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Don’t be “that guy” when you’re taking lessons

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Are you “that guy” in the golf instruction world? You know, the golfer who takes lessons from many instructors but doesn’t get any better? I’ve given lessons to a lot of those guys, and I wish I could help them… but I cannot. Yes, I said it; I cannot fix everyone.

Some golfers simply refuse to allow themselves to improve. As an instructor, all I can do is disseminate the proper information and help golfers fully understand what they need to do in order to improve. If they decide not to use the information I provide, however, then my hands are tied. As Homer Kelley says in The Golfing Machine:

 “The instructor can only inform and explain. the student must absorb and apply.”

It cannot be said any better. I give you information; you receive my information. I help you understand how to feel your new change and give you checkpoints to audit to see if you are doing it right. From there, it is up to you to apply what I have given you so you can improve. Sadly, this is where the disconnect between teacher and student often occurs. You can have the best information in the world, but if you don’t apply it correctly you will never improve. You may actually even get worse.

Now back to that guy. Give the amount of teachers he’s seen, it’s likely that he’s heard the same thing from a few of them. Maybe the fix was communicated in different ways, but it’s almost a certainty that the correct path to improvement was established. The problem? The student hasn’t applied the information he was given correctly, or at all. For example, imagine you’re a player who comes over the top. I tell you the reason this is happening is because you’re aiming too far right of the target. So during the lesson I build a practice station and together we find an alignment that works for your swing direction.

Sure enough, your path shifts back to the right as we’d like, and you’re hitting the ball at your target consistently. From there, I tell you to put clubs on the ground when you practice so you can audit your alignment, just as we did in the lesson. So off you go, back to work, and you come back later in the week and hit a few balls on the range. I glance over, and what do I see? You’re pounding balls without clubs on the ground and aiming way right. The entire process has to start over… again.

My questions for GolfWRXers is this: Why are golfers so quick to apply fixes in their OWN way. I agree wholeheartedly that golfers should learn through self discovery and experimentation, but at the beginning of the instruction process. The first time back to practice after our lesson, golfers are NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME! They must start slowly and gain a feeling of how to apply the fix before they take crutches like alignment sticks away. This is why slow-motion swings, training aids, drills and practice stations work so well during lessons. You are applying the correct information and developing the proper feels.

Remember, if you do not apply things slowly and in the correct manner, you’ll never improve. Believe me, I’ve been there and done that. Being stubborn is no way to take a lesson and improve your game. If you’re not improving, yet taking lessons from many different instructors, it may not be poor information, but rather poor application. Take your time and go slowly to improve, because no one wants to be that guy.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: [email protected]

62 Comments

62 Comments

  1. Dave

    Sep 16, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    I’ve taken lessons from several golf instructors. They all provided different advice, some provided pure gimmicks for instant results so I would sign up for more lessons, some provided symptom management to make my flawed swing work a little better, some provided the one thing that worked for them when they played golf, and some provided what I thought was good advice. All of them used the self-discovery method: Stand at the back of the range, observe my swing and dispense advice, provide a drill or two, and send me on my way to figure it out on my own at the range or on the golf course. This never worked for me and in some cases my game went horribly backwards. The truth is not all students learn through self-discovery, and the writer of this article doesn’t want to admit that. I’ve talked to a lot of golfers on the range and the golf course who are taking lessons, and I’ve never met one who boasted about materially better golf via golf lessons, not one. And, when I read yelp reviews of golf instructors it’s common to read “The instructor made the process fun”, not my game got better through better swing mechanics. If there was a golf instructor in your local market getting results through self-discovery, trust me, you would hear about it from every golfer in town because that would be the only instructor getting results. After talking to amateurs failing in golf instruction and correlating it to how I was taught other sports, I realized why self-discovery wasn’t working for me. When I took snow ski lessons, I had horrible form. 3 lessons later I was riding the expert terrain on the toughest mountains in America with expert form. My ski instructor taught and trained me how to move properly over and over, he didn’t leave it up to me to figure out on my own and possibly groove bad form. He built a foundation I could take with me and build upon in the future. The truth is self-discovery doesn’t work as a teaching method for everyone, but it’s the only option you’ll get in golf instruction. Any instructor blaming the student or stating the game is hard is in denial that not all students learn that way. If I can’t figure it out on my own because that’s not how I learn, then I’m likely to establish highly flawed form on my own through self-discovery. This is the danger of self-discovery.

  2. Peter

    May 9, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Tom you certainly have stirred up a Hornet’s nest and I realise you are trying to be helpful and instructive. In your own words you admit to having been there yourself! You will appreciate that there is more than one way to hit a golf ball and that there are endless instruction manuals and teaching gurus purporting to have ‘the secret’. Even Golfing superstars switch with increasing regularity from one teacher to the next hoping to find that extra something so you, as professionals, are not exempt from your criticism. Indeed one pro teacher frankly admitted that half of what he taught he didn’t truly believe and only now after 40 years as a teaching professional had he found the ‘secret’. So Golf is complex and is not an automatic behavioural response. As an example, you and everyone else may take walking for granted but I bet you couldn’t teach someone to walk who had never done so in a series of 30-60 minute lessons spaced a week apart!

  3. Mat

    May 3, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    You’ve hit on Adult Learning, not golf. This really is the biggest difference between kids and adults… adults have a frame of reference and apply it. Kids have no prior reference set, so they accept what they are taught more wholesale. Adults have to prove that their own frame of reference is somehow incorrect, and that fractures a large mental structure.

    Despite the overwhelming piles of evidence, people still believe in ancient religions and don’t believe climate change. Golf isn’t going to be much different, but you do have an advantage in that the player can’t deny the evidence (the ball).

  4. Matt

    Apr 24, 2016 at 7:39 pm

    As golfers we try to apply slight modifications to get better. Many of the PGA professionals I have encountered want to make wholesale changes to the game. If those don’t feel good or lead to good results the chances of a golfer sticking with them is slim to none. Plus there is a huge difference in taking someone who shoots a 100 and work them to an 88. It is a bit more difficult to whittle that 82 to a 75.

  5. Steven

    Apr 23, 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Hey Tom,

    I think you have some good observations and definitely something many golfers (including myself) need to think about. Most of our goals are the same (better golf) but something is impeding the process. I think there are a few factors that come into play though.

    First, most people want instant gratification. The idea that it would take tons of time to make the change is lost on most people. When short term gains aren’t seen, then they go back to what feels comfortable. I am bad about this and right now can’t commit to a swing philosophy/teaching because after a bad round I think something else must be better. The cognitive dissonance is hard to handle.

    Second, the example of not using the alignment rods might be a little extreme. Many people may not be making the right motions or going slow because they actually think they are doing it correct (ie – they think the club is on plane or the release is proper). Without recording or live person feedback, students may have the false impression they are doing a move correctly.

    I am not a golf instructor, but my profession requires teaching particular skills to adult learners. While I hate to admit it, sometimes my method of communication and teaching doesn’t reach the student. Research shows that everyone has different predominant learning styles. Some students may not learn as well by showing them the feel (kinesthetic learning). They may like more talking (auditory) or reading (read/write). Most instructors teach the way they learn best, so it is possible the incongruent styles leads to miscommunication.

    Just my thoughts.

    Steven

    • timbleking

      Apr 26, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Agree with the last paragraph 100%. We all are unique as individuals and we don’t react the same in front of images. One tricky, but necessary, skill a golf instructor must have is the ability to tell the same thing with different images, finding for each individual the right one at the right moment.

      And I am pretty sure that then you will see students coming back working on the range…properly.

  6. KK

    Apr 23, 2016 at 9:28 am

    I agree the title infers a negative connotation to something that a good teacher should address. It should not fall on the student for not knowing how to learn and change. The student came to you because he/she cannot do so.

  7. Robert Morgenthal

    Apr 23, 2016 at 8:56 am

    The teacher has to teach in the method that the student learns, and the teacher should NOT EXPECT the student to learn the way the teacher teaches. Figuring out HOW THE STUDENT LEARNS is the responsibility of the teacher!

    Basic Teaching – 101

    Most Great or really good players never really had to learn how to play golf or how to properly swing a club, they had an innate ability to do it. That’s why almost all former Great Players in any sport are mediocre teachers, coaches or managers. I can provide you with as many examples as you would like, and I am prepared to let you research the statements that I made, and provide evidence, not just your thoughts or feelings that I’m wrong. Do you except the challenge?

  8. Tom D.

    Apr 22, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    After 5 years of lessons, I decided to stop. Not because I wasn’t getting good instruction – I was. It was because I felt like I was getting more information than I could put into practice. My instructor was very patient, but he could not make the lesson sink in to my non-absorbent brain. I felt frustrated that I could never quite “get” what he was teaching me. Seemed like we were constantly revisiting the same lessons. In fact, we were, because I couldn’t assimilate without many repetitions. So it’s been over a year since I stopped and I’m finally starting to feel like I’m actually improving, that I’m starting to “get” what my instructor had been trying to teach me. And it happened because I decided I needed more practice than instruction. More correctly, I need a little instruction, then a lot of practice, then a little more instruction then a lot of practice. In between, I may need some reinforcement of what I’m currently working on, but not NEW instruction. For me, it is as much about learning how to “learn to do something physical”.

  9. Fat Hacker

    Apr 22, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    “Amount” of teachers? Is this measured in pounds or kilograms? 🙂

    • Al Czervik

      Apr 22, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      I would go with imperial here in the states and metric across the pond.

  10. Johny Thunder

    Apr 21, 2016 at 11:33 pm

    No one can understand the relationship between teacher and student unless they have spent a good amount of time being both. And I use the word “relationship” most deliberately; there certainly are poor teachers and poor students. We have all likely met both many times. Like any relationship, every student is not suited to every teacher and vice-versa. (We know this from the PGA Tour, don’t we?). And like any relationship, it is a two-way street; a teacher must endeavor to engage and communicate with the student in a way that works for him or her. The student must put in the attention and effort to learn and put into practice what is being taught. Sometimes – as with any relationship – this two-way communication just doesn’t work between any two given personalities. Luckily, the world of golf instruction makes the answer simple; there is always another teacher to try! I personally did not find a teaching pro with whom I “clicked” until the third I tried. Perhaps that was quick, but he works with me in a way that works for me. That doesn’t necessarily make the first two “bad”, nor does it make me “that guy”.

  11. mootrail

    Apr 21, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Laughable, since your chosen profession is to help players not deride them. Maybe just a bit disgruntled for not being able to make the tour? I haven’t taken a lot of lessons, but I have had a few instructors. To call some of them useless would be more then kind. Some of what they were trying to teach me is now accepted as completely wrong. The best one completely ignored what I ask for and just stuck to the basics. Grip, alignment, setup, etc. Perhaps you should listen to yourself and not be “one of those” pompous, my way or the highway instructors. Unfortunately, you sound exactly like “that guy”.

    • Mark Moser

      Apr 22, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      You sound like one of those “know it all hacks” that blame the instructor for all YOUR issues and it’s about teaching.
      Your disgruntled about the tour comment is way way out of bounds and you should think before you speak as you sound like a petty shallow person.

      • AllBOdoesisgolf

        Apr 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

        *you’re

        • DW

          Apr 23, 2016 at 1:34 am

          Your was correct. He was referring to the poster’s comment.

          • Ryan

            Apr 23, 2016 at 6:18 am

            Your is used twice, dummy. He’s referring to the second time, in which it was used incorrectly. Thanks for your help.

  12. Gubment Cheeze

    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    I admit it. I am not willing to listen to anyone about my swing. I know what I want to do with the club. I understand my swing and what the ball does. I’d rather shot 75 with my fundamentals than 85 with someone else’s

    • Big Slice

      Apr 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm

      If you are happy with your swing as is and happy with shooting a 75, then you wouldn’t be taking lessons. That was a dumb comment

  13. Steve Wozeniak

    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    If you can’t explain it simply…..you don’t know it well enough…..
    Albert Einstein

    Quiet a few Homer Kelley’s out there!!!! Exactly why the average golfer still shoots over 100.

    http://www.stevewozeniak.com

    • Johny Thunder

      Apr 21, 2016 at 11:23 pm

      The average golfer shoots over 100 for exactly the same reason the average person who owns a piano isn’t playing concert halls; doing it well is extremely difficult, and while natural ability is helpful, pianists who play concert halls practice 4-8 hours a day, every day, to develop and maintain their abilities and craft. Tour pros train, practice and receive coaching almost every day. Top amateurs and single-digit handicappers generally put in a lot more time and energy than “average”; time, energy and money that isn’t easy to find. The *average* golfer doesn’t play and/or practice more than once a week. They have full-time jobs, families and other responsibilities.

      Any instructor who approaches the game without considering this first is unlikely to help anyone.

      • Large chris

        Apr 25, 2016 at 8:50 am

        Nope…. If you want it badly enough, you will find a way, eg putting a net up in your home and swinging for twenty minutes a day.

  14. Pool Party

    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:44 pm

    If an instructor can’t offer swing feels, thoughts, keys, etc. for a student to apply the information properly, both are wasting their time

  15. Martin

    Apr 21, 2016 at 6:14 pm

    Well put Jorge. But I should add that there also is a mental side to this problem. I used to be this person too. I took instructions from 5 pros in two years. And they didn’t help me. They only made it worse. Because the problem was that I was seeking perfection. And I think the teachers should have noticed and told me to relax and help me find my own swing. But I stopped going to pros, and decided I had to find out for myself. And I did. And that was a really interesting process.

    • Jorge

      Apr 21, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      Hey Martin, thanks and I agree with you that a big part of it is the mental and the issues of perfectionism. I too struggled with that for most of my golfing life. Good on you for figuring it out yourself. Great way to save money lol. Best of luck!

  16. DB

    Apr 21, 2016 at 5:00 pm

    As a coach, we have to find a way to communicate effectively with the student. Its really that simple. Some student’s grasp the information straight away, some don’t, those that don’t aren’t “bad” or “that guy” students, they just need the message to be relayed in a way they can work with and implement. Simple methods are key, establishing if the student wants to have “the big overhaul” helps, more often than not, a simple cure is needed and if explained correctly and the time is taken by the coach to explain it well, the student will always improve.

  17. SV

    Apr 21, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    As a mid single digit handicapper, when I do take a lesson, I make it a point to get the essence of the lesson before I leave. In other words, I take notes and go over the essential point(s) with the instructor so I have them for reference.
    An instructor can only impart his knowledge. It is up to the student to retain it and apply it. If you truly want to improve you will.

  18. Tom

    Apr 21, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    I can only speak to what I do when I practice after a lesson. I suffer from not having the instructors eyes on me and can often think/feel I’m doing things correctly and I may not be. Plus there is also the issue of wanting to get onto the course. (being over eager to play.) When that hits some of the aids may get put away to see how I am doing without them and really it’s far too early to do anything but drill.
    I did get a Flightscope Xi Tour this year just to help me at home and the range and it acts as a semi set of eyes. Still with my alignment problems (hips/shoulders open but feet may be ok, ball too far forward) it takes some study to see that they may be the culprit.
    Now add in how much of the lesson was not recorded in some manner and sent to the student. It’s easy to forget things and I do wish I got more video from my instructor.

  19. Stickburn

    Apr 21, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    In reference to alignment sticks. How come the better the golfer the more likely they are to use alignment sticks during practice? In my little world that revolves around me, the higher the handicap the more likely they will not use alignment aids.

  20. digitalbroccoli

    Apr 21, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    “I don’t know why these 6th graders can’t learn math…I mean, I give them the information, it’s their job to take it in!”

    Some students click with some teachers, and some don’t. I’ve taken a lesson from a teacher that had very little interest in making sure I understood the lesson, but instead wanted to make sure to list off everything on his notepad before our time was up. I was so busy attempting to hear everything, and try to remember it that I didn’t really have time to focus on the parts that might have really helped. I never went back. Took lessons from a different pro, different style, and we clicked, and it was a ton of help.

    tl;dr sometimes its students being “that guy”, other times, it’s the teacher. And reading this one, I’m guessing that’s the case.

  21. Philip

    Apr 21, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    Tom, simple question. Isn’t it possible that your assessment of what the problem is was not correct? Which is why it didn’t work. That you were addressing one of the symptoms related to the root cause – not the true issue. Maybe the OTT issue wasn’t a result of the alignment, but the alignment was a result of the OTT which was being caused by something else. Or both the alignment issue and over-the-top issue were both jointly being caused by something else. Fact is, our bodies know how to do what we need to swing a golf club, problem is usually we override something during our routine that creates a restriction in our body movements. Did you ever consider it?

    • ron

      Apr 21, 2016 at 3:15 pm

      You might of missed the point, bruh. Point is: AM goes to a pro to help improve; apply the instruction. Does not have to be a specific thing, OTT was just an example.

      • Philip

        Apr 21, 2016 at 5:18 pm

        Actually you missed the point of my comment as I was only using his example as a point of reference. Maybe the issue is sometimes not with the student, but with the instructor incorrectly determining the cause of the problem and not re-looking at their assessment of the student when it is not working out. Maybe the next instructor will correctly determine the cause of the problem (whatever it is) or not.

        • ....and have to agree with you

          Apr 21, 2016 at 6:42 pm

          Just give that student something different, maybe smaller to work on, rather than making them “feel the feel” that you’re targeting. They may never be able to achieve that. So that’s your job to find alternate plans to improve anywhere that can be applied in bettering their game. Maybe work with what they do have working, and give them something to improve on. I’ve had to types of teachers/lessons. Someone trying to change me, someone trying to apply a change that most likely will in turn improve my swing. Bottom line, seems like majority of older am’s will ultimately be stuck “in their way”. Therefore, tune the motor. Younger am’s aren’t working with years of bad habit and now what comes natural, but isn’t to late to rebuild.

          And as for comment below, I don’t empathize. Over charging for lots of knowledge that’s never gonna have a chance to absorb because you are overwhelming the student with so many different philosophies of yours, and by giving so many corrections, just making them feel as if they are “never gonna get this”

          Teach them something small. Keep it cheap. They won’t forget. They will comeback.

    • prime21

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:06 pm

      Is it possible for you to stop posting? This rambling makes zero sense and pretty much proves the point that Tom was trying to hit home. “Our bodies know how to do what we need to swing a golf club”, are you serious with that? If true, you would be a + handicap and the average amateur golfer would hover right around scratch. This certainly isn’t the case and you trying to jump on Tom for a straight forward, logical approach to taking lessons, makes you “THAT GUY” and you aren’t even on the lesson tee. Congrats!

      • Philip

        Apr 21, 2016 at 9:59 pm

        So let me get this, you are using you right to freedom of speech to ask me to give up my freedom of speech? That’s just brilliant! You do not know me at all, and if you cannot read my post with an open mind – then maybe it is you who is “that guy”. Our body combined with our senses is quite good at figuring out physical activities, once we stop trying to control them with our thoughts and allow them to do what they do best. Maybe some need lessons to figure out how to throw a ball or frisbee, kick a soccer ball, drive a motorcycle/car/bus/5 ton truck, whatever – others just do it! They try, fail, stumble and keep doing it till they succeed – just like we ALL learned to walk and talk. You start slow until you get a handle on what you are trying to do, before going full tilt. Lessons is just an option, like watching someone else do it, or reading.

        • Atty

          Apr 25, 2016 at 7:20 am

          If you think posting comments on a website constitutes freedom of speech, you don’t understand our Constitution.

  22. Eric

    Apr 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Lessons and teachers can go a lot of different ways. I’ve seen guys who I knew in the first 10 minutes that I wasn’t going to click with the way he is trying to communicate his intended curriculum. Others that I started out excited about their communication but found that after about 4 lessons I’ve seen the best of the bag of tricks. And then there is a rare few that for whatever reason you get a sense of patience coupled with a bottomless well of ideas and ways to get you on the right track. I will jump for guy to guy at some points over the years, but it was not about me, or if it was it was about me finding the person who communicated with me in a way that clicked. It’s a two way street. And as much as you are in the golf swing business, you are also in the confidence building business, the trust building business, and the physiology business, even if you don;t want to be. So don’t be THAT coach and blame it on your students.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      I don’t want no stinkin’ communication from my pro. I just want the secret to the perfect golf swing.

  23. ooffa

    Apr 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    How about don’t be that instructor. With amounts being charged for a lesson these days take a moment to figure out how to connect with the student. Geeeeez.

    • prime21

      Apr 21, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Where do you get that he didn’t connect with his student? In the article, if you actually read it, Tom points out that he DID connect, which allowed the student to change their pattern as witnessed by a desired shift in path and ball flight. In the market system the amount charged for a lesson is based on what students are willing to pay to improve. If a teacher does not make a student better, they simply are not in business long. Considering Tom has been in the business for 20+ years, we can deduce that his lesson rate is right where it should be & his students are improving, thus he MUST BE connecting with his students. Instead of trolling the site, why don’t you spend your time more wisely by locating the $10.00/hour instructor you are obviously searching for so you can find that connection you so dearly desire?

      • ooffa

        Apr 22, 2016 at 7:13 am

        Great response. LOL, you really made me laugh. Thank you for starting my morning off with a smile.

  24. eva

    Apr 21, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    “no such thing as bad student, only bad teacher.” – Mr. Miyagi

    • Johny Thunder

      Apr 21, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      If only life were as simple as fiction!

    • Forsbrand

      Apr 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Ha ha ha “to hear, one has only to listen”

  25. Mark

    Apr 21, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    If the student didn’t get what was important about setting clubs down for alignment, they will not do it. Maybe they really didn’t see the alignment in the first place or understand it from their perspective of standing over the ball. They just don’t get what the instructor is trying to teach them. And that is for whatever reason you want to call it, students fault or instructors fault, doesn’t matter.

    If teachers want to be really good they will come up with various approaches to teaching that will fit many learners, not just the type of people they want to teach. If learners want to learn they will follow the lesson and try to really connect with the concepts. Both sides can do better.

    I will say that I really agree with Desmond on the basics. Instructors really don’t go into basics, they have 45 minutes or so and really use that time to sell themselves for a second lesson and try to fix one issue.

  26. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 21, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    With the internet (i.e. GolfWRX and a host of others) we are all golf swing experts. I love the guys with the 14 handicap on here telling the rest of us how to swing. I’ve been guilty myself (as a 3.5 handicap) of imparting info to other golfers, pushing my temporarily sufficient swing key of the day. Works for me (today) why shouldn’t it work for my foursome buddy. I am not pure.

  27. Double Mocha Man

    Apr 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Human nature and short attention spans. If the lesson doesn’t fix it right now (and continue to keep it fixed) we’re on to something else. It’s 2016.

  28. Desmond

    Apr 21, 2016 at 11:43 am

    I empathize with instuctors. If I was an instructor, I’d ask my students to avoid the instruction section on golf forums and all golf magazines, and to do as I ask you to do. Practice as I ask you to practice.

    I’ve been to several instructors, unfortunately, and my issue with most instruction is that they are so concerned about getting you into their “system” that they don’t give you an overview of the basics – thinks like pressure, arm-body connection and how they work, etc. And then there is the communication issue — explaining feels or moves is vital and most are simply not that good at it.

    • TR1PTIK

      Apr 21, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      I have to agree with you a bit here. I am a Training Specialist at a manufacturing facility in Missouri and it is MY responsibility to make sure the workers I train not only know how to do something, but WHY they should do it. One of the first things I did when I started this job was meet with the most knowledgeable guy in the plant and pick his brain so that I could relay the appropriate information to employees so that they might have a better understanding of cause and effect.

      I’m very fortunate as the only two instructors I’ve been to for lessons are both quite good at explaining cause and effect to me. It has made a tremendous difference in how I approach the game.

    • Kevin

      Apr 21, 2016 at 3:55 pm

      I would never mind my students reading what ever they want. IF anything they may learn something about the golf swing. The problem when teaching is the level of understanding.

      To put in perspective, at times its like teaching a kid for Chile how to do Calculus in Chinese. I have to take the Calculus and dum it down to Pre-Algebra concepts and translate the Chinese into Spanish for him to understand what I’m saying. I might not be a perfect explanation.

      SO students read and understand what is being taught, they will be able to learn and adapt quicker then me trying to translate for them

  29. wow

    Apr 21, 2016 at 11:29 am

    Wow, what a narcissistic article to be written. This article alone makes me want to seek lessons from a golf instructor even less than before. With this nose in the air attitude NO WONDER golf is struggling to grow. The cost of equipment, greens fees and now self-absorbed instructors wondering why they can’t connect w/ a student? Gee lemme think here – maybe take a look in the mirror next time you see a student of yours on the range w/o a prescribed setup laid out. MAYBE just maybe take a few mins to approach the student and engage in some dialogue about the previous lesson. Possibly write down the setup for the student for future reference. There is more than one way to teach/coach and through my life the great teachers/coaches I have had were able to change their delivery to make the lesson more understandable for their students/players. Sure it takes some initiative from the receiver of information to ask questions or admit a concept is hard to understand, but as a golf instructor you’re being paid by the student and there should be a sense of duty to ensure you’re delivering the information in a way that your student able to understand and implement changes.

    Tom, maybe you shouldn’t be “That Guy” when you see a student on the range that isn’t practicing what you have shown them.

    • birdy

      Apr 21, 2016 at 11:43 am

      i bet you’re …..’that guy’ the article was spot on and the reason so many fail to ever get better.

      “but this way is uncomfortable” or ” but i’ve always done it like this” or ” but i once read that its better to do it this way” ….the line of excuses is endless.

      the only thing article left out is that improvement takes time and no shortcuts. too many go into a lesson searching for the quick fix. too many are unwilling to get a little worse to get better.

      this article was hardly narcissistic. sometimes the truth hurts

    • Nathan

      Apr 21, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Agreed.

      It’s not the students fault, it’s the instructors.

      The average score is still 100.

      That’s 28 over par.

      Modern instruction is flawed, pure and simple.

      • Steve

        Apr 21, 2016 at 11:55 am

        In this case, it’s 100% the student’s fault. The instructor can only do so much.

        If you were hitting the ball like garbage, and an instructor was able to help you hit it better by showing you something as simple as how to aim properly on the range by laying clubs on the ground, would you keep doing it on your own time, or would you go back to just swinging away?

        Once again, this is an extremely simple concept in this example. If the student isn’t willing to do something this easy to help their game, or if they can’t understand such a simple concept, there is no helping them. They clearly don’t ACTUALLY care about improving their game.

    • Steve

      Apr 21, 2016 at 11:48 am

      If the student finds it that difficult to remember how to setup clubs aiming at the target, they have bigger issues. This is either (A) the student thinking they know better or thinking they have already fixed the issue (which they clearly haven’t), or (B) the student being too lazy to lay clubs down.

      This isn’t some difficult concept to understand and implement. I’m sure if the student was struggling with a new feel or complex idea, Tom would’ve happily helped, but this is clearly not the case for students like “that guy.”

    • Aaron

      Apr 21, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Your viewpoint is skewed/biased in your argument… You are saying that the person who needs to change message, delivery, information etc. is the instructor… That the student bares no responsibility to being open to a different message, delivery, information etc… Not every instructor is for every player and you should be asking questions prior to taking a lesson to gauge their philosophy, mindset, experience etc. to see if you feel it would meld well with your personality, philosophy, and expectations. I blame you if you do not do any of that ahead of time and you don’t like the result of the instruction you received. As someone who has taught many different individuals in many different ways I can say with complete certainty that the number one reason why any of those individuals continued to struggle or did not see dramatic improvement was that after the lesson was over and “homework” or additional practice was prescribed, they did not complete that end of it…

  30. juststeve

    Apr 21, 2016 at 11:18 am

    Tom: I wonder if it as always been so? The problem with a WRXer taking a lesson is they already think they know all about the golf swing. They don’t but thinking they do may be an obstacle to learning what you’re teaching. Many years ago when I learned the game from a very well regarded teacher I began knowing nothing about the golf swing, and knowing I knew nothing about the golf swing. Never read an instruction book or a magazine article, much less the internet. I was quite happy to do what he told me over and over until I was doing it well. Progress was fast and long lasting Still don’t know much about the golf swing, just what my teacher taught me. Perhaps teachers had it easier before all the students became experts.

    • Other Paul

      Apr 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      but we are experts ????. I went for a lesson and the teacher pointed out a few things and i told him why i did them. He said” okay, i cant give you a lesson because i cant help you, go out and play more and pracitce, its all you need.” So i did. Shooting low 80s now. And i would be mid 70s if i could stop having one disaster every 10-12 holes. Played 9 on sunday, i walk onto the 9th tee thinking “I could shoot 39 today” and i walk off the green with a snow man on my scorecard and a 43. I love this game and i hate this game some times.

      • been there

        Apr 26, 2016 at 12:06 am

        really? low 80’s and a perfect swing? i can say with 100% confidence that you are miles from being a good golfer and that coach immediately noted you are ‘that guy’.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Instruction

Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Instruction

Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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