GOLF TEACHING PRO®
vs. Short Students
What You Need To Know
USGTF Level III Teaching Professional & Contributing Writer
6’5 and 230 pounds, the power that big George Bayer possessed was
astonishing. In an era of laminated maple clubs and inconsistent
wound balls, Bayer repeatedly smashed his drives over 300 yards.
Many feel that if he was playing the game in today’s Titanium era
(he passed away from an aneurysm in March, 2003) he would be out-driving
everyone by 40 or 50 yards, just like he was doing in the 50s and
60s. Bayer won three times on the PGA Tour – the 1957 Canadian Open,
the 1958 Mayfair Inn Open, and the 1960 St. Petersburg Open – and
finished third in the 1963 PGA Championship. His achievements, in
an era when golf was discriminatory to extremely tall or short people,
then, it was rare to see good golfers with abnormal body shapes
and types. Hogan, at 5’9 and 160
pounds, was said to have the perfect body for golf. Most of the
tour players were of average height and build. The game was made
for “the average Joe.’”
about what we know in terms of tall and short – and thick and thin
people - playing the game has changed. Studies have been done, measurements
have been taken, and millions of computer screens have been analyzed.
Obviously, tall and short people all over the world are playing
the game well. You only need to look at the stats of the Jeff Slumans,
the Craig Stadlers, the Ernie Els, the Nick Faldos, to realize that
being short or tall, thick or thin, does not need to be a hindrance.
then, do golf instructors work with people who don’t fit the ideal
mould? How do you get the most out of an exceptionally sized person?
How do you teach a woman who is 4’9 and 86 pounds? How do you teach
a man who is 6’6 and 270 pounds? The short answer? Let their body
types determine their swing.
we proceed to that, however, it’s paramount to realize that abnormal
body types generally require abnormal equipment.
instructors, we’re trained to work with optimum angles at address.
Unquestionably, the angle of the spine is one of the most important
aspects of a good set up. This angle is bound to be wrong if clubs
do not match the player’s size. Poor spine angles lead to poor golf
swings. Very tall people who play standard length equipment often
develop poor posture (the spine angle is too tilted) and swings
that are too flat. Clubs that are lengthened (sometimes up to four
inches) and lie angles that are upright are generally desirable.
Likewise, many short golfers require clubs that feature flatter
than standard lies to mesh with a flatter swing plane. If you are
not able to perform the duties – and it’s perfectly fine if you’re
not – then send your student to a clubfitter who can help.
equipment issues have been dealt with, the next step is to understand
the basics of tall vs. short. As mentioned, tall people should have
a swing that appears more upright. All too often instructors make
the mistake of “fixing” a swing that appears too upright, but in
fact, is perfectly “planed” for a taller individual. Likewise, the
swing of a shorter person should appear flatter and more rounded.
to fully understand the topic of tall vs. short and how swings vary,
inclusion of thick vs. thin should also be considered. Obviously,
tall people can be thin (Davis Love lll, young Tiger Woods) and
tall people can be thick (George Bayer, Phil Blackmar). Likewise,
short people can be thin (Gary Player, Corey Pavin) and short people
can be thick (Craig Stadler, Craig Parry). This also will have an
influence on how your student will naturally want to swing the club.
And, as we have agreed from the start, allowing your student to
swing naturally is key.
of the best studies on the topic was done by teaching pro Mike Adams
in the late 90s. Adams, in his book titled The LAWS of the Golf
Swing: Body-Type Your Swing and Master Your Game carefully examines
different body types and explains their tendencies in the swing.
Adams describes the swing from the perspective of three distinguishable
body-types. The “Leverage” swing, a flexible, mobile swing for people
of medium builds with good strength (Annika Sorenstam, Tom Watson).
The “Arc” swing, a lengthy swing with plenty of arm action for tall
people with long limbs. And lastly, the “Width” swing, a tight,
rotational swing with maximum wrist hinge for people of thicker
there are other instructors who had some great words of wisdom on
the matter of size. The great Harvey Pennick had this to say about
short and tall golfers:
tall golfer can be grateful for the advantage of a large built-in
arc, but it comes with penalties attached. Attention to timing and
control is imperative for tall players, who often allow their swings
to become too long and too loose. The elbows should stay in their
address relationship throughout the swing. Ben Hogan tied a belt
around his elbows to help keep them together. Elbows-together will
help keep a tall player as compact as he can get.”
“For the small golfer the club is going to be on the target line
for a short distance at best. This demands that the slight player
be attentive to what Ben Hogan referred to in popular terms as ‘pronating’,
to avoid blocking the shot, Hogan actually was talking of turning
the wrists over.”
“The small golfer has to think of rotating both forearms in a counter
clockwise direction in the impact area. If he thinks of turning
his wrists over, he's too likely to hit from the top and swing out-to-in
In an era where many golf instructors strive to give their students
the perfect “off-the-rack” swing, let this be an encouragement for
all of us to allow our tall and small students the obvious benefit
of swinging within themselves, taking into full account the frame
they’ve been given.
again, the words of Harvey Pennick sum it all up: “You must fit
the swing to the body. You must be yourself.”
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