Are your teaching belief systems accurate

One of our USGTF examiners happened upon the assistant professional practicing on the range at their course. The assistant, an accomplished player and a novice teacher, was getting very frustrated. The examiner asked him what he was trying to do, and the assistant said, “I’m trying to work on my cut shot, but all I keep hitting are draws.”

The examiner watched the assistant hit a couple of balls and quickly diagnosed the problem. “Your ball position is in the middle of your stance,” he said. “No wonder you can’t hit a fade. You need to play the ball up in your stance.”

The assistant protested, saying it would produce an even greater draw. The examiner stood firm and got the assistant to play the ball more forward. Predictably, he hit a beautiful cut shot. “How did you do that?” the assistant asked in amazement.

Too many people who teach golf, frankly, don’t have accurate belief systems. Like many professionals (but hopefully not a majority), the assistant didn’t know the basic fundamentals of ball position as it relates to ball flight.

It’s not just ball position cause-and-effect that flummoxes some teaching pros. Many pros believe certain things about the golf swing and teaching, that simply aren’t accurate. While this may not necessarily be detrimental to all of our students, likely it will be to some. Here are some common teaching beliefs that are simply wrong, yet persist in the teaching world.

Keep The Head Still
In a good golf swing, the head does not stay still. It drifts back slightly on the backswing, and moves forward on the forward swing. In fact, right before impact, a majority of touring pros actually move the head back again, counterbalancing the strong forward movement of the swinging club. Although it is not desirable to see the head move up and down, there are several pros who do not keep theirs level, including Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Paul Azinger, Kenny Perry, and Todd Hamilton. It’s not the killer some people think, but it still should be corrected, if possible.

Keep The Hands One Fist Away From The Body For All Clubs
This belief fails to take into account the differing lie angles from club to club. Ideally, the angle between the shaft and the arms should be somewhat consistent throughout the bag. This means, the longer the club, the farther away from the body the hands should be. This isn’t necessarily a dramatic difference, but there should be some. For most people, if the hands are one fist-width away from the body for the wedges, they should be about two fist-widths away from the body for the driver.

The Backswing Can Never Be Too Slow
Many golfers, both amateurs and professionals, tell us that “swinging too fast” on the backswing is a common error in amateurs. The fact is, research shows pros, on average, swing back faster than amateurs. A faster backswing promotes more of a gyroscopic (stabilizing) effect. The key is to be smooth.

When Teaching, Look At The Setup First
There is some controversy with this statement, because it’s not entirely inaccurate. However, the USGTF Technical Committee believes the ball flight should be the first observation in teaching a non-beginner or a non-novice. That’s why the “ball flight laws” is the first technical talk of the week at certification classes, because it all starts here.

Sure, someone might have a technically incorrect grip, but if it’s returning the clubface to square time after time, why change it at first? After all, the grip is doing its main job.

Instead, we believe the teacher needs to diagnose what the problem is for non-novices within context of the ball flight laws: clubhead path, clubface angle, sweet spot contact, angle of clubhead approach, and clubhead speed.

“If It Works For Me, It Must Work For Everyone”
You can tell these types of teachers because they say things like, “Now when I take the grip, I…,” “When I set up to the ball, I…,” etc. They strongly believe that if it works for them, it must work for everyone.

The problem, as USGTF National Coordinator Bob Wyatt says, is that they are confusing their own preferences as fundamentals. Fundamentals deal with the direct movement of the club throughout the swing and as it relates to the ball flight laws; preferences are how someone best executes the fundamentals.

For example, in putting, many teachers believe that the weight should be mainly on the front foot, and consider it a true fundamental. However, this is simply a preference which may help to stabilize the body. Stabilization of the body is indeed the fundamental, because body movement will directly affect the movement of the club, but how this is done is strictly a preference.

The Best Way To Learn Is From The Cup Backwards
Many teachers will swear that this is not just the best, but the only, way to learn golf properly. And, we have no doubt that it is the best way for some people to learn…but not for all people.

Again, this way of teaching is strictly a preference. Many fine players have been produced by teaching them the full swing first.

The Best Way To Cut 5-10 Strokes Is Through The Short Game
Golf Teaching Pro has published several articles in the past that refutes this through statistical analysis and research. Golf Digest has done the same thing. Yet, this inaccurate teaching belief continues even among the finest teachers in the country.

Here’s the truth: for a certain number of greens in regulation averaged over many rounds, a golfer’s scoring average will be plus or minus two strokes from a certain number. For example, a golfer who averages 5 GIR will average between 83 and 87 – no more, no less. If this player wants to start breaking 80 on a regular basis, he must improve his ballstriking.

Only Great Players Make Great Teachers
False, false, false. It doesn’t take a plus-handicapper to have detailed knowledge or know cause and effect in the golf swing. And, the very fact that there are many USGTF professionals who teach successfully – yet don’t shoot under par – is powerful testimony to this fact.

The only advantage an excellent player has in teaching is that he or she has a better understanding of what a good golf swing feels like, and this can be helpful in teaching excellent players. Having said that, there are more important acumens in teaching golf than mere playing ability.

These are the major inaccurate teaching beliefs that we have come across, but by no means is this list complete. Always keep up to date through self-study and materials from the USGTF.

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