Wisdom Wednesday – Those Who Understand, Teach

Photo Aug 04, 8 12 41 PM

I like to play ball golf. I’m not sure where the idea started that you can’t play both disc and ball golf, but I don’t buy into that. I like disc golf a lot more, but I do enjoy getting out on a beautifully manicured golf course with friends and family that don’t play disc golf. The thing is, ball golf is hard. Much harder than disc golf.

My old roommate was a 3 handicap. We used to play golf a couple times a week. He regularly kicked my butt. He’d been playing since he was a kid and was just naturally good at all aspects of the game. While he was a great player, he wasn’t that great of a teacher. I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything at all from him (he was able to teach me to chip effectively and that’s still the strongest part of my game), but after playing golf with him for many years, almost nothing he taught me helped me to improve all that much.

The person I learned the most about golf from was this guy I got paired up with once when I showed up to a course to play a round by myself. This guy wasn’t very good. He had a terrible slice, couldn’t chip, 3 putted or worse on every green, and was similarly non impressive in most other areas of the game. What he wasn’t bad at, though, was teaching.

He both loved and thoroughly understood the game. He knew exactly why you didn’t hit the ball well and knew exactly how to fix it. He also knew how to communicate ideas so that you got it. I mean really got it. If he pointed something out, it just clicked. My slicing drive that had plagued me for 3 years? Gone after two tips. My inability to hit the ball off of the short grass of the fairway? Fixed with one suggestion.


Some day our courses will look like this…. Some day.

He only gave me a few tips during the round, but they changed my game for the better forever. Was I reluctant to listen at first? You bet. He wasn’t that good at actually playing. Am I glad I separated how he played from what he was trying to teach me? Absolutely.

There’s an old adage, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I hate that saying. It totally disqualifies anyone who isn’t a top performer from teaching. It discounts all of the top notch professional coaches out there who weren’t great players themselves, but have turned out all star after all star through their teaching and advice.

The other day I heard someone say, “Those who can, do. Those who understand, teach.” I like that much better. I can relate to that. I’d much rather learn from someone who was just OK at doing but amazing at understanding and explaining. A lot of the people that are great at doing don’t have a clue as to why. They are similarly clueless when it comes to teaching.

I also like this different version of the saying because it encourages all of us to teach when we can. You might not be the best person out there on the course, but if you are helping someone and you understand what they need to do differently, you can be a great teacher for them.

I think too many times people don’t step up to help others because they haven’t achieved all star playing status. They withhold knowledge or help from people because they don’t feel like they are qualified. They have convinced themselves that they can’t or shouldn’t teach other people until their rating is over 1000.

I also see people who refuse to take advice or help from anyone who is not rated 1000 or higher. They totally discount anyone trying to help them because of their playing ability. It’s pro clinics or nothing for these folks. While pro clinics are awesome, and I’ve learned a lot from them, I’ve also learned a ton from the locals on my home course that aren’t rated anywhere near 1000.


JohnE McCray is one hell of a player AND teacher

We always hear about growing the sport. Well, if people aren’t having fun playing, it’s not going to grow very fast. If you see someone struggling, offer to help them. If you are struggling, ask for help. Even the smallest tip can change someone’s game for the better forever. All it takes is someone who understands and can teach to make an impact.

In a book that you all should have read by now, Zen and the Art of Disc Golf, the author spends an entire chapter going over a really important point. You should be playing with 3 groups of people. People you can teach. People that can teach you. And people who you are on par with who can teach each other. It’s a great thought process that makes sure you are always learning.

Look, if you get a chance to go to a clinic with JohnE McCray, Avery Jenkins, Dave Feldberg, or any other number of pros, do it. I’ve learned a ton from those guys and their clinics are free when they come to town. But don’t wait for those clinics to get better. Odds are there’s someone at your course who isn’t the best player in the world, but is one hell of a teacher. Heck, that person might even be you!


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