Tag Archives: teaching

Tips For Playing Golf Swing (If You Have To)

What’s awesome about golf is that you learn something new every time you play or practice.  As you may or may not know, I’m in the midst of a two-year experiment to overhaul my game.  I’m trying to get better at every facet and last year took four full swing lessons and one playing lesson.  This year, I’ve had a full swing lesson, a short game lesson, and am excited to go for my first putting lesson on Saturday.  As I work through the instruction, practice, and play, several themes continually emerge.

Theme 1:  Be Your Own Best Friend.  Change is difficult, especially after doing things one way for over 40 years.  It’s best to acknowledge that and while you enjoy the improvements, don’t beat yourself up during setbacks or while hitting the occasional bad shot.  Practice talking to yourself in an encouraging fashion.  Many players including myself have criticized themselves after a physical mistake, but try not to.  It’s okay to be more critical of mental miscues because they’re easier to control, but give yourself a break after a bad swing; you’re human.

Theme 2:  Integrate Feel Into Your Practice.  When you warm up before play, never work on your swing.  The easiest way to do this is to switch clubs and targets on every shot.  When you practice your swing, it’s fine to work on mechanics, but finish up with some drills to work on your mental game and touch.  It will help you transition more easily to the course.

Playing golf during a period of sustained instruction is hard because your tendency is to think mechanics on the course.  To help, try practicing your full game the day before you play.  While hitting balls, leave the last 20 to play an imaginary nine holes at a familiar course.  This gets your mind in sync with the natural cadence of play and for using different targets.  Around the practice green, throw balls into different lies and don’t improve the lies.  Hit the shots with a variety of clubs.  Try to flight them as low as possible.  Low ball flight is easier to judge distance and helps you visualize the shot.  Playing it as it lies builds mental toughness.  Vision and intestinal fortitude are two essentials.

Theme 3:  Know your tendencies.  If you are taking instruction, you will identify your common mishit and work to get it out of your game.  Mine is a pull hook.  When it occurs on the course, acknowledge it and move on.  Do not think it’s something new that’s crept into your game and do not start searching for a swing thought on every shot until you happen to hit a good one.  This is the most difficult thing about playing during periods of instruction because you’ll probably be thinking about a swing key, even if you’d prefer not to.  Keep working on what you are trying to do, not what you are trying to avoid.  It’s the only way to remain sane.

Theme 4:  Understand your physical limitations.  95% of amateurs have overactive hands and arms and under-active core muscles.  They will pull and slice the ball.  This is the most common miss and is usually caused by casting the club (early release).  Conversely, look at the pros who rip the ball.  Rory, DJ, Koepka, Tiger, Jason Day.  They all build up their big muscles because they understand power comes from leveraging their core.  These guys all look like football players and you will never hit it like them, but you can work your core muscles and build power and stamina into your game.  I pay specific attention to my back, butt, and hips.  I may not crush the ball like Brooks, but my body no longer aches after I’ve walked 18 holes and that’s a reasonable measuring stick.  Also, know that when you get fatigued, your core muscles will suffer first and making good swings is increasingly difficult.  Definitely exercise your core and if you can, walk when you play.  If it’s hot, take a cart.  If 18 holes is all you can manage, don’t try for 36.  I keep relearning this last one and probably will until I’m no longer playing.

I look forward to hearing if these tips work for you.

Play well!

Got The Teaching Bug

from wexhamparkgolfcentre.co.uk
from wexhamparkgolfcentre.co.uk

Readers of this space may have noticed I’ve been somewhat missing in action over the last couple of months.  Work has kept me extremely busy; too busy, and I hate when that happens.  Earlier this month I did manage to make my way to the beach for my annual fall mini tour of the Delmarva and played three straight days in some of the best fall weather imaginable.  A course review for Ocean City Golf (Seaside course) will be coming.  But I also wanted to bring you up to date on a very rewarding experience I’ve undertaken.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of my wife asked me if I’d show her how to play golf.  She is a pure beginner and had never touched a ball, club, or tee.  I used to teach golf for a living back in the late 1980s, and the last actual golf lesson I gave was around 20 years ago to a fellow that used to supervise me at work.  Once or twice I’ve had requests from readers (complete strangers who live in the Washington DC area) to provide lessons but I politely refused because I didn’t feel right taking money for instruction.  Receiving compensation for lessons would violate my amateur status as well as funnel income away from the local professionals who make their living giving golf lessons.

But in this instance, I decided to work pro-Bono and agreed to help her because she was a friend and wanted a simple introduction to the game before deciding if professional instruction was worth an investment.  I tried to recall the most successful lesson I ever gave to a beginner and thought back to a time where I taught a Japanese lady who spoke no English and had never played the game.  I had to demonstrate and manipulate the fundamentals and movements to get my points across.  After several lessons, she got it and I remember the feeling of satisfaction having just taught someone to hit the ball who I could not verbally communicate with.

What I discovered this time was that I was a much better equipped to teach after having accumulated several decades of knowledge and experience, then I was in the 1980s when I was an apprentice fresh out of PGA Business school and armed only with the latest teaching techniques.  Instructing beginners hasn’t changed much over the years.  If you keep it simple and limit what your student has to think about, you can be successful.  I didn’t have the latest golf clubs to teach with, had no swing monitor to measure swing speed, launch angle, and a dozen other diagnostics, and no camera to record her swing, but at the end of an hour, I had her making a competent move and hitting it consistently about 100 yards with an old ladies 5-iron.  She was thrilled.

My approach was the same after many years.  I was taught to teach Grip, Aim, Setup (GAS) first, and that’s what I focused on.  I showed her how to grip it and told her the grip was the most important thing to focus on while she learned and that I would be correcting her, sometimes before every swing to ensure she got that right.  When we got to making the swing, I focused her on her making the biggest turn possible going back and turning her hips hard to the target on the downswing to get the most possible power out of her core.  This wasn’t how I was taught, but is more of a modern day approach of teaching power first, then finesse.

So this experience was very satisfying and we are set up for another session this weekend.  I’ve clearly got the bug again and volunteered yesterday with my local First Tee chapter to mentor youngsters on golf and hopefully give back a little to my community.

Feeling real good about the prospects of helping other people and will provide an update on how things are going shortly.

Play well!