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The media’s war on golf instructors

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If you watch golf on television these days, you might think that golf instructors are ruining the game. Certainly the travails of Tiger Woods have offered up plenty of ammunition for the anti-instruction movement so obviously embraced by just about every commentator on the Golf Channel and PGA Tour broadcasts. Their argument is a simple one: too much information ruins the “natural” ability of the players who seek help from instructors.

Just this week, Sean O’Hair gave an interview that was hailed by every media person who commented on it as an honest assessment of how too much instruction ruined his game, and only now that he was “finding his own game” was he finding success again.

Tiger’s problems have been laid directly on Sean Foley, who, as the pundits would have you believe, had Tiger working on a swing technique guaranteed to hurt his back and give him the short game yips. Brandel Chamblee has gone as far as stating that “Tiger has had the greatness coached out of him,” and “modern golf instruction is a cancer on the game.” According to Johnny Miller, anyone who qualifies to play on the PGA Tour is already good enough and should never change anything.

Of course, Miller forgets that every year a bunch of players lose their card due to substandard play, while every player not yet on the big tour tries to improve enough to get there. The desire to improve is a constant characteristic of successful athletes.

In a game as complex as golf, the player can’t be expected to understand the nuances of all the technique he or she uses to navigate around the course, and the truth is most players don’t want to think about what they are doing. But the game is so difficult that there will always be periods of poor play, and the player will naturally begin to worry about retaining his position in the game.

Golf instructors usually have some sort of playing background, and if they have been tabbed by a Tour player to be a coach it is for a good reason. It is vital to remember that no instructor can be on the range at a Tour event unless they are invited to be there. The player has to request credentials for the teacher, and the teacher cannot be on the range without the player. In other words, instruction is entirely voluntary.

I was hired by Kevin Streelman last June when he was unhappy with his game and the look of his swing. He had missed four straight cuts and was frustrated enough to seek different advice.

No teacher or player has all the answers to the game of golf. Golf instructors have preferences, and players who like to look at or measure their swings develop their own preferences as well. My vision of the swing is readily available on my website, and Kevin liked what he saw, so he contacted me. He wanted to change a swing pattern that had bothered him for years and that he felt he was not making progress on.

Players know their deficiencies. They also know that if they are not among the top players, a small retreat in performance will mean a loss of playing status. You can imagine the angst that exists after an extended slump. My point here is that while the players on the Tour are certainly good enough to get there, they may not be good enough to stay there, and they may not be able to improve enough to move up into the top echelon of players.

If they are not technically oriented and already have a great work ethic, then what is left for them to do? Who is going to offer them better direction or an answer to the problems they encounter when simply practicing all day doesn’t help? Every great tennis professional has a coach. All the major team sports have instructors for every aspect of their game. They all use video obsessively, and every movement is analyzed in super slow motion as the coaches look to correct technique flaws. Hitting, pitching, fielding, blocking, tackling, covering, every play is recorded, every practice is recorded, and the whole team spends huge amounts of time watching and going over technique.

Why has it been decided that to do that in golf is such a horrible thing?

I compare my job to that of a NASCAR mechanic. I don’t drive the car and I’m not going to tell the driver how to drive. I just get the car running as well as I can so that the player doesn’t have to worry about it. How to organize the information and simplify the thought process is ultimately the job of the player, because he is the car and the driver.

It is ironic that just about every golf commentator is a former player who is not playing anymore. They have all lost their status for one reason or another, and now it seems that all of them have forgotten where they came from. No one wants to stop playing the Tour. There is no top-100 player who would trade his status for a spot in front of the Golf Channel cameras. You would have to think that every commentator who lost their card sought some sort of instruction in order to avoid their eventual demise, instruction that obviously failed. Such an experience would definitely color how they view instruction now.

Again, it is important to remember that the players control who instructs them, or whether they get instruction at all. This is true from the club level all the way to the Tour. No one is being forced to take a lesson.

My lesson book is open to whoever wants to sign up. If no one signs up, I don’t teach. If Kevin hadn’t sought out my advice, you wouldn’t see me on the range at Tour events, just like you wouldn’t see Butch Harmon, Todd Anderson, Sean Foley, Pete Cowan, or any other teacher of Tour players you can name.

No teacher is seeking to fill up a student’s mind with information that the player doesn’t ask for. Teachers use different methods to be sure, and some use more technology than others. But in the final analysis, if the results aren’t there the coach gets fired.

Teachers are hired to help. Almost every player has someone they look to for help and advice. What prompted this article is the television media’s decision to focus on the players who have suffered a loss of performance under the tutelage of an instructor, while ignoring the success stories. Meanwhile, Michael Breed is ever present on the Golf Channel, with, you guessed it, golf instruction.

Go figure.

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Wayne has been playing tournament golf for more than 40 years and teaching golf for over 27 years. He is the Director of Instruction at Lakewood CC in Rockville, Maryland and is founder of the Wayne Defrancesco Golf Learning Center (WDGLC). Wayne has spent countless hours analyzing some of the greatest golf legends both past and present in order to teach his Pivot Compression Golf Swing technique. Visit www.waynedefrancesco.com and you will spend hours watching FREE videos and reading articles created with the sole purpose to help people become the best golfers they can be. Become a better ball striker with Wayne's Pivot Compression Golf Swing DVD: www.compressiongolf.com

52 Comments

52 Comments

  1. Jay K.

    Aug 23, 2016 at 2:38 am

    Maybe, If Brandel Chamblee had worked regularly with a golf instructor, He’d have won more than 1 time while on tour. But, I doubt it.

  2. Jeff

    Apr 2, 2015 at 12:45 am

    War. Good metaphor. How many golf instructors have been killed or maimed so far and why hasn’t it been on Fox News yet?

  3. Provisional

    Mar 30, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    Yeah, Foley really messed Tiger up:
    2013- 5 wins out of 16 starts, 1st on money list with 8.5 million, 2nd in scoring average.
    Have any of the critics (particularly Brandel Chamblee) bothered to spend time with the instructors whose livelyhood they bash?
    BTW the V1 software is a great tool to see what you are actually doing in your swing versus what you think you are doing. $5 on the App Store. Went from 9hdcp to 4 in one season with 5 lessons from local MAPGA Professional using V1.
    Keep on keepin em honest Wayne.

    • Manga

      Apr 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm

      I honestly don’t think that Brandel Chamblee believes 90% of what he says. It’s true that golfers on the PGA Tour are ridiculously good, but everyone needs instruction. It’s likely the case that they are getting the wrong instruction or become to mechanical with some of their changes. Golf is hard, so is learning a new swing action. Foley may be trying to teach something that Tiger just can’t learn at this stage or with his body. That’s not to say instruction is worthless.

  4. Pingback: The Lemon Drop Kid | Life on Tour

  5. golferjack

    Mar 27, 2015 at 3:17 am

    Interesting article, can’t really comment on the commentators as I don’t see enough of them being in Europe and not USA. Regarding Tiger and Sean Foley however I have to say there is only one Person who is responsible for Tiger’s Situation and that is Tiger himself. Why would anyone who had won the Masters, British Open and US Open by record margins want to Change their swing? At the time he was with Butch Harmon Tiger could win with his “C” Game, with his “A”game he was unstopable. Maybe his “friend” Mark O Meara didn’t do him any favors taking him to Hank, maybe he needed that, who are we to judge, but Foley is not to blame for his Problems. As far as coaches go, I wouldn’t presume to know what a tour pro Needs but in this modern era we have many more Players who shoot really low and that is not just Equipment and better agronomy or balls it also has to do with the Level of Coaching available today.

  6. Roger

    Mar 25, 2015 at 2:41 pm

    A simple flowing swing built on not too much thought is a winner.
    Announcers need controversy so you keep listening.
    In 20 years i have had 3 coaches, all like Wayne D
    Low tech, great communicators

  7. Mitch

    Mar 25, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Wayne D – you are my favorite coach – thus the reason I subscribe to your website. I like your style because you show what great golfers do and why they are great, the evidence is all encompassing. I don’t know why there is this negative sentiment to modern methods of teaching. if a player can use track man to get instant feed back on their swing and ball flight, why wouldn’t they use it? Data supports that over time, proximity to the hole equates to better scores which = more winnings on tour. Can’t blame tour players on their obsession with swing mechanics when its a sure fire way to make more money.

  8. wayne defrancesco

    Mar 24, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    If any of the comments here were made by people who were out on Tour watching the best players from close up they would absolutely understand just how good you have to be to be to keep your Tour card, how much better you have to be to be in the top 50, how much better than that you have to be to make the Tour Championship, how much better than that you have to be to be in the top 10, and how much better than that you have to be to be in the conversation around being #1. Every player is looking for every possible way to improve. If they decide to overhaul their swing they find someone they think can do it and make them better. Most times they get tired of patterns that they believe are holding them back. Thinking about nothing changes nothing. I don’t think you’ll find a guy out there who thinks he’s “got it” and no longer has to worry about improving. Instructors are using technology because they think it can help them help the players. I happen to not use Trackman, force plates, 3D, or any other of the newer technological innovations that have come along to analyze swings and ball flight. I use a video camera and V1 software, and I have a large library of the swings of the greatest players to play the game. I was a good player in my day, and I know what a good swing should feel like. I’m very hands on when I teach, because I believe that is the best way to get someone to feel what I would like them to do. I have a certain vision of the swing and how it works best, and that is what people sign up for when they come to me for help. I would never, and I believe that goes for any good instructor, take apart a swing and overhaul it unless there was nothing there to work with. There aren’t any Tour players who fit that description. Players long for simplicity, not complication, but many of them like to understand the details of what they are doing. It is entirely up to the player to decide how to use the information they are getting on the golf course.

  9. Gorden

    Mar 24, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    Most all the big name golf instructors have books out on how to play the game…I got caught up with what each one was saying and have a stack of books as tall as me now, I became crazed trying to find two of them that had the same swing ideas (zero). After about 20 years and dozens of DVD’s to go along with my golf book insanity I just settled on the Todd Graves, Moe Norman type swing and have never played better or understood what I was doing. Scores are way better and lost balls almost a forgotten event and a simple swing that you can figure out what your doing wrong as you walk between shots.

  10. Patricknorm

    Mar 24, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Very good article regarding golf coaches. What’s changed golf really since Tiger Woods won his first PGA event is money. Because Woods was the benchmark for pro golf, his success meant a huge increase in the purses for golf. Top players now have “stables” of instructors, fitness gurus, nutritionists, psychologists, trackman, agents, etc. Today a player like Rory McIlroy plans his year based on the majors. But really what he’s doing is maximizing his earning potential.
    All great athletes need mentors, advisors, a guardian angel to compete professionally. With the advent of the Internet over the last 20 years golf instruction can now be quantified and studied to death. And blame the Golf Channel for the endless stream of talking heads, who frankly need something to talk about. Generally golf is a boring, plodding , tactical sport. So the commentators have to fill space with their inanities. It’s always about money.

  11. Wendell

    Mar 24, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    I love watching golf and my time to watch is limited due to work… it frustrates me to no end hearing golf announcers waste my valuable time ranting about teaching in the game. Teaching will not go away… that is a certainty. So why all the focus on this issue? I almost walked away from the game a few years ago due to uncontrolled hooking… I went looking for help… 2 lessons later it was simplified for me in what I need to do. I spent the entire winter working on my swing with a shifted focus towards where the club head was and ensuring I didn’t get it too inside that caused the extreme in to out path with a closed face. I have respect for teaching and what it can accomplish. Sure it may seem to be over the top in regards to the amount of analysis that we get from the high tech era however all things evolve in time.

  12. Jer

    Mar 24, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    This may be the longest article I’ve ever seen on this site;) but anyhow, in my own personal opinion, it brings up a question of all of the technology in the game now versus the past. Meaning before every player had a trackman next to them on the range, and a camera from three different angles showing every intricacy or flaw in a tour players swing, does this have an affect on the players mind? Always trying to remain consistent per the numbers popping up on the screen, or vice versa trying to change what’s showing on trackman has got to mess with your head as well. I can’t put blame on the instructors, I just think there is too much going on… and this brings back Sean O’hair and his logics of just having fun and playing “his” game, not what the shot analyzer or the teacher that is trying to mold hardened clay. I guess I would be contradicting myself by saying some limited observation couldn’t hurt, but feel everything else packaged together probably gets a bit overwhelming and I would personally lose my mind trying to match data and video.

    I probably am way off, and have no clue what I’m talking about….but my theory and thoughts on being taught, is I’d rather have someone spend 15 minutes with me, give their thoughts, rather than hours trying to mold me into something that in turn will probably hurt my game. And meaning hurt it by trying to meet to much mental criteria, and in turn me losing my natural swing thoughts.

  13. LI Golfer

    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Perhaps this article would have been better served if it wasnt written by a golf instructor, a “victim” of the “media war on Golf Instructors”…………..A little overwrought and whiny, no?

    On the other hand, Miller (who I can give the benefit of being a tour winner) and Chamblee (who I totally understand is a pot stirrer, because thats his job) need to put the focus of this discussion on the PLAYERS WHO HIRE THESE SPECIFIC INSTRUCTORS!!!!!! Tiger hired Foley and Haney b/c he wanted what they were selling. Same with all the other golfers. They are in control of the process and certainly can say “Enough” when it comes to Trackman Numbers. The players are pushing the agenda.

    Besides, if Tiger Woods continued to win on Tour, would we even be having this conversation???? Woods was unstoppable under Harmon and still winning under Haney. Isnt it his fault and not Sean Foley’s. Mahan is winning/contending. Rose won a Major. Foley works for them.

    Lets face, the media outlets covering Golf are trying to blame someone for losing their meal ticket and are trying to wring out what they can out of Tiger’s waning career, as is Tiger. Tiger is where he is b/c he tried to turn Golf into a sport, one of muscle and power. His physical issues are self inflicted, and not Foley’s fault

  14. Milton

    Mar 24, 2015 at 11:27 am

    Instructors that teach fundamentals are good, the average PGA pro will only help you. Michael Breed type is good…
    But guys that try to reinvent the wheel and make a name for themselves are bad.
    Sean Foley tries his absolute hardest to sound smart by overcomplicating things so the average person can’t understand. I can’t stand that man.

  15. Chris C

    Mar 24, 2015 at 9:25 am

    The perceived media war on instructors is essentially an exercise in preaching to the choir. Technological advances have given birth to an industry filled with instructors whose eyes never leave their computer screens. The best lessons I have ever received involved an instructor simply grabbing my club and dragging it into position. The worst lessons always involve a review of my swing on the bloody computer. I know I cross the line at the top; I know I come over the top with a swing that comes from right field and exists somewhere over the third base bullpen, but it all feels so good and so right. I do not need someone telling me that my swing needs improvement. I need an old school instructor who is willing to grab the club in the back swing and say “stop” , this is perfect, now start your damn down swing. I do not need nor do i wish to pay someone to film a succession of bad swings. I am the choir to whom the talking preach.

  16. Kevin Taglione

    Mar 24, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I hate it when the media bags on Tiger for changing instructors; did you have teachers in school and different coaches in sports. To the first different teachers in school, Tiger is and always has been a student of the game. He has always had the drive to learn alot about the game. So for him, I think just moving along in school and learning more about the game. To the second different coaches in sports. Tiger is athlete just like Lebron James or Richard Sherman. When Lebron moved to Miami didn’t it take sometime for him to become a champion; there is learning curve. I think the same can be applied for Tiger.

    My next point, I don’t think the current golf media has clue how modern teaching is done. Yes some guys have swing changes and completely rebuild their swings. Though I believe most of modern teaching is more coaching. I think players are now seeing teachers to tune there game; for the mental, physical, how they practice, and how they play.

    Finally the golf media is most hypocritical people in journalism. One moment they will bash Tiger for seeing Sean Foley and talking technical trackman numbers and then the next praise Paul Casey for putting up a multiple scores in the 90s on a Trackman Combine (the highest score ever is 93).

  17. christian

    Mar 24, 2015 at 3:17 am

    A NASCAR mechanic would fix the broken engine part and that’s it. Ten different NASCAR mechanics would NOT fix a broken part in ten different ways like ten 10 diffeent golf instructors probably would teach you 10 different swings. Terrible analogy. Since there is no such thing as a standard golf swing to teach all these different coaches put forward their own preferences and that of course opens them up to exactly this type of criticism.

  18. marcel

    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:31 am

    coaching is very important in golf and if not the most important; 2nd is conditioning and fitness… id quit golf if i was forced to listen to Chamblebee! i had great coaching in my lifetime and the only thing not being able to play good week-in week-out… its the strength and conditioning – strong lower back etc. to be a golfer you have to treat it as an athlete. Tiger is getting old and therefore his body does not recover.

  19. Midwestern Golfer

    Mar 24, 2015 at 12:13 am

    The Golf Channel is ruining the enjoyment of watching golf on TV. Brandel is a great example of someone who finds satisfaction in taking someone down. I’m tired of of it and I vote with the mute button when he appears.

  20. Ernie Happala

    Mar 23, 2015 at 11:03 pm

    Former PGA Professional and I can say without a doubt in my opinion, the two worst people I have ever heard talk about the golf swing are Johnny Miller and Brandel Chamblee. Great and good player, but horrible eyes that don’t translate the golf swing to the English language well. The best part of the Golf Channel they have gotten away from, when they use to have all the different instructors on Golf Lesson Live.

  21. farmer

    Mar 23, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    Instruction, as such, is not the problem with either Tiger or O’Hair.

  22. SBoss

    Mar 23, 2015 at 10:33 pm

    I’ve got no issue with instructors at the PGA Tour type level. These guys got there because they are the best of their field. It’s like any other profession. There are great one’s, average, and below average people working in the field.
    My issue is that this ask “your PGA professional” is nonsense. They aren’t all nearly equal and most amateur instruction isn’t very good. Golf is hard. But, every instructor does it completely different. In general, the golf industry STINKS. The manufacturers are corrupt, their are no industry standards on club length, shaft, lofts, etc. They crank out 46″ driver shafts knowing full well that the average amateur has no business hitting a club that long. The shaft stiffness issues are beyond brutal. One stiff is another’s company’s senior flex. When you look at the lack of process in the golf industry, its no wonder the sport is shrinking.

  23. Mike

    Mar 23, 2015 at 10:23 pm

    Sean Foley had Tiger hanging on his left side on the backswing. From that position you’d come down too steep so to avoid that Tiger would have to slide his hips to the left, we’ll outside of neutral joint alignment. That puts a lot of stress on his hip. But then the killer move was that Foley wanted Tiger’s spine rotated left way more than he ever has in his career. Plus Foley was big on using the ground for leverage. Haney tried to minimize how much down Tiger went on the downswing. Foley encouraged it. But in Tigers old swing he’d come into the ball with his shoulders more closed and release his hands and arms. But under Foley he was way more rotated to the left with a ton of hip slide to avoid being too steep and a lot of downward spine compression. If there is two things your back hates, it’s rotation and compression. Sean Foley is a claims to be a biomechanics expert, but he’s really not. He may have ended the career of the greatest player to ever live.

  24. sgniwder99

    Mar 23, 2015 at 7:21 pm

    “The media” = 2 guys

    • Mnmlist Golfr

      Mar 23, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      Exactly. It’s a real stretch to call former touring pros “media.” As analysts and commentators, it’s their job to have opinions. Actual members of the media, i.e. reporters such as Rosaforte, have no opinion on instructors.

  25. Dennis Clark

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:33 pm

    When you’re getting paid big bucks to talk into a microphone, ya gotta say something…Henry Longhurst is turning in his grave.

  26. cody

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    Wayne anyone who has watched your youtube channel knows that you dislike the announcers. So it is no surprise that you disagree with them. You should just come out and say it though. On another note, I Like your videos, they are great.

  27. TT X

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Well written.
    I do find it amazing that Hank Haney has the Blue Print that can change your game within minutes for a minimum fee. Crazy for him to spend all that time with a number of players Romano, Barkley, Phelps and a few others and not give them the info….
    I really do like and agree with your article Wayne.
    The irony on the Haney project not helping over a long period of time and the Haney Blue Print helping instantly is hilarious.

  28. cody

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:18 pm

    i think coaching is needed but not overhauling.

  29. RJ

    Mar 23, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Phenomenally written piece…. To those that blame too much technology on the non improvement of players at all levels. I hope your not reading this on a computer, cell phone or tablet.
    I am sick of the bashing of improvement attempts to climb higher in tour status, winning a club championship or just breaking 100. Talking head have to talk about something just like sitting in the “ole barber shop”. Without their input the would be jobless much to the chagrin of their wallets.
    As an instructor I have embraced technology but my students only get what I give them. My over thinkers/ engineers/ need to know all students get minimal information. If i dont bring it up…. I tell them not to think about! But if they come to me then they get instruction.

  30. juststeve

    Mar 23, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Wayne characterizes golf as a complex game, even unusually complex. I would way it is no more complex now than it was when Vardon and Jones and Hogan and Nicklaus learned to play it superbly. It has only been made to seem more complex by modern teachers. Much the shame.

    Steve

    • RJ

      Mar 23, 2015 at 6:09 pm

      But what about those that were shooting 90’s and higher in the Jones, Hogan, Sneed, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Stewart, Woods era. If you ask them if it was complex, what would their answer be? My guess would be yes!

      • juststeve

        Mar 24, 2015 at 11:06 am

        People who shoot in the 90’s or higher are bound to think golf is complex, just like you though arithmetic was complex before you learned to do it. What the 90 shooter needs to learn is how to apply the club head squarely to the ball more often, not D-Plane.

        Steve

    • Chuck

      Mar 24, 2015 at 12:09 am

      juststeve; You said it!

      I don’t think that Brandel Chamblee, Johnny Miller or any of the other critical observers of tour golf are criticizing golf instruction, per se. They are criticizing something that is rather new in golf — the omnipresent all-purpose swing guru. And you’re darned right that Nicklaus, Hogan, Trevino, Watson, Palmer, Casper, Player and Ballesteros never seemed to need a full-time swing guru.

      Jack Nicklaus got together with Jack Grout a couple times a year. Tom Watson worked with Byron Nelson very closely as a young player and then moved on.

      But this modern invention of a practically full-time Swing Coach (capital “S”, capital “C”) is weird, it has become so pervasive. Players are now seen as being somehow lazy or inattentive if they don’t have an entire staff of trainers, coaches and psychoanalysts putting them through their paces. Golf swing coaches are becoming like baseball managers, moving from team to team. Every team has to have one, and the championship winners are in demand.

  31. John

    Mar 23, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Once a guy can play, it really comes down to who has the better short game from 100 yds in. The question is how much instruction is too much for that guy to just play. Butch Harmon said there are roofers and house builders. Butch said he is a roofer who makes very slight changes (repairs the roof) while the builders tear down the whole house – that is where the probelm lies. I think there has to be a balance between the technical and just playing the shots. The computerization of the game both in lessons and equipment is interesting but maybe gone too far. I liked it better when my driver was simply 10.5, stiff, 44.5 inches – now I am bombarded with flex point, torque, ball speed, swing speed and adjustable wights and lie angle – too much to think about and I don’t hit it any better with an adjustable driver.

  32. Lazy

    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    I think most of the golf talking heads are just lazy or too unintelligent to make the effort to learn new things. They are comfortable just repeating the same old stuff, even things that have been proven to be incorrect. Really, it’s their job to explore and learn all that is available in golf, and to golf, and relay that to the viewing public. The fact that they don’t just shows they are lazy and comfortable with the status quo. Lets petition for some new personalities that aren’t afraid to learn new things and disseminate that information.

  33. Mlecuni

    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    There is a big difference between how the subject of golf is treated on tv around the globe. In my country it’s more about golf itself and the history of golf rather than every aspects of the modern off the course life blabla thing that some commentators like to talk about. It’s quite frustating to see two swings ( without routine !) then have 10 minutes of nosense talking and then a commercial break.

    I would love, and i’m sure it will be available one day have the possibility to cut the tv comments and listen to the on course dialogues between players and caddies…. For 5 hours ! And to follow any team i want !

  34. Mike

    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    In every other sport players have a coach, not a mechanics guru. Coaches know how to get your best out of you. They don’t try to completely change you mechanics. A friend of mine was talking to a Hall of Fame pitcher about Tiger Woods and his swing changes and asked him if he’d ever tried to change his delivery. What do you think his answer was? He thought that was crazy. When Butch Harmon is with a player, I guarantee you it’s 95% coaching. That’s why Tiger left him. Tiger wanted more swing mechanics than Butch was willing to give him. Sean Foley absolutely ruined Tigers back and his game. No doubt about it.

    • Carlos Danger

      Mar 23, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Did your “friend” who talked to a HOF pitcher (always a great way to start a sentence) ask that said pitcher if he plays golf and if so if he has an instructor work on his mechanics?

      Im assuming you spoke to Tiger and he gave you that 95% statistic and also confirmed that was his leaving for leaving Butch? I assume this because you “guaranteed” us.

      I will also assume you are an Orthopedic Dr. and you ran extensive tests on Tigers back since you know that Foley “absolutely” ruined Tigers back?

    • Reality

      Mar 23, 2015 at 5:05 pm

      Explain how Tiger could have so many injuries with his legs and yet you say it was Foley who ruined his back.

      Those leg injuries absolutely contributed to his back problems. In fact, his back probably started at Day 1, when he first realized he had a deficiency in his kinetic chain, and his body had to adjust.

      As someone who has been through leg and now the corresponding back pain because of the lack of strength and mobility those leg injuries cause, I have a pretty good understanding that you’re completely off base.

      But I guess when it comes to Tiger…reality really doesn’t need apply. Just as bad as the talking heads on TV.

  35. David

    Mar 23, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    The #2 player in the world doesn’t receive instruction and never has (though he is obviously a rare case). I 100% agree with the idea that today’s instruction is sacrificing “feel” and natural swing tendencies for statists and technology driven instruction. I don’t blame Foley for Tiger’s downfall, I blame Tiger for buying into “over-thinking” his swing and not just getting out and putting in the practice time to get HIS game back. Golf instructors are valuable tools, it’s incumbent upon the golfer to pick the right instructor to help them achieve their goals.

    • Carlos Danger

      Mar 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm

      It goes both ways. I use Baseball and Hockey as an example because those are the two sports I know.

      Ovechkin and Kershaw probably receive very little “mechanics” instruction because they are freaks of nature. Kershaw can make a baseball move like a whiffle ball without even thinking about it. Ovechkin can ice skate at full speed backers and then lean forward and hit a moving puck 95 mph into a 2 sq. inch target. Bubba can hit a 330 yd drive that draw 75 yards over tress and lands with back spin.
      These are things that an instructor CANNOT teach you. They are just freakish natural coordination abilities that very few human beings possess.

      Then there are the MLB pitchers that have never been able to throw the ball over 90mph, the hockey players that are slow and/or can not shoot hard, and golfers who can barely hit their driver 290 yds. These guys rely on mechanics and instruction. If they relied on “feel” they would never make it (whatever IT is).

      So to compare Bubba (I know thats not what your doing) to some of these guys who have instructors and are not performing and say its because of the instructor I think is not a fair assessment. However…have any of you watched Bubba on the course and not thought to yourself that guy could sure use a coach?

      • patricknorm

        Mar 23, 2015 at 6:46 pm

        I won’t question your baseball knowledge but I will challenge your poor understanding of hockey. My son played against Ovechkin from about 16 until about 25 years of age. Alex grew up with Dynamo Moscow which is a very intensive hockey and soccer program in Russia. I can assure you that all Russians received extensive technical training for hockey. I’ve met Alex a few times and he is a very strong man who practices his shot all the time. He is not the greatest skater but his style is very effective. Its wrong to suggest that elite athletes don’t receive technical training.

        • Carlos Danger

          Mar 25, 2015 at 1:39 pm

          Actually played college hockey…but I attempted to dumb it down because few people care or know much about hockey. And thank you for letting me know what country Alex grew up in, how strong he is, and that you met him one time. That cleared everything up for me.

          Ofcourse there is tons of instruction and mechanics taught to hockey players. Bigger point was that some players have freakish abilities and instincts that simply cant be taught. Lidstrom and Gretzky got plenty of instruction throughout their careers but no coach/instructor taught them to see the ice the way they did…that was just a natural ability they had which is what made the better than everyone else. You go on to say Ovechkin practices his shot all the time…duh. All athletes “practice.” The question here is about the level of instruction on the mechanics within the practice. My point was that a guy like Bubba and/or Ovechkin have natural abilities and are able to do things in their sport without having to be instructed to do so…while some other players/golfers do rely on that technical instruction.

    • Truth

      Mar 24, 2015 at 4:57 am

      apparently you havent heard many bubba at georgia stories…lets just say he had a little patrick reed in him then, eg. hes the best and no one could tell him what to do, from what i understand he was a bit of a handful

      • Captain Oblivious

        Mar 24, 2015 at 8:35 am

        Apparently, he didn’t need to be told what to do. I would bet that Bubba feels that he made the right choice by not listening to anyone else, especially when he looks in his closet at those two green jackets.

  36. TR1PTIK

    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:52 pm

    I’d agree with the others who have mentioned the over-use of technology in golf instruction. However, it doesn’t seem like the guys on TV are making that distinction.
    There is a lot to be gained from golf instruction at any level and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve played or what your handicap is. ALMOST everyone can benefit from golf instruction with a certified pro – the rare cases being guys like Bubba Watson. Truthfully though, the right instruction could probably help Bubba with certain aspects of his game, but we’re just going to assume that his swing is far too unique for any instructor to be able to assist him. If nothing else, instructors are great source of information when trying to develop a better understanding of ball flight laws, swing mechanics, and so forth. I’ve had many discussions with my instructor that never involved a ball or club, but were just as useful if not more so.

  37. it's all about the ad dollars

    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    The golf media knows who feeds them and they cherry pick examples in the professional ranks to push their agenda (like stated above). Taken further; If you are taught to hit the ball better then you realize there is no need for new equipment unless it’s worn out or broken. My point for those who don’t get it and need it simplified; golf media doesn’t exist without advertising dollars. A large portion of that comes from equipment manufacturers. The more they can convince you that your problems are equipment based and not the way you move your body the better chance they have of making more sales. Golf media has a HUGE incentive for people to NOT improve because then they would loose advertising dollars.

  38. GGPRO

    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    The media in not harping on all instructors, just those that have re-invented the wheel via an over emphasis on technology. People make fun of Butch Harmon, he is a “dinosaur” and outdated because he uses his eyes and experience, not a Track Man to teach his players. His players produce under the most pressure packed circumstances because his information is sound, not some new flavor of the month. Butch uses video and Track Man at his facilities, but doesn’t rely on them to make an accurate diagnosis.
    I would hardly cl;assify Johnny Miller and Lanny Wadkins as players that have lost their status, they are Hall of Famer’s and even a player like Brandel had a good career playing. In addition, they have first hand knowledge of the pressures of tour golf and are highly qualified to make such judgments.

  39. Robert

    Mar 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    There is a huge difference between complaining about every coach and complaining about the coaches who use too much technology. I agree with the latter part. It seems like the last few years the technology has gotten amazing with golf and has taught us a lot of things about the why’s certain things happen with the golf club and, in turn, the golf ball.

    The problem is that a lot of coaches seem to be coming up with theories of how the golf swing should be in order to make all of the math numbers perfect when looking at the new technology. This is a problem. It’s a problem because the human body isn’t perfect and in order to get some of these perfect math swings, players are having to do things that they normally do not do or can’t do and it can cause a whole lot of problems.

    I think this is where a lot of the commentators are coming from. I totally understand that. There has to be a combination of the two. You can’t just try and build the perfect tech swing because humans are imperfect in their swings.

    • Rob

      Mar 29, 2015 at 12:40 am

      I agree, the technology creates a micro focus on how, not the result! It is the ultimate extension of don’t just show the answer, you must show how your work. Great for a math class, meaningless in sports. It allows doubt into a golfers mind, and that reduces the chance of success to luck.

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Opinion & Analysis

Fix your golfing back pain, Step 2: Early stage rehab

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This article is co-written with Marnus Marais. Since 2011, Marnus has worked with some of the world’s best players on both the PGA Tour and European Tour, helping them to maintain optimal health and peak physical performance. His current stable of players includes Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay, and Louis Oosthuizen, amongst others. 

You can find more information on Marnus and his work at marnusmarais.com

This article is No. 2 in a 4 part series.

Step 1 – The Importance of Assessment

Step 2 – Early Stage Rehab

Step 3 – Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns

Step 4 – Building global strength for prevention of future injury

Introduction

Now that we have identified the source of the back issue through assessment, it’s time to start working on the underlying causes, in order to reduce pain and decrease the likelihood of re-injury further down the track. 

In our experience, mechanical back pain in golfers caused by physical issues is most often caused by one or more of the the following 4 issues, with many amateur players displaying the entire collection!

– Lack of Mobility at the Hips and Mid / Upper Back

– Poor Posture

– Misalignment and Muscle Imbalances

– Weak Core Muscles

Because pain is likely still a factor at this stage, we need to proceed with caution and focus on rehab work that is low intensity and has a low risk of causing a pain flare up.

With that in mind, in ‘Step 2: Early Stage Rehab’ we are going to address Mobility, Posture and Misalignment / Muscle Imbalances. These 3 areas can be improved upon, and should have a positive impact on pain reduction, even if back discomfort is still restricting larger, more global movements.

Step 2.1 – Improving Mobility in Hips and Mid / Upper back

Certain areas in the body need to be more stable, and others need to be more mobile. The lumbar spine (lower back) falls into the stable category, partly due to its limited capacity for rotation and lateral flexion (side bending). We know the unnatural golf swing movement imparts both rotational and side bending forces on the spine, so it’s an area we need to keep stable and protected.

In order to avoid excessive low back rotation forces in life and especially in the golf swing, it’s very important that we try to maximize the range of movement in other areas, most notably the joints above and below the low back, where the majority of rotation in the golf swing should take place:

Hips

We need sufficient range of movement to turn into, and out of, both hips. For example, if we can’t turn and load into our lead hip due to a lack of internal rotation mobility, we tend to compensate with excessive rotation and side-bending in the lower back.

Suggested Exercise Circuit – Hip Mobility

1) Self Massage Glutes – 45 secs each side

2) Cross Leg Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

3) Prone Glute Stretch – 30 secs each side

4) 90 90 Hip Mobility – 5 reps each side

Thoracic Spine (mid to upper back)

Having sufficient rotation in our thoracic spine to both left and the right is extremely important. The thoracic spine has significantly greater rotational capabilities compared to the lumbar spine (low back). If we maximise our mobility here, we can help protect the lower back, along with the cervical spine (neck).

Suggested Exercises – Thoracic Mobility

1) Self Massage Mid / Upper back – 60 seconds

2) Upper Back Extension – 30 seconds

3) All Fours Rotation – 5 reps each side

Step 2.2 – Improving Posture

Posture can be described as the proper alignment of the spine, with the aim of establishing three natural curves (low back, mid/upper back and neck).

The 3 major spinal curves: 1 – Cervical, 2 – Thoracic, 3 – Lumbar

Modern lifestyles and the associated muscle imbalances have pushed and pulled our spines away from those three natural curves, and this has had a damaging effect on our spinal health. Our backs are designed to function optimally from the neutral illustrated above, and the further we get away from it, the more stress we put on our protective spinal structures.

Aside from promotion of pain, poor posture also does terrible things for our golf swings; reducing range of motion in key areas (hips, mid back and shoulders) and creating inefficiencies in our swing action, to give us a double whammy of back pain causes.

The muscles responsible for holding your posture are located deep in the body and close to the spine. Strengthening them can be tricky, as we don’t really have a lot of conscious control over their activation. Hence posture being such a difficult thing to remember! The combination of the 4 exercises featured below help provide the stimulus to those deep muscles that, if trained often enough, will automatically hold your posture in a good position.

Suggested Exercises – Strengthening posture muscles

1) Wall Posture Check – 30 secs

2) Posture Cue – 60 secs

3) Posture Cue Knee Lifts – 10 reps each side

4) Arm Press – 15 reps

Step 2.3 – Fixing Alignment Issues and Muscle Imbalances

Imagine a car with wheel alignment issues; front wheels facing to the right, back wheels facing to the left. Not only will the tires wear out unevenly and quickly, but other areas of the car will experience more torque, load or strain and would have to work harder. The same thing happens to the lower back when we have body alignment issues above and / or below.

For example, if we have short / tight / overactive hip flexors (muscles at the front of the hips that bend our knees to our chest) on one side of the body; very common amongst golfers with low back pain, then this would rotate the pelvis forward on one side, which can create a knock-on effect of imbalance throughout the body.

If the pelvis rotates in one direction, the shoulders naturally have to rotate in the opposite direction in order to maintain balance. Our low back is subsequently caught in the middle, and placed under more load, stress and strain. This imbalance can cause the low back to bend and rotate further, and more unevenly, especially in the already complex rotation and side bending context of the golf swing!

Below is a pelvic alignment technique that can help those with the afore mentioned imbalance.

In the next article; Step 3: Essential Strength and Golf Movement Patterns, we will show you the progression of exercises and key technique principles to build up the strength and movement patterns to return to regular exercise and golf.

If you would like to see how Marnus can help with your golfing back pain, then check out the resources below:

Marnus Marais – marnusmarais.com

If you would like to access training programs designed for elite and recreational players, then check out the following resources and services from Nick at Golf Fit Pro:

Articles
Golf Fit Pro App (iOS)
Online Training
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Opinion & Analysis

A golfing memoir in monthly tokens: March (belatedly)

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Editor’s note: All latency on the publishing here is the fault of the Editor-in-Chief.

As some might say, if you don’t take the plunge, you can’t taste the brine. Others might not say such a thing. I’m taking the plunge, because I want to taste the brine.

Here you’ll find the third installment of “A Golfing Memoir” as we trace a year in the life of Flip Hedgebow, itinerant teacher of golf. For January, click here. For February, click here.

Absolutely. Meet me up north (and, to himself, what have I got to lose?)

No sense in putting the cart before the horse, as the old pro used to say, as cirE “Flip” Hedgebow used to ignore. As March came to a close, as cirE locked the pro shop for the last time until November, he took a leap of faith. How big of a leap? Let’s get through March, and find out.

Speaking of carts and horses, March for Flip always came in like a lamb, and went out like a lion. That ran contrary to the folklore but, all things considered, there was always a 50% chance of things running contrary.

No, the best reason for topsy and turvy in March, for Flip, was explained by his birthday. Being born in the middle of the month might suggest balance to some; for him, it was a constant reminder of the chaos that led up to his earthly arrival, tempered only by the madness that ensued. If that’s balance, you can have it.

In Flip’s world, March was about the arrival of the most seasoned of snowbirds, the ones with more than five years of retirement under their growing-shrinking belts. Some were expanding, as they had given up on fitness; the rest were shrinking, as the truest effects of age caught them up. In each case, this pod arrived with military precision, knowing where and when nearly every penny would be spent. No frivolity remained in their schedules, no ambiguity survived from younger, budgeting days. No longer minnows, they recognized that uncertainty stalked them, and that all of their remaining wits needed to center on a small and precise target. The smaller, the more precise, the better…for the women.

Like all men, the old guys appreciated the consistency and precision their wives brought to their worlds.

Like all men, the old guys detested the ever-encroaching, loss of control over their own destinies.

They would enter the pro shop, grab the latest hat like a modern-day Judge Smails, and set it at a rakish angle, atop their sleek domes. Flip learned quite early on that the only way to ensure the sale was cash. When the wives invariably came to complain and demand a refund, Flip could “only” offer a pro shop credit, guaranteeing that something would be purchased. If they bought it on account or on a card, the sale was irretrievably lost.

Flip expected these purchases from his March gam: the cheapest golf balls, when their supply of northern culls ran out; the attire from last fall, or even the previous summer, ready to be shipped back to the manufacturer when March 20th arrived; and some odd or end that the pro had overlooked, lost to some sort of missionary of time. The only thing stronger than the will of the spouse, was the desire of the old guy to make some sort of purchase, to re-establish some semblance of power and control, for at least a moment.

How did you get your name, and why is the last letter, and not the first, capitalized?

(silence. he rarely heard the first question, as everyone knew him as “Flip;” he never heard the second one, as no one paid attention anymore.)

Two stories are a lot to tell. Let’s save both answers, even if it’s just a little while.

(silence. she wasn’t satisfied)

If the red hair caused his eyes to move from the mundane nature of packing and sealing boxes, everything else physical compelled him to put down the tape gun, sense that his throat was dry, know that he would not clear it without a squeak, turn away for a bottle of water, take a swig for lubrication, and, finally, turn back with his finest Axel Foley smile, and greet her with: How long have you been retired?

It was an incalculable risk. There was a 90% chance that she would react with an I’m not that old sort of affront, turn on her heels, and march out the door. There was a 5% chance that she would get the joke, and would stick around for another exchange, before smiling awkwardly and departing. There remained a 5% chance of something else. On this 21st day of March, that final 5% wafted in.

Wafted in, in the guise of a lesson he thought that he had planned. Planned for one of the wives, a late-sixties model whose swing was frozen in time: the unlikely combination of a forward lurch of the torso, a reverse pivot of the feet, and right in the middle, an impossible heave of the hips in one of four unpredictable directions. If anyone were to discover a fifth cardinal point, it would be Agnes Porter. Until this moment, Flip Hedgebow gave thanks that the world was blessed with just one of her; more than one might have tilted the globe off its axis. Now, he offered up a different type of gratitude, thanks to the visage of her granddaughter, who bore no resemblance to the matriarch, beyond the title of Agnes Porter.

They write that a story may be deemed worthy for its inerrant language, or for its compelling events. The story of Agnes Porter the way-younger and Flip Hedgebow benefitted from both, along with an overdose of peripeteia.

 

Artwork by JaeB

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Club Junkie

Club Junkie: Srixon ZX and TaylorMade SIM2 Max fairways and My top 3 drivers!

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Masters hangover week is here! I have had the new Srixon ZX fairway out on the course and it is underrated as you would imagine. Reshafted the SIM2 Max 3w and it has been super consistent and comfortable. Talking about the top 3 drivers I have been hitting this year.

 

 

 

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