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.


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.


You Should Have More Than One Teacher

I hope those of you who read this post get lessons periodically. At least, those of you who want to play better. If you’re trying to teach yourself, you will only improve so much, and then stop. There will be no further you can go because that is all the farther your conception of golf can take you.

Without being shown, you will never realize the potential of a golf swing, the potential of a putter, or of a wedge. Your game will not be built on the correct foundations, and you will end up doing the best you know how to, not the best you can do.
So get some lessons, and get them from more than one teacher. Learn what you can from one, then see another and get a second opinion. This is not to check up on the first one, though. It’s because no one sees it all. There are certain things one teacher will emphasize, and certain things another teacher will notice. And it’s all important.
For example, one teacher I go to emphasizes the setup. One setup adjustment he suggested has made a huge difference in being able to apply the swing principles a second teacher has shown me. Neither teacher has contradicted the other. (In fact, both of them say I take the club back too much inside.) What they have done, is supplement each other.
This is the way it’s supposed to be. Have a regular teacher who knows your swing and is keeping track of your progress. Have a second teacher you see every now and then, in comparison with the first, to show you little things your regular teacher might not be mentioning.
It’s your money, it’s your game, your learning. Take charge of them and get the most out of golf that you can.

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.