Standing on the lesson tee day in – day out, I see something which frustrates me. A guy is clearly having a tough day slicing.
A drowning man will grab onto any hand offered
“Why am I hitting it off to the right all the time”?, he cries. His well-meaning buddies are crowded around him
“You’re lifting your head”, one of them says. “Keep it down as long as you can”.
The poor bloke tries it to no avail.
“Your left arm is not straight”, another friend offers.
Again, he tries this new piece of advice but without success.
“Your takeaway is too inside”, a third buddy claims. “Take it back straighter”.
The poor bloke tops the ball.
Then something happens
“Turn your shoulders”, says the first friend, having another crack at fixing his mate.
Bam! Straight down the fairway.
See, it’s all about turning your shoulders”, he says again, with the all-knowing smugness of someone who just got it ‘right’.
As a teaching pro, I can see from 40 yards away what the issue is. In fact, even before I see his swing I can tell what the issue is by the fact he is claiming his balls all go off to the right – it’s simple impact physics. From this basic information that all teaching professionals know, we can then work on a fix which actually solves the issue.
We can apply our thousands of hours of experience in teaching and having success with students (as well as the experience of our previous failures) to find a fix for the pupil which is
• As simple as possible
• 100% relevant to their problem
• Will have the most positive knock on effects
• They are physically capable of doing
• Fits in with the complicated blend of technical components that they currently bring to the table
• Causes minimal disruption to their game
• Is right for them
But the guy’s friends fixed him
Did they? Did they really?
Here’s what they actually did.
Friend 1 – “Try putting a tee behind your right ear”. – Bad shot
Friend 2 – “Try putting it behind your left ear”. – Bad shot
Friend 3 – “Try putting it in your right pocket” – Bad shot
Friend 1 – “Try putting it in your left pocket” – Good shot
The Secret of golf
If you throw enough shit – some of it sticks. But was the issue actually addressed? Or did the well meaning advice from the friends display a huge lack of understanding of correlation and causation?
What happens to this guy now when he hits another slice? “Oh, I didn’t turn my shoulders enough” – followed by trying to do it even more. Before long, this guy is turning more than a 20 year old Tiger Woods and still slicing away.
And then the cycle repeats
As a professional, I spend about 90% of my time in lessons un-teaching poor advice. Well meaning husbands, fathers and….. well, actually it is mainly the men who seem to do the teaching (although ladies are prone to it too).
Not only is most of this advice completely irrelevant to the fault of the actual player, but most of it is actually detrimental.
It’s detrimental because it is often overly complicated information (usually gleaned from a magazine or watching a swing tip video online). Also, the information given is usually too much – if one thing is not successful, the ‘faux-teacher’ often responds by trying something else, then something else ad infinitum, until something works. But it leaves the person being taught perplexed and with multiple irrelevant swing thoughts.
Even on the odd occasion where some advice given is technically sound, it is often completely unfit for the person in hand and the physical, mental and developmental constraints they bring to the table. You might not want to get Mrs Havercamp with her 50mph of swing speed to get into Rory Mcilroy’s positions at impact.
The fallacy of complexity
In my article on complexity (see HERE), I explained how, due to the fact that qualified golf teachers understand the intricate web of interrelating components in a golf swing, we are able to supply something simple, which we know will have the biggest knock-on effect to your game if you stick to it.
Rather than enter the cycle of instant gratification, work on simple things which will have the longest lasting effect and which are correct.
My biggest bugbear
I had a lesson with a junior last year. I watched her hit balls for 10 minutes and could see she was athletic, but she topped 10/10 balls.
Me – “So, what have you been working on”?
Her – “Well, my dad wants me to keep my left arm as straight as possible and my head down, and not move my feet”.
Me – “How is that working for you”
Her – “Not well, I keep topping them all”.
Me – “well, how about you forget all of that stuff, and let’s just focus on clipping this tee out of the ground”
Within seconds, we had unlocked her athleticism and she was hitting the ball incredibly and was visibly ecstatic. At the end of the lesson when the father arrived to pick her up, she was so excited to show him what she had learned – and the father was mightily impressed too.
The mother and I went inside to take payment for the lesson – we were gone 3 minutes. I walked back outside to say goodbye to the girl, only to look in horror at the girl topping and shanking the ball again, with the father standing by telling her to keep her head down and left arm straight and turn… bla, bla, bla
Don’t be that guy. You might think you know what you are doing, but it is likely you don’t. Even if you are a scratch player, you probably don’t know what you are doing.
But my mate Bill says…
We hear this a lot too.
Apparently, if your friend is one shot better than you on their handicap, they instantly become your mentor and teacher. Even if they are a 24 handicap. Do you see the ridiculousness of this?
Don’t take swimming advice from a drowning man
Even if your friend is a single figure handicapper – this does not qualify them to give you advice. This may even disqualify them even more, as they have developed certain skills and abilities which allow them to do what they do – you may not possess these abilities yet.
Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean they know how to teach.
Taking advice from someone better than you can be like copying the racing lines of Lewis Hamilton when you don’t have his car handling skills.
Even elite players
Even some top pros give awful advice. A lot of experts haven’t a clue how they do something. When asked to explain, they often make something up based on what they feel or believe to be happening. This is called the difference between declarative and procedural knowledge, and is a well known motor learning phenomenon.
Put it this way – you are an expert in walking, but I bet you couldn’t explain accurately the mechanics of walking.
Take, for example, Nick Faldo. When he was at his peak, he believed that the ball started on the line of the swing direction and curved to where the clubface pointed. We know from physics and advanced high speed impact analysis that this is simply not the case.
What Nick Faldo thought he was doing and what he was actually doing was different.
I get it
Look, I know you are well meaning. I know you think you know how to teach someone. I know you want the best for your wife, child, friend. But it is more than likely that you are actively sabotaging their success, not helping them.
You may have read the latest issue of Golf Mag monthly, but that does not make you an expert at all. I laugh now at the information I used to think was relevant, and the fact I thought I knew everything about the golf swing because I had read a good book on it.
You may believe that you know your stuff because the occasional tip helps your friend hit a decent shot – but you are likely just giving them a placebo. It is also likely that you have ignored the 10 bad shots they hit using your advice and focused on the one they hit well, which may have had nothing to do with your advice (selective attention). It is also very likely that the advice you gave them will only do them harm in the future, as it was never dealing with their actual issue in the first place.
Go and see your professional
Seek professional advice. Not only have they done it (you are normally a professional standard player to become a teacher), but they have also trained others to become better.
They research, study and know the swing inside out. They know what is right for you at this point in time. They know how the simplest of information can have the biggest knock on effects.
I teach over a thousand hours each year, and have done for 10 years. Not only that, but in the time when I am not teaching, I am discussing in forums, going through swing videos, analyzing the professionals, reading up on motor learning and looking at all the latest science in golf, as well as working out how to apply it and then practicing it on myself and putting it into practice with students.
I basically live, breathe, eat and sleep golf 24/7. If I tell you “do X”, there is a very good reason for it. And if “X sounds overly simplistic” there is a reason for that too (read THIS).
Women – show this to your husbands. Children – show this to your parents. And YOU – seek the advice of someone who knows what they are doing, not someone who can’t even control their own game (like your 15 handicap friends).
For some advice that will actually work to lower your scores, click below to check out The Strike Plan.