Karl Morris says we should follow the great John Jacobs' advice. We'll let the performance coach explain
It must have been over 30 years ago now that, as a young coach, I sent a letter far more in hope than anticipation. I was struggling with some issues in my mind about how certain shots are created and decided to go straight to the top and ask the legendary John Jacobs for his opinion.
The best I was really hoping for was an answer from someone on his behalf, so you can imagine how I felt when I picked up the telephone at home – long before mobiles and e-mails dominated life – and a very distinguished voice on the other end said: “It’s John Jacobs here, how can I help?”
As I tried to play it cool, I must have blurted something out and the great man was off – simple but profound wisdom was sent my way. John must have given me 20 minutes of his time in the most considerate of ways for the level in the game I was at.
What I asked has escaped me, but thirty years on, I still remember this extraordinary act of genuine kindness from a man who loved the game of golf and who, at his heart, was a genuine enthusiast for coaching.
I did ask him his fee for the call and he simply said: “I just want you to keep coaching with the player in mind and not what you think the player wants from the game.”
Recently, I had a conversation with former European Open winner, Andrew Murray, who knew John well. He said to me that, without question, John was one of the most genuine people he had come across in his long golfing career.
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As time passes memories fade, but we must not forget the incredible contribution John made to golf. He was a fine player, a wonderful coach, and a pioneer of what we now call the European Tour.
I still think back to what he said to me on the phone all those years ago: “Coach with the player in mind, not what you think the player wants.” Now, I would add to this that we, as individual golfers, need to be very clear on why we actually play the game.
What do we genuinely want to experience with the time and effort we put in?
In our new book ‘The Lost Art of Playing Golf’, myself and fellow author Gary Nicol devote a chapter to the seemingly simple question, ‘why do you play golf?’ We feel it’s really important to be clear on what the game is all about for you as an individual.
On our short stay on earth, time is far too precious to get drawn into playing a game of anything for reasons other than our own.
Once you’re clear about why you play or teach this wonderful game, my strongest advice would be to make sure you keep this in mind. If you’re in it for the social aspect then stay tuned in to that when you’re on the course. A three-putt at the third hole shouldn’t turn you into a Trappist monk for six holes.
If you genuinely play because you want to see how good you can be, then you need to accept that an inevitable part of the quest is dealing with some setbacks and being prepared to put in the necessary time to develop your skills.
John Jacobs was wonderfully clear as to why he coached the game. He had a spirit few have matched before or since.
I have never forgotten the wonderful display of kindness he showed to me over thirty years ago, and I never will.
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I think it is important for those of us fortunate enough to make a living coaching the game of golf to keep John’s memory alive. Look him up, delve into the wisdom of his work, you will be a better golfer or coach for the experience.
You will see the simplicity he brought to a sport often portrayed as having the complexity of quantum physics by those who do not seek to keep a balance between the coach’s knowledge of the subject and the delivery to the student.
Karl Morris is a performance coach to a number of European Tour stars and the brains behind the Mind Factor.