Out of the Bunker: Learning the language of golf

The article I just wrote about my golf experience in Japan got me thinking about the occasional language barrier between some students and their teachers. As an instructor, the question is “how do I teach golf to a player who doesn’t speak my language?” I experienced this challenge with a young student of mine quite a few years ago. Coincidentally, he was from Japan and he visited his uncle each summer here in Los Angeles. I was asked to teach him golf during these visits, and it was a unique challenge, because I didn’t speak Japanese, and he didn’t speak English. No problem. Golf instruction does not need to be verbal to be effective. Instead, we can all learn through hand gestures and demonstrations. That’s how my young student and I began our golf lessons together. I would demonstrate what I wanted him to do, and he would follow my lead to the best of his abilities. It even reached a point where I would swing left handed so that we could face one another while swinging the club. This worked out great and proved to be incredibly valuable when working on the proper rhythm of his golf swing. He knew he had to match my rhythm as we swung together, and it was incredibly effective. Eventually, this young man began picking up on the English language, and our lessons became a bit more verbal. However, we never broke away from the initial practices that we learned when we were not able to speak with one another. I am happy to report that he eventually accepted a golf scholarship at the College of the Desert in Palm Springs. I believe that many of you can improve your golf games in a similar way. Whether you are observing a player with a good golf swing on the range or you are just visualizing a good golf swing in your mind, practice mimicking what you perceive to be a good swing. Too many words can clutter your golfing mind. Learn to practice by observing and your game will improve.