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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 Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Instruction

Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Instruction

Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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