John Renslow
Golf Columnist

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January 15, 2014
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Renslow: Today's lesson: take more lessons

Continuing the conversation about martial arts and how the practice and art will help us become better golfers, let’s look at some interesting parallels.

For some unknown reason, most golfers tend to look at the game as if one day (hopefully today) a nugget of wisdom will fall in our lap and our game will be complete. We even have a word for these potential solutions known as “tips.”

Many of these tips are well circulated. “Keep your left arm straight.” “Keep your head down.” “Keep your eye on the ball.” “Get closer to the ball.” “Get farther away from the ball.”

Of course, we’re not exactly sure what solution these tips will provide, but we’re going to give them a try nonetheless.

Now, consider martial arts. Again, the concepts and principles are more similar to the golf swing and mental game than virtually any other activity. None of us would begin learning karate and expect that any single piece of information would give us the resources to fully protect ourselves.

We all know that this process takes years. One does not walk into a dojo and expect to walk out with a black belt around his white robe. Yet this is a common view in the game of golf.

At the same time, golf can still be fun on a short-term or periodic basis. Golf can be a great time for the so-called “weekend golfer.” Naturally, their game doesn’t get any better. But hey, have a couple of beers, hang out with your friends, sounds cool.

If you want to increase, improve, it’s going to be an intriguing, enjoyable, long-term relationship. We need to get some solid instruction, practice and, of course, play a lot.

Toward this end, golf professionals for years have traditionally sold golf lessons in packages or “series.” The cost of one lesson is a certain amount, but there has better value in this historical package or quantity of lessons.

A sign in the old professional’s Golf Shop stated, “One lesson — $1,000, Series of Six Lessons — $250.” Every day, someone would come into his Golf Shop and ask, “Why is one lesson so much more than six lessons?” With one side of his mouth lifting slightly higher than the other, he would reply, “Son, if you want a miracle, you gotta pay for it.”

Frankly, this should be taken one step further. Six lessons might be a good basis for recreation, but it’s not going to produce a player. Just as several karate lessons would likely provide some insight into the motions or strategy but could not prepare you for a competent defense.

Consider an annual program for your golf game. Rather than being limited to a series (although still a worthwhile option) of lessons, ask your local golf professional about an annual program. This program should offer a custom package, with unlimited golf lessons throughout the year.

I have been offering this for the last few years, and it has shown great success with my students. Golf is a journey. It’s not a microwave deal. It’s a crock pot deal. We need time to marinate in things, absorb information and put things into practice for long-term benefits. Yes, sensei.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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The Union Updated Feb 17, 2014 11:16PM Published Jan 15, 2014 11:06PM Copyright 2014 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.