A Review of Teaching Techniques
Golf has always seen a proliferation of teachers touting “new” or “better” ways to swing a golf club than what is considered conventional. The reason that these methods gain traction is that there are golfers who actually play better with them than with the “conventional” swing.
Some teachers of these methods, unfortunately, become quite militant in saying that their way is the “only” way for all golfers to play the game. Their beliefs, though, are in contrast to the experiences of the USGTF Technical Committee, and likely that of the general USGTF membership, as well.
As golf teachers, it is important that we know something about the various methods out there and how they may be applied to our students, if necessary. Here is a brief review of the most popular current swing trends and teaching methodologies.
STACK & TILT
Instructors Mike Bennett and Andy Plummer researched and tested this method for over 20 years before bringing it to several tour players, and they have achieved notable success with various students. “Stack” refers to the ideal of keeping the weight “stacked” over the front foot for the entire swing; “tilt” refers to the necessity of tilting the spine angle towards the front foot on the backswing to achieve this. Bennett and Plummer believe that keeping the weight over the front foot during the swing leads to more consistent contact, while the conventional swing, necessitating shifting back and through, leads to diffi culty in developing consistent contact.
Skeptical golf teachers would say that Bennett and Plummer are teaching nothing more than a reverse pivot backswing, and under traditional understanding of the golf swing, this would be correct. However, they refute this by saying that a true reverse pivot also involves transferring the weight to the back foot on the forward swing.
Teaching application: If you have a student who reverse pivots (or tilts) on the backswing, despite your best efforts, this methodology may be the ticket. Most of our students who reverse pivot or tilt, sway their weight to the outside of their back foot; under Stack & Tilt, they would still lean their spine towards the target at the top, but the difference is their weight would be on their front, not rear, foot. During transition, the hips must move laterally aggressively – a diffi cult proposition for many average players. However, if they can do it, Stack & Tilt may be for them. Info: www.stackandtilt.com.
Years ago, Jim Hardy asked himself, “Why do good golf teachers say the exact opposite things about the golf swing?” His search led him to the conclusion that all of these teachers were correct – in context. That context was whether the golfer was swinging with either a one-plane or two-plane swing.
Hardy defines a one-plane swing as one where, at the top of the backswing, the lead arm is parallel to the shoulder plane, while the two-plane swing features the lead arm at a more vertical angle than the shoulder plane. The twoplane swing is what teaching traditionalists would consider a conventional swing, while a one-plane swing would be considered flat. However, Hardy says the one-plane swing is not fl at; it’s just different, and, in his opinion, easier to repeat.
In a traditional two-plane swing, the player would stand fairly tall with a neutral grip. During transition, the player uses the lower body fairly aggressively in returning the clubhead to the ball in a proper path from the inside.
In a one-plane swing, the player would bend over slightly more with a stronger grip. During transition, the player would feel like the upper body is starting the downswing with the lower body responding – although this is mainly a feel and not necessarily reality.
Teaching application: If you have a student who is in a one-plane position at the top, they may have a tendency to drag the clubhead too far inside on the downswing, resulting in pushes and hooks. This tends to be the result if you combine a one-plane swing with a two-plane transition move. The student needs to either make his swing more upright on the backswing or quiet the lower body on the downswing. Info: www.planetruthgolf.com.
Natural Golf is a company that was founded by instructor Jack Kuykendall, who later sold the company. Kuykendall came up with the method years ago, when he failed to improve using conventional means. Later, he was put in contact with the late Moe Norman, whose swing was similar in nature to the method Kuykendall discovered.
Natural Golf believes it is easier to swing on a single plane than on multiple planes. They explain that using a conventional grip with the club handle in the fi ngers necessitates that the club be moved into a more upright plane once the wrists begin to cock on the backswing. After transition, the club must be then moved again to a flatter plane to make proper contact in the conventional swing.
Natural Golf says all of this can be avoided by gripping the club in the trailing palm, relatively parallel to the trailing forearm. They say, by doing this, that the club will not have to switch planes during the swing; thus, the term “one-plane swing.”
Teaching application: If you have a student who feels more comfortable gripping the club in the trailing palm, who tends to set up with a wider-than-normal stance, and who tends to reach for the ball, Natural Golf may be a better option than trying to get them to adopt a more conventional set-up and swing. Info: www.naturalgolf.com.
In years past…
As noted in the beginning of this article, golf has always seen new or different swing methods being touted. Most of them have gone by the wayside. Some maintain a dedicated following to this day. Among the methods that have been popular in recent decades include
Golf Swing of the Future: This method was touted by British professional Mindy Blake in his 1972 book of the same name. He advocated a very strong, four-knuckle lead-hand grip with both feet angled left of perpendicular to the target line (in order to prevent backswing hip rotation). The backswing was what would now be described as three-quarter. This method never gained popularity among professional golfers, although Paul Azinger’s swing somewhat resembles this action.
Square-to-Square: Noted instructor Jim Flick touted this method in the late 1960s, culminating in a book by Dick Aultman titled The Square-to-Square Golf Swing: The Model Method for the Modern Player. The key to this method was forming a straight line, or “square,” relationship between the back of the left hand, wrist, and lower forearm almost immediately after takeaway, with the idea being to maintain this relationship throughout the rest of the golf swing. Because it was somewhat of an artifi cial method and diffi cult for most players to execute, it fell out of favor fairly quickly.
Connection: Jimmy Ballard popularized the method of having the arms “connected” to the body throughout the entire swing. At the time, swinging the arms without too much regard to what the body was doing was the preferred method. The most famous drill associated with Ballard is putting a handkerchief, or some other similar item, under the left arm and keeping it there throughout the swing. Although Ballard maintains a full teaching schedule to this day and still works with some tour players, his public profi le is not what it was in his heyday of the 1970s and 1980s.