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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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Instruction

The 3 best ways to train your golf swing

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Understanding how to effectively train and practice is critical to transferring skills to the golf course.

In golf, I view training as a thoughtful, deliberate rehearsal of a motion to develop technique. This is better rehearsed away from the golf course. Practicing golf consists of developing your skill to take to the golf course—an example being learning to hit shots in certain winds and shot shaping.

“A lawyer will train to be a lawyer, then he or she will practice law” – The Lost Art of Golf

I find the below examples the best ways to train effectively. These techniques will also help facilitate a swing change and make your training and practice more efficient.

Mirror Work

I like my student to implement what I call “mirror work”. This is done by looking into a mirror from the face-on position.

This is a great way to get external feedback (information delivered from an outside source). Learning by external feedback will help facilitate the required body movement to produce a particular shot. It’s also a cheap and effective way to train. Research suggests observation in a mirror is considered external, so the use of mirrors will elicit external feedback, enhancing the learning process.

I prefer students to only check positions from the face-on view. If a player starts checking positions in a mirror from down-the-line, moving your head to look in the mirror can cause your body to change positions, losing the proper direction of turn.

Train Slow

Learning a new motion is best trained slow. At a slower speed, it is easier to monitor and analyze a new motion. You will have increased awareness of the body and where the shaft is in space. At a faster speed, this awareness is more difficult to obtain.

I often use the analogy of learning how to drive a car. First, you took time to learn how to position your hands on the wheel and position your foot next to the break. When comfortable, you put the car in motion and began to drive slowly. Once you developed the technique, you added speed and took the car on the freeway.

In martial arts, there are three speeds taught to students: Slow-speed for learning, medium speed for practice and fast speed for fighting. Again, the movement was trained slow to start. Once comfortable, the motion was put into combat. This should be similar to golf.

Finding Impact

Use an impact bag to get the feeling of impact and an efficient set-up. If you don’t have an impact bag, a spare car tire, bean bag or something light and soft that can be pushed along the ground can be used.

I like to refer to the impact bag as a “Push bag”. Start by setting up into the bag, lightly pressing the shaft into the bag. You will notice how your trail arm slightly tucks in and as your right shoulder drops below the left with your body leaning forward, an efficient set-up.

To get the feeling of impact swing the club back and down into the bag while maintaining your body shape. Don’t move the bag by hitting it, rather pushing it. Note how you maintain your wrist angles while pushing the bag (not flipping) and the right side of your body moves through impact.

Train your swing with these three training techniques to play better golf.

@KKelley_golf

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How posture influences your swing

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S0 what exactly is posture and how can it alter your swing? Posture is often the origin to a player’s swing pattern. I like to look at posture as the form of the body from the front view and down the line position at address.

“Shape” in posture is the angles our body creates at address. This includes the relationship between the upper and lower half of our bodies. This article will examine the importance of this shape from the face on view.

For an efficient posture that creates a simple, powerful, and repeatable swing, I like a player’s shape to be set into what I call their “hitting angles.” Hitting angles are similar to the impact position. In the picture below, note the body angles at address highlighted in green.

Once we are set into these hitting angles, the goal of the backswing is to maintain these angles, coiling around the spine. When these angles are maintained in the backswing, the club can return to impact in a more dynamic form of our set-up position. This creates minimal effort that produces speed and repeatability—essentially doing more with less.

The further we set up away from these hitting angles, our bodies will have to find impact by recovering. This is often where a player’s swing faults can occur. We want our body to react to the target in the golf swing, not recover to strike the ball.

Think of a baseball player or football player throwing a ball. When the athlete is in their throwing position, they can simply make the movement required to throw the ball at their intended target. If their body is contorted or out of position to make the throw, they must re-position their body (more movement) to get back into their throwing position, thus making them less accurate and powerful.

The good news about working on your posture is that it is the easiest part to control in the swing. Posture is a static motion, so our body will respond to 100 percent of what our mind tells it to do. It’s talentless.

Here is a simple routine to get you into these hitting angles.

To start, tuck in your trail arm making it shorter and below the lead arm, which makes your trail shoulder lower than the lead shoulder. This will give you the proper shape of the arms and wrist angles. Pictured right is Ben Hogan.

With these arm angles, bend from the hips to the ball and bump your body slightly forward towards the target getting ‘into yourself’. You may feel pressure on your lead foot, but your upper half will still remain behind the ball. Note the picture below with the blue lines.

Practice this drill using a mirror in front of you, head up looking into the mirror. Research has shown mirror work enhances motor skills and performance. Anytime you have external-focus based feedback, the learning process will escalate.

There are a lot of different postures on the PGA Tour and many ways to get the job done. There are no cookie-cutter swings, and players have different physiology. However, research and history have shown that an efficient posture gives us the best chance for solid contact and our desired ball flight. Work hard on the areas that are easiest to control: the set-up.

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Golf 101: How to chip (AKA “bump and run”)

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Although golf for a beginner can be an intimidating endeavor, and learning how to chip is part of that intimidation, this is one part of the game that if you can nail down the fundamentals, not only can you add some confidence to your experience but also you lay down a basic foundation you can build on.

How to chip

The chip shot, for all intents and purposes, is a mini-golf swing. To the beginner, it may seem like a nothing burger but if you look closely, it’s your first real way to understand contact, launch, spin, compression, and most importantly the fundamentals of impact.

What is a chip shot? A pitch shot?

Chip: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a 3-iron to a lob wedge that launches low, gets on the ground quickly, and rolls along the surface (like a putt) to the desired location.

Pitch: A shot that is hit typically with anything from a PW to a lob wedge that launches low- to mid-trajectory that carries a good portion of the way to your desired location and relies on spin to regulate distance.

Now that we have separated the two, the question is: How do I chip?

Since we are trying to keep this as simple as possible, let’s just do this as a quick checklist and leave it at that. Dealing with different lies, grass types, etc? Not the purpose here. We’re just concerned with how to make the motion and chip a ball on your carpet or at the golf course.

Think “rock the triangle”

  1. Pick a spot you want the ball to land. This is for visualization, direction and like any game you play, billiards, Darts, pin the tail on the donkey, having a target is helpful
  2. For today, use an 8-iron. It’s got just enough loft and bounce to make this endeavor fun.
  3. Grip the club in your palms and into the lifelines of your hands. This will lift the heel of the club of the ground for better contact and will take your wrists out of the shot.
  4. Open your stance
  5. Put most of your weight into your lead leg. 80/20 is a good ratio
  6. Ball is positioned off your right heel
  7. Lean the shaft handle to your left thigh
  8. Rock the shoulders like a putt
  9. ENJOY!

Check out this vid from @jakehuttgolf to give you some visuals.

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