The USGTF and its Global Influence

The USGTF and its Global Influence

The year was 1993, and the USGTF was four years into its existence. Certification classes in the United States were sold out, with 50 participants regularly attending each of the then-quarterly sessions. New members were going out and finding or creating employment, a phenomenon that was not going unnoticed.

One of those who took notice did not reside in the USA, but in faraway Timmendorfer-Strand, Germany. His name was Achim Picht, a man who owned a chain of golf schools named AMP Golf. Picht’s schools had locations in both Germany and Spain, and while the schools were successful, his instructors had no certification or formal training of any sort. Picht realized that to fend off the growing competition, he needed to bring some added credibility to his operation.

So in January 1993, a team of examiners led by president Geoff Bryant traveled to Malaga, Spain, to conduct the first USGTF certification class on foreign soil. On the team were Ben Jackson, Mark Harman, Ken Butler and Bob Sprigle, along with staff members Arnold James, Andy Ritondale and Bill Evans, the latter three serving as support for the international mission. The week exceeded everyone’s expectations, concluding with a fabulous dinner up in the mountains of the Costadel Sol.

The course in January was so successful that Picht brought back the USGTF examining team later that September to his home base in Germany, where 22 participants enrolled. That number was astounding, considering at the time the popularity of golf in Germany wasn’t anywhere close to what it is today, with far fewer golf courses. But demand for golf and proper instruction was increasing, and Picht saw that he needed to be a part of it.Picht, one of the pioneers of German golf instruction, passed away several years ago, leaving a legacy that is among the most important for the growth of the game in that country.

Korean Golf Takes World Stage

Many people attribute the proliferation of Korean players on the LPGA Tour to the victory of Se Ri Pak at the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open, but the truth is the seed for success was planted much earlier. Beginning with the very first classes held in 1989, Koreans were a large presence at USGTF certification classes. It was not uncommon to see, out of 50 total participants, 10-20 from Korea. Some resided in the USA, but many returned home to teach the game to a new generation eager to learn. Pak’s victory only continued a trend that was started by these early pioneers with the help of the USGTF. It’s safe to say that even had Pak not won, there would still be a large Korean presence in the women’s game today, thanks to those who saw the value of USGTF certification in helping them grow the game in their native country.

Prior to the USGTF’s existence, teaching golf in Korea was largely the domain of the club professionals in that country at the relatively few courses at the time. The game was exclusionary, as only those who had ample financial resources could play or afford lessons. With the arrival of these new Korean USGTF members who set up teaching operations wherever they could, a completely different audience was reached. Junior golfers who showed promise were allowed access to courses, with most of them having been taught by USGTF members.

It eventually became obvious that Korea needed its own golf teaching federation, and Sammy Oh took the reins. He oversaw the growth of his fledgling association, and needed the assistance of the USGTF examining team to initially handle the instruction. The first class he conducted saw over200 participants, all eager to learn and promote the game. Oh has since retired, and today Brandon Lee has capably taken over as president of USGTF-Korea.

In the United States, Man Kim, then from San Jose, California, attended a USGTF certification class at Adobe Creek Golf Course in Petaluma, California, in the mid-1990s. Instead of returning to Korea, he stayed in the USA and taught his young daughter the game with the principles he learned from the USGTF. His daughter was Christina, and Christina Kim turned out to be one of the most prominent U.S. Players during her career on the LPGA Tour, where she still plays today. She attended the 2015 World Golf Teachers Cup as a spectator, saying hello to many USGTF and WGTF members and impressing everyone with her graciousness.

A Worldwide Influence

In 1997, the inaugural World Golf Teachers Cup was held in Naples, Florida, with participants from several different nations. The tournament was the first that brought international teaching professionals together from multiple nations to represent their countries, and still today it’s unique among competitions. The second World Cup was held in Spain in 1998. Golf has always been healthy in the United Kingdom, and continental Europe continues to see more of its players and teachers play an international role.

Canada saw its first certification class held in 1994 at Upper Canada Golf Course in Morrisburg, Ontario. Since that time, first Bob Bryant and now Marc Ray have served as presidents of the Canadian Golf Teachers Federation, and its members have made a lasting impact in teaching the game in that country. In Australia, Gary Cooney has ably led the Australian Golf Teachers Federation for a number of years, helping to promote the game in the Land Down Under.

Golf in Brazil became a focus with the inclusion of the sport in the Olympic Games in 2016, but prior to that in 2005, Sao Jose Golf Club just outside Sao Paolo hosted the 7th biennial World Golf Teachers Cup. Despite the game being still a relatively minor sport in South America, 88 players teed it up in February of that year for individual and team honors.

China became the first Asian nation to host the World Golf Teachers Cup in 2013, and the event was a rousing success. That country is currently facing some adversity in golf with the state-ordered closings of several golf courses, but USGTF-China is successfully meeting those challenges with Steve Mak at the helm.

Golf has seen tremendous growth inter-nationally the past three decades, and the USGTF has been there, serving to train and certify the instructors who have been instrumental in this growth. The future of the game certainly looks bright, no matter what language you may speak.
The Y Solution

The Y Solution

By Bert Jones USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® Loomis, California

The Y Solution is a new term that I have invented to explain the confluence of three branches as represented by the letter Y: spatial awareness, coherence, and proprioception. Each branch has a unique influence on the game of golf.

Before we begin, let’s define each branch so we can better apply teaching our clients.

SPATIAL AWARENESS is the ability to be aware of oneself in space. It is an organized knowledge of objects in relation to oneself in that given space. Spatial awareness also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position.

PROPRIOCEPTION is the sense of the orientation and relative position of neighboring parts of the body and the strength of effort being employed in movement. The ability to swing a golf club or to catch a ball requires a finely tuned sense of the position of the joints. Proprioception is a ten-dollar word to describe your awareness of how your body is moving based on how the muscles feel.

COHERENCE is an optimal physiological state where your heart, mind and emotions are harmoniously functioning in alignment and cooperation. In my opinion, it is the main branch of the letter Y that supports the other two components.

Now that we have defined the three branches, let’s apply the Y Solution to the game of golf.

Research shows that when we activate the state of coherence, our physiological systems function more efficiently. We experience greater emotional stability, and we also have increased mental clarity and improved cognitive functions. Simply stated, when our mind and emotions, brain and body work in harmony with our heart, we feel better. We care more, and our performance lifts us at work and in our interactions.

We all want players to get their focus and concentration on the target rather than swing thoughts. Spatial awareness, which requires keeping your eyes on the ball when your target is hundreds of yards in the distance, demands the ability to create a clear mental picture. Only then can you make a truly target-oriented swing that has been freed up.

It boils down to this: What a golfer should be seeking to produce is a reflex response to visual, auditory and kinesthetic stimuli (sight, sound and feel). Your brain must operate from the subconscious. Before settling over the ball, you must build a complete picture of your target, including the flagstick, landing area, trajectory and roll. Loading the wrong software is done by picturing a bad shot.

The best way to enhance proprioception is through targeted exercises and golf drills. It is vital that we as golf instructors identify exercises and golf drills that are player-specific to the issues that we want to work on. For example, we want to improve overall hip rotation to enhance proper slotting in the plane to avoid the over-the-top swing fault. When the player understands and feels the relationship of where the body must be in relationship to the club, we will see proprioception at work.

Next time you see your client holding a golf club at the setup position, think of the Y Solution.
Common Sense Course Management

Common Sense Course Management

Why did you hit it over that waste area on thirteen?” Alan Pate asked me after the round. We were playing a mini-tour event on the Emerald Coast Golf Tour in the early 1990s, and Pate and I had been paired together. He was an All-American golfer at the University of Alabama, had played some on the PGA Tour, and eventually became a winner on what is now known as the Tour.

“I wanted a shorter third shot into the green,” I replied. I had attempted a risky second shot over a waste area on the par-5 13th hole at Shalimar Pointe Golf Club, and was successful in pulling it off, although barely. It gave me an80-yard sand wedge approach to the back pin location, where if I laid up, I would have had about 130 yards left.

“Well, that wasn’t a smart shot,” Pate told me. “You had to hit it perfectly to clear that waste area, and suppose you just missed it. You would have been in that waste area and probably in a lot of trouble.” The waste area back then had a lot of pampas grass bushes and other nasty stuff in it.

“Look, the bottom line is it was going to take you two more shots to hit the green,” he continued. “You have to make sure you have the second shot.”

You have to make sure you have the second shot. No bit of advice on how to play the game has resonated more with me in my long teaching and playing career. It led to my deep interest with course management and how to best make your way around the layout. From what Pate told me, I came up with two absolute tenets of course management that I follow to this day: 1) Never plan your strategy based on having to hit a perfect shot, unless absolutely necessary; 2) plan to avoid the worst trouble.

There are two holes at Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada, where we just finished the U.S. and World Golf Teachers Cups, that are perfect examples of course management choices. The first is the second hole on the Coyote Run nine, and the other is the ninth hole, also on Coyote Run. Both holes are par-4s and have split fairways, or two different fairways. On both holes, the left fairway option is riskier but offers a much shorter second shot than does the right fairway.

The second hole has a large fairway bunker that, as measured on Google Earth, takes 228 yards to clear from the tees we played. If successful, the player has a fairway that is 44yards wide awaiting him. If a player cannot clear the bunker, which I can’t, the choices are to play out to the wide part of the fairway right of the bunker, which is 42 yards across, or play down the left side, which is only 24 yards wide and narrows to 12 yards wide with other bunkers coming into play. On all four days of the tournaments, I hit a 3-wood into the wide part of the fairway. I made two pars and two birdies doing so.

I did see a few of my playing partners go left of the bunker into the narrower fairway, even though they couldn’t clear the big bunker. A couple of times they were successful and went through the 12-yard-wide gap, leaving them with flip wedges into the green, whereas I had 6-, 7- and 8-irons. However, how many times are you going to hit a 12-yard-wide gap with a full driver? Not many. I mean, if you have the confidence to hit such a small gap with your driver, fine, but I don’t understand that play at all, to be honest. As for the others who didn’t make the gap? Most of them wound up with difficult bunker shots.

The ninth hole at Coyote Run is somewhat the same but offers one big difference: The riskier fairway is somewhat wider than the one on the second hole. The left fairway on the ninth has a creek running down both sides with a pond 260 yards off the tee on the left-hand side. Short of the pond, the fairway is 48 yards across, while at the pond and beyond it narrows to 35 yards. These seem like generous yardages, but the problem is the fairway is diagonal from left to right, so the playing width is less from a practical standpoint. The fairway is extremely wide going down the right-hand side with an actual and practical width of 45 yards. However, taking this option leaves a much longer second shot into the green, and the difference is dramatic: A long iron or hybrid vs. A short iron, in my case. And I’m sure other competitors faced the same choice.

So in this case, going down the left fairway is well worth the risk, because while I don’t have any analytics to back this up, I think in the long run a player’s scoring average will be less. In my case, again all four days I went down the wider right fairway. I made three pars and a bogey.

Why did I not go left? For me, when I have severe trouble awaiting me on both sides on a long shot, it creates too much pressure to allow me to confidently hit a shot. Going down the right fairway was the correct option for me, even if it meant a hybrid second shot, and that’s okay. The green was relatively large with not much real trouble around it. I reasoned the worst I could make was bogey going this way, whereas if I went left, bogey might be the best I could make.

All of this applies to other areas in course management, including approach shots. One of the worst things to do is short-side yourself, or missing the green on the same side where the hole location is. You won’t have much green to work with, so it’s better to miss to the wider side if you’re going to miss the shot. On short irons, it’s okay to fire right at the flag, but with medium irons and longer, I like to just hit into an area between the flagstick and the wider edge of the green. For example, if the pin is on the right side of the green and I have a 5-iron approach, I will aim for the general area between the flagstick and the left edge of the green.

If a pin is up front on longer approaches, most players, including accomplished ones, will do well to take enough club to reach the middle of the green. That way, if the shot is mis-struck, it will still probably be pin-high, or relatively close.

If you think I favor a conservative game plan, you’re correct. I believe most shots are lost, not because the player failed to play great, but because they failed to not play poorly. That doesn’t mean playing scared or playing not to lose, far from it. There are plenty of opportunities on most courses to play aggressively with little or no risk, and those opportunities should be taken advantage of. But when there is risk, it must be weighed and dealt with accordingly.

Alan Pate made a huge difference in how I approach the game. I’m happy to pass on his wisdom, and I hope you and your students can benefit from his kindness to a then-new golf professional.
The Power Of Three Squared

The Power Of Three Squared

By Bert Jones USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® Loomis, California

Everything that you do in your life will be decided by three words: need, want and desire. If you don’t believe me, take the test and think about its application to your golf game. Before testing, we must define the three words that will be used.

  • NEED –require (something), because it is essential or very important. (These are the essentials that you must have, and should not be confused with want.)
  • WANT – a lack or deficiency of something other than need.
  • DESIRE – a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. (Your desire should have purpose, which will help avoid anxiety and create alignment between your heart, mind and soul.)

    Let’s apply the concept to a golf game. I “need “to hit the ball straight and farther in order to score lower. I “want” new equipment that fits my swing so I can hit the ball straighter and farther. I “desire “to shoot even par. You can apply the three words in a multiple of applications to create a vision of what you are trying to accomplish. Clearly, if you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there. So it is vital that you take the time to think about what you want, need and desire. Be very clear about the answers so you don’t waste time, money and energy.

    Now, let’s take the above concept and place it into a matrix using three additional words: planning, execution and capacity. Planning, execution and capacity are part of the continuum of time needed to accomplish the need, want and desire. Before we continue, let’s look at the definitions.

  • PLANNING – the decisions that are arranged in advance. Use the SMART acronym (Specific, Measureable, Aligned, Realistic and Time-based) as a means to create your plan.
  • EXECUTION – the carrying-out or the putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.
  • CAPACITY – the ability or power to do, experience, or understand something.
  • Building a matrix with need, want and desire using a vertical axis allows us to see a vision. Use of planning, execution and capacity on the horizontal axis allows us to understand what has to happen to implement the vision. Each square of the matrix can be interdependent or dependent based on the sophistication of your goals. Lastly, it is critical to understand the values of capacity in terms of physical energy, finances, knowledge, skill, ability and time to integrate your matrix.

    I have often joked that the Law of Three –meaning it always takes three times longer to accomplish something than originally planned –should be a main element in your planning process.

    The power of three squared can be a useful tool to help you succeed in golf! Feel – think – plan – do– evaluate – repeat. Turn your need, want and desire into “I did!”
    Rhythm,Timing and Tempo

    Rhythm,Timing and Tempo

    During the past U.S. Open on the Fox Television broadcast, Curtis Strange remarked that a lot of emphasis was placed on swing positions and movements, but little was placed on rhythm and tempo.

    Strange had a point. It seems instruction these days has become so technical, so mechanical, that the artistic part of the swing has been lost in the maze of science.

    Sam Snead once said that he imagined waltz music inside his head in order to get his rhythm right. If we told our students today to imagine this, we would probably get blank stares in this age of hip-hop and rap music. There are ways to get some rhythm, timing and tempo going in our students’ swings, but first we must define what each is in the scheme of the golf swing.

    Rhythm is the combining of the different parts of the swing into the correct speeds. For example, if someone has a very slow backswing followed by a very fast downswing, the correct rhythm of the swing has been lost. The different parts of the swing should have some coherent relationship to each other in terms of the speed of movement.

    Timing is the execution of the swing movements in the proper sequence. One of the biggest timing errors occurs when the arms and hands start the downswing before the lower body does. In the broadest sense, the upper body winds up the lower body on the backswing and the lower body unwinds the upper body on the downswing.

    Getting this sequence wrong introduces a timing mistake that makes consistency difficult to achieve.

    Tempo is the overall speed of the swing. We see faster tempos in the swings of Zach Johnson and Michelle Wie, and slower tempos occur in the swings of Ernie Els and Woody Austin.

    A misconception that is thankfully dying out is that a golfer can never swing too slowly on the backswing. The problem with a slow backswing is that it requires a somewhat slow forward swing to have proper rhythm, and slow forward swings cost us distance. This might be okay for pitch shots and putts, but for full shots, some speed is required. In the case of Els, we mentioned he has a slower tempo, but it’s not slow. The size of his arc, due to his stature as a big man, allows him to swing a touch slower than a smaller golfer.

    Another problem with a backswing that is too slow is that it lends itself to some instability in the movement of the club itself. Think of a gyroscope, or turning wheels on a bicycle. The faster they go, the more stability they have. It’s also a misconception that amateur golfers swing back slower than pros. Numerous studies confirm that professional golfers take less time to complete their backswings than do the average amateur. In this day and age of the long ball, golfers better be generating some clubhead speed if they want to be able to compete.

    We defined rhythm for golf, but what constitutes proper rhythm? John Novosel, in his book Tour Tempo, states that professional golfers swing with a 3-to-1 time ratio when it comes to the backswing and downswing (to impact). He has found that the closer a golfer comes to this ratio, no matter the overall tempo, the better the golfer is likely to play.

    As mentioned earlier, transition represents the biggest challenge in terms of timing. One of the best drills to teach the proper timing of the transition is the step drill. From a normal setup position, the golfer places his forward foot (left foot for a right-handed golfer) against his back foot and then begins the swing. As the club is reaching the completion of its backswing journey, the golfer steps with his forward foot back into a normal position, representing the correct timing of the lower body movement. Done correctly, the arms and hands will remain somewhat passive until just before reaching the hips, at which point the momentum allows the golfer to activate the hands and arms through impact with great force. Ben Hogan wrote that at this stage of the swing he wished he had three right hands to apply the power.

    The great Snead used waltz music to hone his rhythm and tempo, and some modern-day golfers also listen to music on the range to achieve the same purpose. Another tool that can be used effectively is a metronome, which can easily be found online and used with a smartphone.

    Golfers who are swinging well should take great care to note the rhythm, timing and tempo of their present swing and commit it to memory. Often it is not swing positions that go awry when our games go off; it is one of these three aspects that are frequently given short shrift by both teachers and students alike. Give your students a lesson in proper rhythm, timing and tempo, and the sound of their solidly-struck shots is sure to be music to their ears.

    Rhythm …combining of the different parts of the swing into the correct speeds. Timing…the execution of the swing movements in the proper sequence. Tempo…the overall speed of the swing.
    Positive Body Language: Five Tips to Attract and Retain New Clients

    Positive Body Language: Five Tips to Attract and Retain New Clients

    By Ben Bryant, MAUSGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional®, Tampa, Florida

    The first week of school is an important week for all high school coaches. For me, it’s not only the first opportunity to meet the students I’ll teach all year, but it’s also the beginning of the golf season, with new players and parents showing up at the golf course. How first meetings go are vital to laying a foundation for a positive relationship between you (the teacher) and your players. Using positive body language can be a vital component in that foundation.

    Columbia University did a recent study where participants were placed in a variety of situations where positive body language techniques were used, but the participants discussed negative and depressing topics. They also created scenarios where participants used negative body language techniques but discussed uplifting topics. Overwhelmingly, students gave favorable impressions of their colleagues based on their positive body language rather than the discussion that took place. The study suggests that people are more often influenced by how they feel about you than by what you’re saying.

    Positive body language can have a tremendous impact as a golf coach. Here are some tips to help you develop positive body language:

    Always look like you’re listening to your client The key to active listening of your clients is to engage with what your client is saying. Body language is a major component of listening. Leaning forward, nodding, tilting your head, and keeping your feet pointed in the direction of the person speaking are excellent non-verbal ways to show you’re engaged and paying attention. Don’t look at the ground when your client is talking. Active listening also involves repeating back or paraphrasing what your client has said. This is an excellent way to demonstrate that you are genuinely paying attention.

    Shake hands before every lesson Touch is the most powerful non-verbal clue. Physical touch even for a fraction of a second can create a powerful human bond. It’s an instinctual capability that all humans are born with. It’s for these reasons that a proper handshake is so important. A firm, friendly handshake that conveys a sense of friendship and warmth helps make a person feel closer to us. It also makes a person far more likely to remember your name and you theirs.

    Cultivate a genuine, friendly smile Smiling not only influences how we feel in a situation, it signals that we are approachable. Additionally, most people have a keen sense of when a person is faking a smile. It’s important to convey a sense of happiness when meeting or greeting someone.

    Uncross your arms and legs On the flip side, using defensive postures can immediately make someone feel off-put. Defensive body language can impact how your client responds to you. Crossing your arms and legs sends a subtle message to whomever you are speaking with that you’re upset or not enjoying the interaction. Be mindful of it.

    Put away the device Cellphones are easily becoming one of the biggest problems in human interaction. Certainly as a teacher, it’s a daily struggle to keep my students focused on me and not their devices. They may help keep us in contact with each other, but when face to face, there is no greater barrier to a positive interaction than one person (or both!) checking their cellphones. As the coach, you need to set an example by putting it away and keeping it away.

    Evolution Of Golf Teaching

    Evolution Of Golf Teaching

    By Dr. Gerald A. Walford USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® The Villages, Florida

    Swing The Clubhead by Ernest Jones, 1952

    Better Golf in Five Minutes by J. Victor East, 1956

    The Golf Swing of the Future by Mindy Blake, 1972


    Ernest Jones was a British golf pro who came to America, where he became a famous teaching pro. In working with Babe Zaharias, he told her, “I watched you. The day you can stop experimenting is the day you will be a great golfer, maybe the greatest of all.” And it was true. This comment is the basis of his teachings.

    Jones taught the golf swing as a pendulum, a simple pendulum. Jones lost his right leg during the war and played off his left leg. Four months after his amputation he scored a 38 on the front, and despite fatigue, a 45 on the back nine for an 83…remarkable.

    His theory was that the swing was everything and that golf was overwhelmed with paralysis by analysis. His basic feeling for the swing was to clip his jackknife to a handkerchief and then swing it like a golf club. He taught the golf swing and not body positions. To Jones, it was all in the swing being directed by the hands.

    His theories are still taught by some.


    J. Victor East made his fame in Australia as a golf teacher and golf club designer. In 1922, he came to the United States, where he continued his fame.

    To East, the swing consisted of one inch behind the ball and one inch in front of the ball. It did not matter what the backswing or the follow-through did, providing the clubface scraped the ball to the target within the one inch in front and back of the ball. Get the impact position correct. Impact determined the flight of the ball. The backswing and follow-through were secondary to impact. His practice method was simply swinging a golf club back and forth, scraping the grass to the target with a very short backswing and follow-through to acquire the position for the feeling of impact.


    Mindy Blake was born and raised in New Zealand. He was an exceptional athlete as a golfer, gymnast and pole vaulter. He was also an engineer with a strong background in physics.

    Blake states:

    Old swing. The body rotated as much as the shoulders, a complete body turn rotating around the right leg. Strong hip turn about 70° while the shoulders rotated about 76° as measured by the leading arm, usually the left arm, forming the angle with the line of flight.

    Modern swing. Restricted hip turn resisting the full shoulder turn.

    More modern swing. Hip turn 45° while the angle of the leading arm with the target line about 46° inside the target line. This brought in the trend of the more compact golf swing.

    The more recent modern swings. The hips are restricted to about 10° and the club is swung back almost in line with the flight to the target, where the leading arm is about 14° inside the target line.

    We must remember not everyone played exactly to these standards, but it is evident as to the trend towards the modern swing of less hip, shoulder and body rotation.

    Mindy Blake was way ahead of his time in teaching the restricted hip turn and less rotation of the body.

    Years ago, the above teachers exemplified teaching by feel in a very simplified style.

    They were successful. It is amazing what they accomplished when we look at the equipment they were using in comparison to the modern game.

    These early methods were attacked when the high-speed camera became available to study the golf swing. The hips, the wrists, the shoulders, the feet, the knees, the head, etc., now became the focus on how to teach golf. Teaching now stressed body positions. Achieving these body positions would make the clubface scrape the grass under the ball to the target with the face square to the target. This was the beginning of more paralysis by analysis and too much thinking.

    Now the teaching changed from feel of the swing to body positions. Teachers began teaching body positions in the hope that if you achieved these body positions, the ball will go straight to the target.

    Then came the launch monitors and other ball-tracking devices. These devices give immediate shot data: ball flight, ball speed, launch angle, backspin, club speed, sidespin and side angle, carry distance, offline and total distance. Butch Harmon, considered one of the top golf teachers today, has said he does not use these devices as the ball flight tells him all he needs to know.

    Is this detailed analysis needed? Golfers on the senior tour did not have these devices. They learned by watching the ball flight. If an error happened, they experimented and learned to correct it.

    Youngsters learn in a similar fashion called self-discovery. They try, and if it does not work, they try again, experiment, and soon they get the feel of what works for them. Some people say the younger golfers are better than the older golfers, but this is debatable.

    The older golfers never had the equipment the younger golfers have today. The older golfers worked the ball more so than the golfers today. Many believe the older golfers were more talented. It is unfortunate there is no way we can prove this because the game the old seniors played was different than what the younger players play today. Improved equipment, improved golf course maintenance, improved greens, etc., have greatly enhanced the younger players.

    “Swing your swing. Not some idea of the swing, not a swing on TV or swing you wish you had” is the famous quote from Arnold Palmer, who had a swing considered not to be taught (Golf Digest, July 2017, article by Joel Beall regarding Palmer’s often-played commercial). Lee Trevino and Moe Norman, considered along with Ben Hogan the best ball strikers in golf, never took lessons. Calvin Peete made his fame on the pro tour with an arm injury that forced an unconventional swing. Bubba Watson and J.B. Holmes, also famous tour pros with many wins, were also self-taught. Watson claims that all you need to know is just prior to impact and just after impact. This is a J. Victor East teaching philosophy.

    Research by the American Psychological Association has shown that “self-discovery” is perhaps the most effective way of learning (Golf Digest , July 2017, Beall). Self-discovery is the natural way to mold your swing to your mental and physical capabilities.

    Isn’t it amazing how these high-tech devices tell us what we can see if we hit a golf ball? Their value has been determined by the proven fact that the average handicap of golfers has not changed for the better over the years. Are we in information overload?

    Modern technology has made the golf swing too technical and confusing, as well as grooming the student to conform to a molded pattern of robotic maneuvers. Individuality is being lost in some teaching. How many young golfers have had detrimental effects in trying to swing perfectly like Tiger Woods?

    Good teachers take the student’s individual characteristics and refine that to a level required. Good teachers have to take the complex and simplify it for the students.

    Good teachers do not try to impress their students with their knowledge and ability. Good teachers impress their students with the simplicity of the golf swing.
    Teaching English-Language Learners

    Teaching English-Language Learners

    By Ben Bryant, MA – USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional®, Tampa, Florida

    It’s been a rough year for Puerto Rico. Two major hurricanes this summer – first Irma in early September, then Maria a few weeks later – devastated the people and infrastructure of the 50-mile wide U.S. commonwealth. Progress to restore the island’s electrical grid has been slow. Six weeks after the storms, as much as 95 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents remained without electricity.

    With fears that the recovery will stretch into months and even years, many Puerto Ricans have decided to leave the island. Every day, dozens of airplanes leave San Juan filled with Puerto Ricans who may never return. More than 80 percent of those airplanes are headed to Florida, where the governor has declared a state of emergency in order to free up money to help those fleeing the island to relocate.

    More than 100,000 Puerto Ricans have already moved to the mainland. As a golf coach and instructor living and working in Florida, I consider it important how best to serve this large population of new potential clients. Only 20 percent of Puerto Ricans speak English fluently. For me, it’s been fairly commonplace to conduct a group lesson or summer camp session where one or more students are English-language learners (ELL). Using the following strategies can help make the experience a mutual learning opportunity:

    Use non-verbal cues

    Although you might not speak the same language as your student, there are some fairly universal non-verbal cues that you can use to communicate. Hand gestures, proximity and the tone of your voice can convey a great deal of information. Using images or drawings might also be useful when trying to deliver instruction. I use a laminated Rolodex-style pocket-sized photo guide, and I have found this to be immensely helpful.

    Rate of speech and wait time

    ELL students in the process of learning English have the challenge of listening to what you are saying, and then interpreting as best they can back to their native language. It can be difficult to listen and process at the same time. It is often useful, as he instructor in this situation, to be aware of how quickly you are speaking. It isn’t necessary to slow down to a snail’s pace – this could be perceived as condescending – but being aware of your rate of speech is important. Additionally, you will want to provide a beat or two more of wait time between questions and responses to allow your students to go through their process.

    Model exercises and drills

    This should be a pretty simple one for golf instruction. A good golf teacher should already model a new skill or drill so their students can see how it should be done correctly. In modeling a drill or exercise with ELLs, be sure not to simply stand and lecture. A lengthy verbal explanation is likely to not be well understood. Conversely, break up the drills into smaller steps with short explanations to allow your student to keep pace.

    Check for understanding

    In a lesson where there is no language barrier, checking for understanding is already an important teaching skill, but it becomes vital with ELL students. It’s an excellent idea to implement a non-verbal cue system to check for understanding. For example, implement a thumbs-up, thumbs-down arrangement or some other method. Remember that head nods tend not to work well, since many ELLs, when asked, “Do you understand?”, will nod their heads “yes” as a way of being polite.

    Develop your own golf/Spanish vocabulary

    You may not have the time or predilection to learn an entire language, but perhaps you could make the time to learn at least the vocabulary that pertains to golf. In Spanish, the word “golf” itself is already a cognate (meaning it is the same in English and Spanish), so that one’s easy! El palo de golf, la pelota de golf and el campo de golf shouldn’t be too hard to memorize (golf club, ball and course, respectively). Having your own arsenal of golf terms can help you form the basis of communication with your student, and they will appreciate the effort.

    25 Degree Golf

    25 Degree Golf

    By Arlen Bento Jr. USGTF Member Jensen Beach, Florida

    One swing required with 25 Degree Golf!

    Have you ever asked yourself why golf irons are made the way they are? Why are lofted wedges shorter than the lower-lofted long irons?

    What if I told you that your traditional sets of irons are wrong and that there is a much better way to play golf? Would it perk your interest? If yes, then you are going to find this article very interesting.

    Here’s my background, in case readers don’t know me: My name is Arlen Bento Jr., and I am an award-winning golf coach and WGTF Top 100 Teacher. I have been contributing articles to the USGTF for nearly 20 years and I own and operate a golf instruction and internet marketing empire in Stuart, Florida. (Well, it’s not really an empire.) I am the former head golf professional at PGA Country Club in PGA Village, Florida, and I have multiple national awards in the golf industry.

    About a year ago, I was introduced to an idea that I had actually used when I first started playing golf as a professional – single-length irons! The concept of single-length irons, one ball position and one swing plane made a lot of sense to me. At the time, I played a set of Tommy Armour EQL irons and loved them. I was playing good golf and started to take them to my events, and got ridiculed by my contemporaries. They made fun of me and said my game was no good and that is why I needed single-length irons; it was cheating because no one else had a set made that way. Alas, I was young and succumbed to peer pressure, and went back to a set of forged blades like I was supposed to play. I can’t believe I did that as I don’t consider myself a follower, but I did.

    Fast forward to 2016. Bryson DeChambeau explodes on the golf scene playing – guess what – single-length irons. Now, before you start jumping ahead, thinking that this article is just about single-length irons, stop. That is not what this article is about; well, not entirely. It’s more about how I got the idea that I am going to share with you.

    My idea is called 25 Degree Golf!

    I was involved in a project and was working on a concept designed to stand up golfers in the setup position. The idea was simple: Why bend over and put your body into a completely non-athletic position? Nobody walks around in comfort bent over 45 degrees, like many people are in the golf swing.

    So many professional and avid golfers are suffering from aching backs and injuries that can be attributed, in many cases, to lower-back stress because of the golf stance and the swing that it creates. The problem is that it was impossible to get students and players into a more athletic and upright spine-angle position with traditional golf irons, because their irons were just too short.

    Your irons are too short!

    So I asked myself, why? With a traditional set, all iron heads have different weights designed to work with different-length shafts. Lofted irons have heavy heads to make up for shorter shafts; less-lofted irons have less head weight to make up for longer shafts, and that is just how they are done.

    I started introducing some of my students – the ones that had been losing distance, not making solid contact, no accuracy, and most of all, sore backs – to longer single-length irons.

    All I did was make their lofted irons the same length as their 4-iron, and pow! Lightening in a bottle! More distance, solid contact, more accuracy, less back pain and better golf.

    I had students take out trial clubs and come back raving about 180-yard 6-irons and being able to reach par-3 holes with a 9-iron for the first time in 20 years. What really got my attention was all the students that I put into these single-length longer irons came back to see me with an incredible result: They picked up distance with their driver!

    I scratched my head about this for a month. I looked at their swing videos before I made their irons longer, and then after I made their irons longer. It hit me like a ton of bricks.

    Their spine angle was staying in the same place! There was very little difference between their spine angle with their irons and their driver, and for that matter, fairway woods. Because their irons were long, they maintained a similar spine angle, thus a similar swing plane, and a new confidence in the irons translated to better swings and more confidence with their drivers. Whoa!

    As I looked at the swings, I noticed that each player had a spine angle of 25 degrees. So I named my concept 25 Degree Golf. I knew I was on to something, but I needed better equipment. I knew that making heavy lofted clubs longer was making the club feel and play different. So I picked up the phone and called Cobra Golf. They were on board in five minutes.

    Cobra had invested over $40 million in single-length iron technology and Tour superstar Bryson DeChambeau. They were thrilled to work with me, and now we are a partner with the USGTF.

    For those of you that are thinking, this can’t work, or the clubs will feel heavy, stop and think: Heavy compared to what?

    Can’t work because, why? I have found that motor skills are easy with a more upright spine angle. Concerns about chip shots and delicate shots are put to rest with choking down on the clubs for comfort. If you never played a round of golf with a traditional set of irons, would you even question a single-length set that was made to keep your spine angle in a similar position? The simple answer is no, you would not!

    What you will notice when you create a 25 Degree Golf set of irons is much higher ball flight compared to what you were used to with a traditional set. You will see a lot more distance and will experience a sensation of not having to rotate your wrists as much in an attempt to square your clubface at impact.

    With all your irons at the same length, your need to create shaft lean and a downward strike are minimal. You will hit the golf ball with effortless power and effective loft, creating high, accurate shots.

    Worried about the wind? Just move the ball back in your stance and choke down on the clubs an inch or two and there you go.

    Swing mechanics are very simple. All you have to do is make a full turn into the backswing (get your back to the target), which will keep your hands on a flatter plane, and strike the ball like it is sitting on a tee. You really don’t need to get the club up near your head, but it works either way after just a bucket of balls. You will feel the club’s face strike square and true while creating a feeling that the club is staying on your target line a lot longer than your traditional set of irons.

    I know this might sound a little crazy, but I have been teaching golf for over 20 years and I remember pros calling Karsten Solheim crazy, Ely Callaway crazy, TaylorMade metal woods crazy, carrying four wedges crazy, big-headed drivers crazy, big-headed putters and hybrids crazy, Surlyn golf balls crazy – you get my drift!

    All I know is that I have a lot of players asking for 25 Degree Golf irons. All I know is that people are telling me that 25 Degree Golf has given them back their golf games.

    I hope you take the time to give this idea a chance. It might not be for everyone, but for some, it could be a game changer.

    Arlen Bento Jr. is an award-winning golf coach, WGTF Top 100 world-recognized golf instructor, USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional and entrepreneur. He is the former head golf professional of the PGA Country Club at PGA Village, Florida, and the former director of golf at Eagle Marsh Golf Club in Jensen Beach, Florida. Bento has three national golf operation awards in the golf industry, including two Golf Digest Four Star Awards and a Service Ace Award from Golf Shop Operations magazine. He offers golf instruction at his indoor golf studio in Stuart, Florida, and at the Champions Golf Club at Summerfield.

    Bento is a proponent of skills-based golf learning, slow-motion golf learning, single-length golf irons and dynamic club fitting. He is the owner and operator of College Golf Pipeline, a college golf recruiting service that helps junior golfers find college golf scholarships, and co-hosts the Golf Talk Florida radio show. He can be reached on his website, or by email at You can also give him a call or send him a text at (772) 485-8030.
    Get Your Students Into The Zone

    Get Your Students Into The Zone

    By Dr. Gregg Steinberg USGTF Sports Psychologist, Nashville, Tennessee

    Everyone wants to be in the zone. The zone is this magical, mystical place in which you feel so confident, your focus is so sharp and your emotions are completely calm. The zone is being at your best in whatever you are accomplishing. It would be wonderful if we can help our students to get into the zone as much as possible on the golf course.

    Here are two easy steps to helping students to get into the zone more often:

    1) Become aware of their zone experience. Your students need to be aware of which emotions occur during the zone experience.

    2) Emotionally prepare for the zone state. Your students will need to develop a personalized routine that will help them get into the zone more often.

    The zone experience is unique to everyone. Some individuals may be highly anxious when they are in the zone, while others can be very calm. Some individuals will be thinking a lot when they get into the zone, while other individuals have a clear mind.

    There is not one set pattern of emotions. Thus, our students need to be aware of their individualized zone template. This process is known as self-monitoring and is essential to developing a clear understanding of their zone experience.

    To help your students become aware of their zone template, the instructor needs to have the student address two different situations. First, ask your students to recall a time when they performed at their best. Then, the teacher should ask the following questions related to five levels of this particular “best” performance state:

    1) Was your nervousness level high, medium, or low?

    2) Was your confidence level high, medium, or low?

    3.) Was your energy level high, medium, or low?

    4) Was your enjoyment level high, medium, or low?

    5) Were you thinking or just reacting?

    To develop a better understanding of the zone state for your students, the teacher should ask a question about the contrasting situation. Students should recall a time when they performed at their worst. Again, this can be in the sport of interest or in a different performance situation. The teacher should also address the same five levels of this “worst” performance state, asking the same five questions listed above.

    This set of questions concerning contrasting performance situations – best vs. worst – will give teachers all the information they will need to understand their students at a deeper level. For instance, some students may perform at their best when they have low energy and at their worst with high energy, while a different student may be at their best with high energy and at their worst when their energy is low. Or, one student may be best when they are reacting and perform at their lowest when they think too much, while a different student follows the opposite pattern. Gaining knowledge about best vs. worst performance is essential before moving to the next step.

    Emotionally preparing for their zone state. The next step of this process is to replicate the emotions of the zone state for the student. There are three ways to help your student accomplish this:

    1) Create an emotional buzzword that represents that zone state.

    2) Create a behavior trigger associated with that zone state.

    3) Use a visual image that represents that zone state.

    Emotional buzzwords help to elicit the same emotions that the student felt during their zone state. As an example, I had a high school golfer, Ron, describe his zone state to me. When he described it to me, he said he felt extremely aggressive and confident, like nothing could shake him. When he performed at his worst, he felt he lost confidence and he was very passive, with low energy. I suggested the cue word “bulldog,” and he loved it. Ron said that is exactly how he felt at his best, like an aggressive bulldog on the mound.

    I then asked Ron to describe how a bulldog would feel. He said that a bulldog would always keep his head high. So for Ron, we created the behavior trigger of “chin up.”

    I then asked Ron of a visual image that reminded him of when he was confident and aggressive. He said he had a picture of himself smashing one of his longest drives. I told him to put his picture on his phone (he had one of those fancy iPhones), and to look at this picture as much as possible. But more importantly, when he looks at this picture, Ron is to recall feelings of confidence.

    The last step is to create a personalized routine. That is, Ron is to put all three processes (buzzword, behavioral trigger and image) into his pre-shot routine. Specifically, at the start of Ron’s routine, he is to say “bulldog.” As he says this, he is to get his chin up, and then he is to recall that image of him smashing that long drive. All three will help him instantly get into the correctional emotional state for his upcoming shot.

    To help your students play at their best, help them become aware of their best (zone) state and then help your students create a personalized routine that will lead to their most effective emotions. This is a simple but incredibly powerful method that will lead to your students playing their best golf.

    About the author: USGTF member Dr. Gregg Steinberg has been recognized by Golf Digest as one of golf’s great sports psychologists. He has been a frequent guest on Golf Channel to speak about sport psychology. He is the sports psychologist for the USGTF. Go to to become a certified mental game expert by the International Golf Psychology Association, sponsored by the USGTF.
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