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Instructor Dilemma ("Stack and Tilt" Style Guy)

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I'll try to keep this as short as possible.

For the longest time, my swing has been inside and flat, which I then tend to re-route a bit steep down into the ball. When things go well, I hit the ball an okay distance and with a little cut. I can play to about a 2.x to 3.x index with that swing, but that's about it.

For the past few years I've worked on keeping the club away from me and in a better position at the top. For a short spurt in each of the past two years I was playing effortless golf and seeing the results. My short game (which I neglected to try to fix the long game) was then my limiting factor, but even without the greatest putting, chipping, and bunker play I managed to get to a 1.8 index.

But I haven't stayed there. I'm self-taught to this point, and I'm looking for an instructor. I don't care for the instructors at Lake View (they're great if you're 65 and you want to break 90, I guess), and Whispering Woods is going to have a new range later this year with a teaching academy at one end.

I understand the need to commit to a series of lessons - I don't need or really even want a "quick fix." I want to work hard, even if it takes a full summer, and get rid of some old habits.

My preferred ballflight with every club is a high fade. I say high, but really the height comes from good ballstriking. When I'm playing well, the height comes effortlessly because I get good power and make good contact.

So I found a guy who's going to be "the" instructor at the golf course three minutes from my house (Whispering Woods), and I just got off the phone with him. Potential problem: he's a "stack and tilt" guy, and I've never cared for the stack-and-tilt swing. I don't like the lower trajectory, I don't like hitting draws, and everything I've seen says there are problems with S&T; and the driver. A few of the S&T; guys on Tour (Aaron Baddeley for one) are moving away from S&T.; But at the same time, I've not really investigated things, so who knows whether I'm even right or what.

Now, I talked to him about that briefly, and he said by way of assurance that S&T; is more about good geometry, and developing a simple, repeating swing, and there are components of the swing that he can use to accomplish anything. He said there are components that can hit the ball higher or lower. He said, obviously a sound golf swing will let you move the ball in either direction, but you can take some S&T; pieces to build a golf swing and default setup that will produce a fade.

He told me he's good friends with Bennett and Plummer, and before they started working with Tour pros they developed the swing to work with beginners, because they make contact all over the ground, and the main thrust of their early work was to get people to make the low point of the swing in front of the golf ball (which hints at why it's not the best swing for the driver, potentially).

I told him that I'd probably like to use our first meeting as a sort of "get to know you" session. That I'd show him my swing, show him my old swing, show him what I've been trying to do, and see if we're a good fit, etc.

I know quite well that I really do not want to go full S&T;, but it sounds like he understands S&T; and just looks to apply pieces. I think that a good golf swing tends to have the same "pieces" throughout it, so I'm not worried about that - but if you're not an "S&T; Method Teacher" (for want of a better phrase), why tell a potential student that you're "A Stack and Tilt Certified Academy"? Why pigeon-hole yourself? Or maybe it's just marketing, with "S&T;" being kind of a hot (though cooling somewhat) phrase.

So there it is. This will be "the" guy at my home course, so developing a relationship with him will work out if I like what he does. But I have reservations... The first meeting will be key, and I suppose I don't really have any questions, but if anyone has any thoughts, I'd like to hear them.

P.S. The wife will also be taking lessons, but she's a beginner, so I'm not as concerned about the "swing methodology" she'll learn so much as that she has fun.
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Well my thoughts are these.

I basically have been playing for 9 months now and I'm down to a 9 handicap.

I got there because as soon as I decided I wanted to play, I went and took lessons from the best guy in my area which is a "Golfing Machine" guy named Rob Noel.

I put in a ton of work and effort into it which has gotten me this far, but I also never developed bad habits which has made my path pretty easy.


I personally think most people will hit the glass ceiling pretty early if they are self taught. Most people would never get to a single digit handicap being completely self taught because you simply cannot see yourself swing and you do not really know what you are doing.

For example, my neighbor is a 3 handicap and swears to me that having a small left knee and hip slide to start the downswing is a horrible thing. Yet he does exactly that.

Hell Trevor Immelman thinks he flips his left wrist at impact according to his segment in Golf Digest.


The point is that self diagnosis can only get you so far. It has gotten you a lot further than most. But in order to really fine tune all of the things that need to get fine tuned to get to scratch or below you will need a watchful, well trained eye.

That said, I would never go and see a stack and tilt guy.
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That said, I would never go and see a stack and tilt guy.

I agree with almost all you said. For a number of years I relished the challenge of figuring things out myself. Ben Hogan never had a teacher, after all.

And I kept improving, too, so it's not like I've been stuck for awhile. But two years now I've been stuck, so I'm moving on to get some help. I wouldn't go to an S&T; guy either, but in some ways he's the best/only choice (he's gonna be the guy at my club - we're not exactly swamped with great teachers in Erie, PA), and he did assuage my fears a bit when he talked about the "pieces." So I guess I'm kind of caught between "sign up and take lessons and see where I go" and "reject a guy based purely on three words: stack and tilt," which he may or may not apply "fully" or whatever. It's a weird position to be in: you basically have to jump ("commit to six-nine lessons") or not. You can't do it half-assed by signing up for one lesson from twelve different instructors. That might work if you're trying to find THE best instructor, but I don't have that kind of time and I don't want any instructor to feel like they have to show me immediate results. I want a lasting improvement, not a quick fix that gets me hooked. Like I said, I guess the middle ground is to go talk with him in that first lesson and see how I feel about it all after that. P.S. Thanks for the post and for helping me talk through it more. I realize perhaps nobody else will get anything out of this but me, so I appreciate the time you took.
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Like I said, I guess the middle ground is to go talk with him in that first lesson and see how I feel about it all after that.

That was going to be my suggestion. If you don't feel comfortable with the guy or what he is trying to teach you, you don't have to go back. It might be a little weird if you see him on the range down the road, but surly he knows not to take it personally if you don't like his methods.

I have had a great experience with a great teacher in the past who completely changed what I was doing. I have no idea what kind of swing I have, don't really care. I hit the ball better and more consistent now then before, and the biggest thing holding me back is playing time. Point is, as much as you play and practice, it shouldn't be too difficult to adjust to his teachings if you choose to stick with it. If he is a really good instructor, you may not even notice the subtle differences if he changes little things over time. If it doesn't work out, I foresee some drives to Pittsburg in your future if Erie is tapped out.
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I would go to a guy that will tweek your existing swing. Your a 3 so you already have a decent base. Also just the fact that you are hesitant on the S&T; I would stay away. Not sure on your financial situation but possibly working with someone out of town might work better. Have a few lessons and see how it works. Southwest plane tickets are cheap lol.
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I agree with almost all you said. For a number of years I relished the challenge of figuring things out myself. Ben Hogan never had a teacher, after all.

Ben Hogan played in an era without computers, launch monitors, and high speed cameras that can show you what you are doing wrong.

Back in Hogan's days you just had to eyeball it. The game wasn't anywhere near as understood then as it is now.
That might work if you're trying to find THE best instructor, but I don't have that kind of time and I don't want any instructor to feel like they have to show me immediate results. I want a lasting improvement, not a quick fix that gets me hooked. Like I said, I guess the middle ground is to go talk with him in that first lesson and see how I feel about it all after that. P.S. Thanks for the post and for helping me talk through it more. I realize perhaps nobody else will get anything out of this but me, so I appreciate the time you took.

Well, I can tell you that I drive an hour and forty minutes to go see my teacher and its well worth the trip.

I go once every 3 to 4 weeks and every time I go I have something new to work on. My swing is totally fubared for a few days and my timing, sequences, and alignments are all out of whack while I incorporate whatever they are telling me and then I'm fine again. At the end of the day you make it clear that you are REALLY wanting to make a go at this and get down to scratch or better. If that is your goal then go find the right teacher even if you only see them once a month and get the right instruction. I personally think you run the risk of getting worse if you go see a stack and tilt guy if you don't have a stack and tilt swing. If you really want to shave strokes get a teacher that suits you or just spend the time chipping and putting.
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Like you I am completely self taught... I played a bit in high school, but mostly for the free golf, and only for my sophmore and junior years. Because I wasn't one of the coaches favorite, I got pretty much no instruction beyond group short game lessons, course management, rules, etiquette, and a little help with keeping my right arm from flailing about. After high school I played in a few leagues and played once in a while on my college course when I went back to school. I never really got any better, and I was always a pretty steady 90's shooter.

Three summers ago I started playing more often and getting serious about getting better. I read a few books about fundamentals, found out what swingpaths cause what, and so on. In those three years I have improved from about an 18-20 to a 7.5... and I can still figure out what I'm doing wrong when I do it. Last year I started using video a little, and this year I will use it more... I'm sure eventually I will hit a wall as you did, but until then I am going to do my best to get to low singles w/o any real instruction... and it has been EXTREMELY rewarding being self taught.

Now... as to your situation. I am also a little leary of the S&T; swing, especially since the pros have dropped it so quickly. I am not saying it isn't possible to be succesful with, but it does seem a little at odds with your natural swing tendencies. It sounds like this guy isn't going to try to change everything, but rather work with what you have, applying pieces that will help you. From what I have heard from some better players is that there are two types of instructors... 1) ones who will shape and mold your swing in ways that fit you, and 2) ones who want to teach you THE ONE swing they believe in and not much else... I personally would prefer the former, and it sounds like the guy you have is the former. I don't think it could hurt anything to try a couple lessons and see what direction he wants to take you.

Anyway... I guess I didn't really say anything you probably haven't thought, but that's my 2 cents. Good luck, and let us know how it's working out.
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being a low handicap and working with a guy whose philosophy you dont agree with can be potentially a very bad idea... its a tough position to be in thats for sure
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The only thing I can add is that when I chose my PGA instructor out of a hat, basically he had the best put together literature available and kept his contact info current on www.pga.com , so it had a very professional feel at first.

My second gut feeling that told me this would work was that when I first contacted him on the phone, it was an easy conversation, and I hate talking on the phone.

The last good gut feeling was that the first meeting I chatted with him about my game, my plan and my goals and we established a good rapport immediately.

Of course I am playing off a much higher handicap, but I went in trusting that he would get my swing in order. The nice thing is I have read a fair bit about the golf swing and the pro has been able to offer technique, a bit of actual positioning of my body to help the mind / body position link and all of the feedback he gave me was inline with things I had read previously that only helped build more trust.

Finally, there has been huge results for me so far this year.

In short, if you don't trust that the pro is right for you, regardless of what he says, it won't work.

FWIW,
-E
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Stack and tilt... I have some huge reservations about stack and tilt primarily because of the fact that the entire foundation of the swing is based on flawed geometry. I think we have talked about this before but if you have one thing wrong with your swing you are going to play terrible. So you need something to offset. Honestly, I feel like that is how the stack and tilt swing is made. It's just a lot of offsetting movements put together in a way that just isn't very efficient. Personally, I think it's a beginner's swing and that's why a lot of the tour pros are moving away from it. For someone that has a low handicap stack and tilt might be detrimental.

As far as being self taught, the guy I went to when I really started making strides taught you how to be self taught. That's why I thought he was amazing is there was no question you couldn't ask him and his whole goal was to make it so you could go out in the world on your own. Considering the number of tour wins his guys have and teachers that are ironically ranked in the top 100 that he personally taught I think he did a good job.

And your point about Hogan is well taken. Hogan was self taught but something a lot of people don't know is that Hogan had only a few books that he relied on to fidget with his game. Ironically, one of them was a physics book. My teacher never asked him if he understood the stuff that was in the book but considering some of the changes Hogan made later in life he might have. So that's basically my advice to you. If you have a camera and really want to learn the swing either find a pro that has the same ideology as you or continue teaching yourself. Hope that helps.
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Well my thoughts are these.

9 hc in 9months? i dont care if u took lessons from tiger and stevie themselves, there are so many things that only experience can teach you to gain a legit 9. im a 10 and it has taken me over 3 years to shot 79 at my best round ONCE.

i think its great if you did in fact accomplish that, but its pretty far fetched from a common sense standpoint.
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9 hc in 9months? i dont care if u took lessons from tiger and stevie themselves, there are so many things that only experience can teach you to gain a legit 9. im a 10 and it has taken me over 3 years to shot 79 at my best round ONCE.

Not really.

I was a 4 sport athlete in high school. I'm 6'5 and a very large athletic build. I live on hole #4 on my home course. Due to the recession our business isn't doing jack right now so I'm not working. I play or practice golf (mainly practice) for probably 75 hours a week. Sometimes more and sometimes less but I would say I have averaged that amount since last May. I live in New Orleans so I haven't stopped all winter really our coldest days are still in the high 40's. On top of that I have a fantastic coach that has worked with after PGA tour pros. Its a really simple game when you near infinite time to invest in it.
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I play or practice golf (mainly practice) for probably 75 hours a week. Sometimes more and sometimes less but I would say I have averaged that amount since last May.

75 hours a week???? What are you, a golf investment banker? Pulling those kind of hours practicing, I don't care what kind of business you run on the side you're not going to have a good business, unless it's sleeping!
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I personally think you run the risk of getting worse if you go see a stack and tilt guy if you don't have a stack and tilt swing.

That's the thing I'm trying to say: he says he'll use parts and pieces, and I'm pretty self-aware, so I'm still appropriately leery. In other words, I haven't talked myself into going this route - but for a variety of reasons I feel like the guy deserves a chance to have a conversation.

I did want to talk through it, though, so that I could make sure any flaws in my thinking or feelings were exposed, and I'm not sure any more have been. I'll approach this cautiously.
I'm sure eventually I will hit a wall as you did, but until then I am going to do my best to get to low singles w/o any real instruction... and it has been EXTREMELY rewarding being self taught.

I think my years of being self-taught have put me on a pretty high level as far as understanding the golf swing. I've devoured literature, I've videotaped myself as far back as 1995 (thank $deity for digital video cameras!), and I've constantly tweaked things. I've gotten pretty far, and it HAS been rewarding. But yeah, that darn wall...

T.M., what "poor geometries" are you talking about, specifically? If the guy tells me to take the club way back to the inside and keep all my weight left, I'm pretty sure I'll realize what's going on and stop the lesson.
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Here's some advice from a 23.4 handicapper, worth what you paid for it:

Don't let someone with such a radically different approach mess with your swing at all. I see it as a recipe for disaster. If, however, he's willing to videotape you and show you a couple of ways you could smooth out your existing swing that could be helpful. I'd be sure he'd be willing to do that and not even think about S&T; 'components'.

The other thing I'd say is...if I were playing to a 3, and had played down to a 1.8, and were totally self-taught...I would not look for a swing coach - I'd work like crazy to shave off a couple of strokes with the putter.
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The other thing I'd say is...if I were playing to a 3, and had played down to a 1.8, and were totally self-taught...I would not look for a swing coach - I'd work like crazy to shave off a couple of strokes with the putter.

My putting's pretty good. My ballstriking tends to go through periods of extreme suckitude. Obviously you wouldn't know that having never seen me play, but my stats and observations back that up.

What you said about tweaking my existing swing versus "converting" me is at the heart of the issue. I think he can do the former, and that's why I'm meeting him at least once. I also sent him an email just now about my concerns - I'll post his response if it's appropriate. Thanks again for the thoughts and responses. No thoughts here have been bad (even if it seems like I'm disagreeing with you, Fat Slice, I'm not - because you made me think and confirm certain things - thanks).
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An email exchange.

(snip)

His response:

(snip)As far as you being a "fit" with what I am teaching I would definitely say to spend some time with me and then see what you think. Aaron did decide to go back to his first instructor but he is really the only one recently to look another direction. In fact...Charlie Wi is playing great...Mike and Andy also just started working with John Cook, some with Jesper Parnevik, Brad Faxon, J.J. Henry and others. If it matters I can tell you with certainty that there are more players on tour using the stack and tilt pattern with Mike and Andy than working with anybody else. These players are the best at what they do and I think that says a lot.

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Here's my basic thoughts

"These players are the best at what they do"...

Curious about that comment. I haven't really even thought about Parnevik in a long time. These are not the players that are the best at what they do. The ones that are aren't stack and tilt users. In fact, I can't really think of a category that a stack and tilt player is even close to the top at. Baddeley is an excellent putter but I don't think stack and tilt had anything to do with that.

"Best players did and what the worst players did"...

What players are they referring to. Sure, there are players through the decades such as Snead that have a swing similar to stack and tilt. What about all the players that use an alternative method that are playing well? I have a problem with cataloguing players swings and assuming there is some masterful truth out there. If we based all of our research on the original golfers out there like Bobby Jones and Varden we could learn something.

"This will only work for top players"...

Ironic that it doesn't work for top players either. I still think it is a beginners swing.

"There is nothing magical or revolutionary here"...

Agreed.

"My job is to train you to understand the pieces"...

I just don't think that the pieces are right. I could fit together a hundred different things that would cause you to hit the ball but it doesn't mean that they are the most efficient way to hit the ball.

"... key is to use the circular motion of your hands and arms to create the correct path"...

Stack and tilt teachers are huge fans of using your hand and arms. I talk about this in my power pivot article but stack and tilt generates a lot of its power using pendulum like momentum. I would much rather start with core muscles and go outwards from there.

"Facts and geometry"...

What facts and geometry? Ask him more about the physics and kinesthesiology. I have never seen them explain in a logical way how they are creating power with your back. I personally think they are taking your core muscles out of the swing. I want to see him analyze Tiger's, Hogan, Sergio, McIlroy, etc. and explain how they are losing power or accuracy.

As you can probably tell, I am not a huge fan of stack and tilt. I think it's a fad and it hurt Badds. I'll argue this all day but I would never go to a teacher that advocated stack and tilt. But that's just me.
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