In a Florida coffee house the ultimate golf truth finally percolates through: don’t think, do

A non-golfer offers two golfers the best lesson they would ever get: switch the brain off and ease off on the technical stuff


I was sitting on the terrace of a local café on Monday in the neighbourhood of my boss’s house in southern Florida enjoying the cool of the morning in the shade while easing into the day with a cup of my favourite brew.

We had made a fast exit from Montreal and the Canadian Open the previous day and landed back in Florida well before sunset. It was time for a couple of days recreation before heading back up north to Akron and then straight on to Louisville for the PGA.

A little look

Apart from sipping my coffee and browsing the newspaper, I was also having a little look into the lives of some locals who obviously gathered there frequently. The younger clients were grabbing and going on to work while the older ones sounded like they had what was left of their lives to sit in the shade and reflect.

It was not where I would have anticipated getting one of the most sensible golf lessons of my life. After a long stretch of events, five in a row, I was looking forward to some sanctuary from all things golf on my Monday morning off.

A portly older gentleman was sitting with a svelte lady and I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation. I must clarify America is not a place for private banter; in general the citizens have booming voices that make you think they are including you in their conversation even from six tables away.

His voice was hypnotic, deep and clear but somehow gentle and alluring and, would you believe, he was talking about golf to the little lady with her venti latte and a patient ear.

He was telling her about his game and how he was struggling with his approach shots. How he got a lesson recently and the pro wanted him to almost line up his right hand with his right shoulder, which he demonstrated, managing not to disturb the morning brews on the table without getting up from his seat. His grip looked a bit weak, if I was being totally honest.

I got drawn into the world of the Floridian retiree with the calming but powerful voice who was making a lot of sense about the fundamentals of golf.

He got more technical, he moved back to the tee and the big stick, the dreaded driver. His problem, he confessed to Mary, who had drained her latte by this point and looked ready for another, was his driver was “too whippy dippy”.

It was a regular shaft and despite what all the machines and teaching pros had advised him he really wanted to revert to his old stiff-shafted driver.

I was only aware of Mary’s head nodding approval or incredulity at Peter’s admissions about his game; I never heard her utter a word.

Another local lady came and sat close enough to be included in the conversation but far enough away to be able to escape from the world according to Peter. She was obviously a casual acquaintance of theirs and was not a golfer. Tennis was her game and she loved it. “I just go out there and I make sure I don’t think, I just do,” she admitted to Peter while he drew breath momentarily.

She had hit upon the very essence of the seemingly benign but ultimately head-wrecking game of golf: its pro-active nature; we have time to contemplate and probably make a cobblers of most shots because of fastidious check-lists and obsessions that cannot be entertained during the rapid act of a shot.

Switch the brain off

The third party and non -golfer had given the two golfers the best lesson they would ever get while starting their day in their local coffee house. Switch the brain off and ease off on the technical stuff.

Peter had managed to slip into the conversation, or diatribe you may say, that his clubs were 2 degrees flatter than standard. I assumed necessary tinkering in order to facilitate his rounded mid-riff.

His coffee drinking tennis playing acquaintance had given Peter the key to a game he obviously plays passionately and loves talking about, but I am not sure he was ready to hear it.

It reminded me of a conversation I had had with my boss, Ernie Els, just the previous week. The crux of it being the brain needed to be less active during competition and the golfing instinct let lead.

I know it’s not a real revelation but sometimes it takes an overheard conversation on the shaded terrace of a café to reinforce what needs to be done to maximize potential for this often over-complicated game.

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