Guidelines for Junior Golfers

Junior Golfer

I have so much to say to junior golfers – they are the future of the game.  Here is a summary of what I believe to be the most important points for them to observe:

  • Always walk versus ride! Golf carts have been forced into the game primarily for financial reasons. They do not speed up the game; they do not provide the golfer with a better experience; and they do not improve the design of golf courses!  Do yourself a favor and commit to never riding again unless it is absolutely called for.
  • Compete, casually and seriously, as often as possible. One of the primary reasons boys are much better chippers than girls is because they love to compete and try unique shots around the practice green. It is this competitive environment that stretches them to create new and better shots. Apply this philosophy to every element of the game.
  • Study and learn to appreciate the history of the game.  Do you know who Bobby Jones is?  Why is St. Andrews such a special place?  Who is Dr. Alister MacKenzie? I wholeheartedly believe that this is an element of the game that is being lost on our young golfers – an appreciation of all who have walked the fairways before them.  Read books and ask questions!  You will be better off for it.
  • Take full advantage of every opportunity you are presented with.  Do not give yourself the chance to look back on your career and regret that you did not give everything 100% effort.  Do everything to the best of your ability!
  • Heart always beats out a pretty swing!  When it comes to the game of golf, this statement will forever be true.  All of the great champions played with a tremendous amount of heart; not all of them had pretty swings.
  • Have fun with the short game. Try to hit the craziest shots you can imagine.  It will teach you how to control your club face and ultimately the ball.  I actually remember having SW long drive contests. Try to hit the highest, lowest, shortest shots you can think of; it all adds up to creativity around the greens.
  • Work hard at the game. It’ll teach you about life and its challenges. Golf, like life, is not always fair, but patience, belief and persistence will pay off in the end.
  • You do not have to be the next Tiger Woods or Jack Nicklaus.  This is a huge problem I see amongst junior golfers and their parents.  When did it stop being okay for junior golfers to just simply play the game for enjoyment? It seems that every junior golfer and their parents have their sights set on grandeur and no expense or sacrifice is too great for a slim shot at stardom. If you want to be as good as you can, by all means go for it, but if you just like the game for what it is, take it easy and just have fun.
  • Play with the best golfers you can find. Nothing will improve your game as quickly as playing with players that are a lot better than you.
  • If you are over 15 and serious about being good you need to look into getting stronger and fitter. Find a trainer who knows the golf swing and how to train for golf.
  • Respect the etiquette, honesty and integrity of the game. Play the game at a different level than your peers. The vast majority of champions in the game were very clear in this regard – play golf the way it was meant to be played!  Behave in a first class fashion on the course and it will start to carry over into all areas of your life.
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A Note to Parents:

Give your young golfers a chance to have a great time playing and practicing the game.  This way they will learn to love the game and when they love the game they will come back to it over and over.  This is the only way they will ever reach their full potential - if you will allow them to have fun while playing golf!I have seen the game become work and a career for too many 12 and 13 year olds.  I taught perhaps the best female junior golfer of all time in Aree Song At 13 she had won the US Junior, the very first AJGA event she played in, finished in the top 10 in an LPGA major and was a first team AJGA All-American.  Aree, now in her late twenties, no longer plays on the tour.  She should be a dominant force in the prime of her career! We can all guess why she no longer has a passion for the game.  Trust me; I have seen the right way and the wrong way; tread lightly and let them have fun.

Can You Get Better in 20 Minutes?

I recently ran an interesting promotion where I offered golfers an opportunity to gain 10 yards if they participated in a twenty minute TrackMan session. The cost was $50 and if they didn't gain the yardage their session was free. This meant I had to be on my game and I had to make simple and effective upgrades to get paid...it's not often a golfer can take a lesson and only have to pay for the lesson if they see immediate results!

My reason for running the promotion was primarily to create interest and excitement in the new TrackMan unit and to give the Berkeley Hall membership a peek at what this technology can do for them.

I had eighteen golfers, eleven men and seven ladies sign up and I encouraged each of the participants to focus on the driver. In case a participant wanted to work with an iron I had them each bring their driver and a seven iron along.

When hitting the driver I try to get my students to have an attack angle of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees up along with a club path of somewhere from 1 - 5 degrees from in to out.  I prefer that most golfers hit out and up on the ball creating a high launch, low spin trajectory with the driver. We all could benefit from a few extra yards, no?

Here is a compilation of points of interest from the day:

  • The average swing speed for the men with the driver was 83.9mph. The top speed achieved was 96.1mph while the slowest was 70.1mph. Keep in mind that this event was promoted as a "distance" event and as a result the golfers who came out tended not be the longest of hitters.
  • The average speed for the ladies with the driver was 65.6mph with the top speed being 73.4mph and the slowest being 60.3mph.
  • Before any changes were made 11 out of the 18 golfers hit down on the ball at an average of 1.6 degrees with the driver.  After the changes had been made the same 11 golfers averaged 0.6 degrees up on the ball. Not bad...
  • Before any changes were made 7 golfers (a surprisingly low number in my opinion!) hit from out to in at an average of 3.3 degrees with the big stick. This means that their club path was travelling 3.3 degrees left (for a right hander) of the target at impact. After adjusting, the same 7 golfers averaged 0.8 degrees from in to out - a very positive change.
  • Prior to any changes 4 golfers hit too much (in my opinion) from in to out at an average of 6.6 degrees. After the changes they averaged 2.2 degrees in to out - a far more respectable number.
  • Not every golfer gained yardage, although the majority did.  A few golfers actually lost some clubhead speed while they were working on the changes which were primarily in the address position.  It was interesting to note how some golfers adapted and changed easily while others had a tough time.
  • The golfers with slower swing speeds tended to be more efficient, something I had already noted from the PGA Tour stat on Total Driving Efficiency and as a result it was quite difficult to get them make the "required" yardage gains. They were quite close to optimal already...
  • Similarly, I found the ladies to generally be more efficient in transferring the energy they created to the ball than the men. I've also noticed that LPGA golfers also tend to be more efficient than their PGA Tour counterparts, particularly with the driver. The mantra seems to be "the more energy you create, the more likely you are to waste it!" It does not have to be that way though.
  • Every golfer who attended the event improved in an important area regarding how they deliver the club to the back of the ball. Quite a few golfers did not gain 10 yards, but they all left feeling like they had the knowledge and feel they needed in order to realize longer tee shots.
  • One lady had a fantastic golf swing with very efficient numbers, but, primarily due to her petite size, she was unable to generate much clubhead speed. She had an older, heavy driver with a 70 gram shaft and so I spent most of our time talking to her about what equipment (lighter = faster) suited her best and what exercises (Momentus woosh) she could do to increase her speed with the driver.  I'll be interested to see how she does with the new club.
  • Almost all the participants commented that while the "numbers overload" from TrackMan was overwhelming at first, once we had isolated a particular problem (attack angle, club path, spin axis etc.) it seemed very simple. They were able to key in on one area and get a feel for how much change was required in order to reach their goal - all without much in the way of complicated, positional swing changes.
  • The twenty minute time format worked well for the students and for me. They did not get overloaded with information and I had be concise and clear (for a change!) in what they needed to upgrade.

So, back to the question, "Can you get better in twenty minutes?" I would have to say an emphatic yes. With the right feedback mechanism, which TrackMan certainly is, and a simple approach, you can make fairly substantial changes in a short period of time. The important thing moving forward is that you practice the changes in order to gain a measure of comfort and confidence in them - and as we know, that takes more than twenty minutes.

Thanks for reading.

2009 in Review

That's all she wrote! The 2009 "official" golf season is in the books and while there were glimmers of excitement, I felt like the year was not one to write home about. Here are a few thoughts: Tiger Woods eclipsed the $10 million mark again - Steve Stricker, his nearest challenger was more than $4 million behind!

Steve StrickerNo majors for Tiger. If he does not win at Augusta next year I predict Hank Haney will be looking for some new students. Biggest surprises in the top 20 on the money list: Kevin Na; Z. and D. Johnson; Y.E. Yang; Brian Gay; Lucas Glover. How about this list of golfers outside the top 125: Chris DiMarco; Carl Pettersson; Stuart Appleby; Rocco; Chez Reavie; Johnson Wagner; Trevor Immelman; Ken Duke and multiple other tour winners.

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Swing Methods and the Fifteen Second Flameout

Butch Harmon

Have you ever noticed how various swing fads seem to come and go?  It seems like just the other day that Bennett and Plummer's "Stack and Tilt" swing was the only way to hit a ball properly.  How about David Leadbetter?  When was the last time you heard from him or one of his players?  Do you remember Jimmy Ballard and "connection"? What about Jim Hardy and his "One Plane Swing"It boggles my mind how these methods pop up, become the hot item and then flare out almost as quickly as they arrived on the scene.  They all have one thing in common that led to their 'success';  a tour golfer who wins an event or two with this 'new and amazing swing' they just learned.  The golfer, feeling indebted to the teacher, proudly proclaims that they could not have achieved their success without this newly discovered way to swing.  Please!
Understand that most of these ideas are thought up by very intelligent and well educated golf teachers.  The problem I have with these methodologies, however,  is that they set their own style of swinging the club.  In other words, the club must be swung in a certain fashion for it to work or function correctly.  I say an emphatic, "Nonsense!" I do not claim to know everything about the golf swing, but I do know that every great player has a different swing that produces fantastic results - or they would not be great!  There cannot possibly be one 'correct' way to swing the club!            

David Leadbetter

 It's a classic case of putting form before function!  "If you swing this new and amazing way you will achieve desired results!"  The best players of all time have always had a knack of getting the club on the ball correctly and the game today is no different.  A feathery needed to be stuck the same way a ProV1X needs to be hit.  Well almost!  If every golfer out there could understand impact and physics that make the ball go in the right place AND the wrong place they would be far better off.  What difference is perfecting the wrist angle at position seven in the moveaway going to make in your game and ability to compress a golf ball!  Form will always follow function.  Just ask Lee Trevino, Arnold Palmer, Raymond Floyd, Bobby Jones, Nancy Lopez, Walter Hagen, Bobby Locke.......
Function must be King when you work on your game.  Get the ball to sound, feel and fly like you want it to and you are a happy, and very good, golfer!
Things to Ponder:
  • Watching the AT&T on Sunday looked like the King (Tiger) was taking his young Prince (Kim) out for a little schooling.
  • Anyone got an over under on the number of days before Carolyn Bivens is out as the LPGA commissioner?
  • Why when a golfer sets up with their body aiming left it is an 'open' stance and when their clubface is aiming right it is an 'open' face?  Blame the Scots and single malt whiskey for that one.
  • I have a feeling Paddy Harrington will be back in contention at next weeks 'Open' Championship.
  • A claim could be made that Phil has choked away both majors so far this year!?

Hey, thanks for reading and please tell your friends about this amazing new website that is the latest and greatest golf blog in the whole wide world!!