An Organized Pro Equals Happy Students

An Organized Pro Equals Happy Students

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.
Common Sense Teaching vs Modern Technology

Common Sense Teaching vs Modern Technology

By Douglas Gray- USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional, Fife, Scotland

Whilst playing the Eden Course at St. Andrew son a fine spring day in Scotland, I was introduced to a prominent R&A member of some more years senior to me. He was in our four-ball, and his good friend informed me that George had been to every golf teacher under the sun, except Mr Leadbetter. A slight exaggeration, until I learnt more as our game progressed.

During an enjoyable nine holes, I listened to talk of ‘Trackman’, ‘Hogan Fundamentals’ and lots of teaching theories, as George had been trying to find the theory for many years. I distanced myself from this chat as I only ‘input’ when asked. Eventually, George asked, “Could you do anything for me, Douglas?” I replied very calmly, “I could sort you in ten minutes, George.” I had planted the seed, and as we shook hands, George asked for my business card.

George was lacking some setup fundamentals, and one major swing improvement would help his progress. I was not overly confident of receiving a phone call, but my intuition proved me wrong. A few days later and George wanted to see me ‘asap’.

As with all lessons, I establish the pupils’ physical capabilities and any ailments that may be restrictive to what we want to achieve. Apart from two new hips, George was capable of working on what I had observed from our nine holes and the initial warm-up exercises that I had introduced. I never allow a pupil to hit too many balls in the warm-up. We want to groove the new stuff as soon as possible and not dwell on the problem. My prior knowledge of George’s swing allowed me to explain what we had to work on from the outset.

George had very good shape at address, a good foundation base, but a little low from the sternum up. This indicated a low head position. George informed me that a recent teacher had told him to ‘lift your chin’. I explained this would not help, as there was still no room to turn and that he should lift from his sternum, or as I say some-times and demonstrate, ‘stand proud’. I also noticed during our nine holes and the warm-up that George had about a 10-degree shoulder turn, but my warm-up exercises showed that George had the capability and flexibility for a lot more.

Now, we all know for a right-hander we must ‘turn our right side out of the way’ on the back-swing, which allows the body to unwind on the forward swing. I explained to George that because of his lack of turn on the backswing, when he came to impact, he was replicating his address position. Invariably, George’s club would ‘bottom out’ 2-3 inches in front of the ball, and the ones he connected with flew well to the right of the target.

A good demonstration paints a thousand words, and once George had watched me copy his swing and the resultant effect, it was easy for him to understand how we could progress. A few rehearsals and a few strikes and we were on our way.

At 90 years of age, maybe I forgot to mention that, but yes, George is 90 years young, but still has the desire to practice and improve. George’s eyesight is not the best, but a couple of times he commented that some of his shots were starting right of the target and coming back to the centre. Need I say more? We were on the right track, without ‘Trackman’. George also informed me that a recent teacher had discussed ‘one plane v. two plane’ and the options for him! I was flabbergasted.

George now had a good feeling of ball/turf contact and a better clubface strike, even although he could not see the end result. I explained that we would see the bigger picture when we collected the balls at the end. This is an invaluable part of the lesson, as we saw excellent grouping and a consistent distance with the lesson balls. I use clean, quality balls for every lesson, and they are all marked with a Sharpie pen (lots of markings, Duffy Waldorf-style). During the lesson, George looked at his clubface and noticed that he was contacting the centre of the clubface, the Sharpie markings being clearly visible.

I pride myself with results, and George had progressed well with consistency of strike, which was paramount, and the resulting direction of his shots. All this was achieved without ‘Trackman’, ‘Hogan’s Fundamentals’, or the need for ‘one-plane v. two-plane swing analysis’. It frustrates me that fellow coaches fail to teach what is in front of them, and apply technology where it is not applicable.

Over the years, I have applied my knowledge of the swing, having an open mind, a willingness to learn, and am constantly working on my communication skills, all enabling me to give my best lesson ever, each time. That is why the WGTF will be the leader in golf instruction for a long time to come.

George enjoyed the lesson very much and we both saw tremendous improvement. “What’s next, Douglas?” asked George, who is a retired doctor. My comparison was simple. I replied, “If I came into your surgery with an ailment, after a preliminary examination and subsequent diagnosis, you may prescribe some medication and schedule another appointment to ensure it was working. I have given you some of the medicine you need. Keep taking it and I will see you in two weeks.”

Editor’s note to American readers: As the author is from Scotland, the punctuation, spelling and grammar rules from that country were kept in the editing process.
No Trackman? No Problem!

No Trackman? No Problem!

One of the perks of living in the 21st century is that improved technology has made many aspects of our lives more convenient. From using your smart phone to lock your car doors to computers that give us the entire body of accumulated knowledge at our fingertips, technology has made things easier in ways unheard of just 20 years ago.

Golf instruction has benefitted from the technology explosion, too, as teachers invest in the latest video, launch monitors and training aids, all in an effort to provide their students with the best possible learning environment. These devices also give the teacher information that may not have been possible to glean without their use. Yet, if we go to any typical driving range and golf course and observe teaching professionals in action there, we see that the vast majority are still working the old-fashioned way, watching their students perform and then dispensing advice and drills to administer improvement. How can these teachers still be effective in our modern computer-driven world?

No matter how much technology may advance, the teacher’s knowledge and acumen are responsible for the vast majority of the effectiveness of the learning process. USGTF professional Bob Toski has spent a lifetime teaching without any fancy technology aids, and it’s a likely bet that if given the choice to go see Toski or an unknown teacher down the road with all the latest computer gadgets, we would venture to guess that the typical golf student would go see Toski. The teacher’s knowledge is that important.

Ball flight laws and their correct application have been known to scientists for years, but it was only a relative short time ago that the old model of swing path dictating initial starting direction was discarded. We know now that the clubface angle is responsible for approximately 85 percent of the ball’s starting direction, and that the differential between the clubhead path and clubface angle provides the curvature. If you don’t have a TrackMan or FlightScope, how are we to accurately diagnose a student’s ball flight? Here is a primer on all nine ball flights. For simplicity purposes, we will assume that centered clubface contact occurs and that the student is a right-hander.


This can be tricky under the new understanding of ball flight laws. Since the clubface angle is left of the target line and the ball curves farther left, the clubhead path through impact could be left, towards, or right of the target line, although in all instances it is still to the right of the clubface angle. The teacher needs to carefully monitor the divot if an iron is used, or closely observe the swing path through impact if a driver is used. Also, since almost everyone has a smart phone with high-definition slow-motion capabilities, video can be taken of impact to see more accurately what the clubhead path is doing.


Clubface angle is square to a clubhead path going left of target.


This may also be a pull-slice. The clubface is actually left of the target line at impact! However, since the clubhead path is even farther left, a fade or slice results.


Under the old ball flight laws, we would have said the clubhead path is down the target line while the clubface is closed. We now know that the clubface angle is somewhat square to the target line while the clubhead path is actually to the right. This is a major change in our understanding of the ball flight laws from the old to the new.


The holy grail of pure ball striking, and one that is difficult to obtain consistently, even for the most skilled professionals. Notable for their accomplished use of this ball flight are Byron Nelson, Moe Norman and Annika Sorenstam.


Like the straight draw, the clubface angle is somewhat towards the target line at impact, but the clubhead path is to the left. Again, a major change in our understanding of this ball flight from what we used to believe.


This is a problem that tends to plague better players, as their initial use of the lower body may be too quick or too lateral, bringing the clubhead too far inside on the downswing and causing an in-to-out motion through impact. The better player may also be plagued from a ball position too far back from ideal.


Clubface angle is square to a clubhead path going right of target.


As with the pull draw, the clubhead path can be left, towards, or right of the target line through impact. Close observation or video is again needed for accurate analysis.

We simplified the above scenarios by saying that centered clubface contact is assumed. What if it’s not achieved? Balls hit towards the toe tend to put draw spin on the ball due to the gear effect, and balls hit towards the heel tend to impart fade spin. If your student is not making centered contact, it introduces a whole new dynamic that must be taken into account. Fortunately, most students will make enough centered contact that the model presented here can be used effectively. No Problem! No Problem!
Recalling Long Jim,The First PGA Champion

Recalling Long Jim,The First PGA Champion

By Mike Stevens USGTF Certified Golf Teaching Professional® Tampa, Florida

One hundred years ago, the PGA Championship was inaugurated at Siwonoy Country Club in Bronxville, New York. Thirty-two players qualified for the tournament at sites around the country. One qualifier, Jack Pirie, failed to arrive, so a blind draw was set up, allowing one player to get a first-round bye.

The PGA Championship began as a match-play tournament. It wasn’t until 1958 that it became a stroke-play event. It was quite grueling, requiring 36-hole matches over a five-day period. Jim Barnes, a native of England, defeated Jock Hutchinson on the 36th hole to win the title.

Barnes, known as Long Jim because of his long, booming tee shots, was born in Cornwall, England, on March 8, 1886. Jim was also a very tall six-foot-three, which probably accounted for his length off the tee. He started in golf, as many professionals of the time did, as a caddie. Apparently he was very good, and eventually became an apprentice to professional Fred Whiting at the West Cornwall Golf Club. Like many of the Scottish and English professionals, the expanding golf scene in America resulted in several emigrating to the former colony. Barnes accepted an offer from the Claremont Golf Club in San Francisco in 1906. He remained there for two years before he was lured away to a course in Canada.

During these early years in America, Barnes showed his skill as a player, winning several Northwest Opens. In 1912, he entered his first U.S. Open, coming in 18th. The next year, he came in fourth in the Open won by Francis Quimet that put American golfers on the map as players to be reckoned with. Barnes’ popularity began to grow, and he became sought after by several clubs in 1914. He settled at Whitemarsh Country Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

During the winter months, he toured with Walter Hagen, playing several exhibitions and challenge matches. By 1916, Jim was coming into his own. He won the North and South Open at Pinehurst and the New York Newspaper Open.

He then qualified for the U.S. Open, where he finished third, and then won the Connecticut Open, following that up by easily qualifying for the first PGA Championship sponsored by Rodman Wanamaker, a department store magnate for whom the PGA Championship trophy is named. In the final match, as both players (Barnes and Hutchinson) surveyed their putts, there occurred a dispute over who was away. Hutchinson argued that Barnes should putt first, but Jim disagreed. The match referee was called in to resolve the situation, and after a measurement, Hutchinson was deemed to be first to putt. He missed and Barnes made his for the win.

Barnes moved to different clubs, up north in the summer and in Florida in the winter, while continuing to play some great golf. He would go on to win four major championships: two PGAs, a U.S. Open and the Open Championships, from 1916 to 1925. Jim became the pro at Temple Terrace Golf & Country Club in 1923 and hosted the Florida Open in 1925, which had a sizable purse at the time of $5,000. More than 100 pros from around the country participated in the event won by Leo Diegel. The tournament is commemorated today as the United States Professional Hickory Golf Championship, sponsored by the United States Golf Teachers Federation, and played each February, as was the original event.

Jim Barnes was considered to be a true gentleman golfer. He continued to serve as professional at various clubs in America until 1955, his last stop at North Hempstead CC on Long Island, New York. He was inducted into the PGA Professional Hall of Fame in 1940. He lived to be 80 years old, dying of a heart attack in 1966. He was greatly respected by his peers throughout the professional world.

* Thanks to Peter Gompertz, whose article in Through the Green magazine provided background information on Barnes’ career.
Golf Teachers VS. Golf Coaches: Differences And Similarities

Golf Teachers VS. Golf Coaches: Differences And Similarities

When the USGTF formed the World Golf Coaches Alliance (WGCA), there wasn’t a distinction between teaching and coaching that had much coherence. Some people tried to define the differences, but such definitions were sorely lacking.

Sean Foley said on the Charlie Rose’s PBS show, “I teach kids and I coach adults.” Another difference was said to be that teachers teach basics while coaches teach more advanced concepts. Still another claimed that teaching was refining technique while coaching was in how to use the techniques. All are plausible, but miss the mark.

Think of our traditional team sports such as football, basketball and hockey. The leader of the team is not the “head teacher.” No, he’s called the “head coach.” Baseball has a manager leading the team, but even that sport refers to all the other coaches on the team as, well, coaches. So why do these sports refer to them as coaches?

The answer is simple. The element of competition separates a teacher from a coach in a sport. One who is strictly a golf teacher is not imparting the elements of competing to their students. Rather, they are mainly focusing on helping the students improve their technique.

Are there some similarities between a teacher and a coach? Sure. Let’s list a few.

TEACHING. A teacher obviously teaches, but so does a coach. A golf coach has to know how to be able to fix swing problems and impart technical instruction. Like a teacher, a coach has to know the rules and etiquette of the game, and be able to teach them to their players.

MOTIVATING. Both teachers and coaches have to be good at motivating in order to get the best out of those they teach and coach. There are times when a golfer, whether or not they compete, doesn’t want to give the effort necessary to improve. Teachers and coaches have to know some motivational techniques in order to help these players.

POSITIVE ATTITUDE. One of the USGTF’s long-standing credos for teachers is to always carry a positive attitude when teaching. The same applies to coaches. Coaching that provides for a negative atmosphere leads to players who don’t want to put in the work necessary or the effort to improve or win. This is closely related to motivating skills.

KNOWLEDGE. Some high school golf coaches are given the job either because no one else wants it, or because they want to make some extra money on the side. They may not know the first thing about golf technique. Such “coaches” unfortunately exist, but it’s not necessarily their fault. A good teacher and a good coach have the knowledge base needed in order to be effective.

Those are some of the similarities. Here’s a look at some of the differences.

COMPETITION. This, of course, is the biggest difference. Coaches prepare players for team or individual competition while teachers, again, are mainly involved in teaching and refining technique. Once a teacher starts preparing a player for com-petition, that teacher is now also a coach. Coaches need to know the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of competition in order to get their players to perform as optimally as they can. They need to be familiar with the strategic aspects of the game, and the differences in competing at stroke play and match play.

TECHNOLOGY. A coach generally needs to make wider use of technology than does a teacher. For example, TrackMan and Flight Scope are launch monitors used by many clubfitters, but also competitive golfers seek out these devices so they can truly know exactly what they’re doing in terms of ball flight and club action through impact. While these devices are not necessary in order to be a great coach, they certainly help players in performing their best. Teachers may have some training aids available and even use advanced technology, but overall they’re drifting into the coaching realm when they do so.

PLAYING EXPERIENCE. A coach needs to have been in the competitive arena himself or herself in order to be an effective coach. There are certain things only a competitive player would know, such as how pressure affects the swing, how to fix a swing or create a go-to shot when things go wrong, or how to manage the emotional aspects of competing and how they play a part in performance. A golf teacher who never competed or rarely did so is at a disadvantage if they want to switch over to the coaching realm. That’s not to say they can’t do it, but there are a number of things they will need to learn if they want to become a good coach. The WGCA provides plenty of instruction in these departments in order to aid teachers of all abilities become great coaches.

Teaching and coaching are similar and yet they are different, as we’ve seen here. Resources from the USGTF can help teachers and coaches of all abilities in both endeavors. For more information on these resources, please contact USGTF Member Services.
Putting Your Students in…The Best Learning Environment

Putting Your Students in…The Best Learning Environment

Imagine you’re about to take on a great adventure with many unknowns. You’re probably looking forward to it with a mix of excitement and trepidation, and everything in between. You think about how much you’ll get out of it and the benefits and joys, but you may also be thinking about any potential negative aspects and pitfalls that could arise.

Students, especially beginners, who are taking golf lessons for the first time may experience all of these emotions, since for them, the beginning of their golf career may well be that great adventure on which they are embarking. Unfortunately, there are too many true stories about intimidating instructors and unfriendly golf staff which only serve to turn people off from the game which we all know to be wonderful, one that provides lifetime memories and friendships.

As golf teaching professionals, it’s our responsibility to make sure that students enjoy the lesson program that we set up for them, and enjoy the learning process, as well. There are some basic things we can do to insure this.

The most obvious is to be friendly and happy to see our clients. You might be having a bad day due to various factors, such as an argument with your spouse prior to leaving the house, but these negative emotions must be set aside. Dwelling on some negative and unpleasant happening while giving the lesson surely comes across. In effect, you’re an actor playing a role. If you’re not feeling so great mentally, you must do your best to play the role of the positive and cheerful teaching professional. Again, all of this may sound obvious, but most of us have certainly heard stories of teaching professionals who can’t seem to separate their personal life from their professional and bring their negative demeanors to the lesson tee. In fairness, we’re all human, and emotions are sometimes difficult to keep in check. But it’s something we should all be aware of as ambassadors to the game.

When it comes to the learning environment itself, we may be limited in certain situations, but it’s best to take advantage of what we can. For example, many driving range tees have portions that are in the shade. On a hot sunny day, give your students a break and give the lesson there, even if that portion of the driving range tee may be closed to the public. Conversely, some lesson tees are separate from the public portion, and the public portion may be in the shade while the lesson tee is in the sun. Some teachers – and students – may prefer to be away from the public during the lesson to insure some privacy, so in this case we need to ask our students where they prefer to be.

Wind is a factor that is out of our control, but some ranges have tees on opposite ends. America’s Favorite Golf Schools had a location at a course in Palm Coast, Florida, where the range faced north and south, with the main tee area facing north. In the winter, often a cold wind would blow from the north right into the faces of the people hitting range balls, but fortunately the back end of the range had some tall pine trees that completely blocked the wind. Needless to say, the instructors took advantage of the southward-facing tee in these situations.

Some situations are completely un-avoidable, such as a driving range located near a major highway. In these cases, you do the best you can. There are also driving ranges near airports, such as a certification course site located at a particular course in Florida. When a loud plane takes off, you have two choices: wait until the plane leaves, or start shouting to be heard. Now, you may think it’s common sense to do the former, but you’d be surprised at the number of instructors we saw at this course giving lessons who preferred to shout over the loud noise of the plane. There’s just no point in this. Maybe some teachers are uncomfortable with silence during the lesson.

Which brings us to another point – silence during the lesson! Some teachers simply have to keep a running monologue up the entire time. Maybe they think they owe their students their expertise at all moments to not shortchange the student, or perhaps it’s some other factor, but whatever the case, moments of silence during a lesson are indeed golden. As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it, “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

Finally, in our modern age, it seems everyone constantly has a cell phone with them. Some teachers, more than a few, have been observed texting and actually taking phone calls while giving a lesson. Oh, for the days of yore when teachers wore watches and had to actually go back to the pro shop and talk on a land line if they wanted to use the telephone! But since those days are gone, a bit of courtesy and common sense is owed to each and every student we teach. That bit of advice applies not only to cell phones, but every aspect of the lesson, and if we focus on courtesy and common sense, we can’t help but be successful.
Intentional Reflection

Intentional Reflection

The new school year started a few weeks earlier than normal this year in Tampa, Florida, where I teach high school and coach the boys’ golf team. I was a little worried, because our team lost two of our top players to graduation and the previous season had not gone well. I had spent a great deal of time thinking about what had gone wrong last season. Were the players getting what they needed out of our practices? Was I giving the feedback and support each player required? Was I pushing the team too much? Whether I realized it or not, I was engaging in reflection. Reflection is a process that has helped me look back on experiences and apply that knowledge to my instruction. It has helped me improve what I do and how I do it. Great coaches learn from their experiences, and as a result, expand their coaching to new situations. After all, we all reflect on our life experiences. But developing intentional reflection as a golf coach and instructor takes practice. Below are some practical steps coaches can take to make intentional reflection work for you:
  1. Dialogue journals– After each practice or lesson, take time to document observations or questions you can ask your players or clients at the next session. Your observations can be formal, such as which drills each player did, or what they wanted the focus of the lesson to be, or they can be informal such as the mood your player might have been in or something that happened to them during the day. Keeping track of this information after each practice while the information is fresh and going over it again the next day can be a great asset.
  1. Mentor relationship– Endeavor to develop a relationship with coaches and instructors with more experience than you. It’s important to be able to have a fresh set of eyes to look at a situation. Even if you disagree with some aspect of their coaching style, someone who has been doing things longer than you may have a wealth of information they can share.
  1. Professional development– Make it a point at least once a year to attend some type of professional development course. It’s great to keep up to date with the latest ideas in coaching and instruction to augment your own repertoire, but more importantly, it helps to rekindle the passion and drive that all coaches and instructors need to succeed.
  1. Client questionnaires– Although this can make us feel vulnerable, it can be a valuable tool for intentional reflection because it allows you to identify trends in the feedback you get from your players and clients. Do all of their comments suggest you are off-topic too much? Should you be giving more guidance during practice and one-on-one lessons? How do you make your players feel? If there is a way to give this questionnaire anonymously, the feedback will be even more valuable.
  1. Set aside intentional reflection time– This is probably the most important technique that all professionals should work into their schedule. It’s important when taking this time for there to be as little distraction as possible, so a great time might be at the end of the day when things are winding down and your cell phone should be nowhere in sight!
Being an effective golf coach requires that we occasionally take a step back and ask ourselves difficult questions about our instruction. The more reflective we become, the more we notice about our students. That insight allows us to connect with them, making instruction a positive and rewarding experience.  
Something Old, Something New…Something Borrowed, Something Blue

Something Old, Something New…Something Borrowed, Something Blue

It is what every bride is told to wear on the day of her wedding – something old, new, borrowed and blue. It can very well apply to the gentlemen and gentlewomen who assemble each year at the USGTF-sponsored World Hickory Open in Scotland. Some take to the links with clubs that have been aged for a century. Others wield modern authentics crafted by companies that still make clubs in the old tradition. Some have to borrow clubs to compete as they are entering for the first time, and many are blue when a wayward mashie shot finds the gorse or pot bunker. It is all part of the challenge we refer to as hickory golf. I would dare say that the mention of Panmure Golf Club would just pass over the heads of most golfers these days. But the layout just minutes down the road from Carnoustie Championship has a storied history and provided a perfect venue for the 12th World Hickory Open. It is the16th-oldest course in Scotland, dating to 1845, with renovations over the years by the great James Braid. The club was one of the first to help purchase the trophy for the Amateur Championship, which was first played in 1885. It is used as a qualifying site for the Open Championship when ever played at Carnoustie. Not especially long at 6,500 yards, it always proves to be the hardest qualifying course of those used. The sixth is known as the Hogan Hole because Ben Hogan practiced at Panmure for his only appearance at the Open Championship. I parred it both days, but we’ll forgo how. He said it was one of the finest holes ever created. He even suggested the addition of a bunker just to the right and short of the green, which was added and has subsequently been named the Hogan Bunker. One of the things I love about Scottish courses is how they name holes and features such as bunkers, hills and hollows. Hogan spent much of his time hitting shots to the 17th green, and one day he asked that the green be cut shorter to better simulate the conditions at Carnoustie. The head greenkeeper handed him a mower, and Hogan cut the grass himself, even cleaning the mower before returning it. This year, about 130 hickory players from around the world participated in the championship, and several stayed for the team triangular match on two subsequent days following the tournament. It is a tribute to the popularity and growth of the old form over the past several years. The chairman, Lionel Freedman of Musselburgh, has created a first-class competition that has grown to be the premier hickory event on the annual calendar. When a major champion like Sandy Lyle dons the traditional plus-fours, you get the feeling it is a special event. Hickory golf is still a small niche of the golf landscape, but it has steadily grown over the past decade, and playing on centuries-old courses as they were played back then is a special treat. There is nothing like ripping a mashie over a narrow burn to the heart of the green. Knowing that that shot was the culmination of your skill as a golfer is invigorating. Not to all, but certainly to those who recognize the challenge presented by hickory golf. I get a huge lift of spirit playing the game and seeing my hickory friends each year. This was one of my better ones as I finished 5th pro and collected a few more memories to take forward into the future.
Why Golf Will Never Die

Why Golf Will Never Die

“Today’s kids just want to spend their time playing video games,” say the naysayers about golf, “and on top of that, the game takes too long to play and is too expensive. In addition, with the course closures the past few years, golf is definitely in decline.” Well! That’s a lot of negativity there, so we have to ask ourselves if there’s any merit to what some people are saying. While it is true that the number of courses and players have contracted over the past decade in the United States, all signs point to a leveling out, especially in terms of participants. The National Golf Foundation reports that in 2015 (the last year statistics are available), 2.2 million people took up the game, with the biggest group of beginners coming from the Millennial generation. That 2.2million is just shy of the all-time high of 2.4 million new golfers in 2000, the year Tiger Woods was at the height of his game. But it doesn’t stop there. Over one in four Americans watched golf at some point in 2015,and one in three did some sort of golf-related activity. Interest in the game is increasing, and with the economy continuing to lumber out of its malaise the past decade, undoubtedly the health of the game will continue to gain strength. Golf is a relatively slow game for these fast-paced times, so what attracts 21st century people to the game in the first place? The answer is the same as it has been for centuries:
  • The chance to socialize with friends and meet new people
  •  Getting outside and enjoying a scenic setting
  •  Enjoying the challenge of self-improvement, of you vs. you
  •  Being able to compete at a game that allows for all skill levels, not just elite athletes
  • The inherent enjoyment of a well-struck shot
  •  Watching the flight of the ball, akin to art forsome (e.g., the late Arnold Palmer)
  •  Unique playing fields that vary from hole to hole, from course to course
  • A chance to unwind and slow down from the daily grind of life
  • The physical, mental and spiritual benefits
Even in our modern society, people can’t just be on “go” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They need to find a way to relax and move at a different pace than they are used to. But while golf can be relaxing, the heat of battle can establish an intensity that is every bit as high as the final moment of the Super Bowl, or the bottom of the ninth in game seven of the World Series. In other words, golf is what the player wants it to be! Golfers travel thousands of miles to play a specific course or courses. How many people travel to play a particular tennis court? People may travel for a tennis vacation, but the court itself is not the attraction. And that game requires an opponent, unless you’re content to enjoy a mechanical “opponent” firing balls at you. New avenues such as Top Golf offer a different model than the traditional to enjoy the sport, and there is evidence that Top Golf devotees are making their way, slowly but surely, to the golf course itself. Anything that brings people to golf-related activities is a good sign for the industry. As was noted in the Summer 2016 edition of Golf Teaching Pro by Ben Bryant (“How Head In-juries Cause Parents to Turn to Golf,” page 36), concussions in other sports make golf an attractive option. Even soccer (or football, to non-Americans) is receiving attention for brain injuries, as heading the ball over a period of time has been shown to produce such injuries. The beginning of this article highlighted some of the perceived problems with golf. As far as taking too much time, golf has always taken about four to five hours to play on a weekend. But playing 18holes isn’t the only option; nine holes are viable for many, and takes maybe two hours to complete. And have you seen how many people are willing to attend a professional sporting event? A lot of people think nothing of driving or commuting 45minutes to the venue, getting there an hour before game time, watching a three-hour contest, and taking another 45 minutes to return home. That’s a total time investment of five-and-a-half hours, and many of these people have season tickets! So it’s not a matter of too much time; it’s a matter of apriority of time. As far as expenses go, golf requires specialized equipment, but there are numerous low-cost options available to players. Green fees at municipal courses, and even at many privately-owned public facilities, are well under $50, and in many cases walking can be done for as little as $10 to$20 (mainly in Midwest and Southeast locations in smaller towns). For those who want to play more, memberships make it possible for a greatly reduced per-round cost. A bucket of range balls is still around $5 to $7 in most places for those who just want to practice. Finally, we can turn to the professional game for evidence that golf will never die. Look how many people attend events, and in many cases record-breaking crowds are attained each year. The tournament at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona is now drawing a total attendance of half a million people, making it the largest-attended single sports event in the world. And we all know sponsors would not continue to pour increasing millions of dollars into a dying sport. Not much in life is consistent, and the game of golf is no exception. As Mark Twain famously wrote, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” The game of golf can accurately say the same.

Transition: The First Move Down

Of all the aspects of teaching the swing, one stands out for its lack of attention…and ironically, most accomplished teachers consider it the most important part of the swing. It’s the transition, the change of directions from the backswing to the forward swing, and a lot of misinformation and trepidation in teaching it exists among the golf instruction world. One reason for this may be the difficulty in teaching it. Performed correctly, it’s a highly athletic move and the basis of everything that happens from that moment on. Before the move can be taught, the golfer must be in the correct position to execute it; otherwise, the teacher will be teaching out of sequence. And let’s explain that concept before we go further. Teaching out of sequence means addressing an aspect of the swing that happens after the true root cause of a problem. A simple example would be alignment. A golfer who is lined up with a too-closed stance would have to make some sort of compensating move in order for the ball to find its target, such as hitting a hook or coming over the top so the swing path is towards the intended target. A teacher who fails to change the stance and attempts to teach the student from this setup position will be working on the effects of the root cause, and is therefore teaching out of sequence. Strictly speaking, the top of the backswing is a position within transition, but for teaching purposes, we will consider it as coming before transition. There are several aspects that must be fundamentally correct before teaching the transition can be done:
  • A proper coil, with the lower body having responded to the upper body’s turn
  • Weight (or pressure) primarily on the inside of the back foot
  • Hips having turned, not swayed, with only a minimum of lateral motion allowed
  • Lead foot on the ground or heel slightly raised; no thrusting of knee towards the trail leg
  • Spine angle in or near original address position (provided it was correct to begin with)
  • Swing on-plane, with lead arm on or near same angle as shaft plane at address*
  • Clubface in a square position**
*     This is a generalization for most players. On tour, you will see variances such as Jim Furyk’s vertical lead arm or Matt Kuchar’s almost-horizontal arm, but most golfers, including our students, will benefit from a more conventional look. **  There have been notable exceptions to this throughout the years, such as Lee Trevino and Dustin Johnson, but again, most golfers and our students will benefit from a more conventional style. A problem that plagues many is reverse pivot, where the weight has failed to adequately transfer to the back foot, or the spine angle is tilted from bottom to top towards the forward side. This almost always leads to starting the downswing with the upper body in some manner, such as coming over the top, early release, or the weight falling back towards the trail foot. A teacher who works on a student’s transition when the student is in this reverse pivot position is working out of sequence and will not succeed in helping the student. Assuming all of the pieces are in place for the teacher to teach transition, the next question is how to go about it. The key here is to get the lower body moving forward while the upper body (arm swing, shoulder coil and torso) is still moving back. A drill that has shown effectiveness is the “now” or “go” drill, where the teacher says “now” or “go” when the student’s lead arm reaches horizontal on the backswing. This signals the student to begin the lower body’s movement towards the target side. This might seem too early at first glance, but it takes the brain a split second or so to process the command. Another drill used with success is the step drill. From a normal setup position, the student places the lead foot against the trail foot before starting the swing. As the club is approaching the end of its backswing journey, the student steps forward (towards the target), replacing the foot where it would be in a normal address position. Some teachers prefer the “bump” drill, where a shaft is stuck vertically into the ground next to the outside edge of the lead foot. The student must then bump the shaft with the lead hip in starting the forward swing. There are other drills that are effective, and can be found in other sources, including in the USGTF publication Golf Drills for Teaching Professionals. Golfers may be executing the transition at the correct time from a correct top-of-the-backswing position, but they may not be executing the move itself correctly. A proper transition involves the correct blend of lateral and rotary motion. Years ago, it was thought that the transition should move laterally before rotationally, but this has since been debunked by careful observation and science. A golfer who features too much lateral motion, as found in many athletic golfers, will drag the club to the inside and have a swing path through impact that is inside-out. A golfer who has too much rotational motion will throw the club to the outside and have a swing path through impact that is outside-in. One drill that is effective for the lateral hip slider is to pull the trail foot back perpendicular from the target line about 10-12 inches (25-30 cm) and then swing. The golfer will find it difficult to move the hips laterally and it will feel like the upper body is doing most of the work. The golfer also may feel like he is coming over the top, but the end result should be the club path going down the target line through impact. The bump drill is effective for those who need more lateral motion in their transition move. The Gary Player “walk-through” drill is also effective in developing some lateral motion. Is it possible to have a lower body motion that is too aggressive?  Yes, and you see this often in younger players who are highly athletic. A common thing for high school golfers to do is basically “jump” on their transition move and through impact, resulting in the weight mostly on the toes and releasing the club with a hand flip through impact. Such players need to actually feel that the lower body is doing nothing and that the forward swing is started with the arms and hands. David Leadbetter also described it as allowing the upper body to open the lower body towards the target. Note that this isn’t actually what will be happening, but it is the feel of these motions. Making some flat-footed swings, even through impact and beyond, can help the golfer learn the correct motion. Keeping the trail foot flat until the delivery position, allowing it to rollin through impact and the heel to come off the ground after impact, is the desired goal. Transition is a critical part of the swing, maybe the most important. Having a good grasp of the entire process and cause and effect is important to teaching success.
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