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

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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

6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick

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One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Is There An Ideal Backswing?

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In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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Build A More Consistent Short Game Through Better Body Movement

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So far in my collection of articles on GolfWRX, I’ve talked at length about the importance of posture, stability and movement patterns in the full swing, particularly utilizing the GravityFit equipment for feedback and training load. Many coaches use the same equipment to teach better movement in the putting, chipping, and pitching actions.

To help give some more insight into exactly how they do this, I have recruited Matt Ballard to co-author this article. Matt is an Australian-based coach and short game specialist who has been working with Adam Scott for the past year.

Matt Ballard (right) with Adam Scott.

According to Matt, the short game issue that the club players he coaches struggle with is contact and delivering consistent loft with their wedges.

“Most people tend to get steep, the handle comes in first and not enough loft is delivered,” he says. “This means that the bounce of the wedge isn’t being used properly, which makes control of contact, trajectory, and distance very difficult. ”

As Matt explains in the video below, this problem tends to manifest itself in chips and pitches that are either fat or thin, fly to short or not far enough, and either check up too soon or go rolling on past the pin.

The really frustrating part is the inconsistency. Not knowing how the ball is going to react makes committing to a shot extremely difficult. This has the unnerving effect of turning a simple task into something difficult… and pars into bogeys or worse. For the past few months, Matt has been using the GravityFit TPro to teach correct set up posture and body movement for chipping and pitching.

“I use the TPro to first of all establish spine and shoulder position,” Matt says. “I like my students to have the feel of their shoulders and forearms being externally rotated (turned out). From this position, it’s much easier to control the clubface (i.e. not getting it too shut or too open). The second benefit of using the TPro is controlling the golf club radius during the swing, with the radius being the distance the club head is from the center of the body. Controlling the radius is paramount to becoming an excellent wedge player. The third reason I use it is to help teach that pure rotation from the thoracic spine (mid/upper back), minimizing the excessive right side bend (for a right handed player) that gets so many people into trouble.”

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Nick demonstrating how TPro drills can be performed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essentially, Matt uses the GravityFit TPro to train a simple movement pattern that, once mastered, all but eliminate the typical problems normally associated with chipping and pitching.

“When (golfers) learn to turn using their thoracic spine and keep their arms in front of their body, it has a dramatic effect on how they deliver the club to the ball,” Matt says. “They are now able to maintain width or radius on either side of the ball, shallow out the club, and engage the bounce (sole) of the wedge to interact with the turf effectively, which is a key trait of all excellent wedge players. Doing this greatly increases their margin for error from a strike perspective and produces a far more consistent outcome in terms of loft, trajectory and distance control.”

Here is Matt’s 5-step process that you can follow with the TPro:

  1. Push handles out in front of your body, keeping slight bend in elbow.
  2. Stretch tall. Feel the green spikes in your middle/upper back and your shoulder blades on the paddles.
  3. Hinge forward into posture for pitching or chipping (the shorter the shot, narrower the stance.).
  4. Slowly turn chest into backswing, keep arms out in front of body, and maintain pressure on the spikes and paddles.
  5. Turn through to finish position using normal tempo, maintaining same pressure on the TPro and keeping arms in front of your body.

In summary, using the TPro and Matt’s drill can help you train a simple movement pattern that can give you far more control over the strike, trajectory and distance of your chips and pitches.

Click here to learn more about the TPro. To discover more pearls of wisdom from Matt, take a look at his website here and his social media activity here.

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