Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 1)

I saw this question the other day on GolfWRX ‘should I leave my instructor.’ I’ve got 20 years of experience as a consumer of golf instruction and have noticed a thing or two, so here are general guidelines and thoughts I follow in part 1 of this series:


 I find this one of the largest problem for golfers getting lessons…very little time is spent on how to practice and how to find a regimen that can work with the golfer’s schedule. I’m a believer in 3 major practice principals.

1. Slow Motion Practice
2. Randomization of Practice
3. Practice Based Golf Rounds

Golfers tend to fall into trouble of not being able to ingrain the motions that the golf instructor teaches them or if they do, they have difficulty taking them from the range to the course and then being able to consistently do it when you have a difficult lie, increased pressure or a shot that does not fit your eye.

If you’re struggling, there’s a chance that you’re not able to ingrain the swing that your instructor is teaching you. There’s also a chance that the swing instruction uses flawed information and you cannot ingrain the swing motion because of the flawed information. The best way to find out is thru better practice methods that will allow you to more easily ingrain the new motion and if you can’t, then you should look elsewhere for instruction.


What I see out of lessons that teach ‘drills’ is they usually teach a check swing drill going from P3 (lead arm parallel to the ground on the backswing) to P9 (trail arm parallel to ground in follow thru.

The idea is that you swing at your normal speed at a short swing length and then as you get that down, you move to a longer swing to complete more of your full swing.

Having spoken to some experts in the fields of Neurobiology and Motor Skill Learning, that’s not a very good way to practice because the speed of a learning a new motion throws humans off more than the length of the motion.

I asked one researcher that I observed that when learning a new swing motion, things really tend to break down in the transition phase of the swing. His reply was that you had a few things working against the golfer in trying to learn the swing in the transition part of the swing:

A) The speed of the motion is fast
B) The motion is quick, in some instances it’s like trying to get a car to go from 0 to 60 by flooring it
C) There is a change in direction that occurs with that speed.

Thus, you can see why the speed of the motion is so critical in learning and not the length of the swing. It’s not that going from P3 to P9 can’t work, but it’s simply going to take a longer time with more reps compared to slow motion practice.

Here’s a video from instructor Dan Whittaker going over slow motion practice:


Here’s what may sound like sacrilege, but I really do not like most golf swing drills. Part of the reason is that the practice of drills is rarely randomized; you’re usually just doing the drill over-and-over again while hitting to the same target.

Mike Hebron has found thru research that creativity stimulates the brain which allows for humans to learn new movement patterns more quickly. So that stationary practice drill is a bad idea.

My experience is that if you get on a range and get your initial warmup and start to get some swings in to get into a groove, start randomizing your practice.

You want to still continue to work on whatever you have been working on, but hit shots to a different target on each shot. Move the ball forward and back in your stance on each shot. Change clubs on each shot. Change ball flight curvature and trajectory on each shot.

Don’t be afraid to a high fade with the ball well back in your stance to a flag on the right side of the range with a 3-iron on one shot and then try to hit a low draw with a 7-iron to a left flag with the ball well up in your stance. Just try and do it while working on whatever motion you have been practicing. You’ll start to figure out more about the motion you are trying to ingrain and hitting your stock shot with your normal address position will become a piece of cake.


Another aspect of trying to ingrain new movement patterns is that when new stuff is added to the environment, the golfer is more likely to revert back to their old habits in order to ‘survive.’ It’s one thing to hit balls on the range and hit an entire bucket beautifully to the target. It’s another to go onto the golf course where there is more severe consequences for poor shots, uneven lies, wind, etc.

It’s good to get some actual golf over a session on the range. Just go there with the purpose bringing whatever you have been working onto the course. Again, this stimulates the brain with creativity and while you may play poorly, you’re now 1 step closer to ingraining your new mechanics and being able to fully translate that to the course.

The beauty of slow motion practice is that one can do it from home for 5-10 minutes a day and see it have a tremendously positive effect on ingraining that new motion.  While I would recommend hitting some balls once in a while, if you don't have the time to do so, getting 5-10 minutes every day will ingrain a new motion more quickly than hitting balls once a week for an hour.

That may allow you to actually make the changes your instructor advised which may get you the results you wish for and seeking a new instructor may not be necessary.

Part II Coming Soon


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