Of Old Golf Clubs And Spiders!

Of Old Golf Clubs And Spiders!

I am Norm’s driver. I am a Callaway FT-9. I know, I am a bit old. But Norm is really old. He is older than some of the dirt that flies in the air when he hits a fat shot with me (all too often, I might add). At the moment, I am in a corner in the basement. I have been here for over a year!  I was put here to “learn a lesson.”  Old Norm thinks that by having me stand in the corner of the cold and dark basement, when I get out I will be so happy I will behave and he will hit straight drives again. Give me a break!

This is not the first time I have been down here. This seems to happen more and more as he reads golf tips online or in golf magazines, then tries to put them into practice. He is hopeless and confused, is the way I look at it. I mean, crap, he stands up to the ball and I look back and see his eyeballs rolling around and smoke coming out of his ears just before he grips my handle end so tight I think I am going to choke. Then he rips the downswing off the top in a casting action that would make you think he is fishing for whales. This is quickly followed by my head hitting the ground just behind the ball, giving me a headache and pointing my face somewhere east of where the ball should go. Then I am slammed into the golf bag and a club cover is put over my head.

As I sit here in my dark corner, I think back to bouncing around on the back of the cart. I manage to look around from time to time and wonder why I am the only one sent to the dungeon. I look down on those little bitty wedgies and know they hit more bad shots than I do…and talk about hitting it fat and adventures in the sand bins! Then those other clubs, I don’t even know why he brings them along. He can’t hit his five-or six-iron and relies on a “utility club,” whatever that is.

So here I am, just me and the spiders. I hate spiders! Old Normie spends so much time at the practice range that he never cleans up the basement. Cobwebs and spiders everywhere!  They used to crawl up my shaft and bite my grip. That taught them a lesson, I tell you. Norm is such a tight wad that he changes his grips every two years or so. They are so shiny and sweaty I don’t know how he hangs onto me. Anyway, back to the spiders. I think they tried to bite the grips and either the smell or the sweaty salt did them in as there were a few dead ones on the floor one day. Now the spiders just go by and wave at me. I am not sure if these are friendly waves, even though we have been here together so long, or a one-finger wave, as I can’t quite make out if they have hands or not.

Well, here it is spring again and Old Normie is dusting off the golf bag and the rest of his paraphernalia and has actually put me in the bag. He is a year older and a year weaker, is my thinking. Perhaps he will swing a bit easier, keep his head behind the ball and let me do my stuff. Could be a good year coming up or I could be back with the spiders.

Even golf professionals have bad days. Average Human Beings (AHBs) can choose to pick their attitude at the start of every day; professionals have to pick their attitude every day. Don’t blame the driver…and watch out for spiders!
The Four Stages of Learning and What They Mean to Teachers

The Four Stages of Learning and What They Mean to Teachers

Noel Burch worked for Gordon International Training in the 1970s, a company founded by Dr. Thomas Gordon to help train people in various disciplines such as leadership, conflict resolution, personal development, and teaching. Burch came up with a learning model titled “Four Stages of Learning Any New Skill,”and he and Gordon co-authored a book in 1974 titled T.E.T., Teacher Effectiveness Training. The aim of the book was to help teachers to bring out the best in their students and for parents to aid in their child’s learning development. It has been said that great teachers are also great thieves, as they “steal” the proven ideas of others in order to be the best that they can be. Burch’s model works well with teachers in all fields, and golf is no exception – so we’ll “steal” it for our purposes. The model consists of four parts: 1) unconsciously incompetent; 2) consciously incompetent; 3) consciously competent; 4) unconsciously competent. UNCONSCIOUSLY INCOMPETENT Golfers in this stage are doing exactly what this description indicates: They are doing something wrong, but they have no idea what it is, or even if they are indeed doing anything wrong. (Studies have shown that incompetent employees have less stress than competent employees, because since they are basically clueless, they don’t have enough knowledge to know if they’re doing a good job or not – but that’s another topic entirely.) When students first come to us, this is the stage that they find themselves in. We as teachers are tasked with identifying the problems, making the student aware of them, and coming up with the solutions. Students in this stage need a teacher who will be a strong guiding force. This is not to say that student input on the direction they want to go should be ignored, but in the end, the teacher should lay out a game plan and do it authoritatively. This helps instill confidence in the student regarding the teacher’s ability, but more importantly, it gives the student a firm path from which not to deviate, helping to eliminate doubt. CONSCIOUSLY INCOMPETENT The student now is aware of what the problems are and what remedies are needed. It’s okay for them to make some repetitions in this phase with the goal of becoming aware of what their flaws are. Teachers should take great care to still be a strong guiding force in controlling the direction of the lesson. Student feedback is sought, but only for the teacher to modify the direction he or she has laid out. It is detrimental to allow the student to guide the direction of the lesson in this stage, or for the teacher to reduce his or her control. CONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT This is the “turn the corner” stage, where the student has made the change. The student has to consciously think about what he or she is doing, and must be constantly aware of the feel of the change. This is also a “turn the corner” stage for the teacher, who at this point should back away and let the student engage in self-discovery. It is tempting for the teacher to keep reinforcing the instruction given, but it is more important for the student to simply engage in the learning process. This means the teacher should reduce the feedback dramatically, offering instruction only if the student is reverting back to bad habits or is struggling excessively with the new ones. In one sense, control of the lesson has now been handed over to the student. Another option is for the teacher to offer feedback only if the student requests it. Granted, that’s a pretty unconventional approach and isn’t often used, but one that studies have found to be quite effective. A mistake some teachers make in this stage is to assume that the student has successfully made the change, so it’s time to introduce another one. Wrong!  The great Byron Nelson said he only worked on one change at a time, because it was all he could handle. It’s great advice for golf teachers to heed, too. However, this needs to be explained further. Some students may need to make two changes at a time, perhaps one on the backswing and one on the forward. This is fine for most golfers. The admonishment to avoid multiple changes is when you’re working on one change and then decide to add another one to the mix. UNCONSCIOUSLY COMPETENT This is the ultimate stage, where the student is now executing the changes without conscious thought. Think about driving a car: If a car suddenly pulls out in front of you, you automatically and reflexively put on the brake. The same thing applies to golf. The student will now be able to swing without consciously focusing on the new habit. After this occurs, any new changes can now be introduced.
Fairways For Warriors Making A Difference

Fairways For Warriors Making A Difference

USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional Dennis Daugherty from Clermont, Florida, has a passion for giving back. Through his work organizing golf events for the American Cancer Society, United Way, Make A Wish Foundation and others, Daugherty’s efforts reap rewards for those who face life’s difficulties.

Most recently, he has worked with a group called Fairways for Warriors, an organization that has as its mission providing golf instruction, equipment, and outings for combat-wounded veterans. This helps with the rehabilitation process through physical, cognitive, social, and emotional health benefits through the game of golf. In addition, families are aided through their participation in the programs.

According to its website, “Warriors can’t heal alone, so Fairways for Warriors events and support community is open to the families of wounded warriors, as well. We provide golf equipment, instruction, and outings to wounded warriors and all their family members who wish to participate in the spirit of fun and healing.”

When it comes to rehabilitation, Fairways for Warriors says the most significant injuries aren’t seen, and include depression, post-traumatic stress, and brain injury. The program is designed to help men and women heal from such injuries and the wounded warriors “experience a sense of support and community again.”

In regards to physical health benefits, Fairways for Warriors aims to improve hand-eye coordination and increase functional independence, balance, strength, endurance, fine motor skills, and flexibility, with the goal of reducing the risk of secondary medical complications. Cognitive health benefits include enhanced self-esteem, assisting with managing stress and anxiety, alleviating and  decreasing the risk of depression, and increasing coordination skills, focus, and attention. Social health benefits are enhanced relationships among fellow veterans, families and friends; creating networks and providing accessible resources while giving veterans a sense of belonging, and creating a shared space and experience that helps breakdown negative perceptions, allowing individuals to focus on their commonalities. Finally, the emotional health benefits allow veterans the freedom to make choices that lead to meaningful leisure experiences, and draw on their strengths and assets of energy, enthusiasm, skills, and the desire to excel.

A number of veterans sing the praises of Fairways for Warriors. Steven Allberry said, “Fairways for Warriors has changed my life in so many ways…. And I am now part of the biggest family and support team ever. All of the members of Fairways for Warriors are my brothers and sisters.”

Jack Wiseman, a Vietnam War veteran, commented, “Fairways gives the older vets an opportunity to share our experience, strength, and hope, to the younger vets, not just in golf, but in life.”

Bryan C. Coons stated, “This group of people has allowed me to live again through fellowship, friendship, and lastly golf. I love the game of golf and it allows me the camaraderie that I need in the aspect that it mimics life and military state of friendship. Fairways for Warriors has made me a better Christian, husband/father, and all-around person.”

Fairways for Warriors currently has three chapters in Orlando, Florida; San Antonio, Texas; and Jacksonville, Florida. Tom Underdown is the founder and director, and his e-mail address is tom@fairwaysforwarriorsorg.

For more information on the organization, please visit www.FairwaysForWarriors.com.  
Getting Worse Before Getting Better (more to the story)

Getting Worse Before Getting Better (more to the story)

Golf professional helping young man with his swing

“You have to get worse before you get better” is a mantra of golf teaching professionals throughout the years, and is also generally accepted by most golfers. This saying refers to making swing changes, with the belief that a person’s performance will suffer during the transitioning phase from getting rid of old habits and ingraining new ones.

You might see someone undergoing a swing change who hits almost every ball poorly, but they stick with it under the guise of getting worse before getting better. However in fact, this person may not actually be on the right path. The question becomes, how can we distinguish between someone getting worse who will eventually get better, as opposed to someone getting worse before…staying that way?

We can start with these two tenets: 1) Students who execute our instruction properly during a given swing should hit the ball better with that swing. 2) Students who execute our instruction properly, but either don’t see improvement or hit the ball worse, means that our instruction is incorrect.

Now, the student who sees ball striking improvement with our instruction may get worse in terms of consistency. That’s the key word. In most cases they’re still going to hit more poor shots than good ones initially, but as long as they’re hitting some good shots and seeing a better ball flight on occasion, then we’re on the right track. Here’s an example:

Bob is chicken-winging his left elbow through impact, which we diagnose to be his major problem. We get Bob to turn his body better through impact, eliminating the chicken wing. He hits some good shots, but also some bad ones. Do the bad shots mean he’s not executing our instruction correctly? In a very narrow sense, yes, but that’s too strict of a measure. The key here is that Bob is seeing an improvement in his ballstriking on some shots, but he has yet to learn the nuances involved in the new move, making it understandable why he hits many poor shots initially. We’re on the right path. Bob’s scores may suffer for a while, but eventually he’ll turn it around and start improving. Here’s where “getting worse before getting better” makes sense.

We’ll use the same example for the second tenet mentioned earlier. We get Bob to turn his body better through impact, eliminating the chicken wing, but he can’t hit a good shot to save his life. Should we just tell Bob he needs to just grin and bear it, that you have to get worse before you get better? No. And what’s worse, that’s lazy teaching. We may have correctly diagnosed Bob’s problem and come up with the correct solution, but people aren’t like robots that we can program to be automatic.

So now we have to find a way for Bob to start seeing some good results at least once in a while. For example, maybe he had to stand too close to the ball with his old swing because of the reduced radius; now he’s got a bigger radius and is not used to it. Standing farther away may help his cause. Whatever the reason Bob is struggling, we have to come up with a way for him to hit the ball better– at least occasionally – before the lesson ends. More often than not, this involves giving him an additional key to focus on, or making a secondary change to go with the main one.

One aspect that needs to be discussed is when we accurately diagnose the problem, give the proper cure, and the student just cannot get it, no matter what. It’s tempting to send the student on his way, telling him to just keep working on it and to remember that you have to get worse before you get better. But such action is akin to teaching malpractice. It may be hard to abandon what we know to be the correct solution, but if it becomes obvious the student will never get it, we must change course.
Is Teaching Golf Getting Too Complicated?

Is Teaching Golf Getting Too Complicated?

It used to be that a golf student would come to a teacher, explain what was wrong and what the desired outcome was, and the teacher would come up with a simplistic plan to fix the problem. In perusing the Internet these days, some people make it seem like you need a Ph.D. in teaching golf to be effective. Below are some real quotes from golf forums and the like found on the Internet: “External cues and Socratic method teaching.” “Would it be logical to assume that the more v (speed) the more A (centripetal) will line up with the line between the weight and the fulcrum?” “20% Technique, 20% Golf IQ, 30% On-Course Decision Making, 30% Peak State of Performance.” “We have been working to correct his swing plane number 60 to 50 with driver and 70 to 60 with 6-iron thus far. A byproduct has been his path going from 3-4 right to 8-10 right.” “The joint moments and GRF curves are of GREAT interest to me in better understanding how this golf swing develops.” “For the angular motions, up-slopes mean left rotation, posterior tilt, and right lateral tilt, vice versa.” “Creating compression with forces in the backswing creates ‘increased weight applied to the feet’ thus increasing traction to support body torque.” Whew! Anyone else’s head spinning? It’s not that the above statements are so hard to understand necessarily, but it demonstrates the effort some teachers go through in order to learn more about the golf swing and the science and study behind it. While the USGTF always welcomes its members learning as much as they can about techniques, it seems a whole industry has thrived in making teaching golf as much as an egghead activity as possible. It just didn’t start with the advent of the Internet, of course. Back in 1969, Homer Kelley published his book The Golfing Machine, a tome so difficult to follow that only the most intelligent and/or persistent among us can understand what it is saying. As the years went on and Kelley’s book became the gospel according to many teachers, a school of thought even developed among some in this fraternity that if you didn’t understand Kelley’s book and failed to use its methodologies, you weren’t even qualified to teach golf! Undoubtedly a similar sentiment holds true today among many golf teaching geeks, where if you aren’t up-to-date on the latest technology, methodologies, and in-depth science behind the swing and ball flight laws, you aren’t worth your weight as a teacher. If this were true, one would have to wonder how Jack Grout was able to develop Jack Nicklaus as a layer, simplistically holding young Nicklaus’ hair in an effort to keep his head steady. Or Deacon Palmer, who told 3-year-old Arnold to hold the club this way, and saying, “Boy, don’t you ever change it.” In 1957, the year that Ben Hogan’s iconic book Five Lessons was published, there were probably a few golfers scratching their heads over Hogan’s concept of the backswing plane vs. the downswing plane. But for the most part, Hogan wrote a highly technical book in a very simplified manner that didn’t require a degree from Harvard to understand. This brings up a challenge to the modern-day 21stcentury teacher: How to make use of all the information and technology available, utilizing it in a manner so that ordinary students can benefit. One of the credos the USGTF has held since its inception in 1989 is to teach the game in a simplified manner. That credo is valid today as it was 27 years ago, when any golf instruction was imparted in person, in print, or through video means. One way to do this is to put yourself in your student’s shoes, and realize that they most likely know very little of the technical aspects of the game. Talk to them almost as if talking to a child. This is not condescending. This is effective communication of potentially complicated subject matter. We’ve said it before on these pages, and we’ll say it again: Teaching golf comes down to the basics that have been utilized by great champions throughout the years. These basics consist of the setup, properly pivoting, matching up the arm swing with the pivot, and knowing the ball flight laws. By all means, yes, explore all there is out there in the technological world. Engage in in-depth theoretical discussions on the Internet. But remember that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to teach golf – even in 2016.  
Feel Is Real…Or Is It?

Feel Is Real…Or Is It?

Healthy human beings are gifted with five senses: sight, sound, feel, smell, and taste. And three of those can be used in imparting golf instruction, unless someone has found a way to also incorporate smell and taste into a lesson. Now, wouldn’t that be interesting! In many lesson scenarios, it’s common to hear the teacher keep up a running monologue for the duration of the lesson. Such teachers are sound-based, or audio-based, where most of the instruction is imparted via the spoken word. Other teachers like to demonstrate often during the lesson by hitting many shots. One has to wonder whether they’re just trying to sneak in some practice on their own games by teaching this way. However, there actually may be some merit in this type of teaching, as it addresses the visual portion of our senses. Less common is the lesson where the teacher is actively putting the students into swing positions, helping them move throughout the swing, or having them do drills for the majority of the lesson. This is a feel-based lesson, and for some reason it seems to be the least-used method of teaching. Teachers who teach mainly with a sight-based or sound-based method of communicating should realize that the student needs to eventually translate this instruction into feel. Regardless if the student learns best by sight or sound, or is analytical, he or she uses feel to move the club throughout the swing. Speaking of which, the teacher needs to determine which sense the student learns best with. Some players only need to hear what they need to do and can then translate this into feel; others need to see it in action. The sense of sight The two ways for a student to gather information in regards to sight are watching others or watching themselves, such as through video or still pictures. Students who learn best through sight can benefit from a teacher who hits many shots during the lesson, especially if the teacher has a fine swing. Think about it: A lot of people love to hang out at the range at a tour event, watching the players hit shot after shot. The late Moe Norman used to give clinics where he mainly hit shots for a couple of hours, with a minimum of instruction and speaking. People were fascinated with his abilities, and were content to just watch. Some clues that may indicate a student learns best by sight is if they like to watch golf on television, like to look at swing sequence pictures, or are often videoing their own swings. Such students may benefit with the teacher also videoing the student’s swing throughout the lesson, instead of just filming a couple of swings to start the lesson, which is more the norm. When giving demonstrations, teachers should take great care in making sure the demonstration is accurate, and that the demonstration matches up with the verbal explanation. The sense of sound Some students prefer to hear what they need to do. Highly-skilled players are experts at this, as they tend to have all their senses heightened when it comes to golf. Amateurs and club players may also tend to prefer verbal instruction if their overall comprehension skills are at a high level. Such people may include writers, editors, and people who do a lot of public speaking in their jobs. People who love to read books about golf may also be verbal-based learners. When giving verbal instruction, the teacher needs to make sure the instruction is easily understood and accurate, and that the communication is clear. A good way to do this is for the teacher to speak to his or her students as if they are in grade school. This is not to say the students should be spoken to in a condescending manner, but rather, in a simplified manner. The sense of feel As was mentioned earlier, all instruction needs to eventually be translated into feel by the student, and feel is an individual thing. Two golfers may be making the same move and yet feel it in totally different ways. In helping a student translate visual and verbal instruction into feel, the teacher needs to ask the student what it feels like, instead of telling them what it should feel like. It’s okay to give some suggested feels, but the final judge is the student. The headline of this article asks whether feel is real or not. A lot of teachers have pointed out that throughout the years, various tour players aren’t really doing what they say they are doing. With video being so prevalent, this doesn’t happen as much as in the past, but you still hear it. Mark O’Meara, in a Golf Magazine cover story a number of years ago, said he started his downswing with his arms and hands, although any video analysis clearly showed he started it with his lower body. Another case where feel isn’t real is the student who drags the club back inside and then comes over the top. To them, they may well feel like they’re taking it back and through on the same plane. When they actually do take it back and through on the same plane, it will in all likelihood feel as if they’re taking the club back outside and looping it to the inside. We can conclude feel is real when the student makes a move different than he or she is used to, but may not be when it comes to making their normal move. Golfers often give a feel-based analysis of what they did wrong after a poor shot, and generally this is an accurate feel of what went wrong. Our jobs as teachers involves not only making sure the student has the right feels, but feels them accurately. If we can do this, the student will have the minimum of trouble making the desired change.
The Private Lesson

The Private Lesson

It’s been a staple of golf instruction since the first teaching professional set up shop: the private lesson. The private lesson has evolved over the years, but it still features a student who wishes to play better golf and a teacher plying his or her trade. What makes for a proper private lesson? The answer is an inventory of the student’s desires and a plan of action that the student can accomplish. How this comes about is largely involved in the art portion of teaching, but today’s teacher has an arsenal of scientific hi-tech teaching aids that can help pin point the answer to the student’s problems to a degree never seen before. Most teachers, though, don’t have access to these gadgets, many of them not being cost-feasible. They still rely on their knowledge of the swing and the game itself to help improve their students’ abilities. Generally, students come in three types: advanced, intermediates, and not advanced, although we recognize there are varying degrees of these descriptions. Those who are not advanced are considered beginners and novices, as well as those who are wildly inconsistent. Players who shoot double-bogey golf or worse can be considered not advanced. Those who are intermediates exhibit some control over the golf ball, but lack the skills to show some consistency. This group usually ranges from bogey golf (around 90 on a par-72 course) to double-bogey golf. The third group, advanced, can be said to be players who play better than bogey golf. While some may say it’s a stretch to call someone averaging 85 advanced, for purposes of this discussion we will say they are, as they exhibit some form of regular control over the golf ball or certain areas of their game, or they may have a fairly consistent ball flight. How we teach these three groups is distinctly different: Not advanced Players in this category need to be given proper fundamentals in order to ensure a solid base for future advancement. So many players come to the game without proper instruction and it shows, as they have visible problems with poor grips and poor overall setups, and their swings tend to be arms-and-hands dominated with improper body rotation. Many of these players inherently learn that they can initially get the ball off the ground more easily with fault-filled setups and swings than they can with proper technique, or with whatever feels good. Those executing the fundamentals properly may take a little longer to see progress, but of course we all know that those who start with bad habits plateau earlier and stop progressing. Think of it as the old fable with the rabbit and the turtle: Those with bad habits (the rabbit) may have a quicker start, but those with proper fundamentals (the turtle) will win out in the end. Intermediates These golfers can be said to have short periods of success followed by long periods of inconsistency. In this stage, these players need to revisit the fundamentals. They may regress for awhile, but they don’t really have much to lose by starting somewhat over. The interesting thing is that we can also focus on the ball flight laws while teaching this level of player, whereas with the not-advanced player we don’t concern ourselves with ball flight. Advanced With this stage of player, we mainly want to focus on their ball flight and think about the five aspects of ball flight laws: clubface angle, clubhead path, centeredness of contact, angle of approach, and clubhead speed. Again, players at this level are not necessarily close to expert level, but they more often than not have control and a somewhat consistent ball flight, even if that ball flight doesn’t give them ideal results all the time. The four sub-categories of players at this level are: 1)    Poor results through a bad setup and a bad swing 2)    Poor results through a bad setup and a good swing 3)    Poor results through a good setup and a bad swing 4)    Good results through a bad setup and a bad swing (Excluded for purposes of this discussion are players getting good results through a good setup and a good swing.) The players in categories 2 and 3 are the easiest to teach, because if we correct either their setup or their swing, they will show improvement. Category 1 players are the next easiest to teach, but they will likely require both a setup and a swing change. Category 4 players are the most difficult, because they have learned to compensate for a flawed swing with a flawed setup, or vice versa. With these players, you must make both a setup and swing change simultaneously. They are somewhat different than Category 1 players, because if you change only the setup, for example, their results will be worse because their swing compensations are now unnecessary and will produce a bad ball flight. With Category 1 players, since they were getting bad results to start with, any one change may initially result in some improvement. In closing the private lesson, your students should have a clear game plan of what they will be working on. Make sure they are both willing and able to commit to the plan of action you layout. Finally, it goes without saying that the student should enjoy taking the lesson from you. This may be the most important aspect, as it means the student is happy and will likely return for more instruction.
The Importance Of Continuing Education

The Importance Of Continuing Education

Golf is a game of conundrums and opposites. This fact is evident throughout all aspects of the game. Nothing is a better example than the contrast between the old traditions of instruction and the new methods and technology of modern-day golf. Watching the old Bobby Jones instructional videos really brought this to light for me. Some of the basic core foundations of teaching are explained and demonstrated by Jones. If you have never taken the time to watch them, I would highly recommend you doing so. Not just for the entertainment value, but as a professional golf instructor. He didn’t need video or a launch monitor. As a contrast, we have ball-flight launch monitors, detection devices that hook on your club delivering incredible data, sophisticated training aids, the 24/7 instruction from cable television, and of course, loads of golf instruction content readily available on the Internet. Technology is a great thing, and I use it every day to help my clients and students. But as I watched and listened to Jones, I was amazed at the incredible quality of his instruction. It brought back memories of my childhood fascination with golf and how to become a better player. It also reminded me how critical it is to continually learn and become more knowledgeable. I was fortunate to make this a priority early in my career. After 32 years working in the golf industry as a professional, this is the one thing I would point to as a key to my success. My thirst for knowledge was never-ending and still is to this day. That is not to say that I incorporated every opinion and theory into my teaching. Golf is such a beautiful yet complicated game; I do not feel it is possible to ever have enough knowledge and expertise. My goal is to keep up with modern instruction, modern technology, and to also find new and improved methods of communication. By watching and listening to other instructors, for example, I constantly find an improved method to describe something about the golf swing. I don’t always agree with all of the theories out there, but I try to expose myself to a variety of information. A great example is a situation I remember clearly from a class I was teaching in 2003. The professionals in the class were tasked with writing a thesis on a golf-related subject. One professional wrote about the connection of emotion to memory. Basically, it was a great explanation of a study done that proves if we tie emotion to events and facts, the human brain can recall amazing things. If emotions are not generated that tie to the fact or event, our brain dumps it. This was the classic light bulb going off for me. If I was teaching monotone and mundane, my students wouldn’t retain the information. But if I add laughter or something out of the ordinary to the subject, they could recall it much better. I was floored. Scientists and psychologists are constantly understanding how people learn better. New methods of communicating are always being discovered or refined. Sadly, I have come across too many teaching professionals that think they have all the answers or know everything. This is always a sobering situation for me. Not just that – it is bad for the game – but I feel sorry for that person. Was Bobby Jones brilliant? Of course he was. He was so far ahead of his time from a teaching stand point. But I am convinced that if he were here today, he would be soaking up the knowledge we have gained from launch monitors and video. That brings to mind another story about a great player. Ben Hogan was once asked by a skeptical professional, “Hey Mr. Hogan, what do you think about all these young guys using video for their swings?”  Hogan replied that if he had access to video during his playing career, he may have never lost a tournament. My advice is this: Be open minded. Don’t stick your head in the sand. Even if you feel the information is beneath you, you don’t like the theory being taught, or the technology being used, open your mind and listen. There may be something out there that might make you a better instructor or better professional. Continuing to learn should be a cornerstone of your foundation as a golf instructor.
Rule Changes For 2016

Rule Changes For 2016

Every four years, the USGA and R&A meet to determine any changes to the Rules of Golf. Some of these changes are of little significance to the average golfer, while some are of great importance. Here are the changes for 2016: RULE 6-6d, WRONG SCORE FOR A HOLE Did you incur a penalty that you were unaware of in a tournament, but still turned in your scorecard? Prior to 2016, if this happened to you,you were disqualified. With this new Decision,under certain circumstances, the competitor is no longer disqualified. Do you remember a few years ago when Tiger Woods incorrectly dropped a ball while taking a stroke-and-distance penalty at the 15th hole at the Masters? Normally he would have been disqualified, but the committee ruled that they were aware of the situation before Woods turned in his scorecard and yet did nothing to inform him, so when his transgression came to light more clearly later that night, the committee waived the penalty of disqualification, as was its right. But, that’s a rare situation where the committee goofed. Now, such gray area has been eliminated. Today, Woods would be given an additional two-stroke penalty and be allowed to continue. Note that this new Decision does not excuse ignorance of the Rules, just certain situations. RULE 14-3, ARTIFICIAL DEVICES AND UNUSUAL EQUIPMENT; ABNORMAL USE OF EQUIPMENT Several years ago, Juli Inkster used a golf donut on her driver to make some practice swings during a delay in the action. That resulted in automatic disqualification. Today, that action results in a two-stroke penalty. However, the two-stroke penalty only applies to the first violation. Say you use the donut on the 13th hole only. No disqualification, just a two-stroke penalty. Say you also use it again on the 18th hole. Now the penalty is disqualification. This new Decision also permits the use of laser rangefinders that measure for slope, etc., if the environmental factors in the device are deactivated. Previously, such devices were banned for tournament play and for handicapping purposes entirely, even if they were equipped with a means to deactivate the slope and environmental functions. RULE 18-2, BALL AT REST MOVED BYPLAYER, PARTNER, CADDIE,OR EQUIPMENT This clarifi es the Rule. In the Zurich Classic inNew Orleans in 2011, Webb Simpson’s ball movedon the putting green as a result of high winds afterhe addressed it. The Rules back then allowed for no leeway – Simpson was docked a penalty strokeand had to replace his ball. After that incident,the Rule was altered somewhat in 2012, but stillwas weighted heavily against the player. Now, thepreponderance of the evidence must be against theplayer in order for a penalty stroke to be applied. RULE 14-1B, ANCHORED STROKE We saved the most controversial and well-known Rules change for last. Beginning on January 1, 2016,any anchored stroke is prohibited. This includes placing a part of the club on a fixed point of your body that is not the arms or hands, such as using a belly putting stroke. That’s now prohibited. Also,anchoring your hands or forearms against your body is now prohibited. The penalty for making such a stroke is loss of hole in match play and two strokes in stroke play. When this Rules change was proposed, various entities came out against it. But as with most things in golf, it became accepted and various pros who used anchored putting methods, such as Tim Clarke and Bernhard Langer, adapted with other means. CHANGES TO USGA HANDICAPPING SYSTEM The biggest change to the USGA Handicapping System for 2016 is that scores played as a single will no longer be allowed to count. The USGA’s reasoning behind this is that peer review is at the heart of the system, and rounds played alone do not have that aspect. However, Golf Canada, the governing body in that country, has rejected this change and will still allow scores to be posted by single players. Whether most players in the U.S. will be aware of this change remains to be seen, but there are already many courses and players ignoring the mandate. Other changes include the definition of a tournament score, adjusting hole scores, posting a score when a player is disqualified, posting a score while using an anchored stroke, and committee responsibilities.  All of these are somewhat administrative changes and will not generally affect the everyday player.  
Teaching Junior Golfers

Teaching Junior Golfers

I have been teaching golf a long time.  Golf has brought me all over the world, whether it be as a player or as an instructor.  Through the thousands of hours of teaching golf, I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best instructors imaginable.  I have also had the chance to work with some really great students who elevated their game to high levels.

Hap Hazard is a golf teaching pro at Bucket O’ Balls Driving Range. He’s normally on time for his first lesson of the day, but as the morning wears on and morphs into afternoon, Hap is far behind on his lesson schedule. Mr. Smith arrives for his noon appointment, only to find that Hap can’t see him until 12:20. Mr. Smith decides to cancel the lesson and leaves.

Hap is actually happy to see this, because he can now get to his 12:30 lesson on time. The client, Mr. Jones, is someone to whom Hap gave a lesson two months ago. Mr. Jones keeps referring back to what Hap told him at that time, but Hap has no idea what Mr. Jones is talking about.

At the end of the week, Hap, an independent contractor who depends upon the range to collect his lesson fees, receives his check, but it doesn’t seem nearly enough for what he did. However, he has no way of disproving the check is wrong, so he has no choice but to accept the amount.

Hap Hazard is an example of a teaching professional who is highly disorganized. What are the mistakes Hap makes?

  • He books 30-minute lessons 30 minutes apart, which makes him late for each subsequent lesson;
  • He doesn’t keep records of the lessons he gives, so he doesn’t know what instruction he gave to past students;
  • He doesn’t keep financial records, so the range kept money that rightfully belonged to him.

  • While this is a worst-case scenario, there are times where even the best among us may fall short occasionally. It takes great effort to keep an organized teaching operation. If a teaching professional is busy enough to the point that he or she has to book back-to-back lessons all day, it doesn’t make much sense to schedule the start of a lesson at the same time the previous lesson concludes. Someone is going to get short changed. A 5- or 10-minute buffer between lessons is helpful, and if the teacher is extremely busy, it makes sense to occasionally build in a 15- or even 30-minute break to recharge and make sure things are organized.

    A teaching professional should also take notes regarding each lesson. Nothing is worse than a student returning after a long absence and the teacher having no clue what instruction was given the last time. The instruction might be so far removed from the previous teachings that the student will be confused. And asking the student to remind us what was worked on can make us look a little less competent in the eyes of that student.

    It also goes without saying that a financial record of each lesson should be kept. Hap’s arrangement is not uncommon, and it also makes sense to go over the day’s lesson receipts at the end of the day. Other ways to be organized include having complete information about each student, including contact info, for future marketing purposes. It also doesn’t hurt to send birthday wishes or an occasional free golf tip.

    It should go without saying that a golf teaching professional should be prepared for each lesson. If training aids are among a teacher’s arsenal, they should be readily available. Nothing is worse for the teacher to figure out that a certain training aid needs to be used, only to find it’s been left in the car or someplace in the cart barn.

    Since video is becoming more frequent (al-though we find in 2017 that most teachers still don’t use it routinely, interestingly), making sure the equipment is in good working order, complete with charged batteries, is important.

    Much of the advice given in this article seems like common sense, but you might be surprised how many times, or how many professionals, fall short in these departments, even if only occasion-ally. An organized pro equals happy students, and if they’re happy, they’re certain to return – and they might even tell their friends.

    That being said, I think I have learned more as an instructor teaching my own 10-year-old son.  I often caddie for him in junior competitions.  As his instructor/caddie, my goal is to offer him guidance to nurture his golf game for the future.  For us, it is not about today as it is about building for the future.

    However, far too often I see the same mistakes made by over-enthusiastic parents who put enormous pressure on their child.  I call it “Little League parent syndrome.”  This often leads to conflict and a dislike for the game of golf by the time these kids are teenagers.  This seems to be a growing theme that is nearly reaching epidemic proportions.  Sadly, these kids will be lost from the game.

    The following points are some advice as a golf instructor and a parent.  It is important to understand that few children under 8 years old have the motor skill necessary to understand distance control, particularly with a putter.  This translates to lots of putts on the greens.  Ask yourself, how do I know how far or how hard to hit a putt?  Is it motor skill, experience, or innate “feel”?  I suspect it is a combination of all of these things.  Young children have not yet developed the fine motor skill necessary to consistently control distance, nor have they had enough “experience” to understand the difference between 10 feet and 30 feet.  This is okay; let them develop at their own pace.

    Golf takes a long time to develop good routines and positive habits.  Try to encourage good habits when practicing and playing.  Often I see kids who have problems with alignment.  Try to give them simple cues that help them line up properly.  It is also important to stay away from complex swing instruction.  An adequate grip, posture, and setup positions are all that are necessary to get them started.  Let them swing away, as there will be plenty of time in the future for refinement.  Of course, there will be misses and off-line shots.  Kids should look at the ball and hit it.  Often natural athletic ability will take over and they will find the ball on the downswing.  I also believe that they should swing at the ball with some speed.  This helps develop the muscles and coordination necessary to hit a golf ball.  Later, the positions can be refined as they become more coordinated.

    One of the amazing things one will notice is the developmental stages of each child.  There will be big jumps in strength and coordination.  This will all come with time; however, on average, I do seem to notice a big leap in coordination around the age of 10 years old.  This will ebb and flow as each child grows and develops differently.

    Lastly, keep it fun!  It is important to try to avoid undue pressure.  In our case, there is controlled practice and some technical work.  However, we always set aside time for “free practice” where my son tries different shots on his own and has his own version of golf play time.  He even explains different versions of shots to me!  We often have up-and-down competitions where we try all sorts of crazy pitch shots.  This develops his imagination and keeps the game fun for years to come.