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The Seven Myths of Golf - Part 1
Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of installments by Billy Bondaruk, the director of instruction at Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln, Calif. As noted in his bio at the end of this article, Bondaruk has impressive credentials for the task of improving the swings of golfers. He's developed a video-enhanced, web-based instructional system called The 7 Myths of Golf. Cybergolf will be featuring elements of his theories, while featuring some of the tutorials on his website (www.7mythsofgolf.com). We're pleased to include Billy Bondaruk in our growing family of experts in the golf industry.
In 1995, I was teaching golf and honing my game at the Presidio Golf Course in Northern California. I won the Northern California apprentice championship that year and received a spot into Stage 2 of the PGA Tour Qualifying School.
A friend offered to help me out in the venture, and suggested we start playing the more difficult, longer courses in the Bay Area. He didn't have a PGA card and I figured that he knew he'd get the opportunity to play some great tracks (for free, in most cases). As it would happen, our schedule took us to beautiful Stanford University one September day. We checked in and were on the first tee waiting for the fairway to clear when there was an announcement from the pro shop asking us to hold up for a twosome that was about to join us.
Out walked an elderly man and woman in their 70s. I will never forget it: they both wore bucket caps and had pull-carts. The couple walked in front of us to the forward tee, oblivious of the two players standing at the tips. I was about to bomb a tee shot over their heads when my friend cautioned me not to. This was a wise decision.
They teed off without glancing back toward us, and, after we finally caught their attention, away we went. After a death march up the first fairway, the man rapped in a 20-foot putt for a 10, pumped his fist, and said "Nice birdie," to his wife. Then she finished hers off for a 13 or 14.
I was having trouble breathing as I walked to the next tee. I'm guessing that my blood pressure was somewhere in the neighborhood of 190 over 100. That's when the man piped up, "She's not much of a golfer, but BOY can she cook!" They both turned out to be wonderful people. I just had to calm down before I was able to see this; I'm sure some of you know what I mean. I ultimately decided that this would be a great opportunity to develop some patience for Q-School.
I had a brief conversation with the man between shots that morning and he turned out to be a fascinating person. He asked me if I was familiar with the two-mile long building not far from the Stanford golf course.
"The Linear Accelerator?" I replied. He nodded. After pausing a moment as if not wanting to boast, he then explained that he was one of the men responsible for designing the structure. He had spent most of his life in think tanks developing the infrastructure for the computer world as we know it today. And when he asked me if I would like to know what they found out when they split the atom, I was all ears.
He told me that 99.999 percent of the atom was empty space and that the real important part, the other 0.0001, was empty space, too. I thought he was joking.
But he went on to explain that the smallest sub-quark of a particle could not be seen, yet they knew it was there because they could see the "trail" that it left behind. "How can that possibly be?" I asked.
"If it were true, you and I would be nothing," he said. "That's what we are."
And this is the part that has stuck with me long after afterward; what we consist of, simply, are energy, information, and memory. That's it. That's all we are. He was kind enough not to just bomb this theory over my head; he didn't leave me hanging.
He continued: "The day they split the atom, things changed in this world. They learned to shrink a computer down, telephones changed, everything that you see out there in the techno-world changed that day. The world of technology experienced an epiphany."
Now, given this information and the type of person I am, I began thinking about how it affected me. Not in the technology world, but regarding how I struggle when I attempt to change something in my golf swing. This information illuminated why I struggled with swing changes.
You see, in some ways we are no different than computers. I realized that when I try to change something, there is already certain "stuff" in the way and some of it has been there for a long, long time. And to make a change, I need to get past this. My energy level was always "off" when I attempted to change something in my swing. I'm not sure which pain is worse: the pain of losing or the pain of changing. When you're trying to change your swing, you have to deal with some pain and inconvenience. Things just don't take shape right away.
Information-wise, this is what the common golf lesson is all about. This is only the cusp of what I am doing now. A good instructor does not simply communicate information; there is a lot more going on in a lesson than that.
And this is what the www.7mythsofgolf.com is all about. I find it interesting how a Tour pro looks at a swing change compared to a high-handicap golfer. When making a swing change, the Tour pro almost welcomes bad shots as a sign of the change taking effect. I know this as I've had an opportunity to work with several superb players.
As a swing instructor working with the University of Arizona golf team, I found that each year there were a handful of players who wanted to make changes. The Wildcats had many elite players. Jenna Daniels was an NCAA champion; Natalie Gulbis consistently finishes among the top 10 on the LPGA Tour; and Lorena Ochoa was the LPGA Tour's 2006 Player of the Year. These are all players who would commit to the change and then welcome the bad shots.
I recall one player saying after several bad shots, "That's OK, it's supposed to happen, I just have to get comfortable with it."
Glen Day and Rich Barcelow are two other top-notch players who I've had the opportunity to play and work with. They both had that heightened level of energy needed to understand what a swing change meant. With this type of attitude they never limited themselves to how good they might become. The average amateur fights the change, sometimes constantly complaining that the old swing felt better than the news. As a teaching professional, this is where most of the initial attention needs to be paid.
The average golfer who comes to me for a lesson has an obligation problem. They don't do this for a living - it's entertainment and, to me, that's a perfect reason to take it seriously.
But that's not necessarily how average players view the circumstances. They don't want major changes and are therefore strictly limited to how good they will play. Because they've a hard time with the pain of change, there is a chain reaction that affects their already "wobbly" energy level. A bad shot just seems to crush them.
It's interesting how the average golfer deals with failure in comparison to the Tour pros. I frequently hear amateurs talk in terms of embarrassment. The Tour pro faces failure as if it is a necessary element for the good things to come. The better player almost welcomes it. If you don't welcome it, you will only limit yourself.
It is my belief that if some students want to play better golf, they have to change their life first. Now, I don't mean all together. Just start with the four or five hours that you're at the golf course playing and practicing.
And this is where I'll begin.
The 7 myths of golf is simply the first step to dismissing the old information and opening the door for the new information. It will clearly dismiss any ideas that these old principals work well. Then it will suggest solutions. This teaching model is about making changes and giving you some great coaching advice. But, it will be up to you to keep your energy "upbeat" to allow changes to take place.
In my next Cybergolf installment, I'll begin our journey by looking at Myth No. 1.
Bill Bondaruk is a PGA Class A member and the director of instruction at Catta Verdera Country Club in Lincoln, Calif. He was named the 2006 Northern California Teacher of the Year. Billy learned the principals of golf by such legendary luminaries as Eddie Merrins, Jerry Barber, Paul Runyan, Mike Austin, Ben Doyle, Mac O'Grady, Jim McLean, Mike Labauve, Scott Sackett and his father.
Bondaruk started playing golf and caddying at age 7 at Franklin Park Golf Course in Boston. He played for the University of Massachusetts golf team while pursuing studies in Biomechanics. He took his game to the upper levels at age 24. He's played in over 100 tournaments on various mini tours, including the Hogan Tour in 1990. He was a Benson & Hedges Tour member in Mexico 1992-93, and was a second stage qualifier for the PGA Tour in 1995.
His playing highlights: two-time winner on the NGA Tour, 1985 Arizona; two-time winner on the Sun Belt Tour 1989, Phoenix; winner of the North Atlantic Tour 1991, Massachusetts; winner of the Northern California Section Apprentice Championship 1995; runner-up in the Western States Apprentice Championship 1993, Palm Desert Calif., and Mass State Open in 1996.
After traveling on the mini tours, Bill began teaching at a few world-renowned golf schools such as John Jacobs, Jim McLean, and Scott Sackett's Resort Golf.
He came to Catta Verdera by way of Tucson, where he was the Director of Instruction at Arizona National, Canoa Hills, San Ignacio Golf Club and worked as an instructor for the University of Arizona men's and women's golf teams. Among the Tour pros, sports celebrities and collegiate stars he's worked with are Glen Day, Lorena Ochoa, Natalie Gulbis, Ricky Barnes and Scott McCarran.
Billy's book, "The 7 Myths of Golf," is a video-enhanced web-based learning system, complete with e-lesson capability. The "The 7 Myths of Golf" (visit http://www.7mythsofgolf.com) has grown in popularity as it features videos of Tour pros. He is currently a feature writer for PGA.com's "Improve your Game" section and writes for the Press Tribune of Lincoln, Roseville and Grant Bay.
With his background in Biomechanics, Bill is leading the way on how best to teach and learn golf. Above all, he promises to bring joy and enthusiasm to your game.