Max Faulkner Returns Claret Jug to the British Isles

Max Faulkner Returns Claret Jug to the British Isles

Max Faulkner Returns Claret Jug to the British IslesBy Mike Stevens, USGTF Teaching Professional Tampa, Florida

In 1951 the Open Championship was played outside Great Britain for the first time. The site was Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland, which hosts once again this year. I could not find a reason for going there other than it is a beautiful course with magnificent landscape. I guess the R&A just wanted a change of pace.

The odds-on favorite going in was defending champion Bobby Locke of South Africa. Max Faulkner, the eventual winner, on the other hand was a decent player with a few minor tournament victories in England. Born on England’s south coast in 1916, he was introduced to the game by his father Gus, a former assistant to the great James Braid. Max was a multisport talent, but golf seemed to be his favorite pastime. He joined his dad as an assistant pro after his schooling and started getting some notoriety as a potential player until the big one began. From 1939 to 1945, he played exactly two rounds of golf while serving his country in defeating the German war machine.

Once peace returned, Faulkner went back to work on his game, which came back quickly, but what he was most noted for was his dashing attire in bold colors and cheerful disposition. Entering the ’51 Open, he had a good feeling about his chances. He played Portrush in the Irish Open at21, finishing third, and felt it favored his power fade as most of the holes have a right-hand curve. He al so believed a very light putter, one of the many he owned, would come in handy on the fastest greens of all Open venues. His premonition was correct, needing only 51 putts with the magic wand in the first two rounds to top the leaderboard with a score of 141. The final two rounds of the Open in those days were played on the same day, and Max, playing well in the morning round, came to the 16th hole well in the lead, but hit a disastrous drive that landed within two feet of a barbed-wire boundary fence. But Max believed it was his day. Rather than chip out, he took his 4-wood and with his backside against the barbs, he abruptly cut the ball out over the OB fence, curving the ball on to the putting surface. His playing partner, American Frank Stranahan, walked over and commented to him that it was the finest shot he had ever seen. Faulkner would finish the third round six shots clear of the field.

Max Faulkner Returns Claret Jug to the British IslesHere is where the story gets even more interesting. After a brief respite, Max headed for the first tee. As he walked, a young boy approached and asked him to sign a ball, but Faulkner was reluctant, not wanting to be distracted. Then the boy said, “You’re going to win,” and at the urging of the boy’s father who mentioned how much it would mean to the boy, Max signed the ball – Max Faulkner, Open Champion 1951. For the first time, he let the thought of blowing a big lead enter his mind, and struggled a bit coming home in 74. There were no scoreboards at the time, so runners were dispatched to and from to let people know what was going on with players still on the course. Word came in that Tony Cerda had turned in 34 and was a threat to catch the leader. A bit later, the word was that three fours on the final holes would tie Faulkner. A final messenger approached Max and related to him, “Cerda’s taken six; it’s your Open.”His dream had proved true – he was the Champion Golfer of the Year. The Claret Jug held by South African Bobby Locke would be returning to Britain.

Max Faulkner would go on to win 16 tournaments in Europe, but never another Open Championship. It was his crowning achievement and all he ever wanted. He also played on five Ryder Cup teams, including the surprise 1957 team in which Britain won for the first time since 1933.

Another interesting chapter in his life came in1973 during the Open at Troon. He was paired with Gene Sarazen when Sarazen recorded a hole-in-one at the famed Postage Stamp. It was Sarazen and Walter Hagen who were models for Faulkner’s snappy attire on the golf course.

Max Faulkner played for six decades, observing golf from the hickory era to the many changes in ball and club technology. A true sportsman, he could have played professionally at tennis, cricket or soccer, but golf was his true love. On the 50thanniversary of his triumph in the Open, he was honored with the Order of the British Empire for his service to golf. He lived out his remaining years in Sussex and passed away in 2005 after contracting pneumonia at the age of 88, a true gentleman of the game who should not be forgotten.
Social Media Marketing for Golf Professionals

Social Media Marketing for Golf Professionals

By Jim LaBuda USGTF Teaching Professional, West Seneca, New York

As golf professionals and instructors, we rely on golf students coming to us and paying for our instruction services. Whether you are employed by a local golf club or driving range, or you are an independent contractor whose main source of income is from instruction, having a social media presence is important. More and more people today are using social media platforms to search for all types of services they want to hire someone for, including golf instruction.

What Exactly is Social Media?

Social media can be defined as different types of electronic communication that allows people to create online communities to share ideas, information, personal content, videos, etc. Typically, most social media services are accessed via a desktop or laptop computer. However, with the invention of smartphones and tablets, more and more users are finding it easier to access these social media platforms “on the go” instead of sitting behind a desk in a more traditional setting. Also, with millions of people on various social media platforms at any point in time, it can be seen as very attractive for business owners who are trying to promote a product or service.

How is Social Media Used Today?

Social media today is used by individuals and businesses alike to share ideas, photos, videos, experiences, etc. There is almost nothing that can’t be shared via some type of social media site. Most social media sites today will allow you to set up a profile or a social media account for free. This is one reason why social media is so attractive for businesses today, because for the most part it doesn’t cost anything. Sure, there are promotions or paid advertisements that you can run and will be an expense to your business, but we will discuss this more in a little bit. Setting up a social media profile is also something which requires almost no technological experience or ability. Just about anyone can visit one of many social medial websites, click on “create a profile,” and the site will walk you through everything that you need to do in order to set up a profile on that site. If you are setting up a business profile, there are standard questions that will be asked, including your business contact info, location, what type of a business are you, etc. Fill in the info, upload a photo or two and you now have a social media profile on that site.

As golf professionals, social media and technology are something that we should all be very involved with. I remember when I first started teaching golf professionally and visited local driving ranges on a busy evening. Instructors were known to “walk the line,” which meant walking up and down the driving range or the tee line and offering free tips or passing out business cards to anyone who may have seemed like they were struggling that day. This may have been something that worked years ago to gain students, and to be perfectly honest with you it maybe something that works today. It’s not a practice that I have done lately and I don’t know of many instructors who have.

These days, when someone is looking for something or needs to know how to perform a certain task, they are told to “Google it.” When someone determines that they are in need of golf instruction, what are they most likely to do? If they aren’t a member at a local course where an instructor is based, or they don’t know an instructor personally, they are going to grab their smart phone or tablet and they are going to search for “golf instructors in my area” or “golf instructors near me.”This is where the first and most important social media platform comes into play.

Do You Have Your Own Website?

Having a website for your business is very important and it is something different from some of the social media examples I gave above. Usually, there is a cost involved in having a website, either in the website construction or the hosting of the site. You can spend the money and have someone design your website for you professionally, or you can attempt to design it yourself.

The first thing that you will need to do is to purchase a website domain and hosting. I purchased my website domain,, and I have to pay annual hosting costs for this. Hosting a website is basically the space, or “land,” where your website will be. If you don’t pay the annual hosting cost, people will not be able to find your website online.

Once you purchase your domain name and pay for your website to be hosted, it’s time to design your website. Designing a website seems like it can be intimidating, but it can become a fairly simple process. Many companies today offer domain names, website hosting and design services. There are many different templates you can choose from, depending on what you want your website to look like and the “theme” that you want your site to have. If you don’t have any experience writing HTML code to build a website from scratch, then I would recommend using one of the companies that offer domain names, hosting and website design. Personally, I use GoDaddy ( for my domain and hosting services. I then used one of their templates to design and customize my website with different pictures, various information and different tabs detailing different services that I offer.

Once your website is designed and live on the internet, people can put your site address in their search bar and find you. But if no one knows that you have a website, how can they find out about you and the types of services that you offer? As golf professionals, there are many things we can include on a website. You can have a page that tells potential students more about yourself, lesson rates, where your lessons are usually given, any certifications you may have, etc. I use my website to try and tell potential students why they should come take a golf lesson from me and how I can help their game. You can post videos, testimonials from past students, pictures of you giving a lesson, etc. The opportunities are endless, but one of the main things a website should do is have a place where people can enter an email address and become part of your email list. This is great way for you to build your email and customer list.

Why Do I Need to Use Email Marketing?

Let’s face it. Everyone these days has an email address, and we are all getting bombarded with emails from companies that we have done business with in the past, and even some spam email from companies that we may have never done business with. Sure, you may open some of the emails that you receive and read them, but most of them you may not. So, why should we use email marketing as golf professionals? Because email marketing is a great way to stay in contact with not only your current students, but also with potential future students. It helps your students remember that you want to be the only golf instructor that they ever turn to for assistance and also keeps reminding your potential students that “I am here to help in case you need me.”

A well-crafted email can be one of the most powerful marketing tools that a golf professional can have. Your email can contain a recap from the previous week’s PGA or LPGA Tour event, golf tips, product reviews, lesson and clinic information, or share some news about yourself and your business. During the golf season, I try to send out at least two emails a week to my email list. I try to change up what I provide everyone in my email, but I have sent out golf tips via video I posted on my website and YouTube, golf fitness videos, clinic and lesson information, and even professional swing analyses I have completed.

So, how does sending emails to potential students help me? Let’s say you have a student that is struggling with distance. You give them lessons, see something in their swing that you can change, and by the end of the lesson you have them hitting the golf ball 15 yards farther. You can tell this story to everyone on your email list about how you helped a student pick up 15 additional yards in one lesson! All it takes is for one person on your email list that also wants more distance to say, hey, if it worked for that other person, maybe it will work for me. Now your email marketing has converted someone on your email list, a potential student, to a current student. They visited your website, entered their email address, and you have now converted that student into a sale and a paying customer.

How do we get people to visit our website and sign up for our email list? This is where social media marketing comes in. Your website will be your main online presence, and the various social media platforms will be how you drive people to your website.

What Social Media Platforms Can I Use?

Today there are so many different social media platforms available that it would take me all day to go through them. Most individuals have at least one profile set up on social media, and some probably have multiple accounts. I’ll touch on some of the most popular platforms now and how they can be beneficial to a golf professional.


Facebook is probably one of the most popular social media networking sites today. It’s an easy way to communicate with family and friends nearby and across the world. You can post pictures, articles, videos and numerous other things. Businesses can use Facebook to advertise to potential customers by posting anything that may relate to the goods or services that they are trying to promote. As a golf professional, I created a Facebook page called Jim LaBuda Golf to try and advertise my instruction services to potential customers. People will follow my Facebook page, and then they can “share” anything that I post to their friends. This is a great way to basically advertise for free. People can share the golf tips that I post on Facebook with the people that they are Facebook friends with, and hopefully will introduce new potential customers to the services that I have to offer. They visit my website to learn more about me and what I have to offer, and can even sign up to be on my email list. Then, when they are in need of a service that I can offer them in the future, hopefully they will remember me and contact me.

Businesses that have Facebook profiles can also purchase paid advertisements. The business will determine where they want to target their customers (either locally or nationwide), who they want their potential customers to be, and how long of a period of time they want this ad to run. Then, based on the potential customer that the business defined, Facebook will run the ad for that business in the potential customer’s Facebook news feed. They will use the information that the business provided them, along with each individual’s Facebook profile, pages that they currently follow, and potential interests to determine who to show the ad to. Then, the person who sees this ad can determine whether or not they want to click on the ad to find out more information about what is being advertised. I have personally run Facebook ads to promote clinics that I was hosting and didn’t have anyone sign up for the clinics. However, I did have people who saw my ad on Facebook go to my website and sign up for my email list, so in that respect, running the ad was a success.


Twitter is an online social media and networking site. People can write short messages called “tweets” and post pictures and short videos. People can use Twitter to follow companies or products that they are interested in and can then see when someone posts a tweet. Twitter is a good social networking site for someone who wants to scan through their feed quickly and not sit and read anything. You can scan through your tweets and only read the ones that you are interested in reading. One of the downfalls to Twitter, however, is that reading a tweet can be confusing. Since you have a limited number of characters in your tweet, you must get creative in how you are trying to get your point across. Sometimes the result of the limited characters tweet can be very clever; other times it can get very confusing.

People who follow you on Twitter can see your tweets and then re-tweet what you post so that the people who follow them can see what they re-tweeted. They can also “like” your tweets which their followers can also see.

I like to use Twitter to post links to the emails I send out to my email list. Most of the time I just tweet something like, “Checkout my latest newsletter,” along with a link to where someone can access this newsletter. Then, I hope that my followers will click on the link, check out what I have to say in my newsletter or email campaign, and then re-tweet it to their followers. Once they do that, there are an endless number of people who can see what you have to offer based on how many people tweet and re-tweet what you have to say.


LinkedIn is basically a social media networking site for professionals. The LinkedIn courtesy is to not post anything personal on the site, but to have more professional or business-related posts. LinkedIn is considered to be the high-tech equivalent of attending your local Chamber of Commerce networking event. It’s a place to discuss business ideas, exchange business cards and talk a little bit about what you do.

I don’t believe LinkedIn is a social media platform where you will find new golf students or promote your instruction services. However, if you are looking for a new professional opportunity, or if you are looking for new employment, then having a presence on LinkedIn will be beneficial. It’s always a good idea to connect with similar professionals in your industry. You never know when you may need to contact someone for a professional service, and you never know when someone may need to contact you.


Instagram is another social media platform that offers free photo and video sharing. It is similar to other social media platforms where you follow other accounts of interest, and the posts that they create show up in your Instagram feed. Instagram is similar to Facebook but has a greater emphasis on mobile photo and video sharing. Therefore, Instagram is an extremely popular social media platform with the 18-29 year-old crowd. Instagram is a great way to post pictures and videos, but the videos shouldn’t be more than about 60 seconds long. So, if you post a video on Instagram, can you tell someone how to cure their slice in 60 seconds? You may be able to, but don’t forget the main purpose of using social media. You want to give someone an idea of how you can fix their slice on Instagram, but you really want to send them to your website and sign up for your email list to get the full story. I’ve personally started using Instagram more to post pictures and short videos, because it seems to be used more with a younger generation. Since we are golf professionals trying to grow and promote this game of golf, wouldn’t it make sense that we should have a social media presence with the younger generation? Instagram isn’t going away anytime soon, and in a very short period of time may become more popular than Facebook and Twitter.


YouTube is an extremely popular service for sharing videos where users can like, comment, watch, share and upload their own videos. Videos can be uploaded using a desktop or laptop computer, or can be uploaded via a mobile device. YouTube videos today consist of a wide range of topics, anywhere from how to grow tomatoes to how to pour a concrete driveway. Anyone with a mobile phone or video camera can upload videos to YouTube.

Because it is so easy to upload videos to YouTube, there are a good number of people on there who are looking to have the next “viral” video. A viral video is defined as one that becomes popular through internet or social media sharing. But how do you produce a video that can become viral? It’s impossible to answer, because no one knows. YouTube uses an algorithm where it can suggest video to a user based on the number of views it receives in the first 48 hours of being published on YouTube. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a video on YouTube that describes what the correct golf grip should be. Once you search for the correct golf grip in the YouTube search box, you will receive other suggested videos for the correct golf grip.

As a YouTube creator, it is imperative that your video become one of these suggested videos by making sure that you receive as much view time as possible in these first 48 hours. How can you do this? The answer is simple: Post a link to your new YouTube video on as many social media sites as you possibly can. Send it out to your email marketing list, inviting people to watch your new video, post a link on Facebook, tweet a link on Twitter, and post a link on LinkedIn and Instagram. YouTube is the perfect place to post videos and be able to have people all over the world watch them, but you also need to understand YouTube’s algorithm for the videos that it recommends. You can make money on YouTube, but in order to monetize your channel, you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. Those may seem like intimidating numbers, but you can achieve these totals with the proper focus and commitment.


In conclusion, I can’t tell you which social media platforms will work best for you. Some instructors are finding more success by posting shorter videos on Instagram, while other instructors are posting longer, more in-depth instructional videos on YouTube. You will need to experiment with different platforms and different types of posts to see which ones may work for you.

The internet and social media are not something which are going away. There are more and more social media platforms being introduced and gaining traction every day. Sites like Snapchat are becoming popular with a whole new generation of golfers, and as instructors we need to be able to adapt to the social media platforms our students are on.

Will our future students find our services via social media? Possibly, but we want to make sure that when someone in our area is looking for a golf instructor, our profile is front and center with them.
Getting The Most From Our Students

Getting The Most From Our Students

Getting The Most From Our StudentsPeople come to us in hopes of getting better at golf. Some have realistic expectations; some don’t. Although we love what we do, our job is not the easiest. We are under a lot of pressure to make sure our students go away with something solid that they can use and with which to improve.

Part of the difficulty in teaching and coaching is that much of what our success is based on is largely out of our hands. We can teach, coach, show, demonstrate, etc., maybe 50 percent of what a student needs to know, but the other 50 percent is up to them. They have to put in the time and effort, not only physically but mentally, in order to reap the benefits of what we have taught them. Yet, our50 percent factor in their success is critical, because without it, they have little or no chance to fulfill their half of their “contract” with us.

It starts with being able to assess what a student can or cannot do. For example, if they are physically incapable of making a full turn on the backswing, we cannot keep insisting that they learn to do so. This may be common sense, but a lot of teachers and good ones, at that have fallen prey to this well-intentioned but ineffective path.

But, you say, even though they cannot physically do what we are asking at the moment, if they put the time and effort to physically change their bodies, they can do it. This is where we need to get real. How many of our students, most of whom are older, are really going to spend a couple of hours a week specifically on exercises to help themselves to physically be able to move in a more efficient manner? That percentage is probably pretty close to zero. So, we’re going to have to give them something to do that they’re capable of doing at that moment.

It all starts with how the clubhead is moving into the ball. We’ve stated this on the pages of Golf Teaching Pro time and time again, but we can never say it enough. Most people are capable of getting the clubhead to move into the ball with a good path and square clubface angle, even if they can’t move anywhere near like a tour pro.

It starts with the setup. Noted teaching professional Michael Breed has often said it takes no athletic ability to assume a proper setup position, and he’s right. Yes, there may be some physical limitations that prevent some of our students from taking a model posture, but the ball doesn’t know this. And the movement of the club itself isn’t necessarily dependent upon this.

It’s also important to limit the amount of information that is given to a student. One USGTF teaching professional related the story of when he was a young teacher and had a student who was shooting in the mid-90s and wanted merely to break 90 consistently. He enthusiastically showed the student several things he needed to change in order to reach his goal. When the teacher saw the student a few weeks later and asked him how he was coming along, the student replied, “Terrible! I can’t break 100 now!”

It’s cases like this that can give a teacher, and also unfortunately the teaching profession, a bad name. The young teacher then worked with the student for 30 minutes on the spot, simplifying the information that was originally given, and having the student concentrate on only one or two things.

Many new teachers are eager to impart a lot of information, erroneously thinking that they are short changing their students if they don’t. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Getting the most out of our students requires two things on our part: 1) Getting them to do things of which they are capable, and 2) giving the minimum amount of information necessary. It’s a recipe that works well for the best teachers and coaches in the world, and even though we may not be considered a worldwide guru, it works for the rest of us, too.
Harman, Team USA Win World Cup

Harman, Team USA Win World Cup

Harman, Team USA Win World CupIt took 21 years, but Mark Harman is finally back in the winner’s circle at the World Golf Teachers Cup. Since capturing his second individual championship in 1998 at San Roque, Spain, Harman watched other outstanding golfers like Dave Belling, Christopher Richards, James Douris and Ken Butler hoist the trophy. But this past February at La Iguana Golf Club in Herradura, Costa Rica, Harman emerged victorious by shooting 71-75 – 146 to edge Costa Rica’s Alejandro Duque by two shots. Overcoming an opening-hole double bogey, a four-putt on the third hole and three-putting two of the final three holes during the final round, Harman played the other 14 holes in three-under-par. Belling, the 2003 individual champion, finished third for the overall title and earned the World Golf Senior Teachers Cup individual title in the process, shooting74-79 – 153. Ray Holder’s two-round total of172 on scores of 85-87 defeated runner-up Peter Louis. Mary Wolf captured the Ladies title with 87-84 – 171.

Employing a round-robin team match play format, Team USA swept all its matches to emerge victorious in the team competition, with Canada second and Asia third. Competitor Louis summed up the feelings of the participants when he said, “Fabulous golf course, unbelievable facilities. It was a pleasure to meet you all and to play with some of you. You are all exceptional and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed it. Thanks to Mark and the rest of the team for organizing this treat.”

Teaching Golf In Today’s Power Era

Teaching Golf In Today’s Power Era

Teaching Golf In Today's Power EraJack Nicklaus has been concerned about it for a longtime. Gary Player has weighed in, as has virtually every golf pundit. We’re talking about the power game today and how modern professionals hit the ball over 300 yards with regularity.

It’s not just the professionals and pundits who are interested in power, but also the average amateur. Those who work as club fitters and use launch monitor technology like TrackMan, FlightScope and GC Quad can all tell you tales of customers coming in to their stores and ranges who boast of distances that the monitors say they are not capable of. It’s almost comical, but also sad in a way, because golfers who are unrealistic about the distance they hit the ball are almost sure to come up short time after time.

We would be more than justified in telling our students, “No, you do not hit your driver 300 yards…or 250…or 200 (or whatever distance they’re claiming), and no, you do not hit your 7-iron 150.” Any teacher who has worked with a launch monitor is familiar with such unrealistic students. Why do some of our pupils believe they hit the ball distances that they clearly are not capable of hitting?

Much of it deals with ego. Besides ego, many golfers goby their maximum distance they’ve achieved with each club. They remember hitting a 5-iron 170yards, oblivious to the fact that the ball carried 145, hit a hard spot in front of the green and had a tailwind, to boot.

Many of us would like to think that we are hitting the ball farther than we actually do. We hear television commentators telling us the pros are hitting the ball 320 with their driver and it seems impossible that we are 100 or more yards behind that, refusing to believe that we are that weak. Some of the skepticism, though, is warranted, as television often exaggerates the distances players are capable of hitting.

At the PGA Championship a couple of years ago, Golf Channel had a shot tracer on Rory McIlroy as he warmed up for a practice round. On one drive, the tracer showed McIlroy carrying – repeat, carrying – the ball 365yards. This is completely absurd. Long-drive competitors with swing speeds of 140 mph carry the ball that far. McIlroy’s swing speed is an impressive 122 mph, but that’s nowhere in the ballpark of what a long-drive competitor can do. It doesn’t help our cause as teachers when television creates fictional numbers in order to create some sort of “wow” factor.

Older players have long been guilty of overestimating their distances. As age has robbed them of their strength and quickness, they seem to be denying reality and hope against hope that they can still hit their 7-ironthe 150 yards they did 20 years ago, only to see the ball time after time coming up short of the green. So, instead of adjusting for how far they now hit the ball, they rush to there tail store and buy the latest and greatest new irons with flexible faces and jacked-uplofts, complete with low tungsten weighting and lightweight graphite shafts. Now, don’t get us wrong – many players should be taking advantage of all the modern technology out there. But modern technology can only makeup for so much lost distance, and may result in a disappointed consumer.

How can we teach golf in today’s power era when most golfers are unrealistic about their distances or their expectations? We must emphasize that unless they’re going to compete at the highest levels on 7,400-yard courses, the first thing they should be doing is playing from the appropriate set of tees. If the average tour pro’s drive is 292 (at the time of this writing for the 2018-19 season) and our student’s average is 210, that comes out to 72 percent of the average tour pro, meaning our student should be playing from 5,328 yards to have an equivalent experience. Since most male golfers aren’t going to play from that distance, at the very least they should be playing no longer than 6,000 yards.

Another step we need to take is getting our students to have a realistic idea of how far they can actually carry the ball. We hear all the time that “I hit my 7-iron 150 yards,” when in reality it flies 135 and then rolls out another15 because they are using a low-spin ball. That 15-yard roll also represents a best-case scenario, usually when the ball hits a firm part of the course. There’s also a definite difference between a 150-yard distance to the hole when the pin is either up front or in the back. Knowing the carry distance to a reason able margin of error is important in these situations.

We can also ask our students to chart their rounds and keep track of one simple stat onpar-4s and par-5s: their scoring average when their drive found the fairway vs. when it didn’t. Most average golfers should see a difference of a full stroke. Charting this information should give them pause to consider whether distance or accuracy is more important to their personal game.

However, let’s suppose we have a student who insists on gaining distance. There are three ways to do this: through equipment, technique, or physical fitness. The first is easy enough and the second is realistic. But the third? That requires a real commitment that, frankly, most of our students are unwilling to undertake. And yet, it may be the most critical element in gaining distance.

Teaching golf in today’s power era requires a different skill set than in previous generations. If we can convince our students that they can still enjoy the game and play to a high level without hitting 300-, or even 250-yard drives, then it can be considered a job well done.
Why You Should Play In The U.S. CUP

Why You Should Play In The U.S. CUP

USGTF U.S CupBy Mark Harman, USGTF Course Director Ridgeland, South Carolina

It’s hard for me to write this article without some of it sounding a little like I’m blowing my own horn, but I assure you that is not my intention. I am writing this to hopefully convince a few more people to enter this year’s (and future years’) United States Golf Teachers Cup.

I have the privilege of being the only person to have competed in every single one of the previous 23 versions of this event. From St. Augustine, Florida (where it all started), to California, Nevada, Texas, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and other states, I have seen every U.S. Cup played. What I can tell you is that it is not just the highlight of my competitive calendar every year, but it is the highlight of my golf experience every year.

Why is that? I have been fortunate to win the event seven times, so you might say it’s obvious why I look forward to it on that account. Yet, that would be untrue. There was a long spell where I never was in contention, and yes, it bugged me, but in the end that really didn’t matter. What mattered is every year I got to play with and see some of not only my best friends in golf, but best friends, period. If I start mentioning names, I’m sure to leave someone out that I didn’t mean to, so I’ll just say that I have yet to meet someone at the U.S. Cup who isn’t a friend of mine.

The memories that are also the most enduring are the wonderful courses and cities where we take the Cup. This year’s tournament is in Sedona, Arizona, at Oakcreek Country Club. If you haven’t been to Oakcreek, you frankly don’t know what you’ve been missing. It’s one of the most beautiful courses I’ve ever played, and I can say that as someone who has played Pebble Beach and have been to the Masters at Augusta National. Oakcreek’s stunning views of the incredible red rock formations, along with its well-manicured fairways and greens are just short of the equal of these two icons of American golf. The course itself is extremely fun to play, challenging while not beating you up And speaking of Pebble Beach, every year the AT&T National Pro-Am is played there, where one pro is teamed up with one amateur. This year’s U.S. Cup will also feature basically the same format, where a USGTF professional competitor can play with an amateur of his or her choosing. Yes, we will still be competing for individual honors as always, but the Pro-Am is sure to bring a boost of energy to our great national championship event. And if you don’t have an amateur partner you can bring, no worries. You can still play without one.

There is always something for every-one. We actually have two tournaments being contested, the U.S. Cup and the United States Senior Golf Teachers Cup for those 50 and over. The Senior Cup also has age divisions of 60-and-over (the Super Senior division) and 70-and-over (the Legends division). We also offer separate prizes for those in the Legends division who shoot the best score in relation to their age.

From the non-competitive aspects point of view, I earlier mentioned great friendships. But what also takes place is the energy of so many like-minded people getting together, the chance to support your organization and its showcase event. Sedona has quite a few off-course activities and tourist attractions, and is quite popular as a tourist destination. I encourage you to enter this tournament early as lodging accommodations are sure to fill up quickly. For those of you who are more budget-minded, we have arranged rates of just $74.99 per night at the Comfort Inn in Camp Verde, which is approximately a 25-minute drive from the course. If you’d like to stay closer in Sedona itself, there are accommodations that can be had for reasonable pricing. As most of you are internet savvy, you can find some good deals that are closer to the course.

We generally have three types of participants at the U.S. Cup: Those who play every year or almost every year; those who play some of the time, and those who play once or rarely. I realize that this is not an inexpensive trip for most of you, and I truly appreciate those who make the time and effort to join us whenever they can, whether it be regular competitors or those who compete sparingly. And I know I speak for other officers of the USGTF when I say that.

Why not join us this year in Sedona? I look forward to seeing you there.
Teaching Hacks That Work

Teaching Hacks That Work

We all know that there is no substitute for teaching proper fundamentals. They are the bases of forming a good swing and overall game. There is no doubt that the finest players in the game have mastered the fundamentals, and the closer our students can do the same, the more they will improve.

But there are times when gaining proficiency in the fundamentals is rather difficult for some of our students. There are some teaching shortcuts that can be used in conjunction with the fundamentals that can expedite the learning process. Keep in mind that these won’t work for every student, but they’re worth trying when a student’s progress is stalled. Here are a few that cover the basic errant ball flights:


Many students have a hard time squaring the clubface because they don’t understand the feel of the proper release through impact.

Using an extremely strong grip –Most students employing this grip will have no choice but to square or close the clubface at impact.

Back to the target drill – The student sets up with a stance that is at least 45° closed to the target line. Since they can’t turn very well through the impact area, the arms and hands will tend to release properly through impact. This drill works for the vast majority of slicers.

Try to hit the ball with the toe of the clubhead – USGTF Hall of Fame teacher David Vaught emphasizes that the student must do the opposite of what he or she is currently doing in order to effect a change. This feeling of trying to hit the ball with the toe of the clubhead (not the toe of the clubface, but the actual toe of the clubhead) helps many slicers realize how much clubhead rotation is necessary through impact. And if you’re worried about the student actually hitting the ball off the toe of the clubhead and ruining their $500 driver, relax. Members of the USGTF Technical Committee have yet to see one student do this in our collective years of teaching.


Hooking, of course, is the opposite of slicing, as the clubface is closed to the clubhead path at impact. This is more of a good player’s problem, but we still see average players and novices struggle with it.

Drag the grip or clubhead inside through impact – USGTF teaching legend Bob Toski has been quoted as saying, “Swing in the direction of your miss.” So, if the ball is hooking left for a right-hander, it is imperative that the clubhead and/or grip be swung hard to the left through impact. Some may get the feeling of “sawing” across the ball.

Feel the lead shoulder move down and behind the golfer through impact – Golfers who hook often drop the clubhead too far inside starting down, the result of the lead shoulder moving too far out and up. Cultivating the opposite feel can do wonders.


Golfers can top the ball as the clubhead is either ascending or descending. Regardless of the angle of attack, many toppers “chicken-wing” the lead arm through impact, the result of not turning properly. But until that fundamental problem is fixed, a simple solution is to get the student to try to hit underneath the ball instead of trying to hit the back of the ball. Having them take practice swings where they brush the grass, or even take a slight divot, gets them to feel where the bottom of the clubhead is in relation to the ground.


This is the opposite of topping, as the student is hitting the ground before hitting the ball. Both topping and fat shots can have their origin in poor posture, but those hitting it fat really need to emphasize a more proper posture as they are likely to be too hunched over at setup. Also, as in topping, it is helpful to get the student to try to do the opposite of what he or she is actually doing, and this would involve trying to top the ball. And this bears emphasis: Knowing where the bottom of the clubhead is at impact is a crucial skill that must be mastered for any sort of proficiency in the game.


The best advice here might be the old saying, “Take two weeks off…then quit.” Seriously, shanking is a problem that has a number of causes, but the result is the same – hitting balls off the hosel of the club. A quick fix is to place an empty water bottle just outside where the toe of the clubhead should be at impact. Another quick fix in extreme cases is to have the student address the ball off the toe of the club and actually try to either hit the ball off the toe of the clubface, or even try to whiff to the inside of the ball. Sometimes all it takes is for a student to see his or her perception doesn’t match reality, and this can get them going in the right direction.


These teaching “hacks” aren’t substitutes for emphasizing the proper fundamentals, but they can help get results where other traditional methods may have either failed or are taking a long time to implement. It’s our job to get our students hitting the ball solidly, and sometimes that may mean taking shortcuts until the root cause of the problem is corrected.

Playing The Game: What Were You Thinking?

Playing The Game: What Were You Thinking?

By David Vaught USGTF Teaching Professional, Bradenton, Florida

So often, average golfers struggle on the golf course after taking instruction. This can be frustrating for the student and the instructor alike. Therefore, how do we address this issue, understand it and eliminate some of the golf course struggles that arise when it comes time to hit the links?

Let’s set up a common scenario for the golf instructor and their student. An obvious change needs to be made for the golf swing or stroke to produce higher quality shots. The instructor uses his or her knowledge to identify an issue and attempts to implement the change to the student’s motion. So far, an easy situation. The challenge comes when the student plays the first few rounds after taking a couple of lessons. In our theoretical situation, the student understands the issue and can implement the change while working with the instructor. The student then goes out to play, and sure enough, informs the instructor they played horribly and had a miserable time. Aren’t lessons supposed to make the game more enjoyable?

Here is the issue: Focusing intently about movements, especially small muscle movements, interrupts the natural pathways, or flows, from the brain through the central nervous system. From the first movement away from the ball to the millisecond the clubhead strikes the ball, the total time is less than 1 second (.92) for good players and slightly more than 1 second (1.15) for the average golfer. The last 3 feet of clubhead movement just before impact takes only .03 to .04 seconds! Talk about quick thinking!

In a controlled learning environment, with the guidance of the teacher and with no pressure to perform, it is possible to hit good shots while focusing intently on a muscle movement. But out on course, everything changes, as most of us know all too well. The student that attempts to force or think their way through a motor-skill change will make poorly-timed, bad rhythmical swings, often resulting in a worse result than they were experiencing before the instruction. Can you imagine mechanically thinking your way through throwing a ball? The result would not be good!

Therefore, what is the remedy? Some swing changes take time and some changes can be implemented much quicker. The solution is to communicate well with your student. Train them to not think their way through the swing on the course and to allow time for the changes to take place naturally over time. Concepts like “think box/shot box” are very valuable to teach your student. A free flowing, non-thinking swing that is flawed will work better on the course than a mechanical, tied-in-knots swing. A simple think box/shot box concept can be practiced on the range. During a practice swing away from the ball, the student is permitted to think “mechanics,” but once set up to the ball (shot box), they will not allow themselves to think about specific movements or mechanics. The focus should just be the target or something simple like tempo or rhythm.

Some players can use a common concept referred to as a “swing key.” This is something very simple, involves only one thought and usually involves a “feeling,” not necessarily a very technical thought. A swing key is acceptable if the player can perform it without interrupting the natural flow of theirs wing. Some male and female tour players will make some very strange practice swings in the “think box,” but rarely will a successful tour player “think” their way through the swing while hitting a shot.

It is up to the instructor to monitor and teach their student the difference between a simple swing key and a robot swing that can make the round of golf miserable. Flawed swings have to be altered to produce better shots, but the process of change can take time. During that process, the student should be taught to play on the course with a clear mind. Save thinking for the practice sessions and play with a free mind. The game will be much more enjoyable.

The Rhythm of Golf

The Rhythm of Golf

The Rhythm of GolfRhythm is an often overlooked aspect to the golf swing. Since the invention of the camcorder, teachers have been enamored with positions in the swing. They want their students to be in certain positions at certain times, all in an effort to get the ball to finish somewhere near its intended target. But today, savvy teachers know that there is more to the swing than just positions. They realize that the overall movement is important, and that good rhythm is very much a part of that.

It’s not just the golf swing where rhythm is important. There is a certain rhythm playing the game that is completely different than practice. There are also certain rhythms playing the game present one day that are different than other days. Indeed, an individual round of golf might feature several rhythms.

In playing vs. practice, it is important that our students somewhat simulate the rhythm of playing as much as they can when they practice. This might include hitting one shot with one club, putting the club back into the bag, drawing out another and playing another shot. To better simulate the rhythm of the course, going through the same pre-shot routine used on the course is of paramount importance. It doesn’t have to be used for every shot, but it should be used often enough so that when the player gets on the course, it doesn’t feel like such a foreign experience in terms of rhythm.

The rhythm of a round might be dramatically changed, too. For example, a group of golfers may be sailing along without delay until they run into a logjam of players up ahead, drastically slowing their progress. This can lead to a change in play, often for the worse. However, it can be no less damaging to be playing slowly when the group ahead suddenly decides it’s time to let your group through. Players often rush their routines in an effort to be courteous to the yielding group, but most of the time they’re only saving a couple of seconds. Although, those couple of seconds seem like the routine is cut in half, and the result is usually a poor one. And playing out the round with the newfound “freedom” of not having to wait can mean taking several holes to once again find a comfortable rhythm.

Teaching has its own rhythm, as well. There are days when things seem to flow and our students are progressing well. Other days, it seems we just cannot find the rhythm of our teaching, and we struggle with our message, our presentation, our quality of instruction. Perhaps it’s best to slow down when we find ourselves in this position and take some time to simplify our approach. You might think this malady would affect only new teachers, as they are still trying to find their footing, but experienced teachers have their off days, too.

Those of us who run a golf course or who work in the pro shop will find that a workday will often have several rhythms, and very rarely will there be a consistent rhythm throughout the day. There might be an early-morning rush, followed by a lull, followed by a consistent flow of players after lunch, tailing off again until the after-work crowd appears. There might be unexpected problems cropping up which divert our attention.

Think about all the aspects of golf besides playing, teaching and running a golf course. There are equipment manufacturers who need to be keenly aware of the rhythm of the golf marketplace. Retail golf stores have a rhythm all their own, as do the employees who work there. Tournament administrators find that running a competition has ebbs and flows of rhythm.

Rhythm may be one of the most important aspects of not only golf, but life. Those who are best able to recognize these rhythms and are able to “go with the flow” usually find the most success and contentment.
The Demise of a Great Tournament

The Demise of a Great Tournament

By Mike Stevens USGTF Teaching Professional, Tampa, Florida

Of the four majors, the U.S. Open was my second favorite, right behind the Open Championship. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. For most of its history, it was a tough but fair test, especially when played on an historically classic old course. However, the USGA’s obsession that under par is bad has led to ridiculous setups that don’t challenge the best players in the world; they just tend to make them look foolish. Instead of leaving the course as it was designed, the blue jackets swoop in and change the character of the course as it is played daily and as it has played for most of its history. All to preserve sacred par.

A lot of it has to do with how far the pros are hitting the ball these days. If they feel a course is too short, they then add new tee boxes to lengthen it. Barring that, they grow the rough to unplayable lengths. Take Merion, for example. They could only add 500 yards to get it up to 7,000; nothing for today’s fellows. Answer: Grow the rough to knee-high in many places and have the greens rolling around 13. Afterwards, they bragged how the old steed held up because the winning score was +1. This was far from the Merion that David Graham won on at -7 with much inferior equipment.

This year they return to Pebble Beach, where Phil Mickelson won in February with a score of 19 under par. If the winning U.S. Open score is high due to iffy weather that can roll in on the Monterey Peninsula, fine. But if it is due to tricked up pin placements and 12-inch rough, then on my scale of importance, you can move this major behind the Players, Ryder Cup and even the Tour Championship as far as I’m concerned.