USGA, R&A Blow Up The Rules

USGA, R&A Blow Up The Rules

WOW. Double wow. In a move that can literally be described as a game-changer, the USGA and R&A decided this past March 1 that many of the rules by which we play are to be jettisoned, sent to the scrapbook of history. The proposed new rules are to take effect January 1, 2019. Knowledgeable observers say this is the most drastic rules development since the original 13 rules were drawn up in 1744 by the Gentlemen Golfers of Leith, now the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, at Muirfield in Scotland.

To be sure, the gist of the game will be the same: to play the course as you find it and play the ball as it lies, and if you can’t do either, do what’s fair. But what constitutes “fair” is the reason we currently have 34 rules and a Decisions book that is several hundred pages long (to be replaced by 24 rules and a “Handbook,” respectively). Too many golfers today simply don’t understand the intricacies of the rules necessary to compete in formal competition, and that includes professional golfers. Even some rules officials don’t get it right at times, and they’re paid to not make these types of mistakes.

The proposed changes the USGA and R&A are considering are just that, proposed. They have not been formally adopted, and there is a good chance that not all of them will be implemented. Both organizations are seeking feedback from the golfing public during a six-month comment period, and they have said this feedback will have some influence in deter-mining what gets changed and what stays the same.

To list all of the proposed changes would take literally several pages of the magazine, so this article will not do that. However, some will directly affect everyday play more so than others, so here they are, along with commentary:


Previously, only fellow competitors and opponents were exempt from penalty for moving a player’s ball while searching. Now the player himself is exempt if he or his caddie moves it. This is only fair, as by definition the player has no idea exactly where the ball is.


For tournaments that have no spectators, this will have a totally different effect than for one which has thousands. Instead, a local rule option allowing searches to be limited to three minutes might be a better course of action and can be implemented by the major tours.


Everyone remembers the rules fiasco during the2016 U.S. Open when it was determined that Dustin Johnson caused his ball to move on the putting green, despite the fact he never touched the ball. This new standard goes even further. The problem with this proposed rule is it violates the longstanding principle that the player is not allowed to move the ball except only in accordance with the rules. The USGA and R&A might want to re-think this one, because…


After the Johnson situation, the USGTF took a position that the rule for what constituted a player moving his ball should be changed from a preponderance of the evidence to it has to be known or virtually certain the player caused the ball to move. The USGA and R&A must have been listening, be-cause that’s the proposed new standard. So instead of imposing no penalty for accidentally causing a ball to move on the putting green, this new standard of what constitutes a player moving his ball is more than sufficient to take care of the problem, and would have applied to Johnson.


The old rule only added injury to insult.


Those of us who are older remember when a player had to face the hole and drop the ball behind us over our shoulder. This was changed several decades ago to dropping from shoulder height and arm’s length. Now, all of this has been changed so a player can drop from at least one inch above the vegetation. This change is proposed to lessen the chance a ball bounces and rolls too far, necessitating a re-drop. This is fine, but why one inch? It makes more sense to use the diameter of the ball, 1.68inches (4 ¼ cm), since that can easily be measured more accurately.


According to the USGA website, “Using a fixed measure would be a simple process, with 20 inch and40 inch markings on the shaft of clubs likely to be the primary tool used by players for measuring.” If officials at the USGA really believe players are going to put 20-inch and 40-inch markings on their clubs, they need a serious reality check. One club length and two club length drops have worked fine for years. There’s no reason to change this.


Instead of the old standard of the ball rolling more than two club lengths away, necessitating a re-drop, the ball must now remain within the 20-inchor 80-inch zone. And there is no longer a two-drop maximum; the player can drop as many times as needed unless it becomes obvious the ball will not remain in the zone.


Presently, the player is allowed to only repair ball marks and old hole plugs. Now the player can repair spike marks, etc. This is a good change and long overdue.


This may be the most drastic visible example of the proposed rules changes. A ball hitting the flagstick while putting will no longer be a penalty, meaning players can putt with the flagstick in the hole from any distance. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out. Dave Pelz’s research from years ago suggested the flagstick almost always helps the ball go into the hole. With today’s analytics, it may become commonplace for tour players to no longer remove the flagstick while putting.


Under the current rules, technically only areas that contain water can be marked as water hazards. Now, any area of the course may be marked as such. Although it has always been commonplace for wooded and brush areas to be marked as water hazards, such marking of the course is actually prohibited by the current rules.


This is another drastic change from what golfers for centuries have known. In a penalty area, players can now ground their clubs and take practice swings while hitting the ground, although this is still prohibited in bunkers. This is another good rules change and one that will lessen controversy and make things more fair.

For a complete look at all of the proposed rules changes, go to and click on the rules links. You can also have your say on the proposed changes until the comment period ends August 31, 2017.
What Are Your Teaching Ambitions?

What Are Your Teaching Ambitions?

At a USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional certification course last year, one candidate posed an interesting question to his fellow classmates, along the lines of this: “Don’t you want to teach the best players in the world?”He asked this because he was teaching and coaching some professional players, including those on the LPGA Tour, and found his calling in teaching these high-level players.

The question posed is a valid one, because it brings to light the subject of ambition in the golf teaching profession. It’s a subject that is often overlooked, but one that is important to those of us in the teaching and coaching profession.

Motivational speakers and sports psychologists often refer to goal-setting as a critical tool to accomplishment. An article in Success magazine in 2015 stated, “The most important benefit of setting goals isn’t achieving your goal; it’s what you do and the person you become in order to achieve your goal that’s the real benefit.” Setting a goal and striving towards it gives us an action plan to follow, and also a way to plot a path to get us there. Industry professionals –regardless of which industry – who do not set goals are willing to let the whims of outside influences take them in all sorts of random directions.

Some of those random directions may lead to success, but for those who find success in this manner it is, by definition, nothing but a fluke. In other words, the person succeeded in spite of himself or herself. So setting realistic but ambitious goals, along with executing a well-thought-out plan, is a much more sure way of finding success. Even then, nothing is guaranteed. The history of business is filled with stories of failures that, on paper, should have been successes. There are some things that are just out of our control, and they may have been unforeseeable by even the most learned and experienced of experts.

But as the statement from Success magazine says, goal setting is one part of the equation; ambition is the other, and perhaps a more important part. A goal is a tangible destination while ambition is the desire to reach that destination. Merriam-Webster defines ambition as “an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; desire to achieve a particular end.”

What are your teaching ambitions?

It may be to become a famous guru, although certainly most who are did not start out with that desire. Virtually anyone who is successful will tell you that they got into the profession due to their love of the game and of helping others with their games.

Butch Harmon is one such teacher. Although he is widely recognized for his acumen in helping major championship winners, that’s not what drives him. “I get as much satisfaction or more from someone who’s never broken 90 who shoots 87 for the first time, “he has been quoted as saying. Harmon finds that his passion results from wanting to help all players, regardless of level.

Some teachers find their true enjoyment in helping beginners learn the game. The late Julius Richard-son, the USGTF’s Teacher of the 20th Century, played golf at an extremely high level, winning multiple military and other championships. He also taught touring professionals, most notably Eric Booker, who compared him to Ken Venturi and David Leadbetter. Yet, Richardson’s true teaching ambitions revolved around beginners, introducing them to the game and helping them get enjoyment out of learning and improving. His book, Better Golf – A Skill Building Approach, was based upon the learning principles he was exposed to while a member of the U.S. Army. The book outlines how beginners, and those who need a refresher in the fundamentals, can build sol-id golf skills that will last for a lifetime. Richardson could have chosen to write a book geared towards advanced golfers, but he didn’t. His passion and ambition in helping beginning golfers were the reason she wrote the book he did.

All teaching ambitions are worthy, from wanting to teach touring professionals to helping beginners, as long as they benefit the game in general and reflect the teacher’s true desires and goals. To paraphrase John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech from 1961,“Ask not what the golf teaching profession can do for you; ask what you can do for the golf teaching profession.”

Ambition: “An ardent desire for rank, fame, or power; desire to achieve a particular end.” as defined by…Merriam-Webster
The Language Of Teaching

The Language Of Teaching

By Norm Crerar USGTF Contributing Writer Vernon, British Columbia

I have been teaching skiing for 50-some years. I have been playing the bagpipes for 10 years and have just started teaching beginners. I take golf lessons. I speak English, of the Canadian variety, but have to admit that I become stumped and agitated with the language of teaching.

It was traditional to teach bagpipes through canntaireachd (pronounced can-ter-act). This is a Gallic word meaning “chanting.” Before music was written as it is today on paper, with lines and notes, the instructor would sing the notes using distinct sounds for the different notes, grace notes and embellishments. Master and pupils would spend hours sitting together singing tunes to each other. Nowadays, people learn with sheet music, and canntaireachd is still used by some gifted and experienced instructors to support the acquisition of lyrical flow.

When I started teaching skiing, the manual was6” by 8” by ¼” thick, and half was in French and half in English (Canada’s two official languages). The manuals of a few years ago were three-ring binders two inches thick and needed a set of wheels to haul them around. Happily, today you can log on to the instructor website and find the latest digital copy. The old thick manuals were updated every two or three years due to the simple fact of the time lag brought about by writing, editing, picture editing and then printing. Today, the digital copy can be changed very quickly, but this brings on the language of teaching, as the amount of material is never-ending and quite often the “subject-matter expert” (SME) is a Ph.D. who can’t use 10 words where he/she thinks 100will fit better. Skiing is simple: stance and balance, left turns and right turns!

Where we live, golf ends in October and doesn’t start again until the end of April. We have a lot of time to watch the Golf Channel, professional tournaments, and the constant barrage of free lessons that pop up on our computers. With the tournaments and lessons come the “subject-matter experts” and their confusing language! Why is it that the broadcasters from the European Tour, and there are usually two, speak quietly and from time to time, while the PGA broadcasts seem to have 20 people online and some-one is talking all the time?

Don’t they realize they are on television and we can see what is going on and not radio, where constant chatter is needed to fill the void? Constant analysis and over-analysis. “His stance was closed and he was 50 percent on his back foot, therefore changing the swing plane from single plane to double plane; he came over the top, the swing was outside-to-in, his grip was strong but swing was weak, his hip wasn’t cleared in time for his head to stay steady and all was caught on the Konica Minolta Biz Hub Swing Analyzer at 38,000 frames per second!”

I am trying to learn this language of “Golfinese.”Perhaps I will just start the day by putting a few balls into the hole on the practice green, then a few chips, a few pitches, then back up a bit and hit a few longer shots.

Stance and balance swing easy, put the ball in the hole. Who really needs an SME or a Konica Minolta Biz Hub Swing Analyzer anyway!
New Times, New Terms

New Times, New Terms

The past two editions of Golf Teaching Pro have featured articles on whether golf instruction is getting too complicated. The consensus by the authors was a “yes,” but that doesn’t mean that we should shut out all new learning and technology in favor of sticking only with what we first learned. As golf teaching professionals, we have an obligation to keep up with the latest trends and methodologies so that we’re not left behind. The trick, of course, is to impart this information in a way that our students understand. Many of them just want to hit the ball better and aren’t interested in the latest theories or arguments on the minutiae of every little bit of the golf swing.

With the advent of high-tech gadgets and increased knowledge, different terms have come onto the teaching scene. While they may not be new, there may be a new understanding of how they work or what they are.

TrackMan® and FlightScope®. These are Doppler-radar based launch monitors that mea-sure every relevant aspect of ball flight. They have “launched” (pun intended) a whole new slew of terms in recent years. Among them:

Launch angle. This is the angle the ball takes off compared to the horizontal ground, measured in degrees. For drivers, anywhere from 10°for higher swing speeds to upwards of 16° for lower swing speeds are what club fitters and teachers are looking for.

Spin axis. A ball that has backspin around a perfectly horizontal axis will have no curvature. The amount that the actual axis varies from horizontal is called “spin axis” and is measured in degrees. If the axis tilts to the left of horizontal (as seen behind the target line), the ball will have draw spin for a right-hander, and if it tilts to the right of horizontal, the ball will have fade spin.

Example of spin axis of a draw (right-hander)

Zero out. This is launch monitor parlance for having a club head path at impact that is towards the intended target with a square clubface.

Positive/negative angle of approach. In the old days we would say ascending (positive) or descending (negative), but since launch monitors use positive or negative numbers, the terminology is going in the numerical direction.

Smash factor. This is the ratio of ball speed to club head speed. With the driver, most clubfitters believe that a smash factor of at least 1.45 is necessary to call a driver a good fit for that particular person.

RPMs. This is the number of revolutions per minute of the ball’s backspin. For drivers, RPMs that vary from 2,200 to 2,800, depending on ball speed and launch angle, are desirable. With the increased technology in drivers available to manufacturers, they are able to do more to make this happen. It has been said that the holy grail for driver launch is 17° of launch angle with 1,700RPMs of spin. Time will tell if a driver can be made to make this feasible.

Teaching and coaching. New terms, and older terms that are now more commonly in use, have made their way onto the stage.

Covering the ball. This term is not new but has been used extensively in recent years. It means not tilting the chest backwards coming into impact and letting it rotate so that the player does not swing too far inside-to-outside. This is mainly a good player’s feel as it is one to help a player from hooking the ball.

Save the shot. Again, mainly a good player’s fault. This results from a swing path that is in-side-to-outside during impact, resulting in a push unless the player “saves” the shot by precise timing of the release of the hands.

Fall line. This term has been made popular by Johnny Miller on television. It refers to the putting green. A ball rolling on the fall line towards the hole will go dead straight. Determining if the ball lies to the left or right of the fall line is helpful in figuring which way the putt will break, and seems to be the preferred greens-reading method for many tour players today, rather than just looking at the slope of the green between the ball and the hole.

Center of mass vs. swing pressure. Some teachers employ foot pressure plates, which measure how much each foot is pressing into the ground at any given time. This is different than the center of mass, a completely different subject. It is possible to have most of the pressure on the rear foot, for example, at the top of the backswing while having the center of mass more forward. One of the trends in teaching today is to have the center of mass stay relatively stationary throughout the swing (at least through impact).

Use the bounce. This has been known for years with bunkers shots, but now it is becoming more common for pitch shots. More wrist action through impact and/or a shallower angle of attack make this happen. Many teachers feel this lessens the chance of a mishit, especially hitting fat shots.

Golf terms continually evolve, and it is certain that terms that will be used in the years to come have not even be invented today. Although the game continues to change, it holds deep to its traditional roots, and this combination means the game will appeal to people of all types for the indefinite future.
A Closer Look At The Three Main Grips

A Closer Look At The Three Main Grips

Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge the obvious: You’re probably wondering why an article on the grip is appearing in Golf Teaching Pro. After all, it’s the first thing taught at USGTF certification schools, and besides, all golf teaching pros should know how to teach the grip.

Actually, you may be surprised to learn that a number of golf teaching professionals (mainly non-USGTF members) do not know how to properly teach the grip, nor do they have a firm understanding of the cause and effect associated with the three grips. Our USGTF examining staff has found more than one teaching professional who has been teaching without certification or who belongs to another organization who doesn’t know as much as they should about teaching the grip. So if you’re comfortable in your knowledge and abilities in teaching the grip and knowing its nuances, please consider this article as a refresher or confirmation. But even then, hopefully there is a nugget or two which you may take away.

Overlapping grip

This is the most commonly used and taught grip by playing and teaching professionals. This likely came about due to the influence of Harry Vardon, who popularized the grip as a way of taking some of the right-hand action out of the swing and therefore lessen the possibility of a hook. Because traditions and long-held schools of thought die hard in golf, it’s likely most teaching pros simply passed along the overlap grip as the preferred grip due to tradition. But is it really the “best” grip?

The best grip is the one which allows the golfer to return the club square the most consistently. It’s been said that every good golfer has fought a hook some-time in his or her career, so the anti-hooking features of the overlapping (or Vardon) grip are very useful to the majority of such golfers. In fact, Jim Furyk uses a double-overlap grip because of his propensity to use a lot of hand action through impact, which further promotes a hook. But that brings us to an obvious question: If the overlapping grip is an anti-hooking grip, why should we teach slicers this grip?

Hopefully our instruction will result in slicers no longer being slicers, and due to the relatively small grip a golf club possesses (in relation to others sports like baseball and tennis), it’s easy for excessive hand action to become an issue for more competent players. Thus, the overlapping grip is a good choice for these players. It also seems to allow the player to more easily put the club in the correct position in the trail hand as compared to the other grips, al-though obviously this doesn’t necessarily hold true for everyone.

Interlocking grip

The most famous practitioners of the interlocking grip include Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy. Nicklaus touted the grip as being more appropriate for golfers with shorter fingers, but a number of players who don’t have shorter fingers also use the grip…and a number of players with shorter fingers also use the overlapping, so this rule of thumb doesn’t seem to be very hard and fast. (Remember, traditional thought in golf instruction tends to stick around, regardless of whether it’s accurate or not.)

Dr. Ralph Mann, a biomechanics expert who has researched golf technique to a greater degree than most, believes the interlocking grip is problematic because it allows the golfer to grip the club too much in the right palm(for right-handed players) if the golfer is not careful to avoid this.

The practical differences between the overlapping and the interlocking grip are negligible, to the point that one or the other is fine for players who choose not to use a 10-finger grip.

10-finger grip

This also known as the “baseball” grip due to its similarity to holding a bat, with no overlapping of the fingers. Major champions such as Art Wall and Bob Rosburg used the grip on their way to victory, so it has stood the test at the highest level of the game. Moe Norman, renowned for being the greatest ball striker ever, switched to the grip later in his career.

Earlier, we asked the question of why we would want our students who slice to use an anti-hook grip such as the overlap. It’s a good question, and if we have students whose tendency is to hit slices, the10-finger grip may be the best option to eliminate or mitigate the problem. Even a slight separation of the hands may be necessary to reduce slicing in some students.

Some teachers like to advocate that junior players use the 10-finger grip, with the goal of switching to the overlap or interlock later. This is feasible, as kids usually adapt swing and setup changes fairly easily as compared to adults. People with weaker hands and forearms may also benefit from the 10-finger grip. Finally, golfers who use larger arthritic grips may experience that the overlap or interlock is difficult to incorporate with such grips, finding that the 10-fingergrip offers a greater ease of use.

The USGTF Technical Committee’s official position on which grip to use is that it is up to the player and their judgment of comfort and playability. The committee has found, through its own teaching experience, that the interlocking grip seems to be a more natural grip for most people to use as compared to the overlapping, but this may be due to the factor that Dr. Mann described, which is it allows the player to hold the dominant hand grip more in the palm. This feeling is undoubtedly more secure for many players, but it represents a false security as it restricts the proper movement of the club throughout the swing.

Golf teaching professionals usually have little reason to change the type of grip their students are using, but in some cases a change may be for the better. Knowing the pros and cons of each grip can help the teacher make the correct call.
Fond Memories Found In-Of All Places –A Range Basket

Fond Memories Found In-Of All Places –A Range Basket

By Mike Stevens USGTF Contributing Writer

I love it when I stumble across something that instantly floods my brain with fond memories of youth. In my basket of range balls, I came across an old golf ball. People are always hitting their old balls on the range trying to get in a few extra shots for free. Just looking at the dimple pattern, I knew it was old, a Wonderball #4 from the Worthington Golf Ball Company of Elyria, Ohio. Now, I doubt that many players today would recognize this brand. However, to a young lad who had to scour the woods and ponds of local muni courses be-cause he was forbidden to raid his father’s golf bag for those precious white orbs, they were a blessing. But that is a whole other story. Although western Massachusetts was Spalding territory, there were plenty of inexpensive Worthingtons to be found.

It all began in 1904 when inventor George Worthington obtained the rights to produce a rubber core ball from Coburn Haskell, who had patented the concept of winding rubber strips into a ball which was covered with gutta per-cha. The ball known as the “Bounding Billie” would revolutionize the game, just as the solid gutta percha version did in 1848. Worthington wasn’t the only company to obtain the rights to produce balls, but they produced the best version at the time. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, Worthington had to be a bit creative with his product. That was because the A.G. Spalding company’s rights included a circular dimple pattern which only they could use.

That did not stop George. He made balls with diamond patterns, pimples in the dimples and a mesh matrix. He also developed his own winding ma-chine that wrapped the rubber strands around a solid core in a more even pattern than any of the other companies who were hand-winding their balls.

Over the next 50 years, the Worthington Golf Ball Company became one of the largest supplier of balls in the world. They were the first to produce a liquid-center ball, first to develop hardness and compression tests, and first to produce a white-covered ball with a one-piece dip process. In 1910, Worthington came out with the “Radio” ball, with a center containing radium particles. No one knew what it did, but because of Madam Curie’s work with radium at the time, radium was all the rage. The company was truly innovative, thanks to George. After World War I, he developed the first balata-covered version. For the interior, he would freeze the core before winding, which made the ball harder and tougher. He even x-rayed the balls for trueness.

When World War II broke out, the government sent word out to companies that no more golf balls were to be manufactured for the duration of the war. That did not stop Worthington. He began reprocessing old balls. Had it not been for his efforts, golf may have gone by the wayside. Fortunately, the Surgeon General’s Office saw the health benefits of golf and the government offered manufacturers synthetic material, and true to form, Worthington develop a synthetic golf ball that was shipped all over the world wherever servicemen were stationed. After the war, the company continued to thrive and try many new processes and materials, expending considerable research in the ball production.

Unfortunately, the Worthington brand is no longer around today except for those found in golf range baskets or on a golf collector’s trade show table. The company was absorbed in 1966 by the Victor Comptometer Company and moved to Illinois. Vic-tor brand morphed into the PGA Company, which eventually became Tommy Armour Golf that now is sold by Dick’s Sporting Goods, which acquired it from Sports Authority. Gone but not forgotten by a young lad who came to love a game that required a precious pearl called “Wonderball.”

Mike Stevens is the Southeast Region director of the USGTF and golf teaching pro at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. He is the 2005, 2010 and2012 National Hickory champion and the 2004U.S. Golf Teachers Senior champion. He also owns and operates the Mike Stevens on Target Golf School in Tampa.
Teaching And Modeling A Winning Mindset

Teaching And Modeling A Winning Mindset

Sally J. Sportsman USGTF Contributing Writer, Orlando, Florida

What makes a winner?

Competition is as old as humankind. As civilization has evolved, the types of contests and the means by which victory is achieved in any given endeavor have changed, but the will to win is as strong as ever. From the classroom to the board room, from Little League to the World Series, from the lesson tee to the PGA Tour – winning is the objective of people everywhere. The desire to emerge victorious from any challenge seems embedded in our nature. The intensity of this desire varies according to one’s disposition, personality, experience and motivation, yet our instinct is to give it our best shot, allowing ourselves the optimum chance to come out on top.

“The biggest thing about winning is the desire to succeed,” said Jerry Moore, 2008 U.S. Golf Teachers Cup champion. “Attitude is one thing you have to take into consideration; you can’t be a wanna-be.”

Moore, a retired high school football coach and physical education teacher, is well versed in the concept of winning. These days, he applies that experience to his golf teaching at Neshanic Valley Golf Course, a public facility in Neshanic Station, New Jersey, where he has been for 11 years.

Moore had a saying he used with his football players back in his coaching days: Every day that you don’t do something to make yourself a better athlete, someone will be getting better, and that will put you back a little bit.

What’s the secret to helping a golfer light his or her competitive fire?

“Motivation is intrinsic, but I can teach it,” said Moore, 76. “A player’s objectives must be in line in order to be successful.”

Moore has been involved in athletics all his life. He has observed some young people who could be college golfers but don’t want to make the commitment – they want to play instead of practice. Others aren’t as gifted but are determined to reach tour-level play, so they work extremely hard. Yet as hard as they work, the other guys still beat them occasionally. There are examples of both kinds of players making it on Tour.

“Today is a lot different than yesterday,” Moore said. “Athletes are different.

“We have become a spoiled society. A lot of kids’ work habits aren’t as good as they could be.”

Moore believes that he can get young players to a certain point – and tells them so – but it’s the ones who really want to succeed who probably will do so. As for the others, Moore tries to change their attitudes, employing various examples and methods to encourage the bell to go off in their heads.

“My theory has always been that there is a very fine line between being good and being great, “said Moore. “That line involves a lot of things to get to the big dance.”

An aspiring golfer must be willing to push himself, sacrifice and be a good student and person, with a commitment to diet and fitness.

When Moore won the U.S. Golf Teachers Cup, everything coalesced. It seemed like nearly everything he did worked, giving him the chance to be in that all-important winning position. He’s always been a competitor and has always tried to do the right thing as a teacher – with a serendipitous result.

“I’ve spent so much time working with kids,” Moore said, “that as I got older, I seemed to get better at golf. I was in my sixties when I won the Cup.

“Most of the guys in their twenties and thirties didn’t like that much.”

USGTF member Dr. Gerald Walford, a retired college professor in sports sciences, as well as a hockey and golf coach, believes that a winning mindset entails the elimination of distractions in order to focus on what is essential. He is an ardent supporter of Zen, in which one learns what is needed – a golf movement, for example – until it becomes muscle memory; then it’s forgotten and becomes automatic.

“If you have distractions on your mind – such as the wind, or embarrassment – your neurological connections get mixed up,” Dr. Walford said. “Your eyes and brain get confused.”

Walford believes the secret is not to lose touch with the simplicity of the game. For example, when a golfer hits a putt long, he often hits the next one short, telling himself he has to hit it short – and then he misses it.

“Concentration and discipline all boil down to focusing on the task at hand,” said Walford. “It’s the old adage: one shot at a time.”

Ben Hogan and Moe Norman were two of the greatest ball strikers ever, in Walford’s view. Both were obsessed with golf. Obsession can either make or break you, according to Walford. It made Hogan and Norman.

“All the great players have the obsession to excel,” Walford said, “through hard work, discipline and concentration. It’s not just one thing.”

Walford, who grew up in Ontario, Canada, playing ice hockey, knows a thing or two about hard work.

“Kids need to start young, learning skills mentally and physically through competition,” he said.

As for a winning attitude, Walford has seen countless varieties. Some winners are free and easy, laughing their way to the trophy, while others are deeply serious. Some seem to have no worries, while others fret about performing. Walford believes that no matter an individual’s personality, if that athlete plays his game and eliminates distractions, winning is a real possibility.

“Winning is fleeting,” Walford said. “The great ones last.”

To Dr. Michelle Cleere, who holds a master’s degree in sports psychology and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, winners are resilient, able to let go of mistakes and external things that are happening and out of their control – accepting that there is winning and losing and everything in between. And winners commit to both physical and mental preparation.

“Far too often, golfers prepare physically – on the driving range and the golf course – but don’t prepare mentally when they show up to play a round of golf,” said Cleere, 52, herself a competitive athlete. She cited the example of one of the top junior golfers in Canada, whose swing was mechanically very good but who believed that if he simply prepared physically and showed up, “his head would go along for the ride.”

Cleere, who practices psychology in Oakland, California, also noted that over the last 10 years, fitness among golfers has risen in importance. Accordingly, she said, developing a mental game plan is more important too, but only a small percentage of amateur players can do that on their own. Generally, people need assistance and support to get to the place where mental and physical preparation are equally balanced. She teaches students and coaches by modeling positivity, counseling them not to get hung upon their mistakes but rather to talk about things that are going well – in other words, to be focused on the outcome, not the process.

Her approach is to “do it and impart it.”

The anatomy of a winner in golf, according to Cleere, is someone who takes responsibility for his or her own mental game plan.

“You can retrain yourself to think more positively,” said Cleere. “That’s why I love my job.”

Teaching and competing are what give Mark Harman continued perspective on winning. In both endeavors, he wants to be at his best. Harman, who teaches at Southbridge Golf Club in Savannah, Georgia, has been a USGTF member since 1991 and is the USGTF national course director.

“When I practice and work on my game, I don’t finish until I accomplish what I need to,” said Harman. “And in teaching, I’m always learning.”

Harman subscribes to Bobby Knight’s belief that the will to win is overrated; it’s the will to prepare that is important.

“I go by that,” Harman said. “You can’t just show up and turn on a switch.

“Preparation is key.”

Sometimes a player can’t know where his best achievement level lies, Harman said. Within the professional ranks, many golfers try to improve by changing their technique, with the result that they get worse.

“What seduces golfers is that there’s always something in your head saying, ‘If I can get rid of these mistakes, I can get better,’” said Harman.“ But it’s a seduction you’ve got to avoid.

“You don’t know your best level until after it’s long gone. It’s hard to accept that you never reach perfection in golf.”

Harman believes instructors must teach students confidence and winning ways. Players must be able to put the time into both physical and mental practice. This will lead to belief.

“Belief is so important,” Harman said. “You have to believe you can win, that you have a right to win.” This belief is more realistic for those who prepare conscientiously. Small adjustments can make a big difference. Instructors have to understand what their students’ goals are and be honest with them.

“Students trust me because I’m confident in myself,” said Harman. “It comes with experience.”Students don’t really surprise Harman with their goals, except that they often underestimate themselves.

“They can do better than they think,” he said. “That’s where my encouragement comes in.”

Master Golf Teaching Professional and 2015 World Cup Senior champion Grant Gulych observed that for his students, the definition of winning varies according to each individual’s goals. For most, winning means hitting the ball more consistently – an attainable goal.

“Goals have to be achievable, measurable and specific,” said Gulych, who teaches at two separate public facilities in Ontario, Canada. “The biggest mistake golfers make is failing to have a pre-shot routine.

“Golf is repetition. You have to make sure it becomes a routine.”

Gulych always suggests a routine, which differs with each individual golfer, and three things the golfer needs to improve on. Once those things become habit, he moves on to something else.

In order to instill a winning mentality in his students, Gulych never uses the word “change.” People resist change; it’s human nature. Rather, he tells students he will “adjust” their swing.

“It’s the words you use that determine how students look at you and accept what you are doing,” said Gulych. “I never use ‘no’ or ‘wrong’ – even if the ball is hit only one foot.

“Instead, I tell the golfer he hit it straight.”

Gulych believes that physically, everyone has restrictions, and thus the mental side of the game is more important.

“Most people think golf is eighty percent physical and twenty percent mental,” said Gulych. “I believe it’s seventy percent mental and thirty percent physical.”

Encouraging his students to concur can lead to their improved chances of playing winning golf.

“The more relaxed you are, the better you play.”

Gulych plays golf with his students, usually talking while he’s swinging, so they can focus.

Another technique he uses is that during their second lesson, Gulych asks all his students to hit a driver with their eyes closed, to achieve muscle memory.

“Teachers tend to emphasize the visual: Keep your eye on the golf ball,” Gulych said. “But with your eyes closed, you have to concentrate on the ball.”

“I’ve never had anyone not hit the ball.”

When playing a tournament, Gulych sets three goals for himself: no three-putts, no penalty shots and no double bogeys – worthy goals for any golfer.

“If you meet those criteria, you probably should win the event,” Gulych said. “To me, winning is winning a tournament.”

It took Gulych six tournaments to understand how to play tournament golf, to realize that it’s not at all like playing with one’s buddies. Every shot matters if winning is the objective.

And win he did – by two shots – on his seventh try at the 2013 U.S. Golf Teachers Cup.

“Everything fell together,” Gulych said.

That’s what winning feels like.

When one’s body and spirit – physical and mental aspects – align for a victorious result, the anatomy of a winner has emerged.
Moving From A To B

Moving From A To B

By Bert Jones USGTF Master Golf Teaching Professional Loomis, California

Have you ever wondered why some people can move from their current situation to a stated goal and some people can’t? Is it a matter of applied will, or just having enough knowledge?

If we reflect on the last 40 years, we have little to no improvement in the average golf score. In fact, professional averages are relatively stagnant, also! How can this be, even with the advent of new equipment, better agronomy, and the state of instruction using space-age technology for analysis?

Perhaps we can start by looking at how goals are developed. When developing a goal, it should follow the acronym SMART. The SMART acronym stands for specific, measurable, agreed upon, realistic and time-based. Every goal will be based on one of three words: desire, want, and need. Each of these words is different and requires thoughtful consideration. Clarity around need, want and desire will provide you a vision of the goal.

Achieving goal specificity can be an elusive proposition. How many times have you had a student tell you that they “want” to improve their putting? Sounds pretty vague to me! To putt “better” requires analysis of where the student is with their knowledge, skill and ability. I normally put my students through an array of tests such as the Titleist Performance Institute LORD’s test or the Eyeline Skill Test (both of which can be found online) to determine a benchmark. Once the evidenced-based benchmark is achieved, I can then begin to assist the student’s specific goal.

An example of a specific goal could be to reduce the number of three-putts from four per round to two per round over a period of 45 days. The goal is measureable because we have created a starting and ending point over a period of time. It is critical that the goal be agreed upon, as the goal should be intrinsic by nature. The goal should be realistic as it is based upon a benchmark analysis of the player.

Sounds pretty simple, right? If it was, then we would have a nation of high achievers, and we know that is not the case. So why do so many good intentions fall short? Is it bad goal setting or just lack of will?

Perhaps the answer can be found in instruction and motor programming! Most students that I have encountered do not fully understand putting or their equipment. Their skill, knowledge and ability have to be built or reformed. In addition, I have found that many students don’t know how to practice. They think they do, but they don’t.

Explanation, demonstration, observation and correction on identified sub-elements help students understand how to practice. I like to have students use guidance devices to provide feedback when I am not able to stand and observe the player between lessons. A limited amount of drills are prescribed to ensure that students are working on changing their habits.

It is important to understand that habits are changed through ritual. Creating rituals in the pre- and post-routine are the means to integrating new neural pathways in the brain to create better performance. Visit the “Human Performance Institute” online for a deeper understanding of rituals and habit development.

No more three-putts!
Compliments Complement Our Teaching

Compliments Complement Our Teaching

According to, “The term rein-force means to strengthen, and is used in psychology to refer to any stimulus which strengthens or in-creases the probability of a specific response.” Psychologists recognize four types of reinforcement: positive, negative, punishment and extinction.

In general, positive reinforcement has proven to be the most effective means of behavior modification or to get a certain behavior to be performed. This involves giving a reward upon completion of a goal or speaking in a positive and encouraging manner in an attempt to achieve the desired outcome. Negative reinforcement involves an unpleasantness of some sort if the task is not completed, such as parental nagging of a child. Once the child per-forms the task, for example, the negative reinforcement of nagging is eliminated. Punishment is a term that we are all familiar with, and extinction is, according to, “The disappearance of a previously learned behavior when the behavior is not reinforced.”

The USGTF has long recognized the good that comes from positive reinforcement, and since its inception in 1989 has said that encouragement (positive reinforcement) rather than criticism (negative reinforcement) is far more desirable. Hopefully there aren’t any teachers out there engaging in punishing their students! But then again, we do hear sad stories of parents punishing their children for not succeeding in athletics. Perhaps they make the child run, or take away some privileges, but as those of us who are knowledgeable know, punishing a child for athletic failure is a sure way to have an ex-athlete for a child.

In athletics today, there is a great emphasis on “players’ coaches,” which means that the coach is sensitive to the needs and emotions of the members on theteam. Gone are the days of the coach who yelled constantly at his players, berating them for each and every mistake, and being tone-deaf to the squad’s desire to be guided with a gentler hand. While today’s sports coaches can still be demanding in terms of performance and effort, they are expected to develop personal relationships with each player and to have an empathy for those players. One of the great truths to coaching is that a coach needs to know when to give someone a figurative kick in the butt and when to give a pat on the back. Coaches who only know how to kick derrieres probably won’t last long in today’s world. They need to be able to give positive reinforcement as part of their coaching repertoire.

In line with giving positive reinforcement, compliments are an important way of achieving this. When was the last time you felt badly when someone gave you a genuine compliment? You may have felt not worthy or de-serving, but deep down we all enjoy a compliment that some-one gives us. It boosts our self-esteem and gives us confidence that we are on the right track.

As golf coaches and teachers, we see that the majority of our clientele want nothing more than to enjoy the game. Many of our students are already self-conscious about their golf games; they don’t want to be embarrassed on the course. It’s also not rare for some students to not want to see themselves on video, thinking that their swing is one of the worst there is and looks silly to outside observers. A few compliments during a video review session most certainly will help with a student’s attitude and perhaps give them some newly found encouragement and excitement.

Compliments must be sincere. Telling a student that their swing is one step away from being tour caliber – when they are a30-handicapper – is false flattery that we must avoid. Fortunately, most of us know that. But even30-handicappers have elements in their game that are worthy of complimenting.

Compliments can also help to mitigate the negative feelings associated with giving necessary negative information to a student. USGTF member Ben Bryant has written about the “compliment sandwich,” in which the negative information is preceded and followed by a compliment. An example: “Tom, I really like the way you’re swinging in balance, but we need to improve your release through impact because you have a tendency to flip your trail hand underneath. The good news is you’re already off to a good start because you have a good grip.”

Compliments are also beneficial to the giver of the compliment, because most of us enjoy making people feel good. So complement your teaching with compliments – it gets results!

Anthony Netto Stands Up And Plays

Anthony Netto Stands Up And Plays

USGTF member Anthony Netto lives a more active life than most people, even though he cannot walk, much less run. Netto was on his way to play in a professional golf tournament in his native South Africa in 1994 when his car was hit by a drunk driver, leaving Netto paralyzed from the waist down. And all of this happened just several months after attending a USGTF certification course in the United States.

Netto was a first lieutenant in the South African army and was a veteran of Desert Storm in the early 1990s. After his discharge, he returned to golf and earned his USGTF certification. But the accident put his plans on hold. It is understand-able if Netto felt the normal reactions after such a horrific accident of despair and anger, but if he did, he quickly put them aside and went to work. Attempting to return to the game of golf in a traditional wheelchair, Netto found it too restraining and difficult to play the game in a proper way. He set about inventing a device that would allow him to basically stand while playing, just like able-bodied golfers. Thus, the Paragolfer came about, which rides like a normal wheelchair with the exception that the seat and seatback lift up and puts a person in a standing position.

The Paragolfer was later renamed the Para- mobile because it can be used for more than just golf. Sports like shooting, archery, hunting and fishing are made easier for people from the Para-mobile.

As the Paramobile puts less pressure per square inch on the ground as compared to a normal foot-print, the device lends itself well to golf and doesn’t damage the golf course, including the greens. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Paramobile is welcome at facilities all across the country.

Netto travels the United States these days, promoting the Paramobile and seeking funding for those in need to buy them through his Stand Up And Play Foundation. Manufactured by the German company Ottobock, the Paramobile is available for a purchase price of $22,500.

The Invictus Games, which brings together veterans from 17 countries who compete in adaptive sports, will feature golf for the first time in 2017 in Toronto, Canada. Netto is proud that the Paramobile will be used in order to allow some of the golfers to compete.

Netto has also met former U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, the latter while he was still in office. Obama, an avid golfer himself, took an interest in Netto and the Para- mobile.

In regard to Bush, Netto met him several years ago at the 4th annual Warrior Open, where Netto smashed a drive 270 yards down the middle of the fairway. He still drives the ball farther and plays the game better than most able-bodied golfers, a testament to his grit and determination.

Netto is currently based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, and travels to support and promote the Stand Up And Play Foundation. The fundraising road has been a difficult one, but Netto has succeeded in getting a number of Paramobiles into circulation for use by those who are paralyzed.