Jerry Barber Interviews Homer Kelley
This month is really not a tip but an article on Homer Kelley, the author of "The Golfing Machine".
This article was done by a publication called "The Northwest Golfer".
This article is the first of a series on Homer Kelley and his book, "The Golfing Machine, " a golf instruction manual whose time has come. The following interview took place before Kelley's untimely death earlier this year.
NWG: Jerry Barber, former tour player presently manufacturing a line of golf clubs, said that those who are currently responsible for teaching golf have failed miserably. He justifies his statement by the fact that handicaps are not improving and too few have handicaps of 10 or less. Homer, does golf have an answer to that problem?
HK: Yes, I think we must find an answer. Golf has been more of an infuriating form of exertion than it has been a recreation or past time. I went through the same problem when I was first interested in the game. This is what led me to take the course that I did in writing "The Golfing Machine." I felt that the instruction that I got, which was general in nature and good in quality, did not have the information that I needed to play. I got a lot of description and a sense of feel but I did not get any information. This bothered me. It fitted my nature to find out the truth about something. I feel that Jerry has a good point in that people are not learning golf. The thing that I noticed early was that no pro had to work his way down through the handicap. He probably started out with a 4 handicap. The duffer, on the other hand, started out with a handicap of 40 or 50 and never did become a pro. They just played on and on and worked down to a plateau and that's where they sat. I felt there was an answer to why the two classifications existed. I felt that if I knew what I needed to know I could play this game. Desperately and hopefully, I attacked the problem and it was 15 years before I learned any technical information. At no time in the last 40 years have I felt that I was any more than a week away from the solution to the problem. It was this that enabled me to persevere. I feel that a player with real information can learn to play golf much as you would the piano or drive a car. It is a step by step procedure to a known goal.
NWG: What is the primary object in taking a golf lesson?
HK: I suppose it is to lower the handicap, shoot a better score and look like a golfer.
NWG: Should that then be our yardstick or benchmark as golfers?
HK: I think so; it's the satisfaction of the game. There is no sense in developing a game that you don't like. You might as well learn one that you like. That's the whole idea of the thing, it's not a job.
NWG: What about the instructor? What is his responsibility?
HK: The main thing is to impart knowledge of the game. He must have the vocabulary and a very inventive mind for each student is different. You must get the same idea across to different people in a compassionate way. The professional instructor must be precise in his instruction and must insist upon the pupil doing what he was told.
NWG: What is the student's responsibility?
HK: In my book I say it is to absorb and apply. He must translate the information he receives and learn to apply it. He must not assume that he understands what the instructor told him, he must question, question, question, and watch, watch, watch. It is important that the student get the general basic concept and then add the details. Don't try to build the general concept from a bunch of details. That is the long, long road. Much too much time has been spent teaching. In my book I state that all the golf swings are the same and the only difference is in the individual application. I feel that the student needs a textbook where he can be assigned some homework and practice the assignment at his leisure, most of which can be done in his arm chair. After all, you can't do anything with instruction until you get it into your noodle. The ability of the student to absorb and understand and intelligently question the instructor to find out exactly what he means are the great aid to early skills in the game.
NWG: Are we capable as students to accomplish this?
HK: I don't know of anything that has fewer things to learn than golf. Just think of all the things you must learn just to drive the car to the store. I can remember when I bought my first camera, there were just three things to learn and it almost stopped me. Now I have an eight adjustment camera and don't feel it's enough. Golf has such a fascinating and individual and satisfying sense of accomplishment as a skill, I see no problem with someone not being able to play golf.
NWG: Does a person's age or sex have anything to do with his/her accomplishment in golf?
HK: None at all. It might limit how far you can go or how outstanding you might become but the average round of golf should be in the 70's and not in the 90's. It is just not that difficult. It is a little complex but it is not all that physical. More important are intelligence and coordination for you've got to think your way through shots, you just don't flub your way through shots. It just requires that you have some information so that you can do your thinking. Then it becomes a very interesting and challenging game and not just a game of solitaire where you don't know what is going to happen.
NWG: If I have but 10 hours per week to devote to golf can I acquire a 5 handicap?
HK: I see no reason why not. Ten hours per week is a marvelous amount of time to develop an understanding of a few basic concepts and the manual dexterity to accomplish them. Some very intelligent people are out there playing some poor golf. It leads me to conclude that they lack the information to succeed. They have everything else.
NWG: "The Golfing Machine" has gone through six printings, it is in national distribution and it has many adherents including Bobby Clampett on the tour. Do you find that your book is readily acceptable by teaching professionals?
HK: Not very widely. The teaching professionals, I feel, have a very valid reason in that there have been hundreds of books on the subject that have come and gone and until someone tells them that this is it they will not waste their time going up a blind alley. My position is that it's got to stand on its own and it is doing exactly that in ever increasing numbers. It is not a system but a universal system that is adaptable to everybody.
NWG: We thank you for being so gracious with your time.