Category Archives: golf lessons

Repeat Your Last Golf Lesson

I was talking to a friend of mine a few days ago about golf. Big surprise, right? He said he had taken lessons but wasn’t hitting the ball any better. He still didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing.

I asked him whether he had hit the ball better at the end of the lesson than he was at the start. He said, “Oh, yes.” But then a few days after the lesson, he was back where he started.

This is a common problem with a simple cause. In the thirty minutes or hour of the lesson, he had not internalized everything the instructor taught. Say he was taught ten, but he might have picked up only three. So most of the lesson still eludes him.

And no wonder he doesn’t hit the ball any better. He could DO it at the end of the lesson, but he didn’t KNOW it. It hadn’t become his own knowledge.

The solution, like the problem, is simple. Repeat the lesson. Go to the pro and ask for the same lesson over again. Just say, “I didn’t get everything and I want to go over it one more time.”

That’s not saying you’re stupid, quite the contrary. It’s being pretty smart. It’s saying to the pro, “Work with me until I understand it.” That’s real smart.

Maybe there are a few things you can learn the first time. Maybe others will take more than one lesson, or two. A good teacher will give you all the time you need to get it. You don’t exasperate a teacher when you say, “Tell me again.” What you do is show the teacher here is someone who truly wants to learn. Teachers appreciate having students like that.

If this is you, if your last lesson just isn’t clicking, don’t blame the teacher and don’t blame yourself. Keep working with the pro until you get it all down.

Look, the touring pros do the same thing. They have their swing coaches who cover the same stuff, over and over again. If the best golfers in the world do this, why wouldn’t you?

When Do You Need a Golf Lesson?

Long-time readers of this column know that I am not shy about taking golf lessons or about suggesting that you get them, too. You can learn things in a half hour that would take months to learn on your own, and find out things you never dreamed of.

What you shouldn’t do is take a lesson just to have one. There needs to be a purpose, a well-defined problem that needs solving. Here are a few good reasons for taking a lesson.

1. You’re just taking up the game. After you’ve played a few rounds and decided that golf is something you want to pursue, get lessons to learn how to play it the right way. Learn the right way from the beginning. The habits you acquire at the start will follow you through your golfing career. Make sure they’re the right ones.

2. Three bad rounds in a row. Harvey Penick said to forget about one bad round, go practice if you follow it with another one, and see a pro if you follow those two with a third. It’s likely you’ve fallen into a bad habit that will be simple to correct, but it’s likely, too, that you’ll never find it without help.

3. To learn a new shot. Odds are that once a round, at least, you will be in a situation that calls for a shot you don’t know how to hit. So, do the best you can and remember what that situation was. When you get a collection of three or four of those, go to a pro and find out how to hit them.

4. To learn an old shot the right way. You can probably hit the ball onto the green from 75 yards, for example, just fine. Get a lesson on this shot like you’ve never hit it before. Learn it from scratch. You’ll be amazed at how much better you hit it. Really.

5. Periodic maintenance. You take your car in for periodic maintenance every so often, you have a dental check-up twice a year. Why not do the same for your golf swing? Once your pro learns your golf swing, he can spot little things that show you’re drifting away from what works and correct them before you start leaking oil (or getting cavities). Don’t neglect your putting, either.

6. To get to the next level. In a recent post, I mentioned that the first step to playing better is not to improve your swing, but to use your best swing more often. That swing, however, will take you only so far. To improve beyond that point, the second step is to get a new conception of the golf swing. The pro will show you. Plan on doing a year of hard work and putting up with a lot of bad shots until the changes take hold. Then go out and enjoy the brand new game you’re playing.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

My Move To a New Level in Golf

It recently became clear to me that for the past three years I have been on a plateau, improving in only the smallest steps, having reached the limit of my ability to improve based on my own work and having a lesson every now and then to patch up a hole.

My conception of golf had become used up. There was nowhere I could go because I didn’t know where there was to go, much less how to get there. I told my pro this. He said, I’ll take care of it.

Five weeks ago I had the first of a series of lessons that will change the way I play golf. The first two lessons were swing lessons, on two themes. First, visualize the shot and direct that visualization from the target back to the execution. This is the reverse of deciding the execution and projecting that forward to the target, the way most golfers play.

The second theme, related to the first and a way of realizing the first, is to work on the nine-shots drill: high draw, high straight, high fade; medium draw, medium straight, medium fade; low draw, low straight, low fade. I already hit some of these shots well. Others I couldn’t hit on a bet. But I worked on all of them, with every club in the bag. The only swing advice the pro gave me were hints on how to hit those shots, but he mainly let me figure it out myself.

Here’s what I learned. Some of these shots are easier to hit with short irons, and some are easier with long irons. The adjustments you have to make to turn the ball one way or the other are tiny–a matter of a few degrees. They are minute variations of the shot in the center, the medium straight shot.

What has happened after about a thousand balls is that my overall ball-striking has improved dramatically, and I can hit each of the nine shots on command most of the time. My sense of the visualization feeding back into my swing is starting to develop–this is a hard one–and at times it seems that to see it is to hit. Seeing the shot infuses into my body the means to hit it.

This is a distinct difference from the way I used to play, which was hit the ball and see what happens.

One more thing. The pro said he didn’t want me to play until this series of lessons was over. For five weeks I’ve just been hitting balls, developing my ball-striking skills and my mental imagery in tandem. I’ll keep you posted and let you know how things go my first time out.

One more thing, this time for sure. He also said that when I let loose of such a mechanical approach to the swing, I will start hitting the ball a lot farther. Two days ago I was hitting 8-irons. My normal carry distance is 132 yards with that club. These were landing beyond the 145-yard flag–cold balls that spent the night in sub-40s temperatures.  Oh, boy.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

I Had a Golf Swing Lesson Today

The smartest thing I do in golf is to have a lesson. I like to read books and think I can take the directions the author gives me and do just what he says to do. Do you know how hard that actually is to do?

Two weeks ago, I had a lesson to correct my swing. I was hitting good shots, but as I stood over the ball I had no idea why I was hitting good shots. I didn’t know which part of my swing was the part that made it work well. That doesn’t instill confidence.

So that was the problem I presented to the instructor. By the way, you should always give the pro a starting point, the more specific the better.

We worked on improving my posture at address and taking the club away straighter instead of so much inside. Turning the hips to an open position at impact and getting the right knee through at impact were noted as longer-term projects.

Then I did a really smart thing. Two weeks later, I had a follow-up lesson. This was to show the instructor what I had accomplished so far and to see where I needed to go next. Some things I was getting right, but we had to put in more work on some others. We also worked on standing closer to the ball at address, which made several swing points fall in place right away.

How is it all working out on the course? The day after the follow-up lesson I played nine holes. Hit the ball mediocre to terrible for seven holes. Then on the eighth tee, I remembered, “Oh, yeah. Upright posture.” So I stretched myself up (I had been doing everything else right) and hit a beautiful drive. Then a beautiful iron into the green. Then a beautiful drive on the next tee, and a beautiful iron down the fairway. Four perfect shots.

Two weeks from now I’ll have another lesson, and I’ll keep on until I get it right. Best golf money I ever spent.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com

I Had a Playing Lesson Today

I’m a big fan of lessons. Sometimes I have a lesson to fix a swing problem, or to check my putting stroke, but mostly I have lessons to learn how to hit shots. Sometimes you can get that done around the practice green, but I needed a golf course for what I had to work on today. These are the shots I asked the pro to show me:

I worked on these shots:
– downhill lie in the fairway
– uphill lie in the fairway
– iron from the fairway when you’re in between clubs
– pitch and run from ~50 yards
– chipping on an uphill slope
– basic bunker shot (thrown in by the pro)

He showed me, they’re easy once you know the secret, and it’s stuff you’ll never figure out on your own.

I face at least one of these shots every round, and I decided it was time to find out how to hit them instead of me guessing how to hit them. After you have the basic skills down, I might think that playing lessons are all you need.

I had a playing lesson five years ago that I still benefit from. If you’ve never had one, give it a try. Make up a list of five or six shots you don’t really know how to hit, and have the pro take you on the course to show you how. You’ll be a better player instantly. I promise you.

It’s Time For You to Get a Golf Lesson

Winter is over. Maybe you hit some balls in the last few months, maybe you took a few swings in the house. Unless you kept playing as often as you did last summer, I can pretty much promise that you won’t go right back to that same swing. That your putting will be a little bit off (and all it takes is a little bit for you to miss the ones you used to make). Short game? The part of the game based on feel and finesse? Gone.

So hitting the range is a good idea, and I’m sure you’re doing that. But think hard about having a few lessons to get you on the right track from the start. Why?

Because over a few months of little or no activity you’ve lost what the good swing you had feels like. You might think you’re swinging the same way, but odds are you’re not. You can’t figure out why, but the pro will spot it in a second.

Even if you are hitting the ball well, a lesson will remind of why. It will give you the means of correcting yourself when your swing goes south during the round.

Then there’s the part where you might learn something you didn’t know before, that will help you play better.

Get a lesson. Get several. One for your swing, one for chipping, one for putting. Lessons are the best investment you can make in your golf game.

See more at www.bettergolfbook.com

How To Take a Golf Lesson – Part 2

During a lesson, be committed as a learner. This means:

1. When the teacher is talking, listen. Don’t trade ideas on swing theory unless the pro asks you about it. You’re there to listen to someone who knows (the pro), not someone who doesn’t (you).

2. When the pro says to do “this,” then do “this” to the best of your ability. It might feel uncomfortable, but new movements are uncomfortable – that’s part of learning.

3. Take yourself out of the lesson. If you do what you’re told, but add something else of your own, you won’t know what caused the results you get.


4. When you don’t understand, speak up. Ask briefly for clarification or for a demonstration. But then listen to the explanation and watch the demonstration. Focus on being able to do what the pro wants you to do.

5. When you learn a new movement you’ll probably hit some clinkers. That’s all right. Keep trying to do what you’re being asked to do and let the pro be the one who decides what, if any, corrections to make.

6. When the lesson is almost over, ask for a few drills that you can use to practice the points you have been working on, if the pro hasn’t given you some already. Drills are vital to learning new movements. You’re retraining your subconscious mind to make a new movement correctly. Drills isolate that movement so you can repeat it until it’s learned.

7. After the lesson is over, there should still be some balls in front of you. Hit them all. Work on what the pro taught you. Work on your drills. Work on getting the ideas you were given into your head and into your body while the instruction is still fresh. Practice again every day for a week or so in order to remember what you learned. Without constant practice, you’ll ease back into the old habit you’re trying to replace.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it completely in your half-hour lesson. It might need several lessons on the same point for you to learn what to do. When we have a habit, our mind pulls us in the direction of that habit regardless of our best intentions. That’s why lessons are hard sometimes, and need to be repeated.

Finally, remember that in a lesson the pro just points the way. The responsibility for improvement lies with you.

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer.com.

How To Take a Golf Lesson – Part 1

The smartest thing you can do to improve is take lessons. Here’s how to get the most out of one.
First, be smart about scheduling it. The worst time to schedule a lesson is if you’re going to play later that day or even the next day. Taking a lesson detaches you from one habit and attempts to attach you to another one. When you’re adrift between habits, count on your score going up until you are comfortable with the new ones.

I once had a lesson where the pro pointed out that my right shoulder was too far forward at address (a common fault for the recreational golfer). I worked for a few days on squaring up my shoulders, but it still felt odd because it was not my habit.

Two days later I played 18 holes and every shot I hit off the tee was phenomenal. Irons, however, were a different story. I just couldn’t find the ball when it was on the ground. I hit only one good iron shot all day. But that was OK. I expected there would be something that wouldn’t work and I played the best I could, knowing that when I finally got the new address position figured out, I would start hitting every shot much better.


When the lesson begins, the pro will ask you what you want to work on. Have an answer, the more specific the better. That way, your pro can start looking for the answer to your problem from the very start and make the most of the half-hour you’re going to be together.

I had a lesson once to solve an annoying problem. The way I was playing at the time, my 9-iron was money, my 6-iron was OK, and my driver was this thing in my hands. The question? How do I hit each club as well as my 9-iron? The pro gave me the answer and the problem cleared up in a half-hour because I told him exactly what I wanted to know.

Arrive for your lesson about 15 minutes early to pay for it and warm up. Hit some balls so you’re ready when the pro steps up to the tee to help you. Resist any urge to start fixing the problem yourself during the warm up. All you’re doing is getting loose. You want the pro to see how you normally swing.

Tell your pro how you learn best. Do you want the pro to demonstrate or are verbal descriptions sufficient? Do you want technical explanations or do you want to hear how the right move feels? Every pro has a teaching style, but you have a learning style. Don’t be shy about bringing this up. A good teacher will allow you to take the lead in these matters.

See also How To Take a Lesson – Part 2

Visit www.therecreationalgolfer