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Clark: The Mind That Created Your Swing Issues Cannot Correct Them

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There is a plethora, maybe an overabundance, of golf information available online these days. While some of this information can be extremely useful, it can also be a source of confusion and may, unwittingly, lead a golfer down the wrong path. Here are a few things one might consider when searching for online help.

Golf forums have, to a large extent, become platforms for discussing the golf swing. One author or teacher suggests a system; another believes and teaches something quite different. Even when they are in agreement with how to produce a better result (impact), they are at odds on how to get there. And herein lies the source of confusion for the reader. It is often the interpretation of the suggestion that leads to the confusion.

In most cases, a teacher’s message is all well and good, but it cannot take into account the mindset of the reader because the teacher has never met the golfer or seen the golfer’s swing. It’s also important to keep in mind that the lens through which a tip is seen is vastly different for every single reader. I know this because I ask my students regularly this very question: Did you watch so and so on the XYZ channel last night? What did you get out of that segment? The answers vary so greatly one might think they watched completely different programs.

Dennis_Clark_Mind_Full

The swing issues my students confront are a result of the mind that created them, and the mind that created them cannot correct them. My lessons have more to do with changing minds than changing swings. I cannot help a student with simple swing issues by explaining the scientific principles underlying the biomechanics of them. I am far more effective when I get into their mind than their swing; I try to understand how the words I’m offering, or the swings I’m demonstrating, are being internalized or understood by the student. For example, I might ask some of the following questions:

  • Tell me what you think you are doing?
  • What are you trying to do here… and why?
  • What, in your understanding, gets the golf ball airborne?
  • How can I help you do it better?

It is more helpful to create individual opportunities to learn than to instruct how to do something. The corrections are finite, and the presentation of them is infinite. We cannot afford to allow the technical to eclipse the personal. It is critical to leave the lesson tee with a different mental image than you came with. DO NOT fake understanding if you really don’t get it  Speak up! Your teacher wants to know what you’re thinking and the perceptions you have.

Take the simple act of turning the shoulders in the backswing. The lesson begins by discovering that the player is under-turned. We all agree that this is important, but Player A might have to think one thing, while Player B something completely different to accomplish this task. The teacher’s role is helping students find the keys to unlock their personal puzzle. Learning is a mind game, and direction has to be given in very personal ways. Those ways have to be practical and enjoyable enough to continue exploring, or we usually have little to no learning. This cannot be done with generic tips to mass audiences.

That said, communicating with your individual instructor online, and sending him/her regular videos and ball flight information can be very helpful. Keep in mind, however, that there is NO substitute for live lessons. When that is not possible, this form of communicating with your personal teacher can be quite effective. It’s imperative, however, that the teacher not only understand your physical habits, but also your knowledge of the golf swing and your learning style. Without that balance, I see this kind of instruction doing harm more harm than good.

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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

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. Heich

    Aug 20, 2017 at 3:03 am

    You know, according to Hypnosis Motivation, you can un-do some of the programming in the mind and correct the bad stuff and make it better

  2. Dennis Clark

    Aug 19, 2017 at 8:13 pm

    The next big frontier is learning…our job is to know a thousand ways to say a few things! I would refer all who are interested to Michael Hebron’s work.

    • Stephen Finley

      Sep 13, 2017 at 12:35 am

      Amen to that. You have to stick with it and make an effort to meet it where it is, but it’s worthwhile.

  3. Tapin

    Aug 19, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Your question was answered. Your next questions were rude and insensitive. Everyone’s game can be helped. Playing better is a noble goal. Regardless of physical ability the attempt to gain knowledge should never be discouraged.
    If you are going to nasty don’t post!

  4. Speedy

    Aug 18, 2017 at 9:37 pm

    24 swing components is all you need.

    • Walt

      Aug 19, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      You mean like Homer’s 24 swing components, duh?

  5. Rors

    Aug 18, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Where are the Harvey Penicks’ of today. Most golf instructors think they are engineers at NASA… Freaking ridiculous where instructors are going these days…

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 18, 2017 at 6:35 pm

      That’s the point of the article. We are learning a TON about the science and biomechanics of the golf swing, but what are we learning about HOW they learn what we are discovering? How do we present this? How do they take it all in? MY answer is: as simply as possible. If I cant put what I need to say on the head of a pin, it ain’t worth saying. Thx

      • Rors

        Aug 18, 2017 at 7:50 pm

        Thanks for the retort, really enjoy your point of views. Plus you don’t get your underwear in a knot when someone comments… Thanks DC

      • Walt

        Aug 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        Call it the K.I.S.S. principle or else you lose your confused hopeful student.

    • stephenf

      Aug 31, 2017 at 1:23 am

      So true. Dissectional analysis is great for lots of words, lots of discussion, and frankly a lot of money. I’m not sure it helps many people hit it better and enjoy the game more, or be more competitive if they play tournaments. If we learned to walk down a flight of stairs the way most people try to learn to play golf, and the way a lot of teachers teach it, we’d all be walking around in casts or rolling around in wheelchairs. Think about the complexity of driving a car through traffic repeatedly, day in and day out, for a year without an accident. It’s far beyond anything that happens in golf. If we were to try to do that the way so many people learn golf and teach golf, it would endanger lives every single day.

  6. Tapin

    Aug 18, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    That can’t really be your question. How silly!

  7. Double Mocha Man

    Aug 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    That diagram showing swing keys is all wrong! There are not enough. I have at least 25 more swing keys in my 1.5 seconds of the golf swing.

  8. Teacher2

    Aug 18, 2017 at 11:24 am

    What do you tell a new student they are physically out of shape to swing a golf club correctly even if they practice a lot? Do you tell them the truth or do you string them along to satisfy their delusions? Thanks.

    • Dennis Clark

      Aug 18, 2017 at 6:31 pm

      Good question and not an uncommon occurrence as you might imagine. Professionally and politely I may come around to discussing how physical conditioning plays a role in the swing. But I will say this; MOST out of shape people are very aware of their condition and almost always bring it up before I do. PHEW! The first thing any teacher has to remember is to respect the humanity of the person they are instructing. The person in front of me is far more important than anything I’m telling them!!

      • Teacher2

        Aug 19, 2017 at 12:16 am

        Why would somebody with physical problems want to come to you for instruction when they may know they are burdened with physical shortcomings?
        Desperation? Reassurance? Learning? Friendship? Or just naivete?
        Some/many shouldn’t attempt to play golf properly because they can’t make a commitment to physical conditioning.
        A good golf swing is athletic and most are not athletic. What do they want in a lesson?

        • Clark G

          Aug 19, 2017 at 3:23 pm

          I think you answered your own questions: all of the above.

        • Dennis Clark

          Aug 19, 2017 at 7:54 pm

          I think they want a little hope, maybe some direction to see if there is any little tips that may help them within their limitations. They are not looking for “good golf” per se. Short game particularly.

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WATCH: How to take your hands out of your swing

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In this video, I share two great drills that help golfers take their hands out of the golf swing. These drills encourage more rotation through impact with quieter hands to improve consistency.

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A simple formula to figure out the right ball position for you

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In this video, I offer my simple formula on ball position that has seen my students produce more consistency. Watch to see how you can adapt your ball position to hit more shots on target.

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How to fix the root cause of hitting your golf shots fat

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Of all the shots golfers fear, hitting the ball FAT has to be right up at the top of the list. At least it heads the list of commonly hit poor shots (let’s leave the shank and the whiff out for now). After fat, I’d list topping, followed by slicing and then hooking. They are all round-killers, although the order of the list is an individual thing based on ability. Professionals despise a hook, but club golfers by and large fear FAT. Why?

First of all, it’s embarrassing. Secondly, it goes nowhere — at least compared to thin — and it can be physically painful! So to avoid this dreaded miss, golfers do any number of things (consciously or subconsciously) to avoid it. The pattern develops very early in one’s golf life. It does not take very many fat shots for golfers to realize that they need to do something differently. But rather than correct the problem with the correct move(s), golfers often correct a fault with a fault.

Shortening the radius (chicken-winging), raising the swing center, early lower-body extension, holding on through impact (saving it), running the upper body ahead of the golf ball and even coming over the top are all ways of avoiding fat shots. No matter how many drills I may offer for correcting any of those mistakes, none will work if the root cause of fat is not addressed.

So what causes fat? We have to start with posture. Some players simply do not have enough room to deliver the golf club on a good plane from inside to inside. Next on the list of causes is a wide, early cast of the club head. This move is invariably followed by a break down in the lead arm, holding on for dear life into impact, or any of the others…

“Swaying” (getting the swing center too far off the golf ball) is another cause of fat, as well as falling to the rear foot or “reversing the weight.” Both of these moves can cause one to bottom out well behind the ball. Finally, an excessive inside-out swing path (usually the fault of those who hook the ball) also causes an early bottom or fat shot, particularly if the release is even remotely early. 

Here are 4 things to try if you’re hitting fat shots

  1. Better Posture: Bend forward from the hips so that arms hang from the shoulders and directly over the tips of the toes, knees slightly flexed over the shoelaces, seat out for balance and chin off the chest!
  2. Maintaining the Angles: Casting, the natural urge to throw the clubhead at the golf ball, is a very difficult habit to break if one is not trained from the start. The real correction is maintaining the angle of the trail wrist (lag) a little longer so that the downswing is considerably more narrow than the backswing. But as I said, if you have been playing for some time, this is risky business. Talk to your instructor before working on this!
  3. Maintaining the Swing Center Over the Golf Ball: In your backswing, focus on keeping your sternum more directly over the golf ball (turning in a barrel, as Ernest Jones recommended). For many, this may feel like a “reverse pivot,” but if you are actually swaying off the ball it’s not likely you will suddenly get stuck with too much weight on your lead foot.
  4. Setting Up a Little More Open: If your swing direction is too much in-to-out, you may need to align your body more open (or feel that way). You could also work with a teaching aid that helps you feel the golf club is being swung more out in front of you and more left (for right-handers) coming through — something as simple as a head cover inside the golf ball. You’ll hit the headcover if you are stuck too far inside coming down.

The point is that most players do what they have to do to avoid their disastrous result. Slicers swing way left, players who fight a hook swing inside out and anybody who has ever laid sod over the golf ball will find a way to avoid doing it again. This, in my opinion, is the evolution of most swing faults, and trying to correct a fault with a fault almost never ends up well.

Get with an instructor, get some good videos (and perhaps even some radar numbers) to see what you are actually doing. Then work on the real corrections, not ones that will cause more trouble.

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