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Proof that you can turn a Deaf ear to golf instruction

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“You might just go on to prove that the spoken word is useless in golf instruction.”

– Dr. Jim Suttie

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Dr. Suttie made that statement to me in 2004 when I started the most powerful outreach at my golf academy, and one I’m blessed to be a part of every year.

Now in its 11th year, the U.S. Deaf Golf Camps provide instruction to Deaf children all across America. Thousands of Deaf children have learned the game of golf entirely in their own language — American Sign Language — through our golf academy. I’m lucky to be the only professional doing this on such a large scale anywhere in the world, and yes, I learned Sign Language in order to teach Deaf children the game of golf. We have a lot of fun, and I always say that these camps are “the loudest quiet event in golf!”

Deaf children learn in a unique way, and their focus is different than that of non-hearing 8impaired children. Why? Because in Deaf Culture when you sign something, it’s rarely repeated. The eyes of the Deaf student are totally focused on not only what you’re saying, but your body language and expression. They very rarely miss anything you say.

With this in mind, visual learning and any drills or training aids that involve feel are great ways to teach them a golf swing. Because of the limited nature of this instruction, most of the kids that come to the events have zero golf experience swinging a club.

The point that Dr. Suttie made 11 years ago has proven itself in every camp I teach.

Gary Van Sickle of Sports Illustrated said it best. After watching an hour of the camp in Pittsburgh prior to the U.S. Open held in the area that week, he said to me during a break, “You mean to tell me that none of these kids have ever swung a club? This is amazing to see how good these swings are after an hour!”

So how do I make the spoken word useless and how does it help your game?

The main visual way I teach these kids is using what I call the “Circle of Seven.” I have seven poles, and Velcroed onto each pole is a picture of a posed position in the golf swing. Each picture represents a place in the swing that is important for the player to pass through. The kids rotate from picture-to-picture, posing to match the different positions. I go around and approve their poses, or give them some easy cues to pose correctly. When they have all met my standard for the poses, they rotate to the next image and repeat the process.

After doing this for all seven images, I bring the children together and spread them out all around me. We then drill the positions into their memory. On my command, I sign a number that represents a position from the pictures, and they all pose in the position. I say numbers in random order so that they have to think out of order at first. Eventually, I roll it all together sequentially and they move from setup to finish, and a golf swing is the final product.

I have always thought that your swing can only be as good as you can model, or pose, the places the swing passes through. If you struggle to model a certain position, there may be a physical limitation, which we work around. 

Here are the pictures that the kids see on the poles:

We can all learn a proper golf swing using this formula.

I suggest that you print a couple of the poses out, or pick one you struggle with. For the summer, spend some time each day with a club and just practice stopping in that position and holding for 10 seconds (you can even flip the image and make it like you are looking in a mirror if that helps). Try to get a feel for it.

This is not muscle memory, because there is no such thing! Muscles cannot remember because they do not have brain cells — but they can feel. What you’re trying to do is recreate feelings, and have those balanced feeling motions ingrained by repetition. I have seen some great swings grow out of this visual mirroring technique. It’s happened time and again in just one morning session with Deaf children all across the U.S. for the last 11 years!

Watch the video below to get a glimpse of what the U.S. Deaf Golf Camps are all about.

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If you are an avid Golf Channel viewer you are familiar with Rob Strano the Director of Instruction for the Strano Golf Academy at Kelly Plantation Golf Club in Destin, FL. He has appeared in popular segments on Morning Drive and School of Golf and is known in studio as the “Pop Culture” coach for his fun and entertaining Golf Channel segments using things like movie scenes*, song lyrics* and familiar catch phrases to teach players. His Golf Channel Academy series "Where in the World is Rob?" showed him giving great tips from such historic landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, on a Gondola in Venice, Tuscany Winery, the Roman Colissum and several other European locations. Rob played professionally for 15 years, competing on the PGA, Nike/Buy.com/Nationwide and NGA/Hooters Tours. Shortly after embarking on a teaching career, he became a Lead Instructor with the golf schools at Pine Needles Resort in Pinehurst, NC, opening the Strano Golf Academy in 2003. A native of St. Louis, MO, Rob is a four time honorable mention U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Youth Golf Instructor and has enjoyed great success with junior golfers, as more than 40 of his students have gone on to compete on the collegiate level at such established programs as Florida State, Florida and Southern Mississippi. During the 2017 season Coach Strano had a player win the DII National Championship and the prestigious Nicklaus Award. He has also taught a Super Bowl and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time NCAA men’s basketball national championship coach, and several PGA Tour and LPGA Tour players. His PGA Tour players have led such statistical categories as Driving Accuracy, Total Driving and 3-Putt Avoidance, just to name a few. In 2003 Rob developed a nationwide outreach program for Deaf children teaching them how to play golf in sign language. As the Director of the United States Deaf Golf Camps, Rob travels the country conducting instruction clinics for the Deaf at various PGA and LPGA Tour events. Rob is also a Level 2 certified AimPoint Express Level 2 green reading instructor and a member of the FlightScope Advisory Board, and is the developer of the Fuzion Dyn-A-line putting training aid. * Golf Channel segments have included: Caddyshack Top Gun Final Countdown Gangnam Style The Carlton Playing Quarters Pump You Up

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. tbag

    May 11, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Being hearing impaired, it is a great gift these kids are receiving. Teaching is returning a gift you received once. What a great statement of love of the game of golf.

  2. Al

    May 10, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Golf instruction, by spoken or written word, reminds me of learning magic from books. After the move/s are mastered, the instruction makes perfect sense.

  3. RG

    May 8, 2015 at 2:06 am

    Great article. Deaf children epitomize visual learning. Those of us with hearing could learn a lot from them. What’s that you ask? Be quiet and focus on what your seeing. Realize that you can’t talk yourself into a good shot, you have to visualize it and execute.

  4. Philip

    May 7, 2015 at 11:16 pm

    Very enlightening, thank you

  5. GDP

    May 7, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Great read. I’m gonna use your pictures! Thanks.

  6. Greg V

    May 7, 2015 at 9:37 am

    That was a very interesting article, and food for thought.

    Thanks.

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Instruction

Stickney: Sit on it (for a better backswing)

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As we know golf, is a very tough sport and one that involves many moving pieces. Whenever something overreacts or moves too much on the way back, you end up playing catch-up on the way down. One of my favorite things to watch is how the head moves or doesn’t move on the backswing. Sure, you can have some movement, but you can’t have too much or you put yourself behind the eight ball.

I have charted the head position of a tour player at address and we can see that this is a very normal set up position. It is one that looks positioned to do great things.

However, en route to the top, you can see that this player has put himself into a position where his rear knee straightened too rapidly off the start of his backswing. When this occurs the pelvis “runs out from under” the upper body on the backswing the hips will react and begin to slant downward. (You can see a -10 degree tilt versus 3 degrees the opposite way at address for you number people.)

This causes the head to move out in front of where it was at address. This is not a bad position for the irons but for a driver we have a pending issue. If you don’t make a compensation from here then the player will have an angle of attack that is too much downward through impact with their driver.

As the player moves into his transition, the hips have leveled as the rear shoulder lowers the club into delivery but the head and pelvis are still too far out in front of the ball. The only thing you can do from here is fire the lead side upwards and hope that your head falls back into the correct position. If so, you will have the correct angle of attack, if not, you will chop down on the ball causing your launch conditions to be faulty.

And as we see here that this is precisely what this player did at the very last minute…not the easiest way to swing the club but it is functional IF you make the right correction. So, now that you understand how simple things like the action of the lower body can cause your head to move and your angle of attack to become faulty, what is the secret to controlling your lower body?


Just “sit” on the rear knee flex slightly longer during the backswing as you see here. This will slow down the tilting of the pelvis on backswing and thus your head will stay more in position en route to the top.

Personally, I teach both flexion and extension of the rear knee to the top, depending on what the player is wanting to do, so it really does not matter. However, what does matter is the rate at which it begins to straighten for those of you who do allow it to lengthen. I try to make most of my students hold the most of their address flex until the club moves between belt and chest high, any sooner and you risk the faulty pivot we saw above.

Therefore, take it from me and “sit on it” slightly longer for more quiet head motions as well as a more balanced backswing—your angle of attack will thank you!

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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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