|Learning by Teaching|
by: Corey.Baehman, PGA Professional, La Paloma Country Club
I started teaching golf about 14 years ago. Like most teachers I have adopted my own style that was developed through experience and training. One thing that I have always tried to do was keep the instruction clear and concise. It is my opinion that most golfers suffer from “paralysis by analysis”. They are thinking way to much once the club starts moving. My experience has been that good players think mainly about their pre-swing fundamentals and that the in-swing fundamentals tend to take care of themselves. By having a proper, grip, aim, and set-up it’s hard for someone to get into too much trouble. In an effort to keep things simple and to help my students remember the core fundamentals I have developed an acronym for them to use. I tell them to think of the word GASP. G stands for grip, A for aim, S for set-up and P for power. No matter what skill level you work with most problems will stem back to one of these areas. I would like to describe in detail some thoughts on each area.
With a proper grip the club should feel like it is in your fingers more than in your palms. Think of other sports where you are trying to be precise; throwing a dart, horseshoe, or shooting pool. All of these require a grip in the fingers. I also place a significant amount of focus on the V’s in your grip. These V’s are created by the thumbs and index fingers. They should point at your right shoulder if you are right handed. By rotating these V’s you can change how much the club can rotate during the swing. A closed-faced grip(strong) has the V’s rotated more to the right. A weak grip has the V’s rotated more to the left. For the majority of golfers that slice the golf ball, a more closed-face grip can help. Another important topic on the grip is grip pressure. Tension in the swing can cause major issues, especially on short finesse shots around the green. Light, relaxed grip pressure can improve touch and club head awareness.
It has been my experience that most golfers struggle with their alignment. The fastest way to improve aim is to establish an intermediate target. Pick out a spot about 3-10 feet in front of your ball and aim your clubface at that spot. By getting your target to a closer location it’s easier for you line up. Also, try to keep your body(especially shoulders) square to your target.
The proper set-up is essential to building a consistent golf swing. Again, it is something we do pre-swing. Ball position is a key element of the set-up. Generally speaking the ball should be closer to the center of the stance the more loft you have on the club, and positioned more left the less loft you have. So your driver should be off your left instep and a wedge should be toward the center of your stance. This helps produce the proper angle of attack in your swing. Steeper for short irons and more shallow with longer clubs. Also, I recommend keeping your feet shoulder width with all clubs except the driver which requires a bit wider stance.
Power is an extremely important factor in golf. Not only do we need power to hit the ball as far as possible we also need to be able to control our power when hitting partial shots. It has been my experience that many golfers use the wrong parts of their bodies to produce power and they struggle with distance control. I believe the modern golf swing requires a big muscle(shoulders and chest) turn while keeping the lower body quiet to provide resistance. This resistance creates the coil essential to more powerful turn. Using the bigger muscles in the upper body as opposed to the smaller muscles in the hands and arms is also much more efficient, requires less timing, and is easier to repeat. When hitting partial shots or shots around the green it’s also effective to use these muscle groups to swing the club. To hit shots shorter you just need to shorten the length of the swing. The hands and arms should feel like merely an extension of the club and not a source of power.
So to review my thoughts on the 4 core basic fundamentals of golf. Thinking is best done pre-swing or during practice swings. When you are over the ball limit your thoughts to no more than one pre-swing and one in-swing thought. Try to make your real swing reactive to what you worked on in your practice swings. I hope these thoughts can help simplify your game and help lower your scores. Remember there is no substitute for practice. Like Ben Hogan said, “The secret is in the dirt”.