Golf & Life: 3 Things I Learned About Being a Novice

Golf & Life
Over the past 3 months, I’ve been in and out of different physical therapy offices while progressing from ACL surgery.  Like everyone reading this, we’ve all had to learn something new at some point.  In this case, it’s preparing for and learning how to properly walk, bike, climb stairs, jog, etc.  There’s also the learning of how each office works, what type of scheduling and payment procedures they like (you’d think they’re similar, but sometimes wildly different), and how to best enjoy your time fitting in to their programs and atmosphere.  Moving between locations was quite eye opening, as I realized there were stark differences between the overall atmosphere and personnel that I encountered.

As a golf professional, I could not help but to relate my experience of being a ‘novice’ at rehabilitating to how a new golfer may feel picking up the game.  Below, are three things I learned being a novice.  Some of this may be basic, but it may serve as a good reminder regarding novices (as it did for me).  Perhaps one or more of these items may ring a bell and be of use for your business as well.

(1) Personal Attention Is Paramount

It’s a no-brainer, but personal attention is absolutely crucial. However, that’s not as easy as it may appear.  One of my experiences was in a very well-respected, and rightfully so, very busy office filled with a clientele of mostly fast-paced business professionals.  As much as the staff and trainers tried (and excelled considering the conditions), it was the over-populated system design that may have caused some clients to feel intimidated.  I sometimes dreaded going – and to be fair the beginning of rehab, by default, is more physically painful – but perhaps my lack of overall comfort added the fear.  Becoming aware of this, I started scheduling appointments at 6am when the office was more peaceful, and only seldom filled with other early bird lunatics!  My entire experience shifted from one of rushing through exercises and staying out of the way to a more mentally and physically relaxed one.

The Golf Take: 

Schedule first-time lesson takers / beginners during a quiet time of the day.  Even if your lesson area is secluded, their experience just finding their way to the lesson tee can be equally as intimidating as swinging the club for the first time.  Or, if the facility is regularly busy, perhaps agree to meet in the parking lot (or another easily identifiable area) to help walk them through this first time procedure.

I once had a regular lesson’s husband sign up for a lesson.  Unbeknownst to me, he had never been to the course before.  His confusing experience navigating to and through the facility before the lesson wasn’t the best precursore to what also was his first lesson ever.  The lesson learned on my end was to always spend some extra time while scheduling to get a feel for the student’s comfort level and accommodate appropriately.  The same can be said before starting the lesson in terms of asking for and listening to the student’s goals, history and any physical conditions.  My most comfortable and motivating experience in a physical therapy office was one where the trainer took an entire session to answer my questions and go through a baseline evaluation.  If you had asked me if I needed that introductory session, I would have thought ‘no way, waste of time, let’s just start!’  However, afterwards it meant the world to me as I walked away confident about the next session and future progress. I would think this would apply similarly for someone going through a new experience (may it be picking up golf, joining a gym for the first time, or whatnot).

(2) It’s How You Say It

It baffled me to hear a trainer tell a recent surgical patient “no, you’re doing it wrong – watch, do it this way” when commenting on an exercise.  It was apparent the former part of the statement was devastating to the client.  Who knows what the client had been through physically and to add mental anguish via a negative statement like that didn’t leave the happiest look on his face.  Contrast that to my thankfully very patient and positive trainer who would often say “just ensure you move like this” or “as you get stronger you’ll be able to do it this way” as more gentle reminders of good form.

Interestingly, one of my trainers would sometimes not tell me certain measured benchmarks specific to my recovery.  One time I asked her why she did not always tell me what degree of flexion my knee got to on certain days.  She responded, “the body is very responsive to the mind.  If I tell you your knee flexion is behind average, what do you think you’ll go around thinking and manifesting?” Lightbulb! Instead she started commenting on my progress subjectively, “today you’re 4 degrees more than last week!” she’d announce so the office could hear.  When another trainer could have easily said, “well, only 4 more degrees, you’re still behind schedule.” The two statements would have given me the same information, but left me with two very different mindsets.

The Golf Take:

We all know golf is hard and humbling enough as it is.  Golfers, collectively, might just be the most hopeful group of people you can find specific to a sport.  With this in mind, positive tone and careful word choice are important qualities to continually hone.  There will of course be times when it’s necessary to motivate a student with a more competitive approach, but novices have enough new challenges to add extra competition — and in no case would negative cues be helpful.  Jack Nicklaus alludes to this mindful cultivation when saying,

If this is important as a player, we should be creating this atmosphere and mindset immediately in lessons as well.

(3) The Process Is Actually An Outcome

It’s safe to say most people begin new activities with a hopeful outlook.  Hope ignites goals and sets discipline.  However, at the first slight bump in the road, each person has a defining choice to make:
(1) Some may view it as a total defeat and quit altogether.
(2) Others may hang on and survive the bump.
(3) A select few may stay open-minded, ego-free and use the bump to wheelie up in the air!

Physical therapy forces patients to choose frequently between these options.  Simple activities of the past become large challenges when re-learning how to walk and building the strength to do so.  It’s so easy to stop doing exercises at home when progress isn’t readily seen and the activities appear dull and pointless.  It’s equally as easy to assume you know what’s best.  However, those who succeed in the long run have the intrinsic motivation to stay disciplined, ego-free and optimistic.  Dozens of people told me along the way that I’d find myself at these bumps in the road.  Their overwhelming key words were to stay disciplined and motivated and it would pay off.
From this sense, learning how to go through the process is an outcome of learning, both as a novice, and continually.  The intrinsic motivation must be found and maintained for learning to progress.

The Golf Take: 

This type of process and outcome relationship is important for the entire spectrum from beginners to experts.  While there will be road bumps along the way, the novice level is where we must first ignite the spark that will keep students disciplined and intrinsically motivated.  Learning how to love the process of peaks, valleys and plateaus is crucial for long-term development.  Enjoying and realizing the process is an outcome.

We must help students stay on the path by finding out what motivates their spirit.  Students must also find their own joy in the process on their journey towards becoming a master.

masterThanks for stopping by today.  Hopefully one or more of these items are useful to you.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.
Have a great day,




2 thoughts on “Golf & Life: 3 Things I Learned About Being a Novice

  • Sara…great article. The timing of this struck me as just last night I had an idea for my next newsletter. The title is “Why I Suck at Skiing”. Similar approach as I am a novice and have been kind of intimidated in the two times I have gone to the mountain in the eleven years I have lived in Colorado. Yes I live an hour from the best ski resorts in the world and I am hesitant to participate mostly due to intimidation along with a fear of getting hurt.

    But the main reason I suck is because I don’t practice. Two lessons in eleven years isn’t going to get it done. I need to stay on the path and this is the exact message I want my students to know.

    Thanks again,

    Steve Patterson

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