As Mike Weir began tie 2002 season, naturally full of hope after ending 2001 with his best ever season and a win at the Tour
Championship, he expected great things. He of course succumbed to his worst season on the TOUR since his first, with only a little over $800,000 in earnings and a 78th place position on the money list.
Upon early success during the 2003 campaign, journalists began probing Weir with questions pertaining to his quick start and to what his off-season training regimen consisted. “Did you do a lot of work on the range?” “Did you play a lot of golf?” “Did you make any swing changes?” Typical of the questions asked especially since Weir had far from a stellar season the year prior.
“Last year I tried to be too perfect and decided during the off season to get back to basics. I focused on getting into the right positions by practicing in my basement where I have mirrors setup. I didn’t hit many balls or play much golf at all,” Weir explained.
If Mike Weir’s example of off-season practice is not a testament as to how to improve one’s game I don’t know what is. Perhaps fortunately for Mike, he now lives in Utah when November and December are not short sleeve weather months for golfers. In northern or winter climates indoor practice is not only a feasible or necessary option but also a fruitful one. This was certainly the case for Weir and can be for you in order to hone your skills and those of your students not to mention a great way to diversify and grow your business.
To see or not to see
While teaching indoors we can’t rely on the flight of the golf ball as an ingredient in creating a diagnosis. Naturally ball flight is an important indicator in determining problem areas, yet a teacher worth his weight in gold need not see the ball flight.
Without getting into all the particulars as to why an undesirable ball flight occurs, an experienced teacher understands that the reasons are limited. By simply listening to a student’s concerns about his or her ball flight tendencies, the teacher can immediately portray confidence and instill a level of trust from the student by simply translating those tendencies into a diagnosis. This is all done without ever having to see a swing let alone ball flight. If as a teacher you believe it is imperative to witness ball flight to properly assess a student’s (or your own) ability or progression this is your prerogative. However you may not be ready to teach in or operate an indoor facility. You may want explore the option of further education in terms of cause and effect as it relates to ball flight laws. An extremely sound knowledge of the golf swing by the instructor is a must if a student is to achieve success with an indoor curriculum.
We’ve explained the problem. We’ve shown the video. We’ve made sure the student understands through 10 different explanations, the use of layman’s terms and paraphrasing. We’ve demonstrated what is happening and what we would like to see happen. Drills have been performed. Imagery and mantras have been employed. Second and third opinions from fellow teachers have been solicited.
How often do we believe we have effectively conveyed a message to a student through a variety of means only to witness the exact same aberration of a movement creating the exact same aberration of a result? The answer of course is far too often. The reason for this is very obvious. A typical golfer will almost exclusively base his or her ball flight characteristics as the sole parameter for measuring their individual success. Regardless of all the methods used to help a student rid himself of a detrimental movement, the moment the opportunity of seeing the ball flight arises that same movement will rear it’s ugly head again and again. But why?
Over time as a golf swing develops (good or bad), so does a pattern in ball flight. Lets assume someone is taking up golf on his own without lessons from a qualified teaching professional. In most cases he or she will be dissatisfied with their ball flight pattern and will continue to make changes (sometimes for the better, sometimes not) in their technique until the flight pattern is more desirable or at least tolerable. During this process the movements performed become stored in the long-term memory of the brain.
The person visually becomes accustomed to seeing a particular ball flight and now the brain sends the message to perform the series of motions associated with it.
No matter what we try as a teacher the moment the student has a chance to see his ball flight the brain goes into action. The subconscious mind remembers the old ball flight pattern. When looking down at the ball prior to hitting the shot, the anticipation of seeing the flight is overwhelming. This visual stimulate is processed by the visual cortex of the brain. The long-term memory goes into action. Neurons are fired, nerves and muscles react and whamo! The same old swing, the same old result.
We cannot however remove the ball entirely. It is very important when making a change the student is able to perform the change while hitting an object. If the object happens to be a tennis ball or a beach ball it doesn’t really matter as long as the movement is being performed well. Eventually the student should graduate down to the size of a golf ball.
More importantly and the key to all of this is to remove any temptation of seeing the ball flight. Simply by working indoors a student will develop more body or club awareness. He will become less result-oriented and will discover, with proper guidance, how to perform a more effective motion all while creating a better result without ever having to see it.
Besides the possibilities of improving one’s game and developing a diversified instructional program we can’t ignore the fact that golf is practiced year-round regardless of climate. In the north of course we have no choice but to continue our passion indoors during the winter. In the south it can definitely be a viable option during the oppressive summer heat. A large indoor facility is not a necessity. Something as simple as a single hitting bay with enough space to videotape a student from face-on and down the line is all that is needed. For the more ambitious, perhaps an old warehouse or a tennis court within a club where multiple hitting stations are available for practice. With such an installation, naturally the costs to be incurred are considerable: Netting, mats, balls, rent, insurance… It can all be worth it in the long run however. A variety of services can be offered including membership, supervised practice and imagine the pool of potential customers for lessons that can be drawn from the membership.
At this point it would be remiss of me not to point out a few key elements in order to achieve a successful indoor teaching practice
use video – with the element of not being outside and not seeing the ball flight, video enhances the learning experience for the student and allows the teacher to provide a foolproof diagnosis since ball flight is not available
clubface position – focus on clubface position as it relates to the student’s ball flight pattern. If a student mentions he is a chronic slicer and the clubface is open at various stages of the swing, rectify the open clubface
spacing and safety – hitting stations should be approximately 10 feet apart (from center of each mat). Ceiling should not be much lower than 11 feet in height since netting will have to be installed overhead and enough clearance is required for someone swinging a club. Place dividers between all hitting stations. Test all netting to make sure it is not too tight or loose. Too tight and the ball comes rebounding back.
Too loose and the ball will hit the wall behind the netting and come rebounding back.