AFRAID OF GOLF LESSONS? YOU’RE NOT ALONE

Here are a couple of reasons why players often shy away from lessons:
First there’s the ‘lessons will mess up my game’ idea. It has three very common variations:

• My friend took lessons and got worse
• Lessons will mess up my swing
• Lessons are too expensive

Second there’s the ‘invasion’ idea. It’s a pretty unknown concept in golf that goes like this:

  • The thought of allowing anyone inside your personal space – let alone following their directions – can be difficult, nerve-wrecking or even scary. Generally, the invasion idea is true for both men and women. If you’ve ever been tortured by a “back-seat driver” or been told that “you’re not doing that right” you are familiar with the invasion idea.

REGARDLESS OF YOUR SKILL LEVEL or gender, the way YOU go about playing the game, how YOU swing, what YOU feel, and how YOU see yourself as a player, is EXTREMELY PERSONAL!

So, the thought of getting worse or otherwise being subjected to a teachers’ bland or hair-brained ideas isn’t very inviting. When you combine the ‘invasion’ and ‘getting worse’ ideas, pulling the trigger on a call to an instructor is about as likely as you shooting your career low round today.

In the end, an interesting dynamic is going on here. One that easily reinforces the above premise. Consider this:
You’re a passionate 28 handicapper and you want to improve your game. But you’re also worried that lessons will “mess up” your game! Seems kind of silly doesn’t it? Maybe not.

Even as a high-handicapper, you’ve probably worked pretty hard to get where you are. You hit practice balls; play fairly often; read magazine articles and books; watch the Golf Channel; scour the internet, and get tips from your friends. You feel like you’re in control of your game and in a sense, you are. You have “formed” your golf game and have come to learn that what you do even has a measure of predicability. Yes, you pretty much know what’s going to happen when you go play. You are comfortable and you don’t want some golf teacher kicking you out of your favorite chair!

Have golf games and swings gone bad because of lessons and/or teachers? Yes they have. If there wasn’t a measure of truth to the assertion that “golf lessons will mess up my game” the belief wouldn’t exist in the first place. It’s often been said that golf is the only game that has more teachers than players. Whether that’s true or not I don’t know. I do know that the general quality of instruction, as related to YOU, is in fact generally questionable. There are “factory” teachers and facilities, there are teachers who have been great players but don’t really know anything about how to teach, there are teachers who come from “learn to teach golf” schools and there are those who just have no business teaching at all.

If you want to improve you game, it’s your responsibility to do some homework and find out who the best teachers are in your area. Ask about their qualifications and experience. Don’t be shy. Any great teacher will be happy to have a phone conversation about your game. The very best will want to meet you in person at the course over lunch or coffee.

Not to be combative but I would presume this: if you’re not willing to do a little screening you’re probably not really serious about improving your game. Deciding what you want from your game is your responsibility. If you want to live and die by stereotypical beliefs, that’s up to you. There are great teachers out there who can really help you. You just gotta’ go do a little work. The hot tip that will fix all things is not realistic and no player should expect an instant cure from any instructor!

If golf is a big part of your life, AND you have an actual desire to improve your understanding of the game, then a qualified instructor should definitely be part of your team!

Having your game messed up because of lessons can, unfortunately be true. In elementary psychological terms, the fear of golf lessons is very real and is rooted in an idea called the Approach-Avoidance conflict. To learn the basic definition, click this URL. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Approach-avoidance_conflict

By Dan Hernandez, PGA Posted in How To's

Hands or Big Muscles?

If you have taken lessons from me you know that I strongly advocate use of the hands, wrists and forearms during the golf swing.  Many have expressed dismay at my instruction because the “don’t use your hands” mantra has a pretty deep hold on today’s golfers and teachers.

For almost all recreational players and even active golf enthusiasts, big muscles should be used for stability,
not for speed or control.  I spend a lot of time trying to get players to settle down on the body motion so their hands can do what they need to do.  Why is this? Because most players are not professional golfers. Professional golfers are an elite group of players who have better strength, mobility, flexibility and a keen sense of where the ground is. They are able to engage and synchronize both the large and small muscle groups. Unless you have the physical awareness and sense of timing of an elite athlete, it’s best to use the parts of your body you know best – which for most people, men and women alike, are forearms, wrists, and hands.

I’m sure at this point everybody’s ready to argue and debate the “hands on” idea! Go ahead and debate and while your doing that make sure you watch “down the line” swings on the Konica Minolta Biz Hub Swing Vision Camera.  You’ll see for yourself what is happening down and through the swings – even from those who swear they are not using their forearms and wrists!

image

Hand, wrist, forearm action. Head down too long

Visit the link below for old debate from 2005.

2005: Big muscles don’t impress good-hands people | Golf News at Golfweek.

Want a Better Game?

Most players want to have a lower score but few are willing to spend any extra time on the range, putting green, golf course or working with a teacher. There’s certainly nothing wrong with getting out to play golf with your friends, have lunch, enjoy some frosty beverages and head back home; after all, that’s how most people participate in the game.  Other players are more serious and put in extra effort. Still others seriously study all parts of the game with diligence and passion.

DeGroofAnd then there’s Lucas. He usually rides his bike to his lesson and sometimes even walks, with his clubs, from TPC to Big V.  The best part? He doesn’t even think twice about it. That’s impressive to me but, as he explained, it’s just no big deal.  Lucas is from the Netherlands and here for school and golf at College of the Canyons. He tells me that back home almost everybody rides a bike or walks to get somewhere.

I could go on and on about our “right now” culture and hurrying here and there all the time and the probable damage created by “having no time.” Hell, I do it myself!  There are zillions of ways to get better at golf that ARE NOT very time consuming and can be done at home or in an office.

Most of us don’t, can’t, won’t find time for hardly anything, let alone consider riding a bike to the golf course. I mean that’s crazy right? Not to Lucas DeGroof.

By Dan Hernandez, PGA Posted in How To's

Par

I’ve been working with some new players, as in beginners.  One of my standard procedures with people new to golf is to show them the golf course,  explain what they’re looking at and relate what they see on course to the purpose of the scorecard and what the heck all those numbers and boxes are for. The formal definition of “par” is prerequisite during the session.

I have taken note, yet again, how the tiny but mighty word “par” damages the games of so many casual players.  Even among beginners (especially men who know the formal definition) struggle with the idea that par pertains to the expert player only and not to them. I am careful to also explain that it is very likely that they will score par on a hole from time to time, maybe even  several during a round, especially if they embrace the idea of how the holes are handicapped and then play strategically.

But alas, even with the simplest, common sense presentation, the persistence of attaining par on the wrong holes and more often than should be realistically expected remains.

The resulting damage? Higher scores on more holes more often than should be reasonably expected. No wonder the average score of 100 has held steady for seventy years.* Just sayin.

PS.  Formal definition of par provided below.  Go ahead,  look it up.

In golf, par is the pre-determined number of strokes that a scratch (or 0 handicap)[1] golfer should require to complete a hole, a round (the sum of the pars of the played holes), or a tournament (the sum of the pars of each round).

*National Golf Foundation, 2012

Maybe it’s not as difficult as it seems.

By Dan Hernandez, PGA Posted in How To's

Hit More Greens and Play Faster

Tee it Forward!  Sorry for the trick but most men would not read this post if the title was Tee it Forward.  The fact is that there is a ton of research that supports the viability of the  Tee it Forward program.  You can see the basic reasoning here:

http://www.golfdigest.com/golf-courses/2011-05/golf-barney-adams-forward-tees?currentPage=1

From there, you can go as deep as you like until you uncover the original work from Barney Adams.  When you’re watching golf on TV don’t go off into fantasy land! You and me CAN NOT hit golf shots like “they” do.  What you can do is hit more lofted clubs into greens and putt for your par much more often.

I whole-heartedly endorse the Tee It Forward program and I think you should too.  If it’s good enough for Jack, it’s good enough for me!

http://www.pgamediacenter.com/videos/2013_TeeItForward_JackNicklaus.cfm

Video

Fix Your Improper Grip | PGA.com

(Hang on people – there’s a video link below so don’t stop reading. Thanks.)

Everybody’s heard how important the grip is but not many golfers have a great grip. Even fewer even attempt to get it right. The thought of a grip change or adjustment is horrifying to most players. I understand that a different feeling – especially in the hands – is the creepiest thing in golf and you just don’t want to change what you know best.  You think that you’ll never get used to a new feeling and you’re game will be ruined! Not so.

Here’s the truth: I’ve adjusted many students’ grips during a 30-45 minute session.  At the end of the session, and usually much sooner than that, students’ always say something like; “….this doesn’t feel too bad now.”

Getting used to a new or adjusted grip doesn’t take as long as you think. It does however require a little patience and diligence. You can’t quit working into a new feeling after just five minutes! But spend 30 minutes and it won’t be nearly as bad as you thought it would be.

Attaching your hands to the club correctly will get you a lot of really great things including:

  • Better distance
  • Better ball flight control (i.e. slicing, hooking, pushing, pulling)
  • Better distance control
  • More solid chips and pitches
  • Better bunker shots

Helping golfers understand how the grip affects almost everything is one of my favorite teaching sessions. I wish more student’s would be willing to go down that particular yellow brick road!

Click here Fix Your Improper Grip | PGA.com for a quick video from PGA Professional Eric Hogge. He does a nice job of presenting general advice on how to hold a golf club.. for a quick video from PGA Professional Eric Hogge. He does a nice job of presenting general advice on how to hold a golf club. 

Of course there is more to this than meets the eye. IF YOU ARE NOT TOO AFRAID and want to learn how your grip is impacting your game, please make an appointment or send me a text.

Hernandez, PGA

Are You Stale Around the Green?

Most players are trying to find the one perfect way to chip or pitch the ball close to the hole and that can get real boring real fast.  If this is true, then it’s no wonder that most players don’t spend very much time working on the small game around the green.  Here’s the solution:

Stop “practicing” around the green and start experimenting instead.  

Before you start experimenting, be aware of the following general concepts:

  • If you don’t REALLY KNOW the difference between a true chip shot and a true pitch shot you’re already stuck.  Learn the difference.
  • There are hundreds of technique variations with JUST ONE CLUB.
  • Every small adjustment will profoundly impact what the ball does after you hit it.

Here are some of the most simple variations that you could experiment with TODAY:

  • Choke down on grip
  • Open the face
  • Close the face
  • Ball back/forward
  • Heel up/down
  • Strike ball towards the toe
  • Strike ball towards the heel

I’m no mathematician but it looks to me like there are 343 general combinations of the short list above.  As you continue adding and subtracting variations, the shot possibilities shots become mind-numbing!  Now consider that masters of the short game can CREATE THE BEST COMBINATIONS for whatever shot they are faced with.

Over the years, I have seen countless students embrace and successfully implement the ideas presented here.  I have also seen students who dismiss (for a variety of reasons) variance and creativity in favor of a more methodical/mechanical approach.  Of course, it’s always the players’ right and responsibility to choose what – analytically and physically – works best for them.

For me, I prefer the fun and joy of making up stuff to see what happens and adding the best stuff to my arsenal of shots.  Then, during play on the course, it’s very rewarding to be looking over a shot and have that “ahhh, I know exactly what to do here” moment.

The reality? Look, we all know that in golf there is no technique, knowledge, or thought that makes us impervious to the whims of the golf gods. Even masters mess up sometimes.  But, isn’t it better to know exactly what to do and fail than to be standing over the ball without a clue?

Thinking and Analyzing

Lots of players complain that they’re fine on the driving range but can’t take their groovy swings and deft touch around the greens to the course.  The problem is a root misunderstanding of the differences between practice and play – both of which require thinking and analyzing. The trick is to know how, when, and where to do so.  Even though there are thousands of books that address this topic in mind-numbing detail, most of them address the general ideas and concepts.

I’m going to boil the topic down to its most basic ideas.  Be aware that though basic, many players find these ideas difficult to incorporate.  Here we go:

IDEA ONE: PRACTICING AND PLAYING ARE NOT THE SAME THING
What you’re training yourself to do on the practice area is not usually going to transfer to the course.  There are a million reasons for this but here’s my top five differences:

  1. You are using a different ball
  2. You don’t have the same lie all the time
  3. You are always looking at a different shot
  4. You are not using the same club over and over again
  5. You don’t know real carry distance

IDEA TWO: EXPERIENCE LEVELS DICTATE WHAT TO PRACTICE
MOST PLAYERS should be using the practice areas to either learn something new, or reinforce personally relevant physical actions and/or mechanical technique.  It’s my view that learning or monitoring the basics will provide the best foundation for on-going analysis.  Grip, set-up, and alignment are always key.  Without a clear understanding of how these basics apply to you, hitting real golf shots on the course will be almost impossible. There are far too many average players “practicing”  like advanced players!

FYI - Advanced players generally use practice areas to burnish existing skills and/or experiment with an extensive array of ball-striking variations. Most of the variations will center around face/path/attack control. The resulting ball flights are observed and archived until recalled and executed during the course of play.  Advanced players are far more experienced at intentionally manipulating their bodies.  For example, when working on full-swing technique they are able to accurately sense positive physical pressures such as large muscle loading and resistance. 

IDEA THREE: ANALYTICAL TO PHYSICAL TRANSITION
Regardless of skill level, there must be a transition from thinking and analyzing to physical action. If a transition doesn’t occur, playing golf will rarely be rewarding and fun.  There are techniques that can help you make this critical transition. Here are just a few:

  • Understand that hitting a golf shot is a physical event, not a mental exercise
  • Be deeply engaged with your ultimate target instead of the ball
  • Hand-eye coordination is your best friend, especially around the greens
  • Correctly analyze your lie
  • Correctly locate specific landing zones

Well, that’s it in the proverbial nutshell. If you learn and implement just one of the ideas, an amazing door of opportunity will open for you. In the end, playing golf has very little to do with that crazy list of things you think you’re supposed to do. That’s just playing “golf swing” and “how do I do this?”,  neither of which I think we can watch on television.

Myths and Facts

Lots of teachers have addressed a few of the common swing myths, including me.  The things that players perceive as absolutes is astounding!  Dennis Clark has done as good a job in describing the Big Three as anyone.  Getting past these myths can be very difficult for players and even some teachers.  OK readers, go ahead and click the link below and let the controversy begin!  Thank you Dennis for your article.

3 golf swing “myths” that can hurt your game – GolfWRX.

Attaining Perfection

Searching for it; working on it; dialing it in; figuring it out.  I do it, you do it.  It’s never-ending isn’t it? Looking for a way to make the magic continue is our quest.  “I want to be more consistent”  is what I’ve heard most from students when I ask them what they want to accomplish – except for maybe,  “If I could hit my driver farther I know I’d have a lower score”  (my tongue is in my cheek on that one.)

There are players who believe that mastering a certain thing – or group of things – will lead them to perfection.  What a load of hooey!  In its most severe scenarios, perfectionism and golf will create a downward spiral so vicious that a player becomes totally lost in the black abyss and can’t find their way back – ever.  Some players even quit the game because they just can’t accept realistic success percentages.  Depending on your outlook, playing golf is a nightmare waiting to happen or an immersive experience that brings together an exciting series of emotional and physical delights.

Only golfers who truly understand how the game works can be called players of the game.  True players of the game enjoy everything about it – the ebb and flow of the game and the ups and downs of physical/mechanical performance.  True players of the game exist at every skill level.  I know some 15 handicaps who are players and I know some professional golfers who are not.  The real difference is being able to accept how the game works and enjoy EVERYTHING the game offers – including going back to basics in order to sort out problems.

No player in history has understood this better than Jack Nicklaus.  Here is an excerpt from the introduction of his book,  “Play Better Golf”   Jack Nicklaus with Ken Bowden, Pocket Books, New York, N.Y. 1983.  Highlighted text is mine and for your consideration.

“One of the most frustrating – and fascinating – things about golf is its impermanence.  One day you “have it” and the next you don’t. This is true of every element of the game from driving the ball to holing it out.  The number one reason why no golfer can stay at his or her peak indefinitely is that human beings aren’t machines. Our ability to exactly repeat a certain set of actions is limited, and thus our abilities as shot-makers are bound to fluctuate, This is compounded by the tendency, present in all of us, to eventually overdo or exaggerate whatever we have found to be successful. In terms of the golf swing this tendency often creeps up on us subconsciously, but it is none the less destructive for that. And, when it has done its dirty work, reality has to be faced: if we want once more to play up to our maximum potential, the rebuilding or returning process must begin all over again.

Jack Nicklaus was clearly a true player. He knew what was possible and fully accepted the terms and conditions of the game.  He was humble in his approach and understanding.  He truly enjoyed EVERYTHING  the game had to offer.

Searching for it; working on it; dialing it in; figuring it out.  We all do it and it’s OK to work on stuff.  But, along the way we have to know that perfection is unattainable. We have to know when we’ve over-cooked something and lost our way.  And we have to know how to get back home.