The Worst Shot in Golf

The Worst Shot in Golf

By Andrew Penner USGTF Level III Member, Calgary, Alberta, CanadaFlubbed Photo by judemat Skull, slice, yip, yank, top, pop, tug, chunk, whiff, shank, clank, hook, smother, flub, duff. Indeed, as teachers, our student’s mess-ups come in all shapes and sizes. If only we could smite them from the earth (and, along with them, the gimmicky pop schlock recordings of Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Jessica Simpson). Chances are, when Flanders is breathing down your neck in your tension-filled grudge match, one of these saboteurs will be your nemesis shot. Our downfall. Our demise. The reason why we’re not making millions on the pro tour. (Of course, life as a teaching pro isn’t half bad, is it?) But, which do you think of the aforementioned villains is the worst? Like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I’ve always been partial to the clenched-teeth, smother- hook shot that leaves behind a vapour trail as it darts straight left and burrows deep into the thistles fifty-feet in front of the tee. This, partially, is due to the superior acoustics of this shot (I particularly love the machine gun-like sound when the ball ricochets off certain buildings, tin siding, or cars in the parking lot), but also because I’m just really good at intentionally hitting this aeronautical marvel. It’s definitely a fan favorite, too. Of course, one of the things I pride myself in is the fact that this heat-seeking smoker is actually a “good player’s” miss. That’s right, even some of the best players in the world are prone to big, nasty hooks when the pressure gets high. I think of Severiano Ballesteros’ shot coming down the stretch in the 1986 Masters (when Jack won). So full of passion whenever he played, Seve sniped a beautiful left-to-left snapper that dive-bombed into the pond fronting the 15th green with such conviction it probably ripped through the lining at the bottom of the pond, as well. By his own admission, it was the shot that signalled he was no longer one of the greatest in the world. However, a lot of our students out there could certainly relate. Of course, people who curve it right have, I must admit, a few things going for them when it comes to their off-centeredness. For starters, the cutting swipe is, aerodynamically speaking, far superior to the hard-left slinger any day. The ball simply yearns to stay airborne. And, in the case of a poorly placed water hazard, there’s always the possibility of skipping it across… that is, if you’ve got enough heat on it. Unquestionably, the headhigh, three-skipper onto dry land is a perennial crowd pleaser. A real rabble-rouser. Unfortunately, however, in many circles the banana ball is considered inferior and weak. Unlike the hook, which can run forever, the cutter doesn’t seem to go anywhere. Like Napoleon Dynamite’s stud-muffin brother, it’s a bit flabby and feeble. But is the slice the worst shot out there? Absolutely not. Not even close. Johnny Miller says you can win the US Open with a cut, but not with a hook. And Lee Trevino famously quipped, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook won’t listen.” I couldn’t agree more. But to get to the worst of the lot we’ve got to delve deeper. If we wince in pain at the very mention of the word, then we know we’re getting close. Surely the flat out whiff is about as shameful and appalling as they come. I mean, there can be nothing redemptive about complete, utter, and absolute failure in administering a blow. Or is there? Typically, when a student “whiffs,” there are anomalous variables at work. The ball might be six feet below the feet in a gutter, lodged twelve feet high in a sycamore tree, or you can’t actually see the ball at address because it’s plugged in a pile of dirt, or something like that, in which case a fearless swat at the ball, even if all that strikes the clubface is air or excrement, is to be wholeheartedly admired, appreciated, and applauded. So the whiff is clearly out of the running. AND THE WINNER IS….. Drum roll please. My vote is for the humbling, out of the blue, awful shank. And I know I’m not alone in this. Not only is this dysfunctional little surprise an embarrassment to anyone who has ever known it, but its contagious and downright deplorable nature is one that, one can only surmise, was forged in the fires of hell. And to take a quote from Forest Gump, “That’s all I’ve got to say about that!”
What to Expect From Golf Lessons

What to Expect From Golf Lessons

Natalie Gulbis and Rich Lerner Photo by dnkbdotcomWhile Kessler is not a golf professional, he has a valid point. One of the worst things we can do as golf teachers is to pass out too much information. A common refrain that new teachers hear from their students is, “I have so much to remember.” Hopefully, as time goes on, this teacher realizes that when he or she hears this phrase, the student has been given too much information. A trend in modern teaching is the use of high-tech video and training aids. Use of these items can be of great benefit to some students. The one drawback to training aids, specifically, is that the student is not likely to have such a training aid to use in between lessons. If a lesson is based solely upon the use of a particular training aid that the student does not possess, such a lesson may not be of much use. Training aids should be used only to supplement the lesson, and not be the sole focus of the lesson. Of more use potentially to a student are drills, since they can be done without the presence of a teacher. Drills should be pertinent to the student’s problem, and they should be of such a nature that the student can easily do the drill. In other words, a student is likely to not do a drill correctly on his own that is complicated to execute or to set up. Are there times that complicated drills, “excessive” instruction, or training aids that the student does not possess should be used? Yes, but these times are not common. Usually, these types of lessons should be reserved for those in the low single-digit handicap range. These better players will likely have the ability to process several things at once, be able to remember how to set up and execute a complicated drill, and remember the feel of a training aid. However, since the vast majority of our students do not fit this mold, we should return to very basic teaching for most of them. They simply do not have the capability to think about more than one swing change at a time. At the most, they might be able to think about one thing on the backswing and one thing either in the transition move or downswing. A “problem” not necessarily exclusive to new teachers is the giving of information that seems too simple. Such teachers might shy away from giving a student something very simple because they feel that the student deserves more “expert” advice. There is some validity to this, because a student receiving such simple instruction might question the instruction’s very simplicity. For example, a veteran USGTF teacher tells of a student who kept popping up the driver. The teacher saw that the student’s swing was somewhat sound and that there was no reason the swing itself should be making the ball pop up. However, the teacher did note that the student teed the ball too high (this was back in the days of persimmon drivers); thus, the student often only hit the bottom half of the ball with the clubface. The teacher advised the student to tee the ball lower, which the student did. After a couple of well-struck drives, the student said, “It can’t be that simple,” and asked for more instruction to “fix” the problem. The teacher stuck to his guns and eventually convinced the student that the correct, albeit extremely simple, instruction was given. Fortunately, most students won’t complain about instruction that is seemingly too simple if it truly works. Kessler’s 10-minute idea has merit. Challenge yourself to see if you can’t find and solve a problem within this time frame. If you can, it doesn’t mean the rest of the lesson time is unnecessary. Use it to reinforce the good behavior, and, like all good salesman, be sure to obtain a commitment for the next lesson.
Moore Takes Less Strokes Than Anyone, Wins Cup

Moore Takes Less Strokes Than Anyone, Wins Cup

They say some things get better with age. You can now add Jerry Moore to that list. Golf with Steve Photo by jhaveMoore, from Raritan, New Jersey, fired rounds of 71-67 for a 138 total that set a new tournament record for lowest 36-hole score. His final round 67 bettered his age by one and also established a new 18-hole record. He earned $2,600 for his efforts. Jim Perez from Fresno, California, won the Senior division with scores of 74-71 – 145 and finished second overall. Mark Harman won the Open division and finished third overall with 74-73 – 147. 2004 US Cup champion David Belling finished fourth at 78-71 – 149, while newcomers Mike Henry and Robert Green finished fifth, both with 76-74 – 150. Melody Robinson captured the Ladies title in her first attempt with 84-80 – 164. For Moore, it seemed like a question of not if, but when, he would finally take the overall title. Coming in as the two-time defending Senior division champion, and winner of four consecutive division titles, Moore ran that streak to five by also winning this year’s Super Senior championship. He has also twice played for Team USA at the World Golf Teachers Cup, in 2003 and 2007. Formerly a high school football coach in New Jersey, Moore is used to winning. His teams at Elizabeth High School and Somerville High School won 11 state championships, and Moore is known as a legend in New Jersey coaching circles. He had numerous players receive scholarships to play major college football. “I’ve been a competitor all my life,” said Moore, “and I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by good players and good situations.” Not only did Moore find great success in coaching football, he also coached other sports, including in his home state of West Virginia. Currently, Moore teaches golf in the summer and spends his winters in Florida. He also enjoys spending time with his grandchildren. He owes his longevity and prowess in golf to “working out every day and trying to stay as young as I can for as long as I can.” He called his time in Albuquerque as “the best week of my life.” Regarding the USGTF, he said, “My association with the USGTF has been nothing but positive. I’ve met a lot of great people.” For Perez, this year’s US Cup also culminated a long journey to capture a title. He was runner-up for the overall and Open division title in 2002, and last year finished as runner-up in the Senior division. Like Moore, Perez also gets better with age as his game continues to improve. Harman, a five-time winner of the US Cup, could not match the pace set by Moore or Perez, but did come home with his sixth Open division championship. Belling fired the low round in the Open division with a second-round 71, but could not overcome his opening 78. The weather for both days of the championship was sunny and warm. Moore took the first day’s lead with a 71, followed by Daniel Jarvie and Bruce Sims at 72, and Perez and Harman with 74. Jarvie was in contention the final day when, on the ninth hole, he took a drop for an unplayable lie, ultimately taking a triple-bogey 7. Several holes later, Jarvie disqualified himself from the tournament, saying that he was bothered that he might have taken an improper drop on the ninth. Certainly, such sportsmanship cannot go unnoted. Sims dropped back with a second round 80 but still finished second in the Senior division. Perez and the others were simply unable to match Moore’s torrid pace at any time during the final round. “Even though this was the United States Golf Teachers Cup, it was nice to see teachers from over a dozen nations in attendance,” said USGTF president Geoff Bryant. “I always look forward to this tournament, because it brings together teaching professionals from all over the world with a common interest, and certainly bonds those that we would never otherwise have had an opportunity to meet.” The location of the 14th annual United States Golf Teachers Cup will be announced in the next edition of Golf Teaching Pro.
You May Not Be Tiger Woods, But You Are A Golfing Brand!

You May Not Be Tiger Woods, But You Are A Golfing Brand!

Tiger Woods Photo by Keith Allison By Jack Sims USGTF Level III Member – Miami, Florida It sounds too good to be true, right? But, I can assure you that while you may not be a big brand like Tiger, Ernie, Jack, or Arnie, you still are a brand! You see, if you give one golf lesson to one student, you are a brand. And, your brand is probably the single biggest financial asset that you have! The result of this one lesson can range from as far as “It was a terrible lesson,” to “It was a good lesson,” to “Wow, that was awesome. I have never hit the ball like that before.” But, the net result can be totally different because the whole process of branding is based around the total experience that your students have – it’s not only the lesson! It’s everything that you do before they show up, the way you talk to them before that first lesson, finding out who they are and what their expectations are, the care, support and enthusiasm that you share during the lesson, and the follow- up after the lesson. At the end of the day, you have to be good at what you do in giving golf lessons. That is your product, and you have to make it the very best that it can be. You cannot cut corners on this one! On the assumption that you have managed to become a good golf teacher (product) and that you accept that you are a brand; you are ready to take your brand to the next level, and to do that you need to have a clear understanding of exactly what a brand is: It’s your unique promise of value that results in a positive collection of perceptions in the minds of your students. Each one of these words is incredibly important if you want to grow your golf teaching business into a big brand, and it starts with the following: BE UNIQUE: What is it that makes you, as a golf teacher, unique? Why will people go out of their way to pay a premium price and get a golf lesson or series of lessons from you? If you can’t answer that question, I humbly suggest that you figure out a way that you can. You have to find uniqueness as a golf teacher that will make you stand out in the marketplace that, frankly, is a sea of sameness. It can be the way you communicate, the way you follow up with an e-mail of the things you went over on the lesson, keeping a case history on every student (I got that one from my wife who is a doctor), or whatever you can come up with that will differentiate you from everyone else that they do business with. This applies to not only other golf teachers, but businesses or products that they might use, because you have to understand it’s all about getting an incremental share of their wallet, and they only have one wallet. KEEP YOUR PROMISES: When you advertise or promote your golf lessons in whatever media that might be, you are basically promising the target something – a promise of a good experience, the fundamentals of golf, taking their game to the next level, or whatever…it doesn’t matter. The thing is that you are making a promise. And, I can tell you from 30 years of being in the marketing and branding business that many companies do not keep their promises. I don’t know about you, but my mother taught me to keep my promises. Why is it that we forget this when we go into business? You must remember you are in a business. DELIVER VALUE: Value is what your students want, as much as they want great results. And, the one thing that you have to know is that it’s not about price, despite what people might tell you. Think about this: you have probably paid $4.50 for a latte from Starbucks and felt really good about it. In fact, when you are walking down the street with that cup of Starbucks in your hand, you say to yourself, I am special, I am worth it, I deserve this cup of Starbucks coffee. You could have gone to your deli and paid $1.50 for a cup, but you didn’t. You see, it’s not about price, because price is what you pay and value is what you get. Make your students feel special by coming to you, and make sure everything you do before, during, and after the lesson make them feel special. Give them a good reason to perceive that the value that they get when they come for a lesson far exceeds what they are paying for it. DELIVER A POSITIVE COLLECTION OF PERCEPTIONS: Every time you put an ad in the local paper or the yellow pages, answer the phone or your answering machine kicks on, greet students at your facility, etc., it helps add to the perception of who you are and what your brand is! Yes folks, “perception is reality,” and you have to make sure that every “touch point” with your students reinforces your brand position. Consistency is an absolute must when it comes to building your brand, and you have to make sure that your communications are delivered with “consistent and multiple quality impressions”. YOU HAVE TO GET A PIECE OF THEIR MINDS: This is exactly what products like the Apple iPod have done. Let’s face it, you can go to eBbay and buy an MP3 player for $120, but no, we go and buy an iPod for $300, because they have a bigger share of our mental real estate. You can do the same with your golf teaching if you deliver your communications with memorable and outstanding words, and with promotional marketing that features the benefits that the recipient will get by taking lessons from you. Be sure to deliver these messages consistently! That’s it. Please again remember the following, and start growing into a brand: It’s your unique promise of value that results in a positive collection of perceptions in the minds of your students. Jack Sims is not only a five-year member of the USGTF, but is also an expert who speaks on marketing and branding. You can visit him at www.jacksims.com and e-mail him if you have any questions at info@jacksims.com.
The Changing Face Of Golf Instruction

The Changing Face Of Golf Instruction

By Dr. Gerald Walford, Professor USGTF Level III Member, Pippa Passes, KYStay Behind the Ball! Photo by The Newb PART I INTRODUCTION Over the years golf instruction has changed. This is really no surprise to anyone who has kept up to date through the years. The following article will give some insight into the many changes, subtle and obvious, over the years. Some may surprise you. The changes in instruction have occurred in the physical, mental, video and apparatus areas. Instruction is designed to develop learning. No learning – no teaching. If learning is not taking place then the method or style of instruction must be changed. It is amazing how many teachers teach their same method student after student, year after year. Naturally, this may not work with all students so some students drop out. The teacher rationalizes that it was the student’s fault – they are not teachable. As Casey Stengel once said, “I coached good, they learned bad.” PHYSICAL CHANGES IN INSTRUCTION The golf swing has changed dramatically from basically a roundhouse swing with lots of body movement to a more vertical swing with less body movement and more arm action for greater consistency. YESTERDAY’S SWING The Body The old swing of yesterday was taught with a very strong body rotation. In fact, Mindy Blake claims that the left arm rotated around the body to a 76-degree angle from the line of flight. This angle is created by moving the shoulder over 90 degrees of rotation. The hips rotated 70 degrees. Of course, these measurements are not exactly accurate to all the golfers of this era but it does give us a general idea. It is also noticeable that the hips and shoulders both rotate almost the same number of degrees as the whole body rotates away from the ball. The clubface is open at the top of the swing and the left wrist is concave. The legs also move with the hips on the backswing as the left knee kicks inward considerably towards the right knee, independently of the arms. Almost all golfers at this stage lifted the left heel off the ground and in some cases the heel lift was quite high. This is not surprising as the excessive body rotation almost pulled the left heel up. With the golfer’s club at the top of the swing, the body is well coiled but the upper body muscles are not stretched and are loose because the hips are rotated as much as the shoulders. For the downswing and the uncoiling of the body, the muscles must pull the body around to the ball. For muscles to react in this fashion they must be in a state of tonus (slightly stretched) for quick reaction. Unfortunately this coil did not stretch the muscles because the hips and shoulder are turned together almost the same distance in the coil. To start the downswing, the golfer slammed the left heel down to tighten the muscles to pull the body around to the ball for the swing. This is what is meant when it was said that the downswing starts at the feet and then works its way up to the hands. Grip The strong grip was taught with three or four knuckles showing on the left hand. The strong grip made it easier to close the open clubface from the top of the swing to impact. The 10-finger grip was popular and was taught until Harry Vardon changed the teachings to the overlap or Vardon grip still endorsed to this day by many as the only way. The Stance With the strong grip and lots of body rotation the golfer stood to the ball with a closed stance for the driver and long clubs and progressed to a more open stance for the shorter clubs. The stance also altered the ball position. With the driver the ball was played well forward and then moved back towards the right foot as the shorter clubs were used. The stance was very inconsistent and varied with each shot. This stance gave a pronounced inside takeaway to the backswing because of the excessive body rotation. Weight Transfer This swing had a strong weight transfer. Weight went to the right leg on the backswing as the body shifted back. On the downswing the body moved forward and the weight shifted onto the left leg. The body rotation was around the right leg for the backswing and for the downswing the body weight moved forward onto the left leg. Lots of timing factors. Lots of teaching and practice. At impact, the right heel is well off the ground and the hips are well forward into the body rotation. With this excessive rotation the body sway to the target is extreme. EARLY MODERN SWING The Body Golf swing teaching has now moved to lessen body rotation. This is to help develop a more consistent swing with easier timing factors. The basic move was to develop more stretch to the upper body muscles for a stronger reflex action. The more modern swing has less body rotation as the hips now rotate only 45 degrees. The angle of the left arm to the direction of travel is also about 45 degrees. Although the left arm angle to the direction of flight is 45 degrees the shoulders have rotated about 90 degrees to give this angle. As you will notice the left arm is now moving more in line with the flight line of the ball. This means the swing has become more vertical. This swing has put the clubface more square at the top with the left wrist now flatter and even flat with some golfers. This more compact swing brings about easier coordination between the arms and legs. The hips are now providing resistance to the upper body rotation. This resistance means that the muscles are stretched and are being set up for the downswing. This early modern swing has the left foot flat on the ground during the backswing giving limited hip movement. The upper body muscles are now stretched to provide the required tonus to the muscles for a powerful downswing. This swing has fewer moving parts and as a result it is more compact and more consistent. Grip The grip is now moving to a weaker grip with one or two knuckles of the left hand showing. This is possible because the clubface is now placed in a more closed position at the top of the swing. This means less hand rotation is needed to achieve clubface squareness at impact. The overlap grip is still demanded but some concessions are made for the interlocking grip if it was felt the golfer’s hand were small. The Stance The stance is now taught to be squarer to the target for all shots. There may be some openness to the short irons but the idea is to develop a more consistent stance. The ball position is also more consistent as most golfers are playing the ball just off the left heel for all shots. This stance affects the takeaway, as the takeaway is now straight back with little or no hip rotation as the shoulders are rotating. The buzzword for this was the one-piece takeaway. Weight Transfer The weight transfer still exists but it is less pronounced. The weight may shift but the body usually does not slide backwards or forwards as much as the old swing. At impact, the body is closer to square to the ball. The shoulders are square but the hips are a little ahead of the shoulders. In most swings the body is more perpendicular with minimal body sway to the target. THE LATE MODERN SWING The Body Late modern swing teachings continue the trend to less body rotation. The swing is being taught to be more in line with the line of flight. The line of the left arm to the direction of the ball flight is about 15-degree or less. The hips are almost nil in rotation as the range of hip rotation is down to 10-degree range. This shows how the upper body moves the swing while the legs are strong supporters or stabilizers to the swing. If we believe in the old adage of “the less moving parts, the less to go wrong” then this late modern swing is the answer. Grip The grip is now moving to a more weaker left hand position with one or no knuckles showing. This weaker grip does not mean weaker power to the swing. It is just that the clubface is even more closed at the top. Less hand rotation is used to achieve square contact with the ball. With the swing in a more upright or vertical plane the hands do not have to rotate as much to achieve squareness at contact. The body and hands rotate less. Some of the late modern teachings even have the hands swinging with no rotation at all. This makes timing and accuracy much easier. In this era, grip teachings have become more flexible. The 10-finger grip, often called the baseball grip, is now used and taught by many. Natural Golf teachings recommend this 10-finger grip, which they call the palm grip. This grip has also achieved great success. In fact, research studies, experiments and dissertations have been unable to prove one grip as better than the others. The Stance The stance is very similar to the early modern swing. Weight Transfer Weight transfer is even lessened more as some are now teaching to keep the weight evenly balanced until after impact when the follow-through pulls the body weight onto the left leg. Jerry Heard, a famous PGA golf pro before being struck with lightning, teaches this in his golf schools. Most golfers are now being taught to brace the right leg at an angel to achieve minimal weight shift backwards. This helps to prevent a body sway backwards. Ben Hogan claimed this right leg brace and his cupped left wrist at the top of his backswing was the basis of his “secret”. At address he angled his right knee inward towards the target and maintained this right leg position till impact. On the downswing, his first movement was to push the right knee inward to the left so as to ‘run the right knee at the ball’. This ‘secret’ now out in a book by Jody Vasquez is to be published in April 2004. Now that this is out, the secret will be quickly taught by many teachers simply because Ben Hogan did it. At impact many modern teachers are now teaching to have both feet flat on the ground and the body square to the ball. This trend is noticeable with many of today’s top touring professionals.
Angle Of Attack

Angle Of Attack

Tee It Up for Kids 2008 Photo by c.a.mullerBy Jim Moffitt CGTF Member, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Of the five aspects to the ball flight laws, angle of attack often receives short shrift from most teaching professionals. The other four aspects – clubhead path, clubface angle, clubhead speed, squareness of strike – receive much attention from both players and teachers alike. However, all five are important in determining the quality of the shot, and that includes the angle of attack the clubhead takes into the ball. The longer the club, the shallower the angle of descent will be. Of course, this means the shorter the club, the steeper the angle of descent will be. With a driver and the ball teed up, the ideal angle of approach is actually a slight ascent of the clubhead into the ball. To achieve these desired results, proper ball position and stance width are key. The golfer should never feel he has to manipulate his swing; instead, ball position and stance done correctly should do the trick. For most players, driver ball position opposite the forward heel will result in a slight ascending of the clubhead through impact. For balls hit off the ground, ball position forward of center, slightly behind the forward heel, is ideal for most players. For players who have a more difficult time turning their weight into their forward foot on the downswing, the ball position should be placed a little farther back in the stance. The ball position should never be placed in the back half of the stance for normal shots, unless the player has a physical problem that prevents him from playing the ball more forward. There are two schools of thought concerning ball position for balls played off the ground. One school says to play the ball in a constant position in relation to the forward heel while widening the back foot away from the front foot for longer clubs, and narrowing the back foot towards the front foot for shorter clubs. The second school says to not only widen and narrow the stance according to club length, but to play the ball farther back from the front heel for shorter clubs. According to studies done by ModelGolf, tour players actually do move the ball in relation to the front foot from the 2-iron to the 9-iron, but the movement is so small that, for all practical purposes, the ball position in relation to the front foot remains almost constant. Therefore, we at the USGTF prefer to advocate the first school of thought. Not only is this simpler for the average student to understand, but the widening and narrowing of the stance also takes care of the angle of attack for the different clubs! As the club gets longer, the circumference of the swing gets bigger and the angle of attack becomes shallower automatically. To ensure the ball is struck solidly, the body’s center must be placed farther behind the ball. Simply widening the back foot away from the front foot accomplishes this already, so why make it more complicated by moving the ball more forward, too? Of course, as the club gets shorter the circumference of the swing gets smaller, so the angle of approach steepens naturally. If we kept the same wide stance with a 9-iron that we had with a 2-iron, the club would bottom out before hitting the ball. Thus, a narrower stance is required for the 9-iron. There is no reason to move the ball farther back in relation to the front foot, as the narrowing of the stance already assures us a chance of making square contact. If the angle of attack is too shallow for the given club, it is quite easy to hit the ball fat or to top it, since the tendency will be to bottom out early. If the ball is hit squarely, it will fly lower with less spin than it should. If the angle of attack is too steep, again it will be easier to hit the ball fat or to top it, since the margin for error for clean contact is greatly reduced. If the ball is hit squarely, it will fly higher with more spin than it should. This is quite common with average golfers hitting their drivers. Examine your students‚ ball flight for these tendencies. If you see low shots with little spin or high shots with lots of spin, the problem is most likely this “forgotten” aspect of ball flight.
Get Real With Your Students

Get Real With Your Students

Golf in Sedona Arizona - Red Rock Country Photo by Al_HikesAZPsychology By Dr. Gregg Steinberg USGTF Sport Psychology Consultant – Nashville, Tennessee Many students have unreal expectations about what you can do for them, as well as how good they should play and score after their lessons. When students have unreal expectations and you do not meet these expectations, your students will be dissatisfied, and perhaps not return. However, when students know what to expect from you and the game of golf, retention increases and so does satisfaction with the product. Thus, you want to communicate realistic expectations with your students. The following are some unrealistic expectations and how you may fix them: 1. Students who believe the game should be easy. Instructors throughout the world have heard, “It looks much easier on TV.” Many beginning students come with this expectation. They believe they should master the game quickly. However, they do not appreciate all the years and years of hard work that the pros on TV have put into the game. Explain how long and hard you had to work at the game to reach your level. As with life, the game of golf is challenging. 2. Students who believe they should get better without practicing. As Ben Hogan once said, “The secret is in the dirt.” Students who believe they will get better without putting in their dues on the practice range will be very disappointed. To remedy this problem, develop a contract with your students in that they have to practice or play at least five times before they take another lesson. In this case, both parties will be happy with the improvement. 3. Students who believe they should continually get better. Unfortunately, our improvement comes with plateaus. We will get better, then plateau, then get better and plateau again. To help your students get off a plateau, suggest that they change some variable in their game. For instance, if they play tougher courses, this could shock them out of a plateau. 4. Students who believe they should see the same level of improvement as their handicap diminishes. The law of golf improvement states that as the handicap goes down, the level of change slows down exponentially. That is, going from a 30 handicap to a 20 handicap is moderately easy, and takes a moderate amount of time. Moving from a 10 to a 5 is difficult and takes years of practice. Going from a 5 to a zero is almost impossible and can take a lifetime. Make sure they understand this law of golf improvement. 5. Students who believe they should fix their bad habits in 21 days. When Nick Faldo went to David Ledbetter to fix his slide move in the late 1980’s, it took nearly two years to fix that bad habit. But once fixed, Faldo became an all-time great. Make sure your students realize that fixing a habit does not take 21 days (as some have reported). The length of the process depends on certain variables such as coordination and amount of practice. Quicker results come with more practice. 6. Students who believe the problem is always physical. Given that I am a sport psychologist, this point has my bias. In many occasions, problems with improvement and performance are due to anxiety, and the lack of ability to deal with pressure. Discuss with your students their emotions during a round, and if warranted, you should recommend that they visit a sport psychologist to remedy the problem. You and the student will be happy with the results.
Ernest Jones: Remarkable Teacher, Remarkable Man

Ernest Jones: Remarkable Teacher, Remarkable Man

By Brian Woolley USGTF Contributing Writer, London, England Golf Club - Wimbledon Photo by Rob Inh00d A slightly built man, Jones is remembered for the understated elegance of his swing and a hand action able to generate considerable club head speed. He played creditably in four English Open championships without ever threatening to win, and won a loyal following at Chislehurst for the quality of his teaching and the skill of his club-making. Following the outbreak of the First World War, Jones, alongside thousands of his generation, decided to enlist and at the end of 1915 he found himself in the trenches of Northern France. In March 1916 he was badly injured at the Battle of Vimy Bridge. He returned to England with sixteen pieces of shrapnel in his head and body and without his right leg which had been amputated below the knee. But Jones was not about to give up on golf. Four months after his army discharge and still awaiting delivery of his new false leg, he visited his old friend and fellow professional Arthur Havers, who was to win the British Open in 1924. With Jones still learning to use crutches and essentially hopping on one leg, they decided to play golf with Havers’ offering Jones a stroke a hole. This proved not to be necessary. Jones completed the first nine in 38 and tiring slightly came home in 45. Subsequently, with an artificial limb fitted Jones was regularly able to play par golf and even won a local professional competition in 1920. However with his tournament career at an end Jones decided his future was in golf teaching. He read widely on the subject and subsequently complained that most teaching manuals were too complicated and filled the players head, particularly beginners, with too many thoughts. He developed a simple mantra, ’Swing the Club Head’ which he would chant repeatedly during lessons. These ideas were encapsulated in a 1920 written by Daryn Hammond entitled ‘The Golf Swing: The Ernest Jones Method’. This book received considerable publicity in the United States and in 1924 he was appointed professional at the women’s National Golf Club in Long Island, never to return to his homeland. For over thirty years Jones taught from a dusty studio on the 7th floor of the Spalding Building on 5th Avenue Manhattan. Dressed in a double breasted blue serge suit Jones would give 3,000 half hour golf lessons a year. ‘There’s nothing wrong with any golf swing’ he would say, ‘the problem is you don’t swing.’ Pupils would then be handed a handkerchief tied to a pen knife to experience a swing rather than a hack. Swing rhythm might be enhanced by playing Strauss waltzes on a crackly gramophone. At 4.30 pm each day the last lesson would finish, Jones would take a whiskey, water and lemon juice (served in equal quantities) at his favourite bar and then commute back to his Long Island home. The simplicity of Jones’ methods produced much debate and controversy within the USGA but this did not prevent his induction into their Teachers Hall of Fame after his death in 1965. His two books ‘Swinging into Golf’ and ‘Swing the Clubhead’ have never been out of print, and continue to influence generations of golfers of all abilities. His progression from the battlefields of France to golfing immortality via the skyscrapers of Manhattan is one of the most remarkable of sporting journeys.
Renovating… Golf Clichés

Renovating… Golf Clichés

Canon Powershot G7 review Photo by kevindooleyBy Dr. Tom Kubistant USGTF Contributing Writer Reprinted by permission from Golf Today One sure sign that the science of human performance has become more accepted is the emergence of playing clichés. From over-inflated announcers to self-appointed mental gurus to even your playing partners, it seems we cannot talk about playing good golf without using stock clichés. A cliché is an overused word or phrase which has become trite and commonplace. The impact of the concept has become cheapened by its constant repetition. In an effort to have the phrase more commonly understood, it has become diluted. However, here is the kicker: even though they are overused, CLICHÉS ARE STILL VALID. Beyond the veneer of obfuscation, the core concepts of clichés are still true. Good performers know this and have derived their own personal meanings and applications from common playing clichés. An important part of heightened performances is translating general playing clichés into one’s personal style. Let’s examine the more common golf clichés, review why each core concept is still valid, and renovate it to make it moremeaningful for your personal style. (There is also an accompanying sidebar to this article of Kubistant’s Klichés!) However,before we begin, let me expose three common performancephrases which are invalid and downright destructive. THREE FALLACIES The science of human performance is sometimes confusingenough without inaccurate and invalid concepts. In the early and middle parts of the 20th century when this science was inits infancy, there were few proven principles. In the gap, sensationalistjournalists and even teaching pros invented phrases andsayings which sounded good, but had no basis in science. Letme expose these fallacies. 1.“Muscle Memory.” This is a nice sounding alliteral phrase. The concept seems solid: if you practice enough you can trust your muscles that they know what to do. You can then just turn off your brain, react to the shot (see below), and let it go. This all seems nice and acceptable, but it ain’t true. Muscles don’t have memories! There aren’t little brains in each muscle fiber! Specific neurological impulses codified in the brain command specific muscles to fire in a prescribed sequence. Believing in this myth of muscle memory simply promotes a passive mind and an irresponsible mentality. The brain has to be continually engaged to direct the body in a specific and fluid manner. Back in the 1940s and 50s this phrase was popular. It was even attributed to Ben Hogan. When he heard that he was being credited with this phrase, he bristled. He said that he found his game “in the dirt” which required continual practice. During a round he said he concentrated so hard purposefully engaged with each swing. “Muscle Memory” sounds nice, but it is simply invalid. 2.“React To The Shot.” There are so many emphases to the golf swing and for each specific shot it can quickly become overwhelming. Trying to remember all of them and organize them into swing thoughts usually leads to short-circuiting the mind and body. What to do standing over the shot is one of the critical moments in the shot performance. “Reacting to the shot” seems to be an acceptable response to combating all these emphases. However, a reacting mentality simply leads to abdicating self control. Plus, under pressure or doubt, a reactive mindset only leads to fragmenting, freezing, and outright choking. As is detailed below in the clichés, each shot is a separate performance unique unto itself. As such, each shot is a creative experience. Instead of mindlessly reacting, the mind has to be fully immersed and engaged in the shot experience. It is through these two concentration dimensions that an integrated mind and body can emerge. A reacting mode is really a form of giving up. Full and fluid performances emerge from deep and expansive concentration. 3. “Focus And Concentration.” However, concentration is even misused. I hope it is my professional legacy that I have expanded on the true dimensions and applications of performance concentration. Historically, there have been gaps in understanding concentration. Hence invalid phrases have been invented. True concentration is composed of three elements and three dynamics. It is composed of being engaged, immersed, and yet detached. And the active processes of it are zooming, focusing, and idling. (For a more complete description, please see my recent “A Duffer’s Guide To Concentration” article on Golf Today’s website.) Focusing is a part of concentration, not separate from it. As I have warned, whenever you hear an announcer, an infomercial, or even a teaching pro use the phrase, “Focus and concentration,” RUN AWAY! These people have no idea what they are talking about. Okay? These are the three most common fallacies of human performance. There are also a lot of proven practices. Some are cloaked within clichés AND they are still valid. Let’s look at three categories of them. “PLAY WITHIN YOURSELF” First, there are numerous clichés emphasizing the importance of being true to yourself. “Play within yourself,” “Stay within yourself,” “Swing within yourself,” “It is what it is,” and on a preventive level, “Stay out of your own way” and “Let it go” all refer to the importance of self-acceptance and control. We all know that golf is a game which cannot be forced by swinging or trying harder. Yet we all fall prey to the temptation of swinging beyond our ideal rhythm, trying to jam shots into a target, and becoming more intense It is one of the grand paradoxes of The Game that the less we try to control outcomes, the more they take care of themselves. Along with this, the more we emphasize the processes and qualities of the performance the better outcomes and scores emerge. So the goal of any performance is to stay within yourself. This is the only area in which you have true control. This is also the only area in which you can feel completely comfortable in your efforts. Consistency, efficiency, and even ease all emerge from staying within yourself. One of the enduring fascinations with golf is that what resides within you is THE ultimate playing arena. “PLAY ONE SHOT AT A TIME” Next, there is a whole group of clichés which, one way or another, emphasize staying in the moment with each specific shot. “Play one shot at a time,” “Be with the shot,” “Be in the  moment,” “Stay patient,” and at remedial levels, “I got ahead of myself,” and “I jumped on the bogey train,” all refer to the importance of concentrating on the here-and-now. Golf is a dead ball sport. The ball just waits for you to do something with it. It is not already in motion to which you have to react or alter. Each shot starts from scratch. As such, every golf shot is a uniquely creative process. So a round of golf is really a series of 72, 90, or 108 separate performances. You see, there is absolutely no relationship between the 7-iron you hit on the driving range or first hole and the 7-iron you are hitting now on the eighteenth…unless you allow it to. This is one of the secrets of the mental game. You have to remind yourself that every shot is a separate performance unique unto itself. So if you have flubbed every 7-iron throughout the round, this does not necessarily mean you will flub the present one…unless you believe it to be so. When you start connecting bad shot performances believing in momentum is when you jump on the bogey train and give up on rounds. When you think about it, every shot performance is a unique experience. The stance, lie, and conditions are always slightly different. So are your specific physical, mental, and emotional states. Approach each shot as a brand new experience separate unto itself. Become both relaxed and eager with each new experience. It is another paradox that when you play one shot at a time is where enduring consistency emerges. “IN THE ZONE” Sometimes a round of golf – or even just one pure hit – can be a wondrous experience. Everything – mind and body, mechanics and rhythm, and process and target – somehow seamlessly merge into producing something more. These rare experiences are peak performances. Romantic golfers have created a whole bunch of clichés in an attempt to define these experiences. “In the zone,” “In the flow,” “Playing in a fog,” “A cocoon of concentration,” and even “A state of grace” all refer to those experiences where we are deeply within ourselves yet perform beyond ourselves. Indeed, these performances are glimpses of what we can do…and can become. With respect to those in the Shivas Irons Society, not every round of golf is a magical and mystical experience. Indeed, it is one of the frustrations of The Game that one round we are in the flow on some kind of magic performance river and the next we are in shambles on the bank. Expecting each performance to be a mystical peak performance merely ensures disjointed efforts. Human performance can be a gateway to something more and something better within ourselves. I have been researching the science of human performance for over thirty years and even though I have identified about 90% of the factors necessary for being in a position for a peak performance to occur, there are still some elusive elements. Efficient optimal performances provide the foundation for maximal performances. And systematically using both of these prepare for the possibility of the rare peak performance. Relaxing, centering, concentrating, accepting, and being in the moment all open up the performance pathways to both consistent and even elevated efforts. Here is the key: do not try to force a peak performance or being in the zone. Simply, do those things that will put you in a position so that these states can emerge. WHAT CLICHÉS MEAN TO YOU Good golfers know what to emphasize to perform well. They have adapted common playing clichés to mean something to them. They then honor their meanings. Clichés are valid. What do these mean to you and your performances? If nothing else, golf is a game of precision. And this precision must extend to the concepts to be communicated and understood. One major reason why so many golfers do not understand how to play the game is that they lack precise concepts for successful performances. Before you create a solid game plan or even commitment to a single shot, you have to have broad playing perspectives. Perspectives build the structure in which specific playing strategies and tactics emerge. If you are to play within yourself, play one shot at a time, and be in the zone, you must begin with knowing how best you perform. Personalize these playing clichés of what each means to you. This is THE best time you can invest in your game away from the course. Now, how do I analyze the grandest cliché of “Be the ball”? NA-NA-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na…!