Copyright (c) 2010 Scott Cole
These days there is a plethora of information on how to improve your golf swing. There are a number of websites devoted to providing golfers with golf tips, instruction videos, training aids, etc. Unfortunately, even with all this information and the improvement in golf equipment over the last thirty years, the average handicap for male golfers remains stuck at about 16. This means that the average male golfer can break 90 only about half the time.
The fact is, conventional golf instruction has proven to be just about worthless. There are certainly basic fundamentals that golfers need to learn, but most have not been taught these very well. For instance, ask ten golfers how to hold a golf club, and you will likely get ten different answers.
While the fundamentals of the golf swing, i.e., the grip, set up, back swing, down swing and follow through, are very important, most golfers have little clue about any of them. And those that do know a little have trouble mastering any of these fundamentals.
The main issue with most golf instruction is that most people who try to learn how to play golf are simply unable to move the body properly. Some do not have the athletic ability, or some have physical issues that prevent them from even making the most basic movements. Unfortunately, most golf instructors do not have the training or knowledge of how to train these types of students to move their bodies better so they can learn the golf swing.
The golf swing is a complex athletic movement that incorporates all of the major muscle groups at one point or another. It starts with a simple weight shift and turning of the hips and shoulders while lifting and rotating the arms in the backswing. From there, the golfer is required to transfer the energy stored up in a proper backswing by moving the body in a proper sequence so that this energy can be transferred from the body, through the golf club, and into the ball at precisely the right moment. All of this occurs in about a second and a half.
Without proper training, some strong, elite athletes are unable to hit a tee shot more than 220 yards. This isn’t a function of a lack of strength or flexibility, but simply a lack of training and knowledge as to how the body is supposed to move in the golf swing.
With this in mind, it is pointless to try to teach most beginners how to swing a golf club by putting that club in their hands first. They need to learn how to move the body properly. This starts simply with learning how to shift the weight; then we add a hip turn, shoulder turn, etc. This deals with the back swing. From there, the student must learn the proper sequence and movement of the downswing, and then the follow through.
It is also critical to teach students the ball flight laws and how the golf club is designed to lift the ball into the air. Most students are given a golf club and the feel like they need to help the ball into the air and try and guide it. This is exactly the opposite of what they need to do. However, most beginner golf instruction, which is usually in the form of group instruction, rarely addresses any of this.
Over the last decade, even with the popularity of Tiger Woods until last year, the number of golfers has essentially remained stable. Much of this is due to the lack of improvement of golfers during this time. As golf instruction and golf instructors have become more prominent in the game of golf, new ways of instruction will continue to be introduced. Hopefully, more instructors with more athletic backgrounds will begin to bring new ideas to the game that will help golfers of all levels improve.
Scott Cole is a Hank Haney Pro Associate golf instructor who teaches in Olney, Maryland. For more information, visit www.howtogolfyourbest.com