Recently, one of my students said this to me:

I have a friend who is a pretty good golfer and he said I shouldn’t lift my heel on the backswing. His daughter plays college golf, and her coach told her it’s a bad idea.”

This random tip-taking is the epitome of foolishness in golf instruction, and says more about the gullibility of the one taking the tip as it does about the one giving it.

Why? Because the advisor never saw the person swing!

This is something every teaching pro in the world has encountered at one time or another; well-meaning friends or family members pass on things they’ve heard in hopes it will help. It’s said that golf is the only game in the world with more teachers than players, and despite their good intentions, golf-tip givers generally do more harm than good.

Another frequent comment I get from my students: “I heard Johnny Miller say…” I’m always quick to ask: “Did Johnny Miller ever see your swing?

You’ve heard me say this before: A golf swing is an equation; it has to balance. By randomly tossing this and that into the mix, you may very well be upsetting the balance, and, in many cases, making things worse.

Furthermore, when you are trying something new, how can you be sure you are really accomplishing what you’ve set out to do? Answer: Without the aid of video or a trained eye, you cannot tell if you’ve changed anything at all.

I can’t begin to tell you how many golfers are shocked when they see themselves on video. “Is that me?” is a pretty common reaction. Or, “I’m still doing that?”

And I don’t mean just average golfers; some very accomplished players react the same way. You need to see the new attempt to be sure it is what you’re trying to do — if in fact what you’re trying is the right thing, of course.

Next, you also have to consider what I call “leftover behavior” in the downswing. Take a golfer who used to transition very steeply, for example. To make that move functional, the golfer raised the handle of the club into impact. This is certainly not optimal, but it may be somewhat functional. Now let’s say that golfer tries shallowing out the the transition and this one time the golfer actually accomplishes it. The handle-raise motion is so habitual, however, that it’s still there and with the new flatter arc coming down, voila… the golfer can’t find the bottom of the golf ball on a bet!

The golfer in this case might think the new move (if they have really made a “new” move) is totally wrong, but what really caused the problem is leftover behavior from the old swing.

Note: Your “old swing” is not old if you’re still making it.

The bottom line is that golfers need to consider a few things when incorporating a golf tip:

  1.  Take advice from someone who is actually watching you hit balls, and who understands the whole dynamic. Did the person writing the magazine article ever see you swing? Does he/she know your tendencies and/or swing faults? If not, you’re on shaky ground at best with that advice.
  2.  You need to see (video, for example) if you’re actually executing a new move.
  3.  Finally, remember that there may be leftover behavior from your “old” swing causing some unwanted outcomes.

May I suggest a trained professional who sees the big picture, and not simply some isolated move or position you are “supposed” to be in. And believe me, this is not an ad for business; I’ve got more than I can handle!

If I can be of help to your game visit my Facebook page.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. This summer, he's teaching out of Southpointe Golf Club in Pittsburgh

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 Marco Island Marriott in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

18 COMMENTS

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  1. Even as a past Golf Pro I would generally refrain from offering any advice when playing golf with members unless they ask. I just know how annoying it is when people offer unsolicited advice and I never want to be that person.
    My favorite now is in the gym. When someone wants to critique everything in your form without giving them the open door to do so.
    Here’s your swing fix, lift this way, etc… “What was your name again??” :P

  2. If someone came up to me for swing advice and I never saw it…I tell them to record their own swing and compare it to the pros…9 times out of 10 they will nitpick their swing to death and do something about it..

    You are your own worst critic…

      • Lol…great article btw…
        I never offer advice on the course or range so am always happy to see someone reinforce that notion…if asked I am happy to give my opinion but never will I offer it unsolicited…
        Especially since I have always emulated Colin Montgomerie(Nicklaus acolyte) whose reverse C swing/finish is so belittled by modern swing theory which is all distance, distance, distance….whereas I prefer straight, straight, straight…

        -Christosterone

  3. But i love helping people at the range ????. I have cured peoples slice just by showing them their swing in slow motion so they can see the club path. Voila, they see the path is wrong and they fix it. One friend of mine played golf his whole life and hit a 50 yard slice the whole time. Watched him hit draws for a half hour on the range. He loved it. Some of us can help people because we had our swings built from scratch. Your article wont change me. I would be happy to record my swing and send it in for your audit some time ???? -30 right now though…

    • The article is not trying to change people who get help the article suggests that those people who are listening may not want to… Unless the tip truly applies to them

  4. I have an easy way to quite those who must impart their latest “can’t miss” tip – I ask them to show me – whether on the range or course it stops the tips immediately as most cannot come close to executing it. I get a chuckle though, out of those who cannot keep a drive in play, but just cannot resist to give advice when I’m struggling to keep my drives in the fairway.

  5. I would like to add one more to the bottom line:

    4. You can teach/ get taught on the course as long as you aren’t slowing down pace of play!

    Dropping a couple balls for errant shots is something everyone is entitled too but if its becoming a trend every hole b/c you’re working out swing issues… pick it up and drop it closer please!

  6. great article and so true. for example, i saw where martin hall was giving power tips and said one is to have your head turned in like jack did to make a bigger shoulder turn but the reason jack did it wasn’t because of shoulder turn it was because he was left eye dominant (he even says so in his book) and wanted to keep his dominant eye on the ball

      • His book “Golf MY way” influenced a lot of folks back in my day. He could have won majors left-handed he was so far ahead of everyone else! Thx for reading Mocha…

    • well the point is simply that everyone doesn’t have to tilt their head; even those left-eyed dominant. I’d never advise anyone stuck under plane or hitting too much from inside to take that look.Thx

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