Beyond the obvious technical knowledge needed to teach the game effectively, golf teaching professionals need to know a myriad of other things to be a well-rounded professional. Seeing what someone is doing wrong and what the correction should be is often the easy part. The hard part is finding the right fix or program that will help students play their best golf, or the right way to communicate it.
These are some of the aspects that are necessary for teaching professionals to be as good as they can be:
Every bit of instruction we give should focus on five things: clubface angle, clubhead path, solidness of contact, angle of approach and clubhead speed. Sound familiar? These are the five aspects of the ball flight laws, and all teaching professionals know what they are and their cause and effect. But getting students to execute certain movements in order to get the club to move correctly through impact is imperative.
In general, on the backswing the body should respond to the movement of the arms and hands, and vice versa on the downswing. The plague of amateur golfers everywhere is the arms and hands getting active far too soon in the downswing. As Ben Hogan said in his book Five Lessons, the hands “do nothing active until after the arms have moved on the downswing to a position just above the level of the hips.” This is probably the hardest thing for amateur golfers to not only execute, but wrap their heads around. The SwingRite training aid, endorsed by the USGTF, is a wonderful tool for helping students to understand and execute this concept.
If you don’t have a good working knowledge of what launch angle, spin rate and ball speed are and how equipment affects them, then now is the time to get going on this. You don’t need a launch monitor such as TrackMan for FlightScope to fit equipment to your students, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Yes, we realize these launch monitors are quite expensive, but as we go forward, teachers who aren’t using such technology will be left behind. Fortunately, there are less expensive options such as mevo by FlightScope, along with other bargain launch monitors, available.
Almost all drivers sold today have some sort of adjustability. Moveable weights can help to promote a draw or fade, or mitigate a slice or hook. Lofts and centers of gravity can be adjusted, both of which can affect launch angle and spin rate.
When it comes to irons, the correct lie angle is paramount in helping our students hit straight shots. Simply watching the divot shape is instructional. Divots that are toe deep mean the lie angle is too flat, and heel-deep divots mean the lie angle is too upright (the latter situation is far less common). Ironically, “incorrect” lie angles may be needed for some students. For example, if you have a student who is hooking the ball and you have come to a technique impasse, having that student play with a lie angle that is one or two degrees too flat can help to overcome this. The key here is making sure the student is still making center-face contact.
Motor learning knowledge
Studies have shown that when using a drill, the best course of action is to have the student execute the drill movement (whether striking the ball or not), hit the ball with the desired “real” swing, then repeat. Most teachers will have their students do the drill a number of consecutive times and then hit a number of real shots consecutively, but this is not as effective as alternating the drill with the real shot.
“Random” practice, which in golf means hitting a different shot or using a different club every time, has been found to be better in most cases than “blocked” practice, where the same exact shot and club are used over and over. There is evidence that “random blocks,” where a movement is executed for two or three repetitions before changing to something different, are also effective. In other words, the student should hit the same shot no more than three times consecutively before changing it up.
Students are notorious for making great practice swings that look nothing like their hitting-the-ball swing. Sam Snead famously said the problem with most amateurs is they don’t hit the ball with their practice swing. If you have a student who makes great practice swings but then comes over the top when hitting a ball, have them duplicate their over the-top swing as a practice swing, have them make a good practice swing, and then have them tell you the differences they perceive. This has been proven to be effective in getting students to feel the flaw in their swing.
You cannot help everyone
It happens to every teacher: You have failed to help a student improve. No less than David Leadbetter and USGTF professional Bob Toski have had the same thing happen to them. Whether your teaching and/or communication style doesn’t match up with what the student needs, or they are too ingrained in what they are doing to make any sort of change, we need to accept that not everyone who comes to us will get better. Some students may not practice enough to allow the changes to take. Maybe it was our fault as we were asking the student to do something they weren’t physically capable of. Maybe they don’t want to feel something different for the length of time it may take to change. Maybe they don’t want to get worse before getting better, a common happening with people taking lessons. Whatever the reason, it is our responsibility to accurately figure out what went wrong.
Teaching golf is a business, and unless our reputation is such that people will seek us out with no effort on our part, we have to go get students. Using social media and having a website are critical for today’s teacher to maximize revenue. Then there is the aspect of finding a facility or location in which to teach. Being able to show the general manager or owner how you are going to positively affect their bottom line is what they are looking for.
There are more things teachers need to know than what was present in this article, but due to space constraints, it would be impossible to list all of them. However, having a good working knowledge of what was presented here should put any teacher in good stead.