Could Modern Golf Instruction Be Driving Golfers Away From the Game Instead of Towards it?
"I wonder if in the not too distant future you could almost expect to see that the golf instructor/technician who works with you will have a lab coat on instead of a golf shirt and be armed with a PhD. from M.I.T?"
Over the past three years we have spent countless hours writing golf instruction articles, and we've posted well over 150 on our blog showing you various ways you can improve the way you learn and practice to improve your golf.
Our primary motivation has always been (and always will be) to help you learn how to gain more benefit from the way you go about practicing to improve your golf skills in your quest to lower your golf scores and your handicap.
Because your time is a very precious resource and we want you to learn effective methods to fast-track your improvement process so you gain a deeper enjoyment and satisfaction from learning, playing and improving your golf.
It is partly because of this that our focus has purposely steered right away from the golf swing instruction arena because we have noticed that there is so much stuff already circulating around the internet that we believe our message would surely get lost as it travels through the heavy atmosphere of nouns, verbs, adjectives, similes and metaphors that attempt to describe how someone should swing the golf club to improve their shot-making.
We sometimes wonder if all this conflicting information revolving around golf swing instruction is making the learning and improving of golfers more difficult than it needs to be?
3 Big Reasons Golfers Are Leaving the Game
I’m sure you are well aware of the fact that golfers are leaving the game in big numbers for a variety of reasons; and the three main reasons appear to be:
1. It’s an expensive game to learn and play
2. It takes a relatively long time to play
3. It’s a difficult game to learn and play competently
Should Learning How to Play Golf Be An Expensive Exercise?
There are other factors of course, but these three are at the top of most lists. Expensive, difficult and it takes a long time to play sums it up perfectly. Today people don’t have the time they once had to spend endless hours trying to perfect some aspect of their golf swing technique.
They want to play the game of golf on a golf course, not think about how to play it. And this leads me to my point.
If they choose to stay and play it’s because they can either play competently already, or they are willing to invest considerable time, effort and money to learn how to.
The bottom line is that there is a significant investment required for you to improve your golf skills, and we’re not just talking about the time element, but the actual dollar cost.
What we have found from a sample of our students we asked about this that they believed that many golfers are departing from the game because they simply do not see a reasonable return on their investment in golf lessons.
They invest the dollars and expect to play better on the golf course sooner rather than later, and for many it just doesn’t happen.
So this quite often leads them to trawl golf instruction websites and YouTube channels looking for free golf instruction tips to satisfy their thirst for improvement.
And who can blame someone for looking for another way of obtaining improvement for less time, money and effort?
They do not see the value of spending 30 to 45 minutes (or longer) standing on a driving range working on a swing drill and hitting balls with an instructor once a week, and then paying them as much or more than they would pay a plumber or electrician to solve a problem for them.
They simply don’t see the value in a comparative sense; that golf instruction for many seems a lot more expensive since they know that what they pay the plumber or electrician is likely going to solve their problem.
At the end of the golf swing problem, many still have the golf swing problem!
Hi Tech Learning or Hi Tech Confusion?
Many golf instructors are now investing their dollars into the latest golf swing diagnostic technology, which they house in buildings that might resemble the type of place you take your BMW or Aston Martin to have it serviced by a specialist team of technicians.
These golf swing diagnostic centers have grown more popular over the past few years as technology has evolved, improved and got cheaper to buy where they are quite common now.
I wonder if in the not too distant future you could almost expect to see that the golf instructor/technician who works with you will have a lab coat on instead of a golf shirt and be armed with a Ph.D. from M.I.T?
This golf swing technician would plug you into various types of technology and you would hit a few shots--possibly into a computer generated image of a golf range or hole, and their computers would perform some complex computations and the data that spits out from a printer would determining whether your body motion, golf swing technique and ball-flight were operating as efficiently as they should.
After this they supply you with the corrective measures required for you to improve and you are sent on your way.
Back in the day's when Ben Hogan was playing, I bet it would have sounded like science fiction to him, but of course today its a reality.
Are Golfers Sick, or Just Sick and Tired?
Golfers learn perfectly, they are not sick or broken in some way, and they certainly don't need to be fixed.
So the basic question here is whether amateur golfers who want to play better on the golf course needs this type of teaching model?
Do we want golf instruction facilities to resemble hospitals where you go and get plugged into machines to diagnose your perceived problem with the same clinical approach?
We believe an important part of the improvement process that would lead to faster progress and more satisfaction is being diluted from golf instruction to where instead of benefiting from a less is more approach to improvement, it is replaced with a more is less approach to improvement.
What we are talking about is meaningful communication—the simple act of communicating, connecting and building rapport with golfers using language skillfully and creatively with the express purpose of helping the golfer to achieve his or her goals faster by offering them less confusion rather than more.
Let's not forget that learning and improving golf is more of a creative process than an intellectual one.
Personalize Every Lesson
And because every golfer learns in his or her own best way it is still the responsibility of the golf instructor to step into the shoes of their student and do their best to understand the world of golf from their students eyes.
The golf instructor’s primary role becomes one of reorganizing their students experience and understanding of golf in such a way that they learn to play more competently on the golf course faster.
Golfers don’t care how much you know or can show you know, until they know how much you care about them.
And to care about them is to care about what they want from the game of golf, and it is always unique and different every time.
Golf Teaching or Golf Learning
Golf teaching models appear to be replacing golf learning models and there is a big problem looming for golf instructors if golfers are going to be encouraged to stay in the game and invest their hard earned dollars to keep improving their skills to play better on the golf course.
We believe that the real skill that golf instructors need to continually hone and develop their communication ability so they can impart meaningful, impactful and personalized communication that positively influences every golfer they work with to learn faster and more effectively.
We know that much of the technology that is used today can be extremely helpful to communicate teaching points, but when it replaces the critical student to teacher communication bridge to where there is little or no rapport in the relationship, improvement is going to be more challenging for the golfer to obtain their goal than ever.
Let's not allow golf to go from being a wonderful game to learn, play and enjoy with friends and family to an ongoing science experiment where the goal is to make golfers fit into a teaching model that has some scientific certification or endorsement.
Let's communicate and connect more meaningfully with every golfer we come across and help them to play golf better on the golf course.
After all, golf is still a game to be played on the golf course and our mission as golf instructors is to help our students to get them out there enjoying this great game for the rest of their days.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College
Your Success On Tour is Our Business
We are pleased to inform you that Pro Tour Golf College has been appointed by the Asian Junior Golf Foundation as official service provider to develop and implement a holistic junior golf program for South East Asia.
Together with the junior program Pro Tour Golf College will also design and run a "Train the Trainer" program for local golf coaches working in concert with governments and respective education departments within the region.
This ambitious project will be officially announced at the Asia Pacific Golf Summit to be held in Singapore later this year in November.
In this article I will reveal the psychology behind the pre-shot routine in the long game and present some important questions in order for you to critically assess your routine.
What is the purpose of your pre-shot routine?
It is more than a sequence of actions that help you prepare to hit each shot.
The pre-shot routine is your mind and body’s anchor on the course. It should be designed to help get you back on track when you make a string of poor shots or lose control.
It is a very important element in your game, and should be seen as a tool in your bag. While you give your swing a regular check-up, you should also do the same for your pre-shot routine.
The purpose of the pre-shot routine is to:
Does your routine help you achieve these mental and physical states?
In order to achieve these things, your routine must be a “mindful” process.
This means you need to have full conscious awareness of what you are doing and each step in your routine must have a purpose.
I have asked many elite players to describe each step they go through in their routine (including their thought process), and most struggle to do this without physically carrying it out.
This is likely an indication of habit formation, which is not optimal.
There is a huge misconception that the pre-shot routine should be habitual or automatic. When your routine become a habit, you will have a tendency to “go through the motions”, without conscious awareness of what you are doing or thinking.
This is when slight distractions can easily disrupt your shot execution, because you have not achieved full-focus.
Your routine should feel natural and comfortable, but it should not be automatic without clear thought. The first step in ensuring your routine is purposeful rather than habitual is to identify the elements in your routine that serve a clear purpose and which actions are redundant that should be altered or dropped altogether.
Don’t be afraid to refresh your routine from time to time, this will revive your focus and energy on the course.
Breaking down the Pre-shot Routine into Phases:
Many players do not realize that there are two key phases in your pre-shot routine, 1) Shot selection, and 2) Shot execution.
Shot Selection Phase = Intuition, Focus, and Commitment
The Shot Selection phase is the assessment and decision making process in your routine. Your mind should go through a sequence of steps to select your shot including the assessment of your landing area, yardage, target, wind, and shot shape.
Sometimes this process can be simple and flow easily, and there are times when it seems extremely complicated.
This is because there is a huge amount of factors your brain can end up attending to in this assessment phase including “where NOT to hit the ball.”
This is the segment where “over thinking” can easily occur which gets in the way of intuitive decision-making. In order to avoid information over-load and trust your instincts you must be fully aware of the sequence of steps you go through in your shot selection phase and stick to it for every shot.
The better you get at creating a consistent shot selection process, the stronger your commitment will be to every shot, allowing you to truly play one-shot at a time.
The shot-execution phase of your pre-shot routine occurs AFTER you have committed to your shot. In my opinion most players are not disciplined enough in this respect.
The purpose of the shot-execution phase is to regulate tension and imitate your shot; there is no room for assessment and decision-making in this phase.
Do you have one key action in your routine that helps your to regulate tension?
Playing well under pressure is not an innate skill, it is a skill mastered through strategic awareness. You can become unbreakable in high-pressure situations when you use your pre-shot routine effectively.
If you don’t have one key action that helps regulate tension in your pre-shot routine its time to start experimenting.
Another important question to ask yourself; what is the purpose of your practice swing?
For some it is tension control, for others it is true shot simulation. No matter your preference, your actions inside your routine must match. If your practice swing on the tee with your driver is typically slow with an abbreviated back swing then this is not going to help you if you intend to use your practice swing to imitate your shot.
Critically assess your practice swing/s and don’t be afraid to experiment with trying something different.
Use the information in this article to critically assess your routine today. Don’t neglect your pre-shot routine in your training. It requires as much attention and refreshing as the rest of your game.
Dr. Jay-Lee Longbottom
The Simple Putting Improvement System that Will Transform Your Poor Putting into Great Putting
What is the main difference between someone we call a great putter and someone we call a poor putter? The obvious answer is that great putters appear to make more putts inside 10 feet, and they also don’t 3 putt as often as golfers who struggles on the greens.
What’s interesting though is that many of those we call poor putters actually look like they should make a lot more putts than they do because they stroke their putts as well as anyone, and yet when it comes to producing consistently excellent putting results they are at the end of the line.
The guys and gals on tour that can really putt hole plenty of important putts across sloping greens because they have developed the ability to read greens really well and they hole more than their fair share of tricky breaking putts.
In our last articles we covered the first two putting abilities of;
1. Aiming your putter accurately
2. Hitting your putts where you aim consistently
Now we’re going to cover the last of the putting abilities; hitting your putts at the correct speed on the correct line consistently, so you can make more of the side-hill putts that you face.
Great putters have developed excellent speed control across many different putting surfaces from Bent Grass to Bermuda grass and even on bumpy Poannua grass, and they have also learned to read these greens really well.
There is no doubt that excellent speed control and reading sloping greens expertly gives you a big advantage in competitive golf.
But which comes first in your opinion?
a. Reading greens accurately
b. Excellent speed control
It’s an interesting question and an important one if you want to make more putts on sloping greens.
At Pro Tour Golf College we share with our students that both are very important however to make more putts more often and also reduce 3 putt greens you must practice and develop your speed control first.
This will seem logical if you think about it because negotiating sloping surfaces with varying grass types and lengths from course to course requires that you control the speed of your golf ball to get your ball as near to the hole (or in the hole) as often as you can.
Accuracy should be a secondary consideration on long putts where your goal should be to get your ball as close to the hole as you can to reduce the length of your second putt.
So let’s take a look at simple and practical way to improve your speed control and green reading ability.
Speed First and Line Second
Some years ago noted short-game instructor and author Dave Pelz through his studies of professional golfers on the PGA Tour concluded that the optimum holing speed of a putt that misses a hole would travel no more than 17 inches or 43 centimetres past the hole.
When Dave Pelz shared his advice with golfers it was actually very helpful for average through to expert golfers because it helped them to determine the break of a putt based on where the ball would finish if it didn’t go in the hole.
Today there are a number of different theories focused around the ideal speed a putt should go into the hole but from our point of view since every green you putt on will be different you need to decide on the ideal speed in each case and decide whether your ball will enter the hole by falling over the front edge or driving it into the back of the hole.
The key to putting success on side hill putts is to match the speed of your putts to the break you have chosen.
The slower you roll it the more it will break, and the faster you roll it the less it will break. Putting breaking putts successfully is a combination of experience, knowledge and of course skill.
The skill in this case is mastering the first two abilities we discussed in our last article and combining it successfully with the third.
The variable in the putting equation is always determining how much speed you need to roll your putt into the hole and no two golfers will do it the same way.
Our 3 abilities putting system has so far helped you to aim your putter more accurately and also hit your putts where you aim, and in the third part of the system we'll determine where to aim your putt on a slippery slope to give you your best chance of making more of the putts you attempt inside 10 feet of the hole.
The Simple System for Finding the Fall Line
The first thing you need to do is find the North to South line as we call it or the fall line as it is also known and we use a simple plastic or paper plate that you can get at any supermarket and we draw lines from North to South and East to West on it and then we place the plate over a hole that we want to putt to.
We then spin a golf ball around the circumference of the plate and when it settles at its low point we rotate the plate to find the North to South or the fall line (Picture 3).
From here we place 4 alignments sticks down opposite the North-South-East and West points on the plate and once we have completed this step we stretch 2 - 12 foot (4 metre) string lines equidistant across the hole lining up with the N-S-E-W lines (Picture 6).
The Simple System for Practicing Breaking Putts
Now that you have set up your North to South or fall line you are now able to determine with a fair degree of accuracy how much you ball will break from points around the hole.
As I'm sure you know the North to South lines are your straight up and down putts (no break) and your East to West putts are the most extreme breaks of right to left and left to right.
Practicing your side-hill putts is a relatively simple process once you have set up your string lines and using our side-hill practice system the benefits are that you will learn how to become very confident making the slippery side-hill putts simply because you make it hard to build compensation in your stroke because you will use the putting hoop you learned about in the last article to ensure that your putts go where you aim.
The first step in the process is to determine the speed that you want the ball to go into the hole. In the 4 pictures above David is putting from 5 feet on the East to West line and the green is reading at 11 feet on the stimp so he decided that the ideal holing speed is no more than 10 inches beyond the hole.
He places some ball markers at this distance to remind him about his speed (we call this the speed point) and now he has to work out what line he will start his putts on to make a high percentage of these putts.
In picture 2 David has determined that 22 inches of break is required at the speed he has chosen and now he moves his East to West string to this 22 inch point (Picture 2).
He works this out by hitting what we call test putts to determine the ideal line and speed and keeps adjusting the angle of the string line relative to its starting position.
Now he has his break line sorted out he has to make sure that he hits his putts on this line and to do that he places a putting hoop about 8 inches in front of the ball. He does this because he wants to make sure that his putts always start where his putter is aiming.
Finally you can see in picture 4 that he removes the string line away and places a ball marker down on the edge of the cup where he wants the ball to enter the cup. You can see very clearly that his entry point is at 3 o'clock because this putt must enter the hole going very slow.
To practice you hit sets of 5 or 10 putt sets and your goal is to make most of them, but when they miss the hole you want to make sure that they finish within your chosen speed point.
You can repeat this exact process as many times as you need to from different points around the compass and you will discover in no time at all that your ability to hit your putts on the ideal line with the ideal speed will improve dramatically transforming you from a poor putter into a great one because you will be able to make a lot more of the putts that matter inside 10 feet.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne - Pro Tour Golf College
Your Success On Tour is Our Business
Following on from last weeks discussion about the use of the Brock String to identify whether you see the hole where it really is, we are going to expand on that lesson and share with you our simple to learn method for aiming your putter very accurately and consistently so you can hole more putts inside 10 feet.
Putting Should Be Easy
We explain to the students in our program that putting should be the easiest of all the skills to learn and master and that if you wish to become a successful amateur or professional golfer you must become brilliant inside the 10 feet range.
We explain to our students that there are three abilities that you need to develop and master to become effective on the greens. These abilities are not the ones normally taught and practiced but we guarantee that they will help any golfer to become really effective on the greens.
We believe that to putt effectively and consistently there are three abilities that underpin continuous success on the putting green and we hope that after reading this article that you will work on these three abilities to greatly improve your putting.
The Three Putting Abilities
Ability # 1. Point or aim your putter accurately
Ability # 2. Start your ball where the putter is pointing
Ability # 3. Hit your putt at the ideal speed where your putter is pointing
In today's article we are going to focus on the first two abilities - aim your putter accurately, and hit your putts where you aim.
You will see that we won't discuss things like green reading or which stroke path you use, or even whether you hit your putt at the bottom of your stroke or as its moving upwards. These are certainly very important aspects of putting but we have found that without the three putting abilities none of these will help you to make continuous progress with your putting.
It's interesting that many of the things that golfers work on can actually make the putting part of the game more challenging and one such example is thinking about whether your stroke is going back and through correctly whilst you putt your ball.
Expert golfers do not spend too much time thinking about how they are stroking their putt when they are putting, rather, they think specifically about how their ball will behave on its way to the hole.
Their focus is more on where rather than how.
We call the three putting abilities - Principle Based Putting. They are simple and obvious but not practiced nearly enough.
Here are 2 important questions for you to consider and then answer to start things off.
Q1/ Do you practice aiming your putter as often as you practice hitting putts? ....Yes or No
Q2/ Do you believe that aiming your putter to where you want to putt is a skill? ...Yes or No
These are good questions because they help you to understand what you value highest in putting.
If you hit lots of putts to holes, or you work on stroke mechanics a lot, how do you know whether you are aiming your putter where you think you are?
In our experience testing many amateurs and professionals we have discovered that the majority we have tested rarely if ever practice aiming their putter to a target as a skill.
Your golf instructor can help you to determine what type of putting stroke would best suit you, but when you practice putting you need to become extremely good at aiming your putter and hitting your putts consistently where you aim.
Never assume that you aim accurately, you should practice it often!
Being able to master your aiming ability will greatly improve your confidence on the greens, but if you don't practice it then it doesn't matter how good your stroke is because the ball will not go into the hole as often as you want.
So how do you practice aiming accurately?
Practice Aiming Your Putter
You should spend a block of time every week practicing and enhancing your putter aiming ability and you should do it before your practice putting to holes.
We know that as a serious golfer you know and more than likely check your aim often on long shots, but for many golfers they never think about aiming their putter the same way.
This doesn't make a lot of sense because I'm sure you will agree that aiming your putter is equally as important as aiming your shoulders, hips and feet on long shots.
Aiming your putter is quite easy to do and practice and the following simple aiming routine is the one we use with our students at Pro Tour Golf College. With this simple routine we guarantee that it will help you to improve your aiming ability so that you give yourself a much greater chance of making more putts inside 10 feet.
Aim Your Putter - Step 1.
Place a coin or ball marker on the ground which will be your target to aim at and position 5 balls around the marker from 5 feet to 10 feet on a relatively level part of the putting green.
Aim Your Putter - Step 2.
Go up to the first ball and perform your putting pre-shot routine and whilst in your set-up position and when you think the putter is pointing at the coin or ball marker move the ball out of the way and carefully place an alignment stick down from the center of the putter face at right angles to the putter face.
Is the alignment stick pointing at the marker, left or right of it?
As you perform this routine you are aiming to hit your putter as if there was no break. You are simply aiming from A (the ball) to B (the hole) with no consideration of slope.
A Simple to Make Practical Putter Aiming Device
We use a very simple home made aiming device that we attach to an alignment stick that turns your alignment stick into a very helpful and powerful training aid.
We cut a piece of 1 inch by 1 inch square dowel (wood) the length of a putter face and we drill a hole into the center of the wood the diameter of an alignment stick at right angles to the edge of the wood so we can insert the alignment stick into it as you can see in the image to the left.
When you aim your putter you place the alignment stick with the dowel attachment against the putter face so you can easily check the accuracy of your aiming ability. This simple device helps to amplify putter face misalignment better than any training aid we have used.
It is not unusual for us when testing aiming accuracy to find that an elite golfer at 5 feet from the hole can have between 3 and 6 inches of misalignment. Imagine for a moment the compensation that is required to hole a putt of 5 feet when the putter is aimed this far from the hole or target?
Aim Your Putter - Step 3.
If your alignment stick is not aimed straight at the marker/coin then repeat the procedure from the different distances until the alignment stick is pointing to the ball marker.
This usually takes 3 to 5 attempts at each ball location.
Once you have achieved a straight alignment to the target consistently you will then need to calibrate your putting stroke to your new straight alignment.
The reason for this is that your misalignment has created an unconscious stroke compensation and now you will need to adjust your stroke to improve your ability to hit your putts where you aim.
The difference from here with our method is that we don't work on improving stroke mechanics, we work on it another way...
Aim Your Putter - Step 4.
To calibrate your new aim with your putting stroke we use a simple putting aid we call a putting hoop which is simply a steel bracket you can buy from a hardware store that is designed to attach a drain pipe from the gutter on your roof to the wall.
You could just as easily use tees that are placed just a little wider than the width of your ball to hit your putts through.
Our goal is for you to use your authentic stroke and this simple aid to make the finite adjustments required for you to hit your putts where you aim.
Initially you will find that if you aimed away from the ball marker/coin either to the right or left of the marker that your stroke and face alignment will encourage a pull or push and your putts will hit the sides of the hoop (or tees) and provide you with the instant feedback you need to improve your ability to hit your putts where you point the putter face.
Practice hitting sets of 10 putts through the hoop or tees (without a hole initially) until you can get all 10 putts through the middle without contacting the sides. This is not as easy as it sounds.
This putter aim and stroke calibration routine is very effective at improving your precision with the aiming of your putter and combined with the putting hoop you will be able to achieve the first two abilities of aiming your putter accurately and hitting your putts where you aim.
Next week we'll share with you the third step in this process and show you how to "Hit Your Putt at the Ideal Speed Where Your Putter is Pointing" which will help you to make a lot more of the putts that can turn you from a good putter into a great one.
See you next week.
Lawrie Montague and David Milne
Your Success On Tour is Our Business