Top 10 tips from golf teaching pros
THE TEN THINGS YOUR TEACHING PRO WON’T TELL YOU ABOUT YOUR GAME*
No, it’s not repeating Sam Snead’s classic line to, “Take two weeks off…and then quit the game!” On the contrary, your golf teacher is a committed professional. She or he is dedicated in assisting you improve and better enjoy this great game. They make the confusing understandable and the elusive achievable. Still, there are some things your pro won’t tell you about your game.
Over the decades, I have had the opportunity to know teaching pros unlike most students ever do. I survey them on various mental game research projects I conduct. I also train them on such issues as: learning and retention styles, pre-teaching assessments, content sequencing, human performance, guest servicve, marketing, and even help them with their own putting yips! I learn as much from them as they do from me.
Some of the most memorable conversations I have ever had with them are informal ones over beverages as we discussed the natures of learning and playing the game. Their clarity and passion about the game was inspiring. I wished we could have recorded these sessions for all golfers could have learned so much from them.
Trained and experienced LPGA and PGA teaching pros are the pinnacles of professionalism and ethics. As such, many restrain themselves from confronting students about certain issues. Some pros are reluctant to assert themselves about what their students need to do. They won’t tell you…BUT I WILL!
The following are the ten issues which frustrate teaching pros the most about students’ approaches to their games. As you read through these, reflect on which you commit…and what you can do differently. Here is what your teaching pro won’t tell you about your game!
1. YOU ARE NOT TRULY COMMITTED. No matter how experienced the player, teachers frequently report to me that many golfers are not fully committed to improving their games in the long run. Teachers become frustrated when they are more committed to their student’s games than the golfers themselves. Some golfers still expect the pro to fix them or the problem to magically resolve itself…in one lesson. And when it doesn’t occur, they give up or blame the pro. Golf is THE toughest game and consistent improvement begins with a honest and full commitment.
2. YOU DON’T PRACTICE ENOUGH. Change does not occur during the lesson. Rather, change occurs from systematic practice of the lesson material. As I surveyed teaching pros over the last seven years, more reported they will not allow students to schedule another lesson until they have practiced the previous material at least three times. New skills need regular practice over a period of time for them to sink in. In fact, practice can become fun in its own right.
3. YOU DON’T PRACTICE CORRECTLY. Mindlessly banging out balls is not practice. In the first session of a lesson series, innovative teaching pros cover how to practice the material. For each practice session you should have a specific plan of what to emphasize and how to do it. This plan should be an extension of what you have recently done and fit into the overall direction of growth. Specifically, each practice session should begin with a full warmup, conscientious work on one or two isolated elements, and then reintegrate changes back into the entire swing. Rhythm is key in both warmup and integration.
4. YOU DON’T DEVELOP AND INCORPORATE PRESHOT ROUTINES INTO PRACTICES. Teaching pros just shake their heads when watching “machine gun practicers.” You know the type: they quickly bang out buckets of balls believing somehow “muscle memory” is working. Intelligent practice sessions include complete preshot and postshot routines. Hence, you should only be able to hit, at the most, two balls per minute. Pretend certain range shots are like those specific ones you will encounter during a round. It is true, “If you want to play like you practice, then practice like you want to play.” Spend time reflecting on this maxim.
5. YOU DON’T PRACTICE YOUR SHORT GAME NEARLY ENOUGH. When I asked top teaching pros about practice prioritizing, most reported that students should practice their full swings only 33-50% of the time. The rest should be short game practices: chips, pitches, sand play, and putting. Think about it, there are perhaps three times as many options on short game shots as there are with full swing ones. If there is one element of the short game teachers say students don’t practice enough, it is the 20-50 yard half-pitches. I advise my players that after they have a pretty good handle on their full swing mechanics, 70% of all practice sessions should be entirely on short games.
6. YOU DON’T REQUEST PUTTING SESSIONS. Way back in 1992, I surveyed teaching pros about what percentage of their students EVER requested a putting lesson. The results may initially surprise you. I discovered that only 6% of students ever requested a putting session. Since the putt is the shortest shot in the game, most golfers feel they can master it on their own. Sure, anybody can putt, but few can putt consistently well. Beyond stroke mechanics, teaching pros can expand your awareness about reading greens, speed and distance control, preputt routines, various targeting systems, and handling pressure.
7. YOU DON’T ASK ABOUT TRANSFERENCE. Many golfers still mistakenly believe that if they take lessons and regularly practice, these newfound skills will automatically transfer onto the course. LEARNING HOW TO SWING AND LEARNING HOW TO PLAY ARE TWO SEPARATE PROCESSES. If there is a weakness I see in teaching pros’ content sequencing, it is that they do not spend enough lesson time on the issue of transference from range to the course. Granted, this is a fairly sophisticated psychological concept, but the issue has to be covered about the strategies and tactics of bringing one’s game onto the course. Good teachers address this issue at the end of each lesson. Such short conversations can be as valuable in the long run as another series of lessons. Really.
8. YOU DON’T TALK ABOUT CONCENTRATION. Just as there are specific skills involved with learning and retention, there are other specific skills involved with playing the game. Concentration is the core of human performance. It is much more than the ability of not being distracted or even visualizing the shot. Granted, hardly any teaching pros have comprehensive training in golf psychology, but they can teach the basics of how to best apply your mind during a round.
9. YOU DON’T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PLAYING SESSIONS. After you understand the fundamentals of the swing, the best time you can spend is booking regular playing sessions with your pro. Teaching pros are very good players and such sessions provide unique opportunities to pick their brains over specific situations encountered during a round. Even if such playing sessions are only six or 9 holes, you can learn so much from them. Course management, targeting, shot selection, settling into the round, flow, short game options, coping with frustrations, and finishing off a round are just some of the topics which can be discussed, Contrary to what you may believe, most teaching pros love these sessions. I believe all players should book playing sessions at least once every other month. You will greatly reduce your learning curve about how to play the game.
10. YOU DON’T HAVE A LONG TERM PLAN FOR YOUR GAME. Teaching pros are tickled when students ask for input about long term progress–at least for the upcoming season. Such discussions not only include mechanics, equipment, and playing the game, but also ancillary areas as fitness, specialized training, and developmental phases. Such interest conveys students are really committed to improving their games. This brings us back full circle to #1.
Okay, to which of the above do you plead guilty? And what are you going to do about it? You see, I don’t really care if you choose not to improve your game. If you enjoy knocking the ball around, grand. However, if you sincerely want to improve, you have to fully commit to a process. Not doing the right things and yet expecting improvement only sets yourself up for frustration and failure.
You have a grand resource in your local teaching pros. You don’t have to travel across the country to work with a “name” teacher. Your local pros can do as good (if not better) of a job. They are much more than friendly faces behind the counter or the encouraging presences on the range. They genuinely want you to grow and succeed. Take advantage of them.
* If teaching pros see value in this article, they have my permission to make copies and distribute it to their students through 2007.
“Tom is our secret weapon for competitive golfers. He both calms us and inspires us. It sometimes gets lonely and confusing out there. Tom is our refuge for us to come back to our best performances.”
Frank Roberson, Touring Professional
Dr. Tom Kubistant has been called “The Master of the Intrinsic.” He maintains the entire bibliography on the mental game of golf…and has read it all! Nobody is more experienced than Tom. He continues to work with professional and average golfers every day.
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Author of “Performing Your Best, Links Golf, Mind Pump: The Psychology of Body Building, business and sales training audios, over 280 articles for magazines and now………Mind Links – The Psychology of Golf.