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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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