Rocco Got It Wrong

Last week I received a video from a friend showing Tiger Woods hitting 3 wedges into the water back to back to back. It is sad for me to watch a legend struggle in such a dramatic way, regardless of your opinion of the man. It is clear his game is still a mess at this point, and according to Rocco Mediate on an episode of “Feherty Live,” it’s the teacher’s entire fault. Why? Because Chris Como has never won a major, or something like that…

I have a cousin who plays college football at Arizona University. He’s worked with some of the top coaches in the United States, but not many of them were world-renowned football players themselves. Still, they are able to take him to a higher level than they had ever achieved. Sure, he has amazing natural talent, but that talent had to be coached all along the way to truly flourish.

People who win the Nobel Prize in Economics are taught by professors who themselves never won the Nobel. There are coaches in the NBA and NFL who never competed at that level who have been very successful in their respective leagues. The examples could go on all day.

So when Rocco Mediate says that teachers like Chris Como simply don’t have the playing background to help someone at Tiger Wood’s level, he’s not making sense. He then went on to question the validity of an article in Golf Digest authored by Como. Rocco further stated that only another major winner could help Tiger Woods put the pieces back together. Let’s remind Rocco that nobody who helped Tiger along the way to winning his current stash of 14 majors had ever even played in a major.

Jack Grout, who taught and coached Jack Nicklaus for his entire career, didn’t seem to be a hindrance in Jack’s march to 18 professional majors, even though Grout was winless in the biggies. Furthermore, when Rocco finished by suggesting that he could fix Tiger’s short game in one session if only Tiger would let him, he showed a jaw dropping level of ignorance of the arduous process that he himself had used to improve throughout his career working with Jimmy Ballard and others.

It’s not just the technical information that matters, it’s the entire process of coaching someone through the ups and downs of developing and maintaining a highly refined skill such as hitting a golf ball every day on the PGA or LPGA Tours. I can assure Rocco that if we took all the living major winners and lined them up to teach at a big driving range in, say, Chicago they would have a very hard time getting the quality results that dozens of professional instructors in the Windy City are able to achieve every day.

During my time at Oakland Hills CC I was lucky enough to speak with Tour Professionals such as Jack Nicklaus, Lee Janzen, Ernie Els, and others about their games, and more often than not they couldn’t explain how someone else could emulate what they do. They had a personal feel for what they were trying to do during their swing, but no idea how to convey that feeling or motion to someone else.

That’s the thing that Tour players like Rocco Mediate don’t appreciate: Golf instruction is a big part science and a big part art of communication. Guys like Rocco don’t do the golf world any favors by dumping on the people who are on the front lines every day creating both future Tour champions and engaging future 12 handicappers in the game of a lifetime.

By the way Rocco, how many majors did Jimmy Ballard win? That didn’t seem to stop you from wanting his help with your game, did it? Next time I hope Rocco and the rest of the Touring pros realize how much time and effort top instructors put into this craft and how the game would be so much less for so many without their guidance.

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA

Dear Isla, If You Decide To Play Golf

It seems like at least once a week I am asked, “When should my child start golf?” It is a legitimate question, and one that I have thought about for some time. My answer however, is always “Whenever he or she shows an interest in the game.” In my opinion it is pointless to try and force a game on a child. Yes, I do believe that golf teaches us many great lessons, but it is a game, and must be enjoyed.

Many of you already know that I recently was blessed with my first child. Her name is Isla Rose, and I love her unconditionally. For my column this week instead of writing about someone else, I want to turn the lens toward home and share a letter to my own daughter. If you are a parent, this is my sincerest and heartfelt advice if you plan to introduce your child to the game of golf, and the life lessons it can teach.


Dear Isla Rose,

If you decide to play golf, make sure it is for the right reasons. Play because you feel it is fun, and because you love the game. Believe it or not other things in life will bring you greater joy. The day you were born was the happiest day of my life. It also filled me with more fear than I’ve ever felt on any golf course. Fear simply because I want to be a good dad; I don’t want to do it wrong.

If you decide to play golf it can teach you how to be tough, like your mother. She is the toughest person I know. I want to raise you to be like her, and watch you grow up to make it on your own.

If you decide to play golf, I promise to teach you. I also promise to try and work less, but our golf course is growing, and not slowing down anytime soon. It’s why I put in so many hours. I just want the outcome to be something I can look back on and be proud of. However, I won’t be a dad living through a phone line; I can manage the golf course and teach you at the same time.

If you decide to play golf, it will never spoil you, and you can’t perfect it. It will put you through adversity, and you’ll learn how to overcome and persevere through it.

If you decide to play golf, you’ll have your heartbroken. It is a competitive game, and the more devoted you become, the greater the chance of having it break your heart, but don’t let it keep you down. I love you, and I will pick you up shall you ever fall.

If you decide to play golf you’ll eventually call a penalty on yourself. The game is unique in this way. Always tell the truth, regardless of the consequence, and if you lose pay your opponent a compliment.

If you decide to play golf, give back to everyone that helped you grow. It takes many foursomes to raise a golfer dear, just work hard and don’t worry about the praise or accolades.

If you decide to play golf remember that school always comes first. Study hard and you can do anything in the world… Make sure that it is something you love.

If you decide to play golf, you may find yourself praying to the golfing Gods. Go to Church to find the real God dear.

If you decide to play golf, to be happy, you don’t need to follow in your father’s footsteps. Just learn to be selfless. Ask questions and learn from others, as you will meet people from all walks of life through golf.

If you decide to play golf, play all day, in tournaments, for fun, with your friends and neighbors. You’re only young once sweet Isla, don’t waste a moment…




-Matthew Lindberg, PGA

Junior Golf School

Junior Golf School

Manuel de la Torre: Simplicity Counts

Manuel De La Torre was one of the all time greats at teaching the game of golf. A “pro’s pro” as they say. Born in Spain, to that country’s first teaching professional, de la Torre was a standout college golfer at Northwestern before joining his father as an assistant at Lake Shore Country Club near Chicago. He began teaching at Milwaukee Country Club in 1948 and never left. He would go on to mentor thousands of players –amateur and professional – along with hundreds of teachers. He died at age 94 on April 24.

I personally never got the opportunity to meet Mr. de la Torre, but have studied his philosophies in great detail. He came to Chequamegon Bay Golf Club to give a clinic when the golf course expanded to 18 holes. I was told from folks who attended that it was a cold Ashland day, yet de la Torre put on a great clinic. For my column this week, I’d like to remember one of the all time great golf instructors by including some of his greatest quotes. They are filled with simple ideas and simple concepts that still resonate today. Enjoy:

“Swing the entire club (not just the clubhead) with the arms from the end of the backswing to the finish of the swing.”

“If I asked you to draw an apple, you’d keep an image of an apple in your head until you finished drawing. In golf, you have to visualize the club going directly toward the target while you’re actually doing it. That’s far more important than visualizing the ball going to the target. If you visualize what the club must do, the mind takes care of the mechanics that get the ball there.”

“Your only concern in holding the golf club is to do just that: Hold it with a constant attitude and allow the natural reactions of the swing to take place without interference on your part.”

“My teaching is based on what I learned from Ernest Jones. It’s simply learning to use the tool – the club – correctly. If you allow the swing to happen, it will happen correctly. The hips don’t hit the ball. The shoulders don’t hit the ball. The hands don’t hit it. The club does. Ernest Jones was teaching this in 1920, and it’s just as true now.”

“The golf swing is such a simple movement and we humans complicate it to such an extent the it does not work. Our movement in the golf swing is essentially the same as many other everyday motions – the only difference is that in golf we do it with an implement called a golf club.”

“Do you shop? Do you make a list of all the things you don’t want to buy? Of course not, but that’s the way people play golf. They stand over a shot thinking about all the things they don’t want to do, instead of focusing on what they want to do.”

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA

More Fun & Games: Golf’s Mantra For 2016 & Beyond

Each day I read article after article trying to learn as much as I can about my craft, and lately I have been coming to a similar conclusion. I feel golf instructors, myself included, are taking golf and golf instruction a bit too seriously. The newsletters, articles, and marketing materials I read are usually about a new piece of technology, a new training program, or an award somebody won. This is all well and good, but if you’ve been watching the next generation (my generation) as they examine whether golf is going to become one of their regular activities you’ll find that we may want to inject a more fun and social atmosphere into playing and learning the game.

Each spring and fall I attend a Wisconsin PGA Meeting to go over section news, events, and examine the state of the game. The last meeting I was happy to hear the word “fun” mentioned more times than the past several meetings combined. As an instructor I sometimes find myself overly focused on “how” to make golfers better and not enough on the emotional highs enjoyed by golfers working on their games.

On the ride home from the meeting I was listening to a podcast that featured Troon Golf’s Dana Garmany. As the Chairman and CEO of the world’s largest golf management company he is privy to a worldwide view of what’s happening in the industry. He makes a pretty good case that Millenials are already making decent money, but are spending it on things like road bikes and family activities that only take an hour or two to complete. His point is that its not that the next generation can’t afford the game, they’re just choosing to spend their money elsewhere. He also discusses how eliminating intimidation and embarrassment are key to golf’s future success.

Another interesting point made by Garmany was that today’s 35-year-old golfer talks more about who he played with than where he played. It is simply more of a social occasion for many younger golfers.

At many golf courses today you’ll see group lessons to help make the lesson less intimidating. You’ll also see leagues and tournaments designed to not be super competitive, as many golfers take great joy in simply striking a few more solid shots each round. The articles I read focus on tools designed to help the 5-10% of lesson takers who are competition focused, but we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.

Garmany does not see the situation as dire, but golf has to make generational adjustments like every business must. He believes that 9 hole rounds, jeans, and music piped onto the practice range will rule in the near future, but is there really anything wrong with these changes?

Some Professionals get a little worked up about the change “ruining” the game they grew up with. However, remember, the game we all grew up with was different than the game our parents learned. If golf were only about traditions, we’d still be playing hickory shafts while wearing a tweed coat or long dress. The game will continue to evolve and hopefully all PGA Members will be part of energizing the next generation to appreciate and enjoy all the ups and downs of playing one of the greatest games ever created. Let’s all be open and find more ways to make golf fun and recognize that even though the appearance may change, the essence remains the same.

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA

Who is Responsible for Teaching Golf Etiquette

Growing up, and wanting to absorb everything golf; I read a book called “The Golfers Code.” Jack Whitaker, writing the forward for the book said “Golf is a game, but it is a game that goes beyond the boundaries of simple recreation and carries us to the dark places of our own character. Into those dark places it shines a bright light so that we can see if we are honest, quick-tempered, mean spirited, generous, courteous, and other qualities that tell us who we are.” Whitaker saw a reason why. It is because golf, “as played by most of us, has no umpire, no referee, no linesman. We are the officials, and we call the penalties on ourselves.” He cited this trait for lifting golf above other games, wherein “duplicity is often a valuable stratagem.”

The articles and opinions found in this column are written for all golfers and anyone who is interested in the game of golf. Being a PGA Professional, I often write them from a golf instructor’s perspective. These days I am beginning to see the coach or teacher in a pivotal position in regards to the culture and values of the game. Teaching is teaching – people come to me to learn one thing, and I do my best to teach them that plus more. The way I see it, as a golf instructor, we need to take on the responsibility of modeling exemplary behavior and stress its value. Whitaker, introducing “The Golfers Code” said that “self-policing and etiquette made golf a world of its own” in the sports world. He went on to say many new golfers “have taken up golf without being taught the rules or etiquette of the sport.”

I wonder what Jack would think today? While I’m not a big fan of formality, I found myself sitting on my couch watching Jordan Spieth collapse at the Masters, after pulling away to a tremendous win last season. Spieth, who calls his biggest inspiration his sister who suffers from autism, was classy in both victory and in heartbreaking defeat.

In contrast, the following day, I witnessed two men yell and curse in front of a young high school golfer all because of their bad tee shots. It was an unpleasant sight, and made me wonder: Has our game lost its inherent civility and decorum? Is the new generation of golfers simply not interested in common courtesies? It often seems they were never taught “The Golfers Code.”

I learned the game at The Gogebic Country Club in Ironwood where I remember clearly being taught etiquette lessons virtually every time I attended junior golf school. I recall members at the club pointing out things we juniors should be doing if they saw us forgetting our manners in any way. The same was said to any “new” golfer whether young or old. So my query is this: Who is responsible for teaching the “golfers code?” I don’t feel it rests on any one source as it takes many foursomes to raise a new golfer. As a Golf Professional I feel like I can do more to instill civility back into the game. I challenge myself and other Pro’s alike to make a conscious effort to include lessons of etiquette, pace of play, and common courtesy into programs for new golfers and juniors. I also challenge all golfers to teach and mentor new golfers about etiquette. It is okay to say something because that is how we learn.

I realize we won’t turn everyone into Bobby Jones when it comes to class or decorum, but don’t you think our collective efforts could do a better job of showing new golfers why golf – when played in the proper spirit – is one of the greatest life lessons ever created? Bravo Jordan! For the first time in awhile we may be able to move the needle on golfing etiquette. You’ve made Bobby Jones and generations of golfers proud.

-Matthew Lindberg, PGA