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Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve



Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .



  1. Max

    Mar 6, 2019 at 12:43 am

    Good article, in my opinion. Now, here is my personal conundrum. I have been taking lessons, practicing every day, and playing 3-5 times a week for 21 months. I have improved a lot without question, but here’s the problem I’m wrestling with. I am trying like hell to shallow the shaft at the start of the downswing, and failing to do so. When I look at videos of myself from 21 months ago – before any instruction – I shallowed the club perfectly. What the hell? I didn’t even know I was supposed to shallow it! So my question is, have lessons been a help or a hinderance? Did I improve simply because I was playing and practicing a lot? Would I have improved more without lessons? Would I still shallow the shaft as I did without thought in the beginning? I would really love to see a scientific article which seeks to answer such questions.

    Ultimately, the author is undoubtedly right. We must learn to feel a functioning golf swing for ourselves, and repeat it on the course without instructor feedback. I am going to put lessons and my video camera aside for several weeks, continue my practice regimen, observe my ball flight and strike patterns with impact tape, and see what happens….

  2. OB

    Dec 18, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    There is no quick fix for the dynamic part of the golfswing because conscious attempts to adjust and compensate within one second of time is problematic for your non-conscious part of the golfswing.
    You might experience a quick fix in the static part of your swing address or stance providing it doesn’t upset the rest of your swing mechanics. Even that is risky.
    No golf tip… no quick fix… no new clubs… only learning and practice for 90 days minimum … believe it.

  3. Dennis

    Dec 18, 2017 at 3:48 am

    I’m trying to cure my sudden hooks or sudden slices for years. I had a lot of training sessions and six different teaching pros. Some told me my grip is wrong, some told me my grip is just fine. One told me there is too much weight shifting, another one wanted me to shift more weight. I do not rotate enough, my downswing starts to early, I’m coming over my shoulder, I’m swinging outside in, I’m swinging inside out, I’m to step, I’m to flat and so on…

    It took me over a 1,5 years and a lot of videotaping myself to discover, that I’m making not every day the same mistakes: Some days I come from the outside, some days I’m on plane and some times I’m coming too much from the inside. And in addition to that my club face is too close or too open.

    One coach gave me the drill to hit pushes and pulls at the range in order to get a feeling for the plane and face direction. Now I can play a heavy push or heavy pull – no problem. But I’m still struggling with Pull/Push Hooks & Pull/Push Slices when I’m trying to shot straight.

    There was this other coach who always said, my main problem is, that I don’t finish my backswing and I got to much weight shifting. He send me on a hill at the range to train uphill shots and suddenly all shots where straight. But only when I’m standing uphill.

    A few months later I got back to him and he told me, that I did not improve at all. We had another session at one of those days where I’m coming only from the outside. Suddenly he told me to make a small move at the end of my backswing and voila: my plane was between 4 and 8 degrees from the inside: Heavy Push Hooks. So he corrected my grip to a very neutral position and there was the draw. For the next two weeks I was every day on the range to practice, sometimes twice a day and it finally I got a feeling for the new move at the end of my backswing and the new grip: My ball flight was always starting to the right and curving to the left. Sometimes a perfect draw, most times a hook.

    But then there was this party where I drank too much beer and the day after the feeling for the new swing was gone. So I had to start all over.

    What I’m trying to say: Unless you can afford your personal golf coach, you have to be your own coach. A training lesson could help you either a lot or nothing at all. To understand what your are doing wrong doesn’t help, if you get no cure for it. And there must be a system after the training lesson to ensure you’re practicing the wright way. It would help a lot, do have a video system with instant replays at the range. Or the teaching pro taking a look at you at range occasionally.

    And also: Don’t drink & practice 😉

    • OB

      Dec 18, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Your problem is you are attempting to consciously apply a swing fix… and then something else goes haywire within your non-conscious swing mechanics because your brain gets confused at the non-conscious level. Do you understand?
      If you are attempting to make a conscious change to your swing mechanics you must practice that change, and not on the golf course, for at least 90 days before that fix is permanent in your non-conscious mind and everything flows automatically.
      You must actually grow into the change at the neural level as explained by others on this topic thread. If you try to mix conscious and non-conscious performance you will continuously fail, as you have informed us. Good luck if you continue on your failure path.

    • Ian B

      Feb 12, 2018 at 3:53 pm

      Or you could use one of the many swing trainers on your club and linked to phone. Which would have been cheaper than those lessons ;-).
      That combined with videos would result in steady repeatable swing.

  4. Dennis Clark

    Dec 17, 2017 at 4:13 pm

    Thx to all for your comments. As for my replies, any LOLs were made in response to the those who offered humorous criticism of the sarcastic comments. I will always answer a comment, regardless if it is critical or not, as I always have, as LONG AS THE COMMENTS WERE COURTEOUS. There are ways to conduct a civil dialogue even for differing opinions. To all the professionals who responded, thank you for your support and empathy. I write this blog to offer help to those who seek it. My experiences over many years on the lesson tee have demonstrated patterns that I try to point out, so that they may offer guidance to others. Thx again

    • FaQ

      Dec 17, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      Bloody excuses like these are what makes students stay away from you like the plague as you clearly don’t have the answers to help people’s golf swings

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 19, 2017 at 8:45 am

        I have a two week wait in my lesson book and have had for many years. FAR more business than I can handle; I have take at least two dozen kids from juniors to college scholarships. and on and on…

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 19, 2017 at 8:51 am

        Persoanl failings in life? Do you know me? If so come out and tell me who you are. If not, how can you PUBLICALLY judge me? What failings are you describing? I’ve had a very successful career, am happily married with 3 wonderful grandchilren. My only failing is I try to maintain a civil dialogue with internet trolls. If you have a personal problem with me come see me or email me PRIVATELY…

  5. Todd Dugan

    Dec 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Spot on, Dennis. I could write a book about about my thoughts and experiences on this topic as a golf instructor. But let me offer just one suggestion;
    For teachers: Offer a money-back guarantee.
    For students: Bring a notebook.

    • OB

      Dec 17, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Guarantee? Only if the student makes a long term commitment to lessons and practice.
      Notebook? The only things the student brings to a lesson is their golf clubs.
      Please explain what a ‘guarantee’ and a ‘notebook’ will achieve in your opinion as a golf instructor!

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 17, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Thx Todd…I have the money back guarantee in place right now. The notebook works well too. Thx for reading and comment. Best,

      • OB

        Dec 18, 2017 at 7:01 pm

        What conditions apply for your “money back guarantee”? Thanks.

  6. Matt Schulze

    Dec 16, 2017 at 2:44 pm

    I think you’re overanalyzing this. There’s a much simpler explanation: your students are idiots.

    • OB

      Dec 16, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      … and a simple comment by a simpleton …. lol

      • Matt Schulze

        Dec 17, 2017 at 12:12 am

        Care to comment on why my analysis is incorrect?

        I mean, the examples given couldn’t even remember what he’d said to them after a month or two. A dog has better recall than that.

        • OB

          Dec 17, 2017 at 1:03 pm

          Your comment is not an ‘analysis’; it’s a just a dumb twitter blurt with no substance other than insult.
          Your followup comment is equally dumb and those who can’t remember what is taught to them are dumb too. You are claiming that ignorance is your excuse for not learning. Perhaps you are revealing your own shortcomings.

          • Matt Schulze

            Dec 17, 2017 at 3:50 pm

            I don’t think I ever referred to myself (or my own learning capacity) in my post at all, so not sure where you extrapolated that from. Also I don’t use Twitter, or any other social media – good call on that one, too.

            The whole premise of the article is sound – that people should really strive to understand the “why” rather than just the “how”- but it applies to everything, so there’s nothing particularly original there.

            You still haven’t addressed how either of the students weren’t dumber than a bag of hammers for not remembering what they paid somebody to tell them.

  7. Nack Jicklaus

    Dec 16, 2017 at 11:42 am

    Looks like a lot of people commenting did not read or understand the article…

  8. OB

    Dec 16, 2017 at 11:04 am

    Dennis… thank you for responding so openly and forthrightly to the many comments on this topic thread. You didn’t cut and run.
    The fact that you took the time to respond to most comments is a credit to your professionalism. If I was close by I would most certainly take a lesson(s) with you with full confidence. Thank you again.

    • mM

      Dec 16, 2017 at 7:38 pm

      Nah. He definitely did not cut and run, but he’s laughing at some serious comments at which he shouldn’t, but as classless as Dennis and his cohorts are, all they can do is lash out and prove to the world they’re not good teachers

      • OB

        Dec 17, 2017 at 1:15 pm

        “… some serious comments…”? Where are these comments; be specific in your asinine accusations? Your emotional feeelings are worthless on this fine public forum provided for us by the good folks at GolfWRX.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 17, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Thx for reading.

  9. Joro

    Dec 16, 2017 at 10:41 am

    When I was Teaching over a 40yr. period I know that 90% if what most people were taught went ZIPPOOO right over their Head, Why? because they weren’t really focused about what you are telling them but thinking other thoughts and hearing but not absorbing. I is a difficult job because what they do reflects on you and your reputation as a teacher when you are giving them great info. but they are not learning. I had a guy who came every Wed. for a lesson and we would spend the first 15 mins. going over how to hit the Ball, again, and then try to advance, but it was impossible because he did nothing to help himself so every Wed. was a repeat. His playing Pals were alway asking me why and saying it was what I was doing to his game, not he was doing.

    So I got a Camera when it came into vogue and started taping the lesson. I had a nice Canon Video mounted on a cart with a small TV so I could show the student right away what was going on and taped the lesson and had them take it with them and watch it when they started having problems. I got more positive feedback from those that did that than I could believe, others didn’t care and continued to fail. It has been 5 years since I retired and still have people tell me they still look at the Tapes and remember my suggestions. It was a good way to go, although many pay no attention, the ones that do can fix themselves. I never could figure out why a person would spend good money for a lesson they pay no attention too.

    • OB

      Dec 16, 2017 at 6:40 pm

      Most who play at golf are either clowns or dementia-ridden. Only a small percentage of golfers can break 100 and avoid slicing too. As long as they pay the green fees …..

  10. SV

    Dec 16, 2017 at 9:22 am

    A very good article. I keep a small notebook in my golf bag that I keep lesson and practice notes in. After a lesson I write down what the instructor told me along with any clarifications. The next time the (*#@^) shots show up I at least have a reference, starting point, for correcting it. The note may not provide the solution this time, but it is better than being clueless.

  11. Bob Castelline

    Dec 16, 2017 at 9:08 am

    Lessons don’t work for everyone, but it’s inappropriate to say that lessons never work for anyone. Just because one person can’t grasp what’s being taught, or doesn’t practice, or doesn’t practice properly, or can’t find a good teacher — doesn’t make it impossible. For me, it took finding the right teacher. The other teachers were good, but I wasn’t grasping what they were teaching me. Once I found the right teacher, my game moved past the plateau I’d been stuck at for years — but only after an entire season of work on my part. Lessons aren’t a magic bullet, and they aren’t supposed to be a quick fix. They’re simply a starting point. It’s up to each individual player to actually get better.

    • dennis Clark

      Dec 16, 2017 at 9:56 am

      It does not say “lessons don not help anyone”. It says they DO help if you participate. If I thought lessons helped no one I’d have given this job up 30 years ago. I simply try to get my students in a learning mode, not a “How to” mode. Thx

      • Bob Castelline

        Dec 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm

        Dennis, I was supporting your points, not arguing them. Sorry I wasn’t more clear about that. I was speaking in response to what others were saying about your article, not anything you wrote in your article. We, the students, must have a stake in this. Your job is to teach us. Our job is to WORK at what you teach. That’s the only way we improve. We’ve got to have a heavy investment, not just expect magic from our teachers.

  12. dennis Clark

    Dec 16, 2017 at 8:45 am

    Long Term is relative; Right now I teach in an area where many folks are wary of buying green So is practice time. And relaxing time. And reading time etc… Many of us are closer to the 18th green than the first tee. As I approach 70 years, I wonder sometimes how many good drives and 7-irons are left. So I ENJOY the ones that I occasionally hit now.

  13. Dan Jones, PGA

    Dec 15, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    What Dennis said is exactly correct. As an instructor myself I have been through exactly what he explained. Students often expect instant results, and won’t practice what they have been taught, neither of which is realistic if you want to improve. Most of us golf instructors truly want you to succeed after you take a lesson, granted there are a few that just want you to keep coming back every week for the money, but the majority I know want their students to improve.

    Now, here is the science behind improvement.

    We learn motor movement through repetitive practice. There is no such thing as muscle memory per se, all muscle action comes from the brain except for “some” reflex actions to keep you from danger, some of those are processed in the spinal cord. As we repeat movements the brain builds new neurons, and with repetition the Myelin Sheath around those neurons becomes bigger and bigger, and this helps electrical conductivity within that neuron. If you practice a new movement everyday, in about 2-3 weeks the newly developed neuron will have gained enough myelin to over ride the previous neurons responsible for your old motor movement, and you won’t have to think about the movement very much to improve. Here is the kicker folks, in order to improve and develop that new neuron, you have to think about, and practice, new movements in order to create those new neurons. I was lucky enough to date a gal for a year and a half who was a leading researcher in this field, and I have two degrees in exercise science myself. Interestingly enough, in the PGA’s new certification program for coaching and teaching, they cover this material. I had about a 15 year head start on it. By the way, not all PGA Professionals have this certification for teaching, only a handful of us do. Being PGA does not mean certified, that is extra training the PGA offers its members. That said, we do learn a lot about teaching in order to become a PGA member, so you are way ahead of the game looking for a PGA member when seeking lessons.

    Anyway….Understand this, it is important: You must PRACTICE and THINK ABOUT new movement to build the neurons that most people refer to as muscle memory. Learning it and doing it are two very different things.

    If I remember correctly, I think it was Nick Price who once stated something to the effect of, “it isn’t what I learned this morning that helped me win the tournament, it’s what I learned a few weeks ago”.

    That pretty much sums up how motor movement is learned.

    As Dennis pointed out, getting a lesson then going out and playing with your buddies and expecting to be improved is always a lesson for failure. Your best bet is to spend several days at the range practicing what you learned. If you are not one for hitting the range but want to improve, go out in the afternoon when the course isn’t crowded, preferably by yourself or with someone else working on their swing, and think about incorporating what you learned in a lesson into your shots out on the golf course.

    Bottom line, science says if you don’t build new neurons for the new movements we teach you, then you have zero chance of a lesson being successful.

    • OB

      Dec 16, 2017 at 6:34 pm

      Thank you for confirming what I posted below earlier in the day. I call it my 90 Day Rule… three months of training and practice to rebuild my body for a swing change that is nearly dependable but not guaranteed. It took Leadbetter and Faldo all of 2 years to rebuild his swing and his tour results came afterwards.
      Most who attempt to play golf are either older mature men and/or non-athletic geeks who never had to practice anything physical such as other sports and even music lessons. Most give up on their decrepit bodies and then seek help from teachers and expect verbal miracles… “what’s wrong and tell me what to do”! Most will never practice and train because they are physical/mental failures. Only a very small fraction of ‘golfers’ can break 100.

      • Ian B

        Feb 12, 2018 at 4:09 pm

        Loads of golfers can break 100. Breaking 80 is where it gets hard.
        If you are shown basics of grip, weight shift, using core, and posting on lead side you are more than half way there. If you then practice slowly and build up you will ingrain right techniques.
        If you just given a part fix it will disappear.

    • @@

      Dec 16, 2017 at 8:25 pm

      But you don’t have to be a condescending w@nker about it though, ya know?

      • OB

        Dec 17, 2017 at 1:11 pm

        … and we don’t need your twitter blurt immature feeelings, ya know?!!

        • @@

          Dec 18, 2017 at 10:24 am

          …. says the guys who says this: “Most who play at golf are either clowns or dementia-ridden”
          Tell us how you really feel, why don’t you, because you’re still not as funny as Dennis the menace here

  14. CB

    Dec 15, 2017 at 9:36 pm

    I will never a send anybody to take a lesson with you. You’re the most clueless teacher there is.

    • Potkan

      Dec 15, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      I had a lesson with Dennis and he is just excellent.

    • Donald

      Dec 15, 2017 at 10:09 pm

      He’s a lot better clued in than you… and your pea-brain twitter blurt confirms that too!

    • KSig

      Dec 15, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      I agree with CB. If any teacher said these things, I would stay far far away from him, as he would give me no confidence in what he says as he doesn’t nor wouldn’t have any solutions to fix my swing faults nor has any idea to.

    • Dan Jones, PGA

      Dec 16, 2017 at 12:02 am

      Maybe you are right, but without any information as to why, your comment has zero validity. Do you think he is under educated? Are you prejudiced against PGA members? Do you not like the name Dennis? Your comment leaves such an open ended question that makes the rest of us wonder why Dennis doesn’t have a clue.

      Maybe you would be so kind as to explain for us why Dennis has no clue?

      Our every breath is truly awaiting your explanation……well, not really, because you probably don’t have a clue why you made that comment.

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 16, 2017 at 7:48 am


      • KSig

        Dec 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

        People are allowed to make choices. And so are you. And you obviously have made a choice to make light of the situation, that is the kind of horrible teacher you are as well. Who else would you like to add to your list?

        • Joro

          Dec 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

          SIG, Dennis is commenting on the light side. As far a teaching goes I am sure he is just fine and should not be put down by anyone who doesn’t know him. On the other hand during my hours on the Range and at other facilities I have seen many PGA Pros teaching that never should be doing any of that. They are stealing yet they are allowed to continue taking the money by the Head Pro, or Director of Instruction or whoever.

          That is sad cause it reflects on others and gives the whole place a bad rap. and it is too common.

        • Don

          Oct 8, 2018 at 5:35 pm

          You seem like the kind of person who was never good at sports, and has somehow found his way to golf, and you aren’t much good at it, either. About as good as you are at the Comment section. FFS, have you even read his qualifications? Seen actual student comments? And if you don’t think it’s inane for someone who was topping balls to be shown how to stop it, do it correctly, then leave and have it the problem crop up again yet think it’s something else, then you, bub, are a moron.

      • @@

        Dec 16, 2017 at 8:28 pm

        Don’t worry about these condescending w@nkers, Sig. They’ll be finished before you know it, as disrespectful as they are, they’ll have it coming

  15. Dennis Clark

    Dec 15, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    The great Ben Hogan said the answer is in the dirt. All a teacher is doing is helping you find it in YOUR dirt. I cant recall the last time I gave two identical lessons. How is that even possible? Every song ever written is in the 88 keys on a piano; YA just gotta find it.

    • Donald

      Dec 15, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      Have you ever told a struggling golfer seeking your help that they should not play golf because of physical decrepitude or inability to think? Have you turned anybody down?!!

      • Dennis Clark

        Dec 16, 2017 at 8:00 am

        None that were realistic in their expectations…If the physical and mental barriers you describe are impediments to their optimal performance, we seek a FUNCTIONAL goal within their limitations. Who am I to crush hopes? The best part of having a reputation and good following is it affords one the virtue of HONESTY.

    • david

      Dec 16, 2017 at 9:38 am

      Dennis just wondering if you are honest with your students and tell them that it might take over a year of practice and playing before the new swing takes hold? Perhaps 18 months. I’m guessing over 95% of the human cattle cannot accept that truth! Alas the reasons lessons help less than 5%

  16. Dennis Clark

    Dec 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    EVERY lesson I do gets a tape of the lesson mailed directly to the student the day of the lesson. This reminds them of what THEY DISCOVERED when they were hitting it well during the lesson I have followed this rule foe many years. The tape includes my voice, illustrations and most importantly a discussion of what we DISCOVERED during the lesson.

  17. Donald Trump Rules

    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Lessons are a waste. Old habits die hard. The minute you quit with the lessons, you will go back to your old swing. The best you can do is just swing your swing, play single length irons to get better consistency and practice short game.

    • Milton Gombo

      Dec 15, 2017 at 7:58 pm

      The most moronic comment ever posted on this website.

    • Dan Jones, PGA

      Dec 15, 2017 at 11:19 pm

      For you they are a waste of time. You obviously are not motivated enough, or not bright enough, to use all the information available to you. If lessons don’t help you it is because you are not practicing exactly what is told to you, and most likely you are expecting instant results. It doesn’t work that way.

      Too bad for you.

      …and that other gentleman’s comment, well it is pretty much on task.

  18. Dennis Clark

    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Authors note: make no mistake about the point here…NOWHERE does it say golf lessons DON”T help. They do, WHEN YOU HEAR THE TEACHER AND ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN THE LEARNING PROCESS. As i said, the purpose of lessons is to give you something to explore, not try to memorize. Self discovery through guidance with a mentor is the ONLY LONG TERM IMPROVEMENT. I might also recommend the research of Michael Hebron, PGA Master Professional who has explored this very idea extensively. As Mike would say, it’s not HOW TO, it’s leading you to DISCOVER HOW! Thx to all for your interest

    • KSig

      Dec 15, 2017 at 10:30 pm

      You should participate on Hell’s Kitchen and see how it’s done

  19. Pat

    Dec 15, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    I agree with Jim, but I interpret his “I have to feel it” as learning to “see”. Research on experts has concluded it may take 10,000 hours to develop expertise (citation due). Hours alone aren’t enough if they’re not diverse; they’re merely 1 hour repeated 10k times. Seeing means: Can a golfer visualize, say, while stuck in traffic, a complete play, from club choice to where that ball will stop. And than change that play: what if I used a different club, what if I did this, what if….that’s seeing. There are pro pitchers known only for 1 special pitch. There are ballet dancers who can’t make the leaps that gets them diagonally across stage precisely on time. Both pros could do it–if they could just see it. Classes can teach us to see–or to copy. Much of what we learn in life is “don’t see”. If golfers believe they must be physicists to read greens, they won’t see how slope, green speed, or skipping breakfast affects their putt. They will continue believing only physicists read green surveys. It’s ok to practice off the course. See?

  20. Acemandrake

    Dec 15, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Best thing I ever did was to stop chasing “tips” and look at fundamentals.

    For me, it starts with a consistent pre-shot routine and visualization.

    But, like anything else in this game, you have to train at it. Just saying/thinking you’re going to do something does not make it permanent.

  21. Mat

    Dec 15, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    This is exactly why I don’t bother with (single) lessons anymore. The youtube video is there later, the teacher is not. I’d rather pay for instructional material most of the time, rather than instruction. Most pros don’t go through adult learning theory, and that’s why 90% of lessons are garbage. They are correction sessions, just as stated here.

    If you aren’t going to have a 15-session sequence twice a week for 2 months, you’re just getting tips. When people say “go get A (single) lesson”, they are bound to fail. And that’s why lessons are tossed around as if they’re $50, but in reality, getting better costs thousands, and the luck of having a good coach readily available.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

      I disagree about the 90% garbage assessment, but the point of my article is that golf lessons are there to help. But they have to be a two-way street. You have to be active in the participation, and be truthful with yourself and your teacher. Many golfers are not completely honest with themselves, and are afraid to admit their lack of understanding or the concepts with the teacher. Thx for reading

    • Dan Jones, PGA

      Dec 16, 2017 at 12:40 am

      Mat – I actually do agree with you to somewhat about learning theory and its place in golf lessons. I have met many pros who really have no business giving lessons. The world needs business men too. The PGA does cover it a little bit as we go through their school, and to a significant degree in their Certification 2.0 program. That said, I agree it is something that could make many pros better instructors. However, there are some people who have a natural talent in learning and honestly don’t need it, and there are also some like myself who are highly educated and do have this background, so don’t be fooled into thinking all of us PGA guys were just good at high school golf then got into the PGA program (although there are some out there).

      The simple answer is this, go talk to your local pros until you find one that you think is on the same page you are as to what you as a student needs. If you find someone who you are confident in because they have a lot of education, or because your personalities jive, then you are more likely to believe in what they teach you and therefore more likely to improve.

      I remember an interview with Fred Couples back when he was number one in the world, and he said that during pro-am’s, many of the amateurs that played with him would ask for tips and lessons. He would tell them that he really didn’t know that much about the golf swing so he told them to go see a PGA Pro.

      That sums up your statement about learning theory to some degree, just because someone is a good golfer, that doesn’t make them a good teacher.

  22. Mj

    Dec 15, 2017 at 4:06 pm

    Are. You taping the kesson and sending it to them?. I find this very helpful when you get a lesson and hitting the ball good. Then when I inevitably start hitting it not so good i can refer back.
    Only the top instructors that i have taken a lesson from do this. Suttie, Leadbetter assistant, Sieckman. ,pelz 1 day school have for me
    I think it should be a standard practice for all pga pros

  23. Alfredo Smith

    Dec 15, 2017 at 2:43 pm

    Awesome article! And last week as I was hitting balls while my buddy was filming my swing, my pro walking behind says ‘finish the backswing’, which is my biggest problem that he was trying to hammer home at my last lesson. I go to the video and my problem was staring me in the face… listen to the pros, your game will appreciate it!!!

  24. OB

    Dec 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    It’s obvious. During the ‘lesson’ the golfer is consciously applying the teacher’s advice and the results are good.
    Later, when the golfer is on his/her own their conscious swing fails because they forgot what to do. They didn’t learn instantly and permanantly.
    To acquire a permanent change requires at least 90 days of practice plus followup lessons. Only then will the brain and muscular system have grown the neural system to automatically, unconsciously apply the ‘lesson’.
    There are no quick fixes for the dynamic part of the swing, only the static adjustments like address stance and hand grip positions.
    Golf tips are useless unless you practice obsessively to ingrain those tips into your swing… for 90 days.

    • Radim Pavlicek

      Dec 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Exaclty this. You need weeks for changes to settle down.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 15, 2017 at 6:05 pm

      It takes a while but the problem is when golfers leave a lesson they have to FULLY understand what to work on. Or those 90 days, or however long it takes are not going to help

      • Donald

        Dec 15, 2017 at 10:14 pm

        How do you emphasize the need for long term commitment to practice and patience?

  25. Michael

    Dec 15, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Honestly think the biggest issue with most teaching professionals is they instill their “ideals” on a person’s golf swing rather than working with the player’s golf swing. Sure there are aspects such as the grip that can only variate so much but the swing has no many variables that are unique to each player. The good coaches help nurture the swing than re-engineer.

    • Alfredo Smith

      Dec 15, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      True, however some pros will ask if you want a complete rebuild or improve your current swing 🙂

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 15, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      Agreed, read the other articles I’ve written. If I see five people in a days time, it’s likely I’ll give 5 different lessons.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 15, 2017 at 6:10 pm

      Agreed, read the other articles I’ve written. If I see five people in a days time, it’s likely I’ll give 5 different lessons.

  26. Don

    Dec 15, 2017 at 1:01 pm

    I think lessons are a useless waste of time and money. A coaching program is far better as it provides ongoing support and development on all parts of the game. Find a pro that wants a long term connection to you. It’s a better investment than chasing the perfect club.

  27. Dr. Brian Pasemco

    Dec 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm

    Great article! I had back surgery last spring but only after 5 years of pain that produced many bad compensations in my swing. So after recovering from surgery paid $1100. to Golftec but teacher wanted me to bow my wrist like Dustin Johnson. I’m 65 and only wanted to break out of double digit handicap. (played to a 6 handicap most of my life). After 3 lessons I physically could not do it. I understood it but asked teacher to work with my abilities. He didn’t or couldn’t change from the “cookie cutter” method. He gave me a full refund and I worked on discovering “my” swing. Within 3 weeks I was breaking 80! Now a 7 Hdcp. for an investment of a few hours and humility and $0. I think that many could benefit from some introspection and a deep desire to improve by starting with humility and avoiding the notion that a teacher will instantly produce results.

  28. Uhit

    Dec 15, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    …and there are teaching pros, who are (at least) strange.

    I recently came from the range, with 4 long iron in hand (3x2i + 3i).

    I had a happy face, because I was surprised, how good I had hit my new 2 iron in comparison to the others.

    The pro told me, that long irons are very rare, because most rather use a wood, or a hybrid, because woods and hybrids are more easy to hit.

    After he saw the residues of range balls around the middle of the club face,
    he told me, that I have to be careful, to exclusively use long irons instead of woods…

    …because I could lose the ability to hit woods, because they would have an even smaller sweet spot, than my irons, and would be even harder to hit!

    Btw. this was the pro I had my first lessons as a beginner, and the new 2 iron was a blade, and no driving iron…

    If you want to grow the game, teaching pros like this, should not really teach…

    If you want to grow the game, teaching pros like this, should not be teaching…

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 15, 2017 at 5:52 pm

      If you hit long irons that well, hit long irons. If you get better results from hybrids, use them There is no “should” here or in anything in golf really. Like fingerprints, no two are alike. Good news is you’re playing well! Thx

      • Uhit

        Dec 15, 2017 at 7:09 pm

        Thank you!
        Can´t wait for the next season to start.
        However, I will give the hybrids one more chance – with a steel shaft – the same like in my irons.
        I am curious to see the results.

  29. Jim

    Dec 15, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    I love this article. This is exactly what I do in a lesson and love them because they always seem to help me. Whether it is getting to my front leg better or making sure to extend on the back swing and not pick it up, I have to feel it, then be able to take the lesson with me home to practice and then be able to work on it on my own. A majority of teaching pros want a good result but stubbornness and not feeling the motion often are students hangups.

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The Wedge Guy: My top 5 practice tips



While there are many golfers who barely know where the practice (I don’t like calling it a “driving”) range is located, there are many who find it a place of adventure, discovery and fun. I’m in the latter group, which could be accented by the fact that I make my living in this industry. But then, I’ve always been a “ball beater,” since I was a kid, but now I approach my practice sessions with more purpose and excitement. There’s no question that practice is the key to improvement in anything, so today’s topic is on making practice as much fun as playing.

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved the range, and always embrace the challenge of learning new ways to make a golf ball do what I would like it to do. So, today I’m sharing my “top 5” tips for making practice fun and productive.

  1. Have a mission/goal/objective. Whether it is a practice range session or practice time on the course, make sure you have a clearly defined objective…how else will you know how you’re doing? It might be to work on iron trajectory, or finding out why you’ve developed a push with your driver. Could be to learn how to hit a little softer lob shot or a knockdown pitch. But practice with a purpose …always.
  2. Don’t just “do”…observe.  There are two elements of learning something new.  The first is to figure out what it is you need to change. Then you work toward that solution. If your practice session is to address that push with the driver, hit a few shots to start out, and rather than try to fix it, make those first few your “lab rats”. Focus on what your swing is doing. Do you feel anything different? Check your alignment carefully, and your ball position. After each shot, step away and process what you think you felt during the swing.
  3. Make it real. To just rake ball after ball in front of you and pound away is marginally valuable at best. To make practice productive, step away from your hitting station after each shot, rake another ball to the hitting area, then approach the shot as if it was a real one on the course. Pick a target line from behind the ball, meticulously step into your set-up position, take your grip, process your one swing thought and hit it. Then evaluate how you did, based on the shot result and how it felt.
  4. Challenge yourself. One of my favorite on-course practice games is to spend a few minutes around each green after I’ve played the hole, tossing three balls into various positions in an area off the green. I don’t let myself go to the next tee until I put all three within three feet of the hole. If I don’t, I toss them to another area and do it again. You can do the same thing on the range. Define a challenge and a limited number of shots to achieve it.
  5. Don’t get in a groove. I was privileged enough to watch Harvey Penick give Tom Kite a golf lesson one day, and was struck by the fact that he would not let Tom hit more than five to six shots in a row with the same club. Tom would hit a few 5-irons, and Mr. Penick would say, “hit the 8”, then “hit the driver.” He changed it up so that Tom would not just find a groove. That paved the way for real learning, Mr. Penick told me.

My “bonus” tip addresses the difference between practicing on the course and keeping a real score. Don’t do both. A practice session is just that. On-course practice is hugely beneficial, and it’s best done by yourself, and at a casual pace. Playing three or four holes in an hour or so, taking time to hit real shots into and around the greens, will do more for your scoring skills than the same amount of range time.

So there you have my five practice tips. I’m sure I could come up with more, but then we always have more time, right?

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The Wedge Guy: Anyone can be a better wedge player by doing these simple things



As someone who has observed rank-and-file recreational golfers for most of my life – over 50 years of it, anyway – I have always been baffled by why so many mid- to high-handicap golfers throw away so many strokes in prime scoring range.

For this purpose, let’s define “prime scoring range” as the distance when you have something less than a full-swing wedge shot ahead of you. Depending on your strength profile, that could be as far as 70 to 80 yards or as close as 30 to 40 yards. But regardless of whether you are trying to break par or 100, your ability to get the ball on the green and close enough to the hole for a one-putt at least some of the time will likely be one of the biggest factors in determining your score for the day.

All too often, I observe golfers hit two or even three wedge shots from prime scoring range before they are on the green — and all too often I see short-range pitch shots leave the golfer with little to no chance of making the putt.

This makes no sense, as attaining a level of reasonable proficiency from short range is not a matter of strength profile at all. But it does take a commitment to learning how to make a repeating and reliable half-swing and doing that repeatedly and consistently absolutely requires you to learn the basic fundamentals of how the body has to move the club back and through the impact zone.

So, let’s get down to the basics to see if I can shed some light on these ultra-important scoring shots.

  • Your grip has to be correct. For the club to move back and through correctly, your grip on the club simply must be fundamentally sound. The club is held primarily in the last three fingers of the upper hand, and the middle two fingers of the lower hand. Period. The lower hand has to be “passive” to the upper hand, or the mini-swing will become a quick jab at the ball. For any shot, but particularly these short ones, that sound grip is essential for the club to move through impact properly and repeatedly.
  • Your posture has to be correct. This means your body is open to the target, feet closer together than even a three-quarter swing, and the ball positioned slightly back of center.
  • Your weight should be distributed about 70 percent on your lead foot and stay there through the mini-swing.
  • Your hands should be “low” in that your lead arm is hanging naturally from your shoulder, not extended out toward the ball and not too close to the body to allow a smooth turn away and through. Gripping down on the club is helpful, as it gets you “closer to your work.
  • This shot is hit with a good rotation of the body, not a “flip” or “jab” with the hands. Controlling these shots with your body core rotation and leading the swing with your body core and lead side will almost ensure proper contact. To hit crisp pitch shots, the hands have to lead the clubhead through impact.
  • A great drill for this is to grip your wedge with an alignment rod next to the grip and extending up past your torso. With this in place, you simply have to rotate your body core through the shot, as the rod will hit your lead side and prevent you from flipping the clubhead at the ball. It doesn’t take but a few practice swings with this drill to give you an “ah ha” moment about how wedge shots are played.
  • And finally, understand that YOU CANNOT HIT UP ON A GOLF BALL. The ball is sitting on the ground so the clubhead has to be moving down and through impact. I think one of the best ways to think of this is to remember this club is “a wedge.” So, your simple objective is to wedge the club between the ball and the ground. The loft of the wedge WILL make the ball go up, and the bounce of the sole of the wedge will prevent the club from digging.

So, why is mastering the simple pitch shot so important? Because my bet is that if you count up the strokes in your last round of golf, you’ll likely see that you left several shots out there by…

  • Either hitting another wedge shot or chip after having one of these mid-range pitch shots, or
  • You did not get the mid-range shot close enough to even have a chance at a makeable putt.

If you will spend even an hour on the range or course with that alignment rod and follow these tips, your scoring average will improve a ton, and getting better with these pitch shots will improve your overall ball striking as well.

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Clement: Don’t overlook this if you want to find the center of the face




It is just crazy how golfers are literally beside themselves when they are placed in a properly aligned set up! They feel they can’t swing or function! We take a dive into why this is and it has to do with how the eyes are set up in the human skull!

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