Category: Instructors


Today, a student approached me and shared a story with me regarding something he witnessed on the driving range earlier at another golf course. There, the golf instructor was giving a lesson to a young lady who seemed to be just picking up the game. My student discussed how he could tell the lady was somewhat new to golf, and had many questions about the fundamentals of golf. The professional, apparently having a prior agenda for this student, wasn’t even answering her questions and was having her practice motions she didn’t seem comfortable with making. Little explanation was given and she seemed displaced and clueless.

Although this professional is a good player, this does not necessarily mean that he is a good instructor. Playing the game and teaching are two different worlds within the game of golf and that must be remembered when both giving and receiving instruction. Just because someone is a great player does not automatically make them a great instructor, and just because someone isn’t a phenomenal player, doesn’t mean they cannot be an outstanding golf instructor.

When a lesson is being taught or received, here are three key-elements that must be evident

1. Proper Communication

Good communication is a foundational block of all relationships, be it parent-child, husband-wife, or student teacher. An instructor needs to choose their words extremely carefully to communicate precisely what they wish, and the student needs to communicate honestly and verify a certain level of acknowledgment and understanding. If there is not proper understanding, improvement will be achieved solely on a combination of luck and trail-by-error.

2. Simplicity

Golf can be very detailed and it can be extremely basic. Simplicity is a term that spans not just a way of communication, but also the process that is built through hours and hours of practice. Information can be conveyed in a simple, thorough manner. Goals can be outlined in a simple manner. Frustrations and concerned can be explained by their most basic elements. Golf information can be a bit overwhelming, be it swing dynamics, club fittings, or mental approaches and the more clear-cut the information can be explained, the better off all parties will be.

3. Create Solutions

Notice I did not use the word “fixes”. Some golf professionals will provide “band-aids” to swing flaws and never address the root of the problem. This “quick-fix” may work in the short-term, but by never addressing the root of the problem, the player will only be able to reach a certain playing ability before the “band-aid” falls off and they are left searching for more answers. Solve the root of the issue, and this will pay great dividends in the long run.

If you are a golf professional, be sure to keep these methods in your mind when you are seeking a golf instructor, be sure to find a professional who exemplifies these key traits.

What other areas are imperative to a successful lesson? Please share stories, thoughts, or suggestions.

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Although putting is often viewed as the least glamorous aspect of the game of golf, it is where the majority of shot are taken by the vast majority of players. Understanding the important role putting plays in lowering scores requires adequate dedication to what makes someone a good putter. Here are three tenants that all good putters follow, and if you aren’t in their league yet, here is a great place to start.

  1. Know your Stroke

Do you prefer to putt straight-back straight-through, inside-square-inside, inside-square-square, or Billy Mayfair (the last not being a suggestion for anyone other than the man himself). Understanding your desired putting method will go a long way to help you find success on the green.

  1. Know your Putter

Are you putting with a heel shafted putter, face-balanced mallet, or something in between. Depending on the method of stroke you wish to use, certain putters are weighted to be used in certain fashions, so understanding your method as well as the technology found in putters is imperative to being consistent with the flat-stick.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice

Many players love to go practice at the range, but they spend the majority of their time slashing at drivers and trying to hit the range picker, than spending quality time on their short game and putting. If you want to be good at putting, just like anything else, it requires focus, attention to detail, and a substantial amount of practice. Practicing putting is one of the fastest ways to lower your scores, especially if you are just starting out with the game.

Find a method, find a putter, find the practice green and you will see results that will impress even the longest hitters in your group!

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This blog is not dedicated to the infamous flop…shot. Although it is playoff season right now in the NBA and one might think this blog is dedicated to the likes of Vlade Divac, Manu Ginobili, or Robert Horry (and could be rightfully so), this blog is hopefully going to help you hit the (rarely) required, but very enjoyable flop shot.

The flop shot scares many players as it requires a large swing to move the ball a relatively small distance. However, if you can remember to keep these 3 simple pieces of advice in your mind before you hit your flop shot, you will have a much better chance of hitting a quality golf shot that lands closed to the pin, and manages to stay outside the parking lot.

  1. Don’t Scoop!

Nearly everyone today carries a 58* or 60* wedge, or at worst case scenario a 56* wedge. These wedges already have a tremendous amount of loft on them already and by opening up the face to the target you are adding even more loft. Because of the extreme loft, you need to make sure you strike the ball with a downward blow and do not try to scoop the ball or lift it up into the air.

  1. Less is More!

Be sure you don’t use a wedge with a lot of bounce for a flop shot, as you need the sole of the club to slide through the ground. If your wedge has a lot of bounce and the sole has not been grounded down at all, the bounce will often make the club literally “bounce” off the ground making the flop shot extreme challenging and requires perfect timing.

  1. Open Up

When taking your stance, be sure to have the ball slightly forward of center in your stance and open up your stance so your feet are roughly 30* open to your target line. Be sure to swing along the line of your feet as well. By opening your stance and swinging along the line of your feet, you are able to “cut-across” the golf ball, adding spin and allowing you to hold the face open longer.

Remember, the flop shot is a great asset to a golfer’s arsenal of shots, but one must practice and be sure to have the right approach for the given shot at hand. Unlike Manu, don’t fake it and be sure to warn your playing partners if you attempt it without much practice!

Different techniques or suggestions for hitting the flop-shot? Let me know!

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I was reminded in a recent lesson that helping one understand the roots of their golf mistakes/compensations, is extremely important to the student’s ability to grow and develop their golf skills further. My student who has improved rapidly, has great golf ability, with little knowledge behind him. His game is not bogged down by theories or swing thoughts, rather a do-as-I’m-told mentality. Which, for a teacher is great, as the student is often able to improve rapidly, but one must be careful to make sure the student has ample knowledge to self-reflect and try to solve problems that may come up during a given round.

One of the most common mistakes made by golfers is in understanding the reasons behind why a ball curves a certain way. There are two distinct areas that affect the ball-flight of the golf ball, and those are the angle/position of the face, and the swing path.

A simple explanation of a golf balls flight is that wherever the ball starts is  based on the initial swing path of the club, and wherever the ball curves is the angle of face. There are extreme circumstances where the angle of the face is so severe, that the path does not have as much an impact as one would originally believe, but usually, the club path determines the initial starting flight of the ball, with the face angle resulting in the ending position of the golf ball.

And why is this so important? Understanding why your balls curves the way it does tell you much about your golf swing and what areas you may need to improve in. If you grew up in the Midwest or Nevada, players can get away with hitting 30-yard hooks or slices, but that game does not transfer well to many courses in the Bay Area, or traditional, tree-lined golf courses.

Being able to start the golf ball on an intended line is imperative to being a successful golfer. Study your ball-flight, and work to make the face square and swing on plane. Remember, the ball doesn’t lie!

Any thoughts or suggestions on how to improve swing path or work on ball flight? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Let’s face it, in society today, conflict is occurring more than ever. Freedom of speech is being expressed extensively on street corners, viewed on the television screen, and blogged across the internet. With the economic downturn, businesses are on edge, consumers are more demanding and everyone is fearful of what is to come next.

This heightened tension combined with extensive vocal expression of beliefs often leads to conflict. How we address these times of conflict may very well determine the level of success we are able to achieve throughout our lifetime.

Given the fact that times are changing, so too shouldn’t our approach to handling conflict? Some of you may very well be aware of these techniques, but to others, these concepts may be the paradigm shifted needed to achieve far greater success.

  1. Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

Pride allows us to assume that what we perceive others to believe, we assume as fact. We base all our decisions on often unfounded (and generally wrong) beliefs, and are surprised when there is a disconnect and a problem arises. If you are able to accurately understand the others desires, you may very well find a mutually acceptable outcome for both parties.

  1. Sacrifice can be Valued on what is Given, Compared to what is Potentially Gained

“One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” sounds a bit archaic, but is absolutely still valid in society. By finding out how important certain concessions are to your opponent, you may be able to sacrifice what is a nominal component in your operation, yet that may be the golden, missing piece that has a monumental impact for your counterpart.  Remember, making a sacrifice does not mean you are losing or are weak, it means you are playing strategically.

  1. Check Your Ego at the Door

Many conflicts are not resolved, because in reality, the issues that appear on the table are not really the issues at all. The issues have a deeper undercurrent that is fundamentally based in a “winners” mentality and that one must “win” at the expense of another. If egos are removed, and the true issues are dealt with, there is a much higher likelihood that the conflict will be resolved, and it will be resolved in a quick, and hopefully peaceful manner.

Conflicts take on a variety of forms and degrees, but if one can have a thorough and proper understanding of the situation, they will be in a much better position to solve the issues at hand. Remember, don’t be afraid to take an unconventional approach in order to achieve greater success. Those who master this technique not only think outside the box, they are invisible to its shape.

What are other suggestions for managing conflicts in hopes of solving them in an efficient manner? I’d love to hear about unique ways people have found to solve conflicts.

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Mind Games

 

At first glance, golf appears to simply be a game consisting of the swinging a club at a little white ball. However, much of person’s success at this game rests in their ability to control what is occurring in space between their ears.  The longer a person is around golf, the quicker they realize that without having a strong mental framework, they will not be able succeed at the highest level. This applies to a weekend golfer playing once a month, or to the touring professional who makes a living from playing the game.

Two of the most colorful golf commentators on television, Johnny Miller and Ian Baker-Finch, both went from winning a major – the zenith of a professional golfers’ career, to sitting behind the booth analyzing the shots of their former competitors. No golfer, touring professional or otherwise, is immune from the mental aspect of golf.

Retief Goosen, winner of states that “…what has turned my golfing career is my mental toughness.” A major champion, who has searched diligently on ways to improve his game, finally came to the conclusion that his mental toughness and ability were the keys to his improvement and continued success on the golf course.

Also, Bobby Jones, one of the greatest American golfers and amateur players of all time stated that, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-and-a-half-inch course…the space between your ears.”

If professionals who have dedicated their lives to playing and learning the game of golf conclude that the mental aspect of golf is vital to their success, isn’t this an area that all golfers should devote some serious attention to?

If you are a golfer looking to improve your game, I strongly encourage you look at your mental approach to the game of golf and determine the areas in which you need to improve. Some of you may be confident, which is great, but overconfidence can lead to poor decision making, which then leads to poor shots and ultimately higher scores. I’ll be reviewing some books in the future on the mental side of golf, but if you are looking for ways to improve your game, you must not overlook your mind!

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This is not a typical golf blog, yet the information provided is extremely applicable to both golf instructors and society as a whole. I often wonder how our society has changed over the years and I am no longer disillusioned by the belief that we are a vastly improved society compared to centuries or even generations prior.  Are we technologically more advanced than prior centuries? Steve Jobs and Bill Gates can answer that for me.

However, as evident in the current economy, it is clear that improved technology cannot be the only measure of growth. So what is holding us back as a society? I believe the simple answer is that we have become a society of consumers desiring instant gratification. Children are rarely being taught to think for themselves or genuinely challenge themselves. Unfortunately, teachers both in the class room and on the golf course are just as at fault as the students.

What would occur if history teacher, as opposed to assigning a specific assignment to all students after learning about the Egyptians, told the students to create a paper or project that demonstrated what they had learned? Sure, there would still be students who did nothing, but that would be the case if the same assignment was given to all of them. My belief is that many students would explore and demonstrate their creativity in a myriad of ways. We need to encourage education that promotes a forward thinking mindset, as opposed to a command and obey mentality that is often taught throughout our schools.

So how does this apply to golf? A common phrase among golf professionals is that, ‘we are all students of the game’. But what does actually mean? Princeton University has one definition of student which states a student is: “someone who by long study has gained mastery in one or more disciplines”. Now it is imperative to make note that having a mastery of golf knowledge is much different than having mastered the ability to play golf.

I encourage players looking for an instructor as well as those of you who are instructors to find ways to gain a working knowledge of golf and become a student of the game if you are not. Often time students will come back with the same reoccurring problem that we work on lesson after lesson. This is great from a revenue standpoint, but is the instructor really equipping the student with the proper information to make them better golfers? I often ask my students open ended questions that encourage them to find the root of the problem, and not just be consumers of whatever information I provide them in the lesson.

One of my main goals as an instructor is to maximize the ability of my students. Part of that process requires my students to diagnose and fix their own swing flaws. Let’s face it, all of us having been playing well and in the middle of a round we start to hit it one way or the other. If a student doesn’t understand why he/she is hitting a 50-yard slice, than they will have little chance of solving the problem on their own. However, if that same student is equipped with the proper knowledge, as well as a mindset that assesses the situation and looks to solve the root of their problem, they may very well be able to save their round of golf. That is one common trait in all good golfers. They know their own games, and are able to adjust accordingly throughout the course of a round.

If we encourage our students to be students of the game and be forward thinking in their approach to the game of golf, we are not only helping them succeed on the golf course, but also in the game of life. This type of success is what I desire for all of my students, regardless of ability or motives for playing the game.

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Often times, when beginners start taking their skills from the range to the actual golf course, they become anxious about playing with better players. When asked why they are nervous, the most common response is a fear of not being able to play at a fast enough pace.  The simple response to that concern is simple,  – “Just keep up!”

Many good players are not only fun to play with because of the skill they exhibit plotting around the golf course, but also the speed at which they are able to play. This is a lesson that all golfers need to learn early in their playing careers. It is totally acceptable to shoot high scores, just as long as you do so in a timely manner.

Having to operate a tee sheet, it is easy for professionals to see why we ought to encourage fast play from a revenue standpoint, but there are many other reasons that directly benefit the players as well.

1. Tension Kills the Golf Swing

Ever heard of the phrase – “paralysis by analysis”? This applies to many areas of our day to day lives, but specifically towards golf. Within reason and reason being well less than 60 seconds, the longer a player stands still over the ball, the more tension there is throughout the body. This unneeded tension tightens your muscles and in return, limits your mobility as well as your rhythm and timing.

2. Overall Enjoyment

Let’s face it, it is fun it play at a quick pace! Good players will hit a quality shot and use it as momentum for the next shot. However, if it takes them 20 minutes to hit their next shot, much of the momentum will have been lost.  The Scottish golf professional George Duncan once said,” If you’re going to miss ’em, miss ’em quick.” This advice is not encouraging players to rush, but rather be efficient in their golfing executions in hopes of playing better golf.

3. Only 24 Hours in a Day

Nothing is worse than wasting half of a day playing golf when it really ought to take no more than four hours. Even if you are playing well, it is tough to find a rhythm to your swing and the round if you are only hitting one shot ever 10-15 minutes. Your muscles begin to tighten and your mind starts thinking of better ways to be spending your time. Your pace will no doubt be affected by the groups ahead, but playing quickly will help you find a rhythm and more importantly – your game.

These are just three of the many practical reasons why playing golf in a quick and efficient manner is beneficial for golfers of all skill levels and abilities. Remember golf is a game and not life or death, so enjoy it!