Sunday, March 29, 2020

Golf is a Mind Game

We are fortunate to have golf professional Lou Thibeault as a regular columnist. Lou is a man of a few words, but his golf philosophy seems to be to choose the right words and put them into action.

Lou’s golf career began in Brockton, Massachusetts, where he was a member of a high school team. He turned professional in 1953, dreamed of being a touring golf pro, and considers himself fortunate to have been trained by the great Tommy Armour. Lou played in the Winter Tour of 1960, and the Summer Tour of 1964. He worked in clubs all over the United States: Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and of course, Florida. Lou retired after a successful ten years as head golf professional at Marco Island’s Hideaway Beach and is now teaching pro at The Links.

In addition to being a superb golfer, Marco Island’s Lou Thibeault is an exceptional teacher who confesses he has always been fascinated by the learning process, and believes, “Whoever said golf is 98 percent mental and two percent physical, is absolutely correct.”

He understands the brain-body connection necessary to improve one’s golf game and is persistent enough to get inside each player’s brain to help make positive changes that will be reflected in a better swing.
Lou knows from experience that no two students learn the same way, and that both age and youth offer physical limitations for which he must compensate when teaching.

“A person can absorb only so much information at a time,” he says, “and lessons must be geared with this in mind.”

So how does he apply golf magic in his instructions?

“I could talk myself hoarse, but that it would not assist the student,” Lou says. “A teaching pro must be able, with as little talk as possible, to demonstrate and then show the student how to use his own body to correct his swing. Then, the correct movement must be practiced until a state of muscle memory is achieved, where the student continues to use the correct swing motions automatically.”

Lou’s ability to communicate well with a wide spectrum of people, makes him a good educator. He understands how his students learn and is able to take anyone from his current stage of understanding and performance to the next level of expertise. These are some of the qualities that make Lou Thibeault a successful golf teaching professional. Add them to his constant state of good humor, patience, and the dignity he awards each student, and you have a unique golf mentor.

Lou says: Time and experience have led me to believe that understanding how a golf ball flies is the principle reason that people are unable to achieve higher skill levels.

Almost all new players and many experienced players with higher handicaps continue to want to hit and lift the ball. These thoughts, whether conscious or subconscious, will prevent people from learning how to swing the club properly. Improvement at a faster pace becomes easier when we substitute these words:

Eliminate the word “hit” and use the word “swing”.
Eliminate the word “up” or “under” and start using the word “down”.
Stop talking about the ball and start thinking about the club head of the golf club.

Improvement takes time, but the correct key and good practice habits will make it happen faster.

Lou Thibeault is a teaching golf professional at The Links of Naples, 16161 Tamiami Trail East, Naples. You may reach him at 394-8102, or at 417-1313.

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