Sunday, November 24, 2013

Plain Game: Simple Instructions for a Complex Sport

           The concept of golf is fairly simple. Start from the tee-box, and get your ball into the hole on the green. It may sound like an easy task, but the attests of countless amateur golfers prove that to be false. Part of the reason why golf is so challenging is because there are so many aspects of the swing that need to be carefully coordinated and sequenced in order to make an effective pass at the ball. Even the rules of golf are extensive and need thorough consideration. Because the game of golf is so complex and difficult to pick up in a short amount of time, I thought it would be interesting to look more closely at an online golf “cheat sheet” guide from (, the well-known black and yellow company that makes the … For Dummies book series.
The first section of the instructional “cheat sheet” claims,
Even if you’re new to golf, you can still look and act like you know what you’re doing. Making sure you have the right equipment in your bag and making intelligent decisions about which club to use can get you off to a great start. Offer to keep score and propose a couple of fun bets, and you can really impress your fellow golfers, no matter how long they’ve been playing the game.
The introduction is written in very simple, easy to read language; clearly prompting an instructional atmosphere trough implementation of plain style. This allows for readers to feel like the information they are about to read will be easy to follow, and ultimately improve their game, even if they are new to the sport. Essentially, by only reading the introduction of the “cheat sheet” the reader will feel confident that they will learn techniques that will advance their ability to play the game.
            One problem that I have with this “cheat sheet” is the fact that it claims new golfers will learn how to look like they know what they are doing. Usually newcomers to the game do not have the prettiest swing, which results in high scores and slow play; and most experienced golfers do not enjoy slow play, especially when one player in the group is hacking all over the course. Learning how to play quickly and hit effective shots takes a lot of time and practice; it cannot be learned from a “cheat sheet” or any other method besides practice and repetition. I think that the fa├žade of a simple game that it easy to pick up creates false hope and misinforms readers, planting an inaccurate image of the sport within their heads. Plain style could still be used to describe the game quickly, but I believe that there should be some sort of disclaimer stating that there is much more to being a good golfer than what is on the “cheat sheet”.
            Another problem I have with the “cheat sheet” is the content. The sub-topics within the guide include: knowing which club to use, “essential” items to carry in your golf bag, different scoring names, how to assess penalties (briefly), and how to make golf bets. There isn’t even any indication of the golf swing or how to conduct oneself on the course, and yet the “cheat sheet” is claiming that it will teach the reader to look like they know what they are doing, even impressing their experienced friends.
Many golfers would agree that knowing the proper terms and having the right items in your bag are no brainers, not impressive feats. What would really impress an experienced golfer is a new player with a proper swing that is consistent and fundamental. The guide should have included some quick tips to keep in mind so that people trying to learn how to improve their swing would have something to base their game off of.
            Making a complex sport seem easy is no simple task. But using the proper presentation of information can make all the difference. Effective use of the plain style takes the pressure of learning a seemingly impossible game, and makes it far less intimidating. Even though the “cheat sheet” has some flaws, it still does a good job of being inviting to new players, and making them feel welcome. I believe that with a brief inclusion of how a fundamental swing should be conducted, the novice golfer might actually be able to benefit by reading this “cheat sheet”.
-M. Walters


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