to make it go left. If you’re having trouble, go down to as small of a swing as needed to make the ball go left, even if it’s going down to putting stroke! Once you make some go left with that swing, start to build it up bigger and bigger until you are back to your full swing. Once you can make the full swing go left, then see if you can alternate between hitting a ball left, then right, then straight.
Figuring Out Ground Contact
Do you struggle with a thin miss or chunking? If you keep chunking, try to hit a ball thin. Top it if you have to! Then alternate between intentionally thin shots and solid shots. Once you’ve done this for a while, go back to your normal swings. These exercises won’t be a magic cure to your problems, but what they are doing is helping you be more aware of what’s going on with the club in your swing, and helping you get better at controlling where that club is at impact, which is the most important thing.
Figuring Out Tension and Balance
Have you ever paid attention to your tension before? What’s your grip pressure on a scale of 1-10? Is there tension in your arms as you set up? Does your tension level stay consistent throughout your entire swing? Once you get out onto the course your tension level will unintentionally increase, so start paying attention to it in your practice sessions.
Most people have poor balance, and they try to slow things down to improve balance. Instead of defaulting to a slower swing, see if you can notice at what point in your swing you start to lose balance. Usually an unbalanced finish is a symptom of something that occurred earlier in the swing.
I know telling people to practice in this way won’t lead to a viral YouTube video because this isn’t promising quick fixes or ways to magically cure your ball striking. What it is doing is giving you time to experiment, explore, ask questions, pay attention to what’s going on, and overall increase your awareness. This is the most valuable way you could be spending your time when practicing. Instead of always trying out the latest trend in golf instruction, you’ll grow in your own understanding of the golf swing and will develop the awareness necessary to know what it takes for you to play your best golf.