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  • Writer's pictureKris Hogan, LPGA

5 Things Your Golf Teacher Should Know About You

Some of us like to keep a low profile as we go through life, rarely asking personal questions of strangers and new acquaintances, or offering up as little personal information as possible when someone does ask those probing questions.  It is suggested that up to 25% of adults lie to their general physicians during an exam, citing that they would be embarrassed or fearful of being judged if they told the truth.  What might be more amazing is that often some key details are left out of the exam room because the physician has not allowed enough time to ask enough questions!

Like going to the doctor’s office, when you go to a golf lesson with your “Swing Doctor”, he or she should be able to ask some personal questions whose answers will help them give you the best possible lesson that day.  And those questions should be asked at the beginning of the lesson, not at the end when you have 3 minutes left and another student is waiting on deck.  Let’s go through some of the most important questions you should expect your golf professional to ask you, and why those answers are critical for your success.

1. Do you have any current or past injuries that might affect how your body moves?   

This one is critical.  You might be embarrassed that you’ve had elective surgery, or a hip replacement at a young age, but your medical history is a big deal when learning to move your body differently.  Physical limitations will play a huge role in what your teacher asks you to do, and if your body literally can’t move the way that she is asking it to do, she needs to know so she can come up with an alternate plan.  Many golf professionals have been trained to identify limitations and the best ones will be able to come up with solutions to fit your physical needs.

2. What kind of learner are you?  

Are you a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner?  Do you like details or the big picture?  Do you like to use mirrors or video when you learn?  What about a hands-on approach where the teacher moves the club and your body with you?  I won’t teach an electrical engineer the same way that I’d teach an art teacher, and the best way for me to know is to ask.  Imagine your frustration if your teacher kept talking while you were trying to filter her words, and all you wanted was a mirror to see what you looked like?  

3. How long have you played golf and what would you like to improve most?  

Anyone can stand on the driving range and tell you what you’re doing wrong, but does it fit into your ideal plan for your golf game?  If you have an “unorthodox” looking swing, but it works for you and you can repeat it, there’s no reason to change it now.  You say you want to make more short putts so that you won’t three putt anymore?  Great!  I won’t teach a new golfer in the same way that I teach an experienced golfer, and I sure won't teach any golfer something that he or she hasn’t asked to learn.  It is proven that humans learn and retain the most when they are motivated to learn that skill, so I’m leaving it up to the student to tell me what she wants to improve!

4. What other sports, activities, or hobbies do you (or have you) enjoy?

Golf is such a complex combination of moving parts, and it can seem overwhelming to most golfers.  But it’s proven that if a student can use something that he already knows how to do, he can incorporate it into the new movement much faster than learning it from scratch.  For example, if I am trying to teach someone how to shift weight in the proper order, I should know what other sports they've played to be able to tie it together.  “You’ve played softball?  Show me how you'd throw a ball,” I’d say, as I hand her a range ball.  That motion of throwing a ball is the perfect example of weight transfer and a balanced finish.

5. Tell me about your equipment.

You wouldn’t borrow your husband's shoes, so why would you borrow his golf clubs?  Here’s a  quick rundown of how each component might affect your shots, and you will quickly see that your equipment may be a key element of your performance.

— Length of the club: Even a half inch too long or two short can affect your posture, your ability to hit the ball in the middle of the club face, and the direction of the shot when it flies.

— Weight of the club: It will be tough to get the club head to the ball in a consistent manner if the weight is unsuitable for your strength and stamina, impacting distance and direction.

— Grip size: A handle that is too small or large for your hand will affect the rotation of the club as you swing it, impacting direction.

— Lie angle: This angle will affect the quality of the hit and the direction that the ball flies.

— Shaft flexibility: The shaft is the engine of the club, so if it is too flexible or not flexible enough it will affect how far and in what direction the ball flies.

Your clubs don’t have to be expensive, but they should be a good fit!  Ask your local professional to review your clubs if you are uncertain.

I may ask new students a few more questions as we get into the lesson, but these are the Big 5.  Without the answers to these questions, I’m lost.  The next time you see your teaching professional, tell her a little more about yourself so she can help you a little more too!

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