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Mitchell: The value of a team in golf instruction

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I love being around smart people, especially the experts within their own professions or passions. I feel truly blessed that I have a wonderful team around me that helps me grow, and help my students improve quickly.

A recent example of this team work took place at my practice facility, when I asked a biomechanist, Roy Khoury, who specializes in golf performance, for his input with one of my student’s golf technique. Roy is a TPI Certified Level 3 Golf Fitness Instructor, and runs the Fit Fix Studio in Newport Beach, Calif. 

I had hit a plateau with my student’s learning curve, and was not satisfied with our progress. For the purposes of this story, we’ll call her Isabel (not her real name).

Every lesson, Isabel left with better results and shot making, but always returned the following lesson with some form of relapse. I am a firm believer that there are many ways to solve a problem in the game of golf. Unfortunately, every solution I provided for Isabel behaved like a temporary fix versus a permanent solution.

This was not a question of Isabel not paying attention or not putting in the work in between practice sessions — she was very motivated. Therefore, I wanted to explore the possibility of whether Isabel had physical limitations (possibly from a recent accident, or a lack of strength and/or flexibility), or whether she simply needed to trigger different movement patterns to achieve better technique.

I am always thankful for my initial training with David Leadbetter. Fixing the cause, versus the effects, was stressed time and again to achieve the fastest, most effective changes to a student’s technique. With the help of another expert, Isabel will continue to move forward with her technique and her golf game, because a primary cause was correctly evaluated.

Let’s share the details of this specific example to highlight how Roy helped Isabel achieve better technique and results. The technical need for Isabel was a different winding and unwinding of her body motion. Her lower body led her backswing, while her upper body led her downswing (reverse pivot). This technique produced inconsistent ball contact, erratic ball flights and a loss of distance.

TimMitchell

An example of a golfer with a “reverse pivot.”

In the photo above, Roy is simulating Isabel’s technique. Note how the trail knee and hip are outside the yellow, which represent’s Roy’s Address position. Note also how Roy’s target shoulder is closer to the target compared with his target hip. These are classic reverse pivot traits.

Roy conducted a series of physical screens that tested Isabel’s strengths, limitations and movement pattern. Each “test” was administered with the intent of identifying the needs of Isabel’s body, with the goal of helping her improve her technique and ball hitting skills.

After a series of exercises were conducted, two screens provided the most glaring results. First was the overhead squat, where Isabel’s knees collapsed laterally during the squatting motion.

The second screen with detrimental results was the single leg balance test. Isabel had a challenging time staying in balance on her trail leg for a sustained period of time. Plus, when Isabel was able to maintain her balance, her motion was very unstable and wobbly.

Both tests showed a lack of ability to stabilize the trail hip, which is a necessary skill to encourage a better pivot with the lower body during the backswing. The better pivot should help change the wind and unwinding sequence of Isabel’s instinctive motion.

The driving range fix was to give Isabel an exercise to help her body create more stability by training with an opposing lateral force. We wrapped a large therapy resistance band around Isabel’s trail leg during her swinging motion. The task for Isabel was to resist against our pulling motion of her trail leg, away from the target.

This extra force encouraged Isabel’s lower body to be self-correcting, or reflex-correcting. A reflexive fix frequently produces a quicker and more efficient fix compared to verbal cues. By changing that sequence, Isabel was more capable of having her upper body lead the backswing and lower body lead the down swing.

Isabel made significant improvements with this exercise. She also recognized that she would likely regress (like she had historically) if she did not change her instinctive movement patterns.

Roy designed an exercise program to help Isabel change those movement patterns, so she will have a better chance of changing her technique permanently. Isabel understands that by changing her technique, she will have a better chance of achieving her golfing goals more quickly.

Having additional experts around me has helped me grow as a teacher and my students  have achieved faster, more permanent results. If you’ve encountered a plateau with your technique, I encourage you to ask your teaching professional to introduce you to a golf fitness specialist. Together, they may introduce the next component to help you progress with your golf game.

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Certified Teaching Professional at the Pelican Hill Golf Club, Newport Coast, CA. Ranked as one of the best teachers in California & Hawaii by Golf Digest Titleist Performance Institute Certified www.youtube.com/uranser

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Chuck

    Apr 10, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I suspect I won’t be the only person to look at the top-of-page photo of Ben Crane, and think, “That sort of ‘process’ embodies so much of what is wrong in modern golf! The slowest player on the PGA Tour!”

    Now, as for the author’s comments about the value of fitness testing and training, and the value of good instruction, I have no argument. Who could argue? It’s hard, but invaluable, on the world’s leading golf equipment website, to make the observation that “The best equipment you can buy is… lessons.”

    But let’s also not lose sight of the golden age of golf in which swings like Trevino, Snead, Hogan, Palmer, Couples and Kathy Whitworth were as self-taught as they were natural.

    • marcel

      Apr 13, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      these days no one cares if you are self-taught musician or golfer or tennis player… the difference is obvious within seconds… i got lucky to get classically trained in music / composition, golf and tennis… also hitting gym 5-6x a week… crossfit conditioning and gymnastics (very toddler level tho). what I noticed is – try if you have a passion and then get coach… what i learned in tennis on my own in 10 years were eclipsed by pro 1 lesson – whats worse is that I had the bad habits which took almost 18 months to fix. in golf i tried different approach – went to driving range – i liked it and then got a coach to eliminate bad habits.

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