GOLF TEACHING PRO®
OF GOLF INSTRUCTION
Dr. Gerald Walford, Professor
USGTF Level III Member, Pippa Passes, KY
Over the years golf instruction has changed. This is really no surprise
to anyone who has kept up to date through the years. The following
article will give some insight into the many changes, subtle and
obvious, over the years. Some may surprise you.
changes in instruction have occurred in the physical, mental, video
and apparatus areas. Instruction is designed to develop learning.
No learning – no teaching. If learning is not taking place then
the method or style of instruction must be changed. It is amazing
how many teachers teach their same method student after student,
year after year. Naturally, this may not work with all students
so some students drop out. The teacher rationalizes that it was
the student’s fault – they are not teachable. As Casey Stengel once
said, “I coached good, they learned bad.”
CHANGES IN INSTRUCTION
The golf swing has changed dramatically from basically a roundhouse
swing with lots of body movement to a more vertical swing with less
body movement and more arm action for greater consistency.
The old swing of yesterday was taught with a very strong body rotation.
In fact, Mindy Blake claims that the left arm rotated around the
body to a 76-degree angle from the line of flight. This angle is
created by moving the shoulder over 90 degrees of rotation. The
hips rotated 70 degrees.
Of course, these measurements are not exactly accurate to all the
golfers of this era but it does give us a general idea. It is also
noticeable that the hips and shoulders both rotate almost the same
number of degrees as the whole body rotates away from the ball.
The clubface is open at the top of the swing and the left wrist
is concave. The legs also move with the hips on the backswing as
the left knee kicks inward considerably towards the right knee,
independently of the arms. Almost all golfers at this stage lifted
the left heel off the ground and in some cases the heel lift was
quite high. This is not surprising as the excessive body rotation
almost pulled the left heel up. With the golfer’s club at the top
of the swing, the body is well coiled but the upper body muscles
are not stretched and are loose because the hips are rotated as
much as the shoulders. For the downswing and the uncoiling of the
body, the muscles must pull the body around to the ball. For muscles
to react in this fashion they must be in a state of tonus (slightly
stretched) for quick reaction. Unfortunately this coil did not stretch
the muscles because the hips and shoulder are turned together almost
the same distance in the coil. To start the downswing, the golfer
slammed the left heel down to tighten the muscles to pull the body
around to the ball for the swing. This is what is meant when it
was said that the downswing starts at the feet and then works its
way up to the hands.
The strong grip was taught with three or four knuckles showing on
the left hand. The strong grip made it easier to close the open
the top of the swing to impact. The 10-finger grip was popular and
was taught until Harry Vardon changed the teachings to the overlap
or Vardon grip still endorsed to this day by many as the only way.
With the strong grip and lots of body rotation the golfer stood
to the ball with a closed stance for the driver and long clubs and
progressed to a more open stance for the shorter clubs. The stance
also altered the ball position. With the driver the ball was played
well forward and then moved back towards the right foot as the shorter
clubs were used. The stance was very inconsistent and varied with
each shot. This stance gave a pronounced inside takeaway to the
backswing because of the excessive body rotation.
This swing had a strong weight transfer. Weight went to the right
leg on the backswing as the body shifted back. On the downswing
the body moved forward and the weight shifted onto the left leg.
The body rotation was around the right leg for the backswing and
for the downswing the body weight moved forward onto the left leg.
Lots of timing factors. Lots of teaching and practice. At impact,
the right heel is well off the ground and the hips are well forward
into the body rotation. With this excessive rotation the body sway
to the target is extreme.
Golf swing teaching has now moved to lessen body rotation. This
is to help develop a more consistent swing with easier timing factors.
move was to develop more stretch to the upper body muscles for a
stronger reflex action. The more modern swing has less body rotation
as the hips now rotate only 45 degrees. The angle of the left arm
to the direction of travel is also about 45 degrees. Although the
left arm angle to the direction of flight is 45 degrees the shoulders
have rotated about 90 degrees to give this angle. As you will notice
the left arm is now moving more in line with the flight line of
the ball. This means the swing has become more vertical. This swing
has put the clubface more square at the top with the left wrist
now flatter and even flat with some golfers. This more compact swing
brings about easier coordination between the arms and legs. The
hips are now providing resistance to the upper body rotation. This
resistance means that the muscles are stretched and are being set
up for the downswing. This early modern swing has the left foot
flat on the ground during the backswing giving limited hip movement.
The upper body muscles are now stretched to provide the required
tonus to the muscles for a powerful downswing. This swing has fewer
moving parts and as a result it is more compact and more consistent.
The grip is now moving to a weaker grip with one or two knuckles
of the left hand showing. This is possible because the clubface
is now placed in a more closed position at the top of the swing.
This means less hand rotation is needed to achieve clubface squareness
at impact. The overlap grip is still demanded but some concessions
are made for the interlocking grip if it was felt the golfer’s hand
The stance is now taught to be squarer to the target for all shots.
There may be some openness to the short irons but the idea is to
develop a more consistent stance. The ball position is also more
consistent as most golfers are playing the ball just off the left
heel for all shots. This stance affects the takeaway, as the takeaway
is now straight back with little or no hip rotation as the shoulders
are rotating. The buzzword for this was the one-piece takeaway.
The weight transfer still exists but it is less pronounced. The
weight may shift but the body usually does not slide backwards or
forwards as much as the old swing. At impact, the body is closer
to square to the ball. The shoulders are square but the hips are
a little ahead of the shoulders. In most swings the body is more
perpendicular with minimal body sway to the target.
LATE MODERN SWING
Late modern swing teachings continue the trend to less body rotation.
The swing is being taught to be more in line with the line of flight.
line of the left arm to the direction of the ball flight is about
15-degree or less. The hips are almost nil in rotation as the range
of hip rotation is down to 10-degree range. This shows how the upper
body moves the swing while the legs are strong supporters or stabilizers
to the swing. If we believe in the old adage of “the less moving
parts, the less to go wrong” then this late modern swing is the
The grip is now moving to a more weaker left hand position with
one or no knuckles showing. This weaker grip does not mean weaker
power to the swing. It is just that the clubface is even more closed
at the top. Less hand rotation is used to achieve square contact
with the ball. With the swing in a more upright or vertical plane
the hands do not have to rotate as much to achieve squareness at
contact. The body and hands rotate less. Some of the late modern
teachings even have the hands swinging with no rotation at all.
This makes timing and accuracy much easier. In this era, grip teachings
have become more flexible. The 10-finger grip, often called the
baseball grip, is now used and taught by many. Natural Golf teachings
recommend this 10-finger grip, which they call the palm grip. This
grip has also achieved great success. In fact, research studies,
experiments and dissertations have been unable to prove one grip
as better than the others.
The stance is very similar to the early modern swing.
Weight transfer is even lessened more as some are now teaching to
keep the weight evenly balanced until after impact when the follow-through
pulls the body weight onto the left leg. Jerry Heard, a famous PGA
golf pro before being struck with lightning, teaches this in his
golf schools. Most golfers are now being taught to brace the right
leg at an angel to achieve minimal weight shift backwards. This
helps to prevent a body sway backwards. Ben Hogan claimed this right
leg brace and his cupped left wrist at the top of his backswing
was the basis of his “secret”. At address he angled his right knee
inward towards the target and maintained this right leg position
till impact. On the downswing, his first movement was to push the
right knee inward to the left so as to ‘run the right knee at the
ball’. This ‘secret’ now out in a book by Jody Vasquez is to be
published in April 2004. Now that this is out, the secret will be
quickly taught by many teachers simply because Ben Hogan did it.
impact many modern teachers are now teaching to have both feet flat
on the ground and the body square to the ball. This trend is noticeable
with many of today’s top touring professionals.
ISSUE – Part II, New Teaching Platforms
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