Archive for May, 2009

Golf Instructors Job

May 29th, 2009

I’ve said for years that I believe my job is to teach the student how to improve when I am not around. Golf is one of the only things where someone tells you what to do than sends you away to do it on your own. In the future, I will try and change the way golf is learned. Next year I plan to include supervised practice into the cost of a series of lessons.

Back to the main topic. If I can’t teach you what it may feel like or drills that mandate correct movement to strike the ball well, my student won’t improve on their own. Most students practice making the ball flight improve. This isn’t the best way to learn mechanics but I have to work with what people are doing or I have to teach them how to learn. I have chosen to teach people how to learn. I know this isn’t what everyone is looking for but during the lesson I can usually tell if the student is trying to make the ball do something or make themselves do something. Based on this observation, I make suggestions about drills and practice.

Students that work on the feeling of what they are learning always improve faster than students that try to improve ball flight. I continually fight against the belief that there is some kind a magic bullet or secret move. Students seem to strive for consistency through change. Each swing they alter to improve the next shot unless the shot was good than they’ll try it again. As soon as one bad shot happens they move right on to something else. I don’t understand this kind of thinking but I know it’s out there. In a game that rewards repetition, why would someone try and do something different every swing.

If I can convince them that if they do this they will hit better good shots than I can keep them focused. Some things learned in a lesson are designed to make your good shots better and some things are designed to make your bad shots better. Lower scores is my job. That is my goal and I continue to learn new ways to make this happen sooner.

Impact-Flat Left Wrist

May 23rd, 2009
What should impact look like?  This question is very important and since I’ve been teaching, it is the most common fault of golfers at all levels. It is also one of my most common faults. I, like many of you, have a tendency to flip the clubhead through impact.

A correct impact wrist position is one where the right wrist is bent and the left wrist is flat. This is true of a chip, pitch and any longer swing action. Most of the people I see have the opposite condition(left wrist bent, right wrist flat). In the inexperienced golfer, this shows up as clubhead throwaway. Another name for this is casting. In the experienced golfer, it shows up as a shot that comes off a little too high, with too much spin and typically to the right.

The key to getting this impact shape correct is the pivoting or rotation of the body. As the club decends in the downswing, there needs to be enough internal rotation to carry the arms and club so the clubhead will land at a later place on the ground. If the body stops or the player tries to accelerate the clubhead too early, the correct wrist condition will be lost and the club head will flip past the hands.

Practice trying to hit shots out of divots. In order to hit the ball well you will need to do this part correctly. If you keep hitting it thin and fat out of the divot, that will show you that you are flipping the head through. You should be able to hit as good of a shot out of the divot as you can on the grass.

When is it good enough?

May 17th, 2009
This is a question I have struggled with for many years and one I see my students struggle with also. We all know(or should know) that the quality of the mistakes determines our skill level in golf. Or at the very least, we see the best player’s in the world hit bad shots on a regular basis. For some reason, the expectation of continual consistency seems to be an unattainable goal for many of us.

How do we know when we are good enough to compete. I think this answer varies on the confidence of the player. How did Bruce Lietzke know he was good enough when he hit his 30 yard “slice” all around the golf course. I mean, is hitting it basically straight the only way to determine a golfer’s abilty? Absolutely not. Many of you that read my forum and this blog are better than you know. The thing is, many of you don’t apply what you do in the heat of competition. With everything we have learned about course management we know what “should” be done. If what “should” be done is a weakness of ours, are we strong enough, mentally, to do what we can do vs. what we should do.

The ability to stay mentally strong enough to aim 30 yards left over out of bounds says alot about Lietzke. He had to know very few people were doing it and I’m sure a bunch of people were mocking it. Yet, he has led one of the best lives of a professional golfer that there ever was. He KNEW what he could do and he did it over and over and over and over until he got his paycheck at the end of the week.

So, what can we learn from this? Those of you that hit it far enough to compete, need to be ok with what it is that you do. Does someone need to be able to hit a draw and fade wedge on demand to compete? No! They need to be able to take advantage of the times that match their strengths and survive the times that challenge their weaknesses.

I remember watching last year’s US Open at Torrey Pines and I guarantee you if there was no gallery that week, Tiger would not have been on TV. He hit the ball all over the map and if the rough wasn’t trampled down we would have seen a lot more holes like his first during the playoff where he made double bogey because he couldn’t hit it out of the grass. Is Tiger the best player in the world? No question! Is he even close to being the best ball striker? Nope. But he knows what he is capable of at any time and is strong enough in his belief.

In short, you only need the ability to hit it far enough to reach all the holes. After that, how you get there doesn’t really matter.

Practice Techniques-Experimentation

May 16th, 2009
I am a self taught golfer. I’ve had only two lessons which were toward the end of my competitve golf life. Most of the things and types of shots I have now were learned through experimentation. I use to try the craziest things. I would go into a green side bunker with a 1 iron and try and hit high shots from down hill lies in the sand. Anything I could think of was an opportunity to learn about the clubface and the path.

When you play around a lot, you begin to see things differently. You remove the barriers from what you should do to what you can do. I still to this day teach people how to hit a lob shot with a six iron first before I give them the lob wedge. If they can do it with a six, they can do it with a lob.

I remember reading a story in Harvey Penick’s Little Red Book about when Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw were kids. They came up to him and asked him how can I hit a shot over that tree. He told them to go figure it out and come back and get him when they could show him how. This type of learning has a much greater impact on the student then being told how. It is owned by the student much sooner and is ready for tournament play right away.

Please, go out to the range and the short game area and test the limitations. Try new things with the club. You may learn a new shot. You may learn a better way visualize what possibilities are available. Hopefully, you’ll learn….

Practice Techniques

May 7th, 2009
All of the data I have gathered points in one very clear direction. In order for practice to be useful, it must be ambitious and involved. In every single book/article discussing this subject, regardless of sport, it says the same thing. You MUST use your brain during practice. Practice can not simply be an amount of time you spend doing something.

Your brain must, must, must be fully engaged in the events in order to learn and retain the information.

I’d be willing to bet in each of your lives there was a period of time when you were learning to hit the ball that included very high amounts of cognitive involvement. I’d also be willing to bet that during this period, advances were noticeable. It is this kind of involvement you need to continue doing as you improve. You have to attack the topic you are working on. You need the same drive you had that day you figured out how to get the ball in the air.

Anything less than this is insufficient and a waste of time. Be honest, check your journal and go at what you need to improve on. Use your brain and challenge yourself. Focus on what is occuring and what you need to get done. It is hard to maintain an engaged amount of focus as you improve. The improvements come much slower and they are harder to document. Our brain takes some time off because maybe we’re good enough, or we don’t see any improvement. You must fight these easy way out excuses if you want to continue improving.

Work the problem at a very slow speed.  Slow enough to feel and see.  Retention will be much greater if you actually know and feel what you are trying to accomplish.  Making the ball do something is the result of the hard work it is not the hard work.  You need to focus on what you need to do to make the ball do what you want it to do.  Too many people are just trying to make the ball do something without knowing what it takes for the ball to do that.  Even if they know what they should do, they don’t know how it feels to do it.
Work in this way and if the what you are trying to do is correct, the ball will fly better.