Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Looking for Instruction? My Thoughts (Part 3)

In the final segment of this blog series, I want to look to what to expect after you receive instruction along with some tidbits to help you improve and take full advantage of the instruction you have received.

Part 1:
Part 2:

Changes are worthwhile if you start seeing better results on your new ‘good swings’ than you did with your old ‘good swings.’

Most golfers are too worried about improving consistency instead of improving their high end results. Chasing consistency is Fool’s Gold because you’re always going to hit some poor shots and what separates the better players from the inferior players is their ability to hit better high quality shots. Most Tour players can pipe 300-yard drives down the middle quite frequently while a 10-handicap may achieve that once a year if they have a huge tailwind and are playing on hardpan. The Tour players simply counter poor shots by hitting more good/great shots.

But, the bigger picture is that if you start seeing better high end results, improved consistency will follow.

Too many golfers judge changes by their poor swings. When learning a new movement pattern, there is going to be some difficult in executing the movement time-after-time. So don’t worry too much about those bad swings.

However, if your high end results are not any better (hitting it further or straighter or with a better trajectory), then in all likelihood you just as good with your old swing and you either need to get more reps in with your old swing or find a new instructor.

Working on the grip is the most crippling piece to work on.

I thought my friend and golf instructor, George Hunt (, had a great theory on how to teach any grip changes…save the grip change for the end of the lesson instead of the beginning or the middle of the lesson. George’s reasoning is that if you teach a grip change then the golfer will be handcuffed by the change and will focus only on the grip and not the other parts of the instruction. By saving if for last, the golfer could learn other aspects of the instruction and then better incorporate the grip change.

A grip change is very crippling mentally, but the good news is that you can figure it out in about a week or two by simply gripping clubs or wooden dowel rods or alignment sticks or anything that resembles a stick just around your house. It’s just for that week or two, it’s going to be very difficult to make that change in the grip.

And again, any change we make should be for a GOOD reason.

Don’t expect to play great golf if you’re working on your backswing.

From my experience, there’s something about working on the backswing that equates to more inconsistent golf and a greater learning curve. Provided that you’re working on the backswing for a good reason, don’t expect to play good golf right away until you start to become unconscious competent at it.

Downswing changes are only a little easier to execute, but usually the golfer can play much better golf working on just downswing changes.

The goal is to swing without swing thoughts…and it CAN happen.

I used to think that you couldn’t hit balls without swing thoughts or some type of ‘feel’ (which is really a swing thought in itself). The goal is to be able to have unconscious competency with the changes you make in your swing. I believe that with randomization and slow motion practice you will find yourself being able to swing the golf club without relying on swing thoughts and ‘feels.’

I’m not a fan of drills and training aids.

As sacrilegious as it may sound, I don’t like most swing drills and training aids. I find that drills and training aids in general work best for putting than the golf swing. If you do utilize a swing drill, it’s best to find one that will allow you to take a full swing with an actual club and to hit a ball and be able to do the drill in slow motion. The same goes for training aids…full swings, something that resembles a club and something you can do in slow motion.

For example, I like Kelvin Miyahira’s ‘bucket drill’ because it allows the golfer to do it with a real club, a real golf ball, in a full swing and in slow motion:

A little bit a day is better than feast or famine.

If you’re making changes and want to make them more quickly and permanently, you’re better off practicing a little bit a day over practicing on the range for 2 hours, once a week.

You’re better off spending 5-10 minutes at home utilizing slow motion practice than you are to go out and hit balls for 2 hours on the range on a Saturday and not do anything until the next week when you hit balls for 3 hours. It is literally better to take 5 simple minutes of your day just to get better. Develop a plan to improve your swing with the instructor.

Generally, I’m still a firm believer that you change the swing in order of what occurs first. If you want to work on your takeaway and your transition, you should work on the takeaway first (remember, work on it only if it is for a good reason).

In this example, you will often see good instructors have the student work on the takeaway in order to improve the transition. Once the student improves the takeaway, the changes in transition may be slight or none at all. However, once the golfer focuses on transition with their new takeaway, they should be able to more easily execute the new transition move.

So have you and the instructor determine a plan of what you want to happen and how you want to get there. If you want to improve your club speed and club path, what do you need to change in order for that to happen?

I generally recommend most golfers see their instructor once a month. You’re going to need to fail at some of the movement patterns in order to finally ‘get it.’

Golf instruction is not like going to the chiropractor.

One thing I fell victim to was over-coaching and over-analysis. If you have ever gone to a chiropractor, they will start you off by having you go to the them 3 times a week as they adjust your spine. The idea is that they have to constantly adjust your spine so it stays in the proper place. After about a year of going to the chiropractor 3 times per week, the vertebrae start to stay in place better and now you go to the chiropractor 2 times per week for about a year.

Golf instructor doesn’t work this way. You can’t have a teacher that instructs you every time you make a poor swing and going to a teacher once a week is just a bad idea. You have to fail, be aware of your failure and then allow your brain to adapt and you will start to figure it out more quickly. If you taught step-by-step after every failure, too many thoughts will creep into your mind and you’re not allowing your brain to adapt properly to doing it incorrectly.

You will likely get into a rut with the same instructor after a while

I’ve found that golfers like myself can work with an instructor for once a month for a year and see rapid improvement and then eventually they will plateau and have some stumbling block that they can’t quite get over with the instructor. And then they will discuss ‘leaving their instructor’ like they are some top tier PGA Tour player and the instructor was no good.

A better tact is if you find an instructor that improved your game and you eventually get into that rut, find another instructor with a similar swing philosophy. You’re not deviating too much from what helped you get better and it should be fairly easy to learn a similar philosophy while a new set of eyes and opinion can greatly help get over that hurdle. And when you start to plateau with that new instructor, you can always go back to your first instructor and see if his eyes and opinion will rekindle that improvement.


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