Study the Worst Golfer, NOT the Best

I stumbled across a very interesting article on LinkedIn this afternoon and I couldn’t help but share it and add my thoughts to it. The article is titled “How the world’s worst tennis player can help improve your performance.” (Article HERE).

The article raises a very interesting theory that as someone who wants to get better it is more beneficial to study people who have performed poorly in the desired field and work hard to not make the same mistakes they did as opposed to studying people who have been excellent in the desired field and trying to emulate them.

The concept is actually fascinating when applied to Golf. Think about it for a second. All of the instruction you see out there tells you to try to hit the ball like certain PGA Tour pros. Instructors use the V1 video software to compare your swing to Tiger Woods and Adam Scott. I want to clarify that I do believe that video training has a lot of value and benefits for the average golfer. We are constantly looking at what we should be doing, but how often do we stop and focus on what we shouldn’t be doing?

According to the theory proposed in the article players like myself can learn more by looking at what bad players do wrong and trying to avoid those mistakes than simply trying to emulate a great player. I took this theory to the driving range and tried to add the lens of looking at players and seeing what mistakes I wanted to avoid rather than looking for traits I wanted to mimic.

Here is what I noticed as I walked down the range. It was much harder to point out the things that the really good players were doing right than it was to point out what the bad players were doing wrong. It was far easier to notice that a bad player was coming out of their posture on the back-swing and completely losing their balance after hitting the ball than it was to point out the grip, posture, balance, impact position, stability of their head, etc of the really good player. As I walked down the line at the driving range it was easy to jot down a few notes based on some major mistakes I was seeing from the worse players. Using these as guidelines of things not to do I felt like I had a good foundation of ideas on which to use in my practice session and I actually had a very productive and positive session.

I think one should be careful with a theory like this because I could see the benefit of avoiding mistakes quickly dissipating when too many thoughts creep into your head. Having a head full of ideas that start with Don’t makes me really nervous as a golfer. On the flip side seeing someone do something wrong like lose their balance after impact and back peddling is a great visual to remind yourself to stay balanced throughout the swing. In fact, I would say it is a much better visual reminder than watching the swing of a PGA Tour player.

By trying to emulate Tiger Woods there is little chance you will become as good as Tiger Woods. By avoiding the mistakes that average golfers make, chances are you can elevate your game to a high level. I’m not sure if I 100% buy into this theory, but the article got my wheels turning and I wanted to share my thoughts on it. What do you think?


3 Comments to “Study the Worst Golfer, NOT the Best”

  1. Well you theory may have merit, but I am not sure this approach would be beneficial. I need to emulate a good swing. I can think the process through my head and figure out how to make adjustments. Regardless, everyone learns differently!


  2. I’m not sure about this. The only negative feedback I care to observe is my own swing on film. Then I work to correct my mistakes. I’ve actually experienced the opposite effect and play/practice better after viewing good swings. Some of the best rounds I’ve enjoyed have been after attending PGA Tour events, parking myself on the driving range for a couple hours, and letting the good karma of awesome balanced rhythmical swings wash over me. Thanks!


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