After the lesson
The best thing you can do after a golf lesson is to practice your new swing without a golf ball for at least ten minutes every day (the more often and longer, the better). What you need to understand is that when you stand over a ball with the intention of hitting it, the body controls the swing, not the conscious mind. Given any opportunity, the body will revert back to what it is most comfortable with, which happens to be your old swing.
The way to teach your body something new is to swing slowly, without a golf ball. Stop frequently at the new position you are trying to learn so that you can show your body where it should be, and so that it can develop a feel for that position. Once the new movement is somewhat comfortable, you can put more emphasis on trying to learn the move while actually hitting balls.
When you do hit practice shots, make three to four practice swings for every ball you hit, as you're still trying to teach your body what to do. You want to get conscious thought out of the act as soon as possible.
Do you really want to improve your Golf game?
Here is an excerpt from a column in a distinguished golf magazine written in 1998. I won't mention the author’s name in order to avoid causing any embarrassment.
“Hogan once said in disgust that he didn't teach because he ‘couldn't find anybody who wanted to learn.’
Two generations of golfers have proved Hogan wrong, and even he would probably agree it was the happiest mistake he ever made. ”
Boy, was this author off base—things haven't changed one iota! Sure, everyone would like to learn how to swing better, but that isn't what Ben Hogan meant. Hogan's point was that most golfers aren't willing to "go the distance"—they aren't willing to work through the frustration that is an inescapable result of improving a faulty swing.
Instead, golfers try the Band-Aid approach to golf improvement, which is relatively painless, but is also ineffective because they aren't fixing their swing faults; they're just treating the symptoms.
A golf swing is not learned by throwing money at it, or by practicing something for only a week or two. It doesn't come quickly and it doesn't come without effort, yet golfers seem to think (or maybe hope) that it will. If you want to improve, be prepared—you will hit the ball badly and your swing will feel very awkward and uncomfortable until you have practiced it enough to develop coordination with whatever part of the swing you were trying to improve.
Every golfer should have a goal to improve for every year they play, but most golfers reach a certain level and never improve beyond that point.
One study found that the average golfer reached this level after only three years of playing. To me, the reasons seem simple enough: not practicing properly, not having a good instructor, and not sticking with the program through the frustration and awkwardness that initially result from making real swing improvements.
For most golfers, the road to real improvement is just as simple: practice properly—work on one thing you are trying to change for a minimum of three weeks to a month (and be sure you're working on the right thing!), get the best instructor you can find, and understand that you will be frustrated for a while.
Band aid Golf instruction
If you've taken a golf lesson, you've probably experienced Band-Aid golf instruction. It's called Band-Aid instruction because the symptom is treated, not the problem, and obviously this type of golf instruction is not likely to significantly improve your golf game.
Before reading any further, please keep in mind that this page is geared toward the person who wants to become a much better golfer and is willing to put in the time and effort and has the dedication necessary to achieve his or her goals. I'm being critical of Band-Aid instruction from that perspective, and I'm hoping to educate anyone who wants real improvement to seek fundamental swing changes, not Band-Aid changes. While it is true that I am being critical of Band-Aid instruction here, I do believe that most golfers should be getting Band-Aid instruction for the simple reason that so few golfers are dedicated enough to achieve fundamental swing changes.
Here are two very common Band-Aid remedies with which most golfers are probably familiar:
1) A slicer is told that the slice is caused by an open clubface at impact, and that to correct the problem they need to close the face by rolling the arms over or by closing the clubface in some other manner. Rather than find out why the clubface is open and then solve that problem, the Band-Aid solution is to focus on covering up the symptom (the open clubface).
2) A right-handed golfer who comes over the top has a divot that points to the left of the target, so the golfer is told to either swing inside to out, drop the club almost straight down as he or she begins the forward swing, or hold the shoulders back at the beginning of the forward swing. The Band-Aid view says, “Why is the golfer coming over the top? Who cares, just don't do it!” The cures are often just as wrong as the problem, but because Band-Aid instruction is basically a trial and error approach, it is possible to find a solution that will temporarily alter the symptoms, but without fixing the problem.
Band-Aid instruction usually focuses on immediate results: trying to get the student to hit the ball better during the golf lesson. Not surprisingly, immediate results are what almost all golfers want as well (not knowing that this isn't in their best interest, which I'll get to in a minute). Because most golfers crave immediate results, golf instructors are going to try to give their students what they want. The problem is that by not focusing on the real problems, Band-Aid instruction can severely limit a golfer’s potential, and tends to give a false sense of hope.
So what's wrong with immediate results? Let me answer that question with another question. When was the last time you tried to learn something that was very, very difficult and found that you immediately did it well? Do you think you could learn to do a flip on a balance beam and consistently land safely on your feet with only a few months of practice (assuming you haven't had any gymnastics training)? The golf swing of a good player is much, much more exacting, but it may not seem like it because the consequences of a mistake aren't as severe; you don't risk breaking your back if you miss!
If you're one of the few who are motivated enough to become a much better golfer, you should improve your golf swing fundamentals and take a long term approach to improving your golf game. The focus should be on developing your understanding of what a correct golf swing is, and you need to realize that applying fundamentals to your swing will take time, practice, and determination. Don't be surprised if you get a little worse before getting better. The reason you might get worse is simple: the body loses coordination as it tries to do things it hasn't done before, things that are different from what it wants to do. In a way, it's as if a little war is going on when you try to improve your swing. The mind tells the body to do something new, but the body rebels and tries to do what it already knows (what is comfortable). Most golfers quickly surrender to their body's desire to avoid change because they weren't aware that the fight was going to be so protracted, or that there was even going to be a battle in the first place.
No, real improvement in one's golf swing is not quick, and it's not painless. If you know this going in, you will have a much better chance of succeeding. You don't have to kill yourself with hard work (although the more effective work you put in, the better you can become), you just have to be smart by being aware of what is coming. Basically, you need to know that it is going to be a long, slow journey, and you will need to possess the fortitude to be able to continue to practice even when you're hitting the ball badly. And take my word for this: if you're making fundamental changes, you will go through periods when you do hit the ball badly!
Golf is a challenge, and that's its allure. Everyone is searching for a way to improve, but most golfers don't understand what is required to achieve that improvement. If you really want to get better, forget the quick fix and take the long term approach to improving your golf swing fundamentals.
About the Author
Tom Fielding is an experienced golf instructor with a long career spanning Australia and Asia. To learn more about him or to book a lesson in Japanese or English, please visit www.agolfersguide.com or email agolfersguide [at] gmail [dot] com ().