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7 questions to ask yourself before you change golf instructors

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Sometimes, a teacher-player relationship just isn’t working out. It’s a natural progression in the career of most avid golfers, whether they want to make a major swing change or simply want a new perspective on their game. Even the best player in the world, Tiger Woods, hasn’t hesitated to switch coaches when he thought the time was right.

As a golf instructor, all I can do is understand the goals of my players and try to eradicate their problems as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Sometimes it’s easy and other times it’s very difficult. The fact remains that me and most of my colleagues are trying as hard as we can, and if you listen to us and apply what we are telling you, I believe that you WILL get better. But in the real world, sometimes it just doesn’t click — just more proof of how hard golf is — and that can be frustrating for any golfer (and teacher).

Think you need a new coach? Here are seven things you should consider before making the change.

No. 1: Does your teacher use a swing model for all his students?

Let’s say you have selected a teacher who uses a very specific swing model and you have been working with him consistently. You cannot seem to master the move that the entire system hinges upon, no matter how hard you try. Well, you’re probably in for a lot of trouble.

Does the teacher suggest alterations of his system that works better with your physical makeup or idiosyncrasies? If not, and you are stuck, then this style will never work for you. If you want to improve, then it’s time to make a change to someone who will work with your natural swing.

Don’t force yourself into a swing model that doesn’t work for you.

No. 2: Does your teacher have advanced teaching tools?

advanced teaching tools

I am not suggesting that teachers without technologies such as FlightScope, Trackman, high-speed video or force plates cannot be top-quality teachers, but that’s not the point. I routinely see my students improve faster with these technologies, because they provide immediate, unbiased feedback to me — and maybe more importantly my students.

As a golfer, it’s crucial to see and feel what’s going on and have tools to audit your progress. I use technology as a way to show my students that what we’re working on is indeed the best thing for their game, and by comparing numbers and/or position from the past, we have a way to quantify our progress.

There isn’t a teacher on this planet who can see everything that goes on in the swing — and no one who can see in accurately in degrees — so if your teacher does not use technology my first question would be, “Why not?” I have seen some great teachers who don’t use much technology, but I have also seen many teachers who shy away from using technology because of a lack of education.

Don’t get caught with a teacher who rejects new technology.

No. 3: Does your instructor work with golfers who are better than you?

One of the biggest indicators of an instructor’s talent level is to observe their best students and see how they compare to you.

Does this teacher only deal with beginners? Does he only work with high handicappers? Those are warning signs for better players. After all, if you aspire to be a tour player, wouldn’t you want a teacher who teaches a ton of tour players? Of course you would.

Ideally, a teacher would have a stable full of players who have shown improvement and play at a level that you would like to attain. Most teachers are comfortable with a certain level of player and tend to stay there, which can hamper their ability to teach more advanced players. Find a teacher who is comfortable teaching the level of player you want to become and you have found your teacher.

Find an instructor who teaches golfers who are better than you are. 

No. 4: Does your teacher recognize your learning style?

It is widely known that there are a few learning styles — the most common being visual, verbal, and kinesthetic — and the use of these systems must correlate with your teacher’s delivery or you will have communication issues.

Does your teacher recognize and teach you in the way which you learn best? Do you think Fred Couples (a kinesthetic learner) would work well with a verbal teacher who explained everything to the n’th degree? Of course not — his head would explode! If you are a visual learner and your instructor only focuses on putting you in positions that you should feel, you will not improve. Find a teacher who understands YOU and how YOU learn and you will be successful.

It took me a long time to learn how to teach someone in all three styles — I was more of a verbal learner so I tried to verbalize everything. Needless to say, it was not always the most effective technique. It was only when I became more proficient within these styles that my students got better quicker and with less effort on their part. So if your teacher is going against the grain of your learning style, it’s time to move on.

Find an instructor who understands your learning style.

No. 5: Does your teacher take your goals into account?

goals list

Does your teacher interview you at the beginning of each lesson, asking you what you’d like from your golf game? What shot is plaguing you? What you are doing well? Doing poorly? What you are feeling? If not, then you might not be with an instructor who is in tune with the direction you want to go in as a player.

I get all kinds of requests — some make sense, others do not. I have players who shoot between 85 to 95 hitting fades, but they say they are happier shooting 90 to 105 if they can consistently hit a draw. Does that make any sense? Nope, but that’s what they want. Teaching is not about MY personal agenda, so I try to use two ears and one mouth during the interview process. From there, I can identify what my students want from me and what type of golfers they’d like to become.

Find a teacher who is willing to help you achieve your goals. 

No. 6: Is your instructor a know-it-all?

The great thing about teaching golf in today’s climate is that there is a wealth of people helping us all learn how to teach better. When I came up, golf instruction was a closed shop — no one wanted to give their secrets away. Now we all routinely discuss what we do and how we do it, and we meet at national seminars to listen to the experts in the field. Just this season I have been to five seminars where we’ve had people speak on various subjects — some that I knew all about and others that I did not. No matter how much I know, I believe there’s always more to learn.

You must be wary of the instructor who feels or gives the appearance that they know it all, because they don’t — no one does. If your teacher is not watching others teach and continuing to expand his knowledge base, then he is being left behind as a teacher. We are learning more about the golf swing and the body each and every day and if you don’t seek new information you will not improve your instructional style.

Find the teacher who is eager to learn, accepts mistakes, and is striving to get better by listening to others. 

No. 7: Has your instructor been featured in magazines, blogs or won any awards?

Recognition comes in many form, and I am not saying that if your instructor is not ranked in the Top 100 or Top 50 of the major golf magazines that he is not a good coach. If I was a student, however, I would like to see my coach in my state or region’s top teacher listings. If not, I’d like to see him doing something to gain recognition. Is he publishing instruction articles or videos on his site or another site? That’s one of the best ways to get to know a potential instructor.

I have yet to meet a teacher who didn’t want more clients to choose from, as well as more awards, top-teacher lists, certifications and exposure. These are the best ways for instructors to set themselves apart from the masses, a very few top teachers don’t want such distinctions.

Find someone who is striving to be the very best teacher they can be — one that takes all the steps necessary to grow their name and business. You don’t want the teacher who shows up, teaches and then goes home.

Find a teacher who is committed to his career. 

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

Instruction

Davies: Training the trail elbow in the golf swing

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Alistair Davies shares with you how to get the correct trail arm and elbow action in the downswing. He shares some great drills that can be done at the range or at home to help lower your scores.Get the correct training for the trail arm here today!

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The important lessons you can learn from Peter Senior’s golf swing

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He may not be a household name in the United States, but Australia’s Peter Senior has a swing for the ages. At 60 years old, Senior has 34 worldwide professional wins including the 2015 Australian Masters beating a competitive field with several top-ranked players in the world. Turning professional in 1978, his career has spanned over 40 years.

Senior’s game and swing have stood the test of time, and the longevity of his career should be recognized. Senior formerly worked with Australian instructor Gary Edwin, and the structure to this swing taught to Senior paved the way for a future of consistent, high-quality professional golf.

Having a great golf swing isn’t the only key to becoming a great golfer, one must learn to play the game. However, you can learn a lot from Senior’s swing.

The origin to Senior’s swing lies in his set-up. Senior sets up in what I call his “hitting angles” or a position that mirrors impact.

From this position, Senior is able to simply keep these angles he established at address throughout the swing. This is why the set-up is so critical. The further he deviates from these “hitting angles”, the more he will have to find that impact position with his body in the backswing and downswing. In other words, more movement. The goal of his backswing will be to maintain these original starting angles.

From the picture, Senior has maintained his original body shape that he established at address. From this position, it will be much easier and repeatable to return the club to impact.

Note how his impact position now mirrors his original address position. All his original angles were maintained with a slight bump of the body towards the target. From impact, he can simply fold up his arms as his right side of his body rotates around his left side, keeping the clubface square to the body.

This standing tall finish position with the head following the torso is much easier on the back. His body has come forward and around beautifully, covering the ball for a proper strike.

The beauty of Senior’s swing lies in its simplicity. The changes Senior made to his swing can apply to anyone. Let’s look at two simple drills to make your swing more efficient and powerful.

“To a large extent, my backswing is a product of my set-up position” – Tiger Woods, Golf Digest 2020

To get into these impact angles simply practice pushing into an impact bag with the head and shaft of the club. Make sure your trail arm is tucked, lowering the trail shoulder as you pressure the bag.

To get the feeling of the proper coil from this set-up position, grab an impact bag and hold the bag in front of you.

From here, swing the bag around you with your arms keeping the top of the bag level. You will feel the trail side of your body move back and the lead side move out, coiling around your spine angle.

The trail glute will also move back and around with this drill, a key move the great Ben Hogan used to pivot his body. To develop an efficient swing and a long, injury-free career, take note of Peter Senior’s key moves.

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Fix early extension: 3 exercises to get your a** in gear

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It’s pretty common knowledge that “early extension” is a problem for golfers everywhere, but how does it affect your body and your game? And what can you do to fix it?

First, let’s look at early extension in its most simple form as a physical issue rather than a technical issue.

During the swing, we are asking our body to not only create force, but also resist a number of different forces created by the aggressive rotational pattern we call a golf swing. The problem comes down to each player’s unique dysfunction which will likely include bad posture, weak glutes or a locked out thoracic spine for example.

So when we then ask the body to rotate, maintain spine angle, get the left arm higher, pressure the ground, turn our hips to the target (to name a few) a lot of mobility, strength and efficiency are required to do all of this well.

And not everyone, well actually very few of us, has the full capability to do all of this optimally during the swing. The modern lifestyle has a lot to do with it, but so does physiology and it has been shown that tour players as well as everyday golfers suffer from varying levels of dysfunction but can ultimately get by relative to learned patterns and skill development.

But for the majority of players early extension leads to one or more of the following swing faults:

  • Loss of spine angle/posture. During the swing, a player will ‘stand up’ coming out of their original and desired spine angle, this alters the path and the plane of the club.
  • “Humping” the ball. Johnny Wunder’s preferred term for the forward and undesirable movement of the lower body closer to the ball.

Lack of rotation during the swing occurs due to the shift in the center of gravity caused by the loss of posture as your body does its best to just stay upright at all.

Ultimately, early extension leaves us “stuck” with the club too far behind us and nowhere to go—cue massive high push fade or slice going two fairways over (we’ve all been there) or a flippy hook as your body backs up and your hands do whatever they can to square it up.

Not only is this not a good thing if you want to hit a fairway, it’s also a really bad way to treat your body in general.

As a general rule, your body works as a system to create stability and mobility simultaneously allowing us to move, create force, etc. When we can’t maintain a stable core and spinal position or force is being transferred to an area that shouldn’t be dealing with it, we get issues. Likely, this starts with discomfort, possibly leading to prolonged pain, and eventually injury.

The body has a whole lot to deal with when you play golf, so it’s a good idea to start putting in the work to help it out. Not only will you reduce your risk of injury, but you’ll also likely play better too!

So we have three simple exercises for you here that you can do at home, or anywhere else, that will help you with the following elements

  • Posture
  • Core strength
  • Glute function
  • Thoracic mobility
  • Asymmetrical balance
  • Ground force development

#1: Forward lunge with rotation

  1. Standing tall, core engaged with a club in front of your chest, take a reasonable step forward.
  2. Stabilize your lead knee over your front foot and allow your trail knee to move down towards the ground, trying to keep it just above the surface.
  3. Maintaining your spine angle, rotate OVER your lead leg (chest faces the lead side) with the club at arm’s length in front of your torso keeping your eyes facing straight forwards.
  4. Rotate back to center, again with great control, and then step back to your original standing position.
  5. Repeat on other leg.

#2: Bird dog

  1. Get down on all fours again focusing on a quality, neutral spine position.
  2. Extend your left arm forward and your right leg backward.
  3. Control your breathing and core control throughout as we test balance, stability and core activation.
  4. Hold briefly at the top of each rep and return to start position.
  5. Repeat with right arm and left leg, alternating each rep.
  6. If this is difficult, start by working arms and legs individually, only life 1 arm OR 1 leg at a time but still work around the whole body.

#3: Jumping squat

  1. Start with feet shoulder-width apart, eyes fixed forward.
  2. Engage your squat by sending your knees forwards and out to create pressure and torque, whilst sending your hips down and back.
  3. Squat down as far as possible whilst maintaining a neutral spine, active core and heels on the ground.
  4. As you naturally come out of the squat, push the ground away using your whole foot, creating as much speed and force as possible as you jump in the air.
  5. Land with excellent control and deceleration, reset and repeat.

Got 10 minutes? Sample workout

3 Rounds

  1. 10 Forward Lunge with Rotation (5 each leg)
  2. 10 Bird Dog (5 Each side or 5 each limb if working individually)
  3. 5 Jumping Squats
  4. 1 Minute Rest

If you can take the time to make this a part of your routine, even just two or three times per week, you will start to see benefits all round!

It would also be a perfect pre-game warm-up!

And one thing you can do technically? Flare your lead foot to the target at address. A huge majority of players already do this and with good reason. You don’t have to alter your alignment, rather keep the heel in its fixed position but point your toes more to the target. This will basically give you a free 20 or 30 degrees additional lead hip rotation with no real side-effects. Good deal.

This is a great place to start when trying to get rid of the dreaded early extension, and if you commit to implementing these simple changes you can play way better golf and at least as importantly, feel great doing it.

 

To take your golf performance to new levels with fitness, nutrition, recovery, and technical work, check out everything we do on any of the following platforms.

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