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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

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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Instruction

How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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