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The two types of golf lessons: Construction and Correction

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Essentially, there are two kinds of golf lessons. One I’ll call construction, the other correction.

In a construction lesson, which I almost always reserve for a new player or junior golfer, I am attempting to build a swing from “scratch.” In a correction lesson, I am working within the framework of the existing swing. Correction lessons amount to 90 percent of the lessons most teaching pros do.

How do I know which lesson to give? Quite simply, I ask. I’m always quick to warn a student of the dangers inherent to a construction lesson. Completely starting over and building from the ground up has two perils:

  • It is very difficult to do.
  • It is usually futile.

The Construction Lesson

The process involves starting with a grip, a posture, a ball position, aim and alignment and building a swing for that player’s body type, athleticism, etc. In this lesson, we have a blank palate on which we can craft any type of swing that is functional.

The important thing here is to build a swing that the player is physically capable of, and one that maximizes his/her body type and tendencies. For example, a taller player might get better leverage from a more upright move, while a shorter one might be more effective swinging around their body. There may also be physical limitations we have to address: a lack of flexibility, an abundance of fast twitch or slow twitch muscles, etc.

Here is the most important thing to remember if you are starting over or have never played:

When “fundamentals” are discussed, you have to consider what fundamentals? Neutral grip, strong or weak? Wider stance or more narrow?

The teacher and student need to settle on the type of swing they are going to build and establish fundamentals that will facilitate that swing. Too many times, I see players working on fundamentals that are not compatible with the swing they are attempting to build.

There are certainly parameters, but they can be tailored. There is always neutral ground, however, perhaps the images you may have seen in various books: The Five Fundamentals or Golf My Way for example. These can be starting points but nothing is cast in stone.

The Correction Lesson

A correction lesson is completely different.

In this case, there is an existing swing. The player does not want a new swing, but a modification of the swing they have. Most of the lessons I do are from golfers of a certain handicap who have recently been in a swing “slump.” Let’s say they had been a 12 handicap, and they started slicing or shanking, and recently have gone to a 16. This player makes it clear that scratch golf is NOT their goal. They simply want to get back to being a 12. In other words, they want to stop slicing or shanking.

My job is to help them get back to their “12” swing, which is why the approach to this lesson is considerably different. Did they recently change their grip? Move their ball position? These things happen without our knowing it, and cause huge changes in ball striking.

The worst thing I see here is when a golfers picks up a tip on TV or from their golf mate and tries to incorporate it into their swing. This can throw the whole affair into a major funk from which they can’t recover.

Golfers have to know if the tip fits into their equation. That’s why I try to advise students (and readers) on an “If this, then that” basis. You simply cannot throw a cog into the wheel. My work is a balancing act. I’m always trying to match swing components to find a equation that works for that student.

There is no one posture or grip or backswing that works for every player. Someone who moves their swing center off the ball in the takeaway needs an upright swing to match. If that golfer starts swinging around or flat, he has has introduced a variation that is incompatible. The correction is to swing the club more upright OR stay more centered on the pivot. The list of variations is endless and you have to keep the parts working together. The point is when a player is playing their best, that is to their skill level, they have matching parts. When they are playing out of their range, they have somehow “unbalanced” the act.

So the choice is yours. What kind of golf instruction are you interested in? Be sure not to confuse the two or you might be asking for trouble. You may very well get worse before you get better!

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me (dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com) about my online swing analysis program.

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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

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Pingback: New To Golf? Simple Golf Tips You Get | The baseball history

  2. Dennis clark

    Mar 30, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Thx.

  3. farmer

    Mar 29, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    Mr. Clark, I am very impressed that you don’t have assistants and do your own teaching. Where I live, it is a very common practice for a head pro to delegate teaching duties to assistants, many of whom are not schooled in teaching, but are young guys chasing the dream.

  4. Rob

    Mar 28, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Obviously comment directed towards Mark

  5. martin

    Mar 27, 2015 at 11:24 pm

    Gear is important, to some extent. :))) But the rest is up to the player. A lot of good thing in the article and from Mark Reischer. I have used a lot of teachers, and I have learned something from almost everyone, BUT, not many teachers can give you the whole package. But to comment on this article, I think I would need something in between “correction” and “construction” from a teacher, and I think most amateurs do. Its the paradox of golf. We are better than we think, but we are also worse than we think… 🙂 But somehow we manage to enjoy the game… Thanks Dennis. To me you are old school, and what I mean by that is that you learned teaching golf the hard way, no trends or no new gurus will change the way you teach. I think that mr Pennick was the same kind of teacher! Hard work and no BS. :))

    • Dennis clark

      Mar 28, 2015 at 9:04 pm

      Old school cause I’m old Martin. ????. “A good teacher knows it in its complexity and teaches it in its simplicity”.

  6. JHM

    Mar 27, 2015 at 11:21 pm

    great article – spot on!!

  7. Mark Reischer

    Mar 27, 2015 at 5:52 pm

    I ask clients and fellow professionals sometimes “what are the fundamentals of golf?” They usually say things like grip, posture, alignment, ball position.
    I’ve been thinking recently after doing some reading and what the fundamentals are though and I don’t come up with that as an answer.

    A fundamental to me is something that all great players do the same. Grip, stance, posture, etc do not fall under that definition. They mostly grip, stand and aim differently.
    So what ARE the fundamentals? Well, all the great players make ball-first contact, that’s number 1. They also hit it far enough for the course they are playing (2) and finally, they control their golf ball.

    Now, please don’t get me wrong, grip and aim and those other things mentioned are very important but when I hear people say they are ‘fundamental’ that’s where I get lost. Every player can’t grip it the same based on their path. Or they can’t aim the same based on their stance.
    So to a point, it doesn’t really matter if they aim a little left or right, or grip the club neutral or not. To a point. So please don’t take this the wrong way.

    All I’m saying is that grip, stance, posture, alignment, ball position are done differently by many of the game’s greatest players to technically, those things are not fundamentals.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 27, 2015 at 6:56 pm

      Exactly my point. FUndamental to THEM is the key. Their equation is balanced. It matters not how they did it.

    • Rob

      Mar 28, 2015 at 12:30 pm

      Wow…all good things. Where can I get your golf instruction book?

  8. Dennis Clark

    Mar 27, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    4….right “After a lot of uming and erring she said she couldn’t show it me and does it bit by bit.” you should have pushed the eject button. Period. This is why I do not hire trainees or assistants. I’ve invested 35 years of my life learning my craft and people come to see me based on that experience. I’m not about to offer them a subordinate of any kind. Every one of my students knows EXACTLY why I’m doing what I’m doing. Come to Naples, you’ll see. Thx for reading.

  9. 4pillars

    Mar 27, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    Last year I really needed to do something with my swing so went to an Academy with a good reputation, the head caoch is an England coach.

    I got a less esnior coach and had a detailed interview about learning styles etc and after a video we worked on posture etc. and the next day I had a great day.

    Next lesson she gave me a drill to do, which I didn’t understand.

    So on the third lesson I said, I don’t understand what that drill was for, what kind of swing to you want me to have. After a lot of uming and erring she said she couldn’t show it me and does it bit by bit.

    This was a school who give you a quiz on learning style before hand – I am the kind of person who needs to know why I am doing something.

    Point is if a coach in a good school with good in-house training and an England coach as a boss doesn’t understand the need to agree with the student where things are going what change with a Golf club pro or an independent academy

  10. CatFoodFace

    Mar 26, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    Great article! Swing is everything. I hear and see a lot of bad teachers. Because you are a good player doesn’t mean you’ll be a great coach. Too much too soon can destroy a game fast.

  11. Dennis Clark

    Mar 26, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    🙂

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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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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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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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