Making The Most Of Taking Golf Lessons An Open Letter To Our Students

Making The Most Of Taking Golf Lessons An Open Letter To Our Students

By David Vaught USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional®, Vista, California

We hear very often how difficult golf is. There is no doubt that hitting a 1.68-inch ball with a flat surface on the end of a stick seems crazy. Add trees, water, weather, and worst of all, the human brain, and it can seem almost impossible. But there is something about golf that is even more difficult sometimes than the game itself, and that is the experience of taking instruction from another person on how to perform the difficult task of hitting a golf ball. So, how do you get the most out of golf instruction? There are several keys to maximizing the instruction you receive. First of all, let’s assume you are taking the lesson from a qualified, knowledgeable instructor. That is another subject; therefore, sticking with our objective, we will assume the person giving you the lesson is qualified to help you improve.

Let’s begin with the most important key to improving through lessons: start the lesson with an open mind. A common refrain for swinging a golf club, and this can apply to any sport, is the phrase “feel is not real.” What does that mean? Basically, what we think we are doing and our perception of the motion we are performing is far different than what we are actually doing. Therefore, understand your perception of reality is different than what the instructor is seeing. Allow the instructor to explain your issues and develop a plan of attack.

Understand that your current motion will feel “natural,” no matter how detrimental it may be to your success. Human beings are amazingly adaptable. We are built to learn, good or bad. Even the worst swings you see on the driving range feel great to that person performing it.

Communication. Instructors want to understand your goals, how you feel about any previous instruction, what you think about when you swing the club, or what you are trying to do when you practice. Some golfers are embarrassed, to be honest. Your instructor has most likely seen and heard it all, so there is no reason to hold back. If you have been working on a tip that you found on the Internet or something your friend told you, let the instructor know.

Ask questions. If you do not understand something, do not be shy or proud to tell the instructor. If you do not, they will assume you understand. Believe me, we love it when you ask questions. If nothing else, it gives us a chance to show how smart we are!

Video can be a great teaching tool. When an instructor shows you a video of your swing, pay close attention to what they are talking about and focus on their observations. Often, golfers are looking at what catches their eye and not what the instructor is pointing out. The untrained eye will see the symptoms; the trained eye will see the disease, or in other words, the systemic problem you have. Don’t get caught up in things the instructor doesn’t want you to think about. One thing I have learned after 45 years in golf, 33 professionally, is that no one likes the way their swing appears visually. We are all hyper-critical when watching ourselves on video – even tour players.

Do not forget to ask the instructor for a practice plan. Any good instructor is going to give you specifics on how they want you to practice. Just like a fitness routine or diet plan, follow the plan they give you. Do not, I repeat, do not stray off into the never-never land of golf tips. That will only slowdown your progress or even make you worse. At the same time, you wasted your money and time on the lesson by “chasing the secret.” Guess what? There is no secret.

Lastly, be patient. Unlearning and learning a physical motion takes time. Band-aids can produce temporary good shots, but you will be sacrificing long-term improvement. I have seen many examples of students that were ready to give up just before making a leap in their shot making and ball striking. The golf swing is a journey with no destination. Look at your lessons as another small step in the right direction. It just takes time.

Most of all, have fun and try to enjoy the learning process. Embrace and enjoy the practice and the challenge of improving. For many of us, the difficulty of golf is what made us fall in love with the game to begin with. Good luck!
Drills That Work

Drills That Work

By Ken Butler USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional® Bradenton, Florida

One of the hardest things for a student to accomplish is to take what you have been working on with them to the golf course. That’s why I think it is so important to give them a couple of drills that they can take with them to the course. Deciding which drill or drills that they can use will obviously depend on what you have been working on together on the practice tee.

Here are a couple of drills that I have found to be very beneficial. To be clear, the player must understand that he must have some swing thoughts, although it would be great to go out there and just swing. I think we all know that’s a pretty impossible exercise.

These two drills can be taken to the course and substituted for your regular practice swing. It will clear the head and help to promote a more beneficial, relaxed swing Have a swinging day!

#1 Swing the club with one hand only, preferably with the right hand for a right-handed player. However, a couple of swings with the left hand only will not hurt. When you swing the club with the right hand only, you will feel the body movement better in regard to moving the lower body in the proper sequence. Start by swinging the club, holding the club at the shaft end closest to the head of the club. This will also help the student get the feeling of the club whipping and creating clubhead speed through the hitting zone after one or two swings. Then, reverse the club and swing one-handed, holding the club at the grip end. This exercise can be performed instead of a practice swing, so there will be no slowing of play.


  #2 Follow-through drill. As a practice swing, take the club about one-third of the way back. Take a little pause, then bring the club slowly into the impact zone, watching the club square up at impact, but now it is important to go through to a full-balanced finish position: belt buckle facing the target, left foot planted, right shoulder closest to the target, club behind the back with the arms folded in a classic follow-through position. I have found in my own swing, throughout the years, that if I could finish in a good position, the shot would be pretty good. Balance is everything in a golf swing, or in any other sport.

What Can You Learn from the New Masters Champion, Sergio Garcia

What Can You Learn from the New Masters Champion, Sergio Garcia

By Dr. Gregg Steinberg USGTF Member and Sports Psychology Consultant, Nashville, Tennessee

ACCEPTANCE – this was the key mental game ingredient that lifted the new Masters champion, Sergio Garcia, to victory.

In his younger days, Garcia would get upset when the bounces and breaks did not go his way. But as he matured as a person, Garcia stated that he learned to accept what Augusta National gives you and takes from you. This acceptance gave him peace of mind to handle the pressure and win his first major in 74 attempts.

Acceptance is key for any profession. There are always going to be bad weeks with a few bad breaks. But there will also be a turnaround with fortunate twists of fate. Life is full of peaks and valleys. The biggest problem is when we don’t accept an inevitable valley in our life.

When those downward patterns occur, some people lose their resolve. Others panic or begin to doubt themselves and lose faith in their abilities. Some people begin to overthink and believe their way of doing the job is completely wrong. In many cases, this negativity of thought turns into a nasty slump.

Be like Sergio Garcia. Accept the times when you are struggling and learn to go with the flow. Don’t start overanalyzing your strategies and lose confidence in your past successes. Behind every successful person are times of repeated failure and feelings of despair.

More than 150 years ago, Charles Dickens knew this to be the human condition when he wrote the memorable words, “It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” Your business life will cycle with many twists and turns. Don’t let a valley throw you off course. There is great wisdom in the principle of acceptance.

Topics such as acceptance to help you succeed can be found in the Emotional Toughness University online course (go to Please go to the site for your free emotional toughness e-book as well as free videos and articles.

(Dr. Steinberg is a professor of human performance at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee, and is also the USGTF’s longtime sports psychology consultant. This column is adapted from his Washington Post bestselling business book Full Throttle. Dr. Steinberg speaks to businesses about mental and emotional toughness. Email him at or see
Students Finding Their Way With GPS

Students Finding Their Way With GPS

Nowadays, it seems almost everyone has a GPS to navigate their way to their destination, and golfers are no exception. Students in and around Phoenix, Arizona (the Valley), have access to their own GPS when it comes to learning golf – Golf Program in Schools.

USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional Larry Gantverg of Phoenix is involved in the program, and he says, “This excellent non-profit organization is bringing no-cost golf instruction to public schools as part of the school’s physical education pro-gram. The program takes five days, and in 175 minutes I am able to teach the pre-shot routine including grip, full-shot irons, full-shot drivers, as well as pitching and chipping. This instruction is accomplished using mats and rubber balls in the gym of the school.” Instruction is primarily geared towards students in the ninth grade, but has also been taught to those as young as in the sixth grade.

A similarity to The First Tee program is that GPS imparts character lessons to students involved in the program, named “PATH” – persistence, achievement, trustworthiness and health. It is a long-held belief among many golf teaching professionals that the game is a well-suited vehicle for imparting life lessons, and GPS takes advantage of that belief in using golf to do just that.

Part of the mission of GPS, in addition to introducing kids to golf, involves educating them in regard to golf-related careers, giving them a sport they can play for a lifetime, and informing them about available golf scholarships. According to its website, “GPS addresses so much more than just learning to play golf. By exposing students to the numerous opportunities for success, we intend to instill a positive vision. We want all students to develop their own unique talents and abilities and ‘find their way’ through life by making positive healthy choices.”

Gantverg, a USGTF member since 2014, is an enthusiastic advocate of the program, saying, “This excellent non-profit organization is bringing no-cost golf instruction to public schools as part of the school’s physical education program. I have a very unusual teaching method, using toys and tools which I call totems, representing aspects of the golf swing, thus allowing replication of exactly the same golf instruction by more than one teacher.” Gantverg is also a member of the advisory board of GPS.

GPS, a non-profit organization, is seeking volunteers to continue its mission. USGTF members who reside in the Valley and are interested in volunteering may find more information on the website
Three Questions That Capture Your Customer’s Attention

Three Questions That Capture Your Customer’s Attention

By Stu Schlackman USGTF Contributing Writer Richardson, Texas

Editor’s note: As golf teaching professionals, we are also in the sales business. This article, while not specifically written for teaching professionals, is pertinent to our profession and provides valuable guidance for furthering your business.

You may be asking yourself, “Why didn’t I get the follow-up meeting with that recent prospect?” You asked all the right questions and got the answers you needed to qualify them. You had their budget, knew their goals and needs, and their time frame to make the decision. You knew who the decision maker was, were keenly aware of your competitors that were in play, and felt that you had the perfect solution to meet their needs.

So why didn’t it work out?

Unfortunately, this happens to many sales professionals, yet only one will earn the customer’s business. While you may be asking good questions, you may not be asking the right questions. You want to ask the type of questions that make the customer take notice of who you are and what you have to offer. What makes them pay attention to you? What are the questions that get the customer to say, “Tell me more”?

Customers get bored when you ask the basic surface questions. These are the questions that you need to have answered to better understand the customer’s situation and so that your solution can be positioned to meet the customer’s needs. Customers already know their situation. They want to know what makes you different from the pack, and how you can help them in a way that provides value that no one else can deliver. And remember, the last thing your prospects want on a first appointment is a presentation! This meeting is not about you and what you offer. It should be all about your customer and how you can help them meet and exceed their needs and achieve their goals and objectives. Customers want the conversation to be all about them. In other words, let them talk – you should be listening!

So what are the questions you should ask? Think about it this way: customers engage best when they are asked specific c and targeted questions that pique their interest and highlight the consequences of unsolved issues. There are three critical types of questions you need to ask to build momentum and ensure that you get the next meeting:

What are the issues? To build the critical trusting relationship, you need to understand what’s really going on. Ask them, “What issues are you facing that most need to be resolved?” Do not start by asking what type of solution they are looking for or how much they will spend; instead, aim to learn where they are experiencing pain. How bad is the pain and how long has it been going on? The best sales people dig deep when it comes to understanding customer issues. You can further understand the pain by asking “why” questions. When you ask “why,” you’re bringing the customer into the past which allows them to elaborate on what happened in the first place.

What is the cause? Ask them, “How long have you been having this issue? Is it getting better or worse? Do you have any thoughts on why?” These probing questions will demonstrate that you are truly interested in understanding their situation to the fullest extent. It means that you are building credibility with the customer and showing them that you care. This approach takes the conversation to a better level of understanding and often they will even discover something they hadn’t seen before. Helping your customers understand the cause of their issue helps you understand which solutions to offer – when appropriate – and helps them to think through the situation.

What is the impact? Impact questions help to create a sense of urgency about the issue. Now that you more fully understand the problem and how it was caused, it’s time to talk about the possible impact on the business. Ask them, “How do you think this issue is having an impact on productivity, customer service, revenues or operating expenses?” When you can help them understand the impact, they are one step closer to taking action in your direction. When the customer sees the impact of their issues in multiple areas, we can start to craft a viable solution. You can start to help them see the future in a positive light by asking “what” questions. “What” questions focus on the possibilities. Now you can work with customer as a partner since you have a solid understanding of their issues, how they came about and how their impacting the business.

Good selling is all about going below the surface by asking thoughtful, probing questions that help to uncover the key issues, the root causes, and finally the impact that their most painful issues can have on their business. As the saying goes, “If you ask better questions, you’ll get better answers.” The best sales professionals have great skill in asking the more significant thought-provoking questions that make a difference in the customer dialogue.

Prepare to ask questions that your customers will pay attention to and you will be much closer to building the kind of relationships that will lead to more closed sales. Good selling!

About the Author: Stu Schlackman is a sales expert, accomplished speaker and the author of Four People You Should Know and Don’t Just Stand There, Sell Something. With over 25 years of success in the sales landscape, Stu provides his clients and audiences with the wisdom, techniques and practical advice to compete and win in business and in life. For more information about Stu, please visit
Golf’s Five Major Body Problem Areas

Golf’s Five Major Body Problem Areas

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

It is critical that golf instructors understand the five major body problem areas to prevent golf injuries, and be able to identify swing characteristics that can cause those injuries. The five areas that we will briefly y discuss in this article are the lower back, wrists, shoulder complex, elbow and hips.

Consider this: A golfer exerts a compressive force of eight times their weight on the lower back with each swing. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, you exert a compressive force of 1,600 pounds on your lower back each time you swing. Compare that to running, which is considered a high-impact sport that normally produces a compression force of three to four times the body weight. Lower back injuries account for 36% of all golf injuries. Ouch!

Posture is a critical component of the golf setup and we should be on the lookout for incorrect posture such as C and S posture. C posture occurs when the shoulders and the thoracic spine (12 vertebrae in the upper back) are slumped forward at address. Take note of the round back, thus the descriptor – C posture. It is important because it leads to poor spine rotation, which in turn limits the ability to make a good backswing. S posture is characterized by excessive arch in the player’s lower back at setup. The player is literally sticking their tailbone out to create an S curvature of the spine, which places the body out of position on the downswing and will affect the swing sequencing. S posture is caused by a combination of tight hip flexors and a tight lower back paired with weak abs and glutes, whereas C posture is caused by weak deep-neck flexors and low/mid traps paired with tight upper trapezius and pectoralis major and minor muscles. Statistically, 64.3% of amateur golfers lose their posture, and yes, the same amount early extend. Approximately two-thirds of those tested at the Titleist Performance Institute showed signs of posture breakdown: 25.3% had S Posture and 33.1% had C posture.

The wrists are a delicate part of the body that can be injured most often when a player hits a fat shot. Strengthening the wrists is critical to the golf swing to prevent loss of clubhead speed and prevent further injury. Once the wrists are injured, each and every swing will send vibrations down the shaft to the wrists, which slows the healing process. A wrist flexion and extension test can measure how much the player can fl ex their wrist downward or upward. We would like to see a flex of 60+ degrees of mobility. You can use a 6-iron (which has a lie angle of approximately 60 degrees) as tool to measure the player’s ability to fl ex the wrist. Use the angle of the iron to measure the angle of flex. Anything less than 60 degrees is a sign of boney and/or muscle mechanic problems. Common swing faults associated with this limitation are casting and over the top.

Let’s move on to the shoulder complex, where we see 75% of the injuries are to the lead shoulder. Very large ranges of motion in swing plane create an unstable joint that relies on soft tissue for stability. There are 20 muscles in the shoulder complex that deserve attention to avoid muscle imbalances. Poor flexibility leads to reverse spine angle, loss of posture, a flat shoulder plane and or early extension.

The elbow is also an area that creates problems for golfers. Causes include gripping the club too tightly, or altering the grip during the swing, which generates excessive forearm musculature forces. Swing flaws to watch for: The chicken-wing on the follow-through and early casting of the club in the downswing can cause tissue damage. It must be identified and corrected.

The last major problem area is the hips. We all know that hip rotation is essential to produce an efficient golf swing. Lack of rotation is caused by poor strength and flexibility conditioning, which can exert unnatural forces to produce a technically inefficient golf swing. Asking the hips to move with additional force to produce greater clubhead speed will stress the muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints. A seated trunk rotation test will help you identify thoracic spine, muscular and myofascial as well as cervical spine mobility restrictions.

Please Google the different tests listed in this article on YouTube for fuller explanation, and suggested exercises to enhance the golf swing.

Golf Teahcers And Respect For The Game

Golf Teahcers And Respect For The Game

By Leo Perlmutter USGTF Member Rochester, New York

One of the great things about our game is that it’s different from other sports. In fact, the differences are so great that golf might just be in a category all by itself. In golf, the players referee the game among themselves. Imagine NBA or NFL players playing without referees, and instead calling their own fouls and penalties. It doesn’t take much thought to realize that within minutes, the games would devolve into complete chaos. And yet, golf at the highest levels are largely refereed by the players, even to the point of calling penalties on themselves (at least when they are aware of them).

Baseball, football, basketball and hockey have great histories and traditions that are revered by their aficionados, but golf goes above and beyond with the reverence for the past and its customs. Go into any bookstore – at least while they still exist– and you will find in the sports section that golf has more books than any other sport. In some bookstores, the golf books almost outnumber all the other sports books combined.

As an individual sport, golf is hard to beat. Tennis is a fine game, but you need an opponent to have a match. And most people don’t take a tennis vacation to play the awesome courts that some hotel in Hawaii have, because all courts are basically the same. In golf, there are no two holes exactly alike, although several courses have replica holes from other layouts. The fresh air and sunshine, combined with pleasant scenery and friends, seem to grab hold of a golfer’s soul to an extent far more than other sports do.

The golf teaching professional plays a large part in keeping the history and traditions of the game alive, and it’s imperative that a professional have great respect for these aspects if he or she is to be successful in the profession. While we are tasked with making a living through monetary means, it doesn’t mean that the pursuit of the dollar is first and foremost among those who impart golf instruction. No, it’s well known among most successful people that if you get into a business strictly for fame or fortune, you most likely won’t last long. Or if you do, you will wind up dreading the thought of going to work, and it won’t be long before customers and clients take notice.

Golf teaching professionals are fortunate to be able to impart the lessons that they do, but they often go above and beyond just teaching the mechanics of the game. A professional who is lucky enough to establish long-term relationships with his or her students often find that they have made a true friend in that person, and share parts of each other’s lives that they wouldn’t share with just anyone.

It used to be, a long time ago, that golf professionals were seen as just the hired help and not worthy to even enter the members’ clubhouse. They were relegated strictly to the pro shop and lesson tee, and the better playing professionals were able to make some extra cash by playing in tournaments and exhibitions. But even those professionals had to know their place, and that place wasn’t among the well-heeled membership that thought they were doing the pro a favor by paying his salary.

Today, teaching professionals are highly respected members of the golf com-munity – quite a change from the days of Harry Vardon. Once the public became aware of how valuable teaching and club professionals actually were, the door to the clubhouse, and other venues, opened wide. It behooves the modern professional to remember the past, honor the traditions of the game, and contribute to the well-being of the game through actions that are befitting the profession.
Jordan Spieth Angered By Autograph Seekers

Jordan Spieth Angered By Autograph Seekers

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

In early February 2017, Jordan Spieth had a run-in with some rude autograph seekers after a practice round at Pebble Beach. When asked about the incident, Spieth said the “fans” were actually professional autograph seekers. He became irate, he says, when they dropped an “F-bomb” in front of several children after he refused to sign their memorabilia. This isn’t the first time Spieth has taken autograph sellers to task. In June 2016 during practice rounds for the U.S. Open, Spieth said during a press conference that he had refused to sign autographs for “eBayers” because they were “smooshing” kids out of the way.

Few people would begrudge Spieth for condemning child smooshing, but it does seem that professional autograph and memorabilia sellers are more and more active at golf tournaments. Some tournaments have begun setting up kids-only zones so players can interact with young fans without interference from adults looking to make a fast buck.

A quick glance at eBay and other collectable sales site shows why this is such a growing trend. Collectibles are big business. Sports collectibles in general is a multi-billion-dollar-a-year industry. A genuine Jordan Spieth signed golf ball, pin flag, program, etc., can sell for hundreds of dollars. The most sought-after name in golf has to be Tiger Woods. Signed items from his college days at Stanford can sell for thousands. Beyond golf, the most popular items are those signed by Michael Jordan, who is as popular now as when he was playing. NFL quarterbacks and big-name baseball players are also in high demand. Additionally, websites like and have created large online communities where collectors can buy, sell, and trade their collections. Although the big sports for this hobby have historically been baseball, football and basketball, golf is steadily on the rise.

The very nature of golf tournaments themselves allows for fans to get up close and personal with their favorite athlete. Players are constantly moving through crowds and near galleries of fans, which creates a much more intimate experience than, say, an NFL football game, where fans generally have little opportunity for autographs.

So it’s little wonder that sellers have been showing up more and more at golf tournaments. Or maybe it’s because of the ever-growing demand for golf memorabilia. In 2011, a new record was set for the sale of a golf collectible. The green jacket worn by Bobby Jones at Augusta National sold at auction to an anonymous overseas buyer for $311,000. As long as collectors have that kind of cash to throw around, Spieth and the rest of today’s golf stars can expect to see a lot more professional autograph sellers pushing their way to the front of the crowd.
Walk The Walk

Walk The Walk

By David Hill USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional®, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada

Seldom do I discuss or write about any of my accomplishments in golf because firstly, they are few and far between, and secondly, no one really cares. This past winter, however, I took it upon myself to set a goal to qualify for the MSOP putting championship to be held in late October in Las Vegas.

Many have perhaps seen the promotional campaign for the MSOP (Major Series Of Putting) on Golf Channel in certain markets throughout the country. This article is not to promote MSOP, but since they are from my home town of Montreal, it offered a great opportunity to get the competitive juices flowing through season-long events, and ultimately their home base “Tour Championship” in which MSOP will be sending two players to Vegas to compete against players throughout North America.

This is no small potatoes, as there will be some serious cash on the line as competitors will putt in various televised events and formats on a custom-built Jack Nicklaus designed artificial green inside a temporary stadium with Brad Faxon as the ambassador.

As a full-time coach to young athletes competing professionally, in the NCAA and at the highest ranks of junior golf, I felt it necessary to step into the competitive arena once again as I haven’t done so in many years. With little time to work on my game, what easier way to re-acclimatize myself to the pressures of competitive golf than putting? I’ve documented in previous articles my issues with the yips, but have learned to override them. If I could get my way to Vegas, then I could really test those issues under an even higher level of scrutiny and pressure. This is the test. If you’re going to talk the talk as a professional coach, then you better be prepared to walk the walk. Turning the big “Five-O” later this year, I relish the idea of qualifying for the Senior European Tour within a couple of years.

This brings me to the true point of this article, and a question that must be asked: How important is it for a coach or teacher to compete? In the grand scheme of things, probably not very important at all, as our role is to help our golfers and competitive players play their best. If, however, you’ve never competed, I believe you have a duty to do so at least once in order to fully grasp the range of emotions golfers of all levels experience. Whether it is a newer golfer teeing it up on the first tee with two foursomes behind watching while waiting to tee off, or coming down the stretch in a tough battle for a championship with your heart beating and adrenaline flowing, these now become experiences you can relate with and pass onto your students.

With 18 holes to play on the green at the MSOP home base Tour Championship, my palms were sweating and heart rate was elevated, needing to not simply hold on but make some birds as my lead was only one. Hope to see some familiar faces in Vegas. See you in October. Bring it on!
The Putting Assessment

The Putting Assessment

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

Many have said that putting is nothing more than line and speed. If so, then we would see more players making their putts. Putting deserves more attention from teaching professionals to help their students understand that it is more than just line and speed.

Why should you place so much emphasis on putting?

Putting is statistically 50 percent of your score, providing that you have hit every green in regulation and two-putt. But let’s say you shoot 72 with 30putts, yielding 41.6 percent of strokes being putts. It is still a large percentage of the game, and that is why we need to be better at teaching and assessing our students.

Before you assess a player, ask some questions to better understand their expectations. The number one expectation I hear is that they want to avoid three-putts. A simple solution would be to get the ball closer to hole with their irons. However, we need to dive deeper to better understand what they really expect, and whether or not their expectations are realistic. Using the acronym SMART (which stands for specific, measureable, attainable, realistic and time-based) is a tool I use to set expectations. Questions are asked to pinpoint what the player expects.

Many players think that they should be making putts 75 percent of the time or greater in the range of 6-to-10 feet. This expectation is clearly unrealistic. In every instance, my students are amazed that, on average, tour players only make 50-to-60 percent of putts from six feet. In addition, tour players make 99 percent of putts from three feet. The statistics lay the foundation for expectation and goal setting.

Once you reach agreement on the SMART goal, it is time to move on to assessing the player. As you know, putting has four major components:1) the golf ball, 2) the putter, 3) the golf green, and of course, 4) the player. We need to assess each of these components to adequately understand what needs to change.

The golf ball – Not all golf balls react the same at impact. Some are soft and others produce a different sound when struck. The key is using the same ball every time to produce consistency.

The equipment (the putter) – First and foremost, I want to know if the player has ever been fitted for a putter. I explain that being fitted will not make them a great putter, but it will ensure that their equipment does not disadvantage them. There are eight items that I look for when evaluating and fitting a putter:

1) Length 2) Loft 3) Alignment lines 4) Grip size and type 5) Milled vs. inserts 6) Toe hang 7) Putter type: mallet, blade, etc. 8) MOI (moment of inertia)

The golf green (greens reading) – Most students do not understand greens reading, and do not have a fully developed pre- and post-shot putting routine. As a result, many fail under pressure. There are two major greens reading programs that take the guesswork out of greens reading, Aim Point and Vector Green Reading. Teaching a greens-reading process provides a methodical way to read greens. Your teachings should include a pre- and post-routine that includes breath control (i.e. Heart Math, These processes should be consistent every time you putt.

The player (setup, stroke path, impact, and speed control) – There are a multitude of ways to putt and get the ball in the hole. It is important to assess all four elements listed above. Here are three ways to assess a player: 1) LORD’s Test (based on the Titleist Performance Institute Golf Level Two), 2) Dave Pelz’s seven putting assessments, and 3) The Four Elements Putting Assessment, based on Eye line Golf. The assessments are similar, but offer different perspectives on grading.

LORD’s Assessment – grade students by giving them 1 to 5 points by putting from different angles and distances. Points are awarded thusly: correct side of the hole, right amount of break, aim point, starts on line, and good speed.

Dave Pelz Assessment – assesses seven areas of interest: 3-foot putts, 6-foot putts, makeable putts(10 to 20 feet), breaking putts (with at least six inches of break), intermediate putts (20 to 30 feet), long lag putts (35 feet or more), and three-putt avoidance. Details about the assessment can be extracted from the Pelz book titled Dave Pelz’s Putting Bible.

The Four Elements Putting Assessment – grades students A, B, C, D and X by having them complete 10 different putting tests. Details on how to administer the assessment can be found by visiting the Eye line Pro website, www.EyelineGolfcom. Measure everything; otherwise, you are guessing!