What To Expect During a Lesson
The New Golfer
The first lesson with me you can expect to spend 50 – 60 minutes. The first 10 – 15 minutes are spent in conversation. I need to gather all the necessary contact information followed by:
- What’s your age?
- What’s your occupation?
- Do you have any physical limitations or old injuries?
- How often do you play?
- Where do you play most of your golf?
- What is your current handicap or a 10 stroke range (for 18 holes)?
- Equipment check: What kind of club do you play?
- Do they fit you properly?
- What are your golfing goals?
- What is your most common miss-hit?
- What do you currently consider to be the strength of your game?
- What do you currently consider to be the weakness in your game?
- What club do you currently hit 100 yards, 125 yards, 150 yards, 175 yards, and 200 yards?
- How far do you currently hit your driver?
- When was your last formal type golf lesson?
- When was the last time you played or hit balls?
- What is your athletic background? Are you currently on an exercise or golf fitness program? How often do you stretch or workout?
- Following this “get to know you” process would be a good time to ask me any relevant questions regarding my background, philosophy and experience.
Often, I will do some type of fitness screening (especially when teaching in the Golf Studio). Simple movements and exercises can help identify lack of strength or flexibility that can drastically affect golf swing performance. Most times, we will then have a discussion on the importance of golf fitness. Simply stated, if your lack of strength and/or flexibility prevent you from making the necessary, yet correct golf swing, then movements, then golf lessons, the latest and greatest equipment or the finest conditioned golf course will not help you take you game to the next level.
Keep in mind, that as a new golfer you first need knowledge and understanding first. I often tell my students that before they could perform the tasks that their profession requires, they first had to accumulate the knowledge to perform that task through education or experience. The same is true when learning the game of golf. You learn the cause and effect relationships and the how’s and why’s of those effects. Therefore, our first session is spent with me explaining the golf swing starting from the most basic pre-swing fundamental, how we hold the club.
Golf is a very target oriented game. We need to position ourselves in such a way that gives us the best chance to hit an accurate shot. Therefore, a target line must be identified to help us set up to the ball correctly. This target line is an imaginary line that connects the golf ball to the intended target. Whenever you see a tour player and their caddie stand behind the ball looking at their target, this is one of the things the player is determining; the target line. There is usually something discernable a few feet in front of the ball that is on your target line that you can use for alignment purposes. As we address the ball, our toes, knees, hips, shoulders and eyes should be parallel to the target line and the leading edge of the clubface should be perpendicular to the target line. Pay no attention to the top line of the club. Often, if you get the top line perpendicular to the target line the result is a closed face position at address.
BALL POSITION/HEAD POSITION:
Whenever the ball is on the ground we simply need to contact the ball at the bottom of the swing arc. So, if we think of the golf swing as being a complete circle played on a tilted plane, then the bottom of the swing arc should be between our feet. However, our center (head/sternum) position determines where the bottom of the swing arc is. In other words, if we position back in our stance (ball positioned to the right of center), that actually puts more of our body, head and sternum, in front of or left of the ball. If our head position determines where the bottom of the swing arc is and the ball is positioned to the right of center in our stance, by far the most common miss-hit will result in a topped shot or wiffed shot. So, when the ball is on the ground always try to position the ball just left of center in your stance (think left eye on the ball). This will help ensure the club bottoms out in the correct position, helping to lift the ball off the ground. Now, give the same thought to a ball that is on the tee ready to be struck by your driver or 3 wood club. With the ball up on the tee we don’t want to make contact with the ball at the bottom of the swing arc, we need to make contact with the ball just on the upswing of the swing arc. Therefore, we need to position the ball off the left heel. Now the club will bottom out (just brushing the top of the grass), behind the ball because that is where our head is positioned. As the clubhead starts its upward arc the ball is launched off the tee. As your game improves, you will learn that by changing the position of the ball in the address position different shots can be created.
Now that your body lines are parallel to the target line and the ball is in the correct position in your stance we need to set our feet approximately shoulder width apart for good balance. With slight flex in the knees we need to tilt forward from the pelvis, maintaining a relatively straight spine position. This is called the spine angle tilt and it’s probably one of the most important body positions related to the golf swing. As an example, in the correct golf swing if our spine angle is 47 degrees at address it should be the same at the top of the backswing and the same at the impact position. It’s easy to see and understand how drastically impact position can be affected when the spine angle is changing through the golf swing.
MY SIMPLEST DEFINITION OF THE GOLF SWING:
“OUR BODY PARTS MOVING IN THE CORRECT SEQUENCE AROUND A STEADILY MAINTAINED SPINE ANGLE TILT.”
If the spine angle is at 47 degrees at address and 60 degrees at impact the result is almost certainly a topped or missed shot.
Our balance should be relatively equal at address, perhaps a little more on the right side. Our right shoulder should be slightly lower than the left shoulder at address because the right hand is lower on the grip and we should establish a slight spine tilt away from the target. Our weight should also be fairly equal from toe to heel with perhaps slightly more toward the heels.
When the ball is on the ground our hands should be even with the ball at address. With the driver, the ball is teed up and positioned off the left heel. Therefore, the hands can be positioned slightly behind the ball at address.
When the ball is on the ground and the hand position is too far forward (forward press – the handle is closer to the target than the clubface), three faulty conditions can occur:
- The clubface becomes de-lofted resulting in low left shots.
- Too much weight is now placed on the left side resulting in reverse weight shift.
- The shoulders tend to open up resulting in an out-side to in swing path.
I prefer the left foot turned out slightly toward the target while the right foot remains mostly square to the target line. The more the right foot is turned out to the right the easier it is to turn the hips on the backswing and the harder it becomes make the proper weight shift to the left side on the downswing. You will learn that restricting the hip turn on the backswing is a good thing.
The primary factor that controls the direction of the golf ball is the position of the clubface at the time of impact. As a right-handed golfer, if the clubface is open at impact the ball will spin/fly to the right. If the face is closed at impact the ball will spin/fly left. Our only connection to the golf club is our hands and how we hold the club. Therefore, with all the established positions discussed above we should hold the club in our left hand so that it is angled from the base of the left index finger to the pad of the left hand. Once in the playing position, you should see two knuckles (index knuckle and middle finger knuckle). The “V” that forms between your thumb and index finger should be pointing to your right collar bone. There should be no gap between your thumb and index knuckle. As you place your right hand on the handle, the palm should be facing the target. The “V” that forms between your right thumb and index knuckle should be pointing up the forearm to the right shoulder. With the “V’s” parallel in these positions, you now have a neutral grip position giving you the best chance to square the clubface at impact. The more your hands are turned to the left on the handle, the greater the chance the ball will fly to the right. This is called a weak grip position. The more your hands are turned to the right on the handle, the greater the chance the ball will fly to the left. This is called a strong grip position. Grip pressure should remain soft but primarily maintained in the last three fingers of the left hand with gently downward pressure of the right muscle on the left thumb.
Armed with this knowledge we begin hitting balls with our main focus on the pre-swing fundamentals. We will likely start with a 6, 7 or 8 iron with the ball on a tee. We will finish the lesson with an introduction on where we go from here – working on weight shift, motion and sequencing. You will leave with a much better understanding of the fundamentals. You will also be given a couple simple drills that will also help instill the concepts learned that day.