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The 7 different golf instructors you’ll meet on the range

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The best way to improve at golf is to take lessons and practice hard, but selecting the right teacher, while often a difficult task, is crucial to finding success.

Every teacher has a different skill set and personality, much like every student, and sometimes students and teachers just aren’t compatible. As an instructor myself, I’ve examined my own teaching and the teaching of my peers, and I’ve found that most golf instructors are one of 7 types.

Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly which type of coach an instructor is before you actually take a lesson from him or her. The best advice I can give is to make sure you take the time to have a chat with a new instructor before your first lesson. It will help better understand his or her beliefs and personality before moving forward with a swing change.

Now, let’s get to the 7 types of golf instructors, and which ones you should seek (and avoid).

The Analytical Teacher

Analytical teachers use technologies (think Trackman and BodiTrak) as their main tools to get a message across. For them, using these systems is important to helping the student understand their own motions throughout the swing. Familiar terms to this teacher’s students are planes, pivot, impact alignments, etc., and these teachers excel with players who need logical answers to their swing questions, rather than visuals and feels.

Usually, analytical teachers are best for intermediate-to-advanced players, as they tend to move quickly through the basics. Remember that a teacher’s job is to inform and explain to you the what’s and why’s of your swing, not to impress you with what they know… although you do want them to know a lot.

The Feel Teacher

Feel teachers speak in terms of sensations and the reactions to biomechanical motions that produce effective golf swings. They tend to focus on the effects of swing flaws, not the flaws themselves, and they are great for players who are very sensation-orientated.

Students of a feel teacher may complain about a vague explanation when “just feel this” isn’t working. Feel teachers have to rely on what they have felt in their own swings, or what they have been told it feels like to work on certain motions. Some don’t have all the technical answers, but they can get you started on the right track to feeling what it is you need to feel in order to improve.

The Psychological Teacher

As Harvey Penick once said, “Take a pill, but don’t take the whole bottle.” Penick, in fact, is a psychological teacher to the core.

Psychological teachers tend to focus on introspective techniques, allowing students to figure out what needs to be done. And sometimes, their students don’t make progress until after they walk back into the shop. It can take awhile for their lessons to digest.

These teachers tend to be “old-school” players of the game. Sadly, we have all but lost this type of teaching style due to advances in video and computers. Books such as The Inner Game of Golf by Tim Galloway, or the many books from authors like Bob Rotella and Richard Coop all have ideas for improving your current game by simply using your mind more effectively. Easier said than done, of course.

The Model Swing Teacher

Fitting golfers into a swing model works great for some golfers, but can hinder the improvement of others. If you go to a model teacher and you have a similar swing to the model, or a similar body style to what the model strives for, then you’re in the right place. For the player who likes and agrees with the model taught — and who has the physical ability to move as their teacher’s system requires — there is no better kind of teacher in the world. People who agree with position-based golf instruction should go to this type of teacher from day one.

If, however, the system requires a wealth of strength and flexibility, and you can’t touch your toes and haven’t seen a gym in years, going with that model may put your game, or even health, in serious risk.

The Flavor of the Month Teacher 

A flavor-of-the-month teacher focuses on teaching the most popular trends on Tour. If Tiger is holding his hips to the top, then so do all this teacher’s students, regardless of their normal hip motions or swing flaws. This teacher is very close to the Model Swing teacher, but his “model” changes frequently.

Be careful of this teacher. To achieve long-term improvement, there must be a logical path to follow, and the direction of your swing change should remain consistent for the most part. It’s important to follow progressions and adapt to body/swing changes, but changing your swing based on “what’s hot” is a sure way to struggle short term and long term.

The “What They Do” Teacher

Most beginning teachers teach golfers what they do in their swing, since that’s what they understand best. Jack Nicklaus said in his famous book, Golf My Way, that his teachings in the book reflected how HE played the game, and what he did may not be best for others.

As these kinds of teachers mature, they usually become more and more like a swing model teacher since they already have their own model in mind. Once again, if they teach a move that you tend to do naturally, then you are in good shape. But be careful, because this teacher’s understanding of the game is limited to their experience. You may run into a wall at some point in your learning process.

The Part-Time Teacher

The part-time teacher is the guy at your local range or course who hits balls all the time. He’s read all the books and taken lessons for years, but he does not necessarily understand most of what he’s read — he simply regurgitates information. This person tends to be a low-to-mid handicapper who knows a few instructional catch phrases and tries to apply them to everyone’s swing.

You should steer away from this type of instruction advice in most any circumstance. There’s probably a reason he or she is not a professional, right? Would you invest your life savings with someone who only worked in investment strategies part time? This is not to say that part-time golf instructors can’t help you, but usually they are giving tips based on results from previous swing flaws they had or have themselves. Save your time and effort for the true professionals who are fully committed to their craft.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. alan reid

    Jun 30, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    golf takes a lot of skill and precison to master. Some coaches have different methods of teaching, some are effective but none compare to http://www.golfcoachtoronto.ca if you are in the Toronto area and need lesson check these guys out.

  2. Pingback: 7 Different Teaching Styles – Which golf instructor is right for you? – GSM Temp

  3. Andy

    Nov 10, 2016 at 11:17 am

    What a load of BS. If I presented to you a list of instructional quotes from both qualified teaching professionals and the “part time” non professionals you would be surprised which came from which.

  4. Jim

    Nov 9, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    None of whom are as dangerous and arrogant as the anonymous unaccredited self proclaimed geniuses in the ‘instruction’ forum who badger new members for “asking something wrong”, trash other comments – without explaining why they think they were wrong – OR even adding anything constructive to the thread. The folks at the range, good/bad have to look you in the eye, tell you they’re CV and NAME, and are at least out there in real world, not
    hiding in the darkweb as the lords of overcomplicated golf instruction poison

  5. Jalan

    Nov 7, 2016 at 9:36 am

    I work with a “Model Swing Teacher”. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There is no ‘Flavor of the Month” in his methods. His method has been to correct or replace one fault at a time, working on it until I have it ingrained before adding or changing anything else.

    I might add: one of his students was the USGA 2015 Mid Amateur Champion.

  6. Bob Pegram

    Nov 5, 2016 at 6:08 am

    The same is true with clubs. Sometimes what seems logical isn’t always the best way to improve. I am more accurate and more comfortable with longer clubs – the opposite of what most pros teach.

    Scott said it best. All that matters is what affects impact.

  7. Mad-Mex

    Nov 5, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Actually there is only 2, good ones and bad ones,,,,,,,, up to you to figure it out,,,,,,,,

  8. Grizz01

    Nov 4, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    Best way to get better is to go out, hit some balls and figure it out for yourself. You need a lesson from time to time, fine just go back and get the basics covered as reminder. Today there is a coach for everything and even shrinks. The greatest players the game ever produced had an old instructor they’d go back to… on occasion to get the basics back down. [excluding Tiger… who is so screwed up… gee I wonder why?]

    Just go out and hit the ball. Industry has made this more difficult and less fun than it used be. Why? Follow the money.

  9. Sam

    Nov 4, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Went to a model swing teacher once screwed my game up ….was showing me swings of Ernie Els on comparison with mine.When I told him yea but there are other ways to swing the club he got a little irritated and said I didnt have the talent to swing different and play well.Money wasted.Time wasted.Lesson learnt.

  10. Par4

    Nov 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm

    Which one are you???

    • Tom Stickney

      Nov 4, 2016 at 5:26 pm

      Started as a do what I do when I first started, evolved into a model swing guy until the last 1/2 of my career as an analytical teacher trying to convert it into feels now. I’m always trying to get better…

  11. knoofah

    Nov 4, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Entertaining and somewhat educational. Can’t talk about fixing the slice every week, I guess.

  12. The dude

    Nov 4, 2016 at 6:43 am

    How about the teacher that wants to rebuild your swing when you just told him you play once a week… Always been a firm believer that changing the setup is the only way to go (for 99% of us). A lot of unrealistic changes are being taught when searching for swing “advice”.

  13. B Hock

    Nov 3, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I was hoping this would be more comedic…

  14. Pingback: The 7 different golf instructors you’ll meet on the range – Swing Update

  15. Ron

    Nov 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    So, based on this, I get the feeling there are two types of legitimate teachers – Analytical, and Psychological, and the rest are charlatans and hacks. Or so it seems from the derogatory way the other teachers are characterized here. I’ve been successful in the past with a teacher who simply tried to get me to reliably, repeatably get the face to the ball squarely. He started with what I had, stripped away what was preventing good contact, and built from there. My swing isn’t tour-quality, but guess what? I’m not a tour player. He’s given me a repeatable swing I can use to enjoy the game.

    Can you ask any more from a coach?

    • tom stickney

      Nov 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      There is no teacher listed in my article that cannot help his or her students…the only question is to what level can they take you?

  16. Rimjob

    Nov 3, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    The best teacher is the part-time guy who has gone through experimenting with all the swings himself, and knows about how the Pro and PGA teachers try to milk little bits of information bit by bit so that the students have to keep coming back, because progress is dead slow with those Pros who are trying to make a living.
    And the part-time guy also knows what hard work and dedication to practice and hitting balls means results, and still enjoys hitting balls and playing in the odd tournaments himself, unlike those other Pros who are has-beens, most of whom don’t even want to play or hit balls any more.

    • Rob

      Nov 4, 2016 at 4:28 pm

      Well put…said no one ever. Someone seems a little bitter? Seems like someone who didn’t really make it in the golf world….

    • Brian K

      Nov 6, 2016 at 4:30 am

      I fully agree on this. Best teacher is the part time guy for most of average golfer. I have seen so many times “PGA coach” teach very little by little on every lesson.

  17. Scott

    Nov 3, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    Before I read this I had a few in mind and you hit all of them. I’ve been to the Model Swing, the “What they do”, the feel and the analytical. In the end I grabbed a bit of knowledge from each but found the analytical approach worked best for me. It was less about positions and more about the moment of impact.

  18. Christosterone

    Nov 3, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Great article….

    My only teacher I ever had was a VHS player…

    So it began with Bobby Jones “how I play golf” and “how to break 90″…
    Later I got my hands on range sessions of Jones acolyte Nicklaus…then Nicklaus acolytes Johnny Miller and Colin Montgomerie(thank u BBC)…

    Needless to say I still worship at the altar of Jack, Johnny and Colin and will swing as they did in perpetuity….a reverse c born of tempo and timing with very little stress on the body(contrary to the bad back propoganda of the 80s and 90s)

    No need for instructors…amazon sells the Bobby Jones set and YouTube has the rest though my Monty collection is without parallel in the Americas I would guess…and Miller as well

    Long live Robert Streb…the best facsimile of Monty on planet earth!!!

    -Chris

  19. dennis clark

    Nov 3, 2016 at 9:01 am

    spot on Tom…

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Instruction

Faults & Fixes: Losing height in your swing

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In this week’s Fault and Fixes Series, we are going to examine the issues that come with losing your height during the swing and its effect on your low point as well as your extension through and beyond impact.

When a professional player swings, there is usually very little downward motion through the ball. Some is OK, but if you look at this amateur player you will see too much. When the head drops downward too much something, has to give and it’s usually the shortening of the swing arc. This will cause issues with the release of the club.

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Dangers of overspeed training revealed: What to do and what not to do

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Speed: a key factor to more money on tour. The key component sought after by many amateur golfers to lower their scores. The focus of many infographics on social media this past PGA Tour season. A lot of people say speed matters more than putting when it comes to keeping your tour card and making millions.  

Overspeed Training: the focus on tons of training aids as a result of the buzz the pursuit of speed has created. The “holy grail” for the aging senior golfer to extend their years on the course. The “must do” training thousands of junior golfers think will bring them closer to playing college golf and beyond.  

Unfortunately, overspeed training is the most misunderstood and improperly implemented training tool I see used for speed in the industry. Based on the over 50 phone calls I’ve fielded from golfers around the world who have injured themselves trying it, it is leading to more overuse injuries in a sport where we certainly don’t need any help creating more than we already have. Luckily, these injuries are 100 percent preventable if you follow the few steps outlined below.

Don’t let your rush to swing faster get you hurt. Take five minutes to read on and see what the industry has not been forthcoming with until now.  

Understanding how to increase your speed safely and with as little work possible is the path to longevity without injury. If you could train 75 percent less (to the tune of about 8,000 fewer reps a year) and still see statistically comparable results, would you rather that? 

I would.

Would it make sense to you that swinging 8,000 times fewer (low volume protocols versus high volume protocols) would probably decrease your risk of overuse injuries (the most common injury for golfers)?  

I think so.

But I’ll let you draw your own conclusions after you finish reading.   

Your Challenge

Your biggest challenge is that the answer to more speed for you is not the same as it is for your friends. It differs depending on many factors, but there are four main ones that you can start with. Those four are 

  1. Your equipment
  2. Your technical prowess
  3. Your joint mobility at your rotary centers (neck, shoulders, spine, and hips) 
  4. Your ability to physically produce power  

If you are not totally clear on these, I’d recommend checking out the earlier article I wrote for GolfWRX titled Swing speed: How do you compare? Go through the testing as outlined and you’ll know the answer to these four areas in five minutes.

Basically, you have the potential to pick up speed by optimizing your equipment (ie. find the right shaft, etc), optimizing the technical element of your swing for optimal performance (ie. launch angles, etc) or by optimizing your body for the golf swing. Understanding how to best gain speed without putting your body at risk both in the short and long term is what 95 percent of golfers have no idea about. It is the single biggest opportunity golfers have to make lasting improvements to not only their golf game but their overall health.

Are You a Ticking Time Bomb?

In my earlier article (link above), I described three main categories when it came to physical factors. Step one is to determine what category you are in.

The first option is that you might be swinging faster than your body is able to control. In this case, you are a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode in injury. We all know that friend who just has a year-round membership to the local physio or chiro because they are always hurt. If this is you, DO NOT try overspeed training, it will only make your visits to the physio or chiro more frequent. There are much better areas to spend your time on.

The second situation might be the rare, sought-after balanced golfer. You might have great mobility in the four main rotary centers (hips, spine, shoulders, and neck) and your swing speed matches your physical power output abilities. It should be noted that based on our mobility research of almost 1,000 golfers, 75 percent of golfers over the age of 40 don’t have full rotary mobility in at least one of the four centers. When you age past 50, that 75 percent now applies to at least two rotary centers. Hence why “the balanced golfer” category is elusive to most golfers.

The final option is the sexy, exciting one; the “more RPMs under the hood” golfer. This is the one where overspeed training is your fountain of youth and you can pick up 10, 15, even 20 yards in a matter of weeks. You might have more RPM’s under your hood right now. Being in this category means you physically are able to produce way more power athletically than you are doing in your golf swing currently.  

The Good News

The “more RPMs under the hood” golfer describes over 50 percent of amateur golfers. Most of you sit at work and don’t train your body to move at maximal speeds outside of when you swing the golf club. The number of adults and senior golfers who train maximal speed at the gym, run sprints and train with plyometrics (correctly) is under five percent.

Why is this good news?

Because if you don’t move fast at any point in your life other than on the golf course right now, doing pretty much anything fast repetitively will make you faster. For instance, you can jump up and down three times before you hit a drive and your speed will increase by 2-3 mph (6-9 yards) just from that according to a research study.

This means that for the average amateur, adult golfer in this category, picking up 5-8 mph (12- 20-plus yards) almost immediately (it won’t stick unless you keep training in though) is incredibly simple.

The Bad News & The Fine Print

Remember earlier when I mentioned you needed to “also have full mobility in the four main rotary centers” and that “75 percent of adults over the age of 50 lack mobility in at least two rotary centers?” 

That’s the bad news.

Most golfers will get faster by simply swinging as hard as they can. Unfortunately, most golfers also will get hurt swinging maximally repeatedly because they have to compensate for the lack of rotational mobility in those rotary centers. 

This should be a big bold disclaimer, but is often not. This is the fine print no one tells you about. This is where the rubber meets the road and the sexiness of overspeed training crashes and burns into the traffic jam of joints that don’t move well for most amateur golfers.  

Your Solution

The first step to your solution is to make sure you have full rotational mobility and figure out what category of golfer your body puts you in. As a thanks for being a WRX reader, here is a special link to the entire assessment tool for free. 

After you determine if you have the mobility to do overspeed training safely and you know if you are even in the category that would make it worthwhile, the second and final step is to figure out how many swings you need to do.

How Many Swings are too Many?

Concisely, you don’t need more than 30 swings two times per week. Anything more than that is unnecessary based on the available research.  

As you digest all of the research on overspeed training, it is clear that the fastest swing speeds tend to occur with the stronger and more powerful players. This means that first, you need to become strong and be able to generate power through intelligent workout plans to maximize performance, longevity and reduce injury likelihood. From here, overspeed training can become an amazing tool to layer on top of a strong foundation and implement at different times during the year.

To be clear, based on the two randomized overspeed studies that Par4Success completed and my experience of training thousands of golfers, it is my opinion that overspeed training works in both high volume (100s of swings per session) and low volume protocol (30 swings per session) formats exactly the same. With this being the case, why would you want to swing 8,000 more times if you don’t have to? 

The research shows statistically no difference in speed gained by golfers between high-volume overspeed protocols compared to low volume ones. Because of this, in my opinion, high volume protocols are unnecessary and place golfers at unnecessary risk for overuse injury. This is especially true when they are carried out in the absence of a customized strength and conditioning program for golf.     

Rest Matters

In order to combat low-quality reps and maximize results with fewer swings, it is necessary to take rest breaks of 2-3 minutes after every 10 swings. Anything less is not enough to allow the energy systems to recover and diminishes your returns on your effort. If these rests are not adhered to, you will fatigue quickly, negatively impacting quality and increasing your risk of injury.  

Rest time is another reason why low volume protocols are preferable to high volume ones. To take the necessary rests, a high volume protocol would take more than an hour to complete. With the lower volume protocols you can still keep the work time to 10 minutes.   

The Low Volume Overspeed Protocol

You can see the full protocol in the full study reports here. It is critical you pass the first step first, however before implementing either protocol, and it is strongly recommended not to do the overspeed protocol without a solid golf performance plan in place as well in order to maximize results and reduce risk of injury.

This is just the first version of this protocol as we are currently looking at the possibility of eliminating kneeling as well as some other variables that are showing promising in our ongoing research. Be sure to check back often for updates!

Commonly asked questions about overspeed training…

Once initial adaptations have occurred, is there any merit to overspeed training long term?  

None of the studies that I was able to find discussed longitudinal improvements or causation of those improvements. This is the hardest type of research to do which speaks to the lack of evidence. No one actually knows the answer to these questions. Anyone saying they do is guessing.

Do the initial gains of overspeed training outperform those of traditional strength and conditioning?  

There appears to be a bigger jump with the addition of overspeed training than solely strength and conditioning, by almost threefold.  In 6 and 8 weeks respectively, the average gain was just around 3 mph, which is three times the average gain for adult golfers over a 12 weeks period with just traditional strength and conditioning. 

Can we use overspeed training as a substitute for traditional strength and conditioning?

No. Emphatically no. It would be irresponsible to use overspeed in isolation to train golfers for increased speed. First off, increasing how fast someone can swing without making sure they have the strength to control that speed is a means to set someone up for injury and failure. Secondly, if they are appropriate and you increase someone’s speed, you also need to increase their strength as well so that it keeps up with the demands the new speed is putting on their body.   

Are long term results (1 year+) optimized if overspeed training is combined with traditional strength and conditioning vs in isolation or not at all?  

It would appear, based off our longitudinal programs that using overspeed training periodized in conjunction with an athlete-specific strength and conditioning program and sport-specific training (ie. technical lessons, equipment, etc—not medicine ball throws or cable chops) in a periodized yearly plan maximizes results year to year.  

In order to keep decreases in club speed to no more than three-to-five percent during the competitive season (as is the normal amount in our data), it is imperative to keep golfers engaged in an in-season strength and conditioning program focused on maximal force and power outputs. By minimizing this in-season loss, it assures that we see gains year over year.  

It is unclear if overspeed training in conjunction with strength and conditioning during the season further decreases this standard loss due to nervous system fatigue, but this would be a great area for future research.  

What sort of frequency, protocols or volume should one utilize for maximal benefit and minimal risk of injury?  

Most of the studies that I was able to find specifically on swinging looked at about 100 swings three times per (baseball). The Superspeed protocols which are the most popular in the golf world, follow a similar volume recommendation after an initial ramp up period. It is a concern, especially with untrained individuals, that adding more than 11,000 maximal effort swings over the course of year might increase risk for injury due to the incredible increase in load. Especially for the amatuer golfer who only plays on the weekends and does not engage in a strength and conditioning program, this is a significant volume increase from their baseline.

The Par4Success studies in 2018-19 found no significant difference in swing speed gains between high volume protocols and a lower volume protocol which required only 30 swings, 2x/week but required a 2 minute rest between every 10 swings.

More studies beyond these two need to be done looking at this, but it would be my recommendation, specifically in golf, not to engage in the high volume protocols as it does not appear to increase speed gains while also increasing load on the athlete significantly.  

Do any potential gains of overspeed training outperform the traditional methods that are proven to transfer to sport?

It does not appear that overspeed training is superior to any one training method, but rather a tool to use in conjunction with other proven methods. The key here is to assess yourself and look to implement this type of training when mobility is not an issue and the physical ability to produce power is higher than the ability to generate club speed. In the right scenario, overspeed training can be a game-changing tool. In the wrong scenario, it can be a nail in a golfer’s coffin.

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Faults and Fixes: Arms too far behind body at the top

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In this week’s Faults and Fixes, we’ll look at the issue of the older player getting the arms too far behind the body at the top. When this happens, the clubhead speed is compromised, and the ability to create height, spin, and distance is diminished. For older players, Brandel Chamblee has the right idea by wanting the left heel to raise and the arms to work themselves into a more upright position.

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