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Fake News and Golf Instruction: Caution in the Age of Click Bait

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Lose 20 pounds in two weeks. Hit it like Rory.

Cure your insomnia once and for all. Work it like DJ.

Learn to speak Spanish in one week. Never slice, hook, shank, top, hit fat, pull, or push again. 

As one who makes his living teaching a game that is very difficult (and borders on impossible at times), it never ceases to amaze me that I continue to see articles titled the likes of above. Does anyone really think that reading an article is really going to help them hit their driver like Rory… or get up and down every time… or work the ball like a tour pro… or stop a slice or hook forever? Really?

I can assure you these things are not likely to happen… at least not to the degree they are billed. Over the last 35 years on the lesson tee, I’ve seen golfers of all stripes struggle mightily to make small swing changes. Rarely does anyone make significant improvements overnight, let alone after reading one article. Golf swings change glacially. In a two-year span, I helped a student go from an 18-handicap to an 8. There was even one who went from 14 to a scratch over a period of time, but he was also a former professional athlete. What’s important to remember is that these progressions happened over years. They’re also rare.

Readers must consider that the author of any given article probably never saw you swing. So to adopt a “this-is-for-everybody” approach is misleading in my view of learning golf. It seems there is almost nothing that every great golfer does except hit it solid. The idea that there is a magic move that will change it all is anathema to my experience.

Once you know WHAT to do in the golf swing,  you have to learn HOW to do it. I suggest you find someone to guide you through that process, but that is an individual choice. Remember all that your mentor/coach/teacher can do is tell you what… not how. The how part is in the dirt, and it comes out of the dirt s-l-o-w-l-y.

“So if articles don’t help golfers improve, then why do you write them,” you might be thinking. I try to steer clear of titles that are designed to get more readers; I certainly don’t need more students. (The only good thing about getting a little older is one wants less, not more.) Many of you have told me that my shared insights have helped your games in some small ways. That has been the aim all along.

My teaching style is what I call “”if THIS, then THAT.” I try to relate what I’ve seen work for a variety of swing problems. If it helps, great! If something someone else suggested helps, great! Remember that improvement is not all-or-nothing. Every little change helps a lot. If you’re steep and you get less steep, great! If you’re outside-in, and you get less so, great! Sure, maybe you’re not inside yet, but you are on your way. You know what to work on. A lot of students seem to think that if they are not doing something totally right, they’re not improving. That’s a huge misconception.

Golfers will only get better by admitting they have a swing issue and seeking some ways to improve it. While I’m certain some fortunate few have made great strides quickly, the masses plod progressively and hopefully along. I have never claimed to work magic or reveal some secret method that is going to make golfers think about giving up the day job. Golf is a hard game, and we have to improve at it by grinding it out a little at a time.

It’s the journey, not the destination that offers the most joy… and how pleasant the journey can be when you don’t expect to get flat abs overnight… or add 30 yards to your drives.

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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

29 Comments

29 Comments

  1. RBImGuy

    Feb 11, 2018 at 7:24 pm

    Took me 6 hours to change and build a new golf swing after 30 years.
    student built new in 3 weeks, hit longer than he ever did.
    He tried usual modern swing lessons for 5 years! and become depressed how badly he hit it.
    He is happy now

    Some people can do magic, I am one of them

    • RBimGuy

      Feb 11, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      Of course my new WIMB game improvement clubs helped a lot too:
      Cobra F7+ Driver 10.5 Aldila Rogue 125 Silver TS 44.5″
      F6 Baffler 4w stock Matrix Stiff
      Cobra Fly Z 3 hyb. 20* Aldila Rogue 85H R flex
      Cobra Forged TEC 4i Aldila Rogue 85H R Flex
      Cobra Forged TEC 5-PW CTL R flex
      MD2 Tour 52* and 58* CTL R flex
      PM Grind MD3 64* black CTL R flex
      Scotty Studio Stainless Newport 2

  2. Gorden

    Feb 10, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    It is simple, take a sand wedge and a ball, now bounce the ball as many times in a row in the air off the wedge…if you can do it 20 or more times without missing…take golf lessons you have the hand eye coordination to make use of a “Real” golf swing. If like 95% of us and getting the ball to bounce even 4 times without missing you will play better with a “Bandage” swing that will get you on or close to the green and give you a chance to get even better scores. I know several guys in our 60’s that could never get below a 16 no matter how many lessons we took…about 5 years ago one of our group garbed a CD course that taught a single plane swing (Moe Norman type) almost all of us messed around with some of these ideas and we all somehow found a way to keep the ball off the tee in front of us and at least hit other shots towards if not on greens..so we all have a fighting chance to shoot 79…

    • Bruno

      Feb 11, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      So what you are saying is that an up-down clubhead motion makes for a great circular golf swing? Whoda thunk …. 😮

  3. George

    Feb 10, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Isnt this article click bait?

  4. Bruno

    Feb 10, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Dennis, you forgot this click bait golf fake news/lies:
    “Buy a new set of golf clubs and hit the ball even further and straighter!”
    What is amazing is that desperate incompetent men actually want to believe such misleading nonsense.

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 11, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Well its not unlike technology period…Everything seems obsolete in 6 months, huh? The problem seems to stem from the consumer mentality on which we are all reared. In golf, the OMs used to re-tool every 5 years, now it seems every five months. Just be discerning, some of it real, just not ALL of it. Thx

      • Bruno

        Feb 11, 2018 at 1:04 pm

        It’s not true “technology”; much of it is a redux of previous club designs.
        As for the “adjustable” drivers with the promise of dialing out your slice and converting it to a draw, well that’s an outright scam. It may work for tour pros who jam all the weights closer to the face to reduce spin, but it does nothing for the mass of golfers who can’t hit on the sweet spot and must depend on dubious back-weighted gear effect. It’s an expensive delusional toy, nothing more.
        The new craze for hollow irons filled with elastomer gunk and flex faces is suspect. Don’t you wonder how so many OMs simultaneously revealed this stupid expensive design? Hmmmm…. 😉

      • Bruno

        Feb 11, 2018 at 8:10 pm

        Much of the “technology” is a redux of old club designs.
        The “adjustable” drivers with the promise of dialing out your slice and converting it to a draw is an outright scam. It works for tour pros who jam all the weights closer to the face to reduce spin. Golfers who can’t hit on the sweet spot must depend on back-weighted gear effect.
        The new craze for elastomer filled hollow irons and flex faces is suspect. Don’t you wonder how so many OMs suddenly revealed this expensive design?
        P-790s are fake forged and fake news too.

  5. Acemandrake

    Feb 9, 2018 at 7:00 pm

    Excellent, blunt, plainly spoken article about a subject most golfers would rather ignore.

    “Golf swings change glacially.” Some more glacially than others ?

    I’ve been playing for over 50 years and really began to enjoy the game when I decided to stop chasing tips. It only leads to frustration and confusion.

    “It’s the journey, not the destination that offers the most joy”…YES

    Enjoy the journey, have fun, and keep hope alive.

    “Knowing why you play” would be good advice for those striving for enlightenment ?

    • steve

      Feb 9, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      Some only “play” so they can buy the newest golf clubs and discuss why they “love” their brand new toys. Their game is irrelevant. They are known as “gearheads” and they inhabit this website to load up on the latest golf club gossip.

  6. Dennis

    Feb 9, 2018 at 3:15 pm

    The reader has to be discerning. Does the suggestion apply to YOUR swing issue. That is the KEY. A one size fits all approach to swing corrections is misleading in most cases.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      But Dennis, 99% (my guess) of all golfers never take a golf lesson from a qualified instructor like you. They just blunder into the game with a trial and error and error and error approach while depending on something they read or saw on a youtube video. Also they depend on golf store sales people providing them with game improvement clubs. The masses of golfers are not “discerning”; they are “desperate”.
      Have you ever told a student they bought the wrong flex golf shafts for their slow swing speed? Have you ever told a golfer to lose 50 pounds of belly fat before attempting a golf swing? Have you ever told somebody they shouldn’t attempt a golf swing for their safety?
      Great article permitted by the fine folks at WRX!

      • Dennis Clark

        Mar 2, 2018 at 9:05 pm

        Sorry OB, missed this a while back…lose 50 lbs would help a lot not just with golf. ???? I did have guy recently who I switched sides. He was a natural lefty playing righty, and couldn’t hit a ball to save his life. EVERY shot was a ground ball. He bought new lefty clubs and is dong great! Broke 100 with a week.

    • steve

      Feb 9, 2018 at 11:03 pm

      He who represents himself in court has a fool for a client.
      He who teaches himself a golf swing is a clown on the golf course.
      You can’t teach yourself a golf swing because you can’t feel what is happening in real time. It’s trial by error and error and error until the errors create a bad swing that is embedded in the brain and neuro-muscular system.
      Trying to consciously think yourself out of your swing problems with a golf tip is impossible. Anybody who claims instant success is lying… either to you or himself. Gullible golfers mislead THEMSELVES !!

      • Ian B

        Feb 12, 2018 at 2:19 pm

        With so much slow motion video technology available you certainly can analyse your swing. You can even send it off to be analysed and corrections sought.
        I’ve had numerous lessons with different instructors and still do the same things as that’s what my muscle memory has ingrained. I’ve had to change swing through injury but it takes time, and application and that’s what people won’t put in. As soon as I don’t focus old habits (and pains) return.

        • steve

          Feb 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

          Trying to change your swing from the swinging club back into your body and mind is futile because that’s not how ingrained body patterns are changed.
          If you suffer pain when attempting to swing you either need significant swing compensation or complete physical reconditioning. If it’s an arthritic hip joint or chronic knee injury pain you should seek medical advice and even consider hanging up your golf shoes. Chronic pain will only get worse with time and aggravation.
          When professional athletes want to make a fundamental change to their sport movements they first recondition their body with basic conditioning not related to their sport. They hit the gym and rebuild their body. Then they start sport-specific training before they attempt to introduce the changes. You know what that means; no quickie band-aid solutions. Leadbetter and Faldo took 2 years to rebuild his golf swing and then Faldo started winning big time. Now, scientifically, the rebuild would only take 1 year… except for Tiger who is still messing around with swing tips and types from ignorant instructors. Heed Dennis’ advice.

  7. OB

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    Congratulation, Dennis, for telling it like it is.
    Everybody wants to know but few are willing to pay the price of doing.
    Golf is being sold as a “fun” game, but in truth it is a near impossible challenge.
    Most everybody assumes that if they “know” they can “do”. They believe they can “think” their way through a golf swing because they are successful people.
    They come off the course and complain they can’t “think” about all the golf tips.
    Most playing golf are non-athletic types who have a sedentary job in an office, and they believe/hope that the golfing exercise will help them lose weight or strengthen their back muscles. They are deluding themselves.
    Most golfers want to believe there is “power” built into their golf clubs since they are hitting their new clubs farther without trying harder. They live in a purple golf haze.
    Most avoid lessons because they fear being exposed as non-athletic non-golfers.
    Who seeks lessons for their incompetence? Women and athletes in other sports. They know.
    Most seek lessons to be exposed to knowledge straight from their famous teacher and somehow they can band-aid their incompetence without extensive training and much practice. A great social experience too.
    Golf is an over-hyped, over-promoted, over-built, over-sold, over-promised, over-easy, over-populated, over-run, over-aged, over-crowded, over-the-top/counter/hill game for gullible men.
    I play/perform golf occasionally. 😮

  8. Dennis

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Authors note: this is not an article 2 cast aspersions at any site or teacher, it is a word of caution to be careful what you try to incorporate into your own pattern and be realistic about Expectations.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 2:16 pm

      Aaah, Expectations! For most, golf is a game of delusional fun and social participation. Full of yuks.
      According to PGA statistics 95% of the 50 million golfers worldwide cannot break 100, honestly. Only 5% or 2.5 million can play in the 90s and less. Let’s reasonably assume that 80% of the 2.5 million cannot break 90. That means only 200,000 golfers play in the 80s and less! This is a reasonable assessment of golfers worldwide.
      The mass of incompetent golfers are desperate and their only recourse is to buy the newest set of game-improvement clubs. They just don’t have the “time” to train and practice; they need an instant fix to their inconsistent golfswing. That’s how they live their entire lives… it’s normal humanity.

  9. shing

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:31 pm

    MeandMygolf is the worst.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm

      Perhaps you mean “Golf My Way” books… by Nicklaus, Palmer, Player, Toski, and a slew of others.
      Hey… golf was exploding in the 1970s and novice golfers were hitting the wall and needed help desperately. It’s still a mystery requiring highly scientific instrumentation to customize your swing, clubs, ball, shoes, shorts, cap, glove, tee, rangefiner, … 😮

  10. the dude

    Feb 9, 2018 at 1:10 pm

    nice article DC!….I akin the infomercials products (like the ones that line Hank “the bank” Haneys pockets)….to the diet/exercise craze for the last 200 years (or so). It amazes me how gullible people are…… where commitment takes a back seat to ….”AND IF YOU ACT NOW…..”

    whats the ol’ phrase?? there’s a sucker born every minute……(that phrase was made when the world population was < 1 billion people). I wonder what it is now with TV and social media 🙂

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      “Golfers are gullible.” — Harvey Penick – Little Red Book, page 72.

  11. George

    Feb 9, 2018 at 11:24 am

    99% of golf instruction is garbage clickbait.

    • OB

      Feb 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      No, it’s not “garbage”… but it’s mostly not applicable to those on these WRX fora. Gearhead eye-candy rules here.

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Gear Dive: Legendary club builder Larry Bobka speaks on Tiger’s old Titleist irons

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Legendary club builder Larry Bobka joins us in the first episode of our new podcast called “Gear Dive,” hosted by Johnny Wunder, GolfWRX’s Director of Original Content. Gear Dive is a deep look into the world of golf equipment, and Wunder will be interviewing the craftsman, the reps and the players behind the tools that make up the bags of the best golfers in the world.

Bobka, our first guest, is a former Tour rep and club builder involved in some of the most important clubs of the past 25 years. From his days at Wilson Golf working with legends such as Payne Stewart, Hale Irwin and Bernhard Langer, he transitioned into the Golden Age of Titleist/Acushnet building clubs for Tiger Woods, Davis Love, David Duval and Brad Faxon. He currently runs Argolf where he builds and fits handmade putters for Tour players and amateurs alike. He’s one of the Godfather’s of modern golf equipment.

Skip to 45:30 for the discussion about Tiger’s Titleist irons.

Check out our podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf

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Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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