Nick Dougherty: Knowledge is power, but only if you use it correctly


Getting bogged down with technique is a one-way ticket to nowhere. . .

Anyone who follows me on Instagram will know I kept myself busy over Christmas. Any free time I’ve had has been spent on the golf course, filming a bunch of 60 second videos as part of my ‘TeeTimeTip’ series.

Ever since I retired, I’ve wanted to share my experiences and provide an alternative to some of those overly-technical, instruction videos doing the rounds on YouTube. Everything I do is based around what I consider to be the best coaching philosophy. It’s called simplicity. Whenever I’m presenting in the Sky Zone, I interview the best players in the world and hear on a daily basis how uncomplicated they make the golf swing. Some have little understanding what they are even doing; others will look at TrackMan data and say: “I have no idea what that means.”

One of the first masterclasses I did with Lee Westwood was on driving and he said things which were so incredibly basic. He made a point of stating that he doesn’t clutter his mind with too many swing thoughts, which is the genius behind many top players. I only realise that now because I did the complete opposite when my game started to unravel. The answer was to do nothing and accept it for what it was – just a bad patch – but I couldn’t help myself.

After I lost my mum at the age of 26, I needed to regain control in my life and taking a spanner and wrench to my golf
 swing seemed like an easy way to do it. I went down the road of
 actively and passively acquiring
 coaches. Eventually, I started taking tips off people on the range or in magazines. I would go online, find a tip and try to put it into
 practice the next day. I was desperate and became so lost in my technique that I added to my mental baggage and had no confidence in what I was doing or trying to do. Now, I couldn’t even tell you what my natural swing is. I can’t even imagine what it used to feel like.

I once went to David Leadbetter, and he said to me that I had a great ability to digest information and make changes to my golf swing. Unfortunately, it also meant that I could quickly make changes in a bad way as well. I don’t doubt there are many top amateurs who are destined to follow the same, debilitating path because they think they understand something when they actually don’t.

Knowledge is power, but only if you use it correctly. Rory McIlroy once told me that he tries to feel like the clubface looks at the ball for longer in his takeaway, which helps to keep his arms and hands quieter and forces him to use the lower body more in the downswing. It’s quite a simple swing thought, but not an easy thing to implement. Even for someone as good as Rory. He’s still working at it and he hits hundreds of balls every day.

The biggest lesson I took away was when he said: “If I copy Dustin Johnson’s swing, I probably wouldn’t even make contact with the ball. The position he gets in at the top of the backswing (the strong, bowed wrist) would be such a change that it could be devastating to my game. But I am inching that way.”

Clearly, he’s seen something he likes, but is disciplined and clever enough to know that he can’t fast-track the process. Too many amateurs don’t know their limitations, try to change something on the first tee, and revert to type when they don’t see immediate improvements in their game or scores. It’s hard to accept, but it’s almost impossible to play well when your swing feels completely foreign to you.

You need to put some reps in beforehand and focus on one thing at a time, rather than a dozen different swing thoughts which will just leave you confused and overwhelmed. The motivation behind ‘Tee Time Tip’ is to tap into those debilitating feelings and provide super-simple nuggets of information which anyone can relate to and apply, whether or not they play every day, once a week or once a month.

If someone wants me to explain the science behind a tip, I can do that because that’s one of the reasons I am sharing these videos. But what I’m really aiming for is to make the golf swing simple again. This game is hard
 enough without getting bogged down by technique; so why make it more difficult for yourself? My one regret is that I didn’t realise this 10 years ago!

My 2018 #TeeTimeTip

Prior to meeting Seve, I always thought that being able to impart a bit of spin and check on the ball made a good chipper. That was until Seve pointed out that putting spin on the ball – especially side spin – made it harder to hole it. Of course, Seve was always thinking about that.

He was a big advocate of taking spin off the ball and would do
 that by using lower-lofted clubs
 and a smoother stroke. That way you 
enhance the chances of the ball 
running out like a putt. So clever, yet so simple.

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