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There’s no need to fear lessons

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I did five lessons today. Five different lessons.

The first person was in-to out, shut face, hitting hooks that barely got off the ground. The correction involved swinging more left through the ball and adding a slightly weaker grip.

The next person was out-to-in, wide-open face, hitting shanks and balloon slices. The correction involved a slightly stronger left-hand grip, and adding a shut face going up at impact with a more laterally sliding body motion.

The third person hit toe hooks, almost exclusively. The correction involved more rotation of the arms on the down swing and a “deeper” backswing.

Next up was a brand new player, who learned the grip, stance, ball position and posture — the building blocks of the swing.

And the last player shanked almost every pitch or chip he hit. We corrected his overly inside-out path and very late release.

Everyone has a different problem in golf, and therefore everyone needs a different lesson. A good rule of thumb for playing might be this: If you hit the same shot several times in a row, in other words you have no self-correctional ability, you need a lesson.

Remember, you DO NOT have to keep slicing, shanking, etc. You just need to be honest enough with yourself to admit you do not know what the problem is. If your car breaks down, you take a look to see if it’s something simple and if it isn’t, you take it to a mechanic. You probably don’t spend a week under the hood pretending you know what to do.

The first inclination golfers have when they go bad is to try and fix the problem. The next stop might be a friend who plays better than them, or to possibly read a magazine, watch the Golf Channel, etc. The last case scenario is to see a professional for a lesson. One reason for that sequence might be the cost; but there is also a certain hubris in this thinking. I’ve found that golfers are fearful of taking a lesson for a few reasons. They usually believe at least one of the following things:

  • I’ll get worse before I get better.
  • The pro will laugh when he/she sees my swing.
  • I’ve been playing so long, I can’t change my swing.

The list goes on, but I’m here to tell you that after a lesson from me or another qualified professional:

  1. You will NOT get worse.
  2. You will not show me anything I have not seen in the 40,000 or so lessons I’ve done.

ANYBODY can change if they really want to. It just takes being honest with yourself, swallowing a little pride and asking for help. Here’s a rule of thumb: If you hit the same shot over and over, several times in a row, there’s a very good chance you don’t know what is causing the problem.

Everyone enjoys golf on a different level. Some are attracted to a ride in the park with friends on a nice day in a nice place. The score… so what? Sometimes over the years I wish I was so constituted.

But others just want to play better golf, it’s really that simple. If you’re in that camp, and you have been in a golf funk for some time, you might consider a lesson. Golf is always fun, but maybe a little more fun for some of us when we do better.

A teacher should know the swing in all of its complexity, but teach it in all it’s simplicity! I am not going to tell you all I know, only what YOU need to know about what YOU are doing that’s causing the problem.

I saw two members today on the tee that I have not seen since last winter. One went from a 21 to a 13, and the other stopped shanking (almost every shot) and is playing quite happily in the 80s. And both were given a few simple corrections and thoughts. PAINLESS, believe me.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Dennis Clark

    Nov 20, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    Thx to all. Great feedback. Remember my article was not an ad for more business. I have as much as I want! It was more directed to the people who might be wary of instruction because of things they’ve heard or myths that have been perpetrated. I only fix what needs to be fixed, and leave as much of the old swing as possible. If I can get you hitting the ball better with ONE little change, that’s my goal. If that doesn’t work, Ill go to two things– rarely more. Starting over is a nightmare for both teacher and student. And rarely helps anyway!

  2. Jeff

    Nov 13, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Dennis, I agree with what you are saying – all of it. Unfortunately, in this area (Baton Rouge) Trackman Mania has taken over and pushed the lessons with good instructors to the 150.00 range. We used to have a guy here in town, Burt Burdick, who was a an older Pro that could fix any problem you had w/o Trackman and for about 50-60.00 per lesson. I once heard a Pro say – find yourself a Pro…. an older Pro….. who isn’t trying to pay off expensive fitting stuff and they can give you an excellent lesson at a great price. I’m looking for just a guy like that for my 13 yo son who just started a few months ago.

    • Martin

      Nov 14, 2013 at 8:21 am

      I really agree that pro´s with great experience is a good thing. I have taken lessons during the season and a few times (without extra cost) we were using flightscope. My pro, primarily, wanted to show me some numbers to increase my understanding of the swing path. And it was a real eyeopener. But the other lessons was correction, drills etc all the traditional stuff. Maybe this isnt something for your son yet, but even though I am a little conservative at times, new technique can be a good thing as well.

  3. Craig Matthews

    Nov 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Got to say I had two lessons this summer and it was the best thing I’ve done for my game. I have been playing for about 14 years and a 14hdcp but back issues had me driving the ball about 180 yards. At 63 years I should be able to do better. The pro changed my grip which got me back in form and although 220 is my best drive I am now able to compete.

  4. Fred Bluhm

    Nov 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I’m a nine hcp. I went to have a lesson a few months ago to try and improve on my game. It was my first lesson in over 40 years. The pro asked me to tee it up with my driver and hit one so he could see where I was at. I hit the ball around 250 yards down the middle. The first thing the pro said to me was… “ok, let me tell you what you’re doing wrong.” I haven’t been back since. I’ll keep trying to improve on my own. Nothing against instructors, but maybe at this stage of the game, I’m my best teacher.

  5. Regis

    Nov 11, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    My advice. Ask around. Get two or three names. Tske a lesson from one. If you bond buy a package. If not move to the next. Although one lesson can help, a weekly session with a pro you feel comfortable with over the course of a month or two is the best recipe for improvement.

  6. Chris Hanson

    Nov 9, 2013 at 11:59 am

    Taking lessons from a PGA Professional like yourself definitely makes the game more enjoyable, especially if the student puts the time in to practice. Great article Dennis, keep them coming.

  7. Tom

    Nov 9, 2013 at 9:12 am

    My body has changed over the years with injuries and age. Taking lessons every three years will insure that I enjoy playing golf well into my sixties and beyond.

  8. Conrad MacDonald

    Nov 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I haven’t paid for lessons in years. I get one every few weeks and it really helps, especially video.

  9. paul

    Nov 8, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    I watched my swing on the v1 app. so cool. thought my one arm bent to much. went for a lesson and the pro agreed. problem is he found a bunch of other issues, but when i left the lesson a half hour later i was doing much better.

  10. Zack

    Nov 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    I took lessons for the first time this summer. Definitely was a little intimidating. The pro had me hitting the ball so much better in less than 10 minutes. I would have spent a ton more money going to the range hitting the same shanks over and over again trying to figure out my swing myself. Definitely a believer in seeing a pro now!!

  11. Grant Hargate

    Nov 7, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I have been playing at golf since I was 12. I am now 56. I have worked with three different PGA professionals. They have always seen something that I could not.
    I always improved. It always felt strange. My eldest son an engineer in Houston is now working with a PGA instructor. He will improve. I can guarantee it. PGA instruction is the best there is.

    • Grant Hargate

      Nov 7, 2013 at 9:53 pm

      One more thing. Spend the money on lessons before you buy new clubs.

  12. Dennis Clark

    Nov 7, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Good luck. Accepting limitations is a noble thing. Sounds like you’re pretty happy with the state of things.

  13. naflack

    Nov 7, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    My fear is that I’ll be taught to someone elses success.
    The way they swing successfully will be the swing they teach me.
    The second sounds ludicrous but spreading honestly…I don’t trust someone I don’t know to have any more knowledge of the swing than what I already know. The third is that I don’t practice and have no plans to start, I know my game and I accept my ability with my refusal to practice. Not all teachers are created equal and I’ve heard some doozies.

    • Sean

      Nov 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      I think it goes without saying that lessons are for people who want to improve. Not sure this page needed such a strongly-worded contrary position, such as yours.

      • naflack

        Nov 14, 2013 at 4:54 pm

        First of all there this isn’t strongly worded.
        Second of all lessons in and of themselves don’t make you better.
        Of the people I regularly play with some take lessons and some don’t but it isn’t by any means a reflection of ability. Arguably the guys who take the most lessons are the poorest players among us. Natural physical ability will not allow all of us to break 80… I have been a 1 before and the amount of time required to stay there vs the amount of time required to be a 3 isn’t comparable, I’ll take the 3. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to get better but I know I’ve maximized my natural ability. We wonder why the game is stagnant, people generally don’t want to have to make such wife reaching investments of time and money to enjoy their free time.
        Some pros are great but some are terrible…
        If we all needed lessons for every sport none of us would bother playing. I learned how to throw a football and baseball, how shoot a basket and dribble, I didn’t pay for lessons.

        • Dennis Clark

          Nov 15, 2013 at 3:42 pm

          I think you have to give consideration to those less athletic than you. I teach many people who picked up the game late and need guidance with it. One of my students won on the hooters tour last week with -13 for three days (he’s a +4) and he’s coming for a lesson this weekend also. So that’s why they make chocolate and vanilla…

          • naflack

            Nov 18, 2013 at 1:33 am

            fair enough…perhaps i took a little offense to the phrase “strongly worded”.
            i have friends who teach the game and often suggest to me that my attitude towards the whole thing is the difference between me being a 3 and breaking par but i wonder why it has to be so serious for those of us who play when we get the chance, which can be rare. i am not trying to be flippent or disrespectful…i couldnt even teach the game to my wife.

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Instruction

The value of video

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In the age of radar and 3-D measuring systems, video analysis has somewhat taken a backseat. I think that’s unfortunate for a few reasons. First of all, video is still a great assist to learning, and secondly, it is readily available and it can be accessed continually.

Of course, it has limitations, that is a given. It is ultimately a 2-D image of a three-dimensional motion. The camera cannot detect true path, see plane, and can be misleading if not positioned properly. That said, I still use it on every lesson, because, in my experience, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Things like posture, ball position, and aim can all be seen clearly when the camera is positioned exactly as it should be. In swing observations such as maintenance of posture, club angles, arms in relation to body, over the top, under, early release can all be a great help to any student.

But the real value is in the “feel versus real” area! None of us, from professional to beginner, can know what we are actually doing. The very first reaction I get upon viewing, is “wow, I’m doing that?” Yes, you are. You did NOT pick up your head as you thought you were doing, you ARE lifting well out of your posture, you are NOT coming “over the top”, your aim is well left of where you think you’re aiming, your club is pointing well right of your aim point at the top of the swing, your transition is excessively steep, your lead arm is very bent at impact, the clubhead is past your hands, your wrists are cupped or bowed and on and on!

Some of these positions may be a problem; some may be irrelevant. It’s all about impact, and how you’re getting there that matters. The chicken wing that is causing you to top the ball may very well be the result of a very early release, or a steep transition, or too much waist bend etc. The weight hanging back on the rear leg may be the result of the club so far across the line at the top, and so on.

I never evaluate video without knowledge of ball flight or impact. If one were to observe a less-than-conventional swing, perhaps a Jim Furyk, with knowing how he put matching components together, it might seem like a problem area. Great players have matching components, lesser players do not! IMPACT is king!

I have a video analysis program, as I’m sure your instructor, or someone in your area, does as well. It can only help to take a good, close slow motion look at what is actually happening in your swing.  It takes very little time, and the results can be massively beneficial to your golf swing.

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Davies: How control the right hand at impact

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Alistair Davies shows you how to work the right hand correctly through the hitting zone with a great drill and concept.

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Shawn Clement: Dealing with injuries in your golf swing, lead side.

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Happy Father’s Day weekend and U.S. Open weekend at none other than Pebble Beach weekend! Whoa, cannot wait to see the golf action today!

In this video, we talk about how to deal with hip, knee and ankle injuries to your lead side as this one is PIVOTAL (pardon the pun) to the success of any kinetic chain in a human. This kinetic chain is a golf swing. Now, what most of you don’t get is that you were born with action; like a dolphin was born to swim. Just watch 2-year-olds swinging a club! You wish you had that swing and guess what, it is in there. But you keep hiding it trying to hit the ball and being careful to manipulate the club into positions that are absolutely, positively sure to snuff out this action.

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