You don't need to go broke to learn golf.
On any given Saturday many men, and women, pull up to a Golf Course with visions of a thrilling, and enjoyable four or five hours of fun and excitement. They come looking for relief from the strain and frustration of the work week. However, few of them will actually enjoy the experience. The vast majority will leave frustrated, and angry, at how their day has turned out.The frustration, anger, and embarrassment they suffer trying to unsuccessfully maneuver their way around the course, instead of being the exhilarating experience they anticipated, plus the amount of cash they shelled out to have this rotten experience, is the major cause why so many abandon the game each year. It's just no fun to play golf badly, and it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible, with good information, and a good planned approach, to teach yourself to play better golf
Golf is a Difficult Motor Skill
As with singing, dancing, playing the piano, or playing baseball, learning to play golf is a challenge. Halting starts and changes in direction are not uncommon,because golf is a game that requires mastery of a variety of difficult motor skills. Yet, with some knowledge, understanding, thought, and effort, the game can be learned, and anyone can be competent at its' play. We can't all be Tiger Woods, or Phil Mickelson, but with patience, and practice, we can learn to play a solid game, and perform skillfully, and competently enough, to secure for ourselves a lifelong source of enjoyable recreation.
Obstacles to Learning Golf
Because the cost of taking lessons makes it difficult for many to learn the game, I am presenting a do it yourself concept. I feel that this approach can give more people an opportunity to learn the game without looting their bank accounts.I know that doing it yourself may sound like a foreign concept to you, because as Americans we truly believe that if we don't hire an expert to do something, it won't get done right. We believe that if we do it ourselves, we'll mess it up, and make it more difficult to straighten out. However, Golf Professionals charge healthy fees for their time, and it usually takes a lot of lessons before you become sufficiently skilled at the game to really enjoy playing.That is the principle reason why so many never take up the game ,and many who do, quit in disgust soon after starting. However, doing it yourself, with some guidance, makes a lot of sense, because to really learn the game you are going to have to dig it out of the ground, just as all those who became good at the game did . It is going to take training, and that is what I am going to tell you how to do. I am going to teach you, to train yourself.
The Starting Point
So where do we start? We start at the beginning. No matter how long you have been playing, to make improvements you must always go back to the basics, and work your way up to where you want to be, because the root causes of any problems you might be experiencing will almost always be found there.So what is it you want to achieve? In order to achieve a goal, we need clarity about what the goal is, and why we want to reach it. Then we are free to give the goal our full focus,which leads to our giving our maximum effort to achieve it.Is your goal to win a few bucks from your buddies on Saturday morning? If so, and you are the average person, that will not be too difficult to achieve. If your goal is related to your business activities,that to, will not be too big a task. However, if your goal is to win the club championship, that's going to take lots of dedicated effort, practice, and time investment. I suggest to you, that a good goal for most would be to have a stroke average of between 82 and 85 strokes a round. I believe such a goal will sufficiently challenge you to put forth your best effort, yet, not overwhelm and frustrate you.With some patience, and persistence, you will eventually achieve, and maintain, that level of skill.
Learning to Effectively Swing a Golf Club
The overriding principle that I depend upon for constructing any reliable golf swing , is the set up. The set up must be the foundation of any good golf swing because all the dynamics of the swing revolve around how you grip the club , how you align to the target, how you stand up to the ball, and your ball position. Unless these elements are good, the golf swing will never have consistency or repeatability.
The Set Up
First, let us consider the grip. How we place our hands on the club is very important, because the hands are the only connection we have to the club. Thus, how the clubface comes into the ball, will be solely determined by the position of the hands on the club at impact. Because the club will be traveling so fast in a good golf swing, we will not have the opportunity to adjust the clubface before impact; therefore it is imperative that we have them preset correctly, to square the club. To keep this task as simple as possible, just follow this plain procedure, and will have assembled a proper grip for you. With a club in your right hand, hang your left arm down by your side with the palm facing your trousers. Now shove the club over to the left and catch the handle in your left hand, closing your fingers around the handle. Next, raise the club in front of you and adjust the V that is formed by your forefinger and thumb so that it points somewhere between your right cheek and right shoulder, and your thumb should run along the right side of the handle. Now, bring your right hand towards your left, being sure that the right palm is facing the left palm. Fit the lifeline of the right palm to the thumb of the left hand, keeping the two hands as close together as possible, and secure the club with the middle two fingers. Fit the little finger of the right hand onto the knuckle of the left forefinger, and form a pincher configuration with the thumb and forefinger of the right hand. The V of the right forefinger and thumb should point to the same spot as that of the left. Now, hold the club up in front of you, square up the clubface and proceed to make small circles to test its' flexibility. You need to repeat this procedure over and over until it becomes second nature . It may sound like an imposition to you, but once mastered, it will serve you well for the rest of your golfing life.
Alignment I believe is just as important as the grip.Alignment dictates the predisposition of the swing direction., and when swing direction is combined with clubface angle at impact, they determine ball flight. By understanding this relationship, and the ball flight laws(which I will cover in a future article) you will be empowered to diagnose the problems in your swing when they arise, and be able to make the appropriate corrections. The proper way to align to a golf shot, I believe, is called the Railroad Track Theory. In the Railroad Track Theory, you imagine a railroad track and you are standing on the inside rail, with your body lines pointing down that line, while the ball lies on the outside rail, with the line to target running parallel to the body line. The rule for using this theory is that the body moves down the inside rail,and the club swings down the outside line. The two lines should not converge.
Stance and Posture
As you might have guessed by now, the things that most golfers pay little attention to , play a major role in determining success or failure in golf, and greatly influence whether they have enjoyable experiences, or frustrating ones on the practice range, and the golf course. Stance and Posture are very important to understand because the body is the hub around which you will swing the club, and that hub must have maximun stability. To assume your Stance, place your feet so that your heels are approximately just outside the width of your shoulders, this assures that you are in good balance(from this positionyou can easily adjust to the proper width for the length of the club you are using, as the lengths change). The Stance should narrow as the clubs get shorter. Posture is very important, because once you establish your attitude to the club, ball, and ground, the relationship cannot be changed if a good result is to be had. A phenomenon known as " Dip and Flinch" in the golf world, is the biggest destroyer of good golf shots in the game. The left arm is on the front of the swing,and thus establishes the swing's arc, and when you lose your posture you destroy that arc. To establish your posture, simply let your arms hang down from your shoulders, tilt forward from the waist, and lightly flex your knees. Now be sure to keep your head up and your back straight. When you have done this you will have assumed a good golf posture for you. Everyone has a different body build, so there is no correct posture that fits all. Follow this procedure and you will find the one that is correct for you. Practice this until it is second nature to you.
The position of the ball at address is one of the most overlooked aspects of the game. However, it is most often the root cause of all unwarranted compensations that destroy golf shots. So let's explore where you should position the ball. There are two methods for doing this. First there is the one position method, where the ball is placed somewhere between the logo on the shirt, and the left heel,for every club, with the right foot being moved backward, or forward, to accomodate the length of the club.In the second method, the position of the ball is moved between the forward instep, and the middle of the stance,depending upon where you expect the arc to reach the ground, as the shaft lengths of the clubs increase and decrease.The second method requires some experimenting on your part to find ,and become familiar with the bottom of the arc for the various length clubs.Personally, I perfer to set up and make swings bumping the club across the ground to establish where my swing arc bottoms out. Then I use that as my ball position for all my irons, moving my right foot back and forth to accomodate the length of the clubs. For my woods, I use a more forward position ( off the forward instep for my driver, and just in line with my arm pit for the 3&5woods).I submit to you that there have been some great players who have used the one ball position method because they thought it made the game a lot less complicated.The important thing for you to do, is to choose carefully, and once you decide, make your choice a staple of your game.
Understanding the Golf Swing
My goal is to give you as much useful knowledge of the golf swing as possible, while still keeping the process simple. Many theories have been developed about how to swing a golf club, but few actually teach you how to learn to do it. The teacher can teach the most wonderful lesson ever, but it is the student who must do the learning. I have been fortunate to have studied the game under some instructors I believe to be serious students of the game, chief amoung them Dave Christianson of Guaranteed Golf of Ohio, and Mike Levine of USGTF in Port St. Lucie, Florida. I also have been priviledged to have worked for Tobb Bork at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, and to have observed his teaching. The most important lesson I learned from them is that instruction has to be a two way communication, and has to be understandable. So let's get an understanding about what I think a golf swing really is. The golf swing is a circular motion, a unbroken one. When the Indians spoke of the "Unbroken Circle" they could easily have been describing the golf swing. This point is important to understand and grasp, because the circular concept allows you to take full advantage of the energy producing properties of Centrifugal Force, Centripetal Force and Gravity. These forces allow you to swing the club at speed and yet maintain its' arc
The Four Major Factors in A good Golf Swing
There are four major factors involved in a good golf swing,they are; 1) Swing Path, 2) Angle of the Clubface at impact,3) The Angle of Descent, and 4) The speed the Clubhead is Traveling at Impact.The previously mentioned physical forces, make it easier for you to incorporate these factors into your swing. To grasp this concept try to imagine a cowboy twirling the loop in his rope above his head, as he prepares to rope a horse, or a person swinging a ball on a string about his head, or the action of the hammer thrower. All these actions are true swings that illustrate ythe forces of Centrifugal Force, and Centriputal Force at work. They show how an object turning around a hub, has two opposing forces at work on it, one pulling, and the other resisting.These properties of the circular motion will help you strike the ball and achieve good distance, yet have good accuracy, if you will allow it to. It will also let you conform to the four laws of the golf swing. Those four laws are:1) The club must swing towards the target on the forward swing.2) The clubhead must come into the ball at speed. 3) The golfer must stay level and be relaxed. 4) The golfer must maintain his balance. Now that we have established that the swing should be a circular motion that revolves around a central hub( one located in the head and shoulder area), we can see that all our errors will be caused by actions that take the club out of its' circular path. This can only be done in two ways, either change the size of the circle(get taller or shorter), or else move the circle all together(altering the bottom of its' arc). I want to emphasize to you the importnce of letting the club do the work. If you allow it to , it will take you thru all those pretty positions that you see in the magazines and books. However, you must resist the temptation to snatch on it, and push it around. Doing those things not only destroys the arc, but drastically reduces the club's speed.
Building Your Swing
Now that we have established our set up, and we know what constitutes a golf swing, it is time to build our swing. How are we going to do that? First, we are going to build a swinging motion. Take a club and hold it in front of you, grasping it lightly between the forefinger and thumb of your strong side hand. Now, with the off hand, pull the club to about shoulder height and release it. If your grip was light, the club will swing freely back and forth like the pendulum of a clock, with no assistance from you. This is a real good image of what a swing is, and demonstrates what we are going to achieve in our golf swing. As you can tell it is really a very simple thing.The swing we are going to build is just as simple, but will be on a much larger scale. Next I want you to hold a club out in front of you at chest height, and make five baseball swings in rapid succession, being sure to let the forearms rotate freely. Now, while making baseball swings , gradually lower the plane of your swings to the plane of the golf swing, and go on swinging. This is what a golf swing should feel like.Surely we must put some flesh on the bone of this skeleton, but it is the foundation upon which we will build a reliable, consistent , repeating golf swing. We are going to build a swing that will serve you all of your golfing life, and this simple exercise will always be it's core. We are now ready to begin the journey that is to lead us to the swing I've been talking about.
Training Yourself to Swing the Club
The first step in learning the swing is training yourself to Swing in the Right Direction. I emphasize here that it is important for the first few weeks that you perform the exercises without using a ball. A ball wants to dictate the action, but we want to focus only on the motion, the direction, and the speed involved in swinging the club. Our goal for the first week is to explore and understand the first rule of the golf swing. That rule is , the club must swing toward the target on the forward swing. I want to point out here that there are three directions the club can swing in, toward the target, or right or left of the target. Two of those directions are correct ( for a right handed golfer), toward the target, and slightly right of the target. Swinging left of the target(for a right handed golfer), generally leads to a slice. So for the first seven days, I want you to execute a drill where you lay a club on the ground, to serve as a target line, and using a five iron, make ten swings that cross slightly to the right side of the club on the ground. Make ten swings a day, no more,or less, for seven straight days without missing a day.
Generating Clubhead Speed
In the second week, I want you to swing the five iron you used in the week one drill, grasping it by the clubhead, and swing the handle to produce a swishing sound. Strive to make the swishing sound loudest just past the point where you estimate impact would occur. Repeat that exercise ten times. Now, grasp the club by the handle and strive to produce the same swishing sound , at the same point as before. Repeat this exercise ten times. When you finish the second exercise, perform ten swings in the manner of the week one drill. Perform this routine for seven consecutive days,remembering that a missed day , may set back your pdogress. To make the second week easier , relax your arms and wrist. This will allow your wrist to react to the swinging of the clubhead, and increase the club's speed at the bottom of the arc, with the club swinging to a full finish.
Your Go to Swing
In the third week I want you to combine the week one drill with the week two drill, so that they become one cohesive unit. This will become your Go to Swing. When we have completed this exercise , the swing we have developed, will become the reference point for all your shots. I must point out here that there is a difference between a golf swing and a golf shot. Once you have developed a golf swing , there will be other elements that go into making good golf shots. Right now we will concern ourselves with developing a good swinging action, and we'll accomplished that when we master the week three exercise. For the next seven days I want you to make ten swings a day that combine the action of week one with the action of week two. This should produce a swing that travels in the right direction, and has good speed. It is imperative that you make a swing that accelerates to a full finish, with the club finishing down your back, and that you maintain your balance. Relax, and really accelerate the club. Clubhead speed is what produces distance. Let the club do the work, don't try to help it.
In weeks four and five, continue to ingrain the basic swing that you have been developing. Make sure that you follow your routine of ten swings a day, and accelerate the club to a full finish down your back, while swinging in the right direction, and finishing on balance. When you have finished week five you will have gone five weeks without hitting a ball. It was important that we exclude the ball from the equation, because the ball wants to dictate the action, and would have given you the kind of negative feed back that would have inhibited your progress. This would have prevented you from performing the motion correctly, and you would have learned nothing. However, because the game is about hitting the golf ball, it is now time to put it in play. In week six and seven I want you to to start to hit balls with your basic swing. Build a practice station by placing two clubs on the ground to form your railroad track, and begin by hitting 25 to 30 balls for the first few days. After that you may hit as many as you desire. However, I recommend that you stop whenever things start to go wrong, and return to your step three drill for a while, then resume hitting balls. Please keep these sessions short until you are confortable about the development of your skill. There is one tip that I believe that you will find helpful, and here it is. If you swing in the right direction, any curvature in the ball's flight, will be the result of the direction the eye of the club is looking to.The ball will always start out in the direction the club is swinging and turn in the direction the eye of the club is looking at impact. This should aid you in shaping your shots correctly. In my next article (Produce Good Golf Shots Consuistently) I will discuss the factors that lead to good shots. Look for it here on Infobarrel. I sincerely hope that the ideas expressed here lead you to better enjoy the game. Haning a good golf swing is not all that is needed to succeed in golf, but having one is surely where it begins. Good luck.