My lovely wife once gave me the gift of flight as a birthday present — a one-hour tour of Niagara in a 1976 Volkswagen Beetle.
Apparently, when they strap wings on it and stick a propeller on the front, they call it a Cessna, but anyone who has been in an old bug would instantly recognize the size, shape and even the noise the door makes when you close it.
I should have been nervous being sent up in this thing by my wife, but she encouraged two of our children to join me (one of which I know for sure she likes), so I was pretty sure it wasn’t an insurance job.
Anyway, it was a great experience. I had never been in a plane that small and it was very interesting, the simplicity of it. It really did look like the dashboard of an old car with a few more gauges tossed in.
This brings me to my subject matter.
I wrote a column last year about a book called The Checklist Manifesto. The author talked about how when planes started to get more complicated in the 1930s, even the best pilots were forgetting to perform some basic procedures that were, in turn, causing crashes. They found a simple written checklist that had to be followed prior to every flight solved the problems.
The answer wasn’t smarter pilots or knowing more or even more technology. It was using what you already knew more thoroughly.
Sure enough, sitting right on top of the flight controls when I got into the plane was a list of about 20 things. Our pilot, who must have flown this thing thousands of times, still went through everything on that list and didn’t start the plane until he was done.
Why? Because we get complacent.
I have recommended to students for years that right after a lesson, they should have a little notebook in which they write down the key thoughts we worked on. Not an essay, just point-form trigger thoughts that when they were on their own playing or practicing, they would be able to read and use to help diagnose if the swing wasn’t working right.
Even more beneficial is to check all your keys when the swing is working right. It can keep you from slowly losing your form until it starts to show up in results, by which time it is harder to cure. Most students agree it is a good idea, but the majority don’t follow up on it.
Some just forget by the time they get home, but many others think they will be able to remember what it is we were talking about.
My experience — and it is verified by the author’s research in the book — is we don’t often remember exactly what it is we are supposed to do. It is not a sign of weakness to write things down. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help or to admit you can’t remember exactly what it is you are supposed to do.
I want my surgeon to ask the nurse to go over the list of how many sponges they started with and if they are all accounted for before sewing me up. I want my pilot to check to see if all the details of flight are looked after before we are 3,000 feet up without parachutes.
Keep the notebook in your golf bag and whenever something of note comes up during practice or playing, write it down. A shot you have trouble with, a pattern you see developing.
Great players have coaches and caddies to help keep them on track. Most have notes on every hole of every course they play. As a rule, you are on your own, for the most part.
If you are in a position to afford to have an instructor follow you around for every round, give me a call and we’ll talk.
If not, take every measure possible to help you play your best and enjoy the game as much as possible.
-John Piccolo, Golf Pro