Over the years, I have given many golf lessons to many different kinds of
people. With the success of my junior golf teams, a lot of my instruction
and coaching has been focused on younger players. Now that I have
reopened my indoor learning center, I am working with all levels of
players or a regular basis.
I have a student that has become a familiar case in my years of coaching
and teaching golf. This student is a mid-60s male who used to have a
pretty good golf game 20-30 years ago. The problem is that his 14
handicap from 20 years ago was developed with a very bad over the top
move that makes it almost impossible to strike the golf ball solid at
this player’s age and stage in life. He is a 35-handicap and thinking
about quitting golf.
This is a very common problem with players, usually men who played golf
with strength and eye-hand coordination. They learned golf by playing,
never really took coaching or lessons; they just went out and played golf. For
many, aiming left with the driver, closing down the club face with the
irons, and learning how to putt and chip made the game playable.
Now, with age creeping up and the loss of physical strength that comes
with aging, the golf swing just won't work.
So, with lessons - especially indoors - this player is able to make swing
adjustments that provide an acceptable delivery of the club into impact
and decent shots with a smooth pace. As soon as this player tries to
add speed, the movement breaks down and the over-the-top take over.
I have been spending some quality lesson time in the studio with this
student, and we had scheduled an outdoor playing lesson. Surprisingly, we
never made it to the tee box, because on the range, all the things that
we were doing in the studio had disappeared. All the divots were going left. The only club that could make face
contact were the 8-iron and 7-wood, and at best the shots were not going more
than 100 yards. As I inquired about what happened, the student told me that he had
hit balls for hours the previous day and that he thought he had figured
out the problem.
"Ah" – figured out the problem.
The student continued to explain how he warmed up, taking some of the
instruction - a straight-back, one-piece takeaway - and it all started to
click. However, when he tried to take it to the course, the swing broke
down. He could not understand why on the range it worked, and on the course it did not.
I went through the whole process on what we had been working on in the
studio, and this is where I got the "I don't understand why I used to be
able to play this game." And, this is where the problem is for most players that are going
through this type of struggle.
Players who have played with poor technique have to let go of what they
used to do and focus on what they have to do to get better. It takes
some work and some time, but it mostly takes a mindset of change.
Players with this over-the-top issue have to focus at changing swing
path so divots are square; they have to work at the feeling of moving
their hips after making a shoulder turn in the backswing to deliver the
club into impact correctly.
I was using a drill where we were trying to take the power of the right
hand (right-handed player) out of the swing, focusing on the left side
pulling the club using the hips. I call this a “right-hand release
drill,” and it really creates a great-looking golf swing. The funny
part is that with this player, when he looked at the ball and tried to
hit it, he went back to the old swing over the top. The only way I could get him to make the good swing is to do the swing
with his eyes closed.
The best shot of the day was an eyes-closed driver that he hit with no
effort that went right down the range; no effort, great sound, great
speed and great finish. The student was amazed at the shot, and it really
made him realize that he could make the swing change if he would just
let go of what he used to do and focus at what he needs to do at this
stage in his golf game to get better.
(Master Teaching Professional Arlen Bento Jr. is a golf coach, golf
sales business owner, golf product developer, and golf writer living in
Jensen Beach, Florida. He is a former professional tournament player and
is a national award-winning head golf professional at the PGA Country
Club at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, FL. He can be reached via Facebook at www.facebook.com/arlenbentojr
or on his blog http://arlenbentojr.blogspot.com, or on his business website www.abjgolfsales.com.)
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