Training Aids Are Only Good When They Are Used

By Mike Stevens,USGTF contributing Writer I just got back from the World Golf Teachers Cup gathering in Las Vegas. On the driving range, we were treated to demonstrations of several training aids. Some to increase swing speed, some to improve impact position and some to improve the overall swing motion. Over the years, I have used or recommended certain training aids to students based on their specific needs. I believe there is value in using them if one is committed to getting better. The key word is committed. That takes effort, and effort is not easy because it takes time. No truer words than “Rome was not built in a day” can be applied to learning golf techniques. It takes time and commitment. One of the problems I see when…

The Importance of the First Move Away from the Ball

By Thomas T Wartelle, USGTF contributing Writer A good backswing sets the body into a coiled position ready to return to the clubhead squarely and powerfully at impact. The backswing is a series of motions that set the club in position for a proper downswing. Golfers do not hit the ball with their backswing, but a good backswing is a simple, repeatable movement that starts the sequence of the swing to the moment of truth – impact. Most good players have a starting “trigger move” that signals the start of the backswing. Common backswing starting trigger moves are: • A gentle waggle movement back and forward with the club, hands and wrists, which can ease any tensions in the set-up, and encourage a smooth, rhythmic beginning of the backswing. •…

Gifts From Golf

By Cole Golden, WGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional Friendship can develop in many different areas of your life: family, church, school, work, hobbies and even competitors. I’d like to focus on the latter. In 2010, I played in the United States Golf Teachers Cup at Primm Valley, just outside of Las Vegas. One of my playing partners in the first round was Matt Smith, who hails from Ohio. To say I had a rough start to my game is an understatement. A cart came flying over a hill to our tee box to see me teeing off, and then proceeded to lock up their brakes, squealing across the cart path. Then my 3-wood went about 40 yards to the left into a pond. That triple bogey, plus another three bogeys…

Let’s Get Rid Of The Tour Championship

By Mike Stevens, USGTF Contributing Writer The FedEx Cup is golf’s answer to playoffs, which is supposed to keep up interest after the fourth major is completed. In the past, most people did not care much about golf after the PGA Championship. They even called it the silly season. Enter the FedEx playoffs, a good idea since most people look forward to the playoffs in other sports at the end of their seasonal run. The only problem is that when you get to the finals, there is this Tour Championship which may or may not be won by the playoff champion. It’s all a bit strange. Even the playoff format is a bit weird. You can miss the cut in the first playoff round and still advance. I think you…

Friendship VS. Competitors

By Cole Golden WGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional Recently, after Jordan Spieth’s and Justin Thomas’ major wins, much has been said in regards to their friends being part of the celebration. It just so happens that these “friends” are other players on the Tour and can be found on the 18th green cheering on their buddies to victory. This has been a hot topic within the golf community. Is it good or bad for the game? Some might say this behavior is abnormal. We never saw Tiger waiting around to congratulate Phil, or vice versa. I don’t think we ever will. The media wanted to play a “villain vs. hero” during that era. We don’t know if there was bad blood between them or not; it’s purely speculation. With the…

Pressure

By Cole Golden, USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional I recently had a student who was going to play in one of the largest amateur golf tournaments in the state. He had been working on his game and playing really well. He was excited and ready to show off his golf game. This was the biggest tournament and best field he had ever played against. The evening after the first round, I received a phone call from him. He told me how nervous he was and he could barely breathe prior to teeing off. His hands were shaking and sweaty. He had a hard time thinking positive thoughts versus thinking only the worst. His first tee ball? You can guess it: he came over it so bad he barely hit the…

Ireland: Trip Of A Lifetime

By Cole Golden USGTF Level IV Member I recently had the good fortune to take the golf trip of a lifetime to Ireland (thanks to my lovely bride who surprised me for my birthday).  There were eight of us who made the trip across the pond and spent seven days playing some of the most beautiful courses in the world.  While the trip was planned through a travel agent who specializes in these types of adventures, I want to share some of the tips and tricks I learned along the way.  I highly recommend traveling to Ireland, which I know is on many of your bucket lists. Pre-Trip Preparations       While using a travel agency increases the cost, they handled all logistics:  transportation, lodging, restaurant recommendations, course reservations,…

“Free Info VS. Personalized Instruction”

By Bob De Caro, USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional, Wyckoff, New Jersey I’m upset! Recently, while listening to some instructional segments on PGA Tour Radio, I heard the pro thoroughly explain the swing sequence. Yet, why are there so many listeners repeatedly asking the same fundamental questions about swinging over the top, slicing the ball and not being able to deliver the club from the inside? I can’t help but visualize the pro tightening his jaw before answering once again. It’s apparent to me that the listeners do not actually realize that the problem lies in understanding how the swing sequence is executed. I’m upset, not because the pro isn’t doing a good job of explaining the correct swing sequence, but because the player doesn’t seek out what is really…

U.S. OPEN

Like most people, I spent part of Father’s Day weekend watching this year’s U.S. Open at Erin Hills. While there is much debate on whether it was a successful U.S. Open for the USGA, I clued in on a different feature of the game. Fox Sports’ utilization of the ProTracer technology on a majority of the shots made it easy to watch the shape and trajectory of the player’s golf shots take form. Brooks Koepka plays a left-to-right ball flight, a fade. Hole after hole, I was impressed to note that he hardly ever went away from it. Even when the hole might have been better suited for a draw, he continued to play his go-to golf shot. While I admit I didn’t watch every shot, of the ones I…

Partner Events

The Zurich Classic was held this past April on the PGA Tour.  The event changed its format from a normal stroke-play, individual event to a two-man team.  Both four-somes and four-ball formats were put into play.  This was a great move by the tournament committee for a number of reasons, the major one being that it increased participation by top-notch golfers, thus boosting viewership and sponsorship. In the past few years, the overall field had declined for the Zurich.  In my opinion, the top players in the world were skipping the event because it didn’t fit their schedule, or they didn’t enjoy the course.  The “buzz” was not there, a nightmare for any tournament committee and sponsors.  As a result, the committee decided they needed to make a change to…

Getting Ready

As spring begins to present itself to most of the country, golf season is on a lot of people’s minds, from students to teachers alike. It’s important to shake off the cobwebs that might have developed by getting back to the basics and working on fundamentals. As golf teaching professionals, this advice applies to us as well. As teachers, we might not play as much as we would like; however, our students look to us as good players and examples of how to master the sport. Our golf game doesn’t have to be of tour quality, but it does need to be good enough to demonstrate certain areas of the swing. Too often, golf teachers don’t work on their games as much as they should, and it is visible to…

Shorter Driver

There is a new trend in the world of professional golf:  shorter drivers.  I’m not referencing the actual driving distance, but rather the length of the actual club.  Ricky Fowler and Jimmy Walker are two players who have reduced the length of their driver.  If the some of the best players in the world are doing this, should your students do this as well? As golf teaching professionals, one of the most common requests from a student is the desire to hit the ball farther.  From an amateur to members of the PGA Tour, everyone wants the distance.  So why is shortening the length of the driver shaft a good thing? A few things occur when you shorten the driver shaft.  It’s easier to hit the ball more solidly; with…

Memories From A Lifetime In Golf

Observing my 11-year old son grow up in the game of golf is such a wonderful gift. As I watch him traverse the golf course, it brings back my own childhood memories. My son is lucky; his poppa plays golf and is a golf professional. I did not have such a luxury as a kid. While my son has been playing golf since he could walk, I started relatively late – the ripe old age of 13. It started when I found a broken club in a trash bin. A little duct tape and voila, my journey began. I grew up in a large athletic family; however, nobody in my family really played golf. Later, I found out that my grand poppa had been a scratch golfer in the 1920s.…

Progress Report

In school we normally received a progress report every semester. It showed where your grades were and would give you a good idea of where you were doing well or where you needed to improve. In golf, we need to do this also, but it comes in two different forms. As a player, we need to assess where we are, both good and bad. It can be like a report card with A, B, C, D or F grades. Beyond the grade, we need to add notes that get specific on what needs to be worked on. Once we have our progress report, then we can design our practice routine to help our improvement. This is called self-evaluation, something a lot of us are already doing. Our students need help…

Forget Trying To Play Like A Pro Unless You’re Willing To Put In The Time

From 1977 to 2013, there were six rounds of 59 scored on the PGA tour. That is a span of 36 years. Already this year there have been two rounds under 60. There was even a 58 shot on the Web.com tour. Professional golfers are overpowering courses of late. Justin Thomas just shot 27 under par to win the Sony Open with the lowest 72-hole total in history. At the recent Tournament of Champions, seven golfers hit drives over 400 yards with Dustin Johnson topping the charts at 427. I would need a driver and 3-iron to get where Dustin did in one shot. I guess this is the future of golf. The question I pose: Is all this good for golf? For the pros, maybe, but for the average…

Spring Trip

As I glance out the window, snow is falling along with the temperature.  Playing golf is a ways off in our neck of the woods, just like it is for many of my fellow golf teaching professionals. So, what can we do to bide the time until we can play outdoors?  This is the time to plan indoor teaching, maybe even rebrand our teaching business.  It is also a chance to take a little trip with some students. Students are just like us, they get stir crazy this time of year.  They want to play golf and enjoy some sunshine.  Now is a great time to offer your students a chance to go on a golf vacation with personalized instruction from you.  Done properly, you won’t have to pay much for…

Rule Changes I’d Like to See for Faster Play

Every so often, the USGA will review and make changes to the rule book. I have been less than impressed with the last few efforts on their part. Since slow play is a major source of complaints about golf these days, maybe they should turn their efforts to changes that would speed up the game. I have three suggestions that would help. First would be to change the search rule from 5 minutes to 1 minute. I know that people hate to lose golf balls, especially Pro-V1s that most people should not even be using. But come on, if you can’t afford to lose one, then play a cheaper ball. If you don’t see it within a minute, then move on with your life. That brings me to the second…

Evaluating Technology’s for Your Instruction Program

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to evaluate your instruction program and find the keys to becoming more successful. Thousands of instructors over the last ten years have utilized technology to gain more students and improve the quality of their lessons. But you may have asked yourself what and how you can do the same? Launch monitors, dynamic balance mats, high-tech swing apparatuses, dynamic putting analysis systems and body position feedback vests have vaulted golf instruction into the 21st century. The two main concerns of these high-tech items for any instructor are the ease of use, and of course, the cost. Looking at ease of use, instructors need to be diligent and do their homework. The first step is finding out from the source of the technology…

High School Golf: The Beginning

This past fall I received a call from a local high school coach about helping their freshman team. While some high school programs have experienced players, most don’t, especially when it comes to girls’ golf. Some of the players have never played or even been on a golf course. This particular golf coach wanted me to teach the players about golf course etiquette, rules and course strategy. The first day we all met in the clubhouse to go over Golf 101. Lots of diagrams and basic information. The girls did a great job asking questions. For the next few practices we walked a couple of holes on the course. We discussed basic concepts: where to stand when someone is hitting, who plays their golf shot first, rules infractions, where to…

TECHNOLOGY, MODERN TEACHING

When I started teaching golf twenty years ago, there wasn’t very much technology available to the average player.  If you were lucky, you might have had a video camera to film someone’s golf swing.  You would video your student, take the tape out of the camera, and then go inside to find a television to watch and break down their golf swing.  Times have changed! Today, technology is in every part of golf, from fitting clubs and teaching the golf swing to looking at the putting stroke.  While watching the game on TV, you see the ProTracer technology in use.  Launch monitors have changed the way golf is taught, because they provide instantaneous feedback.  No longer do you have to wait to see your golf swing; each shot can be…

FLEXIBILITY

As winter enters most areas of the country, now is a great time to brainstorm with your students on things they can do to improve their golf games for the spring.  One area most players want to improve is gaining distance.  One of the quickest ways to improve distance is to increase your flexibility. As people get older, they lose their flexibility and have to make a conscious choice to work on it.  As golf teaching professionals, we can recommend programs to them to help improve in this area.  If they work on their flexibility all winter, come spring they will be ready to jump back into lessons and already be on the right track to improve their game. A few years ago, I partnered with a local fitness instructor…

GROWING THE GAME

There has been a lot of recent discussion about the game of golf losing golfers.  There have been many theories about why this seems to be happening.  In my opinion, this is a natural ebb and flow that has been exaggerated and misunderstood.  Let’s explore some of these issues. The National Golf Foundation (NGF) numbers are showing a net loss of golfers in America compared to a decade ago.  However, what is hidden in this statistic is that the NGF numbers were greatly inflated by counting “very” occasional golfers who play only a few outings a year.  In the past, these golfers were lumped into the avid golfer category.  This grossly inflates the numbers.  For example, if you ask random people if they have played golf, many will say yes,…

His Body Wasn’t Strong Enough To Carry His Heart Any Longer

Words similar to these were once written about Ben Hogan’s legs after his near-fatal crash in Texas. Arnold Palmer was a hero to everyone in the golf world. There have been tons of tributes, all richly deserved. Like many young lads, he is the man who got me interested in golf. I remember watching the Masters with my dad when Arnold rolled in a putt on 17 that propelled him to a win in 1958 or 1960. I can’t remember which, but does it really matter? I instantly became one of his army. I regaled in his victories and agonized in his defeats. I never actually met him in person, but there are two times that he touched my life. The first was when I was in college at the…

TIME FOR A CHANGE

We see it happen on the PGA Tour all the time: a player leaves a golf teaching professional for another teacher.  There can be a number of reasons, such as the player is not improving, there is a difference on what direction the player should go, or the player feels that it is time for a fresh start.  As a golf teaching professional, how do you handle this decision?  When is it time to make a change? Some teachers take it very personal to the point where they hope the student doesn’t have the same caliber of success.  On the other hand, there are a number of teachers who will do everything they can to make the transition a positive one.  I once heard of a top teacher who would…

I WOULD VOTE OUT BUBBA

On a popular website I was browsing, there was a voting question on the captain’s Ryder Cup picks. The choice was which person to leave off among Bubba Watson, Rickie Fowler, J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar, or Jim Furyk. When you place your vote the results are posted, and although close, the man out was Furyk. He would seem to be the logical choice, not having won a tournament for some time in spite of recently shooting the lowest score ever recorded at a PGA Tour event. In world rankings, he is lower than the others, also. If I were the captain, however, he is the guy I would want on my team. So the logical question – why discard Bubba? He certainly would get the gallery hopped up. My main…

TAKING IT TO THE COURSE

Many times, my students talk to me about their inability to score well on the course.  They feel like they strike the ball on the range at a level that would suggest low scores. I take this opportunity to point out the differences between tour pros and everyone else. Tour pros are willing to assess a situation and make the correct decision, based on all of the given circumstances. For instance, in terms of the short game, the pros, the most talented players on the planet, select a club and shot that seems easy to them. They don’t want to use their considerable talent playing hard shots. Instead, they try to play a shot that they are likely to execute 98% of the time. When chipping up a hill, the most accomplished…

A GOLFER’S FEEL

Feel is a part of many sports:  hockey, basketball, baseball, and especially golf, to name a few.  Also common to each sport is the importance of the right mechanics.  When both are executed at a high level, then greatness can be achieved.  There are times, though, that the right feel outweighs the importance of mechanics. Recently at The Open Championship at Royal Troon, Phil Mickelson was in contention from day one.  He was driving it well, hitting good iron shots, putting and scrambling like only Phil can.  During the last round in the now-famous duel with Henrik Stenson, Mickelson did something very few golfers would ever do, especially during in the hunt of the last round of a major. Phil normally putts using a “saw”-type grip.  He moves his lower…

TIGHT SHIRTS

Here we go again! During the year’s British Open telecast, Johnny Miller, working his first ever Open, spouted out commentary which once again leaves some raising their eyebrows, while others cheer his candor. Some players despise his brutal honestly, some choose to ignore and laugh, while viewers/listeners are offered the option of tuning out or debating his hypotheses. I fall in the latter. There’s nothing like a good debate. His latest views were directed toward Rory McIlroy’s skin-tight wardrobe’s ability to espouse the benefits of his workout routine, to which we’re all somewhat privy via various social media forums. His comments as follows: “Golf is a game of finesse and touch that requires a certain amount of strength, and Rory has a little too much of the latter.” “I think he…

HONOR

Many discussions have been held regarding Dustin Johnson’s ball moving during the final round of the U.S. Open and the resulting ruling.  For those who might not remember the scenario, Dustin was on the green early in his round and prior to addressing the ball, the ball rolled backwards about a one-half of an inch.  D.J. called the walking rules official over and informed him of what happened.  The official said there was no penalty and they moved on.  A few holes later, a few officials came back onto the course to let D.J. know there was a rules violation and that they would visit after the round. Golf differs from other games in many ways.  One of the major differences is that the golfers will call rules infractions on…

WHO JUDGES THE GUARDIANS?

To say I am disappointed in the USGA would be an understatement. The Dustin Johnson decision is just the culmination of several abuses of power I feel have originated from the body in recent years. Sometimes, when organizations get so wrapped up in their so-called authority, they can easily lose perspective. I saw this happen often when I worked in the corporate world. A company or facility would become so enthralled with being recognized as experts in the field that they just brushed aside any new ideas as not worthy of recognition. They just felt they knew best, and if you didn’t like it, too bad. When it comes to golf, rules are important, but they should be cut-and-dried. Play the ball as it lies…out of bounds…stoke and distance. It…

MATCH PLAY

Last week I was watching the NCAA Men’s Championship on TV.  The tournament format is match play:  first team to three wins is the champion.  This style of play is always entertaining because of the ups and downs of the match.  One player is leading by a few holes, and then the other player makes a comeback.  It’s real-life golf drama. I noticed that I was becoming more and more engaged in the matches, cheering on the great shots and the players’ recovery shots.  There were a number of times a player seemed to be out of the hole; one player had an advantage by hitting a good shot to set up a birdie effort, and the other player, who seemed to be out of position, would either make a…

VISIONS OF A GREAT TEACHER

Golf is not a game alone, but a means of developing people, pleasant people with good attitude and strong character.  Coaches and partners are committed to shifting the culture of golf from tips, formulas and answers, to one of exploration, discovery and freedom. As a teacher and coach, it is important in recognizing what is his/her ability, and re-defining what is possible for him/her in learning this game.  We must also teach how to learn and how to integrate on the course.  Learn how to access concentration and how to practice productivity, and also discover how to self-coach in areas of specific interest. As teachers of the game, our commitment is to empower our student to step into the heart and soul of the game, and to use it to…

THE POWER OF OBSERVATION

Technology abounds. Every golfer wants it and many teachers love using it. Be it video, 3-D motion capture, launch monitors, foot-pressure pads, rangefinders, or the latest and greatest golf club technology, the world of golf has become obsessed with technology and its perceived ability to improve one’s game. There is no doubt there are some great tools out there to assist us in our teaching, along with giving us the reputation amongst our clients as being at the cutting edge of the instruction industry. We should all remember they are present to assist and not replace the human factor of observation. As instructors, we must first and foremost begin with observation and prioritize what we see. How often are we doing this in every lesson? I can personally go on about…

GOLF – THE GAME OF LOST FAVORITES

I used to know the golf tour stops. There was Riviera, the Crosby and Hope, Doral, Harbour Town and Greater Greensboro. Now there is the Frys.com, Valspar, Quicken Loans and the Dean & Deluca, not to mention all the other corporate-sponsored events that seem to change every couple of years. I have been involved with the tournament in Tampa for some time. It started as the JC Penny Classic. Since then it has been named the Buick, Chrysler, Pods, Transitions, EverBank and Valspar. A game steeped in tradition has abandoned the moniker for cash. I guess it was inevitable; it takes a lot of green to conduct a tournament, what with million-dollar payouts and infrastructure to attract fans and sponsors. Still, to name Hogan’s alley at Colonial the Dean &…

TOO MANY THOUGHTS?

While I was recently watching The Players, one of the analysts on Golf Channel was speaking about Jordan Spieth and showed him videoing his putting stroke before the round started.  The debate was that if you think about mechanical thoughts, then you are unable to putt freely.  Jordan was for; the analyst against.  I can see both sides. Some players don’t like advice about or to think mechanical thoughts while playing a tournament round – the ol’ “take to the course the shots you have on the range” type of motto.  These players are more focused on feel than trying to fix whatever might be wrong with their game at the moment. Other players are very technical and want all the tips and advice they can get.  Maybe Jordan is…

GOLF FITNESS

In the past few years, nagging lower back issues have hampered my golf swing and everyday lifestyle. I have hit over 5 million golf balls over the last 30-plus years, and it has taken its toll. The interesting thing is that when I am warmed up, the pain often subsides. I enjoy many different sports besides golf: cross-training, cycling, swimming, running, triathlons, tennis, etc. I have noted often that I am capable of lifting or moving large amounts of weights during the exercises, but sitting at a desk for three hours can sometimes be excruciating. The same scenario has also happened to my should and upper back. Different doctors, therapists and chiropractors have told me different theories and treatments, some which have aided, but none in a great way. However,…

THE PERFECT TIME TO FIND YOUR JOY IN TEACHING

Spring is the most exciting time of year for golfers. That is obvious to anyone that plays the game. For teachers of the game, summer brings the opportunity to find the true joy of teaching. As I moved through my career and began teaching better and more serious golfers, I found myself gradually developing a very dour attitude towards lessons. I didn’t notice the change as it was happening, but now looking back, I should have been more introspective. While on the subject, being introspective is a very important trait for a golf instructor. At one point, I began to realize the joy I had been addicted to early in my teaching career wasn’t there. So, the opportunity presented itself – almost out of fate, it seems, as I reflect…

NO RESPECT FOR EVERYDAY GOLF TEACHERS

Just saw an ad recently that finished with this: “Go directly to the place that will improve your game with all the equipment and apparel you need.” What a country – you can buy improvement. And people continue to buy into this nonsense. If it was just the equipment, then how come some top tour pros struggle when they change brands? I have a friend who buys every new driver that TaylorMade puts out. His scores are still the same, but he swears he is just killing the ball. I guess whatever makes you happy. Another fellow came to me for some lessons and said he could not hit his new irons. So I watched him hit a few shots. Top, top, fat, top and slice. I asked him how…

The Technology Contrarian

Today’s equipment, or the advances in technology over the last 10 years or so, have (apparently) helped today’s average golfer, but hindered the career of perhaps the greatest talent who has ever played the game in Tiger Woods. As you can probably tell, you know where I’m going with this. I’ll admit at times I’m a contrarian, but not without doing research. Let’s take, for example, Trackman and the data it provides us from the touring professionals. Contrary to popular belief, the “average” PGA Tour player does not hit up on the ball (positive angle of attack or “AoA”). The average AoA amongst the men is -1.3 degrees, whereas amongst the women professionals it’s +3 degrees. As well, there is an astronomical difference in average clubhead speed, where the women…

The Turning Point

Chris Richards of Trinidad and Tobago was only 12 years old when he was first introduced to the world of golf, and he believes that event changed his life forever.  His older cousin Marlon Nunes, who was a caddie at the Chaguaramas Golf Club, encouraged Chris to come and work at the course to make some extra money, and Marlon promised to show him the “ropes.” Chris didn’t know a thing about golf – he had never swung a club before – but the second that he did, he fell head over heels in love with the game. “I picked up the club, swung, and missed completely!” mused Chris, “But that just made me want to try again. So I kept trying and I haven’t stopped since.” At that time, Chris…

Handicapping

Handicapping, as in horse racing, allows players of differing abilities to compete on an equitable basis with each other.  Each player is assigned a handicap index that results from the scores recorded for that player, is revised over time, and moves up or down as the player submits scores and his game changes. The handicap index is calculated to one decimal place so your index may look like this: 13.4.  You will also have a course handicap for your home course, which will usually be a different number of 1 or 2 digits, e.g., 15 if you propose to play competitively on another course.  The important number that you must carry is your handicap index. There is no minimum handicap index, but the USGA recommends a maximum index of 36.4…

RIP IT

Anyone who watched the Match Play Championship this past March in Austin, Texas, witnessed Jason Day playing some great golf.  I noticed something about him that is very interesting.  He always seems to swing the club in an aggressive manner.  You never see him swing too easy or try to guide his shot. Day played this way at last year’s PGA Championship, as well.  Even with Jordan Spieth right on his heels, he always swung the club hard and aggressively.  Referencing back to this match play tournament, even when he was up in a few matches, he kept the same “rip it” type of swing.  There are some good points we can learn from Day’s swing to teach our students. When someone tries to slow down their swing or “guide…

IS IT POSSIBLE TO REVERSE COURSE?

Seems like talk of changing golf always comes up this time of year. Most likely because the Masters is just around the corner, which signifies the start of the golf season for many north of the Mason-Dixon Line. I have recently seen discussions of rolling back the golf ball or creating a tournament ball. The subject of bifurcation has come up again, also; bifurcation, a glorified term for having a different set of rules for pros and amateurs. Like amateurs don’t play by different rules already. How many times have you seen mulligans off the first tee or inside-the-leather happy zones? Those same golfers then go in and post scores and receive handicaps. Every time I see or hear such talk, I am reminded of phrases like, “How you going…

THE MOST IMPORTANT SHOT

Those who watched the World Golf Championship at Doral this year saw something very interesting.  Adam Scott tried to drive the short par-4 16th hole.  His tee shot went just over the green in a bunker.  It was a very straightforward bunker shot, on the upslope with a good lie.  What happened next was the interesting part. He shanked his bunker shot.  It almost went into the other greenside bunker.  It was a horrible shot, in fact, and embarrassing to the point that Scott apologized to his caddie for hitting the shot.  Now he is short-sided in deep rough with an awkward stance.  Scott was able to shake off the shanked bunker shot and focus on the most important shot, his next shot. He hit a great flop shot and…

ENJOY THE FRUSTRATION

Recently, I played a round of golf with three friends of mine.  The game was put together last-minute. and everyone was rushing to get to the course.  We all arrived about the same time, a few minutes prior to our tee time. No one hit a range ball or a practice putt, just walked right up to the first tee. Of course, as golf teaching professionals, we are not new to this; a typical day includes rushing from the lesson tee or the pro shop to the first tee.  Sometimes the shots off the first tee are good, other times not so good.  This particular day, one of my friends hit a nice, low-running worm-burner about 150 yards.  He proceeded to chunk a couple shots, then finished off with a…

ONE IMPORTANT TRAIT

Having studied very successful golf instructors for many years, I have discovered one important trait that they all have in common that you do not see with the average golf teacher. This one thing goes right to the heart of how human beings learn physical motion. For the sake of space and your boredom, I won’t go deep into motor skill learning. The simplest way to understand how we learn motion is to think of how you learned to eat, drive or brush your teeth. Motor skill learning in its most basic form is repetitive motion that is learned and captured in the nerves that connect the brain to the muscles.  Having spent most of the last twenty years helping golf professionals learn to improve their teaching skills, the one…

CHANGE

Everyone has heard phrase about how the world is changing and you have to adapt to the change.  For some of us, this might be natural, while for others, it’s extremely hard.  Change is everywhere:  from the way people communicate, the way people learn, the way information is exchanged and the way information is taught. For about six years, I have been working with a young man who is a now a freshman in college.  The way he likes to communicate is via text messaging.  To me, this is somewhat strange.  I would call and he would not answer; shortly after he would text me. It took me a bit to figure out that texting was the best way to communicate with him.  He would text a novel, but face to face it was hard to get two words…

MY EXPERIENCE WITH FOOT GOLF

Our golf course just added a foot golf layout. For those unfamiliar with this new sport, an individual uses a soccer ball and kicks it down the fairway to a hole about the size of the top of a 55-gallon drum. There are flags in the hole so one knows where the hole ends. Each hole, like with a golf course, is different in length and weaves around trees and hazards. The purpose is to increase revenue and provide a fun outdoor activity to active people. Just like golf, you can play individually or in groups. Based on my observation thus far, it does not require a lot of skill, just a strong foot. The real question is what is the overall purpose of this activity? Was it designed to…

PAYING THE PRICE

We have all heard phrases about working hard to be successful or willing to never quit.  There are phrases on t-shirts, posters, and even coffee mugs.  The great Ben Hogan said to become great at golf, you need to “dig it out of the dirt,” meaning hitting a lot of range balls.  I’m sure your parents or mentors have also reinforced the philosophy that perseverance is the key to greatness. Even though hard work is important, I believe many of these phrases leave out an important fact.  You must love the sacrifice that hard work requires to reach your goals.  Let’s think about someone wanting to lose weight and get into the best shape of their life.  They can read some nutritional books, buy healthy foods and even join a…

CONTRIVED VS. NATURAL SWING

I’ll begin by acknowledging that this article may seem designed for the better player and I do hope my better players take heed, but I think we, as teachers, should always keep an eye to the future with our beginners. I want them to pursue scratch golf and they must be able to take their “range game” to the course. What I notice, increasingly, are range players who think hard about the motion of their swing in pursuit of “correctness” instead of reliability. I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself, “Is that player using their contrived swing or natural swing?” This happens most with the highly trained athlete who has gained some level of success. That taste of success now leads them to want to improve with every practice session…

MARKETING YOURSELF

I was recently in an office waiting for my appointment when a salesman walked through the door.  He worked for the local phone book company.  I was close enough to hear his conversation with the office manager.  She explained that most of their advertising is done via website and social media.  From his response, I could tell that it appeared as though he had heard that a few times. I started thinking about the way that we, as golf teaching professionals, market ourselves.  How many do people use the phone book to look up golf instructors?  I would guess not many, if any.  Websites are a great way to reach potential students, but there is cost associated with it.  Social media is free and fairly easy to create.  Between Facebook,…

THE TARGET – TO BE OR NOT TO BE?

As Yogi Berra once said, baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical. Golf, therefore, golf must be at least half that, correct? Ah, the mental game! What an all encompassing topic. Everything from our emotions and tactics to routine, visualization, swing thoughts, and much more. At a recent conference I attended, we were told the pre-eminent swing thought of all elite golfers (professional and amateur alike) in some form or another is always target-based. Apparently and according to some experts, there are studies (I don’t know which ones) demonstrating how this is a fact. In this same conference, a race car driver analogy was given, explaining how the driver only visualizes and focuses on the car’s trajectory or direction; hence, always target-oriented, and golf, like all sports,…

GREAT NEW TOOL TO HELP GOLFERS UNDERSTAND THE INNER GAME

As a golf coach, I am always looking for new ways to improve my coaching and my instruction program for my players and students. Over the years, I have been fortunate to help coach and develop some very good players.  At my indoor studio in Stuart, Florida, I have built a lot of great golf swings that have progressed into multiple all-area high school players and college players. As a coach, you learn that once the swing has been developed and the skill levels are achieved, it all comes down to the mental game and how the players think as they play and the way that they handle adversity on the course. Every now and then, a breakthrough technology comes along that improves the teaching process. Recently, I have come across a…

GOOD ANGER

We have all heard someone on TV or in person say a four-letter word after a bad shot.  Sometimes we might shake our heads, and other times we might understand the frustration.  How much anger should a player release after a bad shot? Some teachers say to stay level through the whole round, never getting too high or too low.  Others say to play with all emotions out for the world to see.  My preference falls in the middle.  As a player, you will have highs and lows in every round.  You need to be able to handle those mood changes to get the best out of your round. My motto has always been to give yourself five seconds to either celebrate a great shot or be upset about a…

VISUALIZATION–PART OF YOUR PRE-SHOT ROUTINE

Pre-shot routine is generally seen as the series of events leading up to the playing of a golf shot. These repetitive movements. as the term “routine” implies, are a great benefit to consistent shotmaking. If you know what you did before you swung the club (grip, stance, ball position), then all you are trying to retrieve is what the swing felt like. You must re-trace your steps to build the ability to set up to the ball with a high level of consistency. Also, this routine builds a safe haven that keeps pressure away from us. We end up creating a “window of opportunity” that allows us to feel the optimum time for us to swing the club. I teach my students that visualization, seeing the successful result, is as important as…

GOLF ON YOU TUBE: THE GOOD AND THE EVIL

For those of us over 40, YouTube means funny cat videos and crazy athletic stunts. For some instructors, You Tube is a way to market your business and reach out to students you never thought you would have the chance to help. Just as it pertains to other aspects of life, the Internet is a double-edged sword. For the well-connected instructor, YouTube can be a great learning tool, especially when it comes to technical subjects like ball flight, launch monitors, or how to use a training aid. If you have clients under 30, chances are they watch YouTube for help with their golf game. This begs the question: Is this media avenue helping or hurting the golf teaching professional? Most of the millennial generation grew up connecting with technology. Smartphones, the…

DO WE REALLY NEED A PRESIDENTS CUP?

I love the Ryder Cup. Lots of tradition dating all the way back to 1927 at Worcester Country Club. Unfortunately, it’s a course that would never be considered for any event in the modern era. But that’s another discussion. I always look forward to the Ryder Cup matches. The Presidents Cup, not so much. Not that there aren’t good players involved; it just seems to be a contrived event to me. I believe it was started out of envy. The PGA Tour, not involved in the Ryder Cup, decided to create an event to call its own. It does get plenty of attention, so in that aspect I guess most of the golf world is happy. I just don’t find it that interesting. But hey, that is just me. Something…

BAD COURSE CONDITIONS

If you watch golf on TV every weekend, you will see beautiful golf courses in perfect condition.  The players rave about how good the greens are and how nice the course is.  For most of us, this might not be the case.  Many people may not even be aware that the “tour” courses are closed down for weeks, if not a month, prior to the event.  And most “tour” events are held in locations where monthly dues are extremely high. I recently met with a student who played a tournament on a course that was not in very good condition.  He complained that the greens were bumpy and the fairways were too thin.  If you have played golf at any level, you have experienced this.  I heard a story about…

PLAYING LIKE A PRO/GOING OLD SCHOOL

The average golfer may not have the physical skills of a pro, but they sure could use the tools of a pro, and I’m not talking the latest and greatest golf clubs. It’s called “six inches”…the gray matter between our ears. True story as recited by a kid I coach while playing a tournament:  He’s standing on a tee box of a par-3, looking at his pin sheet (where exactly the hole is situated on the green…how far on and how far to the right or left). In this case, it was in the middle of the green and 1 yard short of center. The tee blocks are adjacent to the plaque indicating the yardage to the center of the green, and in this case it was 174 yards. One…

JOURNEY THROUGH A ROUND OF GOLF

As my players start to enter tournaments, I try to get them ready for the mental ups and downs I know will surely happen. No amount of talking and teaching will sufficiently prepare them for the internal struggle. Everyone is different in that way, and an integral part of success is finding the frame of mind that allows us to compete and still maintain our composure. I many times tell them of the “four-hour journey.” During that four hours (a round of golf), there will likely be one hour of good golf, one hour of bad golf, and two hours of average golf. You must deal with each period of time in the most productive way. When you are in the good stretch of golf, it is important to take note…

THE “SECRET” TO THE GAME?

For the 40 years that I have played golf, I have been hearing about the so-called “Secret to the Game.” I suppose golfers consider this secret to be the shortcut to scratch golf, a pearl of knowledge that trumps all else. Ben Hogan told us to “dig it out of the dirt.” To me, this means don’t be so foolish; just practice hard and create your own method or “Secret.”   If you examine the method of any great player, some things are obvious. If you look at the way the best players hold the club (grip), there are many subtle variations that allow for great ballstriking. No two players have the same golf swing. When watching golf on TV, you’ll see everyone’s swing is different. There are quick, slow, short and…

MY TOP-THREE LIST OF THINGS THAT HAVE DAMAGED GOLF

Golf is a great game that would even be greater, in my opinion, except for three things that cause me angst: Number 3 – the Stimpmeter.  I actually have friends who call ahead to golf courses to find out what speed the greens are rolling, and refuse to play if not to their satisfaction. When I was growing up, no one gave a hoot about green speed.  Most greens were rather slow, but all we cared about is that they were smooth.  It was rare that balls would roll to the hole and then trickle five to six feet past. All speed has caused is interminable delays as people mark their third and fourth putts. Number 2 – distance.  That’s all we hear about now.  No one thinks about strategy.…

THE GAME IS ALWAYS BIGGER

“No one is bigger than the game.”  This is a famous quote from sport that is highly recognized amongst many who have devoted their lives to golf.  Then, “Hello world” appeared on the scene. As Tiger Woods played the game for a period of 7-8 years at a level perhaps higher than any predecessor, we were not only witnessing greatness, but history. He had no competition when he was playing his “B” game, let alone his “A” game. Yes, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson conquered occasionally, but suffice it to say their respective stars and legacies would have shone far brighter be it not for Tiger’s presence. “Tiger-proofing” golf courses came in style; purses and TV ratings went ballistic; Nike launched  itself into the golf industry the moment Tiger donned…

WATER BALL?

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter was getting ready for her golf play day at our club.  She was in the garage over by my old golf stuff digging around for something.  When I asked her what she needed, she said she needed some water balls.  I asked her why; she told me there were a few par-3s that had a lot of water, and she didn’t want to lose any of her newer golf balls. I laughed a little, then told her she needed to think positive and not negative thoughts.  We spoke about visualizing where we wanted the ball to land, and what it looks like in the air while flying towards our target.  We also spoke of how negative thoughts normally lead to negative outcomes. Like…

MAKING GOLF HARDER NOT THE WAY TO GO

While reading a recent copy of Golf Georgia, I saw where a golf course was changing its greens from bentgrass to Champion Bermuda.  If you’re familiar with turfgrass, you know that bentgrass greens can be difficult to maintain in the South.  However, this particular course in north Georgia wasn’t having this problem.  It seemed that the bentgrass greens made the game too easy, in their view. The director of golf was quoted in the magazine as saying, “When the greens were soft you could shoot at the pins and could hold your shot.” So as not to embarrass the involved parties, I won’t name the course or the director who made this remark, but since when did a green holding a shot become a bad thing?  Do they really want…

GOLF LEADERS PILING ON TRUMP ARE OUT OF BOUNDS

I don’t dislike Donald Trump. I don’t necessarily like him, either.  I have the same feeling for him as I have for the Yankees, Patriots, Packers and Montreal Canadiens.  I hate them because they are always beating my teams. But I have to admit I respect them because they are so successful. I certainly respect Trump’s success. He does what he says and says what he does. I think people in general admire people like that.  Mr. Trump has done a lot for golf.  I was fortunate to play at Trump International in Palm Beach awhile back.  The course was quite impressive and the operation was first class. Now, the odds that I could play any of his courses on a regular basis are a million-to-one, but I am okay…

RELAXED CHIPPING MEANS LOW SCORING

I was fortunate to go to one round of the Masters and two rounds of the Heritage Classic, in Hilton Head, this Spring. As always, I spent a great deal of time watching the pros practice. I noticed a trend or change of thought in short game theory that is worth noting and passing to our students. Remember, tour pros base technique decisions on the best general result because it translates directly to money. They don’t chase theories that produce spotty results. In years past the tour pros felt like they were better off, when chipping, becoming adept with one or two clubs and then picking different landing spots. These clubs were generally some form of wedge. Now I see them using more of a Paul Runyan type of theory, which…

RAIN DELAYS

I was recently caddying in our local State Amateur qualifier for one of my young golf students.  After 10 holes, the skies opened up and the rain began.  We rushed to the clubhouse and saw the radar on the TV; it didn’t look good.  The golf course staff thought it would be at least a few hours’ delay. So, what to do during this time?  We ordered some food, talked about the round so far and small-talked.  After about 90 minutes, the staff said it would be another two hours at least.  After an hour of watching TV, I decided to play a little putting game in the clubhouse.  I set up a few folded napkins in an area with very few people.  We played a nine-hole putting match.  I…

US OPEN ILLUSTRATES HOW MUCH THE GAME HAS CHANGED – AND MAYBE NOT FOR THE BETTER

During the recent US Open, I can’t recall the exact hole, but a graphic came on the screen, showing that the carry distance to clear a set of bunkers and reach the fairway was 270 yards. There seemed to be quite a few holes like that at Chambers Bay. As a fellow who in his best times never hit the ball more than 240 yards, it hit me how much different today’s game is than the one I grew up playing. Whether golf today is better can be debated, but the gap between a tour pro and an average golfer has increased exponentially. One of the great appeals of golf used to be that the average golfer could try to play the same shot a tour pro would play on…

GOLF APPS

Today’s technology has made playing a round of golf easier for the modern player. It has also pretty much eliminated the use of caddies. The golf app has essentially become the modern player’s caddie. There are still some courses that recommend taking a caddie, or there is a charge for not using one –  Pinehurst #2 comes to mind as one of them. Tiger Woods was asked recently if there was a reason why there are not many young black players entering the PGA Tour or golf in general. His answer was, “Because there are so few caddie programs available that would introduce them to golf.” Every college program today allows the use of GPS technology when competing against other schools. However, the NCAA only allows the use of laser…

Some Top Myths of the Golf Swing

1. Myth: Head still / Head down The head moves slightly with the pivot of the swing but not up or down. It should never be ahead of the ball at impact. “Keep your head down” is bad advice because this tends to block the shoulder turn. 2. Myth: Toe of the club points up at the halfway-back position Use the clubface leading edge angle as a checkpoint as the toe of a club can be misleading with its design. In reality, the clubface angle should be somewhere near parallel to the spine angle. When the clubface angle is pointing straight up, it means that the hands have rotated more than necessary. 3. Myth: Hit with Your Legs / Hit the Ball with the Upper Body The legs should provide…

TAKING TIME OFF

Recently, one of the college students whom I work with came home from school. He had a wonderful fall season, but didn’t do so well in the spring. He had made a few swing changes, but seemed like he was on a good path. His poor play was something neither of us had seen coming. After meeting and looking at his swing, I was surprised to note that his swing was better than it was before the spring season. The changes looked good, but it didn’t appear as though it felt natural for the student. While talking about the past few months, I could hear the desperation in his voice; he just wanted to play great golf. I knew right then that the problem wasn’t in trusting the swing changes,…

MOTIVATION

Most people have heard the story about the “anonymous” survey that Sports Illustrated covered with some PGA Tour players. For those of you who haven’t, one of the questions asked to name the most overrated player on the PGA Tour. The top two players on the vote were Ricky Fowler and Ian Poulter. The results of the survey came out the Monday of the week prior to The Players championship. The media, being the media, took advantage of the situation and directed their questions on the topic to Fowler and Poulter. Of course, they also made sure to get input from the other players, as well. One reporter asked Fowler if he would use the results of the survey as motivation. Fowler said that he would, especially during the late…

POSTURE

Time away from the game is so good for the brain, from the working out aspect. The best thing for your golf is that the things you work on should always be posture related.  This is because the way we sit, stand, talk, and eat all reflect on how we are going to stand at the ball.  So, anything you do today reflects on tomorrow. The best posture in golf today is the one reflected by the number one player in the world.  Be very conscious of your posture when walking; walk like you have won five majors and are looking for more!  The workouts you do in the gym should not be golf related, but the biggest and the only thing that keeps anybody’s posture in perfect order, or…

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SHORT GAME

As a golf coach and teacher, I will tell you that the best players, wherever you go, spend at least 2/3 of their practice time working on their short game, which is putting, chipping, and pitching.  In my 53 years playing this game, I have never witnessed a player who spends too much time on these areas.  To see improvement, golfers must be disciplined to work on their short game every time they practice. Coaches and teachers should always emphasize that the principles of the short game, putting, chipping and pitching are the same as in the full swing.  The only difference is that your setup changes as a reaction to the club design.  The game is easier for the kids if they can have one swing instead of a…

REGIONAL EVENTS

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Southwest Regional Championship at Ridgeview Ranch in Plano, Texas, hosted by Bruce Sims.  This was my first regional tournament and I hope not my last. Regional tournaments like this have a number of positive effects.  Prior to the tournament, I played a few rounds to prepare, which is never a bad thing.  Getting the competitive juices flowing this early in the season is a great start to the opening of our golf season in the Midwest.  My students are excited to hear that I’m playing in a tournament, which leads to great conversations with them about what they want to do with their game. Once there, I reconnected with some old friends.  Golf is an amazing game, and as teaching…

NEW IDEAS FOR THE TEACHING PROFESSIONAL

Teaching golf has been done the same way for decades:  The pro offers 30- or 60-minutes lessons, along with a series of six lessons for a discount from the per-lesson price.  Go to any course in America today and there is a good chance you will see lessons being marketed in this manner. But what if there was a different way?  Can we come up with ways to give lessons that don’t necessarily involve the traditional model?  The innovative teacher would most resoundingly say “yes” to this.  Here are three ideas that can work for you: Lesson Memberships Many golf courses offer playing memberships, making it more economical for the frequent player to play golf, and lesson memberships can do the same for players seeking more than just an occasional…

SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES

Bubba Watson has won two of the three previous Masters; Tiger Woods has not won the same tournament in 10 years. Bubba has never been coached or had a coach as far as we know; Tiger has been coached his entire life. Bubba’s style of play is exciting but is not consistent week in, week out. Tiger’s style of play was beyond exciting and expected. Not anymore. The unexpected is fast becoming the expected and theories abound as to why. A golfer of yesteryear once dug it out of the ground. According to him, he would have arrived at his high level of play 10 years earlier had the advent of a video camera been at his disposal. He was not coached per se, but was open to advice during…

RE-INVENTING GOLF

Watching a recent Golf Channel discussion group on the state of the game, the subject, as often does, came around to how to grow the sport. The ideas were thoughtful and sincere, with mentions of getting more juniors playing, getting behind things like 15-inch holes, foot golf and Top Golf. These are all fine and good, but I am amazed that no one ever brings up an area of the game that has shown steady growth for the past 15 years – hickory golf. That’s what we who play it reverently refer to it as. Twenty years ago, one tournament existed where men and women played with clubs that came to America or were produced in America from 1890 to 1930. It was part of the Golf Collectors annual meeting…

THE MARKET DEMANDS NEW STRATEGIES FOR OBTAINING INSTRUCTOR POSITIONS

The current global economic conditions we live in and the state of the golf economy require the aspiring golf teaching professional to adapt and use sound strategies in attempting to obtain a teaching position. The teacher should be trying to accomplish two goals with his/her strategies: The first goal is to make yourself valuable. In other words, show your potential new facility how you can generate revenue for them. The second goal is to establish yourself as a viable professional. To create a task list for the first goal, the professional should start with a sound business plan. Business plan websites and software programs are easily available and make the task of creating a sound, professional business plan easy. When writing a plan to be presented, steer clear of simply writing…

Student Assessment: Key Ingredient In The Golf Teaching Recipe

Student Assessment Check List √ Previous golf experience √ Medical issues √ Body shape √ Motor coordination √ Flexibility √ Goal and objective Conducting a student assessment should be part of the first lesson and can be as simple as interviewing and observing the student. A lot of things can affect the way instructors teach and how the student learns. The more the instructor knows about a student gives the instructor the best chance to be successful with the instruction. It has been said many times that no two persons have like swings, and some of the reasons for that may be associated with items on the assessment checklist. Some items on the assessment checklist may interrelate, such as body style with coordination, flexibility, and coordination. Medical issues could certainly…

THE POWER OF POSITIVE

“Is the glass half full or half empty?”  This is a great question for golfers.  We know people who either complain about their golf game all the time or the golfer who always remains positive about their game even when things aren’t going well.  Which one has a better chance of being a good player?  Which player are you?  Which one do you teach your students? If you watched the Honda Classic, you witnessed Padraig Harrington playing some great and not-so-great golf on Sunday.  He didn’t have a great start, but he continued to grind on his game.  After the commentators quit talking about him, he rattled off four birdies in a row to get back at the top of the leaderboard.  Leading by one shot going into the very…

HANDLING TOURNAMENT PRESSURE

I was speaking to a student today about pressure. He said, “My swing won’t hold up under pressure.” He always assumes bad shots translate to his swing flaws. My statement to him was, “I think your swing is solid. It is not your SWING that won’t handle tournament pressure. It is your MECHANICS that don’t stand up to pressure.” Bad mechanics open up a wound on a solid golf swing. They force you to contrive the motion in hopes of scratching out a good result. Most of the time, it is a position we adopt before we ever swing the club that ruins the shot. A good player is on the range and he is deciding whether or not to play you for money today. If he notices a number…

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

When coming back to the game after an absence, managing expectations is very important.  We have all had setbacks in golf; they could be due to a long winter in the north or an injury.  Once we start playing again, the competitive juices begin to flow and we naturally have expectations of picking right up where we left off. It happens to everyone, from Tiger Woods to our students.  It is very hard to manage expectations.  As golf teaching professionals, we need to help our students by developing a proper game plan for their return.  Without a game plan, they will be set up for heartache by not immediately performing to their prior ability. One of my current students, whom I have been working with for a few years, has…

THE GOLF INSTRUCTOR

Just recently, say, two weeks ago, I felt very proud of one of my students.  She was playing in a two-day ladies’ tournament, and after the first day’s play, she came to me and said, “Coach, I need to say something to you concerning today’s play.  While marking my ball on the green, I accidentally pushed the ball forward.  No one saw what transpired, but I replaced my ball and called my marker to inform her of what had happened.  I then called a penalty shot on myself.” Golf shows who we are, what we are made of, what values our parents have instilled in us, and what our coach or teacher is teaching us. I hugged her and said, “Well done!”  She shot 78 with the penalty on that…

STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART

By USGTF member Anthony Benny Trinidad and Tobago Being involved in the game of golf for the past 57 years, I have noticed that once you are poor, there is no chance of making it at this game. But sport is for everyone, every walk of life, rich or poor. The greatest sportsmen and sportswomen come from the “grass roots” people. In an attempt to give back at my place of work, St. Andrews Golf Club, a decision was taken by one of the past managers to offer the nearby schools the opportunity in the game of golf. What a vision by this lady in helping to improve the life, skills and dreams of these young people! I am learning every day what an opportunity can do. Golf is not…

REAL GOLF

I recently met a man in his late 50s who wanted to learn to play golf. I asked him some basic questions: Had he played before or taken lessons, why did he want to pick up the game and what were his expectations? He told me he played when he was first out of college, but had a horrible time. I asked him to elaborate on this comment. One of his father’s friends had offered to give him a set of clubs to play with as long as he followed all of the rules and counted every shot. So this man read up a bit on the rules, went out for a few rounds, played the ball down everywhere, holed every putt and counted every shot. Guess what? He hated…

WE PROFESSIONALS NEED TO TAKE BACK THE NARRATIVE

I was watching an interesting podcast the other night. It was about the state of golf and what needs to be done to keep the game vibrant. The fellow on the screen said the problem we face is that we have allowed the media to dictate the narrative. All we hear from them is how golf is dying; golf courses are closing; fewer young people are playing; it takes too much time and it is too hard.  With that type of message constantly hitting the airways, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is true that several courses have closed in recent years, but it is also true that projections of new golfers from the National Golf Foundation were unrealistic, resulting in an oversupply of courses being built. The market today…

INDOOR GOLF

As some of you are making your tee times in December and playing in short-sleeve golf shirts, enjoy it!  Some of us are not that lucky, due to poor winter weather conditions where we live.  A few weeks ago, I was invited to play indoor golf with some friends.  At first I thought it would be a waste of time – and money.  To my surprise, it was a lot of fun.  The technology that the company invested in was very accurate.  To hit drivers, long irons and wedges while there is snow on the ground was pretty cool.  I will say that one of the members in our group commented that it was “just not real golf,” and it was a waste of money. To me, if you are…

DOES THE FUTURE OF GOLF LIE IN THE PAST?

It has been more than 15 years since I grabbed a handful of clubs with hickory shafts from my collection and played nine holes on an older links in Louisville, Kentucky. Did I play well? Considering that I made a 9 on the first hole, it would indicate that this form of golf was not something that was going to wet my whistle, as the saying goes. Then something happened. I had an attitude adjustment and just decided to enjoy the day and the golf course. On the next tee, I hit a drive that can only be described as “wow.” I looked at the club and then down the fairway and actually said “wow.” The next eight holes were some of the most enjoyable golf I had played in…

COMPETITIVE GOLF

Someone once said there are the two games of golf: golf with friends and tournament golf. It goes without being said that each game is completely different than the other. Either you play golf, or you play competitive golf. As golf teaching professionals, it is important for us to teach both. A majority of our work will be with the average golfer, helping them learn the game. Maybe one student wants to break 100 for first time, while another doesn’t want to be embarrassed at their annual work scramble. For those who desire to play non-competitively, we have all the answers. We can work fundamentals and teach them to develop a better short game. After awhile and when they become more confident in their game and their performance, some students…

USGTF Official Statement On PGA Of America And Ted Bishop

On Thursday, Ocotber 23, Ted Bishop, then president of the PGA of America, used social media to call professional golfer Ian Poulter a “lil girl” and compared him to a “little girl squealing at recess.”  Bishop’s remarks were in response to Poulter’s criticism in his new book of six-time major winner Nick Faldo, who had become a good friend of Bishop’s. On Friday, October 24, the PGA of America’s board of directors voted to dismiss Bishop from his position as president due to these remarks.  Although his tenure as PGA president will be recognized, he will not be accorded the position of an honorary past president as is customary. Since the USGTF was founded in 1989, we have had a record of inclusion and opportunity for all, including women.  The…

KNOW YOUR SHOT

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of playing in a charity scramble with some local business owners. All three members of our team were 10-15 handicappers. Most of the time in these events, people ask for advice on their golf swing. After a few holes, two of the golfers asked for me to look at their swings and help them. This went on for a bit, with me giving them some tips to help their games. The other member of the group didn’t ask for any help. He hit a big hook on every shot. His clubface was extremely closed at the top of his swing with an extra-strong grip. But…he aimed right on every shot and played the hook. When I asked him about his game, he…

JUMPING THE GUN ON THE DEATH OF GOLF

Headlines about golf have made CNN’s, CNBC’s, Fox News’, and many other TV news’ broadcasts lately. Normally, that would be great. A new Tiger Woods that the public, golfers and non-golfers, are excited about wasn’t the news headline. The reports were all about how the game of golf was in trouble and the game was in jeopardy of going the way of the dinosaurs. Let’s put some perspective on the situation. These uninformed opinions are based on three things. Let’s examine those things that have brought about such a panic. First, golf OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) sales have been dragging for well over a year now. Second, Dick’s Sporting Goods dismissed 468 golf professionals in one day. Third, golf courses are closing at a rate of 160 per year. For…

DOES THE TEACHER GET TOO MUCH CREDIT?

Sean Foley and Tiger Woods have gone separate ways. Tour pros hire instructors. Tour pros change instructors. Instructors sometimes coerce pros to hire them with some formula they claim is the secret to better golf. Does the instructor really make the pro? I believe more often it is the other way around. Most of the players are special talents to begin with, and messing with their natural abilities might not be the smartest course of action. The best advice I ever got was from Hall of Fame instructor Bob Toski, who said to me, “Teaching great players is easy, just don’t screw them up.” Certainly, the golf swing has benefited from technology, but at what point does it become too much? Does it really matter if a player knows what…

HELPFUL TIPS FOR STUDENTS

In the continuation of the series “Helpful Tips for Students,” we move on to preparing for the tee shot. The Tee Box Choose the Correct side of the Tee Box: Don’t just plop the tee and ball anywhere between the markers. Remember that you have the right to tee the ball up anywhere between the markers and up to two club-lengths behind the markers. The smart player uses this to his advantage. If a right-hander tends to fade the ball, he hits from the right side of the tee box; if he tends to hook the ball, he hits from the left side of the tee box. This can also help if there is trouble on one side of the fairway. Always tee the ball on the side of the…

HELPFUL TIPS FOR STUDENTS

In the continuation of the series “Helpful Tips for Students,” we move on to preparing for the tee shot. The Tee Box Choose the Correct side of the Tee Box: Don’t just plop the tee and ball anywhere between the markers. Remember that you have the right to tee the ball up anywhere between the markers and up to two club-lengths behind the markers. The smart player uses this to his advantage. If a right-hander tends to fade the ball, he hits from the right side of the tee box; if he tends to hook the ball, he hits from the left side of the tee box. This can also help if there is trouble on one side of the fairway. Always tee the ball on the side of the…

A Message to Golf Course Owners

By: Ken Kramp, Warren, Ohio USGTF Level III member As a golf course manager you are always expected to look for ways to increase your bottom line and explore opportunities to promote your facility. My question to you is this, “Have you looked at all types of golfers to reach this goal?” I would like to introduce to you a larger growing group of golfers that has visited your facility at least once a week for years. This foursome is made up from one family and includes a grandfather, father, son and daughter. Over time you may have noticed the foursome went to three, then two, and then one. One day you asked the daughter what happen to your grandfather, father and brother. The daughter informed you that her grandfather…

Teaching the Blind

By James W. “Jay” Wood USGTF Level III Member, Newark, Ohio The game we call golf is, as we know, challenging and very humbling.  But, what does it become if we take away the ability to see the course layout, the greens, and even the golf ball?  This is blind golf. What is blind golf like?  This is not a lesson on how to teach the visually-impaired, but this article contains some insights and experiences which have helped a blind golfer become competitive on the USBGA (United States Blind Golfers Association) tour. In 2004 I was offered the challenge of coaching a blind golfer.  The gentleman is totally blind with no light perception.  The time spent with him has been the most worthwhile and best experiences to date in my…

Teaching Amputee Golfers

BY: John Savage, Langhorne, PA Level IV Master Teaching Professional & Course Examiner One of the most important things to an amputee is to find some sort of physical activity. It lifts their spirits and gives them the feeling that they can accomplish more than just being able to walk. They must find a place where they can have fun. Some have found golf. There are many associations they can join, should they seek a competitive outlet. There are numerous clinics conducted across the United States that are sponsored by the Amputee Associations. These clinics are geared towards the hospital and rehab organizations. The clinic basically introduces and demonstrates the devices that have been invented to accommodate the various amputee situations; such as arms, hands, and legs. Golf pros are…

Teaching Special Olympics Golf

Written By: Lee Koukes USGTF Member, Chatsworth, CA About two years ago, I became acquainted with a little girl and her grandfather. They had been on the driving range many times and I was aware that the little girl had a handicap. The grandfather was so dedicated and the little girl so determined, that I stopped to see if I could be of any help. Amber had no use of her right hand and arm, and even though she was swinging with her left hand and arm, she was still using a right-handed person’s stance. We tried a few things, and it soon became apparent that she had pretty good control using her left hand and arm, but using the left-handed person’s stance. Right then, I decided that I wanted…

Teaching the Mentally Challenged

By: Pat Church, USGTF Level IV Member Eugene, Oregon During my experiences with the Special Olympics golf team the biggest lesson learned has been PATIENCE!!! Many of the golfers have mental, as well as physical disabilities, so constant repetition is a key to their success and sometimes testing our patience. The practice sessions I use for Special Olympics’ golfers, closely mimic what they will face in their regional & state competitions, thus providing a level of comfort and confidence to them. In the case of many of the Special Olympic golfers I have trained, the golf swing has been secondary to the fact that I am giving them a chance to have a new experience. I would assume that if a once physically abled golfer becomes disabled, we would be…

Teaching the Paraplegic

PARALYZED PEOPLE CAN PLAY GOLF! At one time, Anthony Netto was a professional golfer in South Africa with all the physical ability in the world.  In 1994, that reality changed drastically with an automobile accident that left Anthony paralyzed from the waist down.  He spent many months after the accident involved in grueling rehabilitation.  Determined not to give up on life and not content with confinement in a sitting position, Anthony began working with a team of engineers to design and develop a vehicle that would enable and help him to stand and play golf again. Anthony founded the Stand Up And Play Foundation, which aims to ensure that every state in the USA has at least five such vehicles, or ParaMobiles, available as therapeutic tools and to allow persons…

Group Lessons

Recently, I was contacted by a woman who wanted to take a series of lessons with two of her friends. She stated she felt more comfortable being around her friends while trying to learn how to play golf. This comment made me ask her to elaborate on her feelings. She continued on, saying she would be embarrassed to take a one-on-one lesson, and that it would be less intimidating to have some of her friends join her. This conversation made me think a lot about how I market my lessons and if I was missing out on something. Over the next few weeks, I spoke with some friends about group lessons, and to my surprise, many said they would like to take lessons in a group setting. Some of the…

Group Lessons

Recently, I was contacted by a woman who wanted to take a series of lessons with two of her friends. She stated she felt more comfortable being around her friends while trying to learn how to play golf. This comment made me ask her to elaborate on her feelings. She continued on, saying she would be embarrassed to take a one-on-one lesson, and that it would be less intimidating to have some of her friends join her. This conversation made me think a lot about how I market my lessons and if I was missing out on something. Over the next few weeks, I spoke with some friends about group lessons, and to my surprise, many said they would like to take lessons in a group setting. Some of the…

FedEx Cup still doesn’t have an identity – here’s how it can get one

The FedEx Cup has an identity crisis, in my opinion. Here we are, eight years into it, and I still haven’t figured out what it’s supposed to represent. Player of the year? No, that’s done by a vote. Leading money winner? No, the $10 million that goes to the winner is considered bonus money, not official prize money. A season-long reward, as it was originally advertised? No, someone can come out of nowhere and get hot and win. A reward for playing the best in the playoffs? No, because a player can win the first three playoff events, finish second at the Tour Championship, and not win the trophy. So, what is the FedEx Cup? My idea helps to give it a bit of an identity, and here it is.…

Time to stop ignoring the game’s heritage

As I was watching the Open from Royal Liverpool, a graphic came on the screen showing all the Championship winners at that venue going back to 1897. They were some of the giants of the game: Hagen, Hilton, Jones, Taylor, Thompson, and De Vincenzo, just to name a few. Then the commentator for the American broadcast said the following: “And for golfers in the United States, the only familiar name in the group is Tiger Woods.” The two professional golfers in the booth said nothing. I, on the other hand, would have said something like, “Come on, give the American golfer a little more credit than that for historical knowledge.” Then again, very little effort goes into presenting the historical perspective on a golf broadcast these days. It is sad,…

Look at the hole

Anyone watching this year’s Masters tournament heard the commentators talk about Jordan Spieth’s unusual putting routine of looking at the hole while putting shorter putts inside five feet. He would go through his pre-shot routine, and right before starting his putting stroke, he would look at the hole. Why? If a player is having a problem releasing the putter or accelerating through the putt, this is a great way to help with that. With your eyes focused on the hole, it is natural for your hands to swing freely towards the target. With the green speeds at Augusta National, it is understandable why someone would be timid with their putting stroke. Jordan must have felt he was not putting freely enough to do this during the last few rounds of…

Bad Shots

Bad shots are part of the game of golf; we all hit them.  After hitting a bad shot, there are different options on what happens next:  We can lose our temper while trying to hit a hero shot, or we can stay composed and hit a good shot to get us out of trouble.  I have found that one of the things separating great players from the rest of the field is they never follow a bad shot with another bad shot. Many times, watching the PGA Tour on TV, you will hear the announcer talk about a “comeback birdie.”  This is in reference to the player scoring a birdie after having a bogey or worse on the hole before.  Competitive golf is a lot about momentum.  Executing a good…

Helping your business by helping your student

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the golf business, and there is a lot, is that even golf teachers and golf professionals don’t understand the avenues available through the big name original equipment manufacturers to acquire the correct equipment without buying thousands of dollars of poorly matched equipment. It is an established fact that, through years of research by many different research firms, that the average golf consumer has a ”golf budget”:  greens fees, lessons, and equipment. Golf teaching professionals that do not help their students get the right equipment are unwittingly hurting their own business. How? Very simple. When the average golfer buys a mass-produced golf club that doesn’t work with their swing and ball flight, they are wasting a good chunk of their golf…

LEARNING A SKILL

LEARNING A SKILL, PART 1 A successful teacher can transmit his information to the student in the most effective manner possible. To help achieve this goal, it is important to understand how the student receives the information the teachers is sending him. Rather than delve into theories of learning a skill, use simple techniques to reach a student without the scientific clutter, although the goals are the same. Sports performance is basically how one’s psychomotor skills react to achieve a goal. The term “muscle memory” is misleading. Information is stored in the body’s computer – the brain. The brain is what stores memories. Many sports have similar actions and movements. All sports that require body rotation rely on the same core muscles as the source of stability and power. Therefore,…

LEARNING A SKILL

LEARNING A SKILL, PART 1 A successful teacher can transmit his information to the student in the most effective manner possible. To help achieve this goal, it is important to understand how the student receives the information the teachers is sending him. Rather than delve into theories of learning a skill, use simple techniques to reach a student without the scientific clutter, although the goals are the same. Sports performance is basically how one’s psychomotor skills react to achieve a goal. The term “muscle memory” is misleading. Information is stored in the body’s computer – the brain. The brain is what stores memories. Many sports have similar actions and movements. All sports that require body rotation rely on the same core muscles as the source of stability and power. Therefore,…

PINEHURST PROVES LUSH IS NOT A NECESSITY

There was a lot of brown showing in the recent U.S. Opens hosted at Pinehurst #2, along with several weeds around the edges of the course. On television, it looked a little ragged compared to most American golf courses that host tournaments on a weekly basis. In reality, most municipal courses in the country look more like Pinehurst than Augusta, and experience unfair criticism as a result. It takes a lot of water to keep grass green on the fairways, and water is becoming more and more a commodity we should not waste. Pinehurst now uses 70 percent less water per year, and from what I could see, the course played very well and was enjoyed by all the participants. The golf courses I grew up on did not get…

LONG IRONS: WHY?

Recently, I was playing golf with a few members of the golf club where I am at.  Both gentlemen are around 45-50 years of age and have about 10 handicaps.  On a long par-3, I noticed one of them pulled out a 3-iron.  He made a decent swing at it, but caught it a little thin and missed the green about 25 yards short and right of the green. When I inquired as to why was he carrying a long iron versus a hybrid, his answer shocked me.  He said that better players played long irons, including 2- and 3-irons. I started laughing at his statement, which started a nice little debate about long irons versus hybrids.  Both players were shocked that the longest iron in my bag is a 4-iron. My point to…

FOOT GOLF. SERIOUSLY?

I was watching NBC Nightly News over the weekend and one of their segments caught my eye. Some fellows on a golf course were kicking a soccer ball down the fairway and then at a hole the size of a 55-gallon drum in circumference. Apparently, this new sport called “foot golf” is all the rage. I am not necessarily one to cast aspersions on people who come up with new ways to entertain themselves, but I won’t be joining the ranks of foot golfers across the globe…just as I have never played a round of disc golf either. Why? Well, I became an avid golfer because of the challenge. How hard can it be to kick a big ball down a wide open fairway? Want to make it interesting, forego the…

SUCCESSFUL TEACHING FORMULA

By Thomas T Wartelle A simple diagnosis of a swing fault leads to a simple remedy.  This leads to positive results and success. Remember that most students are happy to hit the ball straight and 150 yards.  If a student wants to continue his progress, make a plan and work on only one or two swing faults a lesson.  With advanced golfers, find out what their goals are and develop a strategy to make improvements to their game. In teaching the game of golf, it is important not to overload the student with too many swing thoughts.   When many swing faults are diagnosed, too much effort is made in correction.  The student often becomes frustrated and loses confidence in his game.  At this point golf, becomes less enjoyable and the…

BOUNCE?!

A few weeks ago, I was playing a round of golf with some buddies. Their handicap range was from 15-25. About halfway through the round, I was shocked that none of them could pitch the ball with any height around the greens. Each one played their pitch shots with the leading edge of the club versus using the bounce. About halfway through our back nine, I asked each of them about bounce, of which they didn’t know what I was talking about. We had the course to ourselves, so I had each of them get a few extra balls out and we set up about 30 yards from the green. I explained what the bounce is and what it is there for. I had each player take some practice swings…

THE BASICS OF BEING A GOLF TEACHING PROFESSIONAL

Often, as golf teachers, we become so immersed in technical aspects of the golf swing that we tend to forget the basic fundamentals that should be followed as a golf teaching professional. The following are six basic fundamentals forming the foundation of the successful golf teaching professional: Professional Appearance One never gets a second chance to make a first impression. Appearance includes the obvious such as clothing and hairstyle. But, it goes much further than the obvious. A teacher’s personal action, manner, and style greatly influence the client. Besides the obvious, some common negative appearances are: The “know it all” pro, the egotistical tour pro, the cell phone slave, cigarette Marlboro man, and the disorganized pro. The first and final impressions of a lesson often influence the client’s choice of…

SAY IT AIN’T SO, PETER

By Mike Stevens I forget what tournament I was watching. It might have been the Honda Classic or Doral, but out of nowhere, Peter Jacobsen made a comment that today’s players are so much better than players of his era or before. I think the term “head and shoulders above” was in there. I was flabbergasted. Tell that to Ray Floyd, who won the Masters shooting 17 under par in 1976. How about Al Geiberger, who shot the first 59 in tournament play at the 1977 Memphis Classic played at 7,249 yards? These fellows were playing with equipment vastly inferior to today’s implements. They were also playing under conditions rarely found on any tournament course these days. To even hint that modern players are so much better today is ludicrous.…

RORY MCILROY’S PUTTING ROUTINE

Pre-shot routines are important, but in professional golf they are mandatory. You can use the pre-shot routine to help with nerves, calm you down after a bad shot, or keep a good round going. Many top players and amateurs alike have a pre-shot putting routine. They look at the putt from a few different angles, take a few practice strokes, and then stare at the hole and pull the trigger. After working with Dave Stockton, Rory McIlroy started a new routine with no practice strokes. Say what?! How could one of the top players in the world not take practice strokes? In Stockton’s camp, they believe that if you are a good-enough athlete, then you should be able to toss a ball to someone 20 feet away without a practice…

TIME TO STOP TALKING AND DO SOMETHING ABOUT SLOW PLAY ON TOUR

Seems like every time I read something about professional golf these days, the subject of slow play comes up. I was watching the Valspar Championship a couple of weeks ago, and the commentators dragged on and on about how long it was taking the last group to finish up. At the Valero Open, several discussions ensued about one of the contenders taking 15 to 20 practice swings before each shot. Can you really blame someone playing for millions or trying to win his first tournament for wanting to be absolutely ready before taking a swing? Of course not, especially if no one is going to do anything about it. If, as I read, it is such a concern, then do something. “It’s complicated,” is often the response. “It is hard…

GETTING THE GIRLS TO PLAY

Here’s an unbelievable fact concerning women and golf: Hundreds of Division I and Division II women’s golf scholarships go unused every year. With the continual rise in the cost of a college education, it is disappointing that we cannot get more young girls to play golf. Another amazing fact to go along with the waste of unused scholarships: Any girl who can break 90 consistently in high school meets can easily get a Division I scholarship. Let that sink in for a minute…simply playing bogey golf. Currently, about 26,000 girls play high school golf. That would seem like a lot until you consider there were over 7 million girls enrolled in high school in the U.S. That works out to be less than .4%! I regularly get inquiries from college…

THE FUTURE OF GOLF

There is much truth to the saying, “If it’s not, broke don’t fix it.” Every year, I go to the PGA Show, and there is talk of how to fix golf. This year, I heard more about bifurcating the rules, a topic that has been brewing for a couple of years. There was also the new sport of Hack Golf played with non-conforming clubs to a 15-inch hole. So, I had to ask myself, “Is there anything broken regarding golf?” The answer I came up with is that there are too many people trying to fix something that does not need fixing. Golf has survived for going on 600 years. There have been ups and downs in the cycle, just as there are ups and downs in all businesses. The…

FAIRWAY METAL, THE SHORT GAME SECRET

We have all been there, giving some great insight to a student’s swing fault, knowing they will not practice enough for the changes to become permanent.  It is not our place to yell at them and tell them they have to practice to become better.  But, it is our place to show them how to score better, even though their golf swing might not improve. We see it almost every week on the PGA Tour: A player uses their fairway wood to chip with around the green.  Why would the best players in the world use this method?  Because, it is easier than chipping off of poor lies.  The outcome of these bad shots is better than the outcome of bad shots when chipping. When speaking with students, we talk…

VIDEO ANALYSIS

The correct video camera is an excellent teaching aid and an essential tool for the teaching professional.  It provides the ability to freeze the action, slow the swing down, and give added information when diagnosing faults.  But, caution must be taken with our analysis.  We do not want the student to become confused and lose confidence. Positioning of the camera is essential.  The ideal position is at right angles to certain points.  One important point is the hands.  Therefore, the camera should be at right angles and at the level of the hands.   Other camera angles are possible but often require more specialized equipment. The two most used camera positions are facing the student (Teaching Position 1) and behind the student between the intended target line and body (Teaching Position…

GOLF IN THE OLYMPICS?

In the spirit of this month’s Winter Olympics, it is imperative we in the golf industry – and all golf fans worldwide – voice our opinion about the individual format for golf at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as recently decided upon by the International Golf Federation ( IGF).  I know I’m not alone in espousing an anti-individual format and would highly revere witnessing a team competition for a host of reasons. I am not going to mince words. The IGF got this wrong, in my opinion. I’ll prelude my position by also stating I don’t even believe golf should be in the Olympics in the first place.  However, since it is a “fait accompli,” a team competition should take precedent over an individual one. I’ll digress. First, to remove a…

SOCIAL MEDIA: IT’S A MUST

As golf teaching professionals, most of us are independent contractors. Some of us might work for a golf club, driving range, or golf school.  Like most businesses, we are always looking for ways to grow our business, gain new clients, and solidify our trade.  Social media is a great way to advertise, reach new clients, and stay in touch with current students. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are free to use and efficient, as many of your students are most likely already using these sites.  By accessing these forms of marketing, you can stay connected to your students and grow your business for free.  Free is always good for small business owners! When you start a Facebook page, it will help you expand in many ways.  You are able…

LEAVE IT TO THE GOVERNMENT TO LOOK A GIFT HORSE IN THE MOUTH

The business consultant Peter Drucker said that what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done. If I were to apply this to government, I could say it consists of making it difficult to conduct business. ESPN recently did an exposé on the charitable giving of the PGA Tour and noted that a watchdog group gave them a zero rating because they don’t give enough to the charities they support. The basic issue comes down to the fact that the PGA Tour gets tax-exempt status, and according to the report, they have been able to avoid $200 million in taxes over the past 20 years. The fact that the tour has raised over $2 billion for charities appears to mean nothing. Now, some…

PROVIDING CUSTOMER SERVICE

Teaching golf is a service industry.  It falls in the same category as restaurants, tourism, and entertainment.  The client does not have to take a lesson; he wants to take a lesson.  It is important to remember this, as golf lessons are basically luxury items. As a teaching professional we should: • Promote the game of golf. • Provide superior teaching techniques. • Deliver excellent customer service. Some interesting statistic concerning customer service: • 96% of customers who feel they were served poorly do not complain. • 90% of those who feel they were served poorly will not return for a lesson. • Each poorly served customer will tell at least nine people and some will tell over twenty. • 95% of customers will return if their problem is resolved…

TRAINING AIDS

As golf teaching professionals, we constantly look for ways to help our students get better.  We read books, attend continuing education classes, watch videos, and visit with other golf teaching professionals, all the while trying to learn more and become a better instructor. For anyone has been to a large golf store chain like Edwin Watts or watched  Golf Channel, we have seen numerous training aids.  Ironically enough, each piece of equipment or technique boasts that it can cure every fault in the golf swing.  Now, while it would be nice, we all know there is no quick fix or miracle pill you can take to attain the perfect golf swing. How often do you try these training aids?  Do you research the new training aids as they come into…

IS IT TIME TO ALLOW YARDAGE MEASURING DEVICES ON THE PGA TOUR?

They are everywhere these days and they come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. GPS yardage devices are common among the crowd I play with, and it has helped speed up the overall time of our weekly round. No more hunting for the nearest sprinkler head or pacing off from the 150 post; just push a button or read a meter, then select a club. Our high school golf association allows devices in matches and tournaments as long at they give distance only. It has definitely sped up play, in my opinion. In a time when just about everyone in the golf industry is lamenting slow play, maybe it is time to relax the rules against such devices. The USGA and PGA Tour do not allow yardage devices in…

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

This time of year, many of us will reflect back over the past 12 months, thinking about the good things that happened, as well as what we would like to change for the upcoming year.  Hopefully, our students are doing the same thing for their golf game:  Analyzing their rounds, possibly worrying about things that could go wrong, and wanting to do better in 2014. As golf teaching professionals, we should encourage our students to focus on the positives for the upcoming year and provide them with a plan to make their resolutions become reality.  The most important thing to do is make them aware of your presence, even if you’re not physically there working with them on the course.  As their instructor, it is our duty to provide encouragement…

TECHNOLOGY OR TRADITION – WHICH IS BETTER FOR TEACHING GOLF?

Legendary teacher Bob Toski never got on board.  Nor did the late USGTF teaching professional Julius Richardson, a member of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers list.  There are a number of other teachers who didn’t, either.  To what am I referring? Technology.  Things like video, computers, the K-Vest, etc.  “Old school” teachers like Toski rely on their eyes to tell them everything they need to know about what’s going on in the swing – even finely honed swings like a tour player’s. So, we see it’s possible to teach at a high level without technology.  This brings up a question:  Which is better, old school or new school? A few years ago in one of the golf magazines, they attempted to answer the question of which school was “better.”  The writer…

PRINCIPLES OF PRACTICE

The following are solid principles to follow that will help to develop your teaching skills: Only perfect practice makes perfect Golf is a skill; therefore, practice golf in pressure conditions.  This is the major difference between learning a skill and learning a technique.  Keep practices sessions short and frequent when working on a new skill.  Use practice time efficiently.  Students should experience a reasonable amount of success at each practice session.  Make practice fun as well as challenging. Positive Attitude towards Learning No matter what the standard of the player, a good instructor will make him or her better. It is important that any learning situation should focus toward success. The attitude of the teaching professional and student should be characterized by two qualities: An open mind to receive new…

REACHING THAT NEXT LEVEL

Do you want to reach that next level as a golfer?  Tour players have consistent practice routines that they follow to prepare themselves for “playing the game of golf” on the actual golf course.  The following are some tips to help you improve your full swing practice routine. Warm-Up Always start with a warm-up routine such as making slow swings with a shorter club such as a 9-iron.  Hit a few easy shots and then stretch your back, shoulders, and wrists.   Mechanics About 5 -10 balls with every other club starting with the 9-iron or wedge.  Use a guide or training aids for alignment and path.  Work your way up to the driver using every other club in the bag.  Then work your way back down to the short…

REACHING THAT NEXT LEVEL (PART 2)

Do you want to reach that next level as a golfer?  Tour players have consistent practice routine that they follow to prepare themselves for “playing the game of golf” on the actual golf course.  The following are some tips to help you improve your short game practice routine. Putting Mechanics Straight 3-foot putts on chalk line.  Make a set number such as 18, 25, or more. Use guide or training aids for alignment and path.   Distance Control Hit five or more long putts only working on feel. Work on 15-foot putts using a 14-inch arc behind the hole   Playing the Game Three-putt game – go nine holes, and each time you three-putt you must return to “Q” School, where you must return to the 3-foot chalk line and…

PRE-ROUND ROUTINE

Many of our students don’t practice enough, but then again, that can apply to many of us as well.  An average golfer may rush from his car to the course.  They might take 20 minutes to warm up prior to teeing off; typically, they will hit some shots, maybe putt a few balls, then off to the tee.  It is important to teach our students how to properly warm up for a round of golf, especially when they are rushed for time. To me, it is more important to have a good feeling regarding your short game versus the long game.  Too many players think they need to hit a lot of drivers on the range, because that is the club they will most likely use off the first tee. …

KNOW YOUR YARDAGE

I have the pleasure of working with some great high school student-athletes who want to play at the college level.  Tournament golf is very different from recreational golf, and scoring average is very important.  As many of you know, the short game is the most important component of scoring, which makes it the place we need to focus most of our practice time. When I begin working with a new student, I walk off 20 or 30 yards, drop a head cover, walk another 30 yards, and drop another head cover.  I will ask them how far the head covers are and after their guess, we shoot the head covers with a laser range finder.  More often than not, they are far off with their guesses.  This exercise is a…

STAYING IN CONTROL OF YOUR GOLF LESSONS!

Have you ever felt yourself losing control of a golf lesson? I see it happen quite often, and in all honesty, it has happened to me more than once. Maybe you think you have never lost control of a golf lesson in the past. I’m not talking about the entire lesson being in disarray with you and your student hollering at each other. Hopefully, if you do lose control, it will be much more subtle than that. What can we use as criteria to determine losing control of a golf lesson? How about a breakdown in communication, to the point of your student saying that he/she doesn’t understand what you are saying to them? What about you and your student disagreeing on the objective of that lesson? What if your…

REFINING YOUR GOLF TEACHING SKILL

Three simple elements that will make you a better golf instructor: Positive Communication  Make sure you introduce the skill in a clear and concise way.  Use language that the golfer can understand.  Try to be as brief as possible and create a positive learning environment. • Get the golfer’s attention. • Make sure that the golfer can see and hear everything about the skill that they need to. • Give a reason for learning the skill. Demonstrations Every picture is worth a thousand words.  Shapes you see affect shapes you make.  Show more and talk less.  Ask players to mentally rehearse the movement after they have seen the demonstration.  For your own credibility, it is important that you use demonstration.  If you cannot perform the skill, use the best available…

KEEPING UP WITH TECHNOLOGY

For anyone in the golf business, especially an instructor, it is imperative to keep up with the latest golf technology. Sometimes it concerns golf clubs, but more often than not, it is the technology related to improving the golfer’s game that is constantly improving. To illustrate my point, if we wrote a book on technology related to teaching the game just five years ago, the book would already be very obsolete. Some of the best products to hit the market heavily this year are the instant golf swing feedback devices. Most of these devices hook onto your golf club. There are even products that are placed in your golf glove. Products like this fall into the same category as video or training aids – they need a professional to interpret…

CHARITY GOLF TOURNAMENTS

We have all been asked by a friend or colleague to play in a charity scramble, one of those six-hour tournaments where you swing out of your shoes to kill every drive.  Many golf professionals hate playing scrambles, especially ones that take up the entire day.  If you have to spend an extensive amount of time playing in a tournament such as this, consider it a great opportunity to build your business, and at the same time, benefit the tournament without playing a six-hour round. When I hear about charity tournaments, I call the tournament director or organizer, explain who I am, and that I would like to donate my time and skills to the tournament by giving free five-minute video lessons to the players.  100% of the time, the…

I LIKE THE IDEA OF GOLF PLAYOFFS, BUT…?

I have been watching the FedEx Cup playoffs the past couple of weeks, but for the life of me, I can’t really understand what is going on. I have to rely on the announcers to let me know who is in what place and who is winning, even though the guy in first place might be in tenth place. Go figure. In every other sport, the playoffs are pretty simple – win and you move on, and the clock, so to speak, starts all over again. Every team or individual in the playoff has a chance to win – even the ones that barely sneak in at the last moment. I’m not sure that is true for the golf playoffs. Let’s see. They play tournaments from January until the Wyndham…

PUTTING LESSONS: THE LESSONS THAT ARE OFTEN FORGOTTEN

For the longest time, I didn’t understand why people ask for putting tips, but never ask for a putting lesson.  Many people don’t understand the importance of putting, and if they do, they can’t rationalize spending the money for a putting lesson.  About a year ago, I started offering putting lessons for $20 for 20 minutes. I found out a few things by doing this.  I increased my hourly wage, and I was able to generate a lot of lessons from people who weren’t taking lessons prior.  My hourly lesson rate is $45 per hour, and at three putting lessons per hour, I increased my hourly wage to $60 per hour.  Obviously, more money is never a bad thing, but the extra students gained and having my name associated with…

WHO DETERMINES THE RIGHT TO PRIVACY?

We all want it: The right to be free from someone telling us what we can and can’t do. As long as it is within the law and does no harm to someone else, it should be no one’s business what we do in our daily lives. The Open Championship was held at Muirfield this year, a private men-only golf club. A lot of people in the press and public office decried the fact that the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, which runs the championship, held the tournament here.  How can you put on such a public event at a location that discriminates against women, was the cry! I think sometimes people read into the meaning of words a bit too much. To discriminate means simply to differentiate between things.…

TEACH CORRECT WARM-UP TECHNIQUES

Fitness research has shown that proper warm-up technique does not start with stretching.  This goes against traditional thinking.  Stretching is the same as activating or using a muscle.  Just as in lifting a dumbbell, when stretching a muscle group the muscles must expand and then contracts to complete the task.  Imagine walking into the gym and curling a 60 lb. dumbbell without warming-up. The correct technique is to warm up slowly before stretching.  This could include a slow jog, but more realistically for the golfer, simply striking a few short shots with an easy swing.  The best way is to make short 20-30 yard pitch shorts then slowly working into ¾ pitch shots.  After a few minutes, begin stretching out the muscles focusing on the major muscle groups for golf. …

“GOLF IS A GAME OF HERITAGE AND TRADITION”…REALLY?

I love baseball. Here is a game rich with tradition and time-honored practices. Over the years, I’ve seen my share of well-executed double plays or a bullet thrown from deep short to beat a runner by a single step. Year after year, and yet I never tire of it. Golf claims to have such a legacy, but today’s game is nothing like the game that first took hold in this country or the game I played growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. In fact, if golf does have a tradition, it is one of constant change. The driving force behind all of it is one thing – distance. Everyone is obsessed with it. Just about every new lesson starts with, “How do I get more distance?” It has spawned…

HAVE YOU TAKEN A LESSON LATELY?

As teaching professionals, we must continue to learn.  We have to better our skills and possess the desire to learn more.  There are many ways to learn:  Read books written by the top teachers, visit with other teaching professionals (at events like the USGTF’s US Cup), and take lessons. By taking lessons from accredited teachers, it will help you learn to communicate with your students better.  We have all had lessons when the student didn’t understand what we were trying to convey.  This didn’t mean we didn’t know what we were talking about, but it meant we weren’t communicating properly with this particular student.  Listening to other teachers describe a problem or how to perform a certain drill helps you learn other ways to speak with your students. This spring,…

THE VALUE OF TRAINING AIDS

With some students, words, demonstrations, and even drills aren’t enough. In these cases, the use of training aids can provide the teaching professional with an additional option to help improve a student’s understanding. Training aids are just as the name implies: An aid to assist in teaching and to assist the student in learning. The myriads of training devices available seemingly address every aspect of the golf game. These aids come in all types, from inexpensive and homemade (such as a cut-down broom, a towel under the arms) to expensive and elaborate. In the minds of some, teaching devices fall in to the category of gimmicky, running from questionable to worthless. True, there are some bad teaching aids, which tend to drag the good ones down. In using a training…

ARE WE KEEPING IT SIMPLE?

I was on my way to the lesson tee a few weeks ago, and one of the other teaching professionals was giving a lesson to a six-year-old boy.  Glancing at the boy’s swing, I would classify him as a beginner.  I overheard the pro telling the youngster and his dad that his clubface was too closed at the top of his swing.  Walking to my lesson I kept asking myself, “Do I keep things simple for my students . . .  especially children?” When teaching children or even beginners, we can often over-complicate things.  Many of us speak a language very few understand.  Swing plane, clubface angle, forearm rotation and spine angle are everyday terms in our world, but not many students know what they mean or how it applies…

WILL THIS YEAR’S US OPEN TELL US ANYTHING ABOUT MODERN GOLF?

Many people in golf believe that the distance people are hitting the golf ball these days is detrimental to the game. Yet, the governing bodies don’t seem to be overly concerned about it. Even though they acknowledge that the pros are hitting the ball farther, they counter with statements that the scoring has not changed very much. Rarely do they point to the fact that golf courses have gotten much longer to offset yardage gains. This year could have been a perfect opportunity to compare just how much modern equipment has changed the game, or not. The US Open is being played at the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. In all previous Opens, the course ranged from 6,480 yards to 6,550 yards. That is what Merion played to in…

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM ADAM SCOTT

This year’s Masters tournament provided a lot of great lessons we can learn from and teach our students.  The one that stands out the most in my mind is the patience that the winner, Adam Scott, exemplified during his final round.  Patience is something many of us preach to our students, or even try to work on in our own game, but it is more difficult to integrate than other skills. During the final round, Scott began his round with a bogey on the first hole.  His demeanor walking off the green was very calm; one couldn’t tell if he made a par or worse.  He parred the next hole, which is a par-5 that many players think is a birdie hole.  Again, he walked off the green very calm,…

THE PROBLEM WITH TOO MUCH BOUNCE ON A WEDGE

One of the biggest faults I see in intermediate and advanced golfers in their short games is they create too much lag in their pitching and chipping swings. That is, they lead with the hands too much and the clubhead lags behind.  This usually stems from a powerful swing which compresses the ball. This golfer often struggles with touch around the greens and often struggles with taking too big of a divot. The problem I see stems from the selection of wedges that they are using. I teach my students to use low-bounce wedges, which help to get the leading edge under the ball without having to lead with the wrists. Leading with the hands through impact creates a low punchy style of a shot that is often inconsistent, and…

PLAYING BETTER GOLF IS UP TO YOU

In many places around the country, the golf season is just getting underway. Clubs are coming out of their hibernating places such as garages or attics, club lockers, or car trunks. And, the quest for the perfect golf swing begins again. It seems like each season there is a new theory on how to do something that people have been doing for hundreds of years. It is often easy to become over-reliant on the words of a golf teacher to the point of forgetting that golf requires time and repetition. Not to say that a teacher isn’t relevant, but understand that the teacher/student relationship is really a journey in self-discovery. Unfortunately, golfers good and bad will try anything that even hints at being the one thing that they think will…

THE IMPORTANCE OF BALL POSITION AND STANCE WIDTH

Ball position and stance width are two key fundamentals that can have a great effect on a golfer’s impact position.  The following data is an average of the measurements for these positions from over 100 Tour players.  How do you measure up?  Ball Position For the driver, the ball is positioned directly in line with the lead foot instep. The ball slightly moves progressively back in the stance with each club. From the driver to the 9-iron, the ball moves back 2.7 inches for Tour professionals. For individuals with extremely wide stances, the ball can move slightly further back but not more than 5 inches or past the center point. Stance Width The stance width with a 5-iron should be shoulder width. The driver stance is the widest, with averages…

SLOW PLAY: ARE WE RESPONSIBLE?

There is a weekly money game at one of the local country clubs in Kansas near my home.  There are a lot of great players in the game, including mini-tour players.  A few months back I was paired with two mini-tour players, along with a top local college player.  We were the fourth out of six groups to tee off in the money game.  Five hours later we finished, at least two holes, if not three, behind the group in front of us. During the round, I mentioned that we were falling behind the group in front of us, and we needed to pick up our pace.  I guess my opinions went on deaf ears because we never sped up at all.  After our round, I wasn’t very happy with…

FUNDAMENTALS ALWAYS WORK!

As the spring season makes its way into many parts of the northern US and Canada, players that have been dreaming of playing golf on their favorite courses are now getting really excited about the 2013 golf season.,,   For those of us that live in the Sun Belt, we have been in full golf season for almost six months and are starting to see our winter friends leave for their homes in the north. A few weeks ago, I started my middle-school golf program and was thrilled to have almost 30 young players show up for golf from grades 3 to 8. As we started out training programs, we were spending a lot of time on the chipping and putting greens working on our short games. On one afternoon, as we…

LOFT IS YOUR FRIEND

As the spring season makes its way into many parts of the northern US and the Masters starts to loom on everyone’s must-watch golf radar, I wanted to write about the new technology that has come out in the driver market for 2013. There are some really great new products from all the major manufacturers this spring, many with new technology that allows players to adjust their clubs to fit their games with changeable hosel and new weight systems. For many low-handicap players, the ability to adjust the clubhead just slightly can make a big difference in the shot patterns and launch angles of any new driver. As many of you know, I make a living selling golf equipment, so I wanted to share with you some information that I have been finding though our demo days in South Florida.…

SELLING YOUR TALENT!

As golf teaching professionals, it is important to have highly developed technical knowledge and teaching skills.  However, we must be able to sell that skill (lessons) to be financially successful.  Therefore, it is important to market yourself as a golf teaching professional.  The USGTF provides numerous resources that are available from the National Office.  Here are some often-overlooked points that will help you become a better and more successful instructor: Your professional experience and talent are valuable assets.  Therefore, do not be afraid to sell your talents.  Often, golf instructors charge too little for their time, talent, and experience.   Try to sell a percentage of your lessons as a program such as group lessons.  If you charge $75 per hour for an individual lesson but charge $30 per group…

SLOWING DOWN THE GOLF BALL

Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, and even Tiger Woods have all advocated creating a golf ball that flies shorter instead of making courses longer or completely redesigning classic layouts to keep them from becoming obsolete. Balls today go crazy distances. Pros oftentimes are hitting drives 350 yards or more. Manufacturers are putting out balls all the time that go farther and farther. Yet, ask them to create a ball that goes shorter and they act like putting a man on the moon is easier. Check out this quote from a USGA official: “Developing a new ball to substantially different specifications like that is almost like starting over for the ball manufacturers,” said Dick Rugge of the USGA. All the major companies have multiple ball lines, each with different characteristics intended for…

Learn from the legends of the game

As we look towards the Masters and the opening of the golf season in the northern part of the country, I think now would be a great time to set some goals about your golf game and to learn a few lessons from four of the great players of all time! Recently, I have been able to spend some quality time around some of the game’s best older players like Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, and Lee Trevino.  What I took away from my conversations can be a great asset to most players.  Some of what I heard has nothing to do with the swing or technical part of the game, but more of what they believe made them the best players they could be.  Here is what I…

Everyone loves the long ball

As we get ready for the spring season, I think now is the time to start working on your swing and getting your lesson plans prepared to start teaching golf. Over the last few weeks, my attention has been placed on the secrets of developing more distance and power in the golf swing. Ever since I started playing golf, I have been able to hit the ball a long way. People have always asked me how I do it.  For the longest time, my response was simple – swing hard!  Now, that I am a little older, I don’t have the same speed that I had in my 20s and 30s, but I still hit the ball a long way, so I decided to start writing about getting more distance.…

What a country…you can buy a game

I was watching one of the recent tour events on TV and couldn’t help but notice all the golf commercials touting how great a particular club was. One club hits it farther than any other on the market, or so the claim. Phil Mickelson says his driver is a game changer. Seems modern equipment is all you need to tool around the course under par, and not one mention about whether any skill is required when swinging said utensils. I have been around golf a long time. I have never seen a club that did not require the individual to have some proficiency regarding proper technique. Remember when they created the offset driver and fairway woods that were guaranteed to cure the average person’s slice? Seen any of those clubs…

The anchoring debate – a contrarian view

Okay I guess it’s time to chime in:  To ban or not to ban? The R&A and USGA‘s question/comment period regarding their proposed ban on the anchored stroke ended Thursday, February 28.  Not surprisingly, the PGA Tour is against the ruling, and many players who were initially pro-ban have now done an about-face. Many former players and media pundits claim a ban would drive droves of people from the game. This is simply not true. We have seen decreases in the numbers of people playing the game in the last decade, and the anchored stroke has increased in popularity. That being said, an interesting statistic to determine would be the amount of people who have returned to golf due to the popularity of the anchored stroke. Probably very few. Time,…

TEACHING GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT

Understanding golf course management and playing to our strengths is something that comes second-nature to most of us, simply because of the time we have spent at the game.   For many of our students, however, this is not the case.  They have not been taught how to play on the course or to learn to play to their golfing strengths. There are many things that need to be taught regarding course management, but two of the most important are ball flight and a player’s natural golfing strengths.  Course management can be discussed on the range, but playing lessons are the best way to teach course management.  Being able to see the angles you are teaching during a round will help your students have a better understanding of course management. Every…

The age of adjustability

With the debut of the 2013 golf clubs, the golf equipment industry has fully embraced the adjustable golf club. Altering the original state of a golf club is nothing new. The concept of changing the club may seem new to new players and young professionals, but golfers and club repair professionals have been doing it since a clubhead was attached to a shaft to hit a golf ball centuries ago. The goal for the manufacturer may be to produce more sales, but adjustability is an age-old concept that definitely helps golfers of all abilities. Most golfers are afraid of the idea, which is really a shame. The problem lies in bad education of the golfer from not only the manufacturer, but also the golf professional. Sadly enough, too many golf…

The rules and etiquette for the golf instructor

The golf teaching professional should teach and set an example of the proper etiquette on the golf course.   In the USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club of Saint Andrews rulebook, the section on etiquette is only a few pages.  But, conduct on the golf course is much more than just two pages in a rulebook.  As golf instructors, we should never assume that a student already knows proper etiquette on the golf course.  Often, simple etiquette issues like pace of play, where to stand, or how to repair a ball mark are often overlooked. The professional should know and play by the rules.  Frequently, we are asked to answer a rules question.  The key is to have knowledge of how to use the rulebook.  It is not necessary to…

Boost your student’s mental games with situational similarity

Aaron Baddeley came out blistering hot in the first round of the 2013 Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation to shoot a 64 (eventually finishing T27).  It was an amazing start for someone who has not played competitive golf for three months, and for most of that time was just playing Mr. Mom to his children because his wife was pregnant and under bed rest. To get mentally ready for his first competitive round, Baddeley arrived to the tournament site a week early and played highly competitive games with his mate, Geoff Ogilvy. These high stake games were getting him mentally prepared for the intense pressure on the PGA tour. In actuality, Baddeley was getting mentally tough by practicing what sports scientists have deemed “situational similarity.” Put simply,…

True potential

How many times have you heard, “I play 14 holes really well, but there’s always four holes that kill my score”?  Or, “If I could only play to my full potential.”  Even better, “My mulligan shots are so much better than my first shots.”  We’ve even felt that way ourselves.  There is always something to improve upon during a round: A misplayed chip shot, wrong club selection, or even where we left our ball to play the next shot.  One way to learn from these mistakes (among others) is to play a three-ball scramble by yourself. By playing a “solo” three-ball scramble, your students learn from their mistakes: Poor swings, bad course management, and wrong club selection.  If you are able to accompany your students while they are playing the scramble, you…

USGTF – Stewards of the game

I have a bone to pick. It’s with us, the golf professionals. There was a time when we were the stewards of the game.  The first golf professional, Alan Robertson of St. Andrews, was the best player of his era, although his young apprentice Tom Morris was not far behind.  Mr. Robertson ran St. Andrews and a clubmaking company. “Old Tom,” as he was to become known, took on a position at the newly-formed Prestwick Club upon being fired for playing the new guttie ball. His boss was manufacturing the feathery and obviously did not take kindly to his young assistant embracing technology. It was at Prestwick where Tom plied his trade and became the true founding father of the modern game. He designed, laid out and maintained the course,…

TIGHTENING THE V’S!

This is one of the most basic and yet advanced positions in the golf swing.  Basic, because it is something that should be taught to beginners, and advanced, because if a person is to reach advanced levels of golf, they need to employ tight V’s.  We can call it a position because it involves the positioning of the hands, but also because it is best observed at the address position.  However, this fundamentally essential principle should be maintained throughout the golf swing. Look at every single player on the PGA Tour and you will see tight V’s.  I say every single player, because I’ve not seen one yet that doesn’t have tight V’s.  Maybe there is one out there, though!  The only player that I can recall in past years…

Lower Your Score by Working Back from 100 Yards

I wanted to share with you a great way to get your game sharp in a hurry.  This is one of the games that we play on my golf teams in Florida. Find a course that allows you to practice on a hole, or find a golf center that has practice holes.  Start at 100 yards with your 100-yard club and use five golf balls.  Your goal is to hit the middle of the green with all five balls and two-putt.  If you miss the green, you have to get up and down.  You goal is to make three shots on four out of the five balls.  If you make four out five from 100 yards, you can move back to your next club.  If you start with a wedge at 100, your next club…

Teach your students to make every course be thier favorite course

There’s an old saying in golf: “Different horses for different courses.” Some players just think and play better on certain courses.  This mental game principle fits Steve Stricker to a tee. Defending his crown, Stricker raced to a strong second-place finish at the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.  Stricker stated, “This is a special place to start the year.” Clearly, his enjoyment for the Plantation Course at Kapalua has propelled his play to great heights. Even with a pain racing down his left leg due to a pinched nerve, Steve proceeded to shoot a 69 on Sunday, and impressively, hit every green in regulation. But Steve Stricker is not unique in having a playing affair with a certain course.  Ben Hogan played so well at the Riviera Country…

Play the front tees to go low

All players have a comfort zone when playing the game.  However, when you stray from the zone, say when you’re on pace to break 100 for the first time, or when you’re several under par early during a round, it’s easy to get nervous.  These emotions are natural, and it takes visualization and training to keep them under control.  There are several ways to do this when playing great golf.  One very successful drill I use with my students, to ensure a sense of calmness when entering the zone, is to play a few rounds from the front tees. When students play from closer tees, it helps them hit more greens in regulation, getting to par-5s in two and maybe driving some par-4 greens.  I want my students to have…

Who is really to blame for slow play?

An issue that comes up constantly when the talking heads discuss the state of the game is slow play. I can understand when two professionals playing for millions of dollars take their time to complete a round of golf, but five to six hours for the rest of us seems a bit extreme. When I was a young lad caddying for my dad’s group, we always finished in 3 ½ hours. The last round I played with my regulars took 5 ½ hours. I’m not talking about guys who score in the 100s, either. The highest score was 83. So, what’s happened and who’s to blame? The knee-jerk reaction from most is always people are imitating the pros, taking numerous practice swings, or standing over a two-foot putt forever. In…

Golf…the team game

After 40 years of playing and watching golf, I am not fazed by much of what I see. But, the recent Ryder Cup was amazing. Watching talented athletes that were programmed to be independent from childhood become so emotional about a team competition was fascinating. They may have been playing for their country, but I think just as much or more they were playing for each other. These guys play against each other intensely all year, battling every week. Here they are, pulling so hard for each other, you could feel the tension and drama through the TV. It may not have turned out the way you wanted, depending on your nationality, but the competition was something to savor and appreciate. Most all of us that play or played the…

To anchor or not…

We have come to the point that has been building for almost two years regarding whether belly or long putters will remain legal, or to be more specific, what constitutes a stroke according to the rules of golf. As has been the case with other rules changes, this is a reactionary change. It could be Sam Snead dropping putts from everywhere while straddling his putting line, or Johnny Miller going on and on during a broadcast about how much spin the tour players are getting out of the rough with the old grooves. Because of the recent success of a few tour players that use the longer putters anchored to the body, once again the USGA and the R&A have responded to the publicity. After over 120 years of golf…

Golf and the PGA tour are alive and well!

I remember at the start of this year that many sportswriters were saying that we need Tiger Woods back on his game, because golf has taken a big hit since he fell from his perch atop the golfing world.  Just take a look, however, at what has emerged in the last nine months or so. We’ve had two very solid golfers (Luke Donald and Rory McIlroy) from the UK that have dueled it out for the top ranking this entire year.  McIlroy has pretty much established himself as the best golfer on the planet now, and has in fact proven that his top ranking is something that he can handle, as he has played extremely well since becoming number one in the world. Except for Woods, there have been times…

Helpful tips for students… continued

To finish the series “Helpful Tips for Students,” we conclude with trouble shots. Trouble Shots Stand tall when the ball is above your feet: Stand taller than normal when the ball is above your feet and expect the ball to draw. Because the ball is above your feet, you have to adjust your stance accordingly. Standing tall helps you sweep the ball. It also helps to imagine hitting a baseball off of a tee. Sit down when the ball is below your feet: Feel as if you are sitting down more when the ball is below your feet and expect the ball to fade. Try to lower yourself until you imagine you have a level stance. If the ball is three inches below your feet, then sit down three inches…

Helpful tips for students… continued

To finish the series “Helpful Tips for Students,” we conclude with trouble shots. Trouble Shots Stand tall when the ball is above your feet: Stand taller than normal when the ball is above your feet and expect the ball to draw. Because the ball is above your feet, you have to adjust your stance accordingly. Standing tall helps you sweep the ball. It also helps to imagine hitting a baseball off of a tee. Sit down when the ball is below your feet: Feel as if you are sitting down more when the ball is below your feet and expect the ball to fade. Try to lower yourself until you imagine you have a level stance. If the ball is three inches below your feet, then sit down three inches…

In Middle Tennessee

In Middle Tennessee, we are now in the season of transition. The leaves are bright orange and yellow. and all will soon leave their branches and fall to the earth. Nature is making its transition into winter. Transition is a desirable state for many in the workforce. Many individuals are unhappy in their current state. They would like a higher paying job or just a more gratifying job. Some are fortunate enough to make that leap, while others have too many obligations to even think about making a change, despite being miserable at work. Joe Moglia was one of the fortunate ones. He began his career as an assistant college football coach. He loved his job. But, he was only making $33,000 at the time and needed to feed his…

Whatever happened to “for the love of the game”?

Appearance fees…Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy just got a big bunch of change for playing in a tournament overseas. Tiger and Phil, it is said, got a lot of money to appear at the Greenbrier Classic. I understand it, but that does not make me happy about it. On the one hand you want to attract the largest crowd you can, but if there are no marquee players, attendance suffers. Big-name players don’t necessarily want to play in the middle of nowhere, even if it is an historic course. Golf is big business. Gone are the days when players barnstormed the country in efforts to expose people to the game or raise money for worthy causes like the war effort. Money is what it is all about now. It is…

Helpful Tips for Students…continued

In continuation of the series “Helpful Tips for Students”, we move on to” around the green & putting”. Around the Greens Distance Control on Pitch Shots:  Control the distance of your wedges by swing speed, shortening the club and length of swing. The best wedge players rely on their tempo or swing speed when hitting wedge shots under pressure.  Copy the great wedge players such as:  Bobby Jones, Lee Trevino, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Seve Ballesteros. Soft Lob Shots:  Feel as if there is a quarter on the face of the club through impact.  Don’t let the quarter fall off.  The secret to high soft lob shots is to never let the face turn over through impact. Sand Shots:  Practice with the club grounded about one inch behind the ball. …

USGTF or PGA? The truth may surprise you.

If you go to the Internet and search for “USGTF” and “PGA,” you inevitably will come across some discussion boards and blogs debating the pros and cons of each organization.  And, also inevitably, some of these opinions are rendered by PGA professionals, who, of course, tout their organization as the superior one when it comes to teaching. Does perception meet fact?  Well, let’s look at the facts and see what they are. The PGA has been around since 1916, with no competition whatsoever and the USGTF’s position has always been that the PGA is a fine organization.  Their members do a great job running the nation’s pro shops and serving the public.  They also promote themselves as teachers of the game.  But, it might surprise you to know that, prior to 1994, PGA professionals had NO REQUIREMENTS to learn anything…

Learning and teaching golf

There are two very general concepts when it comes to how to control the golf swing: (1) Control is achieved via the large muscles of the shoulders, chest, torso and hips, and (2) control is achieved via the smaller muscles connected to the hands and arms.   We hear all the time on Golf Channel about the large muscles of the chest controlling the turn and the hips producing power. While this might be the case for a few tour professionals, it certainly isn’t the whole story, and, in most cases, isn’t that much of the story. We hear a lot less about case (2) because it is no longer very fashionable. However, if an amateur golfer only uses the large muscles in (1), there will be little resembling a golf swing…

Teachers should be the best learners

I believe that it is important that we always hunger to learn. Think of the many changes throughout our careers. I’ll begin with EQUIPMENT. Over the years, golf instruction has been based on the equipment of the day. Much of the “old school” teaching was based on feel. The player had to harmonize with his equipment, and there were no guarantees of consistency from club to club. The way we swing the club today is a direct reflection of the equipment, which has been frequency-matched against much tighter controls. Next, think about TECHNOLOGY. The use of video, launch monitors, TrackMan, and other advances have given us more information than ever before. At some point, though, a student will still need to know what causes their problems and what path they must take to find…

Golf in the olympics

After a 112-year absence, golf returns to the Olympics in Rio in 2016. The push for golf to be returned as an Olympic sport has been a longtime goal of the golf establishment, but the success and effect on the game is a point of debate among many experts and the golf media. There are also many open questions about the format, course, and the competitors.   Several factors contributed to the acceptance of golf back into the Games, the most important being golf’s increasing international appeal and popularity. There is no question that this is also another after-effect of Tiger Woods’ dominance, popularity, and international appeal. The recent push for golf back into the Games started during the height of Woods’ perch as the king of golf.   There…

The heart of matters

Another Ryder Cup has come and gone. It is difficult to quantify the reasons for the devastating defeat the American squad endured. There is no doubt fingers are being pointed in a variety of directions. Media pundits have countless theories, but the answer lies at the heart of matters.   When I first met Geoff Bryant, he spoke of his “modus operandi,” which was to have fun, and to this day he has never wavered from this philosophy.  Having fun is a pure concept, but it is the most basic fundamental and one that encompasses in its entirety why we play golf. This holds especially true for players who compete at the pinnacle of the sport, the Ryder Cup.  Not one of these men picked up a club in their…

Is it time for the Ryder Cup to change its format again?

Prior to 1979, the Ryder Cup was not a competitive event and the public had little interest in it, save for some die-hard golf fans in Great Britain and Ireland.  All of that changed that year, when Jack Nicklaus’ suggestion to Lord Darby for GB & I to include all of continental Europe was put into action. The first three editions of the USA vs. Europe did not pay immediate dividends, as the US squad triumphed.  In 1985, Europe won on home soil for the first time, and in 1987 the unthinkable happened – the US lost at home.  Far from being catastrophic, at the time it was seen as a healthy development for the matches, because it created interest in 1989 that the matches had never before seen. Fast-forward…

Maybe a little reverse psychology should be used to grow the game

Every year a golf organization comes up with some type of initiative whose intent is to grow the game of golf. This year it is Golf 2.0. Last year was Play it Forward. We have also had Play Golf America, Link up to Golf, Get Golf Ready, and a myriad of other catch-phrase programs. Yet, the number of people playing golf has declined over the past five years. Maybe this type of approach is wrong. There is an old saying regarding golf that goes “less is more.”  Maybe that approach should be applied to marketing the game. Instead of trying to make it easier for people to take up golf, perhaps a forbidden-fruit philosophy or grass-is-greener on the other side mentality is the way to go.   I just read…

Fedex cup good but, but it can be made great

Several years ago, the PGA Tour instituted the FedEx Cup to give an exclamation point to the end of the season.  The Cup was based on the NASCAR system, which determines the champion of that racing circuit.  The Cup has done some of what it’s supposed to do, namely keep fan interest alive and provide some drama at a time when interest in professional golf starts to wane.   Still, in 2012, the FedEx Cup has somewhat of an identity crisis:  What, exactly, is it supposed to determine?  The major championships all have their long-established niches, and the Player of the Year may well be someone other than the FedEx Cup champion.  Contrast that to other sports, where there is a clear-cut champion at the end of each season.  The…

Diversify your life’s portfolio to increase your happiness and productivity

Brandt Snedecker won the 2012 Tour Championship as well as the FedEx Cup for a whopping $11.4 million. When we see his victory from a distance, we might come to believe it was his ability to hit fairways and fantastic putting that made the difference (Brandt was #1 for both in this tournament). I say it is Brandt’s attitude which makes him a champion. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Brandt when he played at Vanderbilt University.  My impressions of him were that he was quite insightful and bright, well beyond his years. When interviewed at the Tour Championship this past week, Brandt stated that he has learned a powerful lesson as he got older:  Having balance in his life gave him a better golf game. Brandt mentioned…

Equipment and balls have not changed the game significantly… oh, really?

The USGA continues to say that equipment and ball improvements have had little effect on how the game is played. Are you kidding me? If that were the case, then why is it they are adding 500 yards to the Merion Golf Club for next year’s US Open? The original layout of the East Course measured just less than 6,500 yards. For the Open next year, it will be stretched to a whisker under 7,000 yards. I’m sure they would have made it longer if there was room. Merion is situated on a mere 128 acres. As it is, one tee is being moved almost off the golf course for added length. The fact of the matter is modern equipment and balls have significantly altered how the game is played.…

Why I Teach Golf

When I was 21, just after I began my studies in education, I had a brief conversation with a close friend that altered my life. A couple of years earlier, with a small degree of enthusiasm, I decided to pursue a career as a schoolteacher. It ran in my family and it was a profession that did hold some appeal: summers off, decent benefits, significant opportunity, reliable income, etc. But in my heart I knew it wasn’t really what I wanted. The game of golf had been a passion of mine since I was a young teenager. My appetite for the game showed up in a number of ways: reading whatever I could about the best players, daydreaming about golf, playing as much as possible (mostly in a field outside my…

From Humble Roots We Have Blossomed In Our Profession

As golf teaching professionals we have it pretty good. Our students put us on a pedestal just because we can hit a little ball straight. We’re thought of as highly as their doctor, financial adviser or lawyer (well maybe not lawyer). Let’s just say we hold a pretty lofty position in the public eye. Ah, but it wasn’t always the case. In the 500 years that golf has been played, it has only been about 70 years that professionals have been allowed to enter the clubhouse of a private course. In the early days of golf, pros were considered to be less than second class citizens. To trace the roots of our profession, we must return to the year 1740, a period of relative prosperity in Scotland. Many a merchant…

Random Musings

…I pulled out my old 1961 Walter Hagan laminated driver the other day and compared it to my modern high-tech titanium/composite driver. Guess what? I hit the modern driver all of 10 yards farther than my old one when both were hit solidly. …Speaking of distance, the median driving distance on the PGA Tour in 2012 at the time of this writing is 288.4 yards. In 2000 (beginning of titanium era), 273.2; in 1990 (beginning of metal era), 263.1; and, in 1980, firmly in the persimmon-balata era, 256.7. Let’s use 1990 as the benchmark, because at that time few thought distance was a problem in the pro game. Over the course of 14 drives, today’s players have a 354.2-yard advantage over their counterparts of 1990…so someone please explain to me…

The Olympic Mindset of Golf

Everyone gets nervous: You, me, and even Olympic athletes, including the great Michael Phelps. We all get butterflies when the situation is important to us. That is human nature. The difference is how we view this nervousness.   There is a wise saying in sports psychology: “It is okay to have butterflies; just make sure they fly in the right formation.” Successful Olympians in London this past year needed to have command over their butterflies. All it takes is reframing the situation. When you help your students to develop this skill, they, too, can take home the “gold.”   Case in point: Aly Raisman, part of the USA’s “Fab 5” on this year’s gold medal women’s gymnastic team. On the night of the finals, the pressure was immense. The women’s…

The “Open” Championship Should be re-named

It’s the oldest championship in golf – The Open Championship, or, as informally known, the British Open. It has been played since 1861, when the Civil War first took hold in America.   Throughout the years, the qualifying procedure was fairly open. Not too long ago, American professionals (even club and mini-tour pros) were exempted through the first stage of qualifying and they could go directly to the finals. British professionals, rightly, didn’t like this, so this special exemption was changed a number of years ago, and more American professionals had to go through both stages of qualifying.   Fast forward to today. Most people consider the US Open and The Open to be the two most democratic tournaments in the world. This designation does apply for the US Open,…

The Game Doesn’t Need Better Golfers – It Needs Better Putters

The saying in the headline is attributed to humorist Will Rogers. He could not understand how a person could hit a ball from 150 yards and end up three feet from the hole, but then miss the ensuing putt.   He must not have been a golfer.   Putting has been the bane of golfers for centuries. Has there been any club more invented, re-invented, and discarded than the flat stick? For such a simple tool, there has also been plenty of controversy. In 1904, Walter Travis won the British Amateur using a center-shafted Schenectady putter. Shortly after, the R&A banned the putter from use, although there is no proof that the putter was responsible for his win. More likely, it was the fact that he was the first American…

The Importance Of Interaction By The Professional Instructor

Of the many components that make up good golf instruction, the most overlooked has to be the instructor’s ability to key in on the way people learn. A vast majority of golfers try to learn verbally. In the worst-case example, they listen to their friends and relatives spew out “tips” and try to take the spoken word and translate it into a physical movement.   Many years ago I heard a great quote from the Hall of Famer Kathy Whitworth, winner of an amazing 74 LPGA tournaments: “Golf, unlike most sports, has a number of clichés, often disguised as ‘tips.’ My advice is, watch out!”   I never hear the word “tip” without thinking of her. Unfortunately, most golfers don’t apply every day common sense to golf. Can you really…

A Gift From Albert Einstein To All Teachers!

Do yourself and your students a huge favor and memorize a quote from Albert Einstein, and then apply what he said to your teaching so that you can not only understand more about cause and effect in the golf swing, but also learn how to communicate with your students more effectively.  This quote is regarding his first postulate (assuming something is true because of a preponderance of evidence) of his Theory of Special Relativity.  Sound too intellectual?  Really, it is not difficult to comprehend once you can assimilate the basic meaning.   I memorized what he said back in 1998, and I can tell you emphatically it has made me a much more effective teacher.  In my opinion, what he said applies to every single facet of life.  I wish…

A Tough Spring For Golf Instruction

2012 hasn’t started out as a banner year for the business of golf instruction. The biggest stories in golf gave golf instruction a big blow to the midsection, with the first story being the continuing saga of Tiger Woods attempt to return to the king of competitive golf. The second story is the great win posted by Bubba Watson at the Masters in April. In the case of Tiger, many still believe his insistence on continuing to rework his golf swing has led to his struggles on the tour. Some blame Hank Haney and some blame Sean Foley, his current coach. In either case, it is interesting listening to the anti-instruction segment proclaim he should have never messed with his swing. Apparently, those people ignore his success at rebuilding his…

Spinal Compression Angle

You owe it to your students to teach them about proper posture. You can divide the spine into three segments: Lumbar (lower back), thoracic (mid to upper back) and cervical (neck). Dynamic posture is very important, but you establish predispositions with static posture, so let’s focus on static posture for now. Using concise terms that are clear to your student is essential, so if you will indulge me, I will use the terms that I use when referring to posture.   The primary spine angle is best seen from down the line; the secondary spine angle from the front or face on. Looking from down the line, if you have software capabilities with video that you have taken of the student, start a line from the farthest that their bottom…

Where I Think Golf Is Off-Base

British golf writer John Huggin recently penned an article detesting the fact that the R&A has spent £10 million renovating all the Open courses to combat technology advances in golf. His point primarily was that courses previously provided holes with several strategic ways to play, but now are made into one-dimensional options.   There is no question that the distance people are now hitting the golf ball has altered the way many of our early golf courses were intended to be played. Courses are now toughened up by narrowing fairways, adding forced carries, or growing rough that only people with blacksmith forearms can hack through. If a person can hit the ball 30 more yards, they should be rewarded for the effort. Instead, oftentimes the greens committee or tournament setup…

PEAKS & VALLEYS

A vital lesson for anyone who aspires to play golf at a high level is understanding the “Peaks and Valleys.” It’s human nature to grasp the moments that give us pleasure and to hope that we could live in that feeling. Unfortunately, our journey in golf is likely to have as many down moments as moments of brilliance. The key is to learn to enjoy the bad as much as the good. I teach my students that the “valley” they will experience is the real opportunity to learn what our weaknesses are. Honest self-analysis is the greatest talent we can have in golf (or life, for that matter.) A slump is an opportunity that will allow us to rise to a peak we have never known. Tour pros understand this…

When The Price Is Right, People Will Respond

There is a lot of talk about the state of the game these days and what needs to be done to create growth. Not many talk about reducing their prices, however, to attract more people.   I have been on a few forums lately, and you would think that lowering the price of a lesson or a round of golf is akin to selling your soul to the devil. Let’s be realistic for a moment, however. People are always looking for a deal, and in a tough economy even more so. I know I do. I play with a regular group of guys once a week, and we generally go to the course with the best rate.   Amenities only go so far. My friends are not going to pay…

Teaching Simple Pitch Shots

The technique used for pitching the ball is basically the same as with other full shots with a golf club.  The only changes are a smaller swing, a slightly opened stance, and an open hip position that most good wedge players use.  This is done because the smaller swing of the wedge.  By opening the stance and hips, it gives the body a little more room to clear through the shot. The length of the backswing and speed of the downswing influence the distance control on pitch shots.  A longer backswing increases the potential speed of the clubhead. There are several different theories on how to control distance.  Some advocate the length of backswing dictates the distance hit.  Others control the distance by swing speed.  Personally, I think that is…

Golf Needs New Thinking

Many of us have been lucky enough to make a living in the great game of golf. At a time when the game has taken a beating from the economy, it is the duty of all of us in the industry to give back to the game to make it healthy and growing again. As I sat in the front row of the audience at the January PGA show in Orlando listening to the great Jack Nicklaus speak, I couldn’t help but be moved by his words. It wasn’t only his words, but the tone in his voice and the obvious concern you could see on his face. Here was this die-hard traditionalist talking about how he had to revisit his beliefs and attitudes in order to realize that the…

Good For Bubba – And For Golf!

Wasn’t that a blast! Louis Oosthuizen making his albatross on number two, and then Bubba Watson with his four birdies in a row on the back nine that kept most of us on the edge of our seats. Then to have Phil Mickelson lurking…and most of us knowing that it would be just like him to pounce on the leaders, adding to our anticipation. Bubba then demonstrated in sudden death that golf, like life, is about realizing our mistakes, reassessing our predicament, and having a commitment to recover. The 2012 Masters will be considered a classic for a long time! Not only that but it was very good for the game of golf. There is another star on the PGA Tour. Oh sure, Bubba has been around for awhile, and…

What We Can Learn from Kyle Stanley – A Tour Winner

The saga of Kyle Stanley on the PGA Tour this year provides us with a teachable moment.   First, let’s recap. Stanley had a three-shot lead coming into #18 on Sunday at the Farmer’s Insurance Open in San Diego. He proceeded to hit his third shot onto the green, but it spun back into the water. He took a penalty stroke, hit his fifth shot onto the green and then proceed to three-putt, making a triple bogey. He then lost the playoff to Brandt Snedeker.   The very next week, he went on to win the Waste Management event in Phoenix.   The question is, “What can we learn from Stanley’s exploits?”   First, Stanley admitted that he was very nervous during the playoff. Many amatuers believe that the players…

Building Your Method

The first professional golf lesson I ever gave was with “Mr. Golf Channel Know It All.” He decided to contest every statement I made. Because of that, I made a commitment: always follow “how” with “why.” Now, the statement is, “This is what I would like to see you do, and this is why I would like to see you do it.” Hopefully, the student says, “That makes sense, I see why you do that.” From that point on they have ownership of that knowledge and have begun to build their method. My students know they will be asked to share, show knowledge, and actively participate in the discussion. Every aspect of their method must match so that a ball flight pattern can develop. Even at a tour level, you see players sometimes chasing…

It is our job to create more golfers

On a National Broadcast of the World Match Play Championship, PGA Tour Commissioner, Tim Finchem, said more people are playing golf, just less of it. Does that even make any sense? Let’s see, I have a business with 100 customers who patronize me 10 times a month. If I do my math correctly, that is 1,000 purchases. Now I hire the commish and he sends me another 100 customers. Two hundred new customers, I’m jumping for joy and business is booming. I get greedy and service starts to suffer. My customers are only visiting me 4 times a month. But hey, I have more customers, they are just coming less. So instead of 1,000 purchases, I am now sending out 800 products each month. Does this sound like the way…

What Stokes Your Passion?

Several years ago, I was asked if I could go watch the Special Olympics participants that I had been working with for a few years at their state golf meet. The group that I worked with was called the Spring Panthers. There were about eight regular participants, but sometimes up to 15. I took my wife with me and was surprised to see several hundred people at the golf course who were from all over the state of Texas. They had several different competitions such as putting, chipping, pitching, and for those who were more advanced, they could participate in a nine-hole championship. Our most advanced player, Kevin, competed in that event and did very well.   I watched as Tracy was competing in the putting contest. The competition was…

NO BETTER SPORT THAN GOLF TO REVEAL A PERSON’S CHARACTER

There’s an old saying, “It’s not what happens to you but how you react.” Kyle Stanley reacted in a spectacular way to failure.   On the 72nd hole of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Stanley had a 3-stroke lead when he put his third shot on the par-5 into the water. After a penalty and a 3-putt, Stanley found himself in a playoff with hardened veteran Brandt Snedeker, who won on the second playoff hole. The defeat was all the more crushing because Stanley earlier had a 7-stroke lead during the final round.   You might expect Stanley, being a young guy, to take weeks or even months to recover from such an event. Nope. Stanley promptly won the following week at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix…

From the Teacher’s Desk….

The Demise of the Custom Clubmaker   One of the great life lessons may be that everything changes. Golf is no different than life. The days of the skilled custom clubmaker are slowly coming to an end. What once was a thriving sub-industry of the golf equipment business has taken a steady nosedive since 2005.   Although there is still a market for knowledgeable and skilled equipment professionals, the market is becoming very small. The demand today is more for adjusting or altering and reshafting name-brand equipment. Even in the day of very easy and affordable access to custom clubs from the big OEMs, golfers still buy ill-fitted clubs, so there will always some business for the custom shop. A small percentage of clubmakers saw the inevitable, and adjusted quickly…

The Value of a Knock-down!

Just got through watching Kyle Stanley triple bogey #18 at the 2012 Farmers Insurance Open, and it reminded me of Greg Norman during an extended portion of his career. Greg found it very difficult to get close to back pins, because he had the habit of bringing the ball into the greens with too much spin. It was very common to see him fly the ball past the hole and then see it spin back to the front of the green. Later, after working with Butch Harmon, he learned how to hit a knock-down with a little more expertise, although he never really learned to hit it with talent that was comparable to the rest of his game.   Some people said Kyle choked his guts out, while others said…

THREE RULES I WOULD DEFINITELY CHANGE IF I WERE IN CHARGE

Rory McIlroy was penalized two strokes for wiping away sand from just off the green that was in his line of play at a tournament in Abu Dhabi recently. He finished one shot behind the winner, Robert Rock. A few years ago, several gallery members lifted a boulder out of the way so Tiger Woods could play a shot. No penalty.   The rules of golf allow loose impediments to be removed from one’s line of play or around the golf ball. Size of the impediment should not matter. A grain of sand should not be considered any differently than a stick, pebble, or boulder. Here’s another rub. You can wipe sand from your line of putt if you are on the green, but not if it is in your…

Let the Belly Handle the Pressure

In the last issue, Mark Harman insightfully illustrated in his article “The long and Short of it” that the incredibly popularly belly putter did not sink more putts than the conventional length putter when yielded by a PGA pro. While it looks like most pros are turning to the belly putter, Mark statistically proved that Keegan Bradley did not fare any better than Steve Stricker from 10 feet.   While putter length may not matter at the professional level, I do believe the belly putter will help any amateur sink more putts under pressure. The reason is simple.   Our core big muscles (such as our trunk and abdominal areas) are less susceptible to anxiety than our small muscles. The core big muscles are primarily used with the belly putter…

Should the PGA Merchandise Show Open its Door to more People?

In a few weeks the golf industry will hold its annual gathering of merchants displaying their goods and services. Every possible item from tees to range rovers will be on display. Golf pros, retailers and service providers with proper credentials are admitted to show floor to view the extravaganza. The folks manning the booths greet their buyers and troll for new customers in hopes of increasing their market share and growing their particular business. I have been attending for about ten years and not much has changed. To be honest it has gotten a bit stale. The main reason I go is because I run into many friends I have made over the years. I’m sure a lot of attendees feel the same way. That in my opinion does not…

In My Opinion….. Narrow Mindedness

I have a good friend named Perry Somers, an Australian who resides in Germany. Like me he has embraced playing golf with hickory shafted clubs. An excellent player he has competed in the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship. This year he returned to his native land to participate in the Senior PGA tournament and as a tribute to the game, he planned to play with his hickory clubs. Nice touch, most would say. Not the PGA however. They deemed Perry’s clubs illegal and refused to let him play. The reason? It would be unlikely that grooves made by hand would be exactly parallel and thus they would not conform to the rules. Are you kidding me? I read somewhere that those who think themselves wise are the greatest fools.…

STACK & TILT (PART 3)

The Deception When Stack & Tilt first appeared as a cover story on Golf Digest in June 2007, it made claims of it being the way most past champions move their body when swinging the club. In December 2009, Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer also appeared on the Charlie Rose show espousing their technique further by showing pictures of past champions. This is where the deception starts. Many may recall their (Bennett & Plummer) marquee student Aaron Baddeley in the article, demonstrating in photos the leaning of the spine toward the target. Two years later on the Charlie Rose show, the two showed photos of past greats Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller at the top of their respective back-swing positions. They claimed the photos accurately demonstrated…

As Teaching Professionals

As Teaching Professionals we should be able to help our students improve their games with proper equipment. As many of you know there are many types of products on the market but a good full package set can have a dramatic effect on the improvement of players trying to get better if they don’t have clubs. A full package set has a driver, fairways, hybrid, irons, wedge, putter and bag.  For years I have been working with Tour Edge golf, and I recommend a lot of full package sets to my students who are starting the game. For a little more then price of a top brand driver I can get a student into a full set of life time warranty clubs that will give the confidence to get better.…

THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT

Keegan Bradley won a major with it. Bill Haas won the FedEx Cup with it. Webb Simpson had a career year with it.   Of course, we’re talking about belly putters. And, they’ve caused quite a stir. Many of golf’s greats and other observers make the case that using a belly putter isn’t a “real” golf stroke because the end of the putter is anchored against the body. They also decry the use of the long putter, where the left hand anchors the putter near the sternum. Bernhard Langer is the most noted user of this method.   Are these putters really a problem? If you look at the year-end statistics for the PGA Tour, no one who uses a belly or long putter is in the top eight of…

STACK & TILT (PART 2) stripped down

Stack & Tilt aficionados regard the technique as the “holy grail” to golf enlightenment. They are devout followers of Plummer and Bennett, Mac O’Grady and “The Golfing Machine”. The techniques are based on physics, biomechanics and kinesiology and are espoused by its proponents like the gospel. As I mentioned in my previous article the main premise of the technique is to strike the ground in the same place every time with the club. Let’s put this in perspective. One of the most difficult elements for golfers of most levels is to strike the ball consistently without striking the ground before the ball or missing the ground all together or in other words hitting fat and thin shots. The main concepts of Stack & Tilt to help rectify the problem are…

STACK & TILT (PART 1)

When discussing uniformity in golf instruction we cannot ignore the now famous if not infamous “Stack & Tilt” swing techniques introduced to the golf world by Mike Plummer & Andy Bennett with a huge splash on the June 2007 cover of Golf Digest. No other technique has had such an impact in golf instruction. It is considered revolutionary, controversial, cutting edge, gimmicky and all of the above. Without a doubt it received everyone’s attention from playing professionals, teaching professionals and amateurs alike. The main premise behind the technique is to strike the ground at the same place every time and according to both Plummer and Bennett this is most easily performed by maintaining the weight over the front foot (left foot for “RH” golfer) throughout the swing. This of course…

Teacher Talk

I recently played one of those relatively new championship courses in town and all four par 3 holes ranged in distance from 220 yards to 247 yards. That’s from the white tees. Considering that on my best day I carry the ball about 230, I had to hit driver on each tee. That I don’t mind, but in addition to the yardage each hole had hazards that were easily entered if the tee shot missed the green by the narrowest of margins. One of the holes required a 220 yard carry over a marshy lake in order to get home. I barely made it, but my playing partner did not. His drop required a 180 yard approach over the same lake. After another watery grave, he just stayed in the…

Teacher Talk

I recently played one of those relatively new championship courses in town and all four par 3 holes ranged in distance from 220 yards to 247 yards. That’s from the white tees. Considering that on my best day I carry the ball about 230, I had to hit driver on each tee. That I don’t mind, but in addition to the yardage each hole had hazards that were easily entered if the tee shot missed the green by the narrowest of margins. One of the holes required a 220 yard carry over a marshy lake in order to get home. I barely made it, but my playing partner did not. His drop required a 180 yard approach over the same lake. After another watery grave, he just stayed in the…

If 12 holes becomes the new 18, then it’s time to bifurcate the rules

Several people in golf are calling for golf to become a 12 hole option to adapt to changing lifestyles. Jack Nicklaus is one. He recently conducted a 12 hole event at his course in Columbus which included a larger diameter cup. As a traditionalist the idea goes against my nature but I am also a realist and making the game more friendly for the average Dick and Jane is not a bad idea. Let’s be honest, the professional game now is so far removed from what everyone else plays that the time for a bifurcated rule book has come. People should be able to play golf any way they like. Serious players are always going to play by the USGA rules. Most people however, just want to escape the office…

Are we getting mixed signals from the USGA?

Last month I applauded the “Play it forward” initiative backed by the USGA and other golf industry organizations. Then I run across an article that discusses how the golf course hosting the United States Amateur will be the longest in history at 7,760 yards. So what kind of message does that send? Certainly seems to be at odds with the thinking that most golfers are playing from the wrong set of tees. Besides, the amateur is a match play event, why should distance and par even matter.   I’m confused. Our protectors of the game say if people played from a shorter distance they would enjoy the experience much more and play more. More enjoyment, more players. Sounds logical. So why would you then go completely opposite your initiative when…

At last someone is thinking clearly

The new mantra this summer is “Play it forward.” By doing this golfers can speed up play and have more fun according to USGA and PGA. Hello, where have you guys been for the past five years? Unfortunately, the response to hitting the ball longer has been to lengthen courses and make them tougher with forced carries, more water hazards and narrow fairways. For some reason protecting par has become the be all and end all of course set ups. As if it is some sacred cow that if threatened would bring on world disaster. The term itself as used in golf did not come about until 1911. It simply described the score an expert player was expected to make on a hole at a given distance. The USGA actually…

A FRESH LOOK AT MARKETING GOLF COMPETITIONS

Back in the 1980s when I still lived in Northern Indiana, I can remember that the South Bend Metro Golf Championship made a big announcement that the tournament was so popular that it had to limit the number of participants to 300. Last year, just 104 played.  Also in Indiana, I used to play in the Monticello Open, which had a long and storied history. They have pictures on the wall at Tippecanoe Country Club from the 1950s showing dozens of spectators viewing the action. Even a few touring professionals would tee it up. The last time I played in the event several years ago (it no longer welcomed all comers after that year), it was poorly run and only lasted one round.  I recently played in the Valdosta Open…

Where should golf be spending its marketing efforts?

Anytime someone asks, “What is the best way to grow the game of golf,” the answer is almost always on junior programs. I respectfully disagree, and I have been operating junior golf programs for 15 years. There are all kinds of junior initiatives that have been around for several years. They have not lived up to expectations. From my own experience about one in ten stay with the game once they reach their teens. Not that we shouldn’t be supporting the effort, it’s just that there is little monetary benefit for golf courses. Junior golf is a labor of love, a way to give back to the game. For teachers, it can provide decent cash flow, but for courses, it does little for the bottom line. Think about it. You…

Teacher Talk

Jack Nicklaus once said, “A strong grip, a weak swing”. There is no doubt Jack’s grip was considered to be neutral leaning toward weak. To this day I can’t say I agree with Jack as we have witnessed countless players reach the highest levels of competitive golf whilst employing a strong grip such as Paul Azinger, Fred Couples (top hand),David Duval and Zach Johnson to name a few. This is not to say a neutral grip is not ideal but is it a prerequisite to play good golf? I don’t believe it is and therefore it should be considered an option in the same way overlap, interlock, ten-finger, double overlap (Jim Furyk), reverse overlap (Steve Jones), intermesh (Greg Norman) and countless other finger formations are chosen by a variety of…

IS THERE ANY WAY TO CHANGE INCORRECT BELIEFS?

One of my great frustrations as a long-time teaching professional is the proliferation of wrong information that is taken as gospel in the golf world. For example, the belief that high humidity produces “heavy” air and a shorter ball flight. In fact, as highlighted in Golf Teaching Pro, humid air is actually less dense than dry air, and will thus produce a couple of extra yards instead of a reduction. Yet, ask any golfer about the effects of humid air, and 99% will say that the air is heavier and the ball will carry less.   Or, how about incorrect Rules beliefs? Twice in competition my fellow competitors tried to penalize me for holding onto the removed flagstick while tapping in a putt. This is not a penalty, as Decision…

Teaching Your Students About Patience

It’s a fast-paced world out there. Information and communication are at our fingertips. We can board a plane and be on the other side of the planet within 24 hours. In fact, technology has bred a whole new generation of “I want it now-ers!” Fortunately for mankind, however, the game of golf seems to be the only holdout. There’s no magic wand to becoming a good golfer, and you can’t buy an instant reputable golf game. The ability to play well takes time, effort, guidance, and perseverance. It involves frustration, for some even tears, and I may add a thousand humbling experiences. What becoming a competent golfer does require, and as Sherlock Holmes once said, is “Patience, my dear Watson!” Being in the personal service business, I believe it is…

Golf should challenge not humiliate

I was fortunate to attend the Players Championship for the final round. When I entered the grounds, I walked into the bowl of the famous 17th green. They were still finishing up the third round because of a weather delay. The hole was playing 137 yards and the pin was situated on the front left. It was my first on site view of the hole and the green is in reality pretty large. That is not apparent on TV, but where they place the pin makes it a tiny target. Anyway, Mark O’Meara was up and he hit a shot that landed about 12 feet past the pin and then started rolling back toward the hole, went right on past and off the green into the water. He walked up…

USE A LESSON PLAN TO KEEP STUDENTS ON TRACK

When you have students that don’t seem to want to practice or they are not quite getting what you are teaching them I have found that writing out a lesson plan for each student really helps. Over the years I have developed a five part program that puts the major aspects of the golf game into a format that students can understand. I call each program a Box and I use the idea to combine practice programs with on the course pre shot routines and swing thoughts. Box 1 – Driver ( I give each student a swing thought, an idea on what we are working on and a plan on how to practice) They can take the swing thought to the course and they can evaluate if what they…

I am not a teacher, but an awakener

These are the words of Robert Frost, the great American poet. I can think of nothing better to describe the men and woman who toil daily helping average people learn a game that is never really mastered. Somewhere I once read that nine tenths of teaching is encouragement. Much of our time is spent cultivating, bolstering and saying “you can do this.” Would the game be enjoyed by so many without the guiding hand of teachers willing to share their knowledge and experience? Not likely. We do it with little fanfare. Our student’s thanks are enough recognition. For this is our passion and sharing it is the motto of the United States Golf Teachers Federation.   This summer the USGTF will honor golf teachers with a National Day of appreciation.…

US CUP A GREAT EVENT

For the 15th time, I was fortunate enough to be able to play in our national championship event, the United States Golf Teachers Cup. From modest beginnings in 1996 at Ponce De Leon Resort in St. Augustine, Florida, as a one-day event with approximately 40 players, the event has blossomed into an extravaganza with over 100 participants regularly. Originally, the event was simply called the USGTF Members’ Tournament. Like the Masters, which was called the Augusta National Invitational for the first few years, the original name didn’t adequately convey the stature of the tournament. In time, the name United States Golf Teachers Cup was adopted for the 2001 version of the event, which took place in Jensen Beach, Florida, as part of World Golf Teachers Cup week. In fact, it…

Teacher Talk

In the past month, we’ve seen Paul Goydos and Stuart Appleby each shoot 59. In addition, you had a couple of 60s and assorted low-60s scores thrown in. Some pundits are saying this is proof that the equipment has gotten out of hand, that it is making the pro game too easy. Or, they say that the courses are too “short.” These same pundits need to look at history. Sam Snead shot a 59 in 1959 at the Greenbrier, although the course played 6,475 yards back then. Still a great score. Al Geiberger shot his 59 at Colonial Country Club in Memphis, and it played over 7,200 yards that day. Mike Souchak held the record 72-hole score on the PGA Tour for the longest time, a 257 in 1955. Interestingly,…

TEACHERS, GET OUT AND PLAY!

One of the unfortunate aspects of the golf business is that you will probably play less golf than you think you will. For many teachers, a full teaching schedule precludes getting out and playing very much. Yet, it’s still important to tee it up on at least a semi-regular basis in order to keep your skills sharp, among other things. More importantly, playing golf can and does help your teaching. How is this, you may ask? Very simple. It might be hard to believe, but if you stay away from the golf course any significant length of time, it will in all likelihood diminish your skills as a teacher! You should learn something about the game each and every time you play, and it doesn’t matter whether you played great…

YOUNG GUNS MAKING STRONG STATEMENT

When Harry Vardon left the scene, undoubtedly there were those who said that golf would never be the same, that no one could replace him. Enter Bobby Jones. And surely, the same thing was said after Jones departed competitive golf, and also after the departures of Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, and Jack Nicklaus. Each time, though, new blood has infused the game and created new interest. The year 2010 was quite a year for majors and European Tour golf. Three out of the four majors winners are exclusive members of that tour across the pond, and all are relatively young. In years past, European-based players were probably at a disadvantage at the majors because three out of the four (except for the British Open) are played…

TIME FOR USGA TO RETHINK AMATEUR STATUS RULES

Is it just me, or does anyone else think it’s past time that the USGA revises and modernizes its Rules of Amateur Status? After all, just what is the purpose of making someone who is a golf teacher compete as a professional? This might come as a shock to some of you, but if I could play as an amateur again, that would be my preference. Yet, as the Rules of Amateur Status currently read (and probably will be for the rest of my life), anyone who takes compensation for giving lessons must forfeit amateur status…for PLAYING PURPOSES! Now, in this day and age, this makes absolutely no sense. Maybe years ago it did. The USGA’s position was (and is, for some reason) that a golf professional who teaches has…