August 2010

August 2010 - GOLF TIPS FROM A PRO - PETE POPOVICH: How To Choose A Golf Instructor

Author: Pete Popovich | Photographer: Photography by Anne

Choosing a competent golf instructor can be a difficult task. The right instructor can raise your game and lower your scores. The wrong instructor can lower your game and raise your scores. A competent instructor should be well-versed in a number of ways that make your game better. Much like sound fundamentals in the golf swing, an instructor should have fundamentals of teaching. These fundamentals would be swing mechanics, club fitting, basic physiology, and communicating in a way that each student can understand. Let’s discuss each one in more detail.

SWING MECHANICS: Almost all instructors are aware of basic golf swing mechanics. They obtain this awareness from other teachers, from generally accepted books and manuals or from watching videos of great golfers. However, just because someone is aware of swing mechanics does not mean he/she has a thorough understanding of the mechanics. Certain things that are “musts” in the golf swing. If a teacher cannot see what must happen for your particular swing to improve, you may be working on the wrong mechanics, thereby limiting your progress. Further, if a student does not think in “mechanical” terms, dwelling on mechanics can have a negative effect. Too often, especially in the modern era teachers (and ultimately their students) get caught up playing swing mechanics instead of playing golf, and confusion (“paralysis by analysis”) results. A good teacher fits the mechanics and the student to each other so the swing becomes second nature as opposed to contrived.

CLUB FITTING: If you are having trouble with your swing mechanics, chances are your clubs do not fit you properly. No matter how many lessons you take or how hard you work, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to improve if your clubs are not fit to you. If your teacher does not understand how golf clubs should be fit, then all of his/her knowledge of swing mechanics is worthless. The golf club will determine how a person sets up and ultimately swings; and if you cannot set up properly, your potential is compromised even before you start your swing. Club fitting goes beyond handing you clubs from a fitting cart that contains a few clubs with a limited number of shaft and head options and a limited range of fit. These carts are what many teachers at most facilities consider club fitting. This is definitely not the case. If you do not fall into the narrow range of options offered by the fitting cart, your ball-striking potential is never realized. A knowledgeable teacher knows this. .

BASIC PHYSIOLOGY: Physiology plays a major role in golf. A competent teacher should have a detailed understanding of how the body works. A good teacher understands that not all golfers’ bodies work the same: Men differ from women; adults differ from children; and young differ from the elderly. There are certain things the body can do and certain things the body cannot do. A teacher who does not understand this can put you in harm’s way by having you swing in a way that your body cannot handle. This typically produces discomfort, eventually leading to pain and, in severe cases, abandonment of the game. A good teacher can recognize a student’s physical limitations and adjust the student’s mechanics so that improvement is not made at the expense of comfort. Physiology especially dictates a proper set up. Once the set up is correct (anatomically balanced), the club can be fit properly and the mechanics can fall into place.

EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION: Even if your teacher is an expert in swing mechanics, club fitting, and physiology, if he/she does not know how to communicate in a way you understand, it does you no good. It is the equivalent of someone speaking to you in French when you speak English—knowledge cannot be exchanged. A good teacher knows how to find the cause of the problem by noticing the effects. In order to fix or cure that problem, the teacher must be able to translate the fix/cure to you in a way that you can understand. If you are a mechanical person, he/she should be able to explain it to you in mechanical language. If you are an artistic person who learns better with pictures or images, he/she should be able to explain it in that manner. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for explanations. The best teachers are eager to answer. You can ask teachers from grade school to high school to college professors around the globe, and the ones who are dedicated to their students will tell you that effective communication could possibly be the most important part of teaching.

All of these are fundamentals your teacher should possess. Otherwise, you might not be getting as much out of your game as you should. If you would like to know more about choosing a competent teacher, contact the Golf Performance Academy at (843) 338-6737, on the Web at or on Facebook at Golf Performance Academy-Hilton Head.

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