Teachers of the Decade
by Jack Berry
Did your golf swing fail to make the transition to the 21st century?
Open the first season of the new millennium with some sound prefessional advice and instruction. Michigan Golfer contributing editor Jack Berry spoke with the Teaching Professionals of the 1990s and asked them to share a salient tip.
1990 Teacher of the Year
Michaywe Golf Club, Gaylord
When is the last time you had a really good practice session? No, not the last time you hit two large buckets in 30 minutes at the local range, but rather, a practice session in which you actually learned something from your efforts. We've all heard the phrase "Practice makes perfect," but that is incorrect. Practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect.
Therein lies the problem with most golfers practice sessions. Most driving ranges are full of people hitting drives as far as they can, some right, some left and even a few straight. That may be fun but it is not practice.
In order to improve, one must practice "perfectly." In other words, practice what will benefit your game the most. My philosophy always has been there is no one swing for everybody but everybody must have one
swing. You must figure out what works for you and practice that to perfection. Take lessons to determine what you need to work on and then go to the range or practice green or bunker and try to master those changes.
Use all of your clubs when practicing, including spending time putting and chipping. Practice shots you will use on the course, the long iron off the tee on the tight par-4, the 6-iron over water on the scary par-3, or maybe the punch shot from under trees that you invariably face every round.
Remember, you can't expect to be successful with a shot on the course if you have't practiced it first. Confidence in your game and lower scores are a direct result of preparation. You will not only lower your handicap, but your luck will change too as the more you practice, the luckier you get!
1991 & 1993 Teacher of the Year
Treetops/Sylvan Resort, Gaylord
Correct posture is critical. I seepeople set up properly but then they destroy it as soon as they take the club back. The right leg straightens and the hip turns too soon. Or the knees go down in the backswing and then straighten up. They lose power and wonder why their ball contact isn't good.
Keep the knees slightly flexed and tilt forward from the hip joints, not from the waist. Weight should be on the balls of the feet. I like to see a waggle, move the feet, touch the ground, something like a tennis player awaiting a serve, dynamic. As you take the club back, the lower body should be stable and the spine angle should stay intact as you make your shoulder turn. As the club moves halfway back the right hip turns and the shoulder turn can be completed -- the buttons on your shirt should be over your right foot.
Maintain the same angle of spine on the downswing and finish with your eyes looking down the middle of the fairway. Maintaining that posture through the swing allows you to be more dynamic. If the upper and lower body are in a straight line, the hips either turn as much as the shoulders or overturn and that results in insufficient coiling and a great loss of power.
With good posture you'll find the marriage of club, arms and body become more consistent.
1992 Teacher of the Year
Carl's Golfland, Bloomfield Hills
Life is long term and golf is long term so find a qualified instructor and stick with that professional. When my family and I moved to Birmingham in 1967 I found out who was the best doctor in the area. Thirty-some years later and we still have the same doctor.
You want the doctor to know you, you want your professional to know you. The professional becomes your friend, your analyzer, your psychologist. We grow with you. You don t want some guru in Colorado; you call us, we re your 9-1-1 and stop the bleeding. We must be available. We re here to listen and we must know the pulse of the student and that comes with working together.
So you look for the guru, the teacher, someone you can be compatible with.
1994 Teacher of the Year
Treetops/Sylvan Resort, Gaylord
Grip, alignment and swing path are one package and if one part of the package is wrong, it will affect the entire package.
If you have a weak grip and the club face is open at impact, you're going to slice the ball. And people whose ball tends to go right will aim left, and then they'll aim way right because occasionally they'll pull the ball farther left when they're aiming that way.
The swing is a chain reaction and if the grip is wrong, the alignment is wrong or the swing path is wrong, you will have a poor result. To see improvement, all of those factors have to mesh properly. Find a good instructor and work with that person.
1996 Teacher of the Year
Beech Woods Golf Course, Southfield
Forty-five percent of the game is putting but too often, in more than 20 years of teaching, I've seen people spend most of their practice time with the driver, a club they'll use 14 or 15 times a round. If golfers would spend half as much time practicing their putting as they do hitting balls on the range, they would see great improvement in their scores.
First, find which eye is dominant. Do that by looking straight on at an object 50 to 100 yards away, say a tree. Hold your right hand in front of you, centered on the tree. Close your left eye and look, then close your rigt eye and look. The eye that saw the hand closest to being centered on the tree is your dominant eye. Once you discover which is your dominant eye, it's easier to line up your putt.
Something you can do on the practice green to get a feel for the way the ball will break is to pick a spot you're going to putt from and then close your eyes and walk from there to the cup. You'll feel through your feet which wy the ball will break.
A good putting drill to develop tempo, pace and feel is to put a tee 18 inches from the cup, another three feet from the cup, another five feet and another six feet. Putt four balls from each of those spots. Make all four in succession, then move back to the next tee and repeat it.
Remember that the putter is the one club you are going to use the most every time you play. Even the best tour professionals use it about 30 times a round.
1997 Teacher of the Year
Kent Country Club, Grand Rapids
Weight shift isn't complicated. When I started in golf an old pro talked about tapping the heel, the knee coming in and that's the way the swing was taught. It's kind of the weight shift myth with too many things to think about.
Turn properly and your weight shifts automatically -- no reverse pivot.
If you maintain good posture and good spine position and move your left shoulder across your body to your right thigh (for a right-hander), maintain flex in the right knee, and your weight will shift automatically with your swing. Your arms and upper body mass are heavy and with that proper turn, you will go through the ball and finish on your left side.
1998 Teacher of the Year
Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville
I was losing some distance the last several years. I was getting into a bad position at address and in my golf schools, when I look down the line I'd say 100 percent of the people are incorrect at address.
Everyone wants to hit it farther and it's easier to get distance with the correct address than it is to just swing harder.
At address your head should be slightly behind the ball and your spine should be tilted 6 to 10 degrees away from the target. That allows you to transfer your weight effectively during the backswing.
Next, at the top of the backswing, both legs should be flexed and the upper part of your body should be rotated so that your back points to the target.
If you can do these, you will add more power.
1999 Teacher of the Year
Miles of Golf, Ypsilanti
When someone is playing well you often hear them say their timing is good. What does that mean? My definition is the coordination between the person's body motion and arm swing. Whether it's someone trying to make a par on the last hole to break 50 or a tournament player trying to make a par on the last hole to win, there is pressure.
Take the player trying to break 50. There's water on the right and he's already sliced four times on the back nine. Typically that person is tight and won't rotate the body back. Consequently their arm swing doesn't have a chance to catch up to the body motion. The result is an open clubface and the ball goes right.
It happens to the best players, too. Remember Greg Norman on 18 in the 1986 Masters? He needed a par on the 18th to tie Jack Nicklaus but he hit his second shot right, missed the green and made bogey. And Tiger Woods needed a birdie on the last hole (in 1999) at Los Angeles and he hit it way right.
I feel everything revolves around the clubface and to play effectively, your arm swing and body rotation have to be together; one can't get ahead of the other or the clubface won't be square at impact.
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