THE TEXAS GOLF ACADEMY

 

GOLF ARTICLES

INTRODUCTION TO GOLF ARTICLES

In an effort to help those of you who have been playing golf for years and would like to gain more understanding of how to improve your game, you will find several articles here that will assist you in that quest.  Some of these articles will address the mental side of improvement while some will help you to gain more understanding of the golf swing in general. 

One of the critical aspects of scoring well is "CONTROLLING YOUR EMOTIONS"  This article deals with the importance of using guidelines that will lead you to correct decisions when your emotions are screaming to make an unwise decision.  Emotions aren't necessarily destructive…if they can be channeled in the right direction. 

Losing control is a feeling that nobody enjoys.  In this article, I will remind you of a song that a famous singer once sang.  Janice Joplin had a good idea of why golfers sometimes cave in under pressure!  "ANXIETY WILL MANIFEST PHYSICALLY"
 deals with focusing on the things that are in our control and not worrying about things which are out of our control.  This principle allows us to stay more relaxed and thereby perform much closer to our potential.

Have you ever heard of being in the zone?  "STAYING TENSION FREE DURING A ROUND OF GOLF"  will help you to understand that getting into and staying in the zone, is much more in your control than you may have ever dreamed.  The pros on tour have to do this because they make their living playing golf but you can learn to do it also.

Would you like to understand what makes you tick on the golf course?  When you play your best, you need to understand why you played so well.  Most golfers are oblivious to why they play well…they just know they have their good days and bad days.  "KEEPING YOUR STATISTICS" is absolutely essential and will help you to actually see yourself much clearer than you have in the past.  To play your best more often…know thyself!

Have you ever played with a golfer that was obnoxious?  Maybe he wasn't obnoxious but was just distracting although very polite.  When we ask someone how they are doing…they might say “pretty good, under the circumstances.”  Well…what are they doing there?  To play golf consistently well, you need to be over the circumstances…not under them!  "PLAYING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE" explains that although we may not be able to choose the conditions in which we play, we don’t have to be distracted by them.

One of the keys to improving at anything is to set goals…both short and long term goals.  In "REACHING GOALS THROUGH ACHIEVING OBJECTIVES" you will see that our long term goals can be reached easier if we’ll focus on the objective at hand.  Too often, we lose sight of what we need to do now…because we are too preoccupied with immediate results. 

Did you know that many people do not improve during and after taking lessons?  Did you know that many people would swear to you that lessons do not help?  "WHY LESSONS CAN BE SO CONFUSING" addresses some of these issues while explaining that many people feel the way they do for good reasons.  Unfortunately…there is very often a communication breakdown between the student and the teacher.  It is the teacher’s responsibility to bridge that gap so that the student understands the improvement process clearly.  However...the student simply must be able to keep things in perspective and clearly understand what the teacher is trying to accomplish.

Have you ever self destructed on the golf course?  "AVOIDING RHYTHM BUSTERS" examines why this type of episode takes place and how to avoid it in the future.  Do you enjoy it when you have the feeling of accomplishment?  Those of you that have self destructed many times in the past will enjoy that feeling of accomplishment if you can learn the lessons taught in this article.

What two words are the pros trying to fulfill every time they tee it up in a tournament?  You are only human if you get distracted but "ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS" is crucial to playing your best.  In this article, learn ways that you too…can eliminate distractions and play your best golf.

Do you enjoy analogies?  Physics?  Understanding the golf swing?  "LOADING, STORING AND RELEASING ENERGY" puts a picture in your mind that you can understand, to help you with something that you may not understand; transferring energy in the golf swing.  You will get a clearer picture of why the pros hit the ball so far with seemingly little effort and how you can start to employ some of those same characteristics in your golf swing.

How’s your short game?  Do you fear a chip or pitch shot?  "PRACTICING YOUR SHORT GAME" deals with which shot to play in a given situation.  You will learn about "The Golden Rule Around The Green."  You will understand what "Flop Happy Disease" is.  This article explains how you can know what the right shot for you is…in any situation.

Learn why the actor Clint Eastwood would have been a good golf instructor.  He understood something very well that goes right over the head of many golfers, especially the male golfers.  "STAYING IN YOUR RHYTHM" will show you how you can stay in control of yourself when you are having one of those bad days on the golf course.  You’ll tend to look at golfers differently from now on because you will see how they tend to violate this principle that is critical to success on the course.

Let’s compare the golf swing to a car!  What similarities do those two have to each other?  You might be surprised.  Have you ever heard the term Tight Tolerances?  "TIGHTENING UP YOUR TOLERANCES" lets you in on more physics about the golf swing.  Which car has tighter tolerances…a new one or an old one?  What significance does that have upon the way it accelerates, handles, noises it makes or its gas mileage?  Does your golf swing have tight tolerances?  You’ll look at all golf swings differently after reading this article.

Do you have a youngster that enjoys golf?  Are you sure that pushing your child to succeed at golf at such an early age is wise?  In "THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPING JUNIOR GOLFERS" you might gain some insight into how best to let them progress.  If your child is taking lessons, this article is a "must read!"

Good golfing!
   

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 CONTROLLING YOUR EMOTIONS
By: Steve Williams

People that do not play golf may not be able to appreciate just how difficult this can be. For those of us that do play, we know that it is an ongoing struggle that we sometimes seem to have in control and yet at other times, undeniably out of control. Sound familiar? Kind of like life…wouldn’t you say?

Is it really that important to control our emotions on the golf course anyway? Giving way to emotions allows us to experience things that can be life changing. Why squelch something that can be a vehicle of enjoying success, passion, fulfillment or many other things that bring joy or happiness? Well…quite simply, because emotional decisions, whether positive or negative tend to be reckless and very often lead to undesirable results.

When feeling either jubilation or frustration, we will have the tendency to make decisions that stray from logic. Decisions made in that manner can oftentimes lead us into regrettable situations that prudence would have kept us from. This is why having certain playing principles and guidelines…are necessary and can be used to guide us when we are feeling emotion to any extreme.

Equipped with those guidelines, we won’t have to block out emotion but can actually use it to our advantage. You see, some people simply have to find a way to eliminate emotions while playing because they lack the guidance of strategy principles. Those who have recognized the importance of disciplined thinking on the golf course can go ahead and enjoy the moment…or even vent some frustration, that is if they’ll look to their guide when planning their next shot.

You see, you can go ahead and let the emotions come, whether jubilation or anger. Just let your course management decisions be based upon sound strategy principles that you have memorized and found to be successful. Emotion can actually be a valuable tool in helping us to play better…again, as long as we use already established guidelines to govern our decisions about how to play.

Frustration brought to the surface can actually help us! Sometimes, you need to give yourself a swift kick…in order to shake your mind to the extent necessary to get focused again. This is an instance where getting angry can be beneficial. Use anger though, as an opportunity to right the ship or…regain your focus. Don’t let anger cause you to stray from being focused. This is where I see many people wreck (for lack of a better term) a round of golf.

They might be focused and playing quite well. Maybe they missed a short putt because it hit a spike mark. They get so angry at the bad luck of hitting a spike mark that they lose their composure for a hole or so. That might have been all it took for them to board the slow train to disaster. You know the rest of the story; their round went from great to just another round in the long line of unfulfilled rounds that started off with so much potential and then slowly disintegrated.

Now…let me give you an example! Let’s say John is playing well but on the fifteenth hole he three putts from seven feet. He is angry and when he steps up on the sixteenth tee, he decides that he is going to cut the inside of the dogleg so that he can have a chance of reaching this par 5 in two shots. He knows from prior experience that cutting the inside of this dogleg can be disastrous because there are many trees on the inside of the dogleg. He also pauses to think about how his instructor has told him that it is better to err to the outside of doglegs when a lot of trees are present on that particular hole.

His knowledge of that rule of thumb suddenly says to him “play smart and
avoid the inside of tree lined doglegs.” His emotions are saying “ahhhhh go ahead and go for it so that you can regain the lost shot on fifteen.” Then another principle comes to his mind. Don’t let past bad decisions make you stray from sound decisions now. The past is the past! Forget it and move on.

John realizes that there will be other opportunities to play aggressive but will wait for those to present themselves rather than push the issue right now. Maybe he ends up bogeying the hole because he pulls his drive into the exact situation he was trying to avoid…to the left of the fairway and in the trees.

That happens even when we play smart. That’s just the nature of golf. However, it wasn’t a course management or loss of focus issue, he simply hit a bad shot. He then needs to have the composure necessary to say to himself, it was just a swing error, not something that was the result of me losing my temper and deciding to go for broke to get back the shot that I lost on fifteen.

In summary, establish guidelines that will lead you to make good decisions
while playing golf. These guidelines must have preeminence over what you are feeling at the time. Be careful to notice how much emotion is too much for you to be able to continue thinking correctly. Train yourself to make wise decisions even when your emotions want to explode. Consider it a victory in knowing that you can control your thoughts on the golf course and not be controlled by them.

Good golfing!

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 ANXIETY WILL MANIFEST PHYSICALLY
By: Steve Williams

It is always important to assess problems accurately in order that they can be addressed and eliminated. Quite often, people tell me that they could have scored much better in a tournament if their ball striking had been better. When asked if they had let tension or anxiety creep in (sometimes referred to as “choking”), they might be quick to say, “No, it was just bad ball striking.”

Without a doubt, there are times when we are staying calm and in the present…yet, not hitting the ball well. That happens to everybody at times. If we are the competitive type though…we won’t usually blame undesirable results in tournaments on nerves unless it is painfully obvious to us and maybe our playing partners. When it is obvious that we are succumbing to pressure, it becomes something that we are unable to deny…at least to ourselves! You see anxiety will eventually manifest itself physically.

Have you ever played golf in a pressure packed situation and noticed that after you had passed the point of being in contention, let’s say…you were so much over par that you figured you had already blown any chance of placing amongst the leaders, that you started hitting the ball better? You might tell someone later that you finally fixed what was going wrong with your swing earlier in the round. You even started lamenting on hole number 16 let’s say…that had you hit the ball like this on the first few holes, you could have finished in contention.

Janice Joplin sang a famous song that was titled “Me and Bobby McGee.” In that song, she said; “freedom’s just another word for…nothing left to lose.” Let me suggest to you that more often than not, the reason why you started hitting the ball better was because you stopped feeling the pressure of needing to score well and the accompanying distractions that go along with that mindset. Tension in the arms would start to decrease and rhythm would improve. This is very difficult for the average person to accept at times. On the other hand, it is important for us to recognize if we are to address the problem and take the necessary steps to fix it.

ACCEPTANCE! That is one of the keys to dealing with this problem. If we accept that our nerves are shaky, we allow ourselves to get past that moment and deal with the effect of shaky nerves. If we don’t accept that we are experiencing problems because of nerves, we will get stuck at that point and can then expect to face the same problem over and over again in subsequent pressure situations until we can learn to get past it.

You aren’t thinking negatively just because you have acknowledged a weakness that is present. On the contrary, you will have simplified the situation enough so that you can start to focus more clearly and not be distracted by wondering what the problem may be.

Everybody chokes! Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson…they all choke and have admitted it on numerous occasions. I have to officiate at many competitive rounds of golf. Too often, I see people rejecting any notion that nerves played a part in their faulty play. I can tell you this; I expect that kind of person to fold, virtually every time they get under pressure. I hate it…really! I hate to see people have to deal with such a tough situation and then deny the obvious and consequently not learn what they had the opportunity to learn.

You see…it can be quite a blow to our ego to admit that we don’t have what it takes mentally, to deal with a certain situation. Let me suggest that we all have to pay our dues. We must learn through experience how to play our best golf. When we have less than desirable results, it behooves us to recall the round and make at least a mental note of what caused us to perform poorly.

This is one of the reasons why so many touring pros have played all over the world and on so many different tours. It can take a long time to finally figure out what it takes for you to perform your best. Wait a minute though…shouldn’t we just be able to think positively and then go out and perform just as we expected ourselves to do? If you answer that with a yes…I suggest you get a little more experience under your belt.

Too often, talking positively about things that are out of our control, only serves to put more pressure on a person and not prepare them for the periods of crisis that virtually everybody faces in every round of golf they play. I’m not saying that negative thinking is what we should be dwelling on though. I’m just suggesting that positive thinking taken to an extreme only sets us up for disaster.

It isn’t so uncommon to hear someone say, “I’m going to win this tournament that I am playing in this weekend.” Kind of like…it’s a given! That usually sounds to me like they’re just trying to convince themselves that they are going to win. Very honestly…that’s not confidence! It is oftentimes misinterpreted as confidence though…and why not?

Haven’t we all been told that we should think positively? We should visualize success! Prepare to win! Don’t give way to negative thoughts! I agree with all of those thoughts but those thoughts simply must be kept in balance with reality.

I would much rather hear a person say something like; “I don’t know if I will win or lose the tournament but…I am there to do my best because I can do no better than my best. Therefore…I am confident that I will focus clearly and do MY best.” That kind of thinking serves to take pressure off of the person and help them focus on the things that are reasonable for them to control and clear their mind of things that are out of their control.

When we focus on what is in our control, we will be able to keep
distractions to a minimum and thereby relieve anxiety about things that are out of our control. That scenario sets us up to play our best!

Remember this; anxiety permeates the mind when we are facing something that is out of our control…or when we at least perceive that things are out of our control. By keeping your mind upon the things that are in your control, you will reduce anxiety and free up your body to produce better results.

Good golfing!

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 STAYING TENSION FREE
DURING A ROUND OF GOLF
By: Steve Williams

Ever been out on the links playing great and suddenly, without warning…you felt like you couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a handful of oats? Or maybe it was a scenario like this: You hit the ball fantastic on the range. You went through the short irons, middle and long irons, and then the woods, finished with some 60-90 yard wedges and hit the ball like you could shoot 68. Your expectations were soaring when you stepped up on the first tee.

From then on, it was a disaster. You couldn’t understand why just thirty minutes ago, you were hitting it like a touring pro. Now on the golf course…you are having to one putt just to save bogeys and double-bogeys. You then start experimenting with different swing thoughts to try and get back in the mode you were in on the range. You can’t understand for the life of you, how this can be happening.

If this type of thing happens enough, you’ll begin to feel like you will never be able to play under pressure. The average person can stand only so many experiences like these before they begin to take their toll. It is very easy for someone going through this type of situation to wear down emotionally, intellectually and yes…even physically.

You’ve probably heard of the disease referred to, as…”Paralysis by Analysis”! It will happen to everybody at some time or another during their golfing experiences. It basically has its roots in trying to perform under pressure while the brain is barking out orders to the body of how to sequence certain physical movements. Such as: take it back low, keep the left wrist flat at the top, start down with the hips, keep the upper arms close to the body and so on. Actually, these are all generally good things to do.

However, trying to
get the brain to tell the muscles to do these things in such a short period of time (a second and a half or two) while there is a price to pay if we are not successful…is far more than we are able to do on any kind of a consistent basis.

Now as long as we are not too concerned about the outcome of the ball, (at the range) we might be able to do it with at least some success. This would not be optimal though because being concerned with the outcome of the ball can serve to help us focus more intently. You see the problem is not that you would be concerned with the outcome of the ball. It would be more along the lines of being too concerned that you may not make the correct movements to effect the outcome of the ball in a positive way.

This is why repetition at
home is so important. By consistent repetition every day or at least a few times a week, we program the neuro-pathways (connections between the brain and the muscles…also termed as muscle memory) to make certain movements that become instinctive.

Ever swat a fly with a fly swatter? Did you concentrate on how you would flip your wrists or turn your torso or lead with the elbow? Probably not! You might have gauged how far you were from the fly and then gave it a swat but…it would be safe to say that you didn’t try to sequence movements of certain parts of your anatomy in order to dispatch with it. Guess what? Whether consciously or subconsciously…you probably visualized the swat before you actually sent that fella into oblivion. Then you responded to that visualization by just swinging the fly swatter. We perform better when we are relaxed and let our muscles move by instinct. In other words, below the conscious level and without the use of reason or through contrivance.

We actually play our best golf when we visualize a shot in a positive manner and respond to that visualization. If you already set the club correctly at the top, you don’t need to think about it…right? You see, since it is something that you do by instinct, you don’t need to think about it to do it. When we have to swing in a sequence that our brain is trying to get our muscles to perform, even though they are not used to whatever movement it might be while playing golf…we only serve to create tension. This kind of tension would destroy even the best of swings.

However, when we operate by instinct we are virtually tension free. This is where we allow ourselves to slip into “The Zone”. As long as we can stay free of tension, we can remain in “The Zone”. If we start to think that we don’t belong in “The Zone”, we destine ourselves to be thrown from it. Ever been in “The Zone”? What a feeling it was! Almost like someone else with far more talent was playing for you. Things seemed to be happening in slow motion and you were focused in the present. Free of doubt, fear, anxiety, tension and other thoughts that would tell you that you don’t have the talent to be playing this well.

For most people, their time spent in “The Zone” is short lived, maybe only a couple of holes or so. Each time we get into “The Zone”, we learn more and more to stay out of our own way, so that we can stay in this exciting place where we seem to perform at a level far greater than our experience would tell us that we are able. After several visits to “The Zone”, we develop the calmness to stay in it for longer periods of time.

Eventually, we can get to the point that we are in “The Zone” during every round, for at least part of the round. We begin to learn that being in “The Zone” is something that is within our control and not just something that happens by chance once a year or so. There are many good players that can get into “The Zone”, maybe slip from it for a hole or two because of some distraction and then know how to get right back into it.

It not only comes down to swinging the club in response to visualization but there are other factors that help us to stay in “The Zone” for longer periods of time. Staying in the present is of the utmost importance. Worrying about past shots that were a little wayward or…maybe a missed putt a couple of holes back, only serve to keep us from the present. Maybe a thought of a tough hole that is coming up that has been your nemesis in days gone by. You’ll not find “The Zone” by dwelling on thoughts of the future or thoughts of the past. Additionally, you’ll be thrown from “The Zone” even if you have found it, by dwelling on such thoughts.

Imagine…being able to have much more control than you’ve ever had before…of being able to get into and stay in “The Zone”. Wishful thinking? You might be surprised. It is definitely a process that is made clearer by experience. The more you get into “The Zone”, the more you’ll learn from your experiences there. You’ll learn more and more how to stay out of your own way by keeping tension to a minimum.

If you are tension free, does it mean that you are in “The Zone”? Not necessarily. If you are in “The Zone”, does it mean that you are tension free? For all practical purposes…yes! Remember, tension free does not mean that you don’t have butterflies in your stomach. It just means that you are letting your muscles respond to positive visualization and operating by instinct, rather than letting your brain control your muscles through contrivance.

Can you play good golf if the brain has to tell the muscles to move in a certain sequence? Yes…but not as consistently and certainly not to your potential. You might have enough success playing golf with tension, that you actually feel uncomfortable without any tension. Since we are usually content while in our comfort zone, we usually choose to not stray from it.

We will still have the occasional victory but…not to the extent that we are capable of. It is often very difficult to get someone to “TRUST” himself or herself if they are not in the habit of doing so. Once they can experience enough little victories by trusting themselves though, they get to the point that “TRUST” becomes habitual.

When a person habitually trusts their muscles to move in the correct sequence through visualization, they set themselves up to play far above the standard that they are used to. Remember, in all but maybe a few isolated cases, it is a process that comes through little victories, which lead to greater victories and then finally becomes a habit. Those little victories are what give us the impetus to trust more and more so that we can experience greater victories and then finally, through experience…we learn that we are successful when we “TRUST” rather than “DOUBT”!

“TRUST leads to relaxation! ”DOUBT” leads to “FEAR”, “FEAR” leads to “ANXIETY” and “ANXIETY” leads to “TENSION”! TENSION will cause the arms and hands to lose synchronization with the body. In simple terms that means; the person will start trying to guide the club through impact which always leads to disaster!

It would be nice if we could just understand these things and then go make it so. I don’t mean to sound like former president George Bush, but…”Not gonna happen, not gonna happen”! If you were a child, it would come much more naturally because you wouldn’t have a library full of undesirable outcomes of the past. As adults, we have to learn again what it is like to play without fear and stay in the present. We have to get rid of all of those memories of unsuccessful outcomes that have led us to our present condition.

This is one of the reasons why touring professionals putting strokes get shorter and shorter as they progress through their careers. The average person can only stand so many negative outcomes before their mind starts to become fearful and makes adjustments to lessen the chance of a bad outcome. You might hear Peter Alliss say every now and then “Ahhh…to have the nerves of a twenty year old!" Another way to say it might be, “Ahhh…to have the reckless abandon of a young golfer who hasn’t had to file thirty years of undesirable shots into his library”!

Are you relegated to the wreckage pile just because you’ve known many defeats in the past? Not at all. However, you will need to have some kind of vehicle to remove those memories or at least be able to put them out of your mind and focus on the here and now. If I may give you a suggestion that I feel is beneficial. Learn to enjoy the moment. Relish the fact that you even have an opportunity to be in this pressure packed situation in the first place.

Whether it is the pressure of the Club Championship or just the pressure of making the ball carry over water for a hundred and fifty yards or so. You will begin to let yourself win little victories that will lead to greater victories and thereby start to fill you with more and more confidence. You will start filling your library with positive experiences, which will play through your mind when facing future shots.

Would you like to be effective at being able to visualize? Here’s a tip that should help. The next time you hit a shot that you are proud of…hold your finish and feel its balance, look around at the beautiful green grass on the fairway. Smell the fresh air or recently mown grass. Listen for whatever sounds you might hear; maybe birds chirping or just the wind blowing through the trees. Enjoy the feeling of pulling off a shot that might have been under much pressure. The point is, involve as many senses in this experience as you can. Make it as vivid as you are able to and enjoy the moment.

By doing these things, that particular shot will become a memory that you will enjoy playing over and over again. Take advantage of as many good shots as possible by getting into the habit of enjoying the moment. Would you like to play much closer to or…at the level of your potential? Just have a library full of good shots that you can recall and watch the magic begin. This isn’t some new mystical way of playing better golf. It is actually the same type of thing that most of the players on the PGA Tour do habitually.

Keep in mind though, it is extremely difficult to stay focused non-stop for four hours or so. You will find it much easier to visualize when the time comes, if you’ll relax between shots and enjoy the beauty of the golf course, chatting with you playing partners, enjoying the weather or whatever you feel comfortable thinking about. Try to make it something that does not get you keyed up but relaxed.

Remember:

¨ When you hit a good shot, put it into your library as vividly as possible by  incorporating as many senses as you can to remember the moment.

¨
When faced with a similar shot in the future…relive the shot placed in 
your library. Try to recall every sense that you used to remember it. Remember the feeling of satisfaction that you had. Think about how your swing felt.

¨ Now visualize the shape of the shot you are now trying to hit. Picture the ball coming to rest precisely where it was aimed.

¨ Whether you take a practice swing or not is up to you but when you are actually getting ready to make the shot, trust your muscles to make the necessary movements in response to your visualization…to create the shot that you visualized over again. Relax and let your instincts take over.

Hey…there’s another shot that you can put into your library.

Good golfing!

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 KEEPING YOUR STATISTICS
By: Steve Williams


If you don’t keep your playing statistics, you are making it much more
difficult to play up to your potential. Think of a stat sheet…as being a mirror. If you want to get a good look at yourself, just check out a stat sheet that you’ve filled out for at least 10 rounds or so. Even better, 30 rounds or more.

After seeing your stats for that many rounds, you’ll start to know yourself much better than you ever have, at least when it comes to what makes you tick on the course and/or…during those pressure packed tournament rounds.

Let’s get right into what stats, at a minimum, should be kept. For each round of golf, record at least these:

Date
Course
Par
Your score
Fairways hit
Greens in regulation
GIR putts
Total putts
Up and downs (from 20 yards in)
Sand saves (greenside bunker)
Penalty strokes (for accuracy, OB/Lost ball=2 Water=1)

You’ll need to rate yourself from 1-10 on the next four. 10 being excellent and 1 being poor.

Focus – How well you were able to stay in the present and focus on the task at hand.
Patience – How well you were able to accept distractions and keep your negative emotions in check.
Rhythm – How consistent your scores were from hole to hole.
TPR/Thought Processing Rate – How consistent was your rate at processing thoughts and making decisions. Did you let certain thoughts enter and stay in your mind…that created anxiety? Did you alternate between being calm and then agitated to the point of becoming anxious?

These four are going to be the nuts and bolts of what actually makes you tick on the golf course and how to consistently perform as close as possible to your potential on a particular day.

After each round, you’ll need to record your stats for that round and be sure to rate yourself on these four categories. Do it while the round is still fresh in your mind. If your emotions are still animated somewhat…even better. You are going to discover that one and maybe two of these will be what you need to focus on while playing to play your best.

After you’ve compiled 20 rounds or so, pick out the lowest five scores and see what things in there that you can find are consistent with each other. It might be that your patience was averaging 8.0 or better. Maybe it will be that your TPR was the only consistency that you could find.

No matter what it turns out to be, that will be something that you have to start paying attention to while playing. If you can keep that element in control while playing, your scores will start to reflect the consistency that goes along with that. We can prove that by your history…get it?

I can remember back some years ago while I was in the midst of a few weeks of poor ball striking because of making some swing changes. I had a mini-tour tournament that I was supposed to play in and when I was pulling up in the parking lot, I saw a few players that were ranked as world class.

“Hmmm…not only am I striking the ball poorly, there are some very good players here today so my chances aren’t very good”…I thought to myself. Then I regained focus and concentrated on what I set as a goal that morning before I left home. All I am going to concentrate on today is getting a rating of at least eight on FOCUS. My stats had shown me that when I do, I was averaging well below par. If my ball striking had been poor for the last few weeks, it sure wasn’t going to just fix itself that day.

I had to concentrate on what I could control, not what I couldn’t control. Getting a rating of eight or better, certainly was in my control and not only that, it would be nice to concentrate on just one single thing…”staying in the present!”

Imagine all of the distractions that could be eliminated if I narrowed my concentration on just one thing. Well, to make a long story short…even though I struggled with my putting, I missed winning the tournament by a single shot. I also hit 18 greens in regulation and two of the par fives in two shots. You see, by feeling in control of the situation because of concentrating on something that I had control over, I actually relaxed and had one of the finest ball striking days I had ever had.

There is an old prayer by a fellow named Reinhold Niebuhr. It is called “The Serenity Prayer.” The lesson that we can learn from the first part of it is one of the secrets that touring pros do by design or stumble upon sooner or later if they are successful. The first part of it goes like this:

"God, help me to have courage to change the things I can, accept the things I cannot change and have the wisdom to know the difference."

Start keeping your statistics and you will see what you can control and where you lack control. Used correctly, you will find that your thinking is becoming much more efficient and distractions are kept to a minimum.

Good golfing!

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 PLAYING WITH DIFFICULT PEOPLE
By: Steve Williams

If you’ve played golf for any length of time, you are certainly aware that this situation takes place on a regular basis. What are different descriptions we can use for “difficult people?" Really, it could be anybody that has habits that are contrary to our own. Such as being fast, slow, noisy, fidgety, talkative, loud or many other things that you can add.

We don’t have to play with people that are difficult though. That is why people tend to find those whom they enjoy playing with, and form a group that plays regularly. However, if we enjoy playing in tournaments, we have to be prepared to play with people that we would otherwise stay away from.

If we are not prepared, we set ourselves up to have a poor round of golf or at least a frustrating one. I have overseen many competitive rounds of golf over the years. Consequently, I hear the competitors’ complaints or jubilation on a regular basis. Believe me, it is quite common for people to blame their poor playing on other people with whom they were playing.

I’m not going to tell you that they are incorrect in their assessment; in fact…they may have hit the nail on the head as to why they played poorly. Under normal circumstances, with their regular group, they may have played very well that particular day. It may well have been that someone with poor etiquette rattled them so much that they lost focus and from that point on, they were a basket case.

So…the reason why they played poorly that day may well have been because of a playing partner that was throwing them off their rhythm. However, it behooves us to not be so much at the mercy of other players’ actions but in control of our own emotions and thought processes to the point that others simply do not rattle us.

Most people would be far better off if they approached such a situation as a challenge to their discipline. Can you stay focused while others behave or act in a way that would normally rattle you? You might have to learn new ways of focusing or getting into pre-shot routines that will keep you focused on the task at hand.

However you choose to go about it, start out by considering it a challenge that you are up to. You will never be able to control others actions simply by wishing it so. You can however, control your own thoughts and thereby lessen the adverse effects that others have on you.

Because I do not know you personally, I am not aware of the idiosyncrasies that you have. Therefore this will take some work on your part to identify what you will have to do to effect improvement in these areas. You simply must pay attention to the elements around you while playing, so that you can define what distracts you and pulls you from your rhythm.

Then, you can take the necessary steps to overcome such obstacles. In the future…when you see others become distracted by playing partners, you can remember back when you fell victim to similar circumstances and take pleasure in knowing that you are stronger now and have other things more crucial to the task at hand to focus on.

Good golfing!

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 REACHING GOALS THROUGH
ACHIEVING OBJECTIVES
By: Steve Williams


What would be the ultimate determination of whether a student gained help
from lessons or not? Better scores? Better ball striking? More distance? More enjoyment out of playing golf? These would all be good indicators of progress and should be considered accurate criteria in which to judge progress. However, are they accomplished by just focusing on each one? Usually not!Typically, they are the result of other objectives that have been accomplished or…we can call them a by-product.

Let me give an example: Let’s say that Mike says during our initial lesson that he wants to get more distance. After explaining to him that club head speed is the largest determining factor of how far a ball is hit…he asks if he just needs to swing harder? That’s a reasonable question, given his desire to get more distance. Indeed, that may be the only thing that he needs to do. Not very likely though!

The vast majority of the time, a golfer will gain more distance simply by creating a more efficient swing. This calls for better positioning of the club during the swing. Better club positioning is accomplished by better synchronization of the torso, legs, arms and hands. After explaining these facts to Mike, we examine his torso, leg, arm and hand positions through the use of video. We see that although he has a nice backswing, he has a significant reduction of the radius at the top (hands too close to the head at the top of the back swing). Ideally, the right arm (right handed golfer) would be at roughly a 90-degree angle.

This error at the top is causing other elements to get out of position and translates into lower club head speed at impact. He now has a basic understanding of cause and effect regarding his dilemma. It would be beneficial to summarize the situation for him and explain a more efficient way of addressing the problem.

“Mike, you will on occasion, hit the ball further by swinging harder. However, if we can widen the radius at the top, this will load resistance into the correct muscles and you will give other elements the predisposition to move into correct paths and thereby achieve greater club head speed at impact while…actually exerting less effort than have previously.

A little side note…it is always fun to see the look on a student’s face after
they catch on to an epiphany that seems to startle them.

Now Mike, we need to work on an assignment that will help you to achieve the objective of creating a larger radius. I give him a few exercises and drills that will train his muscles to get into the correct position at the top. We also practice the correct position several times while he keeps his eyes on the ball, (enhancing feel) so that he develops the feel of the correct position while at the top.

I want to ask him at this time, what he would need to think, in order to get the club and his body into the same position at the top. He tells me that the new position at the top, feels kind of like carrying a pizza as a waiter would with his right arm. “In fact”…he says, “it feels like it would be a big family size pizza, instead of a personal pan that I could carry close to my ear.”

Excellent…now he has a vivid picture in his mind to remind his muscles which position to get into at the top. He is now going to work on a positional objective instead of just directing his attention towards hitting the ball farther. The positional objective is to create a larger radius. This will in turn, create more club head speed at impact, which will help him to get more distance, which is the long-term goal. I tell him that during the next few weeks, we will measure his radius from time to time so that he can see whether he is progressing or not.

Now let’s project this situation ahead a few days or so. Mike is out hitting balls and happens to notice that he is not striking the ball very well. He has hit several of them fat and a few off of the neck. This is very distracting as he is trying to widen his radius. The thought of going back to his old swing starts to permeate his mind. Oops…he thinks to himself, I was starting to lose focus of my objective, which is NOT ball striking right now…it is getting used to a larger radius.

He remembers that he needs to stay focused on the immediate objective of the correct position at the top rather than losing focus on that and becoming distracted by his desire to hit the ball cleanly right now. In fact…his success depends upon his ability to stay focused on the positional objective while dealing with numerous ball-striking distractions that are going to invade his mind.

To help him with this objective, I tell him that when we have our next lesson, we will video his swing while he is hitting balls. What we’ll be checking for is the position at the top that was described earlier. If he is in the correct position, regardless of how he is striking the ball, he will have completed the assignment and can consider himself to be successful...at least as far as this particular assignment is considered. We can then go on to any other adjustments that need to be made following the better position at the top.

If you are working with a golf pro, be willing to trust him/her and focus on accomplishing the task at hand. Achieve enough positional objectives and you will find that the long-term goals will be reached simply as a result of focusing on the short-term objectives.

Good golfing!

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 WHY LESSONS CAN BE SO CONFUSING
By: Steve Williams

How many times have you heard this; "I went to this guy that was supposed to be a great teacher but… he just made me hit the ball worse than before I went to him." If you haven't heard a friend say something like that yet, you most likely will sooner or later.

I was hitting balls on the range one day and overheard one fellow telling his friend, "I went to Jake Putt, (name substituted) and he is supposed to be one of the best teachers in the state. All he did was wreck my game for about two months until I finally straightened it out myself."

Later, I had a chance to talk with this fellow and I asked him if he'd be willing to share with me what it was that the instructor had told him that wrecked his game so badly. That was all the catalyst he needed…to go on a tirade about what the instructor had told him and how it cost him a lot of money over the next few weeks in the game he plays with "The Boys!"

Ah…now it was obvious why he was so disturbed. He had been losing money in his regular game to "The Boys" and he felt like the $75.00 or so that he paid to the instructor didn't do him any good and it also cost him untold money with "The Boys." He also went on to say that he would be a complete idiot if he ever considered taking a lesson again. By the way, he had no idea that I was a teaching professional. Now, this brings up some questions… are his thoughts justified?

Even though it is in my nature… as a teaching pro, to defend the pro’s side, I want to look at it from the side of the irritated golfer. Did the pro really cause his game to suffer? Yes, it would seem so, since he was unable to go out and play at least as good as he usually did. "The Boys" stomped on him a few times before he could get his game back in order. Not only did he pay $75.00 for a lesson, he also lost quite a lot of money to those guys and… he had to go through a few weeks of frustrating practice and repetition of his old habits before he could resurrect his game to the point that it was before.

Do you blame this guy for having an attitude such as he had? I don't! Who do you know that takes pleasure in spending money on something that is going to make them suffer? Don't we all expect to get some kind of value for the money we spend?

Honestly, this kind of thing happens quite frequently. However, we should consider whether that person is being accurate or not. Did the instructor just confuse him and cause him to hit the ball much worse? Could be! Was it the instructor's fault or… was it that the person was just losing focus and being stubborn? Either one of those or both could be the case.

When a person is seeking help for something…they are not satisfied with the status quo. The person that takes a lesson is seeking help and does want to improve or else why would they be taking lessons?

So, where does the problem lie? Mostly, I would say that it lies in the communication between the teacher and the student. It is the responsibility of the teacher to find out as much as he/she can about the student's golf history.

Does the student have any physical limitations?
What kind of goals has this person set…if any?
How much time is this person willing and reasonably able to put into practice?Does this person relate better to instruction through words, visualization or feel?Are they disciplined in their time spent in practice?
Do they have any subscriptions to golfing publications?
Do they watch the Golf Channel?
What is their opinion of their athletic ability?
Have they played other sports?
Do they consider themselves to be patient?
Have they had any bad or embarrassing experiences related to golf in the past that has been burnt into their mind?

You might be surprised to see some of the responses I get on that last question. These are general questions that I like to ask students before the very first lesson!

All of these questions and others are very helpful in determining what kind of approach I am going to take with the students that I teach. Hypothetically speaking, I could have ten students that have identical swing faults and yet, what I give them to work on, could be completely different from each other.

My decisions would be based upon where I feel they are coming from and
where they want to go. Quite often, unless it is something very fundamental, I won't tell two people to work on the same thing if one of them has much higher goals and far more patience…even if they have virtually the same swing fault.

If a person has decided to get lessons, it is of the utmost importance that this person finds a pro that can get on the same level as he/she is. It isn't too uncommon to hear a pro being a little too technical with students that have no comprehension of what they are talking about. Then there are times that the pro either hasn't the understanding and/or the patience to give explanations as to why the student needs to work on such and such in their swing.

In either case, the student will go home frustrated and feeling that their investment was a waste. For those of you seeking help with your game and have decided to get lessons. If I may, I would like to give a few suggestions as to how you can save yourself from getting into a situation that becomes an exercise in futility.

Do your best to get references and then call some of the people on the list to see what they think of the pro. Ask fellow golfers that seem to have a good handle on the game, if they can suggest someone locally. Call your local PGA Section and ask who the top teachers in the area are. I wouldn't stop  there however. A call to the USGTF office in Florida can be of help because they can give you the names of good teachers in your area. There are many good teachers that are not affiliated with the PGA, USGTF or any other group for that matter. That's why it would behoove you to ask around as much as you can.

When you do finally find a pro with whom you can work, ask if they would object to you asking for the reasons why they will be giving you a particular aspect of your swing to work on. Not that you don't trust their judgment but…just so you can understand more about the golf swing. Personally, I enjoy teaching others about the physics of the swing and also about how muscle groups work together. If the pro has a passion for their work, they will usually welcome any questions that you may have.

Next… try to give the pro a decent chance to help you. If you expect to hit the ball great after one lesson or two…you might become very unhappy with the pro and give up. In order to change habits that might have been ingrained into your swing through many thousands of swings…you have to make hundreds or in some cases, thousands of repetitions with the CORRECT motions.

Try to think of the teaching professional as a golf swing surgeon. You wouldn't be doing yourself any favors if you jump off the operating table just after he cut you open and found where the problems lie. You might be thinking "Come on now, he doesn't really cut me open"! Oh yeah, just let him start to make changes to your swing and see if it doesn't feel like you've been cut open.

Let me add… most people that do not improve struggle because they do not do their drills and exercises at home as often as they should. Improving at golf is exactly like other things…you'll get out of it what you put into it! Let each area in your swing that is inefficient become a hurdle. Get over one hurdle and go to the next one. Please don't try to get over so many hurdles at one time that you lose focus of the primary hurdle. If you have made the commitment to take lessons, let the golf pro guide you through the building or…rebuilding process and do your best to trust their judgment.

In closing, some people are of such makeup that they won't benefit from lessons. However, the vast majority of people would raise the potential they have to get into the nineties, the eighties, the seventies or even the sixties by taking a series of lessons or two and finding out where their particular weaknesses lie.

In the process, you will learn how to troubleshoot your game even when the pro is not around to give you hints. That gives you a very nice feeling of satisfaction and will prove to you that you can do it if you'll focus, be disciplined with your practice time and enjoy the learning experience. Have fun with your golf…after all, that is why we play this great game!

Good golfing!

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 AVOIDING RHYTHM BUSTERS
By: Steve Williams

What in the world is a rhythm buster? It’s a term that I use for something that takes place during a round of golf…when the golfer makes a bad decision and finds him or her self frustrated to the point of a loss of focus in the present. Now let your mind visualize this situation:

Justin is a 7-handicap golfer who is on the green of the sixth hole. He is one under par and is looking at a birdie putt of about eight feet. It is a slippery downhill putt that is going to be quite fast. He lines it up and imagines making it to take himself to –2 for the round. Standing over the putt, he wants it so bad, he can taste it! He strokes the putt and gets excited as he sees it breaking toward the hole…”yes, yes, it’s going to drop!” No, it doesn’t drop but lips out and goes beyond the hole about six feet. Now he has to make a six-footer just to save his par and remain –1. He ends up missing that putt and disgustedly walks off the green with a bogey.

On the way to the next green, Justin is madder than a wet hen! “How could I have done that?”…he laments. “I can two-putt that same putt ten times in a row if I wanted to…why did I have to be so bold in trying to make it?” While deciding how he is going to play the tee-shot on the seventh hole, his mind keeps thinking about the blown shot on the last hole. “I don’t get many opportunities to score this well and now I three putt from eight feet. What an idiot!”

He then proceeds to hook his tee-shot into a water hazard. Drops out in two and before he hits his next shot, he can’t help but feel like the wheels are coming off of this round. He then hits his short iron approach fat and into the bunker short of the green. From there, he blasts out and two putts for a double bogey…six.

Can you see how this particular round of golf is on the fast track to destruction? Believe me, this happens on a regular basis to most golfers. If you haven’t experienced a round such as this, you probably just haven’t played that much golf. Justin has just suffered the aforementioned “Rhythm Buster!”

I describe a rhythm buster as a negative event that is the result of a bad decision regarding course management or just a lack of focus. I want to persuade all those I work with, to eliminate rhythm busters during their rounds of golf. There are times when any of us would three putt from eight feet…even if we are careful not to! If I three putt from eight feet but walk off the green feeling as if I still used caution and focused well…that does not constitute a rhythm buster.

In other words, there was not anything that I would have done differently in the way my thought processes worked. I would then accept that the threeputt is an isolated event that happens on occasion to any and everybody and it just happened to me. Acceptance of that reality allows me to refocus on the task at hand and not be distracted by what could be described as a “stupid decision” or “lack of focus.”

Rhythm busters are avoidable if we stay focused and realize that the shot we are presently hitting is setting up our next shot. That mind-set substantially decreases the odds of suffering a rhythm buster.

Something that can be helpful in learning to lower your scores is to recall
your round after you are through playing. Re-live each shot; think about the strategy that you had planned for each shot. Recall what you were trying to accomplish with each shot. After going through your entire round, (which will usually take about five to ten minutes) think to yourself how many shots you could have saved if you had used a little more caution with your course management.

Honestly, the golfer who averages 90 let’s say…will probably be able to shave five shots or so from his/her round just by eliminating those aggressive decisions that ended up costing them another stoke or two each time they made a poor decision.

Have you ever watched a tee-ball game? You know…the baseball games that are played by kids that are in the 5-7 age group. They can be quite entertaining! Many times, someone will hit the ball to let’s say…the shortstop. The shortstop fields the ball and then throws it to first base. The first baseman doesn’t catch the ball as it skitters past him and rolls another twenty feet or so. He runs to pick it up and then throws it to second base in hopes of nailing the runner. The second baseman jumps to catch it as it flies over his head and into left field…but he cannot jump high enough. The runner now decides that he can make it to third base so off he goes. The left fielder picks up the ball and throws it to third base. However…his throw is off the mark and now the runner is headed to home plate. By the time one of the other players picks it up and throws it home, the player is safe with an inside-the-park home run…but only because of the errors that had been committed. In other words, what was really only a single, turned out to get the player home because of faulty decisions.

Those games used to remind me of watching “The Keystone Cops”. They can be hilarious. Couldn’t those kids see how many mistakes they were making and that they would probably keep many runs from scoring if they’d just play a little smarter? There were so many times that I wanted to scream at the players just to hold the ball for a second just to make sure the runner was not trying to advance…and then throw it back to the pitcher. If that strategy were employed, much fewer runs would be scored in a typical teeball game.

Well guess what? Very often…uhhhh, I mean the majority of the time that I play with golfers; it is close to the same scenario. I am dumbfounded quite often by the lack of reason that the average golfer uses while playing golf. Many times I just want to stop them and say “do you not realize that it would be much more advantageous for you to just punch the ball back into the fairway and set up a nice short iron approach than to try to hit it through those trees 225 yards trying to reach the green?

Please understand this; if you are the average golfer, you are guilty of the same thing on a regular basis. Shocking? I am being rather pointed here after all. What am I doing…insinuating that you are an idiot? No…not really, you’re just normal! As such…you are at risk of succumbing to such mistakes. I am just asking you to learn from those mistakes by recalling them and trying to not make the same mistakes on your next round.

In summary, always remember that the shot you are getting ready to hit…is setting up your next shot. Try to plan accordingly! Recognize a situation that can get out of hand quickly and result in some lost shots because of not playing cautious enough. Make a conscious effort to notice when you have a rhythm buster and learn from that experience for future situations.

Good golfing!

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 ELIMINATING DISTRACTIONS
By: Steve Williams

Those two words epitomize what touring pros are trying to do while competing. Distractions can come in many forms and to eliminate them, you need to recognize them. So…what is a distraction? Anything that takes your focus away from the task at hand. Here are some examples:

Weather extremes such as cold, heat, wind and storms.
Time constraints.
Physical problems of any kind.
Fatigue, whether it be physical, intellectual or emotional.
Worry or even excitement about an upcoming event or situation in life.
A playing partner with bad etiquette.
Players in the field that you feel would beat you easily or that you would beat easily.
Worrying about what others will think of your performance.
Memories of bad results in the past.
Trying to get a good score back to the clubhouse before the round is over.

These are just a few of the things that can become distractions during a round of golf and keep you from getting into the state of mind that allows you to perform at your highest level. What would be the key then…to eliminating them? “Staying in the present.”

It doesn’t really make any difference which of the above-mentioned distractions are present. Staying in the present is the key to keeping your mind focused and calm. Your mind simply must focus on the shot at hand and not stray into other areas.

If your mind doesn’t experience distractions…you are not human. The key is to recognize what thoughts are not productive for the task at hand and go through a process of eliminating them as quickly as possible.

Practiced often enough, you will create the habit of staying disciplined in your thought processes and not allow unproductive thoughts to reside in your mind for any length of time. Consequently, your mind will remain as calm as possible during your round which will enable you shoot scores much closer to your potential.

Let me suggest having a consistent pre-shot routine. One that you have done so many times that it happens without contrivance. It will need to be contrived during the building process…while you are adding elements to it and putting them all together. However, after you have done it literally hundreds or even thousands of times, it will simply be a pattern of movements and thoughts that happen out of habit.

These thoughts and movements serve to separate your mind from distractions and put you into a semi-trance if you will…which will let your instinct take control of the process rather than cluttered thoughts that only serve to add tension to the process.

Aside from a pre-shot routine, learn to enjoy the scenery, your playing partners and the challenge of playing golf at your best while you are between shots. Then, when it comes time to hit your shot…just slip into your preshot routine and let your instinct take over.

The next time you are playing and recognize a distraction, maybe a player with poor etiquette, challenge yourself to be patient with that person while being able to focus on the task at hand. Let the actions of your pre-shot routine serve to separate you from the distractions of that person and get you into a deepened focus that you always reserve for the task at hand.

If it is more of a physical ailment that is distracting you, let that pain be a trigger to induce deeper focus in the present. This is not easy to do. It is in our nature rather to make excuses for our bad play because of a physical ailment. Can you see how this would be unproductive though? Sometimes, to play at our best, we have to dig deep within and find ways to stay focused and rise above elements that formerly caused us to crumble.

What if you are being distracted by someone else that you know…maybe someone that you have clashed with before, and you cannot help but feel this overwhelming passion to beat him today? This fella might be several groups in front of your group…so that you have no idea what he is shooting.

Maybe you find yourself worrying about what he is shooting to the point that it is distracting what you are doing. You must realize that you have no control over what he is doing and therefore you would be straying into areas of thought that are out of your control. This is a recipe for disaster my friend.

Few things cause anxiety more than worrying about things that are out of our control. Please learn to eliminate thoughts of things that you cannot control and learn to focus on those things that are in your control. Honestly…if I had to pinpoint one area that causes people to play poorly more than any other area…it would be thinking or worrying about things that are out of their control.

Finally, set a personal goal of creating habits that continually put you back into focus and eliminate things that distract you. Remember now…you must create a habit here that accomplishes what I just stated. If it does not become a habit…you will not experience success to the level you would if it does become a habit.

Good golfing!

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 LOADING, STORING
AND RELEASING ENERGY
By: Steve Williams

You know the old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words”! Let’s think about that, a picture can be construed as many thoughts or feelings, wrapped up in one package. If we can put a picture in our student’s mind…that effectively conveys the thought that we would like for them to remember, they will have a vivid picture that they can replay at any time.

Kind of like zipping an e-mail. Once a person gets an e-mail that has been zipped, all they have to do is open it and voila, many words…maybe thousands, that were zipped into a nice little package so that the computers involved, didn’t have to send and receive all of the bits of information associated with thousands of words but…just one package as a whole.

You’ve probably also heard the statistics about how much of a speech we remember after one hour, one day, three days or even a week! It is difficult for our students to remember very much of the things we ask them to do unless we can put a picture of what we are trying to achieve…in their mind.

Then they can always call that picture back into their conscious mind and with that picture they have a flood of thoughts that might convey many things that both of you had worked on earlier. Ever tried to convey a thought to a student and they just didn’t seem to get it? Maybe even to the point that you became frustrated. If you can get into their world to paint a picture of what they are familiar with, you might see their eyebrows raise a little as they nod their head, when you relate what you are trying to convey to a picture of something that they understand a little better than they do, the golf swing.

Into their world? Uhhhhh, how do I get there, you might ask? You will get there by becoming familiar with their background. I ask many questions that may even seem to be of a personal nature when I am working with a new student. I ask questions so that I can enter that person's mind and then maybe find out what they do and do not relate to. By becoming familiar with their past, I have a better idea of what they might relate to. I use lots of analogies, metaphors and mental pictures when teaching. Some pictures, virtually everybody can relate to but this process helps me to use things that they are familiar with when possible.

Just think, all they have to do is recall the picture that they have stored in their memory…and they have something that will give them information each time they think of it. Do you notice everything about a picture the first time you see it? Not likely! Each time you look at it, you may see things that you’ve never noticed before.

Correspondingly, each time your student can recall the picture that you’ve put into their mind, they will understand more and more, what you want them to understand. Would they be able to recall all of the things that you associated with that picture if they tried to think of each and every word you had used? Not unless they put the picture back in front of their conscious mind.

I am going to give some examples over the next few issues of American Golf Pro Magazine, which create pictures that you can use to convey thoughts. You might want to call these analogies. Webster’s Dictionary defines “ANALOGY” as follows: resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike: similarity: correspondence in function between anatomical parts of different structure and origin.

In an effort to stir up your minds to become like natural springs that have a never-ending source of enlightenment, I would like to give some examples that I have formed in my mind that aid me in teaching my students.

Amazingly, these analogies that sometimes just seem to jump into my mind out of mid-air…serve to help me to understand things better than I had reasoned in the past. Imagine that, pictures that I have formed in my own mind…further educate me about the golf swing, human nature, physics and the learning process. I am just a normal person with a normal mind, which ought to prove that virtually anybody can experience what I have been experiencing for many years.

Whereby each of you, based upon your life’s experiences such as;
your temperament, occupation, hobbies, sports you have played in the past, things that you have struggled with for many years and have thereby learned tremendous lessons…and any other things that go into the creating of your disposition, intellect, interests, emotions and paradigms can become sources of knowledge to us all. That is, if you will share your knowledge and ideas with us.

Sometimes, all we need is a little priming to open up our minds to inspired imagery, concepts and many other thought processes that are seemingly out of reach. I have no doubt that after reading what little I have to offer, many of you will become sources of information to all of us as you open your minds to those images that are the result of your experiences in life. Experiences that make you unique and therefore, able to see things differently than the rest of us.

The first analogy that I would like to use is comparing the golf swing to a compressor and air tank. As I explain this, let your mind create the corresponding pictures. There is a ½” hole where the air can escape on top of the tank. You put a golf ball on top of the hole. Your goal is to shoot that ball as high into the air as possible.

There is a gauge on the side of the tank that will show the PSI of air pressure. The gauge goes up to 100 PSI as…that is the maximum that the tank will hold without risking damage. There are two valves on the side of the tank that will let air escape through the hole in the top where the ball is.

One is a valve that you turn with your fingers; we will call it a “rotary” valve. When turned five revolutions, (which takes about 5 seconds) it is completely open. The other valve is one that you hit with your hand; we will call it an “impact” valve. When you hit it, it will release virtually all pressure from the tank in 1/2 of a second.

You now have all of the facts that you need to send that golf ball skyward. However, there are a few things that you need to consider to send it as high as possible. Let’s think about them.

 

 

You need to load as much pressure as possible…in this case, 100 PSI.
You will also want to make sure that there are no leaks because leaks would reduce the amount of pressure that is available when you use
one
of the valves to release the air.
You will need to decide which valve you will use.

Can you see how the wheels inside your head are turning as you think about the best way to send the ball as high as possible? This is a simple picture that you can paint with words to your student. Personally, I wouldn’t use this analogy with a beginner unless they are pretty analytical. People can get overwhelmed very easily and decide to work with someone else if you make things seem too difficult to understand in the beginning

You can explain to them that our first goal in the backswing, is to load PSI or…ENERGY! After loading as much as we are able, we want to store this energy until the last possible second before impact. When we do start to release the energy, we want to do it as quickly as possible and we want to release ALL of it. Any energy left over after impact becomes wasted energy.

If I have a student that has made the commitment to invest time in developing a good golf swing, I might use this as a picture of what we will be trying to achieve with their swing over a period of time. They will need to understand that this project is virtually never-ending. The more they refine their swing, the more efficient it will become. You will want to make them aware of four terms that will be used to describe their RELEASE.

EARLY

LATE

 

SLOW

QUICK

For the sake of simplicity, I will be referring to a right-handed golfer. EARLY and LATE refer to the point in the downswing that the release starts. Let’s think of the release starting when the angle of the left arm and the shaft become greater then 90 degrees or more importantly, the cup in the back of the right wrist starts to flatten. SLOW and QUICK refer to the duration of the release.

Let’s think of the release as being finished when the
right arm is fully extended and has rotated past the left arm. If the student doesn’t accomplish both of those in the swing…they didn’t finish their release. Believe it or not, many people don’t ever finish their release in a swing.

Actually, these examples are just guidelines. The release would be finished before the events that I described take place. Everybody is different and so defining these facts for each person would be relative to that person’s swing characteristics. However, I find them to be the simplest in helping the individual to understand principles of releasing energy in the golf swing.

Now, let’s relate the compressor and tank to the swing. The process of the compressor loading energy into the tank is like the muscles loading torque into the body in the backswing, through shoulder rotation and resistance of the right leg. When you start to turn the rotary valve or hit the impact valve, you have started the release. This is analogous to the person starting to lose the left arm and shaft angle or…the cup in the back of the right wrist in the downswing.

Either one of those is going to leak pressure (energy) out.
The rotary valve (slow) is going to have a much longer duration of release than the impact valve (quick). Eventually, the same amount of energy will be released with each valve but the impact valve will send the ball higher because it will release virtually all of it’s pressure in 1/2 second while the rotary valve will release it’s energy in maybe ten seconds or a few seconds after it is completely opened. When the rotary valve is opened, the ball will be propelled upwards but only after the escaping pressure overcomes the weight of the ball. However a certain amount of energy will escape first, since the release is so slow.

Think about this now, the rotary valve will be causing the tank to hiss before the ball leaves and after it is gone. The impact valve, for all intents and purposes, will be silent until the ball leaves and have no sound afterward. Hissing is the sound of energy escaping. Hissing before the ball leaves is energy that will not propel the ball and hissing after, is energy that is wasted since it was not used to propel the ball.

If a person is “chicken winging” the left arm after impact, they would be unable to finish their release. The left arm must provide resistance so that the right arm can transfer energy down the shaft. If the upper left arm does not stay close to the body through and after impact, it absorbs much of the energy that should have gone to the shaft, which delays the finish of the release. This becomes wasted energy since it was diverted along a different path and didn’t make it to the shaft and eventually, the ball.

Let’s make a comparison of a touring pro and a club golfer.

TOURING PRO                                                 CLUB GOLFER

LOADS APPROX. 100 PSI:                           LOADS APPROX. 50 PSI:

Maybe through a good shoulder               Maybe because of a reverse pivot, poor
turn. Correct upper body shift to               shoulder turn and outward bowing of
the inside of the back leg that is                the back leg.
also resisting the turn of the
upper body by maintaining its flex.

VIRTUALLY NO LEAKS:                               MANY LEAKS:

Maybe because of starting the                   Maybe because of starting the down-
downswing with the lower body,               swing with the shoulders, casting the
dropping the right elbow into the              club, changing the spine angle, and
right hip and maintaining the angle          breaking down the left wrist.
in the back of the right wrist and
between the left arm and shaft.

RELEASES ALL ENERGY                           ENERGY STILL REMAINING
AT IMPACT:                                                     AFTER IMPACT:


Maybe from transferring the weight         Maybe from cupping the back of the left
to the left foot, clearing the left hip           wrist, shortening the radius and spinning
and maintaining the radius through        out with the hips.
impact.

I often tell my students that when I see people swing, I sometimes hear a great deal of hissing. I hear it because I have tremendous hearing you see. I like to explain to them that they’ll start to hear it also…now that they know what to listen for.

After understanding this analogy, the student has a picture that they can always refer back to. This picture helps them to understand how ENERGY in the swing is loaded, stored and released. If you happen to video and review their swing with them at the start of your lessons, they will see how their compressor might be faulty. They might see some leaks in the tank.

The point is, they will have incentive to work on things and even be able to see progress clearer because they now understand the principle and therefore the objective of what you want them to work on. They will also see that they can now judge their immediate progress by accomplishing correct positioning and not worrying about how it affects their ball striking.

It is absolutely essential that the student KNOWS that they are progressing. If you cannot show them what to look for, they will judge their progress by how they hit the ball immediately, not by getting into the correct position. This will cause them to get distracted and lose sight of the objective that you two have agreed upon. Remember, they will help you to define the objective by what their goals are, physical limitations, talent and their work ethic.

Make the objective too difficult to achieve by normal means (for that person) and you have made a mistake that you will have to repair at some time in the future. Make the picture clear to them through better communication (use analogies), support them with positive feedback by commenting on things they have overcome and always be willing to LISTEN. You will have a student that will become a walking billboard for you and you will have made another friend.

Until next time…we are indeed fortunate to get paid for doing something that we are passionate about...no?

Good golfing!

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 PRACTICING YOUR SHORT GAME
By: Steve Williams


This much-neglected part of the game is critical for consistency, at least as
far as scoring is concerned. A breakdown in this area will serve to put extra pressure on other aspects of your game, which can very easily start a vicious cycle of inconsistency and poor performance that will not only cause your scores to become worse but eventually lead to a confidence problem that will compromise your entire game.

Conversely, having a great short game will make up for poor ball striking virtually every time. Why? Because poor ball striking doesn’t always penalize you a stroke. Short game problems however…usually do. Therefore, it behooves us to not only become more proficient with technique around the greens, but also have the knowledge and understanding to choose the right shot for the situation.

Let me quote what I call “The Golden Rule Around The Green!” “Keep the ball as low as you can, only use as much loft as you need and get the ball rolling as quickly as possible.” Adherence to this rule will substantially help your ability to score if you do not presently use this philosophy.

You might have to learn how to run the ball up to the hole with a seven iron instead of flying it most of the way with a wedge. Learning the three-wood run up would also be beneficial. The putter, although specifically designed for use on the green, is quite often the right club when you are off the green but fairly close. If you can force yourself to learn different shots around the green so that you feel you can hit a variety of shots for any given situation, you greatly enhance your ability to score well.

There is a disease that plagues male teenagers. I call it “flop-happy disease.” It is very easy to spot. Under just about any situation around the green, the player reaches for his lob or sand wedge to execute the shot. Even if the player is two feet off the green and has 30 or 40 feet of green with which to work. The reason why this disease plagues male teenagers is because at this age, they are producing more testosterone than they ever have and they tend to make many of their decisions based upon what that hormone tells them to do.

This is one of the reasons why male teenagers have astronomical insurance rates for driving a vehicle. They just tend to take more chances and live a little more on the edge. Discretion is not usually an accurate word with which to label them. That same boldness tells them to play the “hero-shot”, if I may use the term. Many times, the worst thing that can happen to them is to pull that kind of shot off. When they do pull it off, they will tend to think that not only was it the right shot to play, they will also satisfy the craving that testosterone gives them to be a hero.

Well…let me add another famous saying “The difference between men and boys, is the size of their toys.” You get the point here don’t you? Most of us men are guilty of the same mistakes that we made when we were younger, we just make them on a different scale. I would like to make a suggestion that will help you to be confident that you are playing the correct shot for any given situation.

Take six balls, your favorite wedge to use around the green, and a seven iron. Also, go ahead and include a measuring tape, writing tablet and a pen. Mark three of the balls with a “P” (pitch) and three with a “C” (chip). Then take your tablet and write “pitch” on the left center of a page at the top and “chip” on the right center of the same page at the top. Now mark one through five on the far left side of the page, one at the top and then two under the one and so on, so that you can record results for several different shots that you are going to hit.

Choose five different shots around the green where either playing a low chip or playing a lofted pitch are possible options. You might stick a tee in the ground at each of the positions so that you know exactly where each spot is and can return to that spot after playing some of the other shots.

Now, start at one of those positions marked with a tee and hit six shots. Three that are low chips hit with the seven iron and then three shots that are more lofted pitches that were hit with the lofted wedge. Set your club down and go measure how far each of the balls are from the hole. Record the average distance from the hole of the three balls that were hit with each club by marking that average distance under the word “pitch” or “chip” and to the right of each number from one through five. Go around to each tee and repeat the hitting and measuring procedure from each spot.

After hitting six shots from each tee and recording the results, you’ll start to get an idea of which club and technique is correct for you on each shot. Don’t stop there though, if you have the time during a practice session to hit those six shots from each tee three or four times, you will get a more accurate statistic of how you performed with each club.

On the golf course, you will not only have a better feel for which shot you usually get closer to the hole, you will have statistics to back up your decision. Believe me…the person that knows that he/she is playing the right shot for each situation, will consistently produce better strokes than if they are distracted by indecision as to whether they are playing the shot that is best suited for them to play.

I would like to suggest something else that you can do to strengthen your game. Practice the shot that usually ends up further from the hole every now and then. You never know when a certain situation might call for that shot. The golfer that has more than one shot in their quiver has an advantage over the golfer that doesn’t. Try your best to re-evaluate your short game every month or so by repeating this procedure, recording the results, and memorizing how you do for any given situation around the green.

You may not always pull off a good shot from around the green. However, let’s increase the odds of hitting a good shot by making wise decisions that are based on fact…not wishful thinking or what your testosterone levels are telling you.

Good golfing!

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 STAYING IN YOUR RHYTHM
By: Steve Williams


Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to score well, even when you are having a
tough day with your ball striking? Well…once you become disciplined enough to play within your limitations during each round of golf, the odds of that happening are substantially increased!

One of the factors that keep golfers from being able to do this is that many do not possess the patience to stay in their rhythm while striking the ball poorly. A common trait amongst golfers while having a tough ball striking day, is to not change their course management but to keep on going for flags, cutting doglegs and trying to blast the ball 300 yards down the fairway.

The actor Clint Eastwood said in one of his movies “A man’s got to know his limitations.” That is great advice for every golfer to live by. When you are aware of your limitations on a given day, you are more likely to play within those limitations and remain calm because of your acceptance of that reality.

It is the person that constantly says “I cannot believe that I’m playing like this” that remains in a frustrated condition during their round and consequently, usually learns nothing that will keep them from getting into the same situation in the future.

If I were able, I would tell everybody on the planet who plays golf to…stop saying things like; “I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING” or “I CAN’T BELIEVE I AM PLAYING LIKE THIS” or maybe…”I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING TO ME!” Unacceptance of reality keeps us from being aware of what’s taking place around us.

A person that is hitting one bad shot after another has usually strayed from their rhythm and if they’re to rescue their round, must find a way to get back into it. How? Not by denying or not accepting reality but by making sound decisions regarding strategy, which will lead to a calmness that relaxes the individual and repositions them to get back in their rhythm. Learn to accept what is happening at the present and modify your strategy to fit the situation.

Let me give some brief examples if I may. If you are blowing the ball past the hole far enough that you are left with three and four foot putts coming back, put your mind more into a lag mode when you are making your initial putt.

If you have duck-hooked your driver a few times during your round and you step up to the tee on a hole that has out-of-bounds on the left, be willing to hit your three or five wood off the tee. Either of these clubs is going to be more accurate than the driver if all other factors are equal, and your understanding of that fact will help you to make a better swing in that instance.

Early in your round, if you are having trouble hitting half wedges into greens, be willing to lay back further from the green on subsequent holes so that you can take more of a full swing. A full swing is much easier to control that a half swing for most golfers anyway…but especially on those days when you know in the back of your mind that you are a little selfconscious about that kind of situation.

You see…the thing that you must do is find a way to get yourself relaxed and focused. If you can use wisdom to effectively increase your odds of a desirable outcome, like hitting a three-wood instead of a driver, you will start to feel more in control of your round. When you feel “in control”, your confidence will increase, which will help you to relax and make focusing easier.

Remember…when we get frustrated or distracted, we will tend to lose our focus. When we lose our focus, we will tend to stray from our rhythm. When we lose our rhythm, we are subject to any number of adverse outcomes in our round of golf. To get back in your rhythm, try to be more conservative in your course management decisions and play well within your ability. This will help you to be more in control of the situation and thereby help you to relax.

The odds of you getting back into or…establishing a nice playing rhythm will be greatly increased. The golfer that is in his/her rhythm is far more likely to play well than the golfer that is out of their rhythm.

Good golfing!

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 TIGHTENING UP YOUR TOLERANCES
By: Steve Williams


Remember the last time you bought a new car? The doors would open very
quietly and they would shut without rattling. The engine ran smoothly and gas mileage was very good. The steering was responsive and the car would react as soon as you made even the slightest turn right or left. The dashboard looked great and there were no signs of wear and tear. Your car was running at peak efficiency and the engine made minimal noise.

However, as you used the car more and more, you noticed little things starting to go wrong. You began to hear a “creak” when you opened the driver side door. It also had a slight rattle when you would shut it. The steering was starting to develop a little “play” in it. There was this very slight noise coming from the engine when you started it in the morning…just a faint “tapping” noise. The acceleration wasn’t as good as it used to be. The car was running hotter than it used to, every now and then…overheating. You were even noticing a little smoke coming out of the tailpipe.

Your gas mileage had gone from 24 mpg when you bought it, to 16 mpg now. When you turned to the right sharply, you would feel yourself sink down a little as the right side of the car seemed to lift. There was this rattling sound coming from the glove box when you would get on a road that wasn’t perfectly smooth. The car seemed to ride rougher than it used to. The steering wheel seemed to "pull" a little to the left, as you applied the brakes.

You’ve seen this kind of thing before…the car is getting “worn out”! This happens to all cars sooner or later. The expensive cars usually don’t develop these annoyances as rapidly but sooner or later, they are still going to experience the same kind of wear and tear as the less expensive models. Given the fact that the car travels at high speeds, negotiates turns, goes over bumps and has to brake rapidly sometimes, it is only normal for these things to happen.

There is a saying in physics that goes like this “All things tend to disorder”. In other words, even if something is in order or…perfect working condition, through time and use it will tend to break down and/or become disorganized. Your car is tending toward entropy. The word ENTROPY is defined as, a measure of the amount of disorder or chaos in a system.

If these things are allowed to continue for prolonged periods of time, other areas of the car will become stressed and eventually break down. You see…the tolerances between moving parts and even non-moving parts, are loosening. When the car was new, the tolerances were as tight as they were going to get. All of the parts were moving together as a team, they were taking the correct paths relative to each other and the car would run much cooler because there was less heat generated by parts that now grind against each other, increasing the amount of friction. Increased friction causes more heat, which means energy loss.

The amount of heat generated in an engine is proportional to the amount of energy lost in the transfer of energy. Each time you use the vehicle…the tolerances are loosening. The car will stay in better shape if you will address each problem, as it becomes known. Left uncared for however; loose tolerances in any one area, will start to break down all of the other parts in that area.

I’m sure you get the picture without me having to elaborate further. Let’s think about how we can use this situation of the car getting worn out, to draw conclusions that may be applicable to the golf swing. Some swings are great, when the person is young and the body is strong and has good flexibility. Time and much use though, will cause things to break down (tend to disorder) and the vicious cycle will get worse unless steps are taken to strengthen and reposition. As entropy increases, the efficiency of the object decreases.

We’ve seen it happen to the best of golfers toward the end of their careers. Remember how Byron Nelson and Sam Snead used to swing? Their swings possessed great timing and a smooth, unhurried tempo. They repeated those swings often and without pain. Many of us have seen these icons of golf, tee off as “Honorary Starters” at the Masters in past years. While we may have commented that they still had relatively nice swings, in reality…they were nothing like they used to be. The point being, even the best of swings will break down over time.

What about the swings that were “loose” from the start? Remember now, when referring to tempo, “loose” is actually very nice. However, when referring to technical aspects of the swing and how parts work relative to each other, “tight” rather than “loose” would be desirable.

Many golfers have swings that have never been “tight”! Never at any time have they had an efficient motion that produced consistent shots with little or no wear and tear to the body. They might be able to shoot fairly decent scores but…it would depend upon them having exceptional timing because of the parts not working together, as they should. Even then, they will be inconsistent.

Those of us who teach golf, owe it to them to explain as much as possible…why it is not only beneficial to their scores but also to their health, to swing the club in an efficient manner. I have used this automobile analogy down through the years with good and sometimes amazing results. When a person can relate well to the analogy that you are drawing, they seem to gain a renewed interest and better understanding of the subject than previously.

I have actually seen students get very excited about working on things that used to be “very tedious” but now have become “challenging” since they gained a new perspective of the situation. It can be difficult for the average person to relate to certain words and/or terms that you may use when describing the golf swing if they have no concept of how it should work. Tell the average golfer that his tolerances are too loose and he might tell you that his personal life is none of your business.

Efficiency, tolerances, economy of motion, angular momentum, velocity, inertia, acceleration, centrifugal force, centripetal force, torque, lag, rotational inertia, potential energy, kinetic energy, transferring energy, axis, pivot, speed, lever, power accumulators, entropy…all of these are present in the golf swing. These terms however, are not necessary to understand in order to play golf well.

In many situations, an understanding of these terms can even be detrimental to playing golf well. Some people can develop “Paralysis by Analysis” if they understand too much about what can go wrong in a golf swing. By the way, that is referred to as “The curse of a teacher”! We don’t need to explain terms like these to our students in an effort to produce better scores.

Ignorance is bliss and can lead to better scores because of less tension. However, it doesn’t hurt for them to understand that physics is at work in the golf swing and the more efficient we can become in swinging the golf club, the better odds we have of playing golf well. If we can get them to understand the example of an automobile and how it gets less and less efficient as it is used and that the rate at which it loses that efficiency is proportional to how parts are moving in relation to each other. They can start to see the importance of diagnosing swing problems through cause and effect.

When something gets out of correct position, let’s get it fixed as quickly as possible in order to minimize the damage. When teaching students how to troubleshoot their game, it is beneficial to explain that some parts move in direct response to other parts.

Let me use as an example, the crankshaft of an engine. Please keep in mind that by no stretch of the imagination am I a mechanic or even well versed in the workings of internal combustion engines, so… I’ll try not to get in too much over my head. Please bear with me.

If the crankshaft is cracked, bent or in some way lacking the strength and shape in which it was manufactured, it will cause other parts to move incorrectly. As the crankshaft rotates around its axis, it causes the rods to move up and down. The rods, which are connected to the pistons, are causing the pistons to move up and down within the walls of the cylinders.

Compression, which in this case is necessary to create force efficiently, is partly maintained by the rings that encircle the pistons and actually slide along the inside of the cylinder walls. The valves, which are at the top of the cylinders must move with correct timing relative to the pistons, in order to let fuel in, create a seal for the purpose of combustion and then let exhaust out.

Now, let’s say that someone brings their car in for repairs because it is running badly. The mechanic sees that the rings are actually burnt and worn in an unusual manner. He knows that the rings need to be replaced but since they were worn in an unusual manner, he suspects that there is a deeper problem.

Upon looking a little deeper, he sees that the crankshaft is slightly bent, which caused the rods to not travel exactly vertical in their motion, which caused the pistons to experience more friction on one side than the other, which caused the rings to become worn in an unusual manner. I realize that it never gets this far because the engine would seize first since we are dealing with extremely tight tolerances and metal…stay with me though. He then tells the car owner that they have to replace the crankshaft along with the heads, rods, pistons, rings and other parts that were damaged because of the problem with the crankshaft.

If the person is willing to spend the money to fix the car properly, it will be expensive but the car will be almost as good as new and the person could expect to be trouble free concerning the problem that was just addressed. The person might decide though…to just buy a new car. Well, new cars can be obtained quite easily.

What about when our bodies get worn out…can they be replaced? I guess we’ve all seen that new (synthetic) hips and knees can be substituted for the natural ones that accompanied us at birth. I don’t know to what extent the medical field can replace used worn out parts that are making it difficult for us to get around but it goes without saying, that unlike automobiles, we are pretty much stuck with the body and accompanying parts that we’ve had since birth.

Since we are stuck with just one body for the duration of our natural lives, I’m sure that we would all agree that it behooves us to take good care of it. A body that is well taken care of will not only last longer, it will perform the tasks that we ask of it, with less pain and more efficiently.

Hypothetical situation:

Let’s say that Bob comes to me for a lesson and states that he has been told previously that he has an “over-the-top” move in his swing and that his slice is the result of such a move. He also mentions that the last pro to work with him said that he should let his right elbow drop directly down to the right hip to start the downswing. The pro told him that if he did that, he would fix the problem and then be able to hit more of a consistent draw.

He then tells me that he has tried that but he hasn’t experienced any measurable success and in fact, his ball striking is even worse now. He also comments that making that move seems terribly awkward. After taking video of his swing, I confirm to him that he does have an “over-the-top” motion in his swing and that the last pro was correct. He would fix the problem of the “over-the-top” move and hit more of a draw if he could let the elbow drop down to the right hip to start his downswing.

For a brief moment, before I say anything further, Bob gets a frustrated look on his face and then says, “So I just need to keep trying to drop that elbow down to the hip to start my downswing”? As if to say…”I’ve been doing that for weeks now, with no success and now you just tell me to do the same thing that other pro told me”.

This fellow is frustrated and might be starting to feel like he just doesn’t have it, when it comes to golf! Many people do get that way…right? Are they correct? Could be but I would say that the chances of that are very slim. Golf is a game that can be enjoyed at any level, as long as the person feels some sort of accomplishment or fulfillment for their time spent in playing and practicing. What they shoot does not necessarily affect their enjoyment as long as they let themselves enjoy the moment, the golf course, their playing partners, the exercise or maybe just the fresh air.

When frustration starts to dominate the mind though, their days in golf are numbered unless they can get that excitement back. In hopes of reaching that point again, many seek out a golf pro to fix the aggravating problem in their swing…that everybody seemed to notice well before they did.

However, because many people are given remedies to their swing faults, that are addressing symptoms or effects, rather than the underlying cause, they soon get so out of whack that they lose faith in the golf professional in general. Then they go back to their old habits or simply give up in an effort to get rid of that frustrated, defeated, embarrassed feeling they’ve been having lately while playing with their buddies.

The pro might simply tell his buddies that that person is just too uncoordinated to play golf and should stick with a game that doesn’t require such a blending of the mental and physical attributes. That way, he gets himself off the hook for not being able to help the person…or so he thinks anyway.

Let’s get back to Bob! Remember that frustrated look on his face? “Bob”, I say…’that other pro was correct in his remarks about what you could do to fix your problem. I would like to explain some things further though, so you can see where all of this originates”. I ask him if he has any understanding of how an internal combustion (typical automobile) engine works? He says, yes…and that he has worked on them occasionally in the past. Great…now I have an avenue in which to better communicate with this fella.

After mentioning the crankshaft and all of the things affected by it, I tell him that he has the same type of things happening in his swing. Can the piston travel along its correct path if the crankshaft is moving improperly? Humans are not made up of metal and our tolerances are not as tight as typical machinery but…if an inner part is moving incorrectly, anything more on the periphery, is going to have a predisposition to move incorrectly.

I explain to Bob that if we merely address the action of the right elbow, he is going to be incorporating a compensatory move that adds another variable to his swing. You see, the root problem in his case, was that after setting up correctly, he was dropping his head substantially during the backswing and therefore increasing the tilt of his spine from its original position at addressThis was causing his arms to move to a very upright position, which gave his right elbow the predisposition to lift at the top, pushing his hands over his head.

From there, it would be a natural move to push the right arm and shoulder out towards the ball because of the angle of the right forearm being more horizontal than vertical. This is going to cause him to put extra stress on the spine, neck, shoulders, right elbow and wrist at the minimum. Additionally, it would be very awkward to let the right elbow drop into the right hip to start the downswing since the right forearm is closer to horizontal at the top, than vertical.

Depending how he compensates from there could add stress to many other parts of the body, which in effect, drains the mechanism of energy and prematurely wears those parts out. If he correctly understands the operation of individual parts in an engine, he will be able to have a better picture of what is going on in his body. I want to make sure he understands that each time he swings the club with his current habits, he is wearing down his body because of stress in places that are not supposed to bear that amount of stress.

It would also be beneficial to explain to him that if we can get the spine to maintain its original tilt from address until well past impact, that we are going to give the other parts the predisposition to move in a correct manner. The tolerances between parts are now going to get much tighter as they start to move with the correct paths relative to each other. This also means that energy will be transferred much more efficiently. The ultimate goal would be to have tolerances that are as tight as possible.

If, in the golf swing…each part moves in direct relation to the movements of other parts and into their correct positions, we will have tolerances that are very tight. The swing could then be described as “simple”, “repeatable”, “not timing dependent”, “easy to repeat under pressure”, “effortless” and so on.

Swings, in which the spine angle shifts constantly, end up having numerous other parts that are out of position and consequently, can be referred to as having too much “slack." These swings can be described as “timing dependent”, “having loose tolerances”, “difficult to repeat under pressure”, “jerky”, “out of balance” and so on.

A philosophy that would be beneficial for us as teaching professionals…would be to pattern our instructions around creating swings that are “SIMPLE!" If it is a swing that has much compensation, we should always direct our efforts to “SIMPLIFY”…never complicate. Using analogies is for the purpose of helping the student to understand things that may have been too difficult to understand when explained in a manner that only involves the golf swing.

It may seem that we are complicating things by explaining the intricacies of an internal combustion engine. Actually, it is for the purpose of helping them to see the importance of getting to the source of the problem, understand what the original problem can create and then simplify the swing so that it will become more efficient and easier to repeat. Remember when a person understands an engine better than they do the golf swing…you are simplifying by referring to the engine in order to help them get a clearer picture of how the swing works.

Let’s get back to Bob one more time. After hearing the explanation of how we must get to the source of the problem when working on an engine, he comments that he has never heard it put that way. “Why…all anybody ever said to me was that I was starting down from the top incorrectly. No wonder it felt so awkward to make the move that was being suggested, I was out of position to make that move”.

“So”…he says, “all I really need to concentrate on now, is keeping my spine angle constant from address, through impact until my hands are about waist high?" That’s right Bob! Let’s get the source of the problem fixed first. After that, we can start to address other habits that exist primarily because of the inconsistent spine angle that was causing the arms to get way out of position, which was compromising your balance, which created tremendous “slack”, which was making it terribly difficult to have a repeatable swing.

By the way Bob…I have great news! In fixing the source, you will give the other parts, the predisposition to move in their correct paths. When we finally get those areas fixed, they will want to stay fixed because there will be a force guiding them to move correctly. Future swing problems will tend to be minor, instead of major. Additionally, your back, hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, elbows and wrists will say a great big “Thank you!"

Lastly, keep in mind that we are always trying to simplify but…some swings have been grooved for so long, or the person has numerous physical limitations, doesn’t practice enough or simply doesn’t want to put in the work to rebuild his/her swing. Our teaching should be predicated upon the desires, goals and physical limitations of our students, not necessarily upon what we think they have the potential to accomplish.

We MUST become familiar with our student through verbal communication. Talking with our students and learning more about who they are, what they have knowledge of, hobbies they enjoy, sports they’ve played, physical limitations they might have and so on, will give us the information we need to communicate effectively. This will allow us to instruct efficiently.

Remember, knowing your student as an individual, learning what things they have interest in and understand, and setting common goals that you have both agreed upon, will keep the relationship healthy, enjoyable and the communication lines open.

Good golfing!

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 THE PROCESS OF
DEVELOPING JUNIOR GOLFERS
By: Steve Williams


Let’s look at some of the things that go into the development of a junior
golfer. Golf takes much longer to learn to play proficiently than almost any other game because it involves so many aspects. You have much more equipment and many more rules than most other sports or games. Proper etiquette or behavior can take months or even years to learn. Golf is a game that once introduced to; the person will probably play for the rest of their life. In this article though, let’s deal more with the actual learning process between a student, teacher and parent.

This can be very complicated but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, keeping it
simple is one of the keys to success! I would like to discuss critical elements in the process. While there is probably not anybody that would like to see a student achieve more than the parent would, it is not uncommon to see parents that are so set on their child becoming an elite junior golfer that they actually impede the process. This becomes frustrating for the teacher, the parent and more importantly…the junior golfer. I don’t wish to ruffle any feathers here but it is usually the father and not the mother that is guilty of this infraction. It is imperative that the golfer is taken along at a pace that is right for them.

Additionally, the teacher and the parent simply must realize that trying to take a student further than they are ready or willing to go…can be disastrous! Trying to develop an elite junior golfer should be something that just happens because it has gotten to the point that the student is knocking on that door. It should not be something that you are trying to achieve at the outset. We should always let a love for the game and desire to compete be something that the child develops and is not forced by the teacher or the parent.

Setting the stage for the child to enjoy their experiences playing golf
should be the goal of the parent. I often let my son look for turtles in ponds on golf courses if we had the time…because he enjoyed it so much and it made his experiences at the golf course memorable. He enjoyed going back!

Teaching the child solid fundamentals is secondary to enjoyment but is crucial to the child’s progress. So…how do you decide whether or not the time is right for lessons? My experiences have taught me that the child that needs coaching of any kind is the one that has questions about how or what to do or demonstrates a high level of ability but has poor fundamentals or is fascinated by the subject and seems to be driven to improve.

In a class of 20 students, there are usually going to be five or less that have exceptional ability. However that doesn’t mean that they are the ones that are going to improve at the fastest rate. Sometimes it is the diligent worker who doesn’t have an abundance of talent that becomes the outstanding golfer. Oftentimes the one with the most ability will improve at a slower rate because the teacher might spend more time building a foundation simply because of the potential that is observed. What I just said might confuse you but let me use an analogy: the taller the building, the deeper the foundation needs to be. Let’s continue!

Sometimes the teacher needs to bring a student along at a slower rate just because they lose interest if fundamentals are stressed too much in the initial stages of development. A high priority here should be keeping the student’s interest and hunger levels high. If the student is having fun…they will improve faster than if they have lost the excitement and it becomes boring or too much work. One of the really fun things about teaching golf to juniors is that many times…there will be one of them that has very little natural ability and yet through more diligence than normal, enjoys themselves tremendously and improves at an unbelievable rate.

Some students have more fun if they can understand what is called “cause and effect.” Most however, prefer to just get out there and hit balls rather than hearing explanations about the physics of golf. Some students lose interest if they are not allowed to express themselves and yet…some don’t have that need at all.

You see…there are many intangibles that have to be taken into consideration and frequently, the parent is so emotionally involved with the student that they can push too hard trying to get them to learn and thereby complicate the entire process. Another thing that parents tend to do is judge their child’s progress relative to their peers. I cannot stress enough, the harm that this can cause to the student if dwelled upon. Not to say that all parents are this way…many are naturals at letting the child come along at the pace that is right for them.

On the other hand, it is not so uncommon to find a teacher that pushes too hard because he/she sees tremendous potential and assumes that the child’s desire to learn is equal to their potential or at least should be. If the student isn’t hungry for more information, they will usually reject it through not paying attention. The teacher that tries to cram information down the throat of an unwilling student is treading on thin ice! Desire can be created though…if the teacher can be creative enough to stoke the student’s imagination, visualization and ambition.

Another thing that is critical here is for the teacher and the parent to recognize and nurture the relationship triangle. The triangle consists of the student, the parent and the teacher. The wise teacher gleans information from the parent about the student…things that the parent knows from raising the child. The parent needs to be willing to give that information if asked, while trusting the teacher to utilize it to its fullest extent. The teacher should welcome questions from the parent and understand that the parent might question the teacher’s methods on occasion. If that situation presents itself, the teacher has to be careful not to take it personally but objectively.

The parent must trust the teacher at times though, when progress seems to be stalled. Let me emphasize something here; if the parent has decided to use a particular teacher, the parent must give that teacher full latitude to work and trust their judgment implicitly until there is sufficient evidence to believe otherwise. If the time comes to terminate the relationship, so be it. My point is; let the teacher do what he/she has been trained to do if you have decided that your child is going to learn from them. Otherwise, seek another teacher…but the same principle still applies with the next teacher.

As far as the actual process of increasing the student’s knowledge, training them how to do drills, learning practice routines, understanding golf course strategy and training them how to swing a golf club correctly, I would like to get you to think of traveling on a long journey. If you are going to travel a great distance, it would behoove you to use a vehicle if possible. You will get to your destination quicker and with less wear and tear than if you were to walk.

Developing junior golfers to an elite level is a long journey to say the least. The journey will have many detours, speed bumps, bad weather, up hills and down hills, moments of jubilation and moments of despair. However, using vehicles will always make the journey quicker. Having said that…let’s think of an example of how we can use a vehicle to train a student.

One such example involves the differences in how we use our brain. First, it would be advantageous to understand left brain/right brain thinking patterns. The left side of the brain controls thought processes such as; logic, positioning, sequencing, numbers, problem solving, cause and effect and so on. The right side controls thought processes such as; creativity, imagination, emotion, visualization, feel and so on. All of us use one side of our brain a little more to much more than the other side of our brain. It is always beneficial for the teacher to asses which side of the brain a particular student naturally uses most effectively.

After establishing this, the
teacher now has a vehicle that can be used to convey information more efficiently. The teacher that forces “cause and effect” upon a student that is very right sided, might be trying to put a square peg into a round hole. That particular student would most likely process information more efficiently if they can focus more upon feel or imagery. In other words, the right side of their brain is the vehicle that they can use to get to their destination with more efficiency.

Well…there are many opportunities to use vehicles and a wise teacher will see those opportunities and take advantage of them. A few vehicles that can be listed here are: practice routines, drills, physical exercises, thought exercises, keeping statistics, demonstration etc…! The teacher that does not take advantage of opportunities to use vehicles slows down the learning process.

What are criteria we can use to know if the student is developing correctly and at the pace that is right for them? Just steady progress! Does it seem like I am oversimplifying? I wouldn’t blame you if you felt that way. As long as there is noticeable progression though, try not to upset the apple cart. Quite honestly, developing a junior golfer is much like watching them grow up physically, intellectually and emotionally. As a parent, we don’t detect day to day growth because we are around them constantly. If we notice problems with growth in any of those categories, there’s a good chance that the problem was there long before we noticed the actual symptoms.

We can feel confident that they will grow normally physically if they are eating the right foods, exposed to at least some physical activity and not putting the wrong things into their bodies…right? Well an experienced teacher should have the knowledge of what to expose the student to and promote on a regular basis.

Do you know that there are times when the
student and the parent are going to feel that progress is actually going backwards and they will get frustrated because of that perception? And yet, the teacher is seeing that although the student isn’t hitting the ball correctly, he/she is learning an important fundamental position. In other words, sound fundamentals communicated effectively will pay off and the teacher knows from past experience that while building sound fundamentals can throw a student off at first…they will pay off in the long term.

Do your children like to eat foods that are healthy for them? Do they enjoy foods that are unhealthy? Sometimes…might be the answer to both those questions. However, the child cannot be relied upon to make the right choices about those issues until they have been trained. The teacher has a responsibility to ensure that the student is focusing on and practicing the right things, the same as the parent has a responsibility to ensure that the child is getting healthful food. Again, however difficult this task may appear, the teacher knows that adherence to the right fundamentals will yield positive results if done on a consistent basis.

This brings to mind a difficult issue that most relationship triangles are going to experience. At times, the student is going to reject certain tasks that the teacher is going to prescribe simply because they are tedious, difficult or boring. The student may complain to the parent that a particular drill or task is stupid and is just confusing them. A conflict in the triangle is now present.

The smart teacher will always consider other options of conveying the same information and be ready to switch to one if an impasse is reached. The smart parent, if need be, will encourage their child to stay focused on what the teacher is saying even if the parent doesn’t see the efficacy in what the teacher is doing.

Sometimes it is beneficial for the teacher and the parent to back off and let the student grow into the things that he/she has learned. Time and only time can fix things on occasions when nothing else can. Because an experienced teacher has had to deal with so many pupils over years and years of teaching, he/she should be able to pick up on signals that the student just needs some time to adjust without being grilled as to what may or may not be wrong.

Have you gotten the impression that teaching a child to play golf at a high level of expertise can be very complicated? Remember now, it doesn’t have to be if certain guidelines are followed. The process can be laborious for everybody involved or it can be full of fun, excitement and more fulfilling than I can put into words. And the magic about the whole thing is this; the life lessons that are learned in the process are invaluable! Life lessons that everybody has to learn sometime in their lives so that they can be productive citizens, assets to their church, or the right kind of spouse and parent…are taught through the process of learning and overcoming the weaknesses that hinder the student at golf.

Other sports or disciplines can and do teach the same values. I just haven’t experienced any that teach them as clearly and require disciplined focus to fundamentals both mentally and physically as much as golf.

If your child is already involved in our teaching program…thank you for giving us the privilege of working with him/her. If you are considering putting them in our teaching program and yet are not quite sure if it is the right step or right time, don’t hesitate to call or e-mail with any questions.

Good golfing!

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