Your Best Golf Isn't Always About The Swing

There are many students who come to me for help with their golf swing, and I am honored that they do.

Many golfers who come to me with problems in their game and insist that their swing is the trouble, and for many - the way they are hitting the ball is a fundamental problem in their game, and we get to work on that when it's necessary. Many times - it is in how they set up and hold the club - not the swing motion itself. Many players are not setting up to swing in the way their body will naturally move based upon their bodies.

As players describe their games to me, and it quickly becomes obvious that there are many parts of their games that we need to address.....not just their swing.

A large number of the golfers that I work with that we spend a significant amount of time with their short game shots, as well as their decision making on the course, especially the decisions they make around the greens and how that affects their score. We also spend a good bit of time with their putting to make sure that they get rid of the dreaded three-putt.

No matter who I get to work with, we spend time saving strokes in every way, especially keeping their emotions under control so they can play at their emotional and mental peak, and their decision - making processes so they match what they truly can do under pressure.

This means to many of the golfers that I work with that we are evaluating what their skills are, play within themselves and then get to work on the skills and shots that they don't own yet.

Do yourself a favor - take some time to look at yourself in all aspects of your game, be brutally honest with yourself, and learn exactly where you can improve - I'll bet you that it's not always your swing.

Golf Swing Success - Match Your Swing To What Your Body Is Built To Do

There is no 1 perfect swing for all – only perfect impact conditions. How you get there can be made easier by understanding your own abilities and limitations are and working from there.

All These Players Are Quite Successful.....All With Very Different Swings

If there was a singular perfect swing that all of us could perform, the ideas that constitute it wouldn’t have changed so many times over the years. Not everyone is built the same so there cannot be 1 swing concept. You must find out what your body can perform. 

I test students very early in their process of building what is best for them. I use 12 different physical tests that show me what each person will be able to do based on their body characteristics, flexibility, balance, speed and strength in certain ares. 

These tests will clearly show that person what they will do the best and know that they can perform well in certain motions and that they would not perform well in other types of motion. 

I will understand your strengths and what you are built to do to help you progress much faster and then set you on a very quick path to your best golf.

Are You A Junkie For Change?

  • Do you frequently feel that new equipment will help you?
  • Do you decide to get properly get fit for equipment then change from it a few months later because you got bit by the "I have to have new sticks so I can talk about them" bug? 
  • When is the last time you have changed your putter, irons, woods, or driver? How many drivers have you had in the last 3 years?
  • How long does a club stay playable in your bag before you decide that it isnt the right one anymore?
  • Are you constantlyseeking the new "tour" shafts?
  • Do you miss the center of the face (hit it all over the face - or just on the toe) and blame the club?

If the above questions expose you, then it is time to come to grips with the fact that you can't buy a game and you must spend time correcting the parts of your game that need work. No one gets fundamentally better without practicing the correct way for them.

It is important understand that the best players dont change equipment until it has bee PROVEN to them that a different club would actually be better for them.

Golf is challenging enough without constant change. Every player needs some familiarity and to have a belief in his equipment. Constant change erodes confidence, and each one of us needs as much confidence in our games as we can get. Think before you spend.

When is it really time for new clubs?

When is it really time for new clubs?

How Do I Train My Students to Hit It So Far?

I get asked frequently how I get my students to hit it so long.

* I have a system that I call "MetamorphiSmith" that encourages speed and delivering force into the ball.

* I know & understand their body's unique way of creating force and speed. I call this "allowing the athlete to be the athlete". 

*  Fit their equipment and their setup properly that helps optimize ball flight ( I use Foresight Sports Launch Monitor & BioSwing Dynamics)

* Implement a fitness & conditioning program that emphasizes power, explosiveness, and speed. I have partnered with Dr. Nathan Frazier from MVP Performance. http://www.columbusmvp.net/contact )

* Train with equipment that measures & helps optimize ball flight. The long ball is part of the game and it's not going away, but it needs to be in play.

* Train the students to learn the course and where to be on it for their best play.

Golf Swing Success - Match Your Swing To What Your Body Is Set Up To Do

There is no 1 perfect swing for all – only perfect impact conditions. How you get there can be made easier by understanding your own abilities and limitations are and working from there.

If there was a singular perfect swing that all of us could perform, the ideas that constitute it wouldn’t have changed so many times over the years. Not everyone is built the same so there cannot be 1 swing concept. You must find out what your body can perform. 

I test students very early in their process of building what is best for them. I use 12 different physical tests that show me what each person will be able to do based on their body charachteristics, flexibility, balance, speed and strength in certain ares. 

These tests will clearly show that person what they will do the best and know that they can perofrm well in certain motions and that they would not perform well in other types of motion. 

I will understand your strengths and what you are built to do to help you progress much faster.

It Depends......

Why do some teachers compare their students to a PGA tour player?  Because they are the best at striking a ball and getting it to go to the target, and we have great video of them doing it.

Many teachers (myself included) are students of the golf swing and have understood its many complexities and understand the sequence of events as they unfold.

I have tried to get some of my students to compare themselves to and sometimes try to emulate a particular PGA tour players ONLY IF THEY ARE PHYSICALLY SIMILAR or if I am trying to point out something that would truly be in the best interest of my student.

Why do so many teachers try to get their students into the same positions and look the same at every point in the swing? I do not try to do this.  If you look at many players over the course of history of this great game, you will find there are many different body types, and many different styles of golf swings that have been powerful and repeatable for many different of the game’s great players. I believe that it is a great mistake to try to teach the same thing to all of the golfers that I work with – they are simply too many differences in their bodies, levels of athletic talent, goals as players, and ability to practice enough to meet their goals. I must adapt to the student to maximize their experience and to allow each one of them to become better at what they do.

Here are good examples of different players and their different physiques that dictated how they stood over the shot and made their swings at the ball.

Ben Hogan stood about 5’ 8” and weighed about 145 lbs where George Archer stood about 6’6” and weighed about 200 lbs. Graig Stadler was about 5’ 9” and weighed about 245 compared to Tiger Woods’ 6’2” and 210 lbs. Michelle Wie is over 6' tall and compare to Jeong Jang (past Women's British Open winner) who is barely 5' tall. As we know, all of these players are outstanding in their own right, but none sets up to the shot the same way. Byron Nelson set up quite hunched over, while Adam Scott stands erect with his shoulders back. They all set up to match their bodies and their swings are a reflection of that set up.

My point here is that each player must adopt what works well for them and make their best swing from that place to get the result they want, keeping in mind that there are some simple truths about initial set up that influence how they can swing. They are keeping your body pointed where you want the swing to go, stand in a posture that your body can hold together during the swing and hold your hands on the club that matches your natural arm hang (or your your whole swinging motion will be contrived and will constantly give you inconsistent ball flight)

The best players of all recent eras are all different in look and performance, but the result is the same - excellent golf.

Be a student of history and don't try to force yourself into someone's mold that doesn't match who you are or can be.

Where Is Your Focus?

I have some students that I work with that struggle on the course not because of poor mechanics, but from lack of focus on what matters to them to perform their best.

Many people struggle in this game due to paying very close attention to their mechanics at the time they are performing! Wow, that can be a very big problem for many people and can create stress in the motion causing outcomes that are nowhere near the caliber of shot they can truly hit. 

One of the techniques that I use with these "overthinkers" is to focus their attention on the target - not their mechanics or the "feel" of the swing or on their swing keys (hopefully, there is only 1 swing key). I try to get them to clear their mind of the "how they are going to swing" and shift their mental effort on hitting the ball to their target.

Many times these lessons sound very different that what the student thinks may be coming their way as they are focused on mechanics and they think I will do just that with them.  The goal that the student has is to get better, and many times I help them get better is by helping them "get out of their own way" during the swing and keeping their mind focused on what is best for them.

Many good to great players have a nice balance between how much they are focused on what they are doing and how they talk to themselves and how much they focus on their ball going toward the target and the outside factors of the shot like wind, pace of play, their opponents, looming hazards....etc.  My goal is to help the student in every way possible, so I am quite aware when a student becomes too aware of their mechanics and when to help them make the shift from themselves to relieve the stress before the shot.

Peak performance occurs when we are not overly focused on ourselves nor on the external things about the shot, but when we are paying attention to all things relatively equally. I have had someone recently tell me that he likes to "go blank" when over a shot and not focus on anything. This seems like a poor idea to me because when we are truly not focused on anything at all, we will not get any thing because we have not programmed ourselves to perform. Look out - no one knows what is coming now!

Focus on the shot and trust your mechanics. You will get a good outcome better than half of the time with many of those being very good if you do just that. Steer clear from focusing on mechanics and you will enjoy the game much more. You have your own best level of focus for your peak performance - find it.

I use a terrific tool that helps me help players get to a higher level of focused attention while they are on the course - the Focus Band. Be sure to ask me about how I can help you with it!

What to Expect in a Swing Lesson with Jeff Smith

I do NOT have an ideal swing model, and I do NOT try to change student’s swings just so it will look a certain way. I get students to make their best swing based upon their body type and physical conditions which dictates how their body moves the best and can deliver the most power.

The first thing I do with the student is sit down and talk to him about the state of his game, why he is seeking help, what his expectations are, and if he is able and willing to do the things that are necessary to improve enough to meet his goals.  This initial interview helps me determine what motivates the student and how I can best work with him. Then I perform a series of easy to do physical screens which tell me how the person will move the best to produce the easiest, most powerful and repeatable golf swing that will hold up under pressure.

In the full swing and the short game, I concentrate on looking at what the student already does well. Using that as my base, I then think about asking the student to make any adjustments, if necessary.

I do use some teaching aids. I use low tech things like string, shafts, grips, markers, tees, range baskets, putting aids, swing trainers, and swim noodles and golf balls. I use them to demonstrate a feel or a thought or an idea when it is necessary.  

I also use the Foresight Sports GC2/HMT to teach inside my golf studio and to use the Foresight Sports simulator for seeing true ball flight indoors. I use a K-Vest and electronic devices that trace the club and tools to help each student be their best. I do use video with some students. I have a high speed video camera suitable for teaching combined with the Swing View Pro teaching software system to illustrate something in the lesson.

I teach verbally, visually, and kinesthetically.  I give each student homework at the end of the lesson, and I give him or her the lesson goals and homework so that he or she can remember what we worked on together.

Sample Lesson Procedure

Step 1:   Interview with student and physical testing

Step 2:  Assessment of present situation

Step 3:  Instruction, Coaching and Feedback

Step 4:  Homework

CONCEPT, TECHNIQUE AND SKILL

I am constantly working out where my students are in terms of three important areas - Concept, Technique and Skill. These areas all feed off each other, and without all components supporting each other the player is unlikely to improve. Knowing and understanding these areas can also help me identify which route I go regarding improving a player.

The above three areas are very different, but if you want to be good at golf, you need to get better in each area. Working endlessly on one without the other two factors may lead you down a dead end road, or create less than optimal results.

CONCEPT

WHAT TO DO  &  ARE YOU DOING IT

Concept relates to your conscious idea about what has to happen to create a good golf shot.

  • Where is the sweet spot?
  • What controls direction?
  • What gets the ball up in the air?

Also lumped into this category is your awareness of whether you are doing it or not. Basically, this is task related – knowing what the task of golf is is vital, and hardly any golfers fully understand the task. But it is key that a golfer knows what it is they are doing at impact to cause their bad shots. Simple questions such as “Where did you hit on the club face that time?”, or “where did your club first contact the ground?” all help me identify how good a player’s concept is.

This is the #1 issue for most new or higher handicap golfers.

TECHNIQUE

HOW TO DO IT

Technique is what most people know – it’s the way you move your body/club through space. Technique can be things such as

  • Your stance
  • Your grip
  • Alignment
  • Posture
  • long or short swing

All the way to more complicated things, such as

  • Clubhead swing plane
  • Hand plane/path
  • Kinematic sequence
  • Force Patterns & Pressure shifts

This is the stuff that is fed to you every day in magazines, blog posts, TV commentators and articles. It is the thing that I find the majority of golfers working on, and to a certain degree it can be an important element of your improvement program.

Yes, analyzing and improving your technique can be an important part of the process

However, we also know that there are many ways to get the job done technically – as evidenced by many players on tour with many different swing styles. Also, not everyone will be able to create the same technique – physical limitations will take care of that.

There is not one perfect technique, and the quicker you learn that, the quicker you will get on the road to improvement

 

SKILL

ACTUALLY DOING IT

Skill is your ability to do what you intend to do. You can measure skill, but you can’t see it. It’s not as tangible as technique. For example, two players may be hitting the sweet spot on their club face, but only one player may have the skill to hit wherever they desire on the club face.

Skill and technique are not the same !

Skill is your ability to achieve the task – Technique is the method employed to achieve the task

One example – two players may have the ability to hit the ball to an average of 15ft from the pin from 100 yards. However, both players may have used very different techniques. One player may have a steep backswing, very little hip turn, swing across it with an open face and hit a fade. The other player may have a flatter backswing, more hip turn, swing from the inside with a closed face to path and hit a draw. Techniques are different, but their skill to control the end result is the same.

Pros all do get it done different ways (example from pga tour even of real golf ball flight from PGA tour players)

Examples of skills are

  • Ability to control where the ball finishes (the ultimate skill)
  • Ability to control trajectory
  • Ability to control which part of the club face strikes the ball
  • Ability to control where the club contacts the ground (which can be further split into low point position and depth control)
  • Ability to control where the club face is looking at impact

 

They ALL Work Together

TECHNIQUECONCEPT and SKILL all work synergistically. They all tie in together; if one thing is missing, the whole system can fail, as explained below.

 

Skill Without Technique

This is a much rarer case for me to see, but basically a player may be highly co-ordinated, yet be producing a technique which is far less than optimal for what they are trying to achieve.

For example, a player may be great at brushing the grass in the right place (skill), but they are doing so by swinging the club 20 degrees left/right. Or they may have a great ability to hit the sweet spot, but they are currently using a posture which is not great for keeping balance or moving the body effectively.

You might have the skill to get across without a balance pole – just as you might be able to hit great shots with a poor technique. But improving your technique can be like adding a balance pole, or making the rope thicker.

Skill Without Concept

How can you be skilled at something if you don’t know what it is you are trying to do, or what is happening?

There certainly are cases of this happening (the difference between procedural and declarative knowledge), but most amateurs are severely held back by their lack of concept. I see players all the time who have great ability, but with shitty concepts stopping them progressing.

For example, a player with great skill who thinks that they should hit the ground behind the ball is just going to be good at hitting behind the ball. Also, if a player has low conceptual awareness (awareness of what happened), they may use their skill to their disadvantage. I have had several players who hit a shank and believe they hit the toe. When they then try to hit more towards the heel (the wrong fix), they hit it worse – obviously.

“I’m supposed to smack the ground a foot behind the ball, right?”

Their technique was never the issue – their skill wasn’t the issue either. Their ability to conceptually understand what is happening was the issue.

Concept Without Skill

On the flip side, What if you have the right concept but no skill? This is a bit more common with better players who may understand what it is that creates a good shot, yet are seemingly unable to do it.

For example, a player may be slicing the ball to the right; they understand that the face is too open to the path, but they can’t seem to change it. In this case (if everything technically is there to enable them to be able to change the direction), I will go a skill building route – improving function through certain drills.

Variability drills and differential drills are some of the best skill building drills around.

Concept Without Technique

Some players may know what it is they are trying to do, but struggle to do it consistently because their technique is holding them back.

For example, a player may understand (concept) that their club face is creating directional problems, and their skill to control the club face is pretty good, but their extremely weak grip position (technique) is demanding more of their skill levels. In this case, improving technique will demand less of their skill levels.

This person might understand that they need to close their clubface more, but this grip technique is not making it easy for them to square it up.

Technique Without Concept

I see this all the time with players who have read a million golf books on swing technique, and they have worked hard at their movement pattern without seeing success.

Basically, if you have a great looking swing but the club face is open, the ball is going right – and if you don’t understand why it is going right you may start to self-organize into less than appropriate movement patterns. I.E you may start swinging more to the left to try and get the ball back online.

This player may be able to produce the desired technique when a ball is not there, but the moment the ball is in front of them, their old technique rears its ugly head (sound familiar?). You can work on technique all you want, but you’re fighting a conceptual issue. The player may be trying to scoop or get under  the ball.

In this case (as in most cases), your faulty concept is actually harming your technique

Technique Without Skill

I see this a lot in players who are so internally focussed on making the ‘perfect movements’.

Internal focus of attention (movement) and/or too many thoughts can severely hamper our ability to coordinate the whole. This goes into a very deep topic which is beyond the scope of this article, but it is safe to say that you can have a great looking swing yet be poor at co-ordinating the technique into producing the desired outcome (if you even know what that outcome is).

If you have all this going on in your head as you are swinging, you might look great, but your ability to coordinate the system (your body) and all its moving parts is going to be severely hampered.

WEAKEST LINK

When I am analyzing a player I am nudging all three areas up increasingly, without leaving one behind.

This is in stark contrast to how most golfers train (or, ashamedly, how most golf teachers teach), harping on endlessly and working on everything pertaining to technique without ever touching skill or conceptual elements. I am glad to say that I now know quite a few more teachers who are taking these above concepts on board and looking at the player as a whole, rather than simply what is on the video screen.

Most golfers just keeping adding more and more to the technique without ever working on their skill levels or understanding of the task. This leaves an imbalance, and can (in some circumstances) cause more harm than good.

For me, CONCEPT is the basis of this important triad – faulty concepts almost always lead to poor skill levels and techniques. So giving my players a better understanding  of what the task is (at impact) and awareness as to what they are doing is one of my personal coaching keys.

To learn more about how to improve technique, concepts and skills for golf, come see me at Otter Creek GC or contact me via text @ 812.344.4109 and we can set up a schedule of improvement for you!