By: Arlen Bento, WGCA contributing writer
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.)