Teaching Philosophy

Below are some thoughts, preferences, and philosophies which I have developed as an instructor of golf. These have changed and evolved over twenty years, and no doubt will continue to do so in the years to come as I learn more about golf and the people who play the game.

  • Golf techniques are rarely about “right and wrong”. If there are a few undeniable laws of physics involved in executing golf shots, even these are subject to our own desires (i.e. “I want to play a draw”), abilities, physical strengths and limitations, equipment, and so on. Most of the time, improving at golf starts with a question asked by each golfer: “What do I want my swing/shot/game to achieve?” followed by the pursuit of techniques that help reach the goal. Some techniques are likely to help more than others, but the process is more of a journey of exploration, and trial & error, rather than a pursuit of “the truth” or “the secret” or anything so absolute as “right and wrong”. Developing a functional golf game is less about labeling the parts as right or wrong, and more about finding the combination of parts that gives the results we want. My job as a golf coach is to guide golfers in their search, and hopefully speed up their process of discovery.  (Related articles: “The Whole Truth…”, “Absolutely Great Putting”, “Be a Match-Maker”)
  • I really enjoy working with people who take a patient and long-term approach, and demonstrate a willingness to invest themselves in their own improvement over time; but it is also my job to help golfers find a “quick fix” or a simple patch if that is all they seek.  (Related articles: “Patience is a Virtue” “Patience is a Virtue in Every Language”)
  • A large majority of golfers list “consistency” as a top priority for their swing and game. Most of us get hooked on the game at some early point when we experience the amazing feel and sight of solid, beautiful golf shots; and we spend the rest of our lives trying to re-create this sensation more and more often (while some golfers even fall into the trap of expecting to be able to hit great shots “every time”). For most golfers, achieving the “Holy Grail” of consistency is a process of reduction and simplification: take out the elements of the swing that don’t help, and boil it down to the smallest number of pieces. It’s also a process of “swinging within oneself”, meaning golfers benefit from learning and conforming to their own restrictions and limitations. For average golfers, what remains after this process will probably not quite match the swings of very advanced golfers or touring professionals, except for the fact that they are becoming more efficient with their motions.  (Related articles: “Seeking Consistency”, “Going Au Natural”, “Swing Like a Tour Player”)
  • Perhaps the most under-talked about and misunderstood aspect of the golf swing is what I would label as “balance” or “centeredness”. This is true among golfers and instructors alike. Most people who talk about golf techniques know the importance of various planes in the swing—but where we move the body, the spine, and the weight is the flip side of the coin and has just as much to do with executing golf shots as the planes. The way these two elements, plane and balance, play off of each other largely determines the shots we produce. For example, a golfer swinging in flatter planes will likely need to lower his spine and move his weight in a specific way to produce solid shots, while a golfer swinging in upright planes might have an appearance of “coming out” of the shot and will move their weight differently to get results they like. The trick for most people is to get their planes to match their movements, and vice versa.
  • The longer I have taught golf, the more I have realized the importance of a pre-shot routine as a bridge between the “rational” stage in preparing for a shot, and the hopefully “reactive” stage of executing the shot. Similarly, I think it is beneficial for most golfers to understand how to use rational and reactive states of mind to get the most out of their practice time as well their rounds of golf.  (Related articles: “Of Two Minds”)
  • I prefer the simplicity of a somewhat “stacked”, “one-plane” swing with a fairly free arm-swing around a quiet spine, and the feet on the ground as long as possible. Especially for new golfers. However, there are certain benefits that can result from swinging the arms and club in a more vertical plane than the shoulder-turn naturally creates. In my mind a “two-plane” swing will have more moving parts, but it might fit some golfers’ body types or their desired ball-flights better. (Related articles: “The Whole Truth…”)
  • Most people understand the importance of short-range shots to scoring well, and they also know that practice time should usually be skewed toward the short-game if they want lower scores; but very few people manage their practice time to reflect that they know these things. (Related articles: “Putting in Perspective”, Tip Sheet “Black Marks“)
  • I think that most equipment manufacturers have damaged the ability of average golfers to learn an effective setup and swing by creating ever-longer and stronger (less lofted) clubs.   (Related articles: “Are Your Clubs…”, “Buying a Game
  • Many times what a golfer perceives as their problem, “flipping the wrists” for example, is really their instinctive attempt to “fix” something they’ve already done. Most people have great ability to make last-second corrections on the way down and through impact, just to make contact with the ball, and they often confuse the correction with the original cause. For most of us the forward part of the golf swing is an attempt to reverse the effects of the unhelpful elements we put into place at address and in the backswing; so improvement is often a process of understanding and changing these “root causes” so that the forward swing can produce great shots instead of corrections.  (Related articles: “Fix the Finish”, “Out of Posture”)
  • The most common cause of frustration on the golf course is a lack of understanding. People tend to expect a certain amount of “failure” and poor shots, but not being able to understand why we hit a miraculous drive followed by a miserable one leads to mental and emotional turmoil. People can often deal with poor shots if they at least know what to do, or attempt to do, to prevent these shots; but ignorance of the causes of, and remedies for, poor shots leaves a golfer feeling powerless and frustrated.  (Related articles: “Patience is a Virtue”)
  • Most of the strokes people lose are because of short-game failures. The second-leading cause of higher scores is the choices we make during a round. Failures of the full-swing are generally a distant third-place when explaining poor scores.  (Related articles: Tip Sheet “Black Marks“, “Playing the Odds”, “The Long Ball”)